by Swami B.G. Narasingha
‘This Saṅkīrtana Movement Is the Līlā of Mahāprabhu’ by Swami Narasingha was first published on March 30th 2002. This article was based on class by Narasingha Maharaja given in 2001 wherein Maharaja discusses gaura-līlā in relation to kṛṣṇa-līlā and how by engaging in Mahāprabhu’s saṅkīrtana movement, one attains Vṛndāvana.
If you were to examine the list of personalities in the Caitanya Sārasvata Paramparā, our paramparā, who would you find? Who is in the saṅkīrtana movement? Who is Mahāprabhu? Who is Gadādhara; who are all these personalities? Then you would come to the Six Gosvāmīs; who are they? Rūpa-Sanātana, they are gopīs (mañjarīs) who came down here in the form of Rūpa and Sanātana. All the way from them to Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta and all the ācāryas in our line, it is known who they are in the eternal līlā of Kṛṣṇa. This is true for all those up to the time of Bhaktisiddhānta. After that, it is not known who any of them are. You will find mentioned throughout books and various letters who is Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta. For instance, one devotee wrote to Śrīla Prabhupāda, “Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta is an Aṣṭa Sakhī.” Prabhupāda wrote back, “These are very high topics, and they are not for general discussion, but as far as I know, my Guru Mahārāja is not one of the Aṣṭa Sakhī. He is a mañjarī named Nayana-maṇi Mañjarī.” So up to that point, who they are in that eternal world, that has been revealed, but after that point it has not been revealed.
What is clear is that the line of service that they bring down goes to a particular place. It does not go to Vaikuṇṭha. If someone offered you the chance to go to Vaikuṇṭha today, would you take it? Better say no, because Prabhupāda is not there to greet you, he is not in Vaikuṇṭha. Mahāprabhu is not there to greet you; Nityānanda Prabhu and Acyutānanda the saṅkīrtana leader are not there to greet you in Vaikuṇṭha. Maybe Advaita Ācārya will be there, but He will look at you and say, “What are you doing here? Move on, move on!”
There was recently a discussion, part of which pertained to whether Advaita Ācārya can give vraja–bhāva. There was a controversy among some devotees regarding this point. Someone was saying that Advaita Ācārya could not give vraja-bhāva because he is Sadā-Śiva Mahā-Viṣṇu; he is Mahā-Viṣṇu and Sadā-Śiva. Advaita Ācārya not only brings Mahāprabhu down to this world, but he also delivers us to Nityānanda Prabhu. Yes, he does not give a direct admittance to Vṛndāvana, but he gives introduction to Mahāprabhu by bringing Him to this world and delivering us to Nityānanda Prabhu. Nityānanda Prabhu takes us to Mahāprabhu.
According to a devotee’s service mentality, he will be turned over to a particular leader of servitors. Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī made it all the way to the lotus feet of Mahāprabhu, and Mahāprabhu said, “You will be with Svarūpa Dāmodara; you will be under his care.” In the eternal world we will be under the care of different devotees of the Supreme Lord, according to our devotional aptitude, or devotional achievement. That achievement is just a feeling. It is just a feeling.
In the end, Kṛṣṇa consciousness is just about cultivating a feeling. All that you know in this world will vanish at the time of death; everything goes, and a feeling overwhelms us. Darkness comes, sound goes away, and there is a feeling. For those who are not God-conscious, that feeling is all about matter, all about anxiety. That feeling is fear, attachment, and all these mundane things. But for a devotee, that feeling is love, bhāva, prema – feelings of love towards Kṛṣṇa. Those feelings are similar to the feelings we have in this world. There are different types of love: love among friends, love of family, love of a lover; that is the worldly love, kāma. The pure love of Kṛṣṇa also has such flavour as friend, as a son, as a lover; different types of feelings are there, different types of love are there, according to one’s qualification. In that way, a particular devotee will enter into a particular group of servitors.
