The Nectarean Teachings of Sri Caitanya

BY: SUN STAFF - 23.5 2023

Sri Krsna Caitanya's Sankirtana Party
Bengal Woodcut

By Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Back To Godhead Vol. 11, No. 02, 1976 - Part One.

(Translated from the original Bengali by Sriman Gopiparanadhana dasa Brahmacari)

GOPIPARANADHANA DASA joined ISKCON soon after graduating from Columbia University in 1972 with a B. A. in linguistics. Now a member of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust Sanskrit department, he is continuing his translation of Bhaktivinoda Thakura's Sri Caitanya Siksamrta by the request of his spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1838-1914) was well known during his time as a respectable family man, the father of twelve children, and as the local magistrate for the colonial British government of the district of Puri in Orissa, India. There he supervised the management of the temple of Lord Jagannatha, one of the largest and most famous temples in India. Less publicly, he was recognized by the community of Gaudiya Vaisnavas as their spiritual master in disciplic succession from Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

Thakura Bhaktivinoda's special interest was pioneering the distribution of Krsna consciousness to the English-speaking world. He dedicated much of his life to this effort, writing and speaking extensively in English and encouraging other devotees to do the same. His mission has been continued and greatly expanded by his son, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's disciple, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Published in 1886, Sri Caitanya-siksamrta (The Nectarean Teachings of Sri Caitanya) was written in straightforward Bengali so that a general audience of devotees and interested laymen could readily appreciate its message. The book systematically and uncompromisingly establishes the basic principles of devotional research, carefully defeating the unsound philosophical positions of sentimental spiritualists, sectarian fanatics, and exploitative scientists. Its subject matter is based largely on the conversations between Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis, which are contained in Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja's classic biography, Caitanya-caritamrta. Caitanya-siksamrta, presented by the author as "a flood of nectar," is divided into eight sections called "Rainfalls." Each Rainfall is further subdivided into several "Downpours." The present article is taken from the first Downpour of the first Rainfall.

Having reached an end, in Krsna's devotional service, to all theories born out of inconclusive and argumentative illusion, and offering my obeisances to the giver of that devotion, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, I am now undertaking the compilation of this book, entitled Sri Caitanya-siksamrta.

In this world there are three basic phenomena: the Supreme Controller (God), conscious living entities, and dead matter. Dead material things are those that have no capacity to desire, i.e., that are devoid of willpower. We thus designate as material such objects as earth, stone, water, fire, air, space, houses, clothing, , and the bodies of living beings. On the other hand, such entities as humans, animals, birds, worms, and insects are types of living beings, each of which possesses the potencies of thinking and desiring. Among all forms of conscious life, the particular cognitive ability of the human species is unique, and therefore the human form is declared by many authorities to be the chief among all sentient and dull beings.


The Supreme Controller

The supreme controller is by His own nature complete and purely conscious. He creates everything, living and nonliving, and He is everyone's protector and regulator. By His desire our benefit can arise, and by His desire our complete failure can occur. In His identity as the Supreme Lord, He dominates over the spiritual universe, Vaikuntha, which is eternal and free from anxiety. He is the ruler of all rulers, and thus all activities in every world are going on according to His desire.

The Supreme Controller

Whereas an object of the material world assumes some gross form, the Supreme Lord is without any such form. For this reason, the Vedas describe Him as "formless", meaning that we cannot perceive Him with our gross senses. But all things have some innate form, and the Lord is no exception. As the supremely conscious living entity, He has a living, conscious form, as opposed to the unconscious form of dead matter. We too are conscious living entities, but we experience our consciousness through gross material bodies. Thus our naturally conscious identities have become hidden within material identifications. The Lord, on the other hand, is a purely conscious being, and therefore His natural, vital form, full of consciousness, is His complete identity. We can see His form, however, only with fully conscious vision steeped in devotion. We cannot see God with material eyes.

Some unfortunate people have no faith in the Supreme Lord. Their eyes of knowledge have been stamped shut. Having been unable to perceive the form of the Lord with material vision, they have decided that He does not exist. Just as persons who are blind from birth cannot see the sun, similarly, atheists cannot possibly believe in the Supreme Lord. By nature, any human will believe in God. It is only those who from birth have been given false instruction in impure association, and who have gradually come under the influence of bad conditioning, who do not accept the existence of God. In their case, apart from their own loss, what loss is there for the Lord?

