Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Introduction
[Originally delivered as five morning lectures on Caitanya-caritāmṛta — the authoritative biography of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, by Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī — before the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, New York City, April 10-14, 1967.]
The word caitanya means living force. As living entities, we can move, but a table cannot because it does not possess living force. Movement and activity may be considered to be signs or symptoms of the living force. Indeed, it may be said that there can be no activity without the living force. Although the living force is present in the material condition, it is not amṛta, immortal. The words caitanya-caritāmṛta, then, may be translated as "the character of the living force in immortality."
But how is this living force displayed immortally? It is not displayed by man or any other creature in this material universe, for none of us are immortal in these bodies. We possess the living force, we perform activities, and we are immortal by our nature and constitution, but the material condition into which we have been put does not allow our immortality to be displayed. It is stated in the Kaṭha Upaniṣad that eternality and the living force belong both to ourselves and God. Although this is true in that both God and ourselves are immortal, there is a difference. As living entities, we perform many activities, but we have a tendency to fall down into material nature. God has no such tendency. Being all-powerful, He never comes under the control of material nature. Indeed, material nature is but one display of His inconceivable energies.
On the ground we may see only clouds in the sky, but if we fly above the clouds we can see the sun shining. From the sky, skyscrapers and cities seem very tiny; similarly, from God's position this entire material creation is insignificant. The tendency of the conditioned living entity is to come down from the heights where everything can be seen in perspective. God, however, does not have this tendency. The Supreme Lord is not subject to fall down into illusion (māyā) any more than the sun is subject to fall beneath the clouds. Because the Supreme Lord is not subject to illusion, He is unconditioned; because we, as finite living entities, are prone to fall into illusion, we are called conditioned. Impersonalist philosophers (Māyāvādīs) maintain that both the living entity and God Himself are under the control of māyā when they come into this material world. This may be true of the living entity, but it is not true of God, for in all instances the material energy is working under His direction. Those who consider the Supreme Lord to be subject to material conditioning are called fools by Kṛṣṇa Himself in Bhagavad-gītā:
avajānanti māḿ mūḍhā
mānuṣīḿ tanum āśritam
paraḿ bhāvam ajānanto
"Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be." (Bg. 9.11)
Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu should not be considered to be one of us. He is Kṛṣṇa Himself, the supreme living entity, and as such He never comes under the cloud of māyā. Kṛṣṇa, His expansions, and even His higher devotees never fall into the clutches of illusion. Lord Caitanya came to earth simply to preach Kṛṣṇa-bhakti, love of Kṛṣṇa. In other words, He is Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself teaching the living entities the proper way to approach Kṛṣṇa. He is like a teacher who, seeing a student doing poorly, takes up a pencil and writes, saying, "Do it like this: A, B, C." By this, one must not foolishly think that the teacher is learning his ABC's. Although He appears in the guise of a devotee, we should always remember that Lord Caitanya is Kṛṣṇa (God) Himself teaching us how to become Kṛṣṇa conscious, and we must study Him in that light.
In Bhagavad-gītā Lord Kṛṣṇa sets forth the highest religious principle in this way:
mām ekaḿ śaraṇaḿ vraja
ahaḿ tvāḿ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
"Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear." (Bg. 18.66)
This may seem to be a simple instruction to follow, but invariably our reaction is, "Oh, surrender? Give up? But I have so many responsibilities." And māyā, illusion, says to us, "Don't do it, or you'll be out of my clutches. Just stay in my clutches, and I'll kick you." It is a fact that we are constantly being kicked by māyā, just as the male ass is kicked in the face by the she-ass when he comes for sex. Similarly, cats and dogs are always fighting and whining when they have sex. These are the tricks of nature. Even an elephant in the jungle is caught by the use of a trained she-elephant who leads him into a pit. Māyā has many activities, and in the material world her strongest shackle is the female. Of course in actuality we are neither male nor female — for these designations refer only to the outer dress, the body. We are all actually Kṛṣṇa's servants. In conditioned life, however, we are shackled by the iron chains which take the form of beautiful women. Thus every male is bound by sex life, and therefore when one attempts to gain liberation from the material clutches, he must first learn to control the sex urge. Unrestricted sex puts one fully in the clutches of illusion. Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu officially renounced this illusion at the age of twenty-four, although His wife was sixteen and His mother seventy, and He was the only male member of the family. Although He was a brāhmaṇa and was not rich, He took sannyāsa, the renounced order of life, and thus extricated Himself from family entanglement.
If we wish to become fully Kṛṣṇa conscious, we have to give up the shackles of māyā, or, if we remain with māyā, we should live in such a way that we will not be subject to illusion. It is not necessary for one to abandon his family, for there were many householders amongst Lord Caitanya's closest devotees. What must be renounced is the propensity for material enjoyment. Although Lord Caitanya approved of a householder having regulated sex in marriage, He was very strict with those in the renounced order, and He even banished junior Haridāsa for glancing lustfully at a young woman. The point is that one must take up a particular path and stick to it, obeying all the rules and regulations necessary for success in spiritual life. It was Lord Caitanya's mission that He teach the path of Kṛṣṇa consciousness to all men and thereby enable them to partake of the immortality of spiritual life.
