By Kesava Krsna Dasa
Here are some thoughts and mediations of Sri Gaura-Hari as we approach His glorious appearance day:
Who Can Dance Like Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu?
The dancing of Lord Chaitanya was so astounding that even the Lord of the universe, Sri Jagannatha was astonished. Lord Jagannatha who has seen the best of everything within and outside of the universes, how can He be astonished? Dance in Vaikuntha and Goloka must be beyond compare. The dance of destruction by Rudra must be inexplicably awesome. What was so unique about Lord Chaitanya’s dancing?
Worldly scholars of our Gaudiya tradition will say that Srila Krishna Dasa Kaviraja and other Vaisnava author witnesses to such dancing have a tendency to exaggerate. After all, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is playing a ‘human’ role on earth, so should we not expect human limitations to His dancing at Ratha-yatra and elsewhere?
We see different forms of dance that men and women perform in various parts of the world with their regional versions. Cultural and religious dancing requires years of vigorous, dedicated training. Limbs have to be stretched and made nimble. Bodily and facial expressions are finely tuned. What trained dancers are capable of can mesmerise audiences. Lord Chaitanya was not a trained dancer, yet what was it about His dancing that astonished God?
One observation is how Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu would frequently crash to the ground, sometimes from impressive heights. These would disturb everybody, especially His Mother Srimati Sacidevi. She marvelled at Her son’s dancing but prayed not to see Him come crashing down with forceful thuds each time, as He fainted in ecstasy.
No humans could withstand such crashes. For any fit human to emulate this he would have to be stuffed and padded with protective clothing like a stuntman. He would certainly need a helmet as well to avoid concussion or worse head injuries. Such a human would look like an overweight, misshapen walrus with the gait of a penguin. What grace can we expect from such imitation? The Lord remained injury-free.
The speed and dexterity of Lord Chaitanya’s dance movements were so swift that His golden form looked like a “firebrand”, as described by Srila Krishna Dasa Kaviraja. Entertainers can swirl small fires around to give visual effects. The Lord is doing this with His entire body. This indicates unknown athleticism and the defying of gravity. How can any human dancing compare with this? Forget the exploits of break dancing and Moon walks.
Then we have to consider heart rending signs of innocence and grace in the Lord’s dancing. At Ratha-yatra the Lord swooned like Srimati Radharani – who teaches Lord Krishna how to dance – for Her paramour Lord Jagannatha (Sri Vrajendranandana) up on His chariot). Which humans or even very rare Vaisnavas can capture, relish and understand these emotions? The Lord’s demeanour showed ardent pleading and begging that melted stone and hearts and caused tears to well up in everyone’s eyes.
Sri Gauranga’s dancing was such that witnesses could see, but not understand His deep internal moods. Pure innocence as this is ever fresh. It can enliven an entire universe. The ever fresh nature of His dancing is what astonished Lord Jagannatha. It does not belong to this world. How can there be any exaggeration in this? Lord Chaitanya who melts stone and causes jungle beasts to chant and dance to the holy names can enliven us of future generations as well. An open and pure heart of a Vaisnava like Srila Krishna Dasa Kaviraja knows that all things are possible with Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu. There is no exaggeration from him. How far are we willing to go to relish and try to understand all of this?
The ‘Vulnerability’ Of Lord Chaitanya
Suppose one day a desperate woman approaches us, stricken with worry and with urgent pleading in her voice, she asks, “Please, please can you help me find my child…I do not know what to do without him…” We will naturally sympathise and try to help. Imagine now that Lord Chaitanya approaches us and begs, “Please, please can you tell me where Krishna is…I feel so desperate without Him…please help me…”
Sri Gaura Hari would sometimes approach a guard within the vicinity of the Jagannatha temple and beg from him the whereabouts of Lord Krishna. The guard would simply say that the Lord was in the temple and motion the way. Within His own home in Navadvipa, the Lord would plead with Gadadhara Pandit, “Where is my Lord Sri Krishna…where can I find Him?” Gadadhara Pandit simply replied, “He is within your heart…” This was philosophically true but was not a wise answer considering Lord Chaitanya’s desperate state of mind.
Lord Gaurasundara began to tear away at His chest hoping to prise out the Lord of His heart. Mother Sacidevi was there to witness her son potentially about to harm Himself. Sri Gadadhara Pandit had to restrain Sri Sacinandana and reason with Him. Mother Saci requested that Gadadhara Pandit always remain by her son’s side to protect Him.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who is the Lord and protector of everyone now has to be protected. How can God as a devotee make Himself so vulnerable? Back in Jagannatha-puri the same Lord Chaitanya had to be locked up within His place of residence (Gambhira) for His own safety. Little wonder why worldly scholars generally say that the life of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was plagued with symptoms of madness. Understanding Vaisnavas know better about such divine madness.
Lord Chaitanya remained under protective supervision of His devotees, especially in His Antya (later) years. What can we learn from such vulnerability? There are multi-layered answers to this. Each layer can generate further meanings. Here are some:
1) Playing the role of a pure, innocent Vaisnava who has no enemies, and is friendly to all, without pretension or guile, like a child, the Lord induces people and devotee to naturally want to help and serve Him.
2) Such pure and innocent qualities as found in 1) can also induce people to chant the holy name by sheer presence.
