THE HEART OF KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS
In the 18th chapter of Srila Prabhupada’s Teachings of Lord Caitanya, we read about the conversation between Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Prakashananda Sarasvati. Prakashananda was chief amongst the large following of Mayavadi sannyasis at Benares. According to the sannyasis who followed the Mayavadi teachings of Shankaracharya, singing, dancing and playing musical instruments were regarded as sinful activities. The Mayavadi sannyasis considered Lord Caitanya to be an uneducated sentimentalist; and Lord Caitanya avoided their association and continued His sankirtan movement.
Srila Prabhupada writes (TLC): “ ……both Tapan Mishra and Chandra Sekhar Acharya were feeling very sorry about strong criticism against Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and they came together and prayed for the Lord to meet the Mayavadi sannyasis.” At that time, a brahmana came to Lord Caitanya and begged Him to participate in a meeting of the Mayavadi sannyasis at his home and Lord Caitanya accepted his invitation.
Srila Prabhupada continues: “The next day Lord Caitanya went to the house of the brahmin. He saw that all the Mayavadi sannyasis were sitting there. He offered His respects to all the sannyasis, as was usual, and then He went to wash His feet. After washing His feet, He sat down at that spot, not amongst the Mayavadi sannyasis, but in a place where water was kept for washing the feet. While He was sitting there, the other sannyasis saw a glaring effulgence emanating from His body. All the Mayavadi sannyasis were attracted by this glaring effulgence, and they stood up and showed Him respects.”
Then Prakashanada Sarasvati very respecftfully invited Lord Caitanya to join the other sannyasis, and Prakashananda enquired as to why Lord Caitanya was not following the path of Shankaracharya, but was engaging in singing and dancing. Lord Caitanya explained as follows:
“My dear sir, I may inform you that my spiritual master saw me as a great fool, and therefore he more or less punished Me and said that, because I am such a fool, I have no jurisdiction in the study of Vedanta. So he kindly gave me the chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. My spiritual master told Me: ‘You go on chanting this Krishna mantra, and it will make You all-perfect.’”(TLC)
In the course of their discussion, Lord Caitanya pointed out many of the truths of Vedanta philosophy, uncompromised by the faulty explanations of Shakaracharya. And finally Lord Caitanya explained:
“As a result of this chanting, sometimes I become impatient and cannot restrain Myself from dancing and laughing or crying or singing – just like a madman. When I first wondered whether I had become a madman by chanting this Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, I approached my spiritual master and informed him that by chanting this Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, ‘I am becoming just like a madman, so what is My actual position?’”(TLC)
Srila Prabhupada continues, “Lord Caitanya informed Prakashananda that when His spiritual master understood Him, the spiritual master said: “It is the transcendental nature of the Holy Name of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare to transport a man into spiritual madness. Anyone who sincerely chants this Holy Name is actually elevated very soon onto the platform of love of God, and therefore he becomes mad after Him.”(TLC)
It is at this point, near the very end of chapter 18, that Srila Prabhupada discloses an essential key to understanding the mystery of how we invoke this benediction of love of Krishna through this chanting process. Srila Prabhupada explains as follows:
“The process is that a bonafide spiritual master chants the Holy Name, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, and the transcendental sound vibration enters into the ear of the disciple. If the disciple follows in the footsteps of his spiritual master and chants the Holy Name with equal respect, that becomes the worship of the transcendental Name. When the transcendental Name becomes worshiped by the devotee, the Name Himself spreads His glories within the heart of the devotee, and when he is perfectly qualified in chanting such transcendental vibration of the Holy Name, he is quite fit to become a spiritual master for delivering all the people of the world.”(TLC Ch 18)
(It is to be noted that the above quotes are taken from the 1968 copyright edition of TLC. The same text as presented on the Prabhupadabooks.com web site, presents the words of this chapter in a way that distorts Srila Prabhupada’s presentation, even to the extent of changing Srila Prabhupada’s words “equal respect” to “similar respect”. Upon questioning editor Dravida das regarding the reason for this change, he told me that Hayagriva concluded that it would not be possible for us to ever chant the Holy Name with “equal respect” and therefore decided to change Srila Prabhupada’s words in this way. However, we will show, with reference to our body of Vaishnava teachings, that “equal respect” is Srila Prabhupada’s purposeful choice of words, and his exact meaning.)
