The Essential Principles Of Lord Gauranga’s Kirtan
By Sacinandana Swami
There is one foundational principle of the Bhagavata philosophy, which is enacted and taught practically by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu during His earthly pastimes. By understanding it you will be able to live and apply what Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had come to teach us. This foundational principle is to establish a relationship with the Lord through the mood of separation. This is best practiced in kirtan.
RECEIVING THE HOLY NAME
We have heard it so many times – in order to receive the holy name we first need to become focused. By being mindful to the sound vibration of the holy name we will bring the mind into connection with Krishna. To do this we need to actually hear the mantra and stay with it all the time, which requires some focus, willingness, and prayer.
Our biggest problem however is that we feel disconnected and “dry” while applying ourselves to the practice of chanting. We try to focus our minds on the sound vibration, but alas – the mind seems to be more difficult to control than the wind! What should we do? Where is our hope?
Our hope and solution lies in learning to chant in the mood of separation. This feeling of separation from Krishna is possible for the conditioned soul because we have turned away from Him.
How do we come to this mood? It is by feeling: “Krishna, I really need You!”
LEARNING FROM THE LIVES OF GREAT DEVOTEES
After the death of his mother, the five-year-old boy Narada Muni left his home and went into the jungle. There, under a banyan tree, he sat down and meditated according to the instructions of the four great saints who had visited his home. While Narada Muni was meditating under the banyan tree, the Lord appeared to him.
Narada Muni was so overwhelmed by the darshan of the Lord, that he became so absolutely moved and lost both the vision of himself and the Lord. Everything disappeared. He became frantic and most eager to see the Lord again, but the Lord said to him:
“I regret that during this lifetime you will not be able to see Me anymore. Those who are incomplete in service and are not completely free from all material things can hardly see Me. Oh Narada Muni, you are virtuous. Only once you have seen Me in person, and this is just to increase your desire for Me, because the more you hanker for Me, the more you will be freed from all material desires.”
(SB 1.6.21, 22)
When the Lord disappeared, Narada Muni was thrown into an ocean of abject inner pain. Imagine what happens when a poor man receives a touchstone which can fulfill all of his desires, and then all of a sudden loses it. What will this poor man do? For the rest of his life, he will try to find this jewel again.
In the same way that Krishna disappeared from Narada Muni, He appears and disappears from our lives as well. For example, He appears to us at the beginning of our Krishna Consciousness by giving us some taste which is so strong that we leave the material world behind. Otherwise how could we attempt to live a life which is completely different from what we had learnt and seen before? Krishna is present to some degree or another when we read the Bhagavatam. It is said that by reading the Bhagavatam the Lord appears within our hearts. To some degree or another, we have experienced this as well. And Krishna also appears in our lives when we sing kirtans. At other times we have feelings of deep appreciation and connectedness. In this way we know Krishna is there.
But then He leaves us…And we experience states of dryness, separation, disconnectedness, etc. In Christian theology, these phases are known as the “dark nights of the soul.” You feel desperate because you don’t feel any love of Godhead left.
The question is what will you do then. Will you say: “Oh, I’ll get another Lord. This is just too much for me.” Or will you understand “I need to become purified now. There is a reason why the Lord does this to me. He wants to increase my hankering for Him.”
Don’t despair! Understand Krishna’s principle of wanting to increase your attachment to Him.
Krishna said to the gopis: “The reason I do not immediately reciprocate the affection of living beings even when they worship Me, O gopīs, is that I want to intensify their loving devotion. They then become like a poor man who has gained some wealth and then lost it, and who thus becomes so anxious about it that he can’t think of nothing else.
[..] I acted as I did only to increase your attachment to Me. Even when I removed Myself from your sight by suddenly disappearing, I never stopped loving you. Therefore, My beloved gopīs, please do not harbour any bad feelings toward Me, your beloved. (SB 10.32.20, 21).
