“O my merciful Lord Chaitanya, may the nectarean Ganges waters of Your transcendental activities flow on the surface of my desertlike tongue. Beautifying these waters are the lotus flowers of singing, dancing and loud chanting of Krishna’s holy name, which are the pleasure abodes of unalloyed devotees. These devotees are compared to swans, ducks and bees. The river’s flowing produces a melodious sound that gladdens their ears.” (Krishnadas Kaviraja Gosvami, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 2.2)
The uniqueness of the movement started by Lord Chaitanya is in the preaching. It is one thing to adopt a particular spiritual philosophy and practice the recommended rituals and functions, but it is another to actually try to teach these principles to others. Even in the area of teaching, it is much easier to give instruction to someone who kindly approaches the instructor versus actually having to go out and persuade those who may not be inclined to hear such instruction. Lord Chaitanya, a preacher incarnation of God, laid down the formula for the reawakening of God consciousness throughout society: the chanting of the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. He advised everyone, especially those already practicing the principles of bhakti-yoga, to become gurus by chanting this sacred mantra out loud and distributing God’s name to others. While chanting seems innocent enough, this method of preaching is often met with opposition, some of which is so strong that it can leave preachers doubting the effectiveness of the method. But if we apply a little intelligence, we’ll see that Lord Chaitanya’s movement is meant for a specific class of individuals, a class which is ready, willing, and able to reconnect with the Supreme Object of Pleasure, Lord Krishna.
Lord Chaitanya is considered an incarnation of Krishna, who is known as the Supreme Personality of Godhead amongst followers of the Vedas. This shouldn’t be mistaken to mean that Krishna is a sectarian God or an elevated personality worshiped by a particular group of people. There is only one God. One group may call Him by a particular name, while another may take Him to be an all-pervasive energy. But regardless, there can only be one God. The Vedas happen to be the oldest scriptures in existence; giving them a unique stature which is further enhanced by the inclusion of the many names of the original form of Godhead. Since God is everything, He is capable of innumerable activities. These activities are driven by the innumerable transcendental qualities He possesses. Taking into account all the activities and qualities that can be identified, the Supreme Lord takes on innumerable names. Of all the names, Krishna is considered the best because it is inclusive of all the aforementioned activities and qualities. Krishna means all-attractive, so in this way we see that only God can be the most resplendent in every feature imaginable. The conclusion of Vedic philosophy is that the conditioned individual spirit souls, the residents of the material world, are meant to inquire about Krishna, learn about His transcendental features, and then ultimately use that knowledge to develop a loving attachment to Him.
This formula seems pretty straightforward. Not only is it easy to practice and understand, but it is also easy to describe to others. So why is Lord Chaitanya’s movement unique? The issue relates to the advent of the Kali Yuga, the age we currently live in. According to Vedic information, the duration of each creation can be divided into four time periods, with dharma, or society’s adherence to the established religious codes, dwindling with each successive Yuga. Since we are in the last Yuga, Kali, society is hardly religious. Among those who are spiritually inclined, many are following a bogus or degraded system. This is true even of followers of the Vedic tradition. In previous Yugas, the highest division of society, the brahmanas, acted as the teachers, the givers of Vedic wisdom. Since brahmanas were respected by others, there was no need for them to go out and actively search for students. The rest of society would automatically seek out the counsel of the brahmanas, sending their children to live with them in their youth.
In the Kali Yuga, however, many are claiming to be brahmanas simply off birthright; something not in line with the revealed scriptures. Moreover, many brahmanas also claim that Vedic wisdom is meant exclusively for those born into the Vedic system, i.e. those who have a family lineage which dates back to famous brahmanas, kshatraiyas, and vaishyas of the past. If we apply even the slightest intelligence, we’ll see that this logic is faulty. Since spiritual life relates to the relationship between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul, God, the discipline is open to everyone. Ancestry is a material concept, something related to the time, place, and circumstance of one’s birth. This has no bearing on the soul; hence it has nothing to do with a person’s relationship to God or their eligibility for hearing about Him. Certainly some circumstances are more conducive to others when it comes to spiritual life. Taking birth in a family of brahmanas who are actively engaged in Krishna’s service is certainly a great boon. On the flip side, taking birth in a family of non-devotees definitely reduces the chance of being imbibed with the traditions and practices of the Vedas. But in both of these situations, the eligibility for reconnecting with Krishna is not affected. Every individual soul is equal, and thus everyone is a candidate for returning to the spiritual world after their current life ends.
