chaitanya mahaprabhu


The following is a class from the Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 6, chapter 9, text 52, given by His Grace Jananivas Prabhu on the 9 March 2007 at Sri Sri Radha-Gopinatha Mandir, Chowpatty, Mumbai.

Indra is probably the most desirable position in the material world.  The position of Indra affords the most material enjoyment because Indra is king of the heavenly planets.

The Hari Bhakti Vilas provides a beautiful meditation on Krishna.  It describes how His shark-shaped earrings reflect on His shiny cheeks; the masses of His black, curly hair; how He is lying on a couch, playing His flute.  The demigods appear before Krishna (in his majestic feature).  They are offering prayers to Him.  The Gandharvas are there also.

There are 8,400,000 different types of bodies in this world – all based on different combinations of material desires.

The bulls and the cows come and see Krishna.  That is called santa rasa (love of God in neutrality).  There are also the babies, with bells on their ankles, the cowherd boys and the elder gopis.  The gopis faces are half-covered and their eyes are half-closed.   They are trying to see Krishna.  They are trembling uncontrollably.  They try to suppress their trembling, so the bells around their waists and ankles won’t ring. 

These are meditations for pujaris (priests of the Deity).

The neophyte devotee’s objective is to see the Deity form of Krishna in the Temple.  Ideally, we should also see Krishna in everyone’s heart.

Srila Prabhupada was on Juhu beach with one of his disciples, Dravida Maharaja.  They were looking at the ocean.  Srila Prabhupada asked, ‘What do you see?’  Dravida replied, ‘Krishna.’  Srila Prabhupada asked, ‘How?’  Maharaja answered, ‘I am the taste of water.’  Prabhupada looked a the salty water, ‘See.  This is the energy of Krishna.’

Sometimes you look at Radha-Gopinath (the Deities at the Mumbai Temple) and you see it’s Krishna.  You don’t have to analyze.  The gopis see a black tamala tree.  Radharani embraces the tamala tree.  All Her friends laugh at Her.  It’s not that they don’t see a tree – but they see Krishna (the tamala tree is black like Him).  They see things, but they see Krishna present in them.

The demigiods are not pure, unalloyed devotees.  Even in Vaikuntha.  In Vaikuntha they are pure, but they are not unalloyed.  The residents of Goloka Vrindavan are unalloyed.  The devas or demigods are devotees, but they are thinking of their desires.  Pure, unalloyed devotees only want Krishna’s pleasure.  Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to teach that.

Indra will kill Vritrasura with the bones of Dadici.  Vritrasura knows this.  When Indra drops his weapon, Vritrasura says, ‘Pick up your weapon and kill me.  It is Vishnu’s will that you kill me.’

The demigods fear death because they do not want to lose their position.  Srila Prabhupada, ‘Do you believe in reincarnation?’  The devotees, ‘No.  We are going back to Godhead.’  Prabhupada, ‘Lord Caitanya’s waiting for the devotees with a Sankirtan party.’

The Srimad Bhagavatam will bring out the particular relationship we have with Krishna.  The Bhagavatam gives all the different relationships you can have with Krishna.

The devotees do not want anything.  For example, Hanuman.  If Lord Rama wants Hanuman to have liberation, he’ll take it.  But, if it interferes with his service, he’ll reject it.

Who has come to give this essence of what Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to give? Krishna came 5,000 years ago.  He performed divine pastimes.  He left instructions, sarva-dharman parityajya – just surrender unto Me.  People couldn’t follow such a high standard in the Age of Kali.  So, Caitanya Mahaprabhu came – with no demands.  Just giving.  Freely giving vraja-prema.  Mahaprabhu’s our hero.

There is a prediction.  All the different sampradayas (disciplic traditions in India) will fall under Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s Sankirtan mission.  Caitanya Mahaprabhu declared, ‘I will give them the opportunity to taste vraja-prema.  This is the maha-mantra.’

