Dhanurdhara Swami May 16th, 2016
Dhanurdhara Swami will add once a month an excerpt from a new book he is writing called “Lessons from the CC”. It will contain chapter by chapter summaries of all the instructions in Vaiṣṇava behavior contained in the Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta. He is starting with Antya-līlā, Chapter 1.
Lessons from the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya-līlā, Chapter 1
Lesson 1: To remove impediments to our spiritual endeavors one should acknowledge one’s shortcomings and pray for the mercy of great spiritual teachers.
Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja humbly admitting his frailties (he was already near the end of life) fervently prays for the mercy of the saintly devotees before beginning the most confidential subject of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s antya-līlā..
“My path is very difficult. I am blind, and my feet are slipping again and again. Therefore, may the saints help me by granting me the stick of their mercy as my support.” Antya-līlā 1.2
“I pray to the lotus feet of the six Gosvāmīs — Śrī Rūpa, Sanātana, Bhaṭṭa Raghunātha, Śrī Jīva, Gopāla Bhaṭṭa and Dāsa Raghunātha — so that all impediments to my writing this literature will be annihilated and my real desire will be fulfilled.” Antya-līlā 1.3-4
Lesson 2: A Vaiṣṇava feels great urgency to enlighten others and thus seeing impending death due to old age meditates on how to finish his legacy.
Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja, fearing that he won’t be able to complete the Caitanya-caritāmṛta due to his advanced age, had summarized what he is about to speak in Madhya-līlā.
“I am now almost an invalid because of old age, and I know that at any moment I may die. Therefore I have already described some portions of the antya-līlā.” Antya-līlā 1.11
Lesson 3: A Vaiṣṇava is very liberal hearted in terms of giving shelter to others.
Śivānanda Sena took responsibility for arranging and managing all aspects of the Bengali Vaiṣṇavas long journey to Purī to join Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Even when a dog took shelter of his group he gave it shelter.
“While going to Jagannātha Purī, Śivānanda Sena allowed a dog to go with him. He supplied it food to eat and maintained it.” Antya-līlā 1.17
Lesson 4: A Vaiṣṇava fully accepts his responsibilities without excuse for mistakes.
Śivānanda Sena gave shelter to a dog who joined his pilgrimage party. When he disappeared because the dog was not given food in his absence, he himself fasted after learning that the dog was nowhere to be found.
“When the men returned without success, Śivānanda Sena became very unhappy and fasted for the night.” Antya-līlā 1 .23
Lesson 5: A Vaiṣṇava is very humble and seeks forgiveness for his mistakes.
Śivānanda Sena gives shelter to a stray dog. Under his care the dog is then lost. He fears it is due to his neglect. His reaction when the dog is found:
“When he saw the dog sitting in that way and chanting the name of Kṛṣṇa, Śivānanda, because of his natural humility, immediately offered his obeisances to the dog just to counteract his offenses to it.” Antya-līlā 1.31
Lesson 6: The association of advanced devotees is inconceivably powerful and we should eagerly seek it out.
The results of Śivānanda Sena’s favor to even a stray dog:
“The next day, no one saw that dog, for it had obtained its spiritual body and departed for Vaikuṇṭha, the spiritual kingdom.”
Purport: “This is the result of sādhu-saṅga — consequent association with Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and promotion back home, back to Godhead. This result is possible even for a dog, by the mercy of the Vaiṣṇava. Therefore, everyone in the human form of life should be induced to associate with devotees. By rendering a little service, even by eating prasādam, what to speak of chanting and dancing, everyone can be promoted to Vaikuṇṭhaloka.” Antya-līlā 1.32
Lesson 7: The most important and powerful practice of devotional service is taking shelter in a pure devotee and invoking their mercy and shelter.
Śivānanda Sena accepted responsibility for a dog that took shelter of his pilgrimage party to Purī. When the dog was not fed in his absence he lamented. Upon arriving in Purī the devotees were astonished to see the dog eating the remnants of green coconut pulp thrown to him by Śrī Caitanya and chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra again and again. The next day the dog was gone because it went back to Godhead showing that regardless of one’s elevation in consciousness, if somehow or other one humbly seeks shelter of a Vaiṣṇava one can achieve the highest destination.
“We may conclude that even as dogs we must take shelter of a Vaiṣṇava. The benefit will be the same as that which accrues to an advanced devotee under a Vaiṣṇavas care.” Purport, Antya-līlā 1.24
“The next day, no one saw that dog, for it had obtained its spiritual body and departed for Vaikuṇṭha, the spiritual kingdom.” Antya-līlā 1.32
Lesson 8: When Vaiṣṇavas meet after a long time, they sit together and discuss good news (about Kṛṣṇa consciousness).
Upon his arrival at Jagannātha Purī, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī meets Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Haridāsa Ṭhākura at the latter’s hut.
“Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu then sat down with Haridāsa and Rūpa Gosvāmī. They inquired from one another about auspicious news and then continued to talk together for some time.” Antya-līlā 1.49
Lesson 9: The glory of mahā-prasadam.
