On the bank of the Ganges at Prayaga,
Lord Caitanya revealed the ocean of devotional service.
by Kundali dasa
Continuing a special series of articles commemorating the five-hundredth anniversary of Lord Caitanya’s appearance in Mayapur, West Bengal. By His life and teachings, He inaugurated the Hare Krsna movement.
Formerly, in a public debate in India the loser and all his followers became the disciples of the winner. Through this convention, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu won thousands of followers to Krsna consciousness. His erudition. His skill as a debater and logician, and, most of all, His saintly conduct had no match throughout the length and breadth of India. Followers from all of India’s prominent schools of thought—including the Buddhists, the followers of Sankaracarya, and followers of Islam—converted to the Krsna consciousness movement of Lord Caitanya.
Yet, surprisingly, until recently Lord Caitanya was less renowned as a leading saint, scholar, and philosopher than certain other well-known thinkers of India—even ones whose philosophy He many times defeated. One major reason for this is that except for His eight-stanza Siksastaka, which outlines the path of Krsna consciousness, He left none of His teachings penned by His own hand. Rather, He instructed some of His devotees to write books elaborating on all He taught them. Srila Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis, two brothers, were especially empowered by the Lord to write transcendental literature. Our modern Krsna consciousness movement is greatly indebted to these devotees for their executing Lord Caitanya’s order, thus preserving the topmost revelation of the Absolute Truth.
After His visit to Vrndavana (described in BACK TO GODHEAD 20.12), Lord Caitanya went to Prayaga (known today as Allahabad). There Rupa Gosvami and his younger brother, Anupama, approached the Lord one day with pieces of straw between their teeth (symbolizing their humility) and repeatedly offered obeisances at His lotus feet. Feeling great pleasure at seeing them, the Lord embraced them both.
With clasped hands and great humility, Rupa and Anupama offered prayers to the Lord: “O most munificent incarnation of the Lord! You are Krsna Himself appearing as Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. You have assumed the golden color of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krsna. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You.
“We offer our respectful obeisances unto that merciful Supreme Personality of Godhead who has converted all three worlds, which were maddened by ignorance, and saved them from their diseased condition by making them mad with the nectar from the treasure house of love of God. Let us take full shelter of that Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna Caitanya, whose activities are wonderful.”
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu was greatly pleased by the prayers of the two brothers. Later, for ten consecutive days, at a place called Dasasvamedha-ghata, the Lord instructed Srila Rupa Gosvami about krsna-tattva, the ultimate truth about Lord Krsna; bhakti-tattva, the truth about devotion to Krsna; and rasa-tattva, the truth about the transcendental mellows of loving relationships with Krsna.
The Lord began: “The ocean of the transcendental mellow of devotional service is so big it is impossible to describe it completely. No one can estimate its length and breadth. Just to help you taste it, I shall describe one drop.” He then proceeded to describe the nature of the spiritual soul, supporting His statements with references to the Vedic scriptures.
Lord Caitanya next explained that the dimension of the spirit soul is very, very minute: one ten-thousandth the size of the tip of a hair. These infinitesimal living entities are unlimited in number and are of two types: moving and nonmoving. The moving entities are divided into human and nonhuman species, and the human species are further divided into civilized and uncivilized cultures. Those who follow the Vedic principles are counted as civilized. And among these are many who pay only lip service.
Among the serious followers of Vedic culture, the majority are mostly interested in materialistic activities, only a few being progressive enough to inquire into the purpose of human life. Out of many millions of such sincere individuals, one may attain salvation. Out of millions of these liberated souls, a pure devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is a very rare find.
All the souls are wandering throughout the universe lifetime after lifetime in different species, in a never-ending quest for peace and happiness. Sometimes they enjoy heavenly pleasures, and sometimes they suffer hellish miseries. If, however, a soul becomes fortunate, he gets the opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master, by whose grace the seed of the bhakti-lata, the creeper of devotional service, is planted within his heart.
Such a fortunate person must carefully tend the seed like a good gardener by watering it regularly with hearing and chanting about the glories of the Supreme Person, Krsna. Gradually the seed sprouts and the creeper of devotional service grows and grows, piercing the walls of the universe and entering the spiritual world. When it reaches the spiritual planet Goloka Vrndavana, the personal abode of Krsna, the creeper of devotion comes to rest at the lotus feet of Krsna, where it produces abundant quantities of prema-phala, the fruits of love of Krsna.