From Caitanya-caritāmṛta we learn how Caitanya taught people to become immortal, and thus the title may be properly translated as "the immortal character of the living force." The supreme living force is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is also the supreme entity. There are innumerable living entities, and all of them are individual. This is very easy to understand: We are all individual in thought and desires, and the Supreme Lord is also an individual person. He is different, though, in that He is the leader, the one whom no one can excel. Amongst the created living entities, one being can excel another in one capacity or another. The Lord is an individual, just as the living entities are individual, but He is different in that He is the supreme individual. God is also infallible, and in Bhagavad-gītā He is addressed as Acyuta, which means, "He who never falls down." This is indicated because in Bhagavad-gītā Arjuna had fallen into delusion but Kṛṣṇa had not. We often hear it said that God is infallible, and in Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa states:
nānyaḿ guṇebhyaḥ kartāraḿ
guṇebhyaś ca paraḿ vetti
mad-bhāvaḿ so 'dhigacchati
"When you see that there is nothing beyond these modes of nature in all activities and that the Supreme Lord is transcendental to all these modes, then you can know My spiritual nature." (Bg. 14.19)
Thus we should not think that Kṛṣṇa is overpowered by the material potency when He is in the material world. Kṛṣṇa and His incarnations are not under the control of material nature. They are totally free. Indeed, in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam one who has a godly nature is actually defined as one who is not affected by the modes of material nature, although in material nature. If even a devotee can attain this freedom, then what to speak of the Supreme?
The real question is how can we remain unpolluted by material contamination while in the material world. It was Rūpa Gosvāmī who explained that we can remain uncontaminated while in the world if we simply make it our ambition to serve Kṛṣṇa. One may then justifiably ask, "How can I serve?" Obviously this is not simply a matter of meditation, which is just an activity of the mind, but of practical work. Love of Kṛṣṇa's service can only be attained by working for Kṛṣṇa. In such work, we should leave no resource unused. Whatever is there, whatever we have, should be used for Kṛṣṇa. We can use everything: typewriters, automobiles, airplanes, missiles — anything. If we simply speak to people about Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we are also rendering service. If our minds, senses, speech, money and energies are thus engaged in the service of Kṛṣṇa, we cannot be considered to be existing in material nature. By virtue of spiritual consciousness, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we transcend the platform of material nature. It is a fact that Kṛṣṇa, His expansions and His devotees — that is, those who work for Him — are not in material nature, although people with a poor fund of knowledge think that they are.
Caitanya-caritāmṛta teaches that the spirit soul is immortal and that our activities in the spiritual world are also immortal. The Māyāvādīs, who hold to the view that the Absolute is impersonal and formless, contend that a realized soul has no need to talk. However, the Vaiṣṇavas, who are devotees of Kṛṣṇa, contend that when one reaches the stage of realization, he really begins to talk. "Previously we only talked of nonsense," the Vaiṣṇava says. "Now let us begin our real talks, talks of Kṛṣṇa." The Māyāvādīs are also fond of using the example of the water pot, maintaining that when a pot is not filled with water it makes a sound, but that when it is filled it makes no sound. But are we waterpots? How can we be compared to them? A good analogy utilizes as many similarities between two objects as possible. A water pot is not an active living force, but we are. Ever silent meditation may be adequate for a waterpot, but not for us. Indeed, when one has has realized he has so much to say about Kṛṣṇa, twenty-four hours in a day is not sufficient. It is the fool who is celebrated as long as he does not speak, for when he breaks his silence his lack of knowledge is exposed. Caitanya-caritāmṛta shows that there are many wonderful things to discover by glorifying the Supreme.
In the beginning of Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī writes: "I offer my respects to my spiritual masters." He uses the plural here to indicate the disciplic succession. It is not that he offers obeisances to his spiritual master alone but to the whole paramparā, the chain of disciplic succession beginning with Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself. Thus the guru is addressed in the plural to show the author's highest respect for all the Vaiṣṇavas. After offering obeisances to the disciplic succession, the author pays obeisances to all the other devotees, God-brothers, the expansions of Godhead and the first manifestation of Kṛṣṇa's energy. Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu (sometimes called Kṛṣṇa Caitanya) is the embodiment of all of these; He is God, guru, devotee and the expansion of God. As His associate, Nityānanda, He is the first manifestation of energy; as Advaita, He is an incarnation; as Gadādhara, He is the internal potency; and as Śrīvāsa, He is the marginal living entity. Thus Krsna should not be thought of as being alone but shouḷd be considered as eternally existing with all His manifestations, as described by Rāmānujācārya. In viśiṣṭādvaita philosophy, God's energies, expansions and incarnations are considered to be oneness in diversity. In other words, God is not separate from all these; everything together is God.