So if you are offered liberation, even to Vaikuṇṭha, do not take it. If you were offered brahma-jyoti, certainly you would not take that; you would reject that right away. Or mystic powers? No, we do not want mystic powers, we do not want impersonal liberation, and we do not want Vaikuṇṭha liberation. We do not want that place; we must bow our heads and say, “No, we don’t want Vaikuṇṭha.” We say, “I’ll wait for the time when the opportunity comes down that I will serve my Lord in Goloka or in Navadvīpa.”
Sometimes we forget Navadvīpa. Generally, we think Goloka is everything, saying, “Oh, yes, also Navadvīpa, this is nice; Navadvīpa is also there.” But actually, Navadvīpa is more wonderful than Goloka. Goloka Vṛndāvana is called madhu. It is sweet, but Navadvīpa is sweetness with magnanimity. In Vṛndāvana the magnanimity is very less; one must be highly qualified there. It is very restricted; it is not open to just anyone and everyone. But in caitanya-līlā, in the eternal Navadvīpa, there is mādhurya, sweetness, and audārya, magnanimity. It is actually greater.
Imagine that you have a cup full of nectar, and you have another cup overflowing with nectar. One cup full of nectar, that is kṛṣṇa-līlā. One cup full of nectar which is overflowing, that is caitanya-līlā. We should give more importance to caitanya–līlā in our meditation, in our contemplation, in our thought. We should give more importance to caitanya-līlā than we give to kṛṣṇa–līlā. It is not that we should neglect Kṛṣṇa or Vṛndāvana, but we must understand that there is no entrance into Vṛndāvana without Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
In the Renaissance period many kings built temples. Even the king of Burma built a Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa temple near Gopeśvara Mahādeva, right next to Vṛndā-kuñja, near Bhūtgali. But what does such a man know about kṛṣṇa-bhakti? He does not know very much, but it was part of a cultural Renaissance. It came to a point that even the Śrī Vaiṣṇavas of South India had to build a big temple in Vṛndāvana, because if you were not represented in Vṛndāvana, you were nowhere, you were nobody. It is like if you are a film producer, then you will be represented at the Cannes Film Festival and you will be at the Sundance Film Festival, or you are nobody in the film world. Vṛndāvana became such a place. If you were not represented in Vṛndāvana, many people would consider what you were in spiritual life to be nothing. Representation in Vṛndāvana almost became a thing of prestige. But what does prestige have to do with spiritual life? Nothing.
Only by the grace of the foot dust of Mahāprabhu and his followers can we enter into Vṛndāvana. Not just by buying land, not by getting a big throne, not by getting prestige and honour for ourselves. Mother Śacī used to wonder from time to time, she would wonder deeply what is the position of her Son. Advaita Ācārya used to come to her house and offer obeisances to that Boy. Advaita Ācārya was the most dignified Vaiṣṇava scholar in all of Navadvīpa-maṇḍala, and he used to come and bow down in front of Mahāprabhu when he was a baby. In her mind this caused some trouble: “This is very bad for my Son, this is not good. Such a high person bowing down to my Son – this is very bad.” So throughout Mahāprabhu’s life she used to wonder in many ways why certain things were happening, why people were acting in certain ways, and she would sometimes wonder who He was. But yogamāyā would always cover her eventually, and then the beauty of her Child or the youthful movements of her Son would just charm her.
If we think about something often, then we may have dreams about it. Once Mother Śacī had a dream about Lord Nityānanda and Mahāprabhu. The background of her dream was that after coming to Navadvīpa and meeting with Mahāprabhu, Nityānanda Prabhu announced, “I have just come from Vṛndāvana, but the thrones are empty; the Lord is not to be found in Vṛndāvana – He has taken His birth in Navadvīpa.” This assurance he gave to the devotees: that the Kṛṣṇa from Vraja had become our Lord in Navadvīpa, posing as a devotee. But He is non-different from the Kṛṣṇa of Vraja, and therefore the Kṛṣṇa of Vraja was gone from Vṛndāvana. Until Mahāprabhu went there, Kṛṣṇa was almost gone; that Kṛṣṇa of Vraja was hidden. After Mahāprabhu’s visit there, Kṛṣṇa went back to Vṛndāvana. Then the temples and the Deities came back, and They manifested. There were only a few still visible, but when Mahāprabhu went there, so many more manifested.