We are eternal.  We have an eternal relationship with Krishna.  Simultaneously, we have come from Krishna – aham sarvasya prabhavo.  ‘Make an eternal change!’   You can change your eternal relationship.  There is the example of Shymananda.  He had a relationship of friendship with Krishna, but obtained a relationship in the conjugal rasa.  He changed his attitude in the association of Jiva Goswami, Narrottama and Srinivas.  His guru beat him with a stick, ‘Why are you crying in ecstasy hearing the pastimes of Radha and Krishna?  You don’t know what pleasure you’re missing in sakhya rasa.  You’re taking something lower!’

You cannot change you eternal position as servant of God or Krishna – jivera svarupa haya krisnera nitya das.  Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains different relationships.  If you want material relationships – even with your own family.  When you’re realized, you can even have an eternal planet with your own family!  This is called satya sankalpa.  When you are pure, everything you desire becomes manifest. If you want to be a friend of Krishna, you can take birth in a family of gopas (cowherds), where their association will draw that relationship out.  You will get the association of nitya-siddhas (eternally perfect souls) and take birth as a gopi with gopis – if that is your pure desire.  The mood has to be empowered by devotees.  Thereafter, you go to the Spiritual World or the Kingdom of God.

You can change your body in the material world, so why not spiritually?

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English: Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

English: Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is one of my favourite classes by the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

manusyanam sahasresu/kascid yatati siddhaye/yatatam api siddhanam/ kascin mam vetti tatvattah

‘Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows me in truth’ [Bg. 7.3]

‘To understand Krsna is not very easy.  Krsna says manusyanam sahasresu: ‘Out of many millions and millions of persons,’ one tries to become perfect.  Who is going to become perfect, especially in this age?  Everyone is working like cats and dogs.  The whole day is spent working for eating, sleeping, sex and defense, that’s all.  People are not living as manusyas, as human beings.

ahara-nidra-bhaya-maithunam ca/samanyam etat pasubhir naranam/dharmo hi tesam adhiko viseso/dharmena hinah pasubhih samanah

‘Both animals and humans share the activities of eating, sleeping, mating and defending.  But the special property of the humans is that they are able to engage in spiritual life.  Therefore without spiritual life, humans are on the level of animals [Hitopadesa]

What is the difference between my eating and the dog’s?  He is eating according to his taste, and I am eating according to my taste.  The eating business is there in the dog also.  Don’t think that your eating is different because you are eating nice preparations on a table, with a chair and plates.  It is still eating.

People say, ‘Because I am eating nice preparations on a table, I am civilized’.  The sastra, scripture, says that although your food may be different, your eating and the dog’s eating are the same.   You are not civilized just by eating at a table.  Similarly, the dog can sleep on the street without caring for anything, and we cannot sleep without a nice apartment, but both we and the dog are sleeping.   And for sexual intercourse, the dog has no shame.  It can enjoy sex on the street.  We have some restrictions, but the sex is there nonetheless.  And bhaya means defense, to take care of our fears.  That is there in the dog and in you also.  It does not make any difference.  Because you have discovered the atomic bomb for defense, that does not mean that you are better than a dog.  He defends himself according to his intelligence, and you defend yourself according to your intelligence.

Human beings and animals have these four businesses in common: eating, sleeping, mating, and defending.  Then what is the special advantage of human life?  That advantage is athato brahma jijnasa: You should be inquisitive to know the value of life, the Absolute Truth.  The dog cannot do that.  That is the distinction between a dog and a human being.  In the human form of life there should be inquiry about Brahman and Parabrahman, spirit and the Supreme Spirit.  When you attain brahma-jnana, knowledge of the Absolute Truth, that is your perfection, not competing with the dog in eating, sleeping, mating and defending.  That is not civilization.  That is not perfection of life.  Foolish persons who are animalistic, like dogs and cats, do not know the aim of life.

