“When the Lord was on the lap of His mother, He would at once stop crying as soon as the ladies surrounding Him chanted the holy names and clapped their hands. This peculiar incident was observed by the neighbors with awe and veneration.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, Introduction)
Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Krishna Himself in the humble guise of a sannyasi, a mendicant who seemingly has no other source of sustenance than the bhiksha, or alms, offered by the householders, throughout His life revealed how both He and Lord Krishna, the selfsame person, can be pleased. When you are God, it is impossible to completely hide your features and divine personality. Therefore, when the good Lord advents, His features are discernable from the time of appearance to the time of disappearance. As Lord Chaitanya’s primary mission was to preach the glories of Shri Krishna as found in the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, His preaching efforts started from His childhood. Normally we wouldn’t think of a child as capable of cajoling others into finding enlightenment, but through something as simple as crying, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu replicated the Vaikuntha atmosphere in a second.
What is Vaikuntha? An area free of anxiety is the definition of the word, but the proper noun specifically refers to the spiritual land inhabited by the personal form of the Lord. God is one, but depending on how His mercy is viewed and utilized, the understanding from the target individual’s perspective can vary. At the very bottom of the ladder of understanding, there is no direct perception of God. Rather, the results of spiritual action are taken to be the causes themselves. For instance, we’ll see the sun rising and setting and the clouds pouring rain down onto land and take such forces to be the beginning and end. Or worse, we’ll think that we can manipulate these gifts of nature to increase our own position. Once a satisfactory ascendency is reached, we’ll declare ourselves to be supreme.
This practice is akin to a child accumulating allowance money provided by the parents and then claiming to be wealthier than others. How can there be superiority when there is full reliance on objects that we are not responsible for? The child’s mindset is clouded; their understanding of things is based on how the energies of the parents are reflected in their lives. Similarly, the grossly foolish individual lacking any tangible information about God takes the reflection of the Lord’s energies manifesting in the workings of nature to be the causes themselves, which can then hopefully be manipulated by the persons affected.
On a slightly higher platform, the individual starts to understand that the outcome of events is out of their control. We may want to play outside today or have a picnic in the park, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate, no amount of human effort can change the reality. Therefore there is full reliance on movements that cannot be control. As more sobriety in thought is introduced, the existence of God is realized. “There must be a higher power who understands the complexities of life. He must know what is good for everyone and what everyone should be doing.”
Again, this understanding comes from how the reflection of God’s potencies are realized. In this understanding there is no knowledge of the Personality of Godhead, nor what He looks like, nor what His relationship to the living entities is. With the Vedas, the authorized scriptural tradition emanating from India, there is much more evidence provided about God and His energies. In the Vedas the potency of the Supreme Spirit is reflected almost completely, without any degradation in signal. If we relay a specific network connection across many hops, there will be a delay and an increased chance of packet loss. This is why if we’re connecting to a website hosted across the globe, there is increased latency in the connection.
Similarly, with every diffusion of spiritual energy there is a loss in information clarity. This doesn’t point to a defect in the originator, but rather in the receiver. With Vedic wisdom, which has been passed down by notable souls through their teachings and sense perceptions documented in sacred texts, as much information about God that the human being can comprehend is available. We learn that in His original form, God is a personality just like us, except that His features have a brilliance that is incomprehensible. He is the richest, wisest, most famous, strongest, most beautiful and the most renounced. Since He possesses these features simultaneously, He is known as Bhagavan. Since He is all-attractive, he is also known as Krishna.
Krishna resides in Goloka Vrindavana, which is part of the Vaikuntha planetary system. Along with Krishna, there are His immediate Vishnu expansions, which are non-different from the Lord. These different manifestations reside in the uppermost planetary system along with exalted liberated associates, whose only desire is to interact personally with the Lord. In Vaikuntha all speech is transmitted in song and all movement in dance. What need is there for inhibition? When conveying thoughts and ideas, poetry put into music is the best way to communicate effectively. As brevity is the soul of wit, the shortest amount of words used to relay an idea or emotion, the better the effect the message will have. Similarly, if there is reckless abandon in emotion, no feelings of being trapped, the body will want to dance. What better place to show off your stuff than in the spiritual land free of the miseries borne of material contact?
In Vaikuntha, the dancing and singing are done for God’s pleasure. As the root cause of the creation, if Krishna is pleased then so are the different branches He nourishes. As we are part and parcel of that tree of existence, by pleasing Krishna we find pleasure ourselves. This fact can only be known to those who accept the most complete reflection of Krishna’s potencies. To remove the cloud of nescience and show how to properly align the rays of spiritual light shining down upon us, the Lord sends His authorized representatives to come and instruct the masses. In the most special circumstances, He comes Himself.
