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Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

If you ask twenty different initiated Gaudiya Vaisnavas (aka Chaitanya Vaisnavas) to explain what is a Gaudiya Vaisnava; who is their worshipable ishta-devata; what is the goal of attainment (sadhya); and what is the practice (sadhana) or means to attain that goal—you will get TWENTY DIFFERENT ANSWERS!

Now we will cite the sacred scriptures to correctly answer these questions. First of all, who is Sri Chaitanya? Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is directly Bhagavan Sri Krishna, who, after immersing His heart in Srimati Radharani’s ecstatic loving emotions and covering Himself with Her supremely radiant golden color, appeared as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu 500 years ago in Navadvipa Dhama, W. Bengal.

To put it simply, a Gaudiya Vaisnava is a Krishna devotee who follows the philosophy, teachings and the sadhana practices taught by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself, the sole founder of the Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s personal words and exact teachings on the worshipable ishta-devata, the daily sadhana practices, and the spiritual goal i.e. sadhya are clearly presented in the books of the Gaudiya Vaisnava  mahajana  acharyas i.e. Six Goswamis, Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana, Sri Narottama Dasa Thakura, and Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti.

So, if one is not following Sri Chaitanya’s teachings and practices to attain Mahaprabhu’s definition of spiritual perfection, he/she is not really a Gaudiya Vaisnava.

Here are Mahaprabhu’s personal instructions and answers to the opening questions.

In the beginning of Chaitanya-caritamrita, Sri Krishna Dasa Kaviraja presents the basis or foundation of Gaudiya Vaisnava dharma by quoting the direct words of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

In one of His first teachings, Sri Krishna Chaitanya said, “I have come to this world to taste the essence of ecstatic Krishna prema and TO PREACH RAGANUGA-BHAKTI to the people [what to speak of the devotees!], prema-rasa-niryāsa, kariteāsvādana, rāga-mārga bhakti loke, karitepracāraṇa.” (Caitanya Caritamrita 1.4.15)

Sri Krishna Chaitanya said, “When My devotees hear about the immaculately pure love of the Vrajavasis, they will worship Me on the PATH OF RAGANUGA BHAKTI, and there by give up their duties within the varnashrama-system, vrajeranirmala raga, śunibhakta-gaṇa,  rāga-mārgebhajeyena, chāḍi dharma-karma.” (Caitanya Caritamrita 1.4.33)

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: “I relished the mellows of love in various ways. And through My pastimes I TAUGHT THE DEVOTEES HOW TO PRACTICE RAGANUGA-BHAKTI, prema-rasa āsvādila, vividhaprakāra, rāga-mārgebhakta bhakti, kare ye prakāre, tāhāśikhāilalīlā, ācaraṇadvāre.” (Caitanya Caritamrita 1.4.264-5)

Throughout Chaitanya-caritamrita, Mahaprabhu describes the Gaudiya sadhana of raganuga-bhakti (raga-marge)—both the physical practices and the internal mental practices of meditation on one’s siddha-deha and the eternal pastimes of Radha and Krishna.

Goal of Gaudiya Vaisnava

The essential teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Gaudiya Vaisnava dharma is fully described in just two chapters of Chaitanya-caritamrita (adi four, and madhya eight. Every Gaudiya Vaisnava should deeply study these two chapters. By this one will get a clear understanding of the actual true goal (sadhya) and proper means of attaining it (sadhana).

Chaitanya-caritamrita, madhyalila chapter eight is titled “Sri Ramananda Raya Samvad”. Here, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, inspires and empowers His devotee Sri Ramananda Raya to answer His questions concerning Gaudiya Vaisnava sadhana and sadhya.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu asked, “O Ramananda! WHAT IS THE GOAL OF LIFE, prabhukahepaḍaśloka, sādhyeranirṇaya?” (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.8.57)

Sri Ramananda Raya answered by describing many paths to God realization including varnashrama-dharma, karma-yoga, karmarpanam, niskama karma-yoga, jnana-misra bhakti, shuddha-bhakti, dasya-bhakti, sakhya-bhakti, vatsalya-bhakti, madhurya-bhakti, pure Vrajaprema, Srimati Radharani’s mahabhava, and lastly prema-vilasa-vivarta—the melting of Radha-Madhava’s  hearts and identities in the union of ultimate divine love.