“O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth-women, vaishyas [merchants], as well as shudras [workers]—can approach the supreme destination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.32)
Probably the most famous book of the Vedic tradition is the Bhagavad-gita, a discourse on spiritual topics given by Krishna Himself. In this book, Krishna mentions that the teachings found within should not be spoken to a person who is a non-devotee or one who is envious of the Lord. These are certainly valid concerns that should be taken into account when teaching others, but the underlying benefit to preaching doesn’t change. Lord Chaitanya, who advented some five hundred years ago, especially stressed preaching about Krishna through the chanting process. Since Krishna is non-different from His name, anyone who hears or recites His name in a loving way could have direct association with the Lord. This association then helps the conditioned living entity rekindle their interest and attachment towards the Lord, paving the way for the acquisition of spiritual knowledge. Therefore Lord Chaitanya, breaking against the current standards of the time, travelled all across India and freely spread the names of God to anyone who would listen. Before leaving this earth, He established an institution of preaching and instruction carried out by His closest associates. That tradition continues to this day through the sincere followers of Shri Gaurahari who have managed to spread Krishna’s glories to people around the world. In this way, the idea of Krishna consciousness being open to every person has gone from being a theory to a reality.
Though Lord Chaitanya’s movement is innocent enough, there is great opposition to it, especially from those who have taken shelter of someone besides Krishna. The reality is that every person is religious, even if they claim otherwise. What differs, however, is the object of worship. Those who are considered irreligious are simply worshipers of matter. They take the material body, which is composed of gross elements like bile, pus, and mucus, to be the beginning and end of everything. Knowing that they are going to die, they try to cram as much material enjoyment as possible into their short time on earth. This activity is often encouraged through the faulty “you only get one life” notion posited by many spiritual doctrines. The Vedas, however, tell us that the spirit soul is imperishable and that the current life of a conditioned living entity is simply a temporary condition. In this state of being, the spirit soul assumes a body composed of matter, the exact combination of which is determined by a person’s previous activities and desires. With new desires and activities come new bodies. In this way, the living entity is always working towards forming a future body. The time of death simply represents the complete change of bodies, the discarding of an old set of clothes in favor of a new one.
Spirituality aims to shift the living entity’s focus from material life to spiritual life. Spiritual life addresses the plight of the soul. By working to develop a future spiritual body, the development of a future material body ceases. Once this material development is fully stopped, the liberated soul returns to the spiritual world, where it assumes a spiritual body and remains in God’s association forever.
The materialists, the worshipers of matter, don’t want to return to the spiritual world. Therefore they raise opposition to the preaching efforts of the sincere devotees. Gross materialists, mental speculators, and even devout meditational yogis, take shelter of argument, logic, and material enjoyment. Using these tools, they try their best to cut down the transcendental words put forth by the pure followers of the Supreme Lord. In politics, strategists say that it’s never a good idea to put an idea out on the table too quickly; the reason being that as soon as an idea is put forth, opponents can begin to pick away at it. The material world is full of dualities, so what one person views as beneficial, another can view as detrimental. Good and bad are simply relative terms, things which change based on the eye of the beholder. If someone puts forth a statement as simple as “the sky is blue”, there will immediately be opposition. Logic and argument can be applied to any word, so any truth or reality espoused by a philosopher or saintly person can quickly be picked apart simply through negation, skepticism, and the use of argument.
This was how Ravana and Kamsa, two famous demons of the past, would justify their behavior. Knowing that they were dreadful sinners who were destined for punishment, they wouldn’t dare posit their own theories on life. They lived off of killing the innocent and enjoying as much material opulence as possible. When taken to task for their shameful behavior, these two demons would conjure up their own arguments, attempting to cut down the words of the pious. This behavior continues to this day with the descendants of these two demons, the devout materialists and enemies of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
“Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, are cast by Me into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 16.19)
Time, space, logic, and argument are simply creations of this temporary and ever-changing material world. They are meant to serve as the enjoyment for the wayward spirit souls, those who want separation from the Supreme Lord in the hopes of surpassing Him in strength, fame, and wealth. In this way, we see that Krishna is the most benevolent Lord, for He allows those who want to forget Him to take shelter of meaningless concepts. The brain is a material creation after all, and logic and argument serve to give satisfaction to this brain. As established in Lord Chaitanya’s ultimate conclusion of achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, the relationship between the Supreme Lord and the living entities is that of simultaneous oneness and difference. This truth is inconceivable, which means that no amount of logic or argument can enable a person to truly understand it.
If we can’t understand God through truths and postulates, what’s the point to studying Vedic wisdom? The purpose of the Vedas, and preaching for that matter, is to give the sincere souls, those wanting to reconnect with their long-lost friend in the spiritual sky, a chance at perfection in life. The most effective way to take in this information is through the submissive hearing process. It was for this reason that Lord Chaitanya established the congregational chanting, sankirtana, as the topmost religious practice. Let everyone in the world hear the transcendental sound vibrations of Hare Krishna, Hare Rama. If even one person reconnects with Krishna as a result of hearing this sound, then it is worth tolerating the insults and opposition of thousands of Kamsas and Ravanas. One pure devotee of Krishna shines brighter than a thousand demons.