Found in Sanga, Sanga 2001.

Q. What is the meaning of Sri Krishna Caitanya?

A. Sri Krishna means Radha Krishna, who have appeared as Caitanya. He is Krishna Caitanya, or Krishna conscious. This name was given to him by Kesava Bharati Maharaja as Mahaprabhu began his preaching lila. The word ‘caitanya’ means consciousness. Mahaprabhu is always conscious of Krishna. Caitanya also means soul. Mahaprabhu is the soul of Krishna, Sri Radha, and thus he is conscious of Krishna as only she can be. Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Sri (Radha) and Krishna combined.

One time Sri Radhika had a dream. In that dream she saw a golden figure dancing and singing in a setting resembling Vraja dhama. By that singing and dancing she was so attracted and she saw everybody in the universe from the lowest up to Lord Brahma were crying. She awoke from the dream and thought, in the chastity of her love for Krishna, ‘How could I be so attracted to that person? Who was that?’ She was puzzled. Krishna came on the scene and she asked him and he laughed.

She could not understand. But the kastauba mani jewel that Krishna wears over his chest, which represents all jiva souls that he holds near his heart, began to shine brightly. Inside that jewel the hearts of all jivas were rejoicing at the thought of that golden figure that Radha saw in her dream. From this she realized why Krishna is laughing – the joy that they will feel from that figure can only come from the worship of Radha and Krishna. So she said ‘Krishna: tat tvam asi – you are that.’ and ‘aham gopala – I am that, I am you Gopala also in that appearance’ ‘

Q. Why did Krishna make this special appearance?

A. We are not short of explanations to shed light on the mystical and covert appearance of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Covered it is, but it is our business to uncover it. In the Gitopanisad Krishna says, ‘ye yatha mam prapadyante’ those who surrender to me, however they may do it, I reciprocate accordingly. The gopis took this verse to the extreme. In effect they took Krishna up on his offer and they surrendered fully, expecting reciprocation. During rasa-lila Krishna witnessed the measure of their love and surrender, and being Rasaraja, the connoisseur of love, he left the rasa dance to see the measure of their love even more. But when he saw the extent of it he realized that he was defeated.

He told the gopis, ‘I disappeared because I wanted to see the true measure of your love.’ For how one reacts after losing something very valuable is much greater than when you had it in the first place. ‘I disappeared from the rasa dance to see your love increase. But I have to admit that upon seeing it, I am defeated. I can only surrender. And for your reward you will have to settle for your love, which, in a mystic way, is greater than myself.’

So in this way the gopis took this verse of Bhagavad-gita, ‘ye yatha mam prapadyante’ to its extreme and completely exhausted Krishna’s capacity to reciprocate. This is the essence of Caitanya Mahaprabhu; Krishna seeing the measure of the gopis’ love, seeing that it is greater than he himself, and as the connoisseur of love, desiring to taste it.

Q. I heard tomorrow is a special anniversary.

A. Yes, I took sannyasa here 25 years ago at the opening of the Krishna Balaram Mandir. I joined Prabhupada in 1972, so 28 years have passed. I am in my fifty-first year. So many things we have seen come and go. And I’m not the only person coming to this age who has been involved in this. So many of you are here today! So now we must become real devotees. It is time. We should be settled in this, what it is.

We are all together. You should know this: nobody is going anywhere. If there is somebody you don’t like, you’d better get over it because they are not going away. We are all in this forever. Whatever exists will always exist, and whatever doesn’t exist will never come into existence. This is Vedanta, nyaya, and in terms of bhakti it applies as well in the smaller group. We are all in this forever and nobody is going away. So if somebody is giving you a hard time, you’d better find another way to get around it than opposing or avoiding that person. Try to see the good qualities in others, somehow or other. And if they can see yours, then maybe you don’t have that much to argue about. This is incumbent upon all of us. It is time. I feel pressed to tell you this. Forgive me because I am the worst of all of you, but this we must do.

We should know our family, how we are connected. And brothers argue too. I have a love-hate relationship with many of my godbrothers, but love is still underlying it all. They may do so many nonsense things and they may think I do the same, but underneath it all we have worked together, we have served together for so many years for the same divine cause and each one of us knows what that is about.

