Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Vyāsa-pūjā 2018 – Dhanurdhara Swami’s Offering to Śrīla Prabhupāda

September 4th, 2018

Rādhā Bhāva and Prabhupāda

This is not about Śrīla Prabhupāda’s eternal relationship with Kṛṣṇa. I will leave that for other discussions. What I want to share with you is a realization I had recently in my reading of the last chapter of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta by Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja called “The Śikṣāṣṭakam Prayers,” a realization that highlights how Śrīla Prabhupāda gave us the most practical path in understanding our own relationship with Kṛṣṇa.[1]

In that regard, I found particularly relevant the discussion of the last verse of the Śikṣāṣṭakam that describes the mood of Śrī Rādhā at that height of Her devotion:

“I know no one but Kṛṣṇa as my Lord, and He shall remain so even if He handles me roughly by His embrace or makes me brokenhearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my worshipful Lord unconditionally.” (v. 8)

Before I continue with my thesis, it is important to understand the context in which this verse is recited. According to Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja this verse is a paraphrase by Śrī Caitanya of what Śrī Rādhā told Her friends after they advised Her to disregard Kṛṣṇa. He had apparently spurned her. In other words, She loved Kṛṣṇa so much that just the suggestion to ignore Kṛṣṇa, even when seemingly justified, ignited the depths of Her unconditional love.[2] In Śrī Caitanya’s ensuing explanation of this verse to His most confidential associates Svarūpa Dāmodar and Rāmamanda Rāya, He further elaborates on how this concluding verse expresses the nature of Śrī Rādhā’s love at its height.

“I do not mind my personal distress. I only wish for the happiness of Kṛṣṇa, for His happiness is the goal of my life. However, if He feels great happiness in giving me distress, that distress is the best of my happiness.”[3] (Caitanya-caritāmṛta Antya-līlā 20.52)

Now back to my original inspiration. After reading the eighth verse of the Śikṣāṣṭakam and its explanation by Śrī Caitanya Himself, it struck me how this final verse not only expresses the mood of Śrī Rādhā at the height of her devotion but accentuates the basic foundation of bhakti in a manner very reminiscent of the way Śrīla Prabhupāda and his own spiritual master, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta, preached. This is clearer when understanding the history of their mission.

Without retreading a long and complex history, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta appeared at a time when the teachings of Śrī Caitanya had become very much degraded. The people coming to Śrī Caitanya’s lineage were mostly guided to higher and esoteric meditations in Kṛṣṇa consciousness without the prerequisite foundational sacrifice and proper behavior. Śrīla Prabhupāda describes Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta’s concern about this and how he called out those called prākṛta-sahajiyās who cheaply concentrated their meditation on Kṛṣṇa’s intimate pastimes without the recommended step-by-step process to first purify their hearts.

“Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura says that a devotee does not care about his own happiness and distress; he is simply interested in seeing that Kṛṣṇa is happy, and for that purpose he engages in various activities […] Those who are materialistic, [….] like the prākṛta-sahajiyās, regard their own happiness as the aim of life. Some of them aspire to enjoy themselves by sharing the happiness of Kṛṣṇa. This is the mentality of fruitive workers who want to enjoy sense gratification by making a show of service to Kṛṣṇa.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Antya-līlā 20.52 purport)

Seeing this tendency, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta, and Śrīla Prabhupāda after him, stressed unconditional surrender to the spiritual master and stringently warned of entering realms of esoteric bhakti prematurely. As a result they were often criticized for not giving what Śrī Caitanya came to give, rāgānuga bhakti, a practice based very much on meditating on Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes and visualizing one’s own spiritual identity within them.

The last verse of the Śikṣāṣṭakam, however, implies clearly that what Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta and Śrīla Prabhupāda stressed was not just for beginners, but also the essence of the highest attainment in Krishna consciousness, a practice that only needs to be ripened by the pure chanting of the name to achieve its fruition.

So that’s my realization today while reading the Caitanya-caritāmṛta – that if you want to awaken your eternal relationship with Kṛṣṇa then faithfully follow the teachings of Śrīla Prabhupāda by unconditionally surrendering to Śrī Śrī Guru and Kṛṣṇa in service of Śrī Caitanya’s saṅkīrtana mission. Certainly one who sincerely does this is embracing the essence of Rādhā bhāva as expressed in that ultimate verse:

“I know no one but Kṛṣṇa as my Lord, and He shall remain so even if He handles me roughly by His embrace or makes me brokenhearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my worshipful Lord unconditionally.”

 

 


[1] It is worthy to note here that the Śikṣāṣṭakam prayers are particularly significant because they are the only verses, eight in number, that Śrī Caitanya composed.

[2] Also significant is that this verse is the last verse of the Śikṣāṣṭakam and represents the fulfillment of the internal reason for Śrī Caitanya’s appearance, to experience the love of His topmost devotee at the height of Her love.

[3] Śrī Caitanya’s explanation of the Śikṣāṣṭakam comprises thirteen verses. I have only chosen one for the sake of the clarity and force of my post to highlight the mood of them all.

 

 

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