I’ve been entertaining some pretty crazy ideas recently that challenge my core assumptions of who I am and what my relationship with Lord Caitanya could possibly be. I think it’s time to reconcile and try to make sense of all these contradicting ideas. My mind is still foggy, though, so forgive me if I’m not really thorough here.
Let’s start at the beginning – Kṛṣṇa appeared here some five thousand years ago and it all went great, demons were punished, devotees rewarded, and great time had been had. There were two nagging problems left, though.
First, Kṛṣṇa’s disappearance marked the beginning of Kali Yuga but He didn’t leave us any particular instructions on how to battle its effects.
Secondly, Kṛṣṇa thought that He was the greatest thing since sliced bread, the most powerful, most beautiful, most attractive being of all – even His name reflected that, and yet there was this woman, Rādhā, who seemed to be having even more fun that He had.
Kṛṣṇa thought He had everything under the sun but this Rādhā person seemed to possess love that was far greater than His own. This needed to be investigated further.
That’s how we come to Lord Caitanya and two reasons for His appearance. First, the external one, is propagating yuga dharma, congregational chanting of the Holy Name, and second, internal, is trying to get a taste of Śrī Rādhā’s love for Him.
Here we have to keep in mind that this doesn’t happen often, only one time in a thousand – once in a day of Brahmā. Usually Lord Caitanya comes as a hidden avatāra, preaches the yuga dharma, and that’s it, no more check-ins until Lord Kalki destroys the wretched human kind for good.
It should not make any difference, though, as chanting of the Holy Name is still the main reason as far as ordinary people are concerned, no matter what yuga it is, and the internal reason was hidden from most of His devotees at the time and they had no clue. It was only the Six Gosvāmīs who disclosed the science of rasa to the rest of the world. It did, however, help sustain the saṅkīrtana movement ever since so our situation is helped by this special appearance of the Lord
This is the background situation before we show up on the scene, some five hundred years later, and seek our place in Lord’s pastimes. Do we have any? Should we have any? Or can we bypass Lord Caitanya’s pastimes altogether and go straight to Kṛṣṇa consciousness?
The last one is the wrong question to ask – it’s not either/or proposition, I’ll get to it later.
Lord Caitanya, as I suppose any incarnation of the Lord, has His own abode and His own associates. Is He always non-different from Kṛṣṇa, as He came right on the big bosses’ heels, or is He sometimes only an incarnation of Lord Viṣṇu?
I would think that normally He is NOT Kṛṣṇa Himself, as much as such distinctions matter when we talk about Viṣṇu-tattva. “Ours”, however, has a place right there on Goloka Vṛndāvana, there’s no difference between the two at all.
This means that we have a good shot at getting eternal spiritual association at both places rather than just one. “Our” Navadvīpa IS Vṛndāvana, we are safe there, it’s our home.
Even better argument is that we have been saved by Lord Caitanya rather than by Kṛṣṇa, we ARE His servants, His devotees, we totally depend on His mercy and no one else’s. We worship Him and with His blessings our chanting brings fruit of love of Kṛṣṇa. I should say love FOR Kṛṣṇa because that’s what we are lacking, no Kṛṣṇa’s love for ourselves.
With this in mind it seems incredulous to argue that we don’t have a place in Lord Caitanya’s līlā as I’ve been doing for the past couple of days. Yet I would still stand by my proposition, it’s just what this “place” is that needs to be considered carefully.
Lord Caitanya comes to the material world to preach to non-believers. These non-believers do not exist in the spiritual world, they do not exist in Lord’s abode, so if we want to join these particular pastimes – they are not happening there, only down here.
Genuine Navadvīpa pastimes of the Lord include congregational chanting with Lord’s associates, the kind that went on in the house of Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita. Quite possibly they include pastimes with Śacīmātā and Jagannātha Miśra, though His father’s early death is probably not there. There could be His marriages and His pastimes with his school friends but probably not grammar debates with puffed up scholars.
I seriously doubt that the episode with converting the Muslim Kazi is there, nor do I think that Haridāsa Ṭhākura’s whipping at the hands of Muslim ruler is there either.
These things just do not happen in the spiritual world (as we know it) so if we want to be part of those pastimes, līlā connected with preaching rather than singing, we’ve got to experience it down here, in the material world, it has nothing to do with our place in the spiritual Navadvīpa.
Okay, question still remains – can we have them? Can we witness Lord Caitanya’s pastimes in Purī, for example? Can we witness His deep love and concern for spiritual well-being of all His devotees, even the imperfect ones?
Well, as far as our current lives are concerned – that train has sailed, we are on our own now, supported only by the memories passed down to us by our ācāryas. Once we done here we are going straight up to spiritual Navadvīpa. Our part is to distribute books or whatever it is ISKCON will do next and it’s no less glorious than cleaning Guṇḍicā temple and our our Ratha-Yātrās are no less ecstatic than the ones in Purī. We even have the advantage of attracting millions of souls who have never heard of Kṛṣṇa before, that’s the mellow they can’t taste in Jagannātha Purī, only on the streets of our cities.
Our situation here is not bad at all, we don’t get to see Lord Caitanya in “flesh” but we get to preach a lot more than devotees five hundred years ago, and for Mahaprābhu it matters. We are not cut off His mercy, quite the opposite, and we don’t get to confuse Him with an ordinary being like His contemporaries.
And here’s the clincher – if we really want a part in Lord’s manifested pastimes there are always other universes to see them! We missed Him here but He is always somewhere else, sweeping people of their feet with His chanting and dancing, He is always somewhere out there sharing prasāda with all His friends, He is always somewhere out there with all His devotees. We just have to get born again in the suitable universe, that’s all.
Considering how ambivalent we are about our current births, it’s not such a bad proposition, it’s non-different from being born during Kṛṣṇa’s manifested pastimes, which is what we supposed to live through first anyway.
I want to finish with this quote from Harmonist, the English language magazine published by Śrila Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī:
Kṛṣṇa as the source of love Himself is Caitanya. The two aspects of the Divine Personality are not complimentary but are identical. Śri Kṛṣṇa is eternally served by the denizens of Vraja. Kṛṣṇa is thus served in a visible form in the Dvāpara Age in this world. Śri Kṛṣṇa is also served in a visible form in Kali-yuga. He is served as Śri Caitanya by the denizens of Navadvīpa which is identical with the white island [Śvetadvīpa] of the scriptures. The servants and associates of Śri Kṛṣṇa Caitanya are identical with those of Śri Kṛṣṇa. The service of Śri Kṛṣṇa Caitanya alone is attainable in the Kali age. Those who aspire for the service of Kṛṣṇa in this age have no other alternative but to serve Śri Kṛṣṇa Caitanya.
Here is unequivocal declaration of Lord Caitanya’s and Kṛṣṇa’s equivalence. They are not complimentary to each other, they are identical. For those who lived thousands years ago Kṛṣṇa was the worshipable deity, for us it’s Lord Caitanya. There’s no other way, no alternative, so to try and find our way into Vṛndāvana bypassing surrendering our lives and souls to the preaching mission of Lord Caitanya is impossible and is a fool’s errand.
We have to become Mahaprābhu’s perfect servants first, and then, who knows, since there’s no difference between Him and Kṛṣṇa, we might never wish to leave His saṅkīrtana party at all, for all the mellows and rasas are already there, in chanting of the Holy Name under guidance of our merciful Lord.
Hope that clarifies things a bit