Found in Sanga, Sanga 2004.

Q. I am wondering if there are names of Lord Caitanya that are meant to specifically refer to his incarnation as Radha-Krishna and distinguish him from the yuga incarnation of Narayana that appears in other Kali-yugas.

A. The yuga avatara is Gaura-Narayana. Our Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Gaura-Krishna coming in the place of this yuga avatara. He engages in sankirtana and delivers the world with the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Although sankirtana is the dharma of Kali-yuga in general, in the current yuga cycle there is a special concession. The concession is that Gaura-Krishna has woven a wreath out of prema (love of Krishna) and sankirtana, and he seeks to garland the world with it: nama-prema-mala ganthi’ paraila samsare (Cc 1.4.40).

When Raja Prataparudra, the king of Puri, first witnessed the sankirtana of Gaura’s associates, he was filed with wonder (camatkara). He had never witnessed this kind of kirtana, this kind of dancing, this kind of love, aiche prema, aiche nrtya, aiche hari-dhvani kahan nahi dekhi, aiche kahan nahi suni. The Raja was no stranger to the glorification of Krishna. He presided over a city that was host to millions and millions of pilgrims who came for the glorification of Krishna as Lord Jagannatha. When he asked his brother-in-law Gopinatha, who was familiar with Gaura’s kirtana, to tell him what it was Gopinatha replied, caitanyera srsti—ei prema-sankirtana, “This is the creation of Sri Caitanya. It is called prema sankirtana.”

Not all forms of sankirtana offer prema, but the sankirtana of Gaura-Krishna is about prema alone. Indeed, it frowns on mere deliverance (mukti). The nama mantra recommended by Sri Caitanya is mentioned in the sruti. Kali-santarana Upanisad calls this nama mantra taraka brahma nama. The sixteen words in this mantra are three names, Hare, Krishna, and Rama, arranged such that the names Krishna and Rama are uttered four times each, and the name Hare is uttered eight times: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Taraka means deliverance, and deliverance is the result of singing this nama mantra in Kali-yuga. It delivers one from samsara. However, the special concession of Sri Caitanya is a result of his being Gaura-Krishna, rather than Gaura-Narayana.

Sri Caitanya is not the usual Kali-yuga avatara who appears in the world to deliver people from birth and death by advocating the yuga-dharma. He is not an avatara of Krishna, but rather Krishna himself. Although he does teach the yuga-dharma, he has another internal agenda of his own, and he instructs us about it in his Siksastakam. There, after praising the essence of all spiritual practice with the words param vijayate sri krishna sankirtanam, Sri Caitanya delineates seven sequential effects of nama sankirtanam. In doing so he makes it abundantly clear that mere deliverance from samsara is not the full fruit of his prema-sankirtana. He does not chant merely taraka brahma nama, but paraka brahma nama. Paraka means competence—competent to give the treasure of prema, krishna-nama’ paraka hana kare prema-dana. What then is the need for any other sadhana?

Q. Can you tell me something about humility?

A. In the second verse of his Siksastakam, Sri Caitanya speaks with lamentation as well as with humility, uthila visada, dainya. Taking the position of a sadhaka, Mahaprabhu is lamenting his unfortunate condition, which causes his heart to overflow with dainya, humility. A sadhaka should feel like this, as sincere humility attracts the grace and sympathy of Sri Krishna Nama, which in turn terminates once and for all the sorrowful sojourn of samsara. Therefore Sri Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami comments that although Mahaprabhu expresses lamentation in the second verse of Siksastakam, all sorrow is silenced on hearing the verse’s significance—yahara artha suni’ saba yaya duhkha-soka.

Regardless of how fallen one may be, sincerely acknowledging one’s condition and subsequently feeling humility attracts sympathy and thus power to rise above material conditioning beyond that which lies within one’s self. Sriman Mahaprabhu, the great master, teaches us this lesson here. One’s unfortunate condition (durdaivam), when sincerely acknowledged and understood, begets a natural humility that attracts the sympathy of Krishna nama and thus a solution to the dilemma posed in the second stanza of Siksastakam. Humility and the desire to overcome anarthas (bad habits) do not cause all anarthas to immediately disappear. But because they attract the sympathy of Krishna nama, he stays with such sadhakas in spite of their background of offenses, and thus they are gradually purified by his grace as their nama bhajana becomes steady.

Q. Why do I need to understand the various rasas, the moods of Vraja, and the complex position of the demigods to realize that Krishna consciousness is beautiful and the most pure way to understand God and my relationship with him. Isn’t faith enough?

A. Yes, faith is enough but there are different levels of faith. Faith informed by scriptural understanding is identified with intermediate devotees, whereas faith that is not scripturally informed is identified with neophyte devotees. It is all right and even necessary perhaps to be a neophyte (we have to start somewhere), but it is not beneficial for a neophyte to criticize or minimize a more developed understanding or expression of faith. Rather, a neophyte should try to develop firm faith because such faith leads to fixed devotion, which is the only way to attain Krishna.

According to Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the idea is to progress beyond komala sraddha (tender faith) by bringing the head and heart together through sadhu sanga and the study of scripture. Faith is strengthened, not weakened, by the study of sastra, nasta prayesu abhadresu nityam bhagavata sevaya. The bhakti sastras with our acaryas’ commentaries are expressions of their faith, and it is through these sastras that our acaryas share their faith with the world. Take advantage of their mercy by studying sastra in the association of advanced devotees. In this way your faith will surely grow.