na te viduh svartha-gathim hi visnum/durasaya ye bahir-artha-maninah/andha yathandhair upaniyamanas/te pisa tantryam uru-damni baddhah

‘Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to the external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Visnu.  As blind men guided by another blind man miss the right path and fall into a ditch, materially attached men led by another materially attached man are bound by the ropes of fruitive labor, which are made of very strong cords, and they continue again and again in materialistic life, suffering the threefold miseries’ [SB 7.5.31]

The aim of life is to understand Visnu, the Supreme Lord.  People are trying to become happy in the bahir-artha, in the external energy of God, the material energy.  And the so-called leaders, politicians, philosophers, and scientists are all blind.  They do not know the aim of life.  Still, they are leading the whole society.

Uru-damni baddhah.  Uru means very strong, and damni means rope.  If I tie you with a very strong rope, it is very difficult to untie it, and you are put into difficulty.  Similarly, we in this material world are tied very tightly by the laws of material nature.  And still we declare, ‘I am free.  I am independent.  I can do whatever I like’.  That is called imperfection.  As long as we are in the bodily concept of life and think ourselves free to do whatever we like, we are in ignorance, darkness, tama.  Tama means darkness.

A Vedic injuction is tamasi ma jyotir gama: ‘Don’t remain in darkness; go to the light.’  Darkness means thinking, ‘I am this body, and fulfilling the necessities of the body is the highest perfection of my life.’  Everyone is trying to have a skyscraper and three Rolls Royces, and so on.  They think this is the perfection of life.   They do not think to ask, ‘How many years shall I have this skyscraper?  And what is my main business? My main business is how to become perfect.’

There are many animals within the skyscraper.  There are human beings, dogs, cats, worms, rats – so many things.  So the right to live in a skyscraper is there even for worms, cats, and rats.  Then what is the difference between these animals and me?  The difference is that I can become perfect.  I can ask, ‘What am I?  Am I this body?’  This should be the question.

Krsna says here, ‘The ultimate goal is to understand me.’  Vetti mam tattvatah – to understand Krsna in fact, in truth, not superficially.  That is required.  Vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah [Bg. 15.15].  If you are a great scholar studying all kinds of Vedic literature, then you must know Krsna.  If you do not understand Krsna and simply study the Vedas, it is a useless waste of time.

dharmah svanusthitah pumsam/visvakena-kathasu yah/notpadayed yadi ratim/srama eva hi kevalam

‘The occupational activities a man performs according to his own position are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Personality of Godhead’ [SB 1.2.8]

You are executing your occupational duties very nicely, honestly.  That is all right.  But if after executing your duties very honestly and nicely you do not awaken your dormant Krsna consciousness, then srama eva hi kevalam: You are simply wasting your time.  Useless.  When you understand Krsna, that is the highest perfection.  But nobody is interested.  Therefore Krsna says in today’s verse, manusyanam sahasresu…: ‘Out of many millions of persons’, one may be interested.  Otherwise, all are in darkness.

What is siddhi, as mentioned here?  Siddhi means to understand my constitutional position, what I am.  I am trying to lord it over material nature in so many ways.  Is that my position?  But I am a failure.  I am trying to lord it over material nature as a big man – as a minister or a zamindar or a big business magnate.  And when I am a failure, then I want to become God.  That is another ambition.

This is not self-realization.  Self-realization means to understand, ‘I am trying to lord it over material nature in so many ways, but my attempt is becoming baffled.  Why?  With great endeavor I become a head of state, and I do not wish to die, but death comes and takes away everything – my political position, my wealth, my family, everything.’  Mrtyuh sarva-haras caham [Bg 10.34].  Who is taking?  That is Krsna.

When you realize, ‘I am trying to accumulate so many things but Krsna is taking everything away,’ then why don’t you surrender to Krsna so that He may not take away your position?  That is siddhi.  ‘I am not independent.  I am trying to be independent, but it is not possible.  I am dependent.  I am an eternal servant of Krsna.’

