By Giriraj Swami
Today is the most auspicious occasion of Sri Gadadhara Pandita’s appearance day. As many of you know, Lord Chaitanya is Krishna Himself in the role of a devotee. He is Krishna, but with the complexion and mood of Srimati Radharani. There are different purposes for the Lord’s advent. The internal reason for Lord Chaitanya’s appearance was that He wanted to experience the glory of Srimati Radharani’s love for Him, the wonderful qualities in Him that She alone relishes through Her love, and the happiness She feels when She experiences the sweetness of His love for Her—which only She can experience. The external reason (not that it was any less significant) was to propagate the yuga-dharma, the recommended method for God realization in each particular age (yuga).
To assist the Lord in His pastimes, four principal associates descended with Him—Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Prabhu, Srivasa Thakura, and Gadadhara Pandita. Together with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, they comprise the Pancha-tattva. In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 1.14) the author offers his respects to all five together:
“I offer my obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Krsna, who is nondifferent from His features as a devotee, devotional incarnation, devotional manifestation, pure devotee, and devotional energy.”
Krishna appeared in the form of a devotee (bhakta-rupa), as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu; as the expansion of a devotee (sva-rupakam), as Nityananda Prabhu; as an incarnation of a devotee (bhakta-avataram), as Advaita Prabhu; as a devotee (bhakta), as Srivasa Thakura; and as the devotional energy that inspires a devotee (bhakta-saktikam), as Gadadhara Pandita. Together they all came to propagate harinama-sankirtana as the yuga-dharma for the present age.
We are now in Kali-yuga, the worst age. But although Kali-yuga is the worst, it affords us the best opportunity to realize God, through the chanting of the holy names. At the end of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Sukadeva Gosvami says, kaler dosa-nidhe rajann: this Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults. An ocean—you cannot measure the length or breadth of an ocean. Asti hy eko mahan gunah: but within Kali-yuga there is one great opportunity. What is that? Kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet: by chanting the holy names of Krishna, one becomes liberated from material association and attains the supreme goal of life.
Sanga—association. Sangat sanjayate kamah. Desire comes from association. Generally, people in the material world are associated with the three modes of material nature: sattva-guna, rajo-guna, and tamo-guna. Because of their association with the three modes, they develop material bodies made of the three modes, and mentalities influenced by the three modes. And it is very difficult to overcome the influence of maya, which consists of these three modes.
daivi hy esa guna-mayi
mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante
mayam etam taranti te
In the Bhagavad-gita (7.14) Lord Krishna says that this material nature, which consists of the three modes, is very difficult to overcome but that one who surrenders unto Him can easily overcome it and become free from the influence of these modes.
Lord Chaitanya and His associates in the Pancha-tattva came to taste love of Godhead and to distribute love of Godhead—to taste the holy names of Krishna and to distribute the holy names of Krishna. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta describes that the storehouse of love of Godhead had remained sealed but that the members of the Pancha-tattva broke open the seal, plundered the storehouse, ate the contents, and became intoxicated with love of God. But they didn’t want to enjoy the contents by themselves. They also wanted to share the contents with others. And that was their life—tasting ecstatic love of Godhead and distributing it.
The main method by which they distributed love of Godhead was through the chanting of the holy names of God, in particular the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The members of the Pancha-tattva would become so intoxicated chanting and dancing that they didn’t know whether it was day or night. They didn’t know where they were. Once, Nityananda Prabhu led a party of devotees from Puri, and they were chanting and dancing all the way. They were trying to make their way back to Bengal but were so intoxicated with love of God that they didn’t know which way they were going. They would start in one direction, and days later they would realize that they didn’t know in which direction they had gone. Then they would ask someone to set them in the right direction. Again, days would pass in chanting and dancing. They wouldn’t even eat or sleep. And after some time they would realize that again they didn’t know where they were. This was the high level of their kirtan in ecstatic love of God.
