Today is Gaura Pūrṇimā and it’s impossible to write about anything else but the appearance of Lord Caitanya. I’m also aware that I can’t possibly do justice to this occasion and I don’t want to add artificial sweeteners to go with it.
Lord Caitanya is our life and soul, as simple as that. We know that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and we know that Vṛndāvana is every jīva’s spiritual home but we were drafted into this movement by Lord Caitanya who has a unique and distinct personality. Our bond to Him is never going to break, we are never going to be relieved of service to His feet and to His mission, we are never going to graduate to something better.
Nominally, however, He told us to worship Kṛṣṇa and we have examples of the Six Gosvāmīs who took this order and perfected it, informing us of every detail of our possible future service. They didn’t write of their relationships with Lord Caitanya stretching into spiritual reality, it was something they had here while in their meditation they were exclusively with Kṛṣṇa.
Afaik, they haven’t written similar books about Lord Caitanya and His spiritual realm, it’s not described even in Caitanya Caritāmṛta which deals exclusively with Lord’s manifested pastimes here. It was Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura who informed us of the glories of Navadvīpa and, I believe, it was through him that we got to know of our possible spiritual reunion with Mahāprabhu. I must admit I don’t know any details of that for certain, only general ideas picked up here and there.
While Vṛndāvana is our spiritual home and it’s where Śrīla Prabhupāda chose to retire from his mission in the material world, our society is headquartered in Māyāpura. In my own not so humble opinion, those who imagine themselves to be devotees of Vṛndāvana without taking full shelter of the mercy of Māyāpura are very much mistaken.
Surely Vṛndāvana has plenty of its own servants who are eternally connected to it but it’s not us, we are Gauḍīya vaiṣṇavas, we are spiritual children of Lord Caitanya and we will always remain that way. How other people reach Vṛndāvana is not our concern, what we should remember is that we can’t get there in any other way but by worshiping Gaurāṇga. We will always be known there as “those brought in by Lord Caitanya” and it’s as honorable position as anyone else’s there.
In this regard I always remember the departure of Aindra Prabhu who, for all practical intents and purposes, was a Vrajavāsī with no other goal but serving the feet of Rāḍha and Kṛṣṇa but when time called he embraced the feet of Lord Nityānanda’s deity and that’s how he left his body. Not even Lord Caitanya’s, please note that. We, the Gauḍīyas, do not approach any exalted personalities directly but only through the mercy of guru, then predecessor ācāryas, then Advaita Ācārya who brings us to the feet of Lord Nityānanda, then by the mercy of Lord Nityānanda we get the recognition of Mahāprabhu Himself.
Whatever’s next is up to Him, we are totally dependent on His mercy there and no one else can help us. All the links in the chain leading to His lotus feet are obliged to serve Him and have no choice but to pass us up along and then the buck stops there. It’s Lord Caitanya who decides whether we are qualified for receiving pure bhakti or not. Of course we can get rejected somewhere alone the way for various transgressions but I mean that by following our paramparā we won’t end up in service to Lord Rāma, for example. Even Lord Caitanya is not likely to place us in Lord Rāmacandra’s service though He did not mind when one of His devotees was clearly attached to serving Lord Rāma.
Unlike the Vṛndāvana school, devotees in Bengal were always servants of Lord Caitanya first with possibility of serving Rāḍha and Kṛṣṇa being secondary. They were too attached to Mahāprabhu to desire anything else even if technically service to Rāḍha-Kṛṣṇa could be considered higher.
I’m not saying that Six Gosvāmīs abandoned worship of Lord Caitanya but they were admitted in service to Rāḍha-Kṛṣṇa directly while most Bengalis knew only Lord Caitanya and everything else was theoretical. When young Siddhānta Sarasvatī approached Guarakiśora Dāsa Bābājī for initiation the answer was “let me ask Mahāprabhu and see what He says”, not “let me ask Śrī Rāḍhīka”. Once again, I hope I’ll never graduate from service to Lord Caitanya and check Him off the list of my achievements, assuming I’ll ever make it to the spiritual world. I hope it’s not going to be like “oh yeah, first you have to do this, then you have to get that, then you have to get initiated, then you have to serve Lord Caitanya for a while, and then you get into your real spiritual position”.
This kind of eternal bond comes with its own conditions, however. It’s nice and easy to be picked up from the crowds, dusted off, dressed in vaiṣṇava clothes, put into saṅkīrtana service and then, at the moment of death, be taken to Vṛndāvana but I suspect this is not what is happening to us here. Let me explain.
Lord Caitanya’s mercy is universal, that is granted, but we can’t deny that some sort of qualification must be there, too. Some people might stumble onto it accidentally but most of us have been destined to be in ISKCON and we “reserved” our positions here in previous lives. What it might mean is that we are fixed here eternally, lifetime after lifetime, with no chance of moving up the chain.
I mean our guru is eternal, the guru of our guru is eternal, and so we can’t become our guru’s godbrothers let along his seniors, which what would naturally happen if we were to progress closer and close to Lord Caitanya with each birth. That’s why I think our relative position might be permanently fixed. Up in the spiritual world it wouldn’t matter but if we were to take birth here we’d be literally stuck, replaying the same life over and over again in the universe after universe. The historical accuracy of our current relationship with Lord Caitanya would never be broken.
It means we get to bathe His deity, perhaps visit Māyāpura on His birthday, but never come in actual contact with Him, not on the material platform. This kind of contact was available to His contemporaries but not to us.
There’s nothing spiritually deficient about this, someone needs to be born at this time in Kali yuga and serve the mission in these conditions, which are not suitable for Lord Caitanya’s personal associates. If we were asked whether we’d like to continue serving the mission after our death we’d serve the same one.
The point of this is to realize that we’d better appreciate what we already have and find full spiritual value of our present day service. The desire for something more glorious, something better, something with more impact is a material one. On the spiritual platform there’s no such envy and every service is appreciated in full no matter how “small” it is. There’s no such thing as a “small service” in the spiritual world anyway. We don’t necessarily need bigger service, we have to become perfect at executing one that is already given, which means that we should be content with sitting at a computer screen thousands of miles away from happy crowd celebrating Gaura Pūrṇimā in Māyāpura. We just have to learn to do it for Lord Caitanya’s pleasure and give our best.