“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the full-moon evening in the month of Phalguna, an auspicious time full of auspicious symptoms, when Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu advented Himself with the chanting of the holy name, Hare Krishna.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 13.19)
To anyone who has ever sang the maha-mantra with attention, faith and love, the occasion of Gaura Purnima is very special. It marks the anniversary of when Gauranga Mahaprabhu descended to this world. He singlehandedly altered the landscape of the present age by introducing a time-honored tradition to the world in a new way, a way that would bring the people together at a time when they were finding any way possible to remain divided. That way addressed the true nature of the individual and the common bond they share with all other individuals.
In the Bhagavad-gita we learn that a wise soul applies an equal vision to the different species. From recent history we know that man has the tendency to discriminate. Wars have taken place simply over differences in race. Nations have sailed to other lands, found the people to be different, and then decided to make slaves out of them. The flawed notion is that the difference, which is only at the bodily level, makes the people themselves either superior or inferior.
vidyā-vinaya-sampannebrāhmaṇe gavi hastiniśuni caiva śva-pāke capaṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ
“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)
With this history in mind, it is not surprising that in formal education the idea of equality is presented. The Bhagavad-gita completes the idea by extending the vision of equality to all species. The humble sage, using his true knowledge, understands that the cow, the dog, the dog-eater, the elephant and the wise priest are all the same constitutionally. They are spirit soul at the core, which means that at the level which matters most, there is equality.
If a wise human being can have this vision, then most certainly it already belongs to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There is something even more important that links all the souls: their relationship to God. The Supreme, who is spirit also but of a higher quantitative potency, resides within each heart as the Supersoul. So not only is every living thing a spirit soul, but they also have the origin of all living things within them.
The present age of Kali features quarrel and hypocrisy. Though we all have the two previously mentioned features in common, we find any which way to make differences. Our focus is only on svartha, or personal interest, and not paramartha, or supreme interest. Svartha changes as the body changes, and since the individual bodies are different and in changing circumstances, svartha is never fixed. With different desires, there are bound to be clashes; hence the division.
Paramartha is the same for everyone. That supreme interest derives from the relationship between individual spirit and supreme spirit. How do we describe that relationship? Lord Chaitanya, the bright moon to dissipate the darkness of Kali’s age, descends to teach us. He presents the philosophy of achintya-bheda-bheda. This truth says that the living individual spirit is simultaneously one with and different from the Supreme Spirit. This combination is impossible to grasp fully; it is inconceivable.
If it’s achintya, then how are people going to learn? We have evidence right now of one way to acquire something similar to the vision of equality without consulting philosophy. We can take the example of the famous musician or band. They are known for the music they play. Their songs touch the hearts of so many that there is interest across the world to have them perform live. Thus the famous recording artist or band embarks on world tours, playing to sold out arenas in every major city.
The members of the band may have prejudices going in. They may be victims of the tendency to divide based on clashing self-interests. They may even have disagreements within the band, looking at their fellow mates as colleagues instead of friends. Through touring the world, however, they accidentally stumble upon the fact that people share something in common. Regardless of language, age or ethnicity, the fans seem to like the songs that the band plays. They offer praises, kind words, and even gifts. How are the band members to maintain their prejudices then? If they have yet to get rid of them, they still have to think twice before speaking up, for they know that their fans are not limited to only one group of people.
The philosophy of simultaneous oneness and difference can similarly be spread through music. Lord Chaitanya was famous for His ability to chant and dance. He only had one set of lyrics, though. There was only one song He would sing, to different melodies and tunes. That song was the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
On the outside this mantra seems different from God. For starters, it is simply a set of words. It has no physical form. It can only be heard. Even when read, the final result is hearing. Words are nothing more than markers to help create sounds. Yet these words are non-different from God. The person hearing them does not have to know these things right away. They don’t have to know that Krishna means “all-attractive” or that Rama means “the reservoir of all transcendental pleasure.” They don’t need to know that they are meeting their paramartha by chanting these names. Simply hearing will be sufficient.
There is every risk involved in teaching others about the science of self-realization. The important topic of worshiping the Supreme Lord should be benign, but it brings great opposition. There are so many divisions already, and if the recipient develops a flawed understanding they could end up offending God and His devotees. Why take the risk, then?
Lord Chaitanya saw the dreadful condition of the people of the age of Kali. He wanted to unite them, regardless of what divisions they had already created. He found the perfect way in the sankirtana movement, the congregational chanting of the holy names. While people have been singing the glories of God for centuries, it was never done in such an assertive and open way. Lord Chaitanya went to the people instead of the people coming to Him. His spiritual descendants follow the same example, for they know that everyone is intimately linked to God and that they will find true happiness only through connecting with Him. On the occasion of Gaura Purnima we remember and honor the beautiful son of mother Shachi, who worked to bring the people of the world together, to unite them in the peace that is bhakti-yoga.
On this day Gaura Purnima to fall,
Remember the golden savior of all.
Who to Supreme Lord the same,
To teach bhakti philosophy came.
To the people He fearlessly went,
Sounds of holy names to them sent.
From this highest awareness coming,
In harmony of bhakti age golden becoming.