“When they [Śrī Rūpa and Haridāsa Ṭhākura] received the remnants of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s prasādam through Govinda, they respected it, and then they both began to dance in ecstasy.” Antya-līlā 1.64
Lesson 10: Tests are necessary to strengthen one’s resolve in spiritual life.
While Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, accompanied by his most confidential devotees, was going to visit Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrī Caitanta Mahāprabhu praised Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī profusely to test those devotees and observe their reaction.
“Just to examine Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya and Rāmānanda Rāya, the Lord began to praise the transcendental qualities of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī before them.” Antya-līlā 1.106
Why does the Lord test his devotees? Just like we shake a nail it to test if is secure enough to withstand the initial blow of a hammer, the Lord or spiritual master tests a devotees capability to contain their mercy before bestowing it.
Lesson 11: A Vaiṣṇava is averse to personal praise.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was exceptionally impressed with Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s poetry and he requested him to share it with the devotees. Śrī Rūpa’s reaction to his request shows how a devotee responds to personal praise:
“When Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu ordered Rūpa Gosvāmī to read the verse they had previously heard, Rūpa Gosvāmī, because of great shyness, did not read it but instead remained silent.” Antya-līlā 1.112
Lesson 12: A devotee is patient and works steadily towards his goal.
The six Gosvāmīs made great literary contributions. Even their works of philosophy were composed in verse. The books that we enjoy were thus not produced overnight, but after years of austerity. Below Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta reveals that the Vidagdha-mādhava, one of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s dramas, took almost twenty years to compose showing the steadfastness and patience of a devotee in working towards his goal.
“Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura informs us in this connection that Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī finished the drama known as Vidagdha-mādhava in the year Śakābda 1454 (A.D. 1532) and the Lalita-mādhava in Śakābda 1459 (A.D. 1537). The discussion between Rāmānanda Rāya and Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī at Jagannātha Purī took place in Śakābda 1437 (A.D. 1515).” Purport, Antya-līlā 1.126
The discussion being described was about the introductory verse to the Vidagdha-mādhava. So if the introductory verse was existent in at least 1515, and the book was finally published in 1532, it means that the work took at least eighteen painstaking years to finish!
Lesson 13: Kṛṣṇa consciousness is beyond duality.
Śrīla Rāmānanda Rāya requests Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī to chant some of his poetry. This particular verse describes how Kṛṣṇa consciousness is beyond duality as it describes how on the absolute platform even the greatest distress is the greatest happiness:
“ ‘My dear beautiful friend, if one develops love of Godhead, love of Kṛṣṇa, the son of Nanda Mahārāja, all the bitter and sweet influences of this love will manifest in one’s heart. Such love of Godhead acts in two ways. The poisonous effects of love of Godhead defeat the severe and fresh poison of the serpent. Yet there is simultaneously transcendental bliss, which pours down and defeats the poisonous effects of a snake, as well as the happiness derived from pouring nectar on one’s head. It is perceived as doubly effective, simultaneously poisonous and nectarean.’ ” Antya-līlā 1.148
Lesson 14: Despite substantial accomplishments a devotee never feels proud.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s reaction to Śrīla Rāmānanda Rāya’s profuse praise of his poetry:
“Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī said, ‘In your presence, which is just like brilliant sunshine, I am as insignificant as the light of a glowworm.’ ” Antya-līlā 1.173
Lesson 15: One cannot understand the pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa by scholarship alone.
When Śrīla Rāmānanda Rāya asks Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī to further recite his poetry he quotes the following from the Lalita-mādhava (1.23) spoken by Paurṇamāsī in a conversation with Gārgī.
“‘The dust from cows and calves on the road creates a kind of darkness indicating that Kṛṣṇa is returning home from the pasture. Also, the darkness of evening provokes the gopīs to meet Kṛṣṇa. Thus the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs are covered by a kind of transcendental darkness and are therefore impossible for ordinary scholars of the Vedas to see.’” Antya-līlā 1.188
People who are covered by passion and ignorance cannot understand Kṛṣṇa. In Vṛndāvana, however, even in a hazy storm of dust or the dark of night devotees can understand what Kṛṣṇa is doing. Śrīla Prabhupāda thus describes that “the purport of this verse is that under no circumstances is Kṛṣṇa ever lost to the vision of exalted devotees like the gopīs.”
Lesson 16: Only by poetry can one describe love (bhakti).
“Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu praised the metaphors and other literary ornaments of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s transcendental poetry. Without such poetic attributes, He said, there is no possibility of preaching transcendental mellows.” Antya-līlā 1.198
To effectively communicate love one not only has to describe the sentiments of love, but one has to recreate those feelings of love. This can be done in writing only by metaphors and other literary ornaments and thus poetry is the most effective medium to invoke emotions.
Lesson 17: If we write poetry it should have a profound effect.
“‘What is the use of a bowman’s arrow or a poet’s poetry if they penetrate the heart but do not cause the head to spin?’” Antya-līlā 1.195