Monday Morning Greetings 2022 #5 – A Guide to Vaiṣṇava Behavior: Part One

January 31st, 2022

I started a new book. I haven’t seen in the contemporary Vaiṣṇava movement a book on Vaiṣṇava behavior. Years ago, I began writing a book called Lessons from the CC, but I had other writing projects. I only wrote a few chapters. It contained lessons on behavior, but also basic philosophical points. I now have time to again take up that project, but I thought it would be more relevant if I limited it just to Vaiṣṇava behavior and could gradually include the excerpts here.


The “CC” stands for Caitanya-caritāmṛta, which describes Śrī Caintanya’s life and teachings. The phrase “Caitanya-caritāmṛta” literally means “The character of the life force in immortality”. That character is love of Godhead. It also includes how a Vaiṣṇava should behave with others.


The book has a simple format. I go through the Caitanya-caritāmṛta systematically until I find an example of Vaiṣṇava behavior. I then list that principle. Next, I put that principle in context of a particular story in the text. Finally, I state the exact verse in the text that illustrates the point. I have started my research with the Antya-līlā. Eventually I will cover the previous sections. I suppose when I finally finish and publish, the book will be in order starting with the Ādi-līlā. Here is my first excerpt.



Lessons from the Caitanya-caritāmṛtaAntya-līlā Chapter 1


Lesson 1: A Vaiṣṇava removes the impediments to his spiritual endeavors by acknowledging his shortcomings and praying for the mercy of saintly devotees.


Nearing the end of his life, Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja humbly acknowledges his frailties and 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 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 1.3-4)



Lesson 2: As a Vaiṣṇava grows older and increasingly frailer, he should feel an urgency to complete his legacy.


After completing the Ādi-līlā, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja feared he wouldn’t be able to complete the Caitanya-caritāmṛta because of his advanced age. He therefore summarized the remainder of Śrī Caitanya’s pastimes before elaborating on them in more detail. In the beginning of Antya-līlā, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja expresses the urgency of completing his task before comprehensively expounding upon Mahāprabhu’s final pastimes.


“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 1.11)


“In accordance with the synopsis previously written, I shall describe in detail what I have not mentioned. (Antya 1.12)



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. A dog began to follow his pilgrimage party, and he gave it shelter.


“While going to Jagannātha Purī, Śivānanda Sena allowed a dog to go with him. He supplied it with food to eat and maintained it.” (Antya 1.17)



Lesson 4: A Vaiṣṇava makes no excuses for mistakes made in carrying out his or her responsibilities.


Śivānanda Sena gave shelter to a dog who joined his pilgrimage party. He fasted when the dog was nowhere to be found because the assistant forgot to feed it.


“When the men returned without success, Śivānanda Sena became very unhappy and fasted for the night.” (Antya 1.23)



Lesson 5: A Vaiṣṇava seeks forgiveness for his mistakes.


Śivānanda Sena’s response when the dog is found:


“When he saw the dog sitting in that way and chanting the name of Krishna, Śivānanda, because of his natural humility, immediately offered his obeisances to the dog just to counteract his offenses to it.” (Antya 1.31)



Lesson 6: A Vaiṣṇava should make it a priority in his life to seek the association of and serve advanced devotees.


The results of Śivānanda Sena’s favor to 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.” (Antya 1.32)


“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 1.32, Purport)



Lesson 7: When Vaiṣṇavas meet, especially after a long time, they sit together and discuss good news (about Krishna consciousness).


Upon his arrival at Jagannātha Purī, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu meets Haridāsa and Rūpa Gosvāmī at Haridāsa’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 1.49)



Lesson 8: One should honor the prasadam of the Lord with great respect.


“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 1.64)



Lesson 9: A Vaiṣṇava should not be surprised if the spiritual master tests them to strengthen their resolve in spiritual life.


While Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, accompanied by His most confidential devotees, was going to visit Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, He 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 1.106)



Lesson 10: The Lord is liberal in His dealings with devotees, and a devotee should follow this example. 


“The Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is known as Puruṣottama, the greatest of all persons, has a pure mind. He is so gentle that even if His servant is implicated in a great offense, He does not take it very seriously. Indeed, if His servant renders some small service, the Lord accepts it as being very great. Even if an envious person blasphemes the Lord, the Lord never manifests anger against him. Such are His great qualities.” (Antya 1.108)



Lesson 11: A Vaiṣṇava should be reluctant to sit on the same level as spiritual seniors, unless requested by them.


“Rūpa Gosvāmī and Haridāsa Ṭhākura sat at the foot of the elevated place where Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was sitting. Although everyone asked them to sit on the same level as the Lord and His associates, they did not do so.” (Antya 1.111)



Lesson 12: A Vaiṣṇava is averse to personal praise.


Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was exceptionally impressed with Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s poetry and 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 1.112)



Lesson 13: 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 Bhaktisiddhanta reveals that the dramas that Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī took decades to write.


“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).” (Antya 1.126, Purport)


Comment: The discussion described was about the introductory verse to the Vidagdha-mādhava. So if the introductory verse was existent in at least A.D. 1515, and the book was finally published in 1532, it means that the work took at least eighteen painstaking years to finish!



Lesson 14: Despite substantial accomplishments a devotee never feels proud, especially in the presence of senior Vaiṣṇavas.


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 1.173)


“You are so expert in dramatic expression that each of my statements before you is like a wave from an ocean of impudence.” (Antya 1.185)






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