Ten Characteristics of Lord Chaitanya's Mercy

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The pure devotees of Lord Krishna become ecstatic and extremely joyful by rendering loving devotional service unto Him. As revealed by Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami in Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Krishna once desired to experience the happiness His devotees feel. He concluded that unless He adopted the mood of a devotee, He could not experience that happiness. The topmost devotee of Lord Krishna is Srimati Radharani. So Lord Krishna accepted the emotion and complexion of Radharani and became Lord Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Lord Chaitanya is Krishna Himself but in the form and mood of a devotee. By becoming a devotee, the Lord performed bhakti-yoga and taught it to humanity. As Lord Chaitanya, Lord Krishna is especially merciful (maha-vadanya), even towards the most sinful people. Krishna killed unscrupulous people, but Lord Chaitanya transformed them. He bestowed nama (the name of God) and prema (love of God) even on the most fallen, and no other incarnation exhibited such a high level of divine mercy.

Svarupa Damodara Goswami, one of the most confidential associates of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, offered a prayer to the Lord when he arrived to serve Him at Jagannatha Puri. In that prayer, he described ten characteristics of Lord Chaitanya’s divine mercy:

heloddhunita-khedaya vishadaya pronmilad-amodaya
shamyach-chastra-vivadaya rasa-daya chittarpitonmadaya
shashvad-bhakti-vinodaya sa-madaya madhurya-maryadaya
shri-chaitanya daya-nidhe tava daya bhuyad amandodaya

(Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 10.119; Sri Chaitanya-chandrodaya-nataka 8.10)

Translation:

Let there be Lord Chaitanya’s Mercy (shri-chaitanya daya-nidhe tava daya bhuyad), which:

  1. drives away material lamentation (hela uddhunita khedaya)
  2. purifies everything (vishadaya)
  3. awakens transcendental bliss (pronmilat amodaya)
  4. mitigates the disagreements of scriptures (shamyat shastra vivadaya)
  5. distributes all transcendental mellows (rasa-daya)
  6. causes jubilation of heart (citta arpita unmadaya)
  7. always stimulates devotional service (shashvat bhakti vinodaya)
  8. along with full ecstasy and joy (sa-madaya)
  9. glorifies the limit of amorous love (madhurya maryadaya)
  10. awakens good fortune (amanda udaya)

The following is a short description of the above ten aspects of Lord Chaitanya’s divine mercy.

  1. Drives Away Lamentation

One of the characteristics of bhakti, or pure devotional service, is klesha-ghni, i.e., it drives away all miseries (kleshas). Lord Chaitanya descended to teach everyone the process of bhakti-yoga. Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, a scholarly devotee of Lord Chaitanya, praises Him in his Shacisutashtakam:

satatam janata-bhava-tapa-haram
paramartha-parayana-loka-gatim
nava-leha-karam jagat-tapa-haram
pranamami shachi-suta-gaura-varam

“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 Shachi.”

Once, a spiritually elevated brahmana named Vasudeva was suffering from leprosy, his body filled with living worms. His compassion for the suffering of all living entities was so great that as soon as a worm would fall from his body, he would pick it up and place it back in the same location. Hearing that Lord Chaitanya had arrived at the holy place called Kurmakshetra, Vasudeva went to see Him at the house of a brahmana named Kurma. When Vasudeva learned that Lord Chaitanya had already left, he fell to the ground unconscious, and the Lord immediately came to that spot and embraced him. Thus both his leprosy and his distress went away, and his body became beautiful.

Vasudeva prayed, “O my merciful Lord, such mercy is not possible for ordinary living entities. Such mercy can be found only in You. Upon seeing me, even a sinful person goes away due to my bad bodily odor. Yet You have touched me. Such is the independent behavior of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 7.144–145)

Being very compassionate toward Vasudeva, Lord Chaitanya cured him of leprosy and transformed him into a beautiful man satisfied with devotional service. Thus Lord Chaitanya became known as Vasudevamrita-prada – “the giver of nectar to Vasudeva.”