After listening to each of these paths and goals, Mahaprabhu would say, “This is not it, go further, go further.” When Sri Ramananda Raya described the Vrajasrngara-madhurya-bhava, and the love of Radha and Krishna relished in prema-vilasavivarta, Mahaprabhu confirmed, “YES! This is the topmost goal of life, prabhukahesādhyavastura, avadhieihaya.” (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.8.196)

Means to Attain the Goal

Mahaprabhu inquired, “But without practicing the proper sadhana, no one will attain this goal (sadhya). So please tell me the sadhana to attain this goal [i.e. Radha-Krishna premaseva in Vrindavana], sādhyavastusādhanavinu, kehanāhipāya, kṛpākari’ kaharāya, pābāraupāya?” (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.8.197) 

Sri Ramananda Raya replied: “Those who develop the feelings and moods of the sakhis (sakhi/gopi-bhava) can attain the [Gaudiya Vaisnava] goal of life, Radha-Krishna’s seva in the beautiful bowers of Vrindavana. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO REACH THIS GOAL.”

sakhīvināeilīlāya, anyeranāhigati//sakhī-bhāve ye tāṅre, kareanugati
rādhākṛṣṇakuñjasevā, sādhyaseipāya//seisādhyapāiteāra, nāhikaupāya

Qualification to Start Raganuga Bhakti

Sri Ramananda Raya: “A Gaudiya Vaisnava who has “divine” greed to attain the gopīs’ nectareanprema (gopibhava amrita) will abandon the rites and rituals of the social/spiritual system i.e. varṇāśrama, and disregard the opinions or prohibitions of others to worship Krishna on the path of raganuga-bhakti, seigopī-bhāvāmṛte, yāṅralobhahaya, veda dharma lokatyaji, se kṛṣṇebhajaya.” (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.8.220)

Attaining Sri Krishna: Vraja or Vaikuntha? 

Sri Ramananda Raya: “One who practices raganugabhajana will attain Vrajendranandana Sri Krishna in Vraja, rāgānuga-mārgetāṅre, bhajeyeijana, sei-janapāyavraje, vrajendra-nandana. (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.8.221)

“One, who follows the path of raganuga-bhakti, after accepting the gopi-bhava of one of Sri Krishna’s eternal associates in Vrindavana, will get a spiritual body (siddha deha), and the appropriate bhava and qualification to attain Sri Krishna in Vraja, vraja-lokerakonabhāva, lañāyeibhaje, bhāva-yogyadehapāñā, kṛṣṇapāyavraje.” (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.8.222)

Then Sri Ramananda Raya explains the importance of accepting/following the mood and feeling of a Vrajagopi like Sri Rupa or Tulasi manjari. By doing this the raganuga sadhaka will attain an eternal siddha deha in Vrindavana.

Sri Ramananda Raya: “If one follows the mood and bhava of a gopi, one will attain the spiritual body of a gopi, seibhāveanugati, gopī-deha-prāpti.” (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.8.225)

But then Sri Ramananda Raya gives a stern warning (verses 226, 230) that Gaudiya Vaisnava sadhakas WILL NEVER ATTAIN KRISHNA in Vrindavana without practicing raganuga-bhakti.

Sri Ramananda Raya: “One who just follows the path of vaidhi-sadhana will never attain Krishna’s association, taste the nectar of His lotus feet, nor attain Krishnachandra in Vraja, aṅghripadmasudhāyakahe, krishnasaṅgānanda, vidhimārgenāpāiye, vrajekrishna-candra.” (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.8.226)

The Gaudiya Vaisnava Sadhana & Sadhya

Sri Ramananda Raya concludes his teachings by presenting Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s essential instructions about the actual goal and path of practice for all Gaudiya Vaisnavas. This particular type of sadhana and sadhya is the unique gift to humanity by the Krishna Prema Avatara Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, which He only gives every 310 billion years or so!

Sri Ramananda Raya: “Listen, O Gaudiya Vaisnavas! You all must accept gopi-bhava, and day and night think about Radha-Krishna’s pastimes while mentally serving the Divine Couple in your siddha deha. By practicing raganuga-bhakti like this, you will definitely attain sakhi/gopi-bhava and the lotus feet of Radha-Krishna.” (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.6.228-229)

ataevagopī-bhāva, kariaṅgīkāra, rātri-dinacinterādhā, kṛṣṇeravihāra
siddha-dehecintikare, tāhāṅñisevana, sakhī-bhāvepāyarādhā, kṛṣṇeracaraṇa