That is not just limited to my godbrothers and godsisters. It extends to all of us who have been touched by what Krishnadasa Kaviraja is speaking of. Those difficulties that are on the surface can be cleared away very quickly. And they may not need to be cleared also, that is another way of looking at it. ‘Variety is the spice of life’ we are told. If we just reflect on it, differences between godbrothers, if we look closely, may also come to charm us. Bhakti requires some introspection. To be a decent human being requires introspection. So if we can just have a little human introspection, we can understand the nature of these dealings.

Q. What kind of relationship should we aspire for?

A. Candidly speaking our heart, hiding nothing, this should be our relationship with one another. This is sat sanga, truthful sanga. We should come together in the evening, do kirtan, sit, and go around the room and speak about what we did that day, if we deviated in any way from Krishna’s service, speak about it, and the next person and the next person. Every night like this. This is sadhu sanga, this is loving relationship, sharing one’s heart. Such a great gift we got from Srila Prabhupada, the universality of Mahaprabhu’s mission. We are all Vaisnavas – not American Vaisnavas, or Indian Vaisnavas. We are all part of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission, we have all come in its grand wake.

By nama sankirtana we will know the truth of Krishna bhakti. It’s nature is self-luminous. It will come to us. Chant Krishna nama nicely, practice vaidhi-bhakti sincerely and aspire, ‘I want to attain Vraja bhakti.’ When I was a young and inexperienced devotee living in New Dwaraka, someone mistakenly told me ‘You know most devotees go to Vaikuntha.’ At the time I didn’t how to respond – but I cried. I thought, ‘Vaikuntha! Krishna is not in Vaikuntha! He who plays the flute, standing on the altar – I’m attached to him. And you’re telling me I’m going to Vaikuntha?’ We should have this kind of feeling: ‘I want only Vraja lila.’

Q. How do we do that?

A. Ruci is the basis of spiritual identity. When you have ruci, you know what to do. You follow the ruci, the taste. Follow the taste – this is the ultimate pramana, or evidence. We hear about sastra pramana, but Caitanya-caritamrta teaches that the real pramana is experience. And we know that as a fact. We can hear sastra all day and night, but the only reason we are here is that we got a little experience somewhere along the line and we know ‘it is not like anything else. I want this!’

I may know I am not qualified to go there now, but I will try to qualify myself with all these practices and I will chant my mantram and think as Jiva Goswami said, ‘I want to go there, the place this mantra is talking about.’ And if we are sincere in our practice, that mantra will rise in our heart like the sun and reveal Bhagavat-sambandha, our relationship with the Lord. And then there will be no more questions like, ‘How will I know? How can I tell?’ If we ask this question then it has not come yet.

And then as this love awakens the feeling comes that you want to share it. This is the nature of love, to share. And as you start to share, you realize, ‘Oh I can’t, not everyone shares the same feeling and they may think I am crazy, saying ‘Who are you to say that, that you are feeling like this?’

So that ideal, that awakening in the heart, is a very high thing of course. But it will come. It will come to the simple and sincere devotee. Try to be a good devotee, not a great devotee and it will come. Serve the Vaisnavas and when it comes, you will know it.

Q. And study scripture?

A. Yes, study the scripture. But for what? For doing bhajan, not for collecting information to prove a point, to beat somebody over the head with it. Such argumentation is not helpful at all for bhakti. It is pratikula, unfavorable. So study sastra for bhajan. Let it speak to us of what we need to do now, today, to make progress in Krishna’s service. This is what I mean by an open heart. Study sastra in that way, and practice.

Q. And preaching?

A. What comes to you, if you feel it is worth sharing, then share it. If someone asks you a question, you answer honestly what you have understood. And if people are attracted to that, then this is preaching.

You don’t have to study for preaching, planning what to say, how to defeat them, thinking, ‘they’re all demons, they have all rejected the right way, they are this or that,’ whatever ism or schism we are part of.

Find a verse that changes your heart. When your heart changes, preaching will overflow, automatically. That kind of preaching will be compelling and it will draw people in and it will draw down the mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu as well.

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