Therefore as we are sincere to progress in this cultivation of Krishna consciousness, the following question arises in our mind:
“How can we chant the Holy Name with equal respect?”
In our Vaishnava songbook we find the prayer of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur entitled Gurudeva. The second verse is translated as follows:
I offer you all respects,
for thus I may have the energy to know you correctly.
Then by chanting the holy name in great ecstasy,
all my offenses will cease.
Similarly, in the Thakur’s Kabe habe bolo, the same feelings of transcendental veneration are expressed in verse number 7:
Oh enjoyer of the nectar of the name,
When will I touch your lotus feet
Until the end of time?
When, oh when will that day be mine?
“Until the end of time” can only mean, “I have no other shelter, and my ardent aspiration is to hold your divine lotus feet within my heart without cessation.”
Similarly, in our Sri Sri Gurv-asktaka prayer that we sing every morning, we have the following instruction in the 7th verse:
The spiritual master is to be honored
as much as the Supreme Lord,
because he is the most confidential servitor of the Lord.
This is acknowledged in all revealed scriptures
and followed by all authorities.
In his purport to Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila 17.15, Srila Prabhupada gives us another flavor, or ingredient, of the over-all formula for how to associate with the pure devotee for receiving his mercy:
The word ‘snigdha” (very peaceful) and the word ‘su-snigdha’ (affectionate) are used in verses 14 and 15, and they are also found in Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1.8: bruyah snigdhasya sisysasya guravo guhyam apyy uta
‘A disciple who has actual love for his spiritual master,
is endowed by the blessings of his spiritual master
with all confidential knowledge’.
Srila Sridhara Swami has commented that the word ‘snigdhasya’ means ‘prema-vatah’. The word ‘prema-vatah’ indicates that one has great love for his spiritual master.
There are scores of such quotes. But we do not wish to expand the volume of this short essay. The understanding that we hope to bring into focus, for our mutual benefit, is that when our love and respect for Srila Prabhupad are sincere and nicely fixed-up, we will begin to be blessed with an understanding of his his mood of devotion in chanting the Holy Name of the Lord. Then we can begin to follow in his footsteps in this way.
In a very straight-forward and beautifully poetic way, Srila Prabhupada elucidates the process by which we come to understand his devotional feelings so that we can begin to cultivate those same feelings through our own chanting. In his purport to Srimad Bhagavatam, 1.5.25 we find the following:
Pure devotion is as much infectious,
in a good sense,
as infectious diseases…..
The neophyte devotee
becomes practically enriched
with the transcendental qualities of the pure devotee,
attraction for the Personality of Godhead’s name, fame, quality, pastimes, etc.
Infection of the qualities of the pure devotee means
to imbibe the taste of pure devotion
always in the transcendental activities of the Personality of Godhead……..
…..one can become attracted, one can have steadiness,
one can have perfect taste, one can have transcendental emotions,
and at last one can be situated on the plane of loving service of the Lord.
All these stages develop
by the association of pure devotees,
and that is the purport of this stanza.
Again, to say the same in one line, we recite, from the prayer of Srila Narottama das Thakur:
From him, Krishna prema emanates;
By him, ignorance is destroyed.
Contemplating these abhideya guidelines, the conclusion is that Krishna consciousness is not a mechanical process. It is a process of invoking the blessings of His Divine Grace, bestowed in reciprocation for our steadfast veneration, combined with sincere feelings of love. As these ingredients are cultivated everything is revealed. Srila Prabhupada discourages blind faith; but urges us to make the experiment for ourselves. Not to understand the taste of honey by licking the outside of the bottle; but to enter within and acquire the actual taste. Srila Prabhupada explains that we must imbibe that taste in his intimate transcendental association. Hence the meaning of “Prabhupadanuga”, not an official slogan of political membership, but a condition of the heart. A heart condition, in which we savor love of Krishna, relished by Krishna’s pure devotee as he chants the Holy Name. In this way we receive Lord Caitanya’s mercy through the authorized acharya in disciplic succession. “He lives forever by his divine instructions and the follower lives with him.” Such are his divine instructions.