Important lessons about Lord Chaitanya from the Bhagavatam verse that immediately follows the one predicting His advent.
By Gauranga Darshana Dasa
A verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam lists the special qualities of Lord Krishna in His most recent appearance on earth.
Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that He descends in every age as an incarnation for three purposes: to protect the righteous, to punish the evildoers, and to establish dharma. Lord Sri Krishna descended in the current age, Kali-yuga, as Lord Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, or Sri Chaitanya, in 1486 CE. In this incarnation, the Lord appeared in the form of a devotee to teach how to perform loving devotional service (bhakti) unto Him.
Assuming the emotions of a devotee, Lord Chaitanya constantly chants Krishna’s holy names and thus spreads the yuga-dharma, or the process of salvation for this age, which is krishna-nama-sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy names of Krishna.
This verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.33) describes how the “lotus feet” (charanaravindam) of the great personality (maha-purusha) Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu are glorious in nine ways:
- dhyeyam sada – are the eternal object of meditation
- paribhava-ghnam – destroy the insults of material life
- abhishta-doham – award the greatest desire of the soul
- tirthaspadam – are the shelter of holy places and saintly people
- shiva-virinchi-nutam – are honored by Shiva and Brahma
- sharanyam – are worthy of surrender
- bhrityarti-ham – relieve the distress of devotees
- pranata-pala – protect those who simply bow down
- bhavabdhi-potam – are the boat to cross the ocean of material existence
- The eternal object of meditation (dhyeyam sada)
Dhyeyam refers to “an object that is to be meditated upon.” Sada means “always.” The worthiest object of everyone’s meditation is the Supreme Lord and His divine name, form, qualities, and pastimes. And that meditation is to be done constantly (sada). Unlike Vedic rituals, there are no rigid rules about time and place for such devotional meditation.
Meditation on the Lord begins from His lotus feet – the word lotus here implying, among other things, transcendence and unique beauty. The scriptures repeatedly recommend that one should always meditate upon the Lord’s lotus feet to purify one’s consciousness. Dhruva Maharaja says that happiness can be attained by meditation on the Lord’s lotus feet (tava pada padma dhyanat) and by hearing about Him in the association of His devotees (bhavat-jana katha shravana). (Bhagavatam 4.9.10) The moonlike effulgence emanating from the toenails of the Lord’s lotus feet destroys the thick gloom of the darkness of ignorance in our hearts (Bhagavatam 3.28.21). In Kali-yuga the authorized process of meditation is to chant the holy names of the Lord, especially the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, which Lord Chaitanya propagated far and wide.
- Destroy the insults of material life (paribhava-ghnam)
Paribhava means “insults of material existence.” Ghnam refers to “destruction.” The very fact that the blissful spirit soul is entrapped in the material world undergoing unnecessary suffering is itself an insult (parabhava) for the soul. The merciful lotus feet of Lord Chaitanya destroy this humiliation.
In Kali-yuga, this age of quarrel, people cannot tolerate others’ prosperity and status, and thus there are fights even among family members, not to speak of states or nations. The real cause of all problems is the soul’s identification with the material body and mind. This false identification makes one believe that a temporary sense of enjoyment gives happiness, although it ultimately gives pain, and pursuing it causes insult. People are further tormented by excessive heat, cold, famine, drought, and so on.
Taking shelter of the lotus feet of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu can relieve one of all these harassments and embarrassments, caused by envious people and other living entities (adhibhautika kleshas), by one’s own body and mind (adhyatmika kleshas), or by natural calamities (adhidaivika kleshas). One who takes shelter of His lotus feet loosens the hard knot that psychologically binds one to bodily identification and resultant attachment. Then one need no longer face insults in this world and can be spiritually blissful.
- Award the greatest desire (abhishta-doham)
Abhishta means “desire.” Doham means “to give.” The living being in this material world may have unlimited material desires. But in the purest state of the soul, it only desires and hankers to love and serve Krishna. Krishna-prema, or love of God, is the deepest desire of every living being. Just as sugar is meant to be sweet, the soul is meant to love and serve Krishna. Any other attitude or engagement of the soul is only a temporary and unnecessary cloud on the soul’s pure Krishna consciousness. The mercy of Lord Chaitanya’s lotus feet enables one to revive one’s dormant krishna-prema. Lord Chaitanya is so merciful that without reservations He gives the rarest krishna-prema to even the most fallen soul. Therefore He is addressed as krishna-prema pradayate: “You who give love of Krishna.”
In a similar mood, Srila Krishnadasa Goswami writes:
“The most munificent Supreme Personality of Godhead, known as Gaurakrishna [Chaitanya Mahaprabhu], distributed to everyone – even the lowest of men – His confidential treasury in the form of the nectar of love of Himself and the holy name. This was never given to the people at any time before. I, therefore, offer my respectful obeisances unto Him.” (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 23.1)
- Shelter of holy places and saintly people (tirthaspadam)
Tirtha means “a holy place or a saintly person,” and aspadam means “abode or shelter.” Lord Chaitanya’s lotus feet are the shelter of all holy places and saintly devotees. The holy river Ganges emanated from the Supreme Lord’s lotus feet, so the Lord is also called tirtha-pada. People go to a holy place or a holy river to free themselves from sinful reactions. But when pure devotees who have taken shelter of the Lord’s lotus feet visit holy places, those places are purified of all the accumulated visitors’ sinful contamination.