Lord Caitanya warned Srila Rupa Gosvami that the candidate for pure devotional service, while cultivating the creeper of devotion, must be careful not to commit offenses to the Vaisnavas, devotees of the Lord. Such offenses He compares to a mad elephant that uproots the devotional creeper, causing it to dry up and die. The gardener must protect his creeper of devotional service from a mad-elephant offense.
Another danger is that weeds of material desires may grow alongside the devotional creeper. The varieties of weeds of material desires are unlimited, and the gardener must be careful not to nourish them while watering his devotional creeper. The successful, patient gardener ultimately reaps the fruits of love of God. So relishable are those fruits that the four kinds of material perfection—economic development, sense gratification, religiosity, and liberation—seem pale and insignificant by comparison.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu then compared the gradual development of prema, unalloyed love of God, to the different states of sugar. First is the seed of the sugarcane, then the sugarcane plant. Next comes the sweet juice of the sugarcane. When the juice is boiled, it becomes liquid molasses and, later, solid molasses. This then becomes sugar and, finally, rock candy. Similarly, love of God evolves through various stages of development, each more concentrated than the last.
On the platform of pure love, there are still further stages, which develop according to each devotee’s particular attachment to Krsna. These stages are five: santa-rati, neutral appreciation of the Lord; dasya-rati, attachment in servitude; sakhya-rati, attachment in friendship; vatsalya-rati, attachment in parental affection; and madhura-rati, attachment in conjugal love.
Lord Caitanya explained to Rupa Gosvami that attachment to Krsna is either in awe and reverence or in pure, spontaneous love. Attachment in awe and reverence is found in all the spiritual planets—except for Goloka Vrndavana, the topmost spiritual planet. In the other spiritual planets, the opulences of the Lord are very prominent, and devotional service in neutrality and servitude predominates. But in Goloka Vrndavana the prominent relationships with Lord Krsna are the fraternal, the parental, and the conjugal—intimate relationships that are actually impeded by feelings of awe and reverence. These devotees experience the Lord’s unlimited opulence, but they are not awed by it, because their emphasis is on a natural, spontaneous loving relationship with Krsna.
Each successive stage of love is symptomized by its having all the qualities of the preceeding stages plus an increase in feelings of intimacy with the Lord. Servitude, for example, includes neutrality, and fraternal attachment includes neutrality and servitude. Unlike servitude and neutrality, however, fraternity is generally devoid of formality and veneration. The same is true for parental and conjugal love. Devotees situated in parental loving attachment, in addition to having sentiments of neutrality, servitude, and friendship, also think themselves the Lord’s maintainers.
All four relationships mentioned above combine in the relationship of conjugal love. Here attachment for Krsna, service to Him, the realized feelings of fraternity, and the feelings of maintenance all increase in intimacy. The intensified taste of complete devotion to the Lord in conjugal love is so wonderful that Lord Caitanya said it cannot be fully described.
Lord Caitanya thus concluded His instructions to Srila Rupa Gosvami, saying: “I have simply given a general survey of the mellows of devotional service. You can consider how to adjust and expand this. When one thinks of Krsna constantly, love for Him is manifest within the heart. Even though one may be ignorant, one can reach the shore of the ocean of transcendental love by Lord Krsna’s mercy.”
Later, Lord Caitanya left Prayaga for Benares, where He gave further instructions on the science of Krsna consciousness to Sanatana Gosvami, Rupa’s elder brother. Rupa Gosvami later compiled many books on Krsna consciousness, chief of which is the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, which Srila Prabhupada has rendered into English as The Nectar of Devotion.
Lord Caitanya’s imparting the essence of His teachings to Rupa and Sanatana is a significant lesson in itself, because Rupa and Sanatana had been ostracized from the brahminical community in which they were born. They were outcastes because they had taken employment in the Muslim government of Bengal. Muslims, being meat-eaters, were considered untouchable by the brahminical orthodoxy. Caitanya Mahaprabhu, however, was very pleased by the surrender and devotion of Rupa and Sanatana, and He showed that a devotee in Krsna consciousness does not consider candidates for spiritual life in terms of material qualifications, but in terms of their sincere desire to transcend the mundane world. Rupa and Sanatana were among Lord Caitanya’s most intimate devotees; they have set the standard of Krsna consciousness for all Lord Caitanya’s followers. Even today devotees of Lord Caitanya are called rupanugas, or followers of Srila Rupa Gosvami.