Monday Morning Greetings 2024 #3 – The Spiritual Practice of Śrī Caitanya

January 15th, 2024

This is how Śrī Caitanya practiced and taught His direct disciples the process of attaining love of Godhead as described in Second Chapter of the Madhya-līla of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmta:


“By personally tasting the mellows of love of Godhead, Caitanya Mahāprabhu taught His direct disciples. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is a wealthy capitalist possessing the touchstone of love of God. Not considering whether one is a proper or improper recipient, He gives His treasure to anyone and everyone. Thus He is the most munificent.” (Cc Madhya-līla 2.81)


In the verses preceding this one, what that tasting of the mellows of love of Godhead looks like is described. There Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja depicts Śrī Radha’s extreme feelings of separation from Śrī Krishna as transcendental madness, which hardly seems to be something one coming to the practice of Krishna consciousness can practically embrace. Can this really be the process that Śrī Caitanya gave to everyone and anyone? Concerning another seemingly remarkable claim about the practice of bhakti, I once asked a Vaiṣṇava scholar in Vrindavan how to possibly make sense of the last and eleventh verse of the Upadeśāmta: “If one simply bathes once within those holy waters, one’s pure love of Krishna is fully aroused.” I loved his answer: “Yes, that is true, but it is the last verse. You must first go through the other ten verses to get there, beginning with verse one where it says one must conquer all the pushing’s of the senses, body, and mind.” In the same way, the description of Śrī Caitanya tasting the mellows of love of Godhead refers mostly to His time in Puri at the end of His life (antya-līla) where He practiced nirjana-bhajan (solitary spiritual practice) to perfect His inner spiritual hankerings. Before practicing that stage, however, we are meant first emulate how He practiced devotion in His life to qualify for that stage.


Surrendering to a spiritual master

Śrī Krishna is the object of His devotee’s adoration. He came as Śrī Caitanya because He wanted to experience the adoration or devotion that rests only in His devotee’s heart. Therefore, only after surrendering to His teacher and invoking His grace did devotion fully awaken in Śrī Caitanya. The first principle of devotion Śrī Caitanya therefore taught by His example was guru-pādāśraya, taking shelter of a spiritual master.


Performance of sakīrtana

Of all nine practices of devotion, chanting the holy name is the most powerful way to attract the Lord’s mercy and advance on the path of bhakti, especially when done congregationally and accompanied by appropriate musical instruments. Consequently, when Śrī Caitanya awakened devotion after taking initiation, His main devotional practice was participating in all-night kirtans at the house of Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura.


Showing compassion

Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura wrote that the essence of all religion is to show compassion to the living entities by giving them the holy name. Before settling in Puri to practice nirjana-bhajan, he traveled for six years throughout southern India enlightening others and giving them the holy name. He thus taught that one cannot chant the holy name purely unless one cultivates compassion, thinking of others before oneself.


Seek sādhu-saga

Sādhu-saga—the association with those advanced in spiritual life, with a similar mood of devotion, and with whom we can develop an affectionate relation—is the foundation of the path of bhakti. Śrī Caitanya took advantage of the association of the eminently qualified Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya, who he met in southern India to have extensive discussions on the deepest aspects of Krishna consciousness. Later, when He retired to Puri, He asked the same Rāmānanda Rāya, along with Svarūpa Dāmodara, a similarly exalted Vaiṣṇava, to be His confidants. From them, to perfect His bhajan, He would hear the appropriate devotional songs and stories about Śrī Krishna to awaken the type of devotion He was aspiring to achieve. Śrī Caitanya thus showed that at every stage of our spiritual life we must seek the association of advanced devotees.


Study the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam daily

Śrī Caitanya studied the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam daily in the Ṭoṭā-gopīnātha temple from Gadādhara Paṇḍita, who taught Him through such study how to prepare oneself in the requisite knowledge and devotional sentiment to understand, awaken, and nourish one’s relationship with Śrī Krishna, in this case the mood of Śrī Radha. He especially liked to hear Śrī Gadādhara narrate and comment on the pastime of Dhruva Mahārāja, to learn determination on the path of bhakti, and the pastime of Śrī Prahlāda, to be inspired in unbroken devotion. Śrī Caitanya thus demonstrated the utmost importance in studying the complete Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam to awaken and nourish a relationship with Krishna.



Nirjana-bhajan means to retire to a solitary place and to relish the mellows of love of Godhead that one aspires to attain by chanting the holy name and remembering those pastimes in every spare moment. Śrī Caitanya taught by His example that having been established in one’s relationship with Krishna, the foundation of such bhajan is to absorb oneself in the holy names of one’s beloved lord, which further and further reveal in the heart of the devotee the Lord’s form, qualities, and pastimes. Focus on the holy name, however, depends on the depth of our relationship with Krishna in the form of the holy name. To increase that sambandha (relationship) with the holy name, He listened to the songs and pastimes of the person whose names He was chanting, and worshiped the form of the person of the name He was chanting, in this case Śrī Jagannath.


So that’s the practice of Śrī Caitanya—surrender to a qualified guru, chant the holy name, preach Krishna consciousness, take sādhu-saga, study the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and when one’s heart becomes purified and one has awakened their relationship with Krishna, sit down in a holy place and dedicate twenty-four hours a day to chanting, hearing, and remembering one’s beloved Lord. Sounds a lot like what Śrīla Prabhupāda gave us.


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