After hearing Sri Ramananda Raya’s clear and exact explanations about His own teachings, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was extremely pleased and happy, so He warmly embraced Ramananda as they cried together in ecstatic Krishna prema, eta suniprabhutāṅre, kailaāliṅgana, dui janegalāgali, karenakrandana. (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.8.233)

Later in madhya-lila, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself gave the same instructions on raganuga-bhakti sadhana and sadhya to Sri Rupa Gosvami and Sri Sanatana Goswami. Mahaprabhu empowered the divine brothers, and ordered them to describe the details of raganuga-bhakti in their books for the benefit of all Gaudiya Vaisnavas.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “O Sanatana Gosvami! There are two types of sādhana in rāgānugā-bhakti: external and internal. In the external sādhaka body, the devotee performs śravaṇa and kīrtana. Internally, within the mind, one should meditate on one’s own siddha-deha and mentally serve Sri Krishna day and night in Vraja.” (Caitanya Caritamrita 2.22.156-157):

bāhyaantaraihāra, dui ta’ sādhana, bāhyesādhakadehekare, śravaṇa-kīrtana
manenija-siddha-deha, kariyābhāvana, rātri-dine karevraje, krishnerasevana

So…Who is a Gaudiya Vaisnava? It is a devotee who knows and follows the personal teachings of Sri Chaitanya  Mahaprabhu, the founder of Gaudiya Vaisnava dharma, regarding the goal and means of attainment. 

By reading this post, we hope all our devoted friends will now have a clear understanding about what is the Gaudiya Vaisnava siddhanta regarding the actual sadhana and sadhya needed to attain the goal of our precious human forms of life.

May all find the true path, follow it, and attain the eternal prema-seva of Sri Sri Radha Govinda Yugala in the groves of Vrindavana.

Raganuga-bhakti ki jai! Radha-Krishna nitya-sevaki jai! Jaya Jaya Sri Radhe!

 

You may also like  related articles:

GAUDIYA VAISNAVA, IDENTITY AND GOAL

25 ESSENTIAL TEACHINGS FOR GAUDIYA VAISNAVAS

ESSENCE OF RAGANUGA BHAKTI

ARE YOU A VAISNAVA?

Mahanidhi Swami

Among Vishnu bhaktas, Bhakta Prahlada is exceptionally dear to Bhagavan Sri Krishna, jagatyam krishnasya nitaram priyam.(Brhad Bahgavatamrta 1.3.75). Bhakta Prahlada is a most rare Vaisnava whom Sri Vishnu cherishes more than His own self. (Srimad Bhagavatam 9.4.64)

His surrender is so complete that he stands above even such devotees as Shesha and Garuda. (Br.bh. 1.3.79) Sri Krishna Himself exalts Bhakta Prahlada, “You are the best example of My devotee, and others should follow in your footsteps.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 7.10.21)

After Nrsimha Bhagavan killed Hiranyakasipu, no one could cool Him down including his dearest Lakshmidevi, Shivaji, Brahmaji and Garuda. Being completely astonished at the ghastly scene, everyone was too afraid to come anywhere near Nrsimhadeva. However, at that wonderful time, loving Nrsimhadeva suddenly sat peacefully on the ground.

Then Bhagavan tenderly placed Prahlada on His lap, gently rocked him back and forth, patted him and embraced him repeatedly like a mother embracing her bundle of joy. (Hari Bhakti Sudhodaya 14.13). Then to the utter amazement of all, Sri Nrsimha… “Licked Prahlada’s limbs as an ordinary lioness licks her baby cub, lilihe tasya gatrani, sva potasyeva keshari.” (Brhan-narasimha Purana)

Nrsimhadeva said, “My dear child, just feel free to express your love for Me. For when a devotee looks at Me without hesitation and speaks to Me affectionately, My pleasure grows with every new moment, navam navam idam priyam, nihshankah pranayad bhakto, yan mam pashyati bhashate.” (Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya 14.29)

Then just to show the world the exclusiveness of Vishnu bhakti, Nrsimhadeva repeatedly offered boons to Bhakta Prahlada up to liberation, punah punar varan vishnur muktim. (Narayana-vyuha-stava). To this the desire less Bhakta Prahlada replied, “O Natha, I may travel through thousands of wombs, but may I always be Your acyuta bhakta.” (Vishnu Purana 1.20.38)