So, that is what they were tasting, and that is what they wanted to distribute. And reciprocally, that is what they wanted us to accept: the great gift of the holy name, the great treasure of love of God. Golokera prema-dhana, hari-nama-sankirtana: the great treasure of love of God has descended from Goloka Vrindavan, the spiritual world, as the congregational chanting of the holy name. The holy name is not a material sound vibration. Krishna’s name is Krishna Himself. It is completely spiritual.
nama cintamanih krsnas
purnah suddho nitya-mukto
Nama cintamanih krsnas: the holy name of Krishna is a transcendental touchstone that bestows all spiritual benedictions. Caitanya-rasa-vigrahah: it is the form of all transcendental mellows. It is complete (purnah), pure (suddha), and eternally liberated (nitya-muktah) from the influence of maya, the modes of material nature. ’Bhinnatvan nama-naminoh: the holy name of Krishna is in all respects the same as Krishna Himself.
When we chant Hare Krishna, we are, in principle, associating with Krishna. Srila Prabhupada has explained that in the material world the name of a thing and the thing itself are different. So if you are thirsty and you chant “water, water, water, water,” just chanting “water, water” will not quench your thirst because the word water and the substance water are different. But in the spiritual world, the absolute world, the name of the thing and the thing itself are the same. So when you chant “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,” Krishna is personally present, dancing on your tongue. And great devotees who realized Krishna through the process of chanting wanted to do nothing but chant. Srila Rupa Gosvami prayed, “With one tongue and two ears what can I chant, what can I relish? If I had millions of tongues and billions of ears then I could begin to chant.” That is the stage of relishing the holy name, when one is able to chant purely.
We, unfortunately, have no such attraction. In the second verse of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Siksastaka we find the word durdaivam, which means “misfortune.” We are unfortunate. Of course, we are also fortunate, because we have come in touch with Srila Prabhupada, who served the Pancha-tattva by executing their mission, traveling all over the world and distributing the holy name of Krishna. We are fortunate, but at the same time we are unfortunate because we do not experience ecstatic love when we chant—because we commit offenses. The great value of the holy name can be realized only when we chant without offense.
But here too, the Pancha-tattva help us, because they do not consider offenses. They are so liberal and magnanimous that they do not take any offense. Thus, if one chants the holy names of the Pancha-tattva with enthusiasm, with complete absorption, one will feel ecstatic, and when one feels ecstatic one can chant the holy names of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra without offense.
But we have to work. We have to practice. As Srila Prabhupada said, “Chanting is easy, but the determination to chant is not so easy.” We have to be determined to chant with attention, without offense. And if we can chant without offense, we will obtain the great treasure of love of God. Chanting is so important, as Lord Chaitanya instructed.
tara madhye sarva-srestha nama-sankirtana
niraparadhe nama laile paya prema-dhana
“Of the nine processes of devotional service, the most important is to always chant the holy name of the Lord. If one does so, avoiding the ten kinds of offenses, one very easily obtains the most valuable love of Godhead.” (Cc Antya 4.71)
There are ten offenses mentioned in the Padma Purana. Srila Jiva Gosvami has discussed them in detail in his Bhakti-sandarbha, and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has also discussed them, in Sri Harinama-cintamani. In Srila Prabhupada’s books we find lists and explanations of the ten offenses in different places. The list in The Nectar of Devotion is often read in temples as part of the morning program after mangala-arati, as devotees prepare to chant their rounds, for just reading or reciting the list, hearing it and praying, will help us to avoid the offenses. The last offense in this list is “to not have complete faith in the chanting of the holy names and to maintain material attachments, even after understanding so many instructions on this matter.” And then devotees often add, “It is also an offense to be inattentive while chanting.” Actually, at the end of the Sanskrit for the eighth offense we find the words api pramada. Pramada means “inattention.” In the Hari-nama-cintamani, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has taken pramadaas a separate item, as the ninth offense—inattentive chanting. He states that by attentive chanting one can destroy all other offenses and that inattentive chanting allows the other offenses to grow and flourish.
So we have to make a concentrated effort to overcome this offense (pramada) and chant and hear with attention. As the Bhagavad-gita (6.26) says,
yato yato niscalati
manas cancalam asthiram
tatas tato niyamyaitad
atmany eva vasam nayet
“From wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the self.” So, that is our work.
And when we observe the activities of the mind while we are chanting and really consider what is happening—“Why is my mind always wandering? What is it thinking about?” (There is a whole list of things we think about, which we can’t even begin to discuss.)—if we consider, “What is going on? Why am I having all these other thoughts when I should be hearing the holy name?” we will find (at least in my experience) that it basically comes down to thinking we are the doers, the controllers, the proprietors, the enjoyers. Actually, the holy name is Krishna, and He is the controller, He is the proprietor, and He is the enjoyer. So let us surrender to Him. Let us surrender to the holy name, surrender to Krishna in the form of transcendental sound, and let Him take over.
When we are chanting our sixteen rounds, those two hours—or however long it takes—are our time with Krishna. At least in those two hours we should have no other thought but to be with Krishna, to associate with Krishna. Srila Prabhupada has explained that the chanting is a prayer to Radha and Krishna. The name Krishna refers, of course, to Krishna, and Hare is a way of addressing Radha. Thus Hare Krishna means “O Radha, O Krishna.” When we call people’s names, we want to get their attention, and when we get their attention they may respond, “Yes, what do you want? What can I do for you?” So when we get Radha and Krishna’s attention by chanting Their holy names, Hare Krishna, what are we going to ask? A pure devotee will ask for only one thing, and that is service. “I want to serve You. Please engage me in Your service.” That is our prayer when we chant.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written much about the Siksastaka and the holy name, and in Sri Bhajana-rahasya he has explained that the eight prayers of the Siksastaka correspond with the eight pairs of names in the maha-mantra. So when we are chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—the verses of the Siksastaka are included. And if we are really concentrating, we can focus on each pair of names and know that the corresponding prayer of the Siksataka is included. We should not be racing through our rounds, just to finish them—“Oh, God, okay, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna . . . Okay, one down, fifteen to go.” Not racing through. This is our time with Krishna. In one sense, it is the most important time of the day—our time with Krishna. And we should give ourselves to Krishna. Of course, we do serve Him throughout the day—in principle, twenty-four hours—but this is our special time to associate with Him directly, with hari–nama directly.
Our godbrother Gopala Bhatta Prabhu owns a large business and has many responsibilities and projects, but he told me that when he chants his rounds he takes off his eyeglasses and his wristwatch. This is his time with Krishna, and he will not think about anything else. Of course, he is very organized. He makes long lists of what he has to do, so when he is chanting he doesn’t have to worry about remembering or forgetting things. That is a common fault, a common form of inattention—while we are chanting, within our minds we are making our to-do lists. We have to hear. And if what we have to do is important enough, we will remember it later. But we have to let go of all other thoughts when we chant, and just hear. Sometimes it may be that in that purifying process of chanting, Krishna is trying to tell us something, trying to remind us of something. And it really builds up. Even though we try, we just can’t let it go. Then it might be better to make a note of it, and then our mind might settle down. Otherwise, in principle, whatever it is, just let it go and hear—tac chrnu—hear the holy name of Krishna.
This is the great mission of the Pancha-tattva, to propagate pure chanting of the holy name, and through it, ecstatic love of Godhead.
Gadadhara Pandita appeared one year after Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. And in their childhood the two were inseparable. They were so attached to each other. Together, they attended Gangadasa Pandita’s tola, school, and as classmates they enjoyed many pastimes with each other. In His childhood, Lord Chaitanya was called Nimai, because He was born under a nima tree. So, Nimai and Gadadhara would go to Ganganagara and attend class together. They would walk home together. They would study together. They would take bath in the Ganga together. They were inseparable. They could not bear to be separated from each other for even a moment.