Let us see what Narada Muni did, when the Lord disappeared from Him: He became determined to meet the Lord again and concluded, “Thus I began chanting the holy name and fame of the Lord by repeated recitation, ignoring all the formalities of the material world. Such chanting and remembering of the transcendental pastimes of the Lord are benedictory. So doing, I traveled all over the earth, fully satisfied, humble and unenvious.” (SB 1.6.26)
Let us also choose this response to Krishna’s hiding and thus continue to worship him in this mood of separation.
What we can learn from Narada Muni is that:
1) We need to take shelter in Krishna by chanting in the mood of separation and
2) We need to be in a humble and non-envious state of mind while chanting
Narada Muni expressed this in his own words:
“Thus I began chanting the holy name and fame of the Lord by repeated recitation, ignoring all the formalities of the material world. Such chanting and remembering of the transcendental pastimes of the Lord are benedictory. In doing so, I traveled all over the world, fully satisfied, humble, and unenvious.”
THE MOOD OF SEPARATION
To come to this anticipating mood, or the mood of longing for Krishna, “Krishna I really need You” you can do the following:
* Hear about Krishna from the Bhagavatam. In this way you will develop
your taste for Krishna.
* Serve the Bhagavatas – devotees who talk about and live by the example of
the Bhagavatam. They can infuse us with the bhakti, which they have for Krishna.
In his lecture on Nectar of Devotion, (Sri Vrindavan Dhama, Oct 20th 1972), Srila Prabhupada explains that to read regularly from our acaryas means to associate with them and if we act accordingly, then we are serving their lotus feet .
By hearing the Bhagavatam and serving the devotee Bhagavata, we will come to understand that we belong to Krishna. This understanding will make us turn to Krishna for shelter. Hence a devotee will pray:
“Ayi nanda tanuja kinkaram . . . My dear Lord, I am Your eternal servant, but somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean of this material world. Kindly pick me up and fix me as a speck of dust at Your lotus feet.”
Srila Prabhupada said in the purport to the text 1.6.26, that such devotees who take the chanting of the Lord’s names seriously have no desire for material gain. Because they have the highest aim of life, going back to Godhead, they are never envious of anyone, nor are they proud of being eligible to go back to Godhead
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu expresses the same principle in His Siksastaka (3), where He says:
trnad api sunicena taror api sahisnuna
amanina manadena kirtaniya sada hari
“One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw on the street, being more tolerant than a tree and always ready to offer all respects to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.”
As we can see the way in which Narada Muni chanted ‘fully satisfied, humble and non-envious’, was also instructed by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu:
• We must be free from pride like the straw on the street that people trample upon and
• We must be non-envious – in the words of Mahaprabhu, we must respect others, not be envious of them.
This instruction of Mahaprabhu does not refer only to social etiquette whereby we give respect to those ‘higher’ than ourselves, “Oh Sannyasi Maharaja, you are the best..” No, it means that we respect everyone, all souls without wanting anything else in return. So the next time we are disrespected, next time someone hurls insults upon us, we should just understand that it is not worth our while to fight. We want something much higher.
So let us get practical now!
1) When you sit down to chant your japa or kirtan, remember the Lord and how you are now separated from Him. Turn to Him for shelter:
krsna, tomara hana´ yadi bale eka-bara
maya-bandha haite krsna tare kare para
“My dear Lord Krsna, although I have forgotten You for so many long years in the material world, today I am surrendering unto You. I am Your sincere and serious servant. Please engage me in Your service.”
(CC M 22.33)
2) Then continue to chant by focusing on the maha-mantra. Try to hear each mantra all the while staying in the mood of longing.
3) When your mind starts to wander here and there and you cannot easily focus it on the holy name, then come to a humble state of mind. You may pray to the Lord, a prayer like:
agatim saranagatam hare
krpaya kevalam atmasat kuru
“O Hari! I am guilty of committing thousands and thousands of offenses thus I am drowning inside this terrible, turbulent ocean of material existence. I have lost my way, but I desire to find the right path and so I have taken shelter of Your lotus feet. Please accept me as Your own out of Your mercy alone.”