Actually Caitanya-caritāmṛta is not intended for the novice, for it is the post-graduate study of spiritual knowledge. Ideally, one begins with and advances through Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam to the Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Although all these great scriptures are on the absolute level, for the sake of comparitive study Caitanya-caritāmṛta is considered to be on the highest platform. Every verse in it is perfectly composed. Indeed, Lord Caitanya and Nityānanda are compared to the sun and moon in that They dissipate the darkness of
the material world. In this instance both the sun and moon have risen together, and it is proper to offer obeisances directly to Lord Caitanya and Nityānanda.
In the Western world where the glories of Lord Caitanya are relatively unknown, one may inquire, "Who is Kṛṣṇa Caitanya?" The scriptural conclusion in answer to that question is that He is the Supreme Personality of God head. Generally in the Upaniṣads the Supreme Absolute Truth is described in an impersonal way, but the personal aspect of the Absolute Truth is mentioned in the Īśopaniṣad, where, after a description of the all-pervading, we find the following verse:
tat tvaḿ pūṣann apāvṛṇu
"O my Lord, sustainer of all that lives, Your real face is covered by Your dazzling effulgence. Kindly remove that covering and exhibit Yourself to Your pure devotee." (Śrī Īśopaniṣad, Mantra 15)
The impersonalists do not have the power to go beyond the effulgence of God and arrive at the personality from whom this effulgence is emanating. At the end of Īśopaniṣad, however, there is a hymn to the Personality of Godhead. It is not that the impersonal Brahman is denied; it is also described, but that Brahman is considered to be the glaring effulgence of the body of Caitanya. In other words, Kṛṣṇa Caitanya is the basis of the impersonal Brahman. It is also stated by Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā that the impersonal Brahman rests on Him (brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhāham, Bg. 14.27). The Paramātmā, or Supersoul, which is present within the heart of every living entity and within every atom of the universe, is but the partial representation of Caitanya. Kṛṣṇa Caitanya is therefore the basis of Brahman and the Supreme Personality of Godhead as well. As the Supreme, He is full in six opulences: wealth, fame, strength, beauty, knowledge and renunciation. In short, we should know that He is Kṛṣṇa, God, and nothing is equal to or greater than Him. There is no superior to be conceived. He is the Supreme Person.
It was Rūpa Gosvāmī, a confidential devotee taught for more than ten days continuously by Lord Caitanya, who wrote:
nāmne gaura-tviṣe namaḥ
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, who is more magnanimous than any other avatāra, even Kṛṣṇa Himself, because He is bestowing freely what no one else has ever given — pure love of Kṛṣṇa."
It is not that Caitanya teaches a long and elaborate path to God realization. He is completely spiritual, and He begins from the point of surrender to Kṛṣṇa. He does not pursue the paths of karma-yoga or jñāna-yoga or haṭha-yoga but begins at the end of material existence, at the point where one gives up all material attachment. In Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa began His teachings by distinguishing the soul from matter and in the Eighteenth Chapter concluded at the point where the soul surrenders to Him in devotion. The Māyāvādīs would have all talk cease there, but at that point the real discussion only begins. It is the Vedānta-sūtra which begins: athāto brahma jijñāsā: "Now let us begin to inquire about the Supreme Absolute Truth." Rūpa Gosvāmī thus praises Caitanya as the most munificent incarnation of all, for He gives the greatest gift by indicating the highest form of devotional service. In other words, He answers the most important inquiries that anyone can make.
There are different stages of devotional service and God realization. Strictly speaking, anyone who accepts the existence of God is situated in devotional service. To acknowledge that God is great is something, but not much. Caitanya, preaching as an ācārya, a great teacher, taught that we can enter into a relationship with God and actually become God's friend. In Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa showed Arjuna His universal form because Arjuna was His "very dear friend." Upon seeing Kṛṣṇa as the Lord of the universes, however, Arjuna actually asked Kṛṣṇa to forgive the familiarity of his friendship. Caitanya goes beyond this point. Through Lord Caitanya we can become friends with Kṛṣṇa, and there is no limit to this friendship. We can become friends of Kṛṣṇa not in awe or adoration but in complete freedom. We can even relate to God as His father. This is not only the philosophy of Caitanya-caritāmṛta but of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as well. There are no other literatures in the world in which God is treated as the son of a devotee. Usually God is seen as the almighty Father who supplies the demands of His sons. The great devotees, however, sometimes treat God as a son in their execution of devotional service. The son demands, and the father supplies, and in supplying Kṛṣṇa the devotee becomes like a father. Instead of taking from God, we give to God. It was in this relationship that Kṛṣṇa's mother, Yaśodā, told the Lord, "Here, eat this or You'll die. Eat nicely." In this way Kṛṣṇa, although the proprietor of everything, depends on the mercy of His devotee. This is a uniquely high level of friendship in which the devotee actually believes himself to be the father of Kṛṣṇa.