Q. It is said that the Deity remains just an object unless prana-pratistha, the installation ceremony, is performed, after which the Deity is ready to accept service. Can you tell me something about this?

A. Pujyapada Srila Sridhara Deva Goswami Maharaja said that the will of the Vaisnava is the heart of the affair. This means that the essence of the prana-pratistha, or any other ceremony or ritual, is the blessing and sanction of the acarya. Without his or her blessing and sanction, the ritual is lifeless. Just as chanting the holy name without the blessing of the Vaisnava will not give prema, similarly seva puja/arcana without the blessing of the acarya will not bring prema. There are of course self-manifest Deities like Saligrama and Govardhana silas, but to effectively worship them one need also have the blessing of a Vaisnava.

My particular service to Srila Prabhupada during my years in Iskcon required me to constantly go from temple to temple. So I asked him if I could worship my own Deities and bring them with me as I traveled. Upon this request Srila Prabhupada personally blessed me to worship the Deities of Gaura-Nityananda, and later Pujyapada Sridhara Deva Goswami personally blessed me to worship Govardhana sila as well. The blessing of the Vaisnava is the essential element of any service or ritual.

Q. Some devotees cite passages from Gaudiya scriptures to promote the chanting of the holy names of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu (Gaura) and his principal associate Sri Nityananda Prabhu (Nitai). They do so with the intention of establishing that chanting the names of Gaura and Nitai is more important than the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. How do you feel about this?

A. The philosophy that puts undue emphasis on Gaura Nama is a distortion of the teachings of our guru-parampara. Although Nityananda Prabhu and various Gaudiya saints have preached in this way at times, this preaching is the overflow of their divine madness of love for Gaura. Through the mercy of Nityananda, one can taste a drop of this love by sincerely following the teachings of Mahaprabhu in guru-parampara, not by manufacturing a philosophy that is contrary to those teachings.

It is well known that Mahaprabhu asked all of his followers to principally chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. After Mahaprabhu cited Brhan-naradiya Purana’s famous verse harer nama harer nama harer nama eva kevalam, which is followed by the maha-mantra, he commented to Tapan Misra thus:

ei sloka nama bali’ laya maha-mantra sola-nama batrisa-aksara ei tantra
sadhite sadhite yabe premankura habe sadhya-sadhana-tattva janiba se tabe

“This verse is called the maha-mantra. It contains sixteen holy names of the Lord composed of thirty-two syllables. If you continually chant this maha-mantra, the seed of love of God will sprout in your heart. Then you will understand the goal of life and the process for achieving it.”

In Kali-yuga, Krishna descends as his holy name, kali kale nama rupe krishna avatara. Sri Jiva Goswami calls this descent of Krishna nama the varna-avatara (syllable avatara). Although Mahaprabhu is Krishna himself, he came to teach us to chant Krishna nama, and thus he himself chanted this name of God, which is universally acknowledged by all Gaudiya Vaisnavas as the foremost name of God.

It is this name of God that the supreme abhidheya-tattva sloka of Srimad-Bhagavatam refers to when it tells us to worship the avatara of Kali-yuga by sankirtana—yajnaih sankirtana prayair yajanti hi sumedhasah. Indeed, the Caitanya avatara is Krishna’s acarya-lila, in which he teaches by his personal example. What did he do? Krishna varnam, he uttered the syllables krs-na. We are to follow this example and by it worship Gauranga.

Mahaprabhu empowered Srila Rupa Goswami in particular to teach us how to practice. Sri Rupa has done so both in his writing and by his personal example. He is our abhidheya-tattva acarya. Thus regardless of the preaching of Nitai and his love for Gaura, as sadhakas we are to follow the example of Rupa Goswami. This does not mean that we cannot learn from Nitai. Indeed, we cannot advance without his mercy. Inspired by his example of love for Gaura, we must follow our guru-parampara in terms of how to apply ourselves in sadhana-bhakti. We cannot imitate Nityananda Prabhu’s madness in love of Gaura, but we can attain it by his mercy, which brings us to an authorized guru-parampara. There you will find that the names of Gaura and Nityananda are chanted profusely, but not in a way that seeks to dislodge Krishna nama from the supreme position that it holds in Gaudiya Vaisnavism.

Creating a doctrine that promotes the chanting of the names of Gaura-Nitai over the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra sets oneself on a path other than that which had been established by the previous acaryas headed by Sri Rupa. The path of Sri Rupa, based on the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, is time-tested and authorized by no one less than Mahaprabhu himself. Changing the emphasis on that path from chanting Krishna nama to chanting Gaura nama, as if some new revelation mandated such a change, is an artificial imposition on the spiritual practices established by Mahaprabhu through the Six Goswamis of Vrindavana. Any concoction that undermines their essential teachings is simply an effort to attract attention to oneself as a great preacher or guru. It follows that one whose preaching is motivated by such pratistha (desire for name and fame) will fall prey to the influence of Kali-yuga because without Krishna-sakti, no one can effectively preach the glory of nama sankirtana, krishna-sakti vine nahi nama pravartana. Krishna-sakti is derived from strictly following the essential teachings of our guru-parampara. While chanting the names of Gaura-Nitai are also encouraged, the principal and essential means of worshipping Gaura-Krishna in the Gaudiya sampradaya is the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.

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