  1. Purifies Everything

The next facet of Lord Chaitanya’s mercy is vishadaya – it purifies everything. Lord Chaitanya showed the ultimate method of purifying oneself to the people in Kali-yuga by inaugurating the process of chanting the holy names of Krishna. Ceto-darpana-marjanam: by the chanting of Krishna’s names, one’s heart is cleansed.

Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura sings the glories of Lord Chaitanya. Patita-pavana-hetu tava avatara: “O my Lord, You have appeared just to deliver all the fallen souls.” Mo-sama patita prabhu na paibe ara: “And among all the fallen souls, I am the lowest.” Thus one who seeks purification and upliftment from one’s fallen condition must take shelter of Lord Chaitanya. Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami writes in Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita (Adi 15.1):

ku-manah su-manastvam hi yati yasya padabjayoh
su-mano-’rpana-matrena tam chaitanya-prabhum bhaje

“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of Lord Chaitanya because simply by offering a flower at His lotus feet even the most ardent materialist becomes a devotee.”

  1. Awakens Transcendental Bliss

Another aspect of Lord Chaitanya’s mercy is pronmilat amodaya – it awakens transcendental bliss. Lord Chaitanya, along with His associates, performed sankirtana, or the congregational chanting of the holy names of Krishna. Kaviraja Goswami says that they “plundered the storehouse of love of Godhead” and distributed its contents to everyone indiscriminately. Loving devotion to Sri Krishna is achieved through sankirtana, which is the essence of all bliss (nama-sankirtana – saba ananda-svarupa, Adi 1.96) Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says,

krishna-name ye ananda-sindhu-asvadana
brahmananda tara age khatodaka-sama

“Compared to the ocean of transcendental bliss that one tastes by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, the pleasure derived from impersonal Brahman realization [brahmananda] is like the shallow water in a canal.” (Adi 7.97)

During His South India tour, Lord Chaitanya met various people and delivered them by inducing them to chant the holy names of Krishna in bliss. When the people who became devotees met other people, they induced them also to chant in ecstasy. Thus thousands and thousands of people blissfully chanted the holy names of Krishna by the mercy of Lord Chaitanya.

  1. Mitigates Disagreements of Scriptures

Another wonderful feature of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mercy is shamyat shastra vivadaya – it mitigates the disagreements of scriptures. The Vedic scriptures sometimes present abheda-vakyas, or statements affirming that all things are one with God, being His dependent expansions. But the scriptures also contain many bheda-vakyas, or statements that affirm the unique, distinguishing qualities of the Supreme Lord, indicating that He is different from His expansions and energies. Thus some Upanishadic mantras emphasize the sameness of God and His creation, while others speak about their difference.

Different philosophers consider these statements according to their own conceptions. The impersonalists read the abheda-vakyas literally and accept the bheda-vakyas only in a figurative way. On the other hand, some philosophers emphasize only the bheda-vakyas and explain that the Supreme Lord is totally different from the creation and the living entities.

Reconciling these apparent contradictions in the scriptural statements, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu propounded the achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, the principle of the simultaneous oneness and difference of the Lord and His energies, which is inconceivable. The Supreme Lord is the original energetic person, and from Him emanate all His energies, including the creation and the living entities. Without the energetic person, the energy does not exist. And without energy, “an energetic person” has no meaning. Thus the energy and energetic are one. Yet they exist separately. And this is inconceivable to minds influenced by the material energy.