If you continue to chant in this way, chanting from the heart and thus connecting with the Lord, miracles will unfold!
So far we have learnt from the example of Narada Muni how chanting in the mood of separation and in a humble state of mind forms the essence of our philosophy. This is exactly what Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to teach us, by establishing His sankirtan movement:
When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu met Isvara Puri in Gaya, He received the Gopal mantra, which is chanted to worship Krishna. As a result, He wanted to run to Vrindavan to meet His Lord.
After travelling awhile, the Lord heard a voice from the sky—a representative of the demigods—saying, “O crest-jewel of the twice-born, do not go to Vrindavana now. You will certainly go when the appropriate time comes. Now just return to Your house in Navadvipa. You are the Lord of the spiritual world and have appeared with Your associates to deliver the people of the world. When You distribute the wealth of ecstatic love of God, Your chanting will inundate innumerable universes. We are Your servants, and thus we offer this reminder at Your lotus feet.”
(CB Adi 17.129-132)
So by this “higher intervention” the Lord did not go to Vrindavan. He went back to Navadvipa to start the sankirtana movement. After His return the devotees witnessed a distinct change in His character, because instead of engaging them in difficult debates, He was now crying “Krishna! Krishna! Where are you?”
The Lord wanted to explain to His devotees what had happened, thus He invited them to the cottage of Suklambara das on the banks of the Ganga. There He explained how on His way back from Gaya, He came to Kanai Natshala where He had the darshan of Krishna. He expressed in His own words:
“There I saw a young, beautiful boy, with a glowing, dark complexion, blackish like the bark of a tamal tree. His enchanting curly hair was decorated with wild flowers, a fresh garland of gunja berries, and a colourful peacock feather. His jewellery and gems were so bright that I could not see Him properly. Thus it is impossible for Me to describe the beauty of the delicately ornamented flute in His hand. His soft lotus feet were adorned with attractive ankle bells. His strong, graceful arms defeated the strength and beauty of blue pillars. How will I ever be able to describe the wonder of His golden-yellow silk dhoti, His dangling fish-shaped earrings, and His lotus-petal eyes with a beautiful, lazy expression? He sweetly smiled as He approached Me, and after embracing Me, He suddenly ran away.”
Sri Chaitanya then fainted. The devotees hastily picked Him up and chanted, “Krishna! Krishna!” They pacified Him to some extent, but He could not remain calm. He continuously cried, “Where is Krishna? Where is Krishna?”
(Sri Chaitanya-bhagavata, Madhya-khanda 2.180–195)
“Nimai Pandit has become a great devotee,” the devotees said. And then they said to the Lord, “For one who associates with You, what is the value of Vaikuntha? A single moment with You gives us the fruit of devotion. We are now all dependent on You. You are our leader now. You lead us in Kirtan.”
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu then started his nocturnal kirtans in the house of Srivasa Pandit and chanted throughout the night. He said, “Why should we waste our nights with sleeping? Let’s chant!”
So this is how it all started. This is the underlying mood, the mood of separation. In the words of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, “Where is Krishna?”
From Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu flows a river of the immortal nectar of bhakti. “Anyone who has taken a human form of life but does not take advantage of such a river, but instead drinks the poison of material life is baffled in his opportunity.” (CC Adi 13.123)
Do you want to live? Then come to drink from the nectarine river of the Holy Name. According to the Upanisads, we are all born in the ocean of nectar. We are not meant to be satisfied with anything else but nectar. This is our birthright.
By appearing in the land of Navadvipa, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu revealed the chanting of the Holy Names as the means of obtaining this nectar of immortality and by taking on the role of a teacher He has revealed how to chant the Holy Names for the best results.
Gour-premanandi Hari Haribol!