However, Lord Caitanya's greatest gift was His teaching that Kṛṣṇa can be actually treated as one's lover. In this relationship the Lord is so much attached that He expresses His inability to reciprocate. Kṛṣṇa was so obliged to the gopīs, the cowherd girls of Vṛndāvana, that He felt unable to return their love. "I cannot repay your love," He told them. "I have no more assets to return." Thus devotional service is performed on this excellent platform, and knowledge of the devotee's relationship to Kṛṣṇa as lover and beloved was given by Caitanya Mahāprabhu. It was never given by any previous incarnation or ācārya. Thus Rūpa Gosvāmī wrote of Caitanya: "Devotional service itself is the highest platform, the glorious platform which You have contributed. You are Kṛṣṇa in a yellow complexion, and You are Śacīnandana, the son of mother Śacī. Those who hear Caitanya-caritāmṛta will keep You in their hearts. It will be easy to understand Kṛṣṇa through You." Thus Caitanya Mahāprabhu came to deliver Kṛṣṇa. His method of deliverance was not meditation, fruitive activities or scriptural study, but love.
We have often heard the phrase "love of Godhead." How far this love of Godhead can actually be developed can be learned from the Vaiṣṇava philosophy. Theoretical knowledge of love of God can be found in many places and in many scriptures, but what that love of Godhead actually is and how it is developed can be found in Vaiṣṇava literatures. It is the unique and highest development of love of God that is given by Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
Even in this material world we can have a little sense of love. How is this possible? It is due to the love which is found in the Godhead. Whatever we find within our experience within this conditional life is situated in the Supreme Lord, who is the ultimate source of everything. In our original relationship with the Supreme Lord there is real love, and that love is reflected pervertedly through material conditions. Our real love is continuous and unending, but because that love is reflected pervertedly in this material world, it lacks continuity and is inebriating. If we want real transcendental love, we have to transfer our love to the supreme lovable object — the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is the basic principle of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
In material consciousness we are trying to love that which is not at all lovable. We give our love to dogs and cats, running the risk that at the time of death we may think of them and consequently take birth in a family of cats or dogs. Thus love that does not have Kṛṣṇa as its object leads downward. It is not that Kṛṣṇa or God is something obscure or something that only a few chosen people can attain. Caitanya Mahāprabhu informs us that in every country and in every scripture there is some hint of love of Godhead. Unfortunately no one knows what love of Godhead actually is. The Vedic scriptures, however, are different in that they can direct the individual in the proper way to love God. Other scriptures do not give information on how one can love God, nor do they actually define or describe what or who the Godhead actually is. Although they officially promote love of Godhead, they have no idea how to execute it. But Caitanya Mahāprabhu gives a practical demonstration of how to love God in a conjugal relationship. Taking the part of Rādhārāṇī, Caitanya tries to love Kṛṣṇa as Rādhārāṇī loved Him. Kṛṣṇa was always amazed by Rādhārāṇī's love. "How does Rādhārāṇī give Me such pleasure?" He would ask. In order to study Rādhārāṇī, Kṛṣṇa lived in Her role and tried to understand Himself. This is the secret of Lord Caitanya's incarnation. Caitanya is Kṛṣṇa, but He has taken the mode or role of Rādhārāṇī to show us how to love Kṛṣṇa. Thus He is addressed: "I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord who is absorbed in Rādhārāṇī's thoughts."
This brings up the question of who Rādhārāṇī is and what Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa is. Actually Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa is the exchange of love. This is not ordinary love; Kṛṣṇa has immense potencies, of which three are principal: internal, external and marginal. In the internal potency there are three divisions: saḿvit, hlādinī and sandhinī. The hlādinī potency is the pleasure potency. All living entities have this pleasure-seeking potency, for all beings are trying to have pleasure. This is the very nature of the living entity. At present we are trying to enjoy our pleasure potency by means of the body in this material condition. By bodily contact we are attempting to derive pleasure from material sense objects. We should not think, however, that Kṛṣṇa, who is always spiritual, tries to seek pleasure on this material plane like us. Kṛṣṇa describes the material universe as a nonpermanent place full of miseries. Why, then, would He seek pleasure in the material form? He is the Supersoul, the supreme spirit, and His pleasure is beyond the material conception.
In order to learn how Kṛṣṇa's pleasure can be obtained, we must read the Tenth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in which Kṛṣṇa's pleasure potency is displayed in His pastimes with Rādhārāṇī and the damsels of Vraja. Unfortunately, unintelligent people turn at once to the sports of Kṛṣṇa in the Daśama-skandha, the Tenth Canto. Kṛṣṇa's embracing Rādhārāṇī or His dancing with the cowherd girls in the rāsa dance are generally not understood by ordinary men because they consider these pastimes in the light of mundane lust. They incorrectly think that Kṛṣṇa is like themselves and that He embraces the gopīs just as an ordinary man embraces a young girl. Some people thus become interested in Kṛṣṇa because they think that His religion allows indulgence in sex. This is not Kṛṣṇa-bhakti, love of Kṛṣṇa, but prākṛta-sahajiyā — materialistic lust.
