Monday Morning Greetings 2022 #52 – The Essence of Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism Made Easy in Four Verses

December 26th, 2022

In my progressive study and teaching of śāstra, I am finishing up Rāmānanda-saṁvāda, the discussion between Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya and Śrī Caitanya—some very high stuff. In fact, after their discussion is concluded, Śrī Caitanya tells Rāmānanda Rāya to keep their discussion secret and to not talk about it anywhere.[1] And here I am talking about those discussions. What audacity! Yes, these teachings are very esoteric, but I think within the limits of my realization I can still extract something of relevance about the essence of Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism[2] for us practitioners to appreciate.


First, I’ll share the first of the four verses that I feel helps express the essence of Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism, a verse that Śrī Caitanya deemed the limit of perfection.[3] I will then briefly comment on the others. Read the verse below carefully, but just enough to get the gist of what is being talked about. Its full understanding comes only by the depth of our realization and not just the power of our intellect.


“O my Lord, You live in the forest of Govardhan Hill, and, like the king of elephants, You are expert in the art of conjugal love. O master of the universe, your heart and Śrīmatī Radharani’s heart are just like shellac and are now melted in spiritual perspiration. Therefore no one can no longer distinguish between you and Radharani. Now you have mixed your newly invoked affection, which is like vermillion, with your melted hearts, and for the benefit of the whole world You have painted both Your hearts red within this great palace of the universe.” (Cc. Madhya-līlā 8.195)


According to Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism, the ultimate reality is comprised of śaktimān, the possessor of energy (Śrī Krishna), and śakti, the energy of Krishna (Śrī Radha). The function of energy or śakti is to serve or please its source. As love is the essence of all pleasure, Śrī Radha, the complete energy or śakti of the Lord, is also the full manifestation of love. The height of that love is described here in this verse as the mutual absorption of Śrī Radha and Śrī Krishna intensified to the point where Their hearts melt in devotion, and They become totally lost in Their mutual love. The takeaway I get from this verse is that as the height of devotion is the complete absorption in Śrī Krishna, to achieve that goal we must practice absorbing ourselves in devotion by reserving a time of the day where we can fully concentrate our minds on Krishna to the best of our ability over a prolonged period of time, without interruption, and in a loving mood. And we should, year by year, gradually increase our commitment to our sadhana to move towards the attainment of our goal.


“Lord Śrī Krishna is the reservoir of all pleasure, and Śrīmatī Radharani is the personification of ecstatic love of Godhead. These two forms had combined as one in Śrī Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This being the case, Lord Śrī Caitanya revealed His real form to Rāmānanda Rāya.” (Cc. Madhya-līlā 8.282)


Śrī Caitanya then reveals to Rāmānanda Rāya that He is Śrī Krishna and Śrī Radha merged in the ecstasy of love, and thus the manifestation of the verse that Rāmānanda Rāya recited is the limit of perfection. The verse above (8.282) is therefore significant to Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism for it visibly demonstrates the exalted position of Śrī Caitanya and thus provides an inspiration for His worship for those wanting to attain the highest devotion.


“Śrī Caitanya Mahaprabhu confirmed, ‘All the truths about my pastimes and mellows (mora tattva rasa līlā) are within your knowledge. Therefore I have showed this form to you.’” (Cc. Madhya-līlā 8.286)


A basic principle in any spiritual path is that we advance by following those who are further on the path than us, and especially those who have attained perfection. In this verse, Śrī Caitanya specifically describes why Rāmānanda Rāya is worthy of such emulation. He had the proper understanding of all the truths (tattvas) of Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism as demonstrated in his erudite exchange with Śrī Caitanya. I think the relevant point for us here is that to advance to the next step in Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism, we always need further education in the tattvas (subjects) that are suitable for that next level in our attainment, which is why the tradition of Caitanya has a hierarchy of teachings with accordant books and a requisite qualification to study them. By no means does this mean one has to be a scholar. One just needs to faithfully hear the teachings appropriate to our level of advancement from a qualified devotee to properly understand the subject and to get our doubts cleared. If we don’t, we will inevitably filter what we hear through our misconceptions and misapply the teachings of Krishna consciousness.


“I have now converted My body and mind into the ecstasy of Śrīmatī Radharani; thus I am tasting My own personal sweetness in that form.” (Cc. Madhya-līlā 8.288)


Here Śrī Caitanya gives another verse that explains, from a slightly different angle, His position as the merging of the hearts of Śrī Radha and Krishna. The internal cause of Śrī Krishna appearing as Śrī Caitanya was to relish three experiences exclusive to His devotees: to enjoy His own beauty from the perspective of His devotee, to feel the love that the devotee experiences in relationship to Him, and to relish the happiness a devotee feels when he experiences Krishna’s love. In this verse, Krishna in the form of Śrī Caitanya explains how He attains that experience. He assumes the luster (body) and mind (devotion) of Śrī Radha so within the form of Śrī Caitanya He can experience the fullest love of His devotee and fulfill the internal reason for His descent as described above.


Reading this I had a thought that inspired me: “Isn’t Krishna tasting of His own personal sweetness in the form of Śrī Caitanya the same experience that He is giving to the world?” Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī certainly seems to confirm this. In his drama Vidagdha-mādhava, he describes that what Śrī Caitanya is bestowing (samarpayitum) to the world by His causeless mercy (karuṇayā), which is the most elevated mellow of devotion service, the mellow of conjugal love (unnatojjvala-rasāṁ), is in fact the treasure of His own experience of devotion (sva-bhakti-śriyam).[4]


I have really enjoyed this study of Rāmānanda-saṁvāda. In summary, here is my takeaway from these four verses in Rāmānanda-saṁvāda that struck me as the essence of His teachings:


The same highest devotion, which is the love of Śrī Śrī Radha Krishna and personified in Śrī Caitanya, has been given by Śrī Caitanya to the world and can be attained by the concentrated practice of devotion guided by the study and application of the spiritual truths taught by Śrī Caitanya as found in the Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta.



[1] The Lord then requested Rāmānanda Rāya: “Keep all these talks secret. Please do not expose them anywhere and everywhere. Since my activities appear to be like those of a madman, people may take them light and laugh.” (Cc. Madhya-līlā 8.290)

[2] Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism means Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism. I used the term Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism because not all readers may understand what the more insider term Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism refers to.

[3] Cc. Madhya-līlā 8.196

[4] anarpita-carīṁ cirāt karuṇayāvatīrṇaḥ kalau
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasāṁ sva-bhakti-śriyam
hariḥ puraṭa-sundara-dyuti-kadamba-sandīpitaḥ
sadā hṛdaya-kandare sphuratu vaḥ śacī-nandanaḥ

May that Lord who is known as the son of Śrīmatī Śacīdevī be transcendentally situated in the innermost core of your heart. Resplendent with the radiance of molten gold, He has descended in the Age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow what no incarnation has ever offered before: the most elevated mellow of devotional service, the mellow of conjugal love.” (Cc. Adi-līlā 1.4 from Vidagdha-mādhava by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī)


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