Srila Prabhupada writes,

We are all one with Him [the Supreme Lord], just as the gold ornaments are one in quality with the stock gold, but the individual gold ornament is never equal in quantity with the stock gold. The stock gold is never exhausted even if there are innumerable ornaments emanating from the stock because the stock is purnam, complete; even if purnam is deducted from the purnam, still the supreme purnam remains the same purnam. This fact is inconceivable to our present imperfect senses. Lord Chaitanya therefore defined His theory of philosophy as achintya (inconceivable), and as confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita as well as in the Bhagavatam, Lord Chaitanya's theory of achintya-bhedabheda-tattva is the perfect philosophy of the Absolute Truth. (Bhagavatam 2.6.13–16, Purport)

  1. Distributes Transcendental Mellows

Out of His causeless mercy (daya) Chaitanya Mahaprabhu descended to distribute the transcendental mellows (rasa) to the people in this world. Thus in Vidagdha-madhava (1.2) Srila Rupa Goswami prays,

anarpita-charim chirat karunayavatirnah kalau
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasam sva-bhakti-shriyam

“Lord Chaitanya has appeared in the Age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow what no incarnation has ever offered before: the most sublime and radiant mellow of devotional service, the mellow of conjugal love.” (quoted in Cc. Adi 1.4)

Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami writes,

Before the creation of this cosmic manifestation, the Lord enlightened the heart of Lord Brahma with the details of the creation and manifested the Vedic knowledge. In exactly the same way, the Lord, being anxious to revive the Vrindavana pastimes of Lord Krishna, impregnated the heart of Rupa Goswami with spiritual potency. By this potency, Srila Rupa Goswami could revive the activities of Krishna in Vrindavana, activities almost lost to memory. In this way, He spread Krishna consciousness throughout the world. (Madhya 19.1)

At Prayaga (Allahabad), Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught Rupa Goswami the process of devotional service and knowledge of primary and secondary rasas, or transcendental mellows (flavors) in one’s relationship with Krishna, along with their symptoms. At Benares, Lord Chaitanya gave more elaborate teachings to Sanatana Goswami, enlightening him about rasas and other aspects of bhakti. Thus Lord Chaitanya distributed the knowledge of rasas to the world through Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis, who further explained them by writing devotional scriptures.

  1. Causes Jubilation of Heart

Lord Chaitanya’s mercy also causes jubilation of heart (chitta arpita unmadaya). Hearing about all His activities filled with compassion and affection causes the greatest happiness to the hearer. Thus Kaviraja Goswami urges the readers of Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, filled with descriptions of Lord Chaitanya’s merciful activities, to study and hear it with great attention to attain jubilation: “O devotees, may the transcendental life and characteristics of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu always be heard, chanted and meditated upon with great happiness.” (Antya 12.1)

  1. Always Stimulates Devotional Service

Lord Chaitanya’s mercy always stimulates devotional service (shashvat bhakti vinodaya) in the hearts of those who come in contact with Him. Every living entity has an eternal relationship with the Supreme Lord Krishna. However, due to the covering of maya, or the illusory energy, the conditioned soul has forgotten that relationship. By the performance of bhakti-yoga one can revive that relationship. And Lord Chaitanya mercifully descended to teach bhakti-yoga, by which one identifies oneself as an eternal servant of Lord Krishna and acts accordingly. Thus Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya extols Him:

vairagya-vidya-nija-bhakti-yoga
shikshartham ekah purushah puranah
shri-krishna-chaitanya-sharira-dhari
kripambudhir yas tam aham prapadye

“Let me take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, who has descended in the form of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to teach us real knowledge, His devotional service and detachment from whatever does not foster Krishna consciousness. He has descended because He is an ocean of transcendental mercy. Let me surrender unto His lotus feet.” (Madhya 6.254)

Lord Chaitanya preached bhakti, especially bhakti performed following in the footsteps of residents of Vrindavan, under the guidance of the Six Goswamis. Whenever Lord Chaitanya bade farewell to His devotees, He fervently urged them to perform devotional service to Krishna, which includes chanting His names and worshiping Him.