In order to avoid such errors, we should understand what Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa actually is. Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa display their pastimes through Kṛṣṇa's internal energy. The pleasure potency of Kṛṣṇa's internal energy is a most difficult subject matter, and unless one understands what Kṛṣṇa is, he cannot understand it. Kṛṣṇa does not take any pleasure in this material world, but He has a pleasure potency. Because we are part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa, the pleasure potency is within us also, but we are trying to exhibit that pleasure potency in matter. Kṛṣṇa, however, does not make such a vain attempt. The object of Kṛṣṇa's pleasure potency is Rādhārāṇī, and He exhibits His potency or His energy as Rādhārāṇī and then engages in loving affairs with Her. In other words, Kṛṣṇa does not take pleasure in this external energy but exhibits His internal energy, His pleasure potency, as Rādhārāṇī. Thus Kṛṣṇa manifests Himself as Rādhārāṇī in order to exhibit His internal pleasure potency. Of the many extensions, expansions and incarnations of the Lord, this pleasure potency is the foremost and chief.
It is not that Rādhārāṇī is separate from Kṛṣṇa. Rādhārāṇī is also Kṛṣṇa, for there is no difference between the energy and the energetic. Without energy, there is no meaning to the energetic, and without the energetic, there is no energy. Similarly, without Rādhā there is no meaning to Kṛṣṇa, and without Kṛṣṇa, there is no meaning to Rādhā. Because of this, the Vaiṣṇava philosophy first of all pays obeisances to and worships the internal pleasure potency of the Supreme Lord. Thus the Lord and His potency are always referred to as Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. Similarly, those who worship the name of Nārāyaṇa first of all utter the name of Lakṣmī, as Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa. Similarly, those who worship Lord Rāma first of all utter the name of Sītā. In any case — Sītā-Rāma, Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa — the potency always comes first.
Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are one, and when Kṛṣṇa desires to enjoy pleasure, He manifests Himself as Rādhārāṇī. The spiritual exchange of love between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa is the actual display of the internal pleasure potency of Kṛṣṇa. Although we speak of "when" Kṛṣṇa desires, just when He did desire we cannot say. We only speak in this way because in conditional life we take it that everything has a beginning; however, in the absolute or spiritual life there is neither beginning nor end. Yet in order to understand that Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are one and that They also become divided, the question "When?" automatically comes to mind. When Kṛṣṇa desired to enjoy His pleasure potency, He manifested Himself in the separate form of Rādhārāṇī, and when He wanted to understand Himself through the agency of Rādhā, He united with Rādhārāṇī, and that unification is called Lord Caitanya.
Why did Kṛṣṇa assume the form of Caitanya Mahāprabhu? It is explained that Kṛṣṇa desired to know the glory of Rādhā's love. "Why is She so much in love with Me?" Kṛṣṇa asked. "What is My special qualification that attracts Her so? And what is the actual way in which She loves Me?" It seems strange that Kṛṣṇa, as the Supreme, should be attracted by anyone's love. We search after the love of a woman or a man because we are imperfect and lack something. The love of a woman, that potency and pleasure, is absent in man, and therefore a man wants a woman, but this is not the case with Kṛṣṇa, who is full in Himself. Thus Kṛṣṇa expressed surprise: "Why am I attracted by Rādhārāṇī? And when Rādhārāṇī feels My love, what is She actually feeling?" In order to taste the essence of that loving affair, Kṛṣṇa appeared just as the moon appears on the horizon of the sea. Just as the moon was produced by the churning of the sea, by the churning of spiritual love affairs the moon of Caitanya Mahāprabhu appeared. Indeed, Caitanya's complexion was golden, just like the moon. Although this is figurative language, it conveys the meaning behind the appearance of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. The full significance of His appearance will be explained in later chapters.
The manifestations of the Supreme are also explained in Caitanya-caritāmṛta. After offering respects to Lord Caitanya, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja next offers them to Nityānanda. He explains that Nityānanda is a manifestation of Sańkarṣaṇa, who is the origin of the Mahā-Viṣṇu. Kṛṣṇa's first manifestation is as Balarāma and then Sańkarṣaṇa, and after Sańkarṣaṇa He is manifest as Pradyumna. In this way so many expansions take place. Although there are many expansions, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the origin, as confirmed in Brahma-saḿhitā. He is like the original candle from which many thousands and millions of candles are lit. Although any number of candles can be lighted, the original candle still retains its identity as the origin. In this way Kṛṣṇa expands Himself into so many lights, and all these expansions are called Viṣṇu-tattva. Viṣṇu is a large light, and we are small lights, but all are expansions of Kṛṣṇa.
When it is necessary to create the material universe, Viṣṇu expands Himself as the Mahā-Viṣṇu. This Mahā-Viṣṇu lies down on the Causal Ocean and breathes all the universes from His nostrils. Thus from the Mahā-Viṣṇu and the Causal Ocean all the universes spring, and all these universes float in the Causal Ocean. In this regard there is the story of Vāmana, who, when He took three steps, stuck His foot through the covering of the universe. Water from the Causal Ocean flowed through the hole which His foot made, and it is said that that flow of water became the River Ganges. Therefore the Ganges is accepted as the most sacred water of Viṣṇu and is worshiped by all Hindus from the Himalayas down to the Bay of Bengal.