People living in various parts of the world may not be able to visit holy places like Vrindavan and Mayapur. But by worshiping Lord Chaitanya’s lotus feet, they can get the results of visiting and bathing in all sacred places. Therefore if one takes shelter of Lord Chaitanya’s lotus feet, one need not worry about the impurity caused by objects, places, and actions in Kali-yuga.
- Honored by Shiva and Brahma (shiva-virinchi-nutam)
Virinchi means Lord Brahma, and nutam means “to bow down.” Even the great devatas and most powerful personalities in this universe, like Shiva and Brahma, bow down to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s lotus feet and meticulously worship Him. When Lord Krishna appeared as Sri Chaitanya in Kali-yuga, Lord Shiva appeared as Advaita Acharya and Lord Brahma appeared as Haridasa Thakura. They had both appealed to Lord Krishna to descend as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and liberate the fallen people of Kali-yuga. Responding to their request, Lord Chaitanya descended. So He is called shiva-virinchi-nutam. The following Bhagavatam prayer establishes the Lord as most worshipable by great devatas.
“O Lord, You are worshiped by all demigods like Brahma, the four Sanas and even the King of heaven. You are the ultimate rest for those who are aspiring to achieve the highest benefit of life. You are the supreme transcendental Lord, and inevitable time cannot exert its influence upon You.” (Bhagavatam 1.11.6)
- Worthy of surrender (sharanyam)
Sharanyam means “most worthy to take shelter of.” Lord Chaitanya is the most munificent of all the incarnations of Lord Krishna. He is easily served, and He is the worthiest object of surrender. Even Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma are not safe without the shelter of the lotus feet of Lord Chaitanya. He is sharanyam because He is karunarnavam – an ocean of compassion.
- Relieve the distress of devotees (bhrityarti-ham)
Bhritya means “a servant,” arti means “distress,” and ham means “to relieve.” Lord Chaitanya’s lotus feet can relieve all His servants from all kinds of distresses. Because the Lord is very affectionate to His devotees, He relieves them of suffering. Lord Chaitanya once cured a leper brahmana named Vasudeva of his leprosy and gave him a beautiful body. Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, a scholarly devotee of Lord Chaitanya, praised His mercy as follows:
“He is always removing the suffering of material existence for mankind. He is the goal of life for persons who are dedicated to their supreme interest. He inspires men to become like honeybees [eager for the honey of krishna-prema]. He removes the burning fever of the material world. I bow down to Gaura, the beautiful son of mother Saci.” (Shachisutashtakam 4)
- Protect those who simply bow down (pranata-pala)
Pranata means “to surrender or to bow down.” Pala means “to maintain or to protect.” Lord Chaitanya is so merciful that He protects not only His surrendered devotees but even those devotees who simply offer obeisances unto His lotus feet without duplicity. He protects anyone who simply bows down with the thought of doing service, although they have not done the service. Even neophytes will get all protection from the Lord’s lotus feet if they are sincere in seeking shelter.
- The boat to cross the material ocean (bhavabdhi-potam)
Bhava means “material existence,” characterized by repeated birth and death. Abdhi means “an ocean.” Potam refers to “a boat.” Thus bhavabdhi-potam refers to Lord Chaitanya’s lotus feet because they act as a suitable boat for crossing the ocean of material existence. The following prayer by the devatas further describes how His lotus feet act like a boat.
“O lotus-eyed Lord, by concentrating one’s meditation on Your lotus feet, which are the reservoir of all existence, and by accepting those lotus feet as the boat by which to cross the ocean of nescience, one follows in the footsteps of great devotees. By this simple process, one can cross the ocean of nescience as easily as one steps over the hoofprint of a calf.” (Bhagavatam 10.2.30)
Srila Rupa Goswami says that a follower of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is a jivan-mukta, a liberated soul. The devotee is always confident (nishcaya) that the Lord will quickly take him across the ocean of material existence and is firmly convinced of the potency of the process of devotional service.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is addressed by the word maha-purusha in this verse, whose whole intention is to offer obeisances at His lotus feet. Those divine lotus feet are the actual eternal object of meditation for devotees because they cut off the bondage of material life and fulfill all one’s spiritual desires.
Gauranga Darshana Dasa (www.gaurangadarshan.com), a disciple of His Holiness Radhanath Swami, is the dean of Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha at ISKCON Govardhan Eco Village, outside Mumbai, and a member of ISKCON Board of Examinations. He is a shastric teacher and is the author of over twenty books, including the Subodhini series of study guides and storybooks like Bhagavata Pravaha and Bhagavatam Tales.