Later, when Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyasa and went to reside in Jagannatha Puri, Gadadhara Pandita followed Him. Most of Mahaprabhu’s other associates in Navadvipa remained in Bengal; they came to Puri only once in a year, for the four months of the rainy season, to attend the Ratha-yatra and to see Mahaprabhu. But Gadadhara Pandita couldn’t bear to be separated from the Lord, and the Lord couldn’t bear to be separated from him. So he was permitted to stay with Mahaprabhu in Puri, and there they engaged in pastimes. Gadadhara Pandita accepted ksetra-sannyasa: he took a vow to never spend a night outside the dhama, Jagannatha Puri. And he engaged in the service of the Deity called Tota-gopinatha. The first time Chaitanya Mahaprabhu left Puri to travel to Vrindavan, Gadadhara Pandita followed Him—even at the cost of his ksetra-sannyasa and his service to Gopinatha. And when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu finally compelled him to return to Puri, Gadadhara fainted. He could not bear the separation. And for Mahaprabhu too, the separation was difficult. But Mahaprabhu tolerated it because He wanted to keep Gadadhara’s vow and service intact. Gadadhara Pandita and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had many intimate, loving pastimes together in Puri, which are described in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would come regularly to relish Gadadhara Pandita’s reading of Srimad-Bhagavatam. And it is said that in the end Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu entered the Tota-gopinatha temple and never came out, that He entered into the Deity of Gopinatha to return to His eternal pastimes.
After Mahaprabhu left, Gadadhara Pandita felt such intense separation that his body—although he was only forty-eight years old—began to age very quickly. In time, he was unable to stretch out his arms even to offer a garland to the Deity. So, as we hear, the Deity, to facilitate Gadadhara’s loving service, sat down (one can still visit Tota-gopinatha and see the sitting Deity), and soon Gadadhara himself entered into the Deity to join Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in His eternal pastimes.
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta states that Gadadhara Pandita was an incarnation of the pleasure potency of Sri Krishna. And Sri Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika confirms that Srimati Radharani appeared in gaura-lila as Gadadhara Pandita. When the Lord descends, He doesn’t come alone; He comes with His eternal associates. Thus, when Lord Krishna came as Sri Krishna Chaitanya, in the role of a devotee, His eternal associates accompanied Him, as devotees, to assist Him in His pastimes. And the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, written by Kavi-karnapura, also an associate of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, explains what roles the associates of Krishna in krsna-lila played in gaura-lila. Sri Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (147–149) states, “Srimati Radharani, who is the personification of pure love for Krsna and who is the queen of Vrndavana, appeared as Sri Gadadhara Pandita, who was very dear to Lord Caitanya. Srila Svarupa Damodara Gosvami has also confirmed that the goddess of fortune, who appeared in Vrndavana and was very dear to Lord Krsna, appeared as Sri Gadadhara Pandita, who was filled with love for Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”
Gadadhara Pandita is an incarnation of Srimati Radharani, the internal potency of Lord Krishna. But because Lord Chaitanya is Krishna acting in the mood of Srimati Radharani, Gadadhara Pandita, although Radharani, did not act in the mood of Radharani—because there can be only one Radharani. He understood, “This is Krishna’s time, His opportunity to relish the loving ecstasy of Srimati Radharani, so I will keep my mood of Radha in the background and just support Him in His experience of radha-bhava.” It is also said that if Gadadhara Pandita had manifested the nature or feature of Srimati Radharani, then Krishna, who was trying to absorb Himself in the mood of Radharani, would have become attracted to the Radha outside of Him and wouldn’t have been able to maintain His inner mood as Radha. So Gadadhara Pandita, to facilitate Lord Chaitanya in His pastimes, played the perfect role to complement and support the Lord—that of a perfect brahman: very gentle, very submissive, very scholarly, very sober.
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Antya 7.166, 163–164) concludes,
panditera saujanya, brahmanyata-guna
drdha prema-mudra loke karila khyapana
“Gadadhara Pandita is celebrated all over the world for his gentle behavior, his brahminical attributes, and his steady love for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”
panditera bhava-mudra kahana na yaya
‘gadadhara-prana-natha’ nama haila yaya
“No one can describe the characteristics and ecstatic love of Gadadhara Pandita. Therefore another name for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Gadadhara-prananatha, ‘the life and soul of Gadadhara Pandita.’
pandite prabhura prasada kahana na yaya
‘gadaira gauranga’ bali’ yanre loke gaya
“No one can say how merciful the Lord is to Gadadhara Pandita, but people know the Lord as Gadaira Gauranga, ‘the Lord Gauranga of Gadadhara Pandita.’ ”
On this auspicious occasion we can pray to Gadadhara Pandita, a most intimate associate of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and a member of the Pancha-tattva, to be merciful to us and help us to taste and distribute the nectar of the holy name, the nectar of Krishna consciousness, as humble servants of his devoted servants.