“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.7)
Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s advent was one of those special occasions. In previous eras, Krishna came to deal with miscreants and evil elements. The saintly class of men will always be around in society, though their level of prominence may vary. Even if the saints are well represented, there will always be evil elements looking to diminish their influence. If the saintly class faces too much harassment, Krishna comes to the scene to do away with the inhibitors. By providing such protection, the principles of real religion are maintained.
Lord Chaitanya was a little different in this regard, as He didn’t come to specifically punish anyone. Rather, His mission was to reveal to everyone how to best please Krishna, which would simultaneously give them pleasure. Ironically enough, He started this preaching from the time of His birth. Appearing in Navadvipa some five hundred years ago, Lord Chaitanya was known as Nimai in His youth. When a child is born, there is extra attention given, especially from the caretakers, relatives, and friends of the parents. Nimai’s birth was no different in this regard. Everyone loved to gaze at His wonderful beauty, for His golden complexion was enchanting.
While there is the benefit of seeing a new child and admiring their innocence, there is also the nuisance of having to deal with their crying. There is no asking a child what they want or why they are distressed. Rather, it is up to the caretakers to decipher the cause of the child’s distress based on outward symptoms. Taking full advantage of this system, Mahaprabhu would purposefully cry on cue, at just the right times. The elderly women obviously did not like to hear Him cry, so they tried all sorts of methods to pacify Him. Finally, after enough trial and error, they figured out that the boy would only stop crying as soon as He heard the names of Hari sung.
The word hari can mean “lion”, “monkey”, or “one who removes distresses”. It is one of Krishna’s most famous names because of His ability to remove distresses from His devotees. Lord Chaitanya and His associates, like His elder spiritual brother Lord Nityananda, would make the exclamation, “Haribol”, famous through their preaching. This simple expression begs others to chant the names of Hari, just as the mothers caring for young Nimai did.
Lord Chaitanya is so merciful that even if we are not inclined to say “Hari”, he will find a way for us to repeat it nonetheless. In this way there is no questioning His benevolence or His divine nature as Shri Krishna Himself. It should be noted that Lord Chaitanya did not preach Vedanta philosophy, meditational yoga, or how to become successful in fruitive activity with detachment. God can eventually be reached through these avenues, but the roads are very difficult, full of distractions in addition to being very long. As God is the supreme sunshine, His mercy is distributed to all. Therefore the method of self-realization that can be accepted by the most number of people is the one that most directly corresponds with the Lord, the one that represents the most complete reflection of the spiritual energy.
Since chanting the sacred maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is open to the most number of people to take up, it is the most potent religious practice. The maha-mantra is Krishna Himself; therefore Lord Chaitanya especially preached on the strength of it, begging others to recite the names of Krishna, who is the same Hari. That an infant can be pacified by hearing the names of the Lord is unique, especially considering that a typical human birth means that there was, at some point in the past, an aversion to divine love, or bhakti-yoga. It takes much cajoling to get our children to clean their room, do their homework, or go to sleep on time. Just imagine, then, how much effort is required to get them to have any sincerity in religious life. And here was a young child who would only stop crying when He heard others following a religious practice.
For His behavior, for His characteristics, for His ability to be pleased only by hearing Krishna’s names, Lord Chaitanya garnered respect right from the time of His birth. He would go on to spread the glories of Krishna-kirtana throughout India. The best way to honor Him is to regularly chant Krishna’s names in the same way that the residents of Navadvipa did in His youth. Lord Chaitanya begs everyone to find their constitutional position as servant of God. He sheds tears of sadness seeing the condition of the fallen souls in the Kali Yuga, and He bursts with affection when He sees anyone sincerely singing the glories of the beloved Hari.
The same environment that was found in Mahaprabhu’s youth can be created anywhere in the world. The temple exists for this very purpose. See the deity, sing a few songs, eat Krishna prasadam, and then always remember God and His glories. Indeed, everything in the temple is prasadam, or the Lord’s mercy, but the food offered to the deity and sanctified through His spiritual glance is the prasadam that is pleasing to the tongue. The sounds of Krishna’s name being melodiously sung are palatable to the ears, and the deity’s beautiful form is the reward for the eyes. The devotee fully immersed in bhakti is for Mahaprabhu’s delight, and since He is Krishna Himself, His pleasure will lead to our benefit as well.
Mahaprabhu grabs attention when He cries,
To make everyone chant names of Krishna He tries.
Started preaching from the time of His birth,
Most benevolent form of God to descend to earth.
To follow full devotion in bhakti we are hesitant,
To abandon attachment to vice we are reluctant.
In age of Kali, many concessions are made,
In march towards salvation we are given aid.
From preachers like Shri Shri Nimai and Nitai,
Who saved even worst sinners like Jagai and Madhai.
By chanting names of Hari, Mahaprabhu is pleased,
Cures ailments of one who is materially diseased.
Lord Chaitanya preached real religion from start to finish,
Stayed true to His mission, never did His efforts diminish.
We can honor Him by following bhakti ecstatically,
Residence in Vaikuntha we’ll earn automatically.