That Mahā-Viṣṇu who lies on the Causal Ocean is actually an expansion of Balarāma, who is Kṛṣṇa's first expansion, and, in the Vṛndāvana pastimes, is the brother of Kṛṣṇa. In the mahā-mantra Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare, the word Rāma refers to Balarāma. Since Nityānanda is an expansion of Balarāma, Rāma also refers to Lord Nityānanda. Thus Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Rāma addresses not only Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma but Lord Caitanya and Nityānanda as well.
The subject matter of Caitanya-caritāmṛta primarily deals with what is beyond this material creation. The cosmic material expansion is called māyā because it has no eternal existence. Because it is sometimes manifested and sometimes not manifested, it is regarded as illusory. But beyond this temporary manifestation there is a higher nature, as indicated in Bhagavad-gītā:
paras tasmāt tu bhavo 'nyo
'vyakto 'vyaktāt sanātanaḥ
yaḥ sa sarveṣu bhūteṣu
naśyatsu na vinaśyati
"Yet there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is." (Bg. 8.20)
That supreme nature is beyond the manifested (vyaktaḥ) and unmanifested (avyaktaḥ). This superior nature which is beyond both creation and annihilation is the living force which is manifest in the bodies of all living entities. The body itself is composed of inferior nature, matter, but it is the superior nature that is moving the body. The symptom of that superior nature is consciousness. Thus in the spiritual world, where everything is composed of the superior nature, everything is conscious. In the material world inanimate objects are not conscious, but in the spiritual world this is not so. There a table is conscious, the land is conscious, the trees are conscious — everything is conscious.
It is not possible to imagine how far this material manifestation extends. In the material world everything is calculated by imagination or by some imperfect method, but Vedic literatures give information of what lies beyond the material universe. Those who believe in experimental knowledge may doubt the Vedic conclusions, for they cannot even calculate how far this universe is extended, nor can they reach far into the universe itself. It is not possible to obtain information of anything beyond this material nature by experimental means. That which is beyond our power of conception is called acintya, inconceivable. It is useless to argue or speculate about what is inconceivable. If it is truly inconceivable, it is not subject to speculation or experimentation. Our energy is limited, and our sense perception is limited; therefore we must rely on the Vedic conclusions regarding that subject matter which is inconceivable. Knowledge of the superior nature must simply be accepted without argument. How is it possible to argue about something to which we have no access? The method for understanding transcendental subject matter is given by Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself in Bhagavad-gītā, where Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna at the beginning of the Fourth Chapter:
imaḿ vivasvate yogaḿ
proktavān aham avyayam
vivasvān manave prāha
manur ikṣvākave 'bravīt
"I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvān, and Vivasvān instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikṣvāku." (Bg. 4.1)
This is the method of paramparā, or disciplic succession. Similarly, in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam Kṛṣṇa imparted knowledge into the heart of Brahmā, the first created creature within the universe. Brahmā imparted those lessons to his disciple, Nārada, and Nārada imparted that knowledge to his disciple, Vyāsadeva. Vyāsadeva imparted it to Madhvācārya, and from Madhvācārya the knowledge comes down to Mādhavendra Purī, to Īśvara Purī and from him to Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
One may ask that if Caitanya Mahāprabhu is Kṛṣṇa Himself, then why did He need a spiritual master? Of course He did not need a spiritual master, but because He was playing the role of ācārya (one who teaches by example), He accepted a spiritual master. Even Kṛṣṇa Himself accepted a spiritual master, for that is the system. In this way the Lord sets the example for men. We should not think, however, that the Lord takes a spiritual master because He is in want of knowledge. He is simply stressing the importance of accepting the disciplic succession. The knowledge of that disciplic succession actually comes from the Lord Himself, and if the knowledge descends unbroken, it is perfect. Although we may not be in touch with the original personality who first imparted the knowledge, we may receive the same knowledge through this process of transmission. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, it is stated that Kṛṣṇa, the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead, transmitted transcendental knowledge into the heart of Brahmā. This then is one way knowledge is received — through the heart. Thus there are two processes by which one may receive knowledge: One depends upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is situated as the Supersoul within the heart of all living entities, and the other depends upon the guru or spiritual master, who is an expansion of Kṛṣṇa. Thus Kṛṣṇa transmits information both from within and from without. We simply have to receive it. If knowledge is received in this way, it doesn't matter whether it is inconceivable or not.
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam there is a great deal of information given about the Vaikuṇṭha planetary systems which are beyond the material universe. Similarly, a great deal of inconceivable information is given in Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Any attempt to arrive at this information through experimental knowledge is not possible. The knowledge simply has to be accepted. According to the Vedic method, śabda, or transcendental sound, is regarded as evidence. Sound is very important in Vedic understanding, for, if it is pure, it is accepted as authoritative. Even in the material world we accept a great deal of information which is sent thousands of miles by telephone or radio. In this way we also accept sound as evidence in our daily lives. Although we cannot see the informant, we accept his information as valid on the basis of sound. Sound vibration then is very important in the transmission of Vedic knowledge.