3) Playing the role of a spiritual master, the Lord demonstrated how vulnerability can help disciples care for, and protect their spiritual master.
4) By being completely dependent on the Lord, Lord Chaitanya is willing to accept help and assistance from anybody, seeing them as a Godsend, and helping them to progress spiritually.
5) Lord Chaitanya is revealing a factual transcendental disposition that is harmless and dependent, and which cannot be understood within this world of exploitation – it requires special attention from those who try to understand.
6) The vulnerability of Lord Chaitanya is used to bewilder envious minds.
7) Such vulnerability can soften the hearts and minds of those who are not envious.
8) Being sometimes in the mood of a gopi (Srimati Radharani) He / She wants to be in the company of fellow gopis like Lalita and Vishaka, who watch over Her in desperate times of separation from Her Prananatha, Lord Krishna.
9) Lord Chaitanya is emphasising by practical application the importance of Vaisnava association and how Vaisnavas are our real protectors.
Since Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the most magnanimous Lord, His behaviour and pastimes are quite different from those of other incarnations. These differences are reflected in how the followers of Lord Chaitanya understand and behave. Barring total dependence on the Lord, we are all vulnerable. Vaisnavas and the holy names are our shelter.
The Lord Had To Escape
Just because we say that vipralambha-seva is the highest attainment, it does not mean that we want to remain separated eternally from Krishna for ever and ever. When Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu feels separation from Krishna, He also does not want to retain this separation for ever. While Lord Chaitanya is staying within the Gambhira, He remains separated from the Lord. If Lord Gauranga feels that such separation is too much to bear and wants to meet the Lord (sambhoga), what does He do?
When we observe Ratha-yatra we can contemplate the meaning of the event at a deeper level. If Ratha-yatra is an attempt to unite Krishna (Sri Jagannatha) with Srimati Radharani and the gopis of Vrndavana, then this festival is a sambhoga effort. Devotees of the Lord do not want Radha and Krishna to be separated. We want them to unite. This is the mood of the gopis.
We are followers of our acaryas, all of whom (up to the time of Lord Chaitanya) are manjari gopis. They certainly want Sri Sri Radha and Govinda to unite. We could say that Ratha-yatra is a manjari festival for this purpose. Vipralambha-seva or to serve the Lord in separation is something for us to try and develop. We have to somehow feel separated from the Lord, after turning our backs towards Krishna who knows when. If we do not feel any separation, how can we relish Ratha-yatra on an esoteric level? If we mainly enjoy the festivities that take place meant to attract people to Krishna consciousness, this is just a small part of the whole experience.
While Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is actually experiencing separation in the Gambhira, which is equivalent to Uddhava-Kyari in Vrndavana, the place where Srimati Radharani would go to cry in the ‘absence’ of Krishna accompanied by Sri Lalita and Sri Vishaka, it became overwhelming. Lord Chaitanya had to come out of the Gambhira or escape – if He was locked up – to go elsewhere to try and meet Krishna (sambhoga). This is why He was found in various other places in Jagannatha-puri.
Outside of the Gambhira, on certain days, the Lord externally appeared to be in a shocking state but internally He had visuals of the Divine Couple and would either witness Their ongoing pastimes or even offer something, like a fragrant flower. Devotees can misunderstand this tattva on vipralambha-seva and think it is something to aspire for eternally. But we have to feel desperately separated enough to want to serve the Lord. Meeting and separation are eternal features of Goloka Vrndavana as explained in the eighth verse of Lord Chaitanya’s Siksastaka.
It is always nice to embellish one’s understanding of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. By reading ashtakas by various associates of the Lord, additional nectar flows. Sri Saci-Tanayastakam is such a source, by Sri Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya. There are the usual descriptions of the Lord being a brilliant golden colour, but finer observations enhance our appreciations further.
For instance, the author refers to Sri Gaurachandra’s faltering of the voice, which might seem to be a weakening of sound. In the same vein he says that the mighty sound of the Lord’s voice chastises all wicked men. It is known that Lord Chaitanya roars like a ;ion. And His countenance is continually churned by ecstasies. If Srimati Radharani is the personification of maha-bhava and the Lord assumes Her position, we must expect His every gesture and movement to be expressions of this, which is ever-new. Just a tiny fraction of the Lords’ presence can deliver the three worlds and His mercy dispels the fear of repeated birth and death.
The Lord’s garments are like the colour of the rising sun and His radiant cheeks and nails put to shame the visual attributes of the moon. When He dances He exhibits slow and graceful movements and His lotus feet move very nimbly. We may already be familiar with Lord Chaitanya’s forceful and speedy movements with frequent loss of balance and jolting faints. There is a deliberate, slow and graceful aspect of His dancing as well.
As a householder the Lord’s exceedingly beautiful face is surrounded by dark hair decorated with the dust of the earth. His red lips are beautified when they tremble in ecstasy. His wonderful bodily form is adorned with clothes worn in a fashion of an adolescent dancer. All these descriptions of course, are contextual to each of the eight verses. There is still more to be stirred from them.
As we approach the occasion of Sri Gaura-Purnima, these visual enhancements can help in our meditation on Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The dust of the earth of Navadvipa is real decoration for our bodies, minds and words. Fortunate are they who live there or visit there, walking in, dancing in, and chanting in that dust. We pray that the dust particles of descriptions of Lord Chaitanya can decorate our memories, thoughts and existence.