We should not consider the Lord's abode, Vaikuntha, to be a material place. Madras, Bombay, Kashmir, Calcutta, London, Paris these are all gross material places. To go to them we must transport our gross body across various material countries and provinces by foot, rail, or ship. Vaikuntha, however, is not this type of region. Eternal, full of life, and faultless, Vaikuntha has a special location beyond all the material worlds. It cannot be seen by the eyes or contemplated with the mind. The only way we can go to this inconceivable abode is to satisfy the Supreme Lord, who is manifested there. At that time we will be able to engage in the service of the Supreme Lord eternally.

A Problematic World

Three Basic Phenomenon

In this material world, happiness is temporary. It is soon lost. In addition, everything here is full of misery: taking birth involves much hardship and distress, and after birth one must care for his body by eating, sleeping, and so forth. Any interference with these functions, beginning with eating, causes great difficulty. Disease is always a danger, along with such miseries as cold and heat. To mitigate these distresses, one must earn money and accept many bodily inconveniences, such as constructing and maintaining a home. After a few years of marriage and raising children, one eventually grows old and loses his good intelligence. During the course of all these developments, one may arrive at some concocted conceptions of life by discussion and argument with other people. In conclusion, the cycle of birth and death is certainly not an experience of unmixed happiness. People in general think of the temporary cessation of pain as "happiness," but real happiness means to escape from this distressful cycle of material life. If we could attain Vaikuntha, the abode of the Supreme Lord, we would no longer be compelled to endure temporary happiness and distress. Rather we could obtain uninterrupted, eternal bliss. Therefore our ambition should be to satisfy the Lord and be promoted to His eternal abode.

As soon as a person awakens to his real self-interest, which is devotional service to the Lord, he should begin practicing it. Thinking, "Now we can enjoy pleasure in the material world, and later, when we grow old, we will work for the satisfaction of the Lord," is a fruitless attitude. Time is very valuable. From the very day one knows what is to be done, he must make the effort to do it. The human form of life is especially rare, and no one can say when death will occur. Therefore, even children should be taught how to practice devotional service to God. The Vedic histories tell of the great devotees Dhruva and Prahlada, who achieved the mercy of the Lord at an extremely young age. If they were capable of performing devotional service in childhood, why should we doubt that any child can? Actually, anyone who practices serving the Lord from early childhood is sure to gradually reach his natural spiritual position.

Motivations for Service

The Faithful

There are four basic causes why persons in different conditions of life try to achieve the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord: fear, hope, a sense of obligation, and spontaneous attraction. Some people are impelled to worship the Lord out of fear of hell, poverty, disease or death. Others worship Him in hopes of achieving sense gratification or success in the material world. However, neither of these groups can find unadulterated happiness in their worship of the Lord unless they ultimately renounce all fear and hope and instead become attached to pure devotional service. The third group of devotees, driven by a sense of duty or obligation, pray to God with gratitude for His being the creator of the universe. And the last group are those who are motivated by neither fear, hope, nor obligation, but who automatically achieve love for the Lord by worshiping Him, and who thus serve Him out of spontaneous attraction. Just as in the material world, simply by seeing something, we may immediately develop a desire for it and then strive for it, similarly, persons in whose hearts this inclination arises simply by thinking of the Supreme Lord act in His devotional service because of spontaneous attraction. Their devotional service is known as raga-bhakti.

Worshipers engaged in serving God out of fear, hope, or a sense of duty are not as pure as those who serve Him spontaneously. The actual devotees are those who serve the Supreme Lord in raga-marga, the path of spontaneous worship. Only after spontaneous attraction has developed can one enter into the intimacy of the deep relationship existing between the living entity and the Lord. This relationship is eternal, but for the living entity bound to material nature, it remains hidden unless he finds the right process to uncover it. Just as fire can be manifested by rubbing a flint stone, so one's relationship with God can be revealed by following one of the various paths of devotional service. For many people, their spiritual relationship is manifested by constant worship motivated by fear, hope, or obligation. For example, first Dhruva Maharaja worshiped Lord Visnu in the hope of attaining a kingdom. But in the course of his devotional practice, he developed spontaneous attraction in knowledge of his pure relationship with the Lord and rejected any material benediction for sense gratification.

Material fear and hope are extremely contemptible. Thus, when a practicing devotee's intelligence becomes strong, he abandons fear and hope, and his sense of duty becomes his only impetus for service. Until spontaneous attraction for the Supreme Lord develops, he maintains this sense of duty, which encompasses two broad categories: observance of the various functions of devotional service and avoidance of what is against the regulative principles of devotional service. He carefully follows the methods of realizing God consciousness that were determined with careful consideration by great authorities in the distant past and then recorded in books. This is known as vidhi-marga, the path of regulated devotional service. By becoming regulated by the concept of duty, the devotee develops respect for the authority of the revealed scriptures and for the regulations of devotional service in practice.

(To be continued…)