The Vedas inform us that beyond this cosmic manifestation there are extensive planets and the spiritual sky. This material manifestation is regarded as only a small portion of the total creation. The material manifestation includes not only this universe but innumerable others as well, but all the material universes combined comprise only one fraction of the total creation. The majority of the creation is situated in the spiritual sky. In that sky innumerable planets float, and these are called Vaikuṇṭhalokas. In every Vaikuṇṭhaloka Nārāyaṇa presides in the form of His four-armed expansions: Sańkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Vāsudeva.
As stated before, the material universes are manifested by the Lord in the form of Mahā-Viṣṇu. Just as a husband and wife combine to beget offspring, the Mahā-Viṣṇu combines with His wife Māyā, or material nature. This is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā where Kṛṣṇa states:
mūrtayaḥ sambhavanti yāḥ
tāsāḿ brahma mahad yonir
ahaḿ bīja-pradaḥ pitā
"It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kuntī, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father." (Bg. 14.4)
Viṣṇu impregnated Māyā or material nature simply by glancing at her. This is the spiritual method. Materially we are limited to impregnate by only one particular part of our body, but the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa or Mahā-Viṣṇu, can impregnate any part by any part. Simply by glancing the Lord can conceive countless living entities in the womb of material nature. The Brahma-saḿhitā also confirms that the spiritual body of the Supreme Lord is so powerful that any part of that body can perform the functions of any other part. We can only touch with our hands or skin, but Kṛṣṇa can touch just by glancing. We can only see with our eyes, we cannot touch or smell with them. Kṛṣṇa, however, can smell and also eat with His eyes. When foodstuffs are offered to Kṛṣṇa we don't see Him eating, but He eats simply by glancing at the food. We cannot imagine how things work in the spiritual world where everything is spiritual. It is not that Kṛṣṇa does not eat or that we imagine that He eats; He actually eats, but His eating is different from ours. Our eating process will be similar to His when we are completely on the spiritual platform. On that platform every part of the body can act on behalf of any other part.
Viṣṇu does not require anything in order to create. He does not require the goddess Lakṣmī in order to give birth to Brahmā, for Brahmā is born from a lotus flower which grows from the navel of Viṣṇu. The goddess Lakṣmī sits at the feet of Viṣṇu and serves Him. In this material world sex is required to produce children, but in the spiritual world one can produce as many children as he likes without having to take help from his wife. Because we have no experience with spiritual energy, we think that Brahmā's birth from the navel of Viṣṇu is simply a fictional story. We are not aware that spiritual energy is so powerful that it can do anything and everything. Material energy is dependent on certain laws, but spiritual energy is fully independent.
Brahmā is born from the navel of Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, who is but a partial manifestation of the Mahā-Viṣṇu. Countless universes reside like seeds within the skin pores of the Mahā-Viṣṇu, and when He exhales, they all are manifest. In the material world we have no experience of such a thing, but we do experience a perverted reflection in the phenomenon of perspiration. We cannot imagine, however, the duration of one breath of the Mahā-Viṣṇu, for within one breath all of the universes are created and annihilated. Lord Brahmā only lives for the duration of one breath, and according to our time scale 4,320,000,000 years constitute only twelve hours of Brahmā, and Brahmā lives one hundred of his years. Yet the whole life of Brahmā is contained within one breath of the Mahā-Viṣṇu. Thus it is not possible for us to imagine the breathing power of the Supreme Lord. That Mahā-Viṣṇu is but a partial manifestation of Kṛṣṇa.
Thus Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī discusses Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu as Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and Lord Nityānanda as Balarāma, the first expansion of Kṛṣṇa. Advaitācārya, another principal disciple of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu's, is accepted as an expansion of the Mahā-Viṣṇu. Thus Advaitācārya is also the Lord, or, more precisely, an expansion of the Lord. The word advaita means nondual, and his name is such because he is nondifferent from the Supreme Lord. He is also called ācārya, teacher, because he disseminated Kṛṣṇa consciousness. In this way he is just like Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Although Caitanya is Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself, He appears as a devotee to teach people in general how to love Kṛṣṇa. Similarly, Advaitācārya appeared just to distribute the knowledge of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Thus he is also the Lord incarnated as a devotee. Kṛṣṇa is manifested in five different expansions, and He and all of His associates appear as devotees of the Supreme Lord in the form of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, Nityānanda, Advaitācārya, Gadādhara, Śrīvāsa and others. In ali cases, Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the source of energy for ali His devotees. Since this is the case, if we take shelter of Caitanya Mahāprabhu for the successful execution of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we are sure to make progress. One devotional song by Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura states: "My dear Lord Caitanya, please have mercy upon me. There is no one who is as merciful as You. My plea is most urgent because Your mission is to deliver fallen souls, and no one is more fallen than l. I beg priority."