  1. Bestows Full Ecstasy and Joy

As Lord Chaitanya stimulates devotional service in the heart of a suffering conditioned soul in this world, He simultaneously bestows the ecstasy and joy (sa-madaya) that accompany bhakti. The conditioned living entity artificially identifies as the master, enjoyer, controller, and proprietor in this world. However, by Lord Chaitanya’s mercy, one can give up such false identification by performing krishna-bhakti. Being a loving servant of Krishna is the original constitutional position of every living entity, as Lord Chaitanya Himself taught: jivera ‘svarupa’ haya – krishnera ‘nitya-dasa’ (Madhya 20.108). A drop of the joy and ecstasy of serving Krishna cannot be compared to an ocean of happiness that one gets by merging into the impersonal Brahman (Adi 6.44). Lord Chaitanya Himself tastes the nectar of krishna-prema and inspires others to taste the same. Kaviraja Goswami writes,

vande shri-krishna-chaitanyam
krishna-bhavamritam hi yah
asvadyasvadayan bhaktan
prema-diksham ashikshayat

“Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who personally tasted the nectar of ecstatic love for Krishna and then instructed His devotees how to taste it. Thus He enlightened them about ecstatic love of Krishna to initiate them into transcendental knowledge.” (Antya 16.1)

  1. Glorifies the Limit of Amorous Love

Another aspect of Lord Chaitanya’s mercy is madhurya maryadaya – glorifying the limit of amorous love. There are five primary rasas in connection with Lord Krishna, namely shanta (neutrality), dasya (servitorship), sakhya (friendship), vatsalya (fraternity), and madhurya (amorous love). By an unbiased comparison, one finds that madhurya rasa is the topmost. And Srimati Radharani is the epitome of all the devotees in madhurya rasa. Even Krishna desires to understand the greatness of Her love and experience the happiness She obtains by serving Him. Thus Krishna descended as Lord Chaitanya, accepting the mood of Radharani.

The very appearance of Lord Chaitanya with the emotions of Srimati Radharani is the greatest testimonial of the amorous rasa. During His discussions with Ramananda Raya (Madhya, chapter 8), Lord Chaitanya established the supremacy of madhurya rasa through the words of Ramananda Raya. Lord Chaitanya taught that the greatest aspiration or goal (sadhya) for a Gaudiya Vaishnava is to worship Krishna following in the footsteps of the Vraja-gopis, because there is no mode of worship better than theirs. In His manifest pastimes, especially in the last eighteen years of His stay at Jagannatha Puri, Lord Chaitanya was constantly absorbed in the mood of the gopis and experienced ecstatic feelings of separation from Krishna. Thus He declared to the whole world the glory of the gopis of Vrindavan, the topmost devotees of Krishna in madhurya feelings.

  1. Awakens Good Fortune

Svarupa Damodara Goswami mentions the final feature of Lord Chaitanya’s mercy as amanda udayam – it awakens all good fortune. Through His teachings, activities, and interactions, Lord Chaitanya mercifully awakens the greatest fortune in the lives of the devotees. Towards the end of His manifest pastimes, Lord Chaitanya told Svarupa Damodara Goswami and Ramananda Raya, “Simply by chanting the holy name of Lord Krishna, one can be freed from all undesirable habits. This is the means of awakening all good fortune and initiating the flow of waves of love for Krishna.” (Antya 20.11)

The Most Merciful Lord

Thus Lord Chaitanya’s appearance and activities are filled with unparalleled mercy upon the living entities in this world – the intelligent, the foolish, the high-born, the low-born, men, women, children, or even nonhuman species. Lord Chaitanya bestowed His mercy on the animals in Jharikhand Forest and made them chant Krishna’s names in ecstasy. Lord Chaitanya’s supreme mercy acts as the supreme benediction upon the people in this world at various levels – from delivering them from the sufferings of material existence to making them experience the transcendental jubilation of love of Krishna. And this mercy is like a nectarean river flowing downstream and accessible even to the most fallen, sinful people in this world (Adi 16.1).more—to us; dayä—mercy; kari’—showing; kara—make; sva-dayä—Your own mercy; sa-phala—successful; akhila—throughout; brahmäëòa—the universe; dekhuka—let it be seen; tomära—Your; dayä-bala—power of mercy. Thus Kaviraja Goswami urges the readers of Chaitanya-charitamrita to use their logic and reasoning to understand the mercy of Lord Chaitanya as “strikingly wonderful” (Adi 8.15).