Once long after the famous “Nrisimha Lila”, the great Narada Muni met Bhakta Prahlada in Sutaloka. At that time, Bhakta Prahlada, glowing brilliantly with prema, was deeply absorbed in meditating upon the lotus feet of Bhagavan Sri Vishnu, bhagavat padambuja premollasad, dhyana-vishakta-cetasa. (Brhad Bahgavatamrta 1.4.2)

Bhakta Prahlada’s devotion was so blissfully pure, attractive and influential that upon hearing his amazing and brilliant katha, some people became immediately detached and started crying. Others simply bowed down to him, while others stood by just playfully laughing and watching him. (Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya 15.1–2)

Such are the glories of the great Vishnu bhakta, Sri Bhakta Prahlada Maharaja ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

We humbly request our readers to read these teachings slowly, think deeply about each one, and pray to Sri Krishna for the energy and vision to implement them in your life.

  1. If we neglect the present, waiting for an auspicious future to arrive, we shall deprive ourselves of a golden opportunity to serve Krishna and progress in devotion.
  1. If we want something special in the future, then we have to turn every present moment into action for the pleasure of Sri Hari, Sri Guru and the Vaisnavas.
  1. The best way to purify ourselves is to seek our own faults—and mind our own business i.e. pure bhakti.prema.
  1. When we depend on Krishna we are free of stress, peaceful, patient and strong. But as long as we think we are the doers then we will worry, worry, worry.
  1. Always remember that Sri Krishna alone is the original doer, the cause, and the completely independent Lord of everything moving and nonmoving, adi karta svayam prabhuh.

(Shri Vinod Bihari Dasji Maharaja shiksha, adapted)

Shuddha bhakti ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Madana Gopala Dasa

Want to know what kind of a devotee you are? Curious to know your level of advancement in bhakti bhajana? Simple, just take the amazing test below. In this exam, you grade your SELF and Krishna is the monitor!

Good luck, for we hope all our readers will pass the bhakti test with flying colors. The following amazing question/answer series will definitely help any devotee.

The Bhakti SELF Test

  1. Q: To what degree is my heart purified?

A: To the degree that I have I stopped seeing faults in others.

  1. Q: How much have I progressed in bhajan?

A: To the extent I have become free of false ego, material desires and thoughts other than Sri Bhagavän.

  1. Q: How much have I gained Bhakti devi’s mercy?

A: I have gained Bhakti devi’s mercy to the extent I consider myself lower than others, unworthy and fallen.

  1. Q: How much fearless have I become?

A: To the extent I have become free of false ego and taken the shelter of Sri Govinda’s lotus feet.

  1. Q: How much of a pure devotee have I become?

A: To the extent I have stopped seeing faults in others and started forgiving them.

  1. Q: How much has my intelligence become clear?

A: To the extent I can seek out my own faults and try with body, speech and mind to improve myself for the better.

  1. Q: How much free have I become of false ego?

A: To the extent I can hear the harsh words of an evil person and yet remain non-agitated.

  1. Q: How much is my heart illuminated with bhakti?

A: To the extent it has become free of false ego, and it is agitated for the darshana of the Divine Couple.

  1. Q: How much liberated am I?

A: As much as I am free of material desires.

  1. Q: How much detached am I?

A: As much as I have become disinterested in worldly matters.

  1. Q: Am I deprived?

A: Yes, if I am still waiting for that auspicious moment to arrive when I will start doing bhajana.

  1. Q: Am I qualified to receive Sri Bhagavän’s mercy quickly?

A: Yes, if I think –“I don’t have one second to lose. Death will come any moment and snatch me.” Thinking like this, I should accept all sorrow, innumerable troubles and tribulations, and continue my endeavors of bhajan with firm determination. In unfavorable circumstances, we can gain Sri Bhagavän’s kripä very quickly, more so then when the situation is favorable. How fast have I received mercy can be tested best by unfavorable circumstances.

  1. Q: Am I foolish?

A: Yes, I am, if I consider this destructible material body to be mine.

14 Q: Am I intelligent?

A: Yes, if by using this material body that is destructible and full of suffering I am able to obtain the transcendental, eternal and blissful Sri Govinda, then that means I am truly very intelligent.

End of test.

Grade your SELF. Then collapse in dandavats before Thakuraji, cry, beg for mercy and stand up again. Now enthusiastically try and try and keep trying until that wonderful day arrives when our nama-bhajana is pure, then mature, and then filled with Krishna prema.

(Obstacles in Bhakti, Shri Vinod Bihari Dasji Maharaja, adapted,)

Shuddha Bhakti ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!