The author of Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, was an inhabitant of Vṛndāvana and a great devotee. He had been living with his family in Katwa, a small town in the district of Burdwan in Bengal. His family also worshiped Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, and once when there was some misunderstanding amongst his family about devotional service, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja was advised by Nityānanda Prabhu in a dream to leave home and go to Vṛndāvana. Although he was very old, he started out that very night and went to live in Vṛndāvana. While he was there, he met some of the Gosvāmīs, principal disciples of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu. He was requested to write Caitanya-caritāmṛta by the devotees of Vṛndāvana. Although he began this work at a very old age, by the grace of Lord Caitanya he finished it. Today it remains the most authoritative book on Caitanya's philosophy and life.
When Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī was living in Vṛndāvana, there were not very many temples. At that time Madana-mohana, Govindajī and Gopīnātha were the three principal temples. As a resident of Vṛndāvana, he offered his respects to the Deities in these temples and requested God's favor: "My progress in spiritual life is very slow, so l'm asking Your help." In Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Kṛṣṇadāsa first offers his obeisances to Madana-mohana vigraha, the Deity who can help us progress in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. In the execution of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, our first business is to know Kṛṣṇa and our relationship with Him. To know Kṛṣṇa is to know one's self, and to know one's self is to know one's relationship with Kṛṣṇa. Since this relationship can be learned by worshiping Madana-mohana vigraha, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī first establishes his relationship with Him.
When this is established, Kṛṣṇadāsa begins to worship the functional Deity, Govinda. Govinda resides eternally in Vṛndāvana. In the spiritual world of Vṛndāvana the buildings are made of touchstone, the cows are known as surabhi cows, givers of abundant milk, and the trees are known as wish-fulfilling trees, for they yield whatever one desires. In Vṛndāvana Kṛṣṇa herds the surabhi cows, and He is worshiped by hundreds and thousands of gopīs, cowherd girls, who are all goddesses of fortune. When Kṛṣṇa descends to the material world, this same Vṛndāvana descends just as an entourage accompanies an important personage. Because when Kṛṣṇa comes, His land also comes, Vṛndāvana is not considered to exist in the material world. Therefore devotees take shelter of the Vṛndāvana in India, for it is considered to be a replica of the original Vṛndāvana. Although one may complain that no kalpa-vṛkṣa, wish-fulfilling trees, exist there, when the Gosvāmīs were there, the kalpa-vṛkṣa were present. It is not that one can simply go to such a tree and make demands; one must first become a devotee. The Gosvāmīs would live under a tree for one night only, and the trees would satisfy all their desires. For the common man this may all seem very wonderful, but as one makes progress in devotional service, all this can be realized.
Vṛndāvana is actually experienced as it is by persons who have stopped trying to derive pleasure from material enjoyment. "When will my mind become cleansed of all hankering for material enjoyment so I will be able to see Vṛndāvana?" one great devotee asks. The more Kṛṣṇa conscious we become and the more we advance, the more everything is revealed as spiritual. Thus Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī considered Vṛndāvana in India to be as good as the Vṛndāvana in the spiritual sky, and in Caitanya-caritāmṛta he describes Rādhārāṇī and Kṛṣṇa as seated beneath a wish-fulfilling tree in Vṛndāvana on a throne decorated with valuable jewels. There Kṛṣṇa's dear friends, the cowherd boys and the gopīs, serve Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa by singing, dancing, offering betel nuts and refreshments and decorating Their Lordships with flowers. Even today in India people decorate thrones and recreate this scene during the month of July. Generally at that time people go to Vṛndāvana to offer their respects to the Deities there.
Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī maintains that the Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa Deities show us how to serve Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. The Madana-mohana Deities simply establish that "I am Your eternal servant." With Govinda, however, there is actual acceptance of service, and therefore He is called the functional Deity. The Gopīnātha Deity is Kṛṣṇa as master and proprietor of the gopīs. He attracted all the gopīs, or cowherd girls, by the sound of His flute, and when they came, He danced with them. These activities are all described in the Tenth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. These gopīs were childhood friends of Kṛṣṇa, and they were all married, for in India the girls are married by the age of twelve. The boys, however, are not married before eighteen so Kṛṣṇa, who was fifteen or sixteen at the time, was not married. Nonetheless He called these girls from their homes and invited them to dance with Him. That dance is called the rāsa-līlā dance, and it is the most elevated of all the Vṛndāvana pastimes. Kṛṣṇa is therefore called Gopīnātha because He is the beloved master of the gopīs.
Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī petitions the blessings of Lord Gopīnātha. "May that Gopīnātha, the master of the gopīs, Kṛṣṇa, bless you. May you become blessed by Gopīnātha." Just as Kṛṣṇa attracted the gopīs by the sweet sound of His flute, the author of Caitanya-caritāmṛta prays that He will also attract the reader's mind by His transcendental vibration. It is the purpose of this book, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, to transmit the essence of that vibration in an easily readable summary study.
Copyright © The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, Founder Ācārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness