Doesn’t The Image Of Chaitanya Give The Wrong Idea About Bhakti

[Chaitanya Mahaprabhu]“In the age of Kali the Lord incarnates as a devotee, yellowish in color, and is always chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Although He is Krishna, His complexion is not blackish like Krishna’s in Dvapara-yuga but is golden. It is in Kali-yuga that the Lord engages in preaching love of Godhead through the sankirtana movement, and those living entities who are intelligent adopt this process of self-realization.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.5.32)

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कृष्ण-वर्णं त्विषाकृष्णं
साङ्गोपाङ्गास्त्र-पार्षदम्
यज्ञैः सङ्कीर्तन-प्रायैर्
यजन्ति हि सु-मेधसः

kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ tviṣākṛṣṇaṁ
sāṅgopāṅgāstra-pārṣadam
yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtana-prāyair
yajanti hi su-medhasaḥ

Friend1: If you consider the sheer volume of Vedic literature, it is a little overwhelming.

Friend2: The Mahabharata alone. That is not something you read casually on a Sunday afternoon.

Friend1: Ha. That method would require decades to finish.

Friend2: Just imagine that Vyasadeva had the entire thing memorized. The most complex language in Sanskrit. Beautiful poetry, mind you, but of a ridiculous length.

Friend1: I’ve heard it said that Vyasadeva isn’t the one who wrote it down, either.

[Ganesha writing]Friend2: He dictated it. Ganesha, the beloved son of Shiva and Parvati, transcribed.

Friend1: And contained within is the Bhagavad-gita.

Friend2: Which is microscopic in comparison, if you were judging by length.

Friend1: There is also Ramayana, the Puranas, the Upanishads, to name a few.

Friend2: The Vedas are ever-expanding because that is the property of Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Even our discussion now qualifies as glorification. It could be an addendum; our humble attempt at following in the footsteps of the teachers of Vedic literature.

Friend1: On the one side we have scholarship, indicative of the highest intelligence. On the other side there is the visual of the sankirtana movement.

Friend2: Started by Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Friend1: Who is helped by associates like Nityananda, Haridasa, Advaita, and Shrivasa; to name a few.

Friend2: The congregational chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Chanting the names has always been an integral part of devotional life in the Vedic tradition. Sankirtana is a special distinction; the same chanting but done alongside others.

Friend1: To augment the effect.

Friend2: You mentioned Vedic literature, and so this sankirtana movement is predicted in the Shrimad Bhagavatam. It is said that intelligent people in the Kali-yuga will engage in sankirtana, which will be started by Krishna, who will appear in a non-blackish form.

Friend1: The image is of Chaitanya chanting and dancing. His deity form in the temple has the arms upraised.

Friend2: Yes, and He is standing alongside Nityananda Prabhu, who has the same stance.

[Chaitanya Mahaprabhu]Friend1: Will not people get a mistaken impression, though?

Friend2: Of what?

Friend1: Of spiritual life in the descending tradition of the Vedas. If people who perform sankirtana are front and center, casual observers may consider the culture to be based on faith and sentimentalism. Then you get into the “my religion against your religion” paradigm, which I would like to avoid.

Friend2: You make some valid points. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself had to deal with such impressions, which are documented in the encounters with a sannyasi named Prakashananda Sarasvati, who was together with many followers of the Mayavada school.

Friend1: Impersonalism. They certainly would not be interested in sankirtana. They take away God’s features. They make His incarnations a product of maya, which is illusion.

Friend2: And so this group was amazed at Mahaprabhu’s intelligence and ability to properly explain shastra. He defeated the Mayavada arguments. This person who was supposedly interested in just chanting and dancing happened to be the most learned.

Friend1: Yes, and so aren’t you echoing my concern? It wasn’t until someone had a meeting with Chaitanya that their mistaken impression was removed. Don’t we run the same risk today?

Friend2: The idea is that people in general will not be very interested in philosophy. Have you tried having honest discussions with people about any kind of issue? Life and death. The proper role of government. The pros and cons to different medical treatments. The need to pursue good behavior, to become a gentleman.

Friend1: Yeah, no one wants to talk about that. They will discuss politics and sports, but always at a superficial level. They will discuss celebrity gossip news, but nothing of substance.

Friend2: These are the effects of Kali-yuga. That is why the sankirtana movement is needed. This penetrates through the fog and gives a glimmer of hope of catching the attention of those who are deep down devotees already. If they have an interest on the philosophical side, there is plenty of information available, to support the devotional life and the practice of chanting the holy names.

In Closing:

Plenty of information found,
On sufficient philosophical ground.

But Chaitanya known to dance,
Associates with similar stance.

Idea that in Kali interest not much,
Of principles discourse as such.

Better with sankirtana their attention,
Predicted in shastra, not an invention.



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