That is self-realization.  That has been taught by Caitanya Mahaprabhu.  Jivera ‘svarupa  haya – krsnera ‘nitya-dasa: ‘It is the living entity’s constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krsna.’ [Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 20.108-109].  Brahman realization – aham brahmasmi – is liberation from the material conception of life.  ‘I am not matter.  I am not the body, but I am spirit soul.’  Aham brahmasmi.  That is the first step of self-realization.  But that is not final.  The final realization is ‘I am an eternal servant of Krsna.’  As long as you do not come to that position – the final, consitutional position that ‘I am an eternal servant of Krsna’ – then knowledge is lacking; there is no perfection of knowledge.

Therefore, Krsna says in Bhagavad-git [7.19], bahunam janmanam ante…vasudevah sarvam iti: ‘After many, many births, when one is actually self-realize – in awareness, fully in knowledge – then he understands that Vasudeva [Krsna] is everything.’  ‘Vasudeva is the supreme everything.  I am simply part and parcel of Vasudeva, an eternal servant of Vasudeva.’  Sa mahatma sudurlabhah.  One who thinks in that way, that kind of perfect person – a mahatma – is very, very rare.  A mahatma understands, ‘I am an eternal servant of Krsna.  My only business is to serve Krsna.  That is my constitutional position.  I am part and parcel of Krsna.’

This finger is part and parcel of my body.  Its business is to serve the whole body.  I ask the finger, ‘Come here,’ and immediately it comes.  That is the normal, healthy condition of the part and parcel.  My leg is part and parcel of my body.  As soon as I ask the leg, ‘Please take me there,’ it does so.  That is normal.  And if the leg cannot take me there – if I have to take help from a stick – that is not normal.  It is a diseased condition has to be treated.  Similarly, as soon as we find that we do not abide by the orders of Krsna, we must know that we are in ignorance and in an abnormal condition, madness.

To serve Krsna is my duty.  Krsna does not require my help, and still he asks me to surrender to his order.  That is for my good.  If I surrender to Krsna, then that is my benefit.  Krsna does not require my service.  He is omnipotent.  But we are such rascals that we think, ‘Why shall I surrender to Krsna?’  That is perfection.

When you come to the point that you abide by the order of Krsna and surrender to Him, that is perfection.  But people do not do that. 

na mam duskrtino mudhah/prapadyante naradhamah/mayayapahrta-jnana/asuram bhavam asritah

‘Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, who are lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons do not surrender unto me’ [Bg. 7.15]  

Why do they not surrender?  Because they are duskritinah, always performing sinful activities, and they are mudhah, rascals.  They do not known their own interest.  And naradhama means the lowest of mankind.  Krsna says, ‘This human body was given to him by material nature to understand me, to surrender to me, but he will not do this.  Therefore: lowest of mankind.’

Someone may object, ‘No, he is so educated.’  No, this is nonsense.  If he does not understand Krsna, what is the meaning of education?  There is no education.  Mayayapahrta-jnanah: his knowledge is stolen by illusion.  Why?  Asuram bhavam asritah: he’s defying Krsna, defying God.  

‘What is God?  I am God.’  This is the position of everyone in the material world, and especially in this age, Kali-yuga.  In Kali-yuga, people are all first-class fools.  That is described in the Bhagavatam [1.1.1o]:

prayenalpayusah sabhya/kalav asmin yuge janah/mandah sumanda-matayo/manda-bhagya upadrutah

‘O learned one, in this iron age of Kali men have but short lives.  They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky, and above all, always disturbed’

Kali-yuga is a very difficult age.  In ignorance people fight, quarrel.  Kali means ‘fight’.  Therefore it is called Kali-yuga.  In this age especially, the inhabitants are manda.  Manda means all bad.  Nobody is good.  And sumanda-matayah: Everyone has his own conception of perfection – all bogus.  Why this is?  Manