“O Lord of the universe, I do not desire material wealth, materialistic followers, a beautiful wife or fruitive activities described in flowery language. All I want, life after life, is unmotivated devotional service to You.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.29)
The name Jagannatha means “Lord of the universe.” This is one way to address God, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He runs the show. He is the big boss. Jagannatha also refers to a specific deity manifestation of God residing in the original temple in the holy city of Puri, which is also known as Purushottama Kshetra. In one of the verses of His famous eight instructions, Lord Chaitanya addresses the Lord of the universe through the name Jagadisha. And He requests something very important from that controller of the land.
If you go up to the Lord of the universe, you can obviously ask for whatever you want. Not that you’ll necessarily get it, but the potential is there. If I go up to a poor man and ask for a piece of chipped rice, he will likely be able to get it for me. That’s provided he is willing to part with it. In the Bhagavata Purana, a poor brahmana once visited the Supreme Lord in Dvaraka and could only offer such chipped rice. Though he had nothing, and felt embarrassed even trying to pass off so measly an offering, he did so nonetheless. Due to the nature of the recipient, he was rewarded for his gesture.
“I simply offered Him a morsel of chipped rice, and in exchange He has given me opulences greater than the opulence of the King of heaven.” (Sudama Vipra, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 26)
If you ask the same poor person for a giant mansion, even if they like you a lot there is not much they can do. This is the way of the material world; everything is limited. What we see before us is the finite. The infinite is beyond this realm. It belongs to the Lord of the universe. As He has control over everything, He can very easily grant any reward to any person.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu addresses Jagadisha and asks for one thing. First He lists the things that He doesn’t want. He has no desire for material wealth. This seems like an odd thing to state. Who doesn’t want money? Who doesn’t wish to be safe and secure in their finances? Lord Chaitanya played the role of a mendicant, so His statement shows that His acceptance of the renounced order was not due to misfortune. He knew what He was doing.
Lord Chaitanya also says that He doesn’t want materialistic followers. Who wouldn’t want loyal people following behind, ready to offer service at a moment’s notice? Who wouldn’t want an adoring posse following them wherever they went? A materialistic follower in this sense means someone who wants something. Thus such a follower is always waiting for payback; their service is not pure. Lord Chaitanya has no use for them.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu does not want a beautiful wife. He had one at home prior to accepting the renounced order. He harbored no ill will towards her. And she loved Him very much as well. Yet Lord Chaitanya has no desire for a beautiful wife to be enjoyed in the material sense. He knows there is a higher purpose to life. He also does not want fruitive activities, which aim to bring temporary sense pleasure.
Instead, all He wants is unmotivated devotional service to the Lord of the universe, life after life. In this request, Shri Gaurahari subtly reveals an introductory fact given to students of Vedanta philosophy. There is another life. Indeed, there is a life after that one. There was a previous life as well. There was a life prior to that one. The soul is the constant; it never perishes and it never takes birth. Only the outside covering changes.
“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)
The outside coverings vary, which brings different circumstances. In the covering of a lion, there is only so much I can do. If I am born in the ocean, I likely can’t survive on land. Chaitanya asks that wherever the soul ends up, it should be allowed to have devotional service to God. And that service should be without motivation. This means no desire for money, wealth, fame, or fruitive activities.
If those things are absent, what is left? What will occupy the day when there are no material desires?
With this boon granted, the soul gets to have devotional service, all the time. This is what makes the soul happy. Thus Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s request is applicable to everyone, regardless of age, gender, or religious tradition. The soul actually wants unmotivated devotional service. When pursuing material rewards, the inherent desire is for pure devotion. The love of the romantic relationship is the distorted form of the pure love, or prema, that naturally exists for God.
The Lord of the universe can easily grant this wish; though hardly anyone will ask for it. After many births, one finally takes up devotional service to God in full knowledge. Such a soul is very rare. This is stated in the Bhagavad-gita by Krishna, the same Lord of the universe in His original form.
“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 7.19)
Shri Hanuman asks for the same gift. The same goes for Prahlada Maharaja and Goswami Tulsidas. Actually, any smart person would ask for the same thing. The soul is happiest when serving, and when in devotional service there is no end to the service. Jagadisha is the Lord of many other universes as well. If this universe has somehow found its fill of praise for Him, there are other universes to enter for offering the same praise. In this way Lord Chaitanya, the most munificent incarnation of Godhead, reveals the secret of life to anyone who is willing to hear it.
Anything Lord of the universe can grant,
Nothing which to deliver He can’t.
From Lord Chaitanya’s request see,
Of what things not to seek.
Material followers, fortune or fame,
Instead only attachment to the name.
Devotion in circumstances whatever,
Best gift to use wherever and whenever.