First Nityānanda Prabhu announced that Vṛndāvana was empty, “The Lord has come to Navadvīpa.” Later, Mother Śacī had the dream: she saw Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma on a throne in Vṛndāvana, then Mahāprabhu and Nityānanda Prabhu came there. Nityānanda Prabhu said, “You get off the throne; your time is over! Come down, my Lord Gaurāṅga is here; your time is over, come down!” And then Balarāma said, “What do you say? He is My Brother, Kṛṣṇa, Lord of Vṛndāvana; He will always be on this throne!” Nityānanda replied, “No, your time is over, come!” Then Nityānanda Prabhu began to fight with Balarāma and He pulled Them off the throne, saying, “This throne is meant for Gaurāṅga in Kali-yuga; Gaurāṅga is on the throne!”
It is like a circle; once it gets going, where is the starting point? Like a circle, it just keeps going, and going, and going. But we should move with the flow, and we should understand the importance of Navadvīpa, caitanya-līlā, and how that will take us in a deeper connection with kṛṣṇa-līlā. And in a deeper connection with kṛṣṇa–līlā we will find a deeper appreciation for caitanya-līlā. It goes in a circle and in time, you become a madman.
You have read it in the teachings of Lord Caitanya. Prabhupāda has said, “The purpose, the goal is to become madly in love with Kṛṣṇa.” Become mad – are you ready to become a madman? Are you ready to become a slave? Because there are no servants of God, there are only slaves of God. Even service is not profound enough. Why? Because from service you can withdraw, saying, “I don’t like it; I will go back.” But if I own something, where can it go? Nowhere, it is mine. I own it; it is my property. Similarly, Kṛṣṇa owns the devotees; they are His energy, they are His property.
Service is not quite strong enough; the word servant is not strong enough to express the highest ideal. When people hear the word slave, they generally think, “Oh my God, what is this gentleman saying? This is such a bad thing!” Yes, in this world, slavery is the worst of things, but everything is just the opposite there. A slave of love – nothing could be finer, nothing could be sweeter, nothing is more rewarding than to be a slave in love of the Supreme Lord.
There are actually three types of madmen in this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. There are those who are very much favourable to kṛṣṇa-līlā, very much drawn to Kṛṣṇa, to kṛṣṇa-līlā, to Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. There are those who are very attracted to gaura-līlā, to Gaura-Nitai, to Gaura-Gadādhara, the Pañca-Tattva, caitanya-līlā. There are also those who are drawn to both. The destination of those souls is in accordance with their attraction. If one is drawn toward kṛṣṇa-līlā and can reach that perfection of love in this life, then he will rise to become an eternal resident of Goloka. If one is more given to caitanya–līlā, then he may become an eternal resident of the Navadvīpa section of Goloka. But if he is equally mad for both, as is the case with many devotees, then the soul will live in two places at once; he will be in two worlds at once.
That place is nothing like this world; we say that this world is a reflection, but that is after we have stretched the imagination. There is practically nothing here like that; everything here is limited. Even when we say, “the infinite,” our concept of infinite is limited. Here, how many people can sit in a room? Twenty? Twenty-five? Thirty? Soon it will be full. If this room were in Goloka, then one hundred thousand cowherds could sit in this room together, with no pushing, no shoving, and no lack of space. Why? Because that space is infinite; it is infinite space. This is finite space, and therefore in a half-gallon jug you can only put sixty-four ounces; you cannot put one hundred ounces in a half-gallon jug, because that space is limited. But that much space in the spiritual world could hold all the oceans of the material world. Or by just pouring that jug you could fill up those oceans, many times over. Infinite is not just “very big,” it is infinite. It is more than “big.” We generally think of the infinite as just the biggest one, the biggest yet, and a little bigger than that, but big is not even a proper word. There are no limitations there.
Sometimes we find in caitanya-līlā that people are not just one person from that spiritual world; they are three persons. Rāmānanda Rāya is considered to be Arjuna, the Pāṇḍava, he is considered to be Viśākha in Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa līlā, and also he is considered to be a cowherd boy named Arjuna. Even when we say, “I am not this body,” when we say, “I am spirit-soul,” these are quite intellectual statements for us; the experience is waiting. The experience is mostly found on the other side, entering that world where nothing is material. We say that we are not this body, but we begin every day by waking up, which is a function of the body, and we do everything throughout the day in relation to this body. We even stop chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa when we are tired; we honour prasāda when we are hungry. Why do we not take it when we are not hungry? Actually, we are working with the theory that Kṛṣṇa is God. We say, ‘theory,’ but unlike modern theory, ours is based on experience. It is just that the bulk of that experience is waiting there.
These days, many devotees are very given to kṛṣṇa-līlā, and they want always to talk about kṛṣṇa–līlā, and about the mādhurya-līlā within kṛṣṇa–līlā. Sometimes they criticise book distribution, saṅkīrtana, even preaching. They criticise that in favour of doing only bhajana. But these persons have overlooked something very, very important: that this saṅkīrtana movement is the līlā of Mahāprabhu. It is not something else that we are doing; it is the activity of Mahāprabhu. In other words, like in a pond, if you throw a pebble, a wave starts across the pond; it is just a ripple. After some time that ripple inevitably stops, but this saṅkīrtana movement has not stopped. Since the day when Mahāprabhu inaugurated the saṅkīrtana movement, that wave has not stopped.
Sometimes Prabhupāda would report, “He is dancing in that saṅkīrtana, it is going on eternally also in Navadvīpa.” I heard once from one of the oldest disciples of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta, “In the beginning, when nothing was here in Māyāpura, we used to live with our guru. In the middle of the night, we would hear some kīrtana, some saṅkīrtana. We could hear the karatālas, the mṛdaṅga, the chanting. And Guru Mahārāja used to say, ‘That is the eternal saṅkīrtana of Mahāprabhu.’”
The eternal pastimes of Mahāprabhu’s saṅkīrtana movement are going on, and this saṅkīrtana movement that we have joined is not some lesser thing. It is actually that very same wave that was started by Mahāprabhu. And He said, “This wave will go to every town and village of the world, for many, many, many centuries.” For ten thousand years it may go on; it may even exceed that also. It is said that this wave will reach the higher planetary systems. “saṅkīrtana–līlā,” Prabhupāda wrote, “is rāsa–līlā. saṅkīrtana movement is rāsa-līlā – it is non-different.”
Saṅkīrtana means service. Service: the pot washer is in the saṅkīrtana movement, the bookkeeper is in the saṅkīrtana movement, the book printer is in the saṅkīrtana movement, and the Bhāgavatam preacher is in the saṅkīrtana movement. The college preacher, the mṛdaṅga player, the karatāla player, those who take care of the children are also in the saṅkīrtana movement. Prabhupāda’s conception was, “There is no māyā in the movement.” Everything is in the saṅkīrtana movement.
The meaning is this: If you want Kṛṣṇa, then give yourself fully in cooperation to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Enter through the saṅkīrtana movement. Entering in the saṅkīrtana, we are immediately engaged in the Lord’s eternal pastimes. Here in this world we have so little qualification, but caitanya–līlā is magnanimous. We are not fit for that, but when asked, “Will you accept this gift?” we say, “Yes!” We can enter into the Lord’s pastimes through saṅkīrtana.
More Articles by Swami B.G. Narasingha
Dīkṣā Names and Feelings of the Heart
“Dīkṣa Names and Feelings of the Heart” was written by Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja in January 1998 for VNN. Narasiṅgha Mahārāja answers the question that many ask in regards to śikṣā-gurus and “name changes” amongst previously initated devotees.
Sādhu Saṅga’ is an unfinished article written by Swami B.G. Narasingha in 1998. Here, Swami Narasingha explains the prime necessity of associating with advanced sādhus in order to make advancement.
Dāsa Gosvāmī and the Unique Position of Govardhana
“Dāsa Gosvāmī and the Unique Position of Govardhana” is based upon a class by Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja that he gave in Vṛndāvana at Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple on 18th October 2009, on the occasion of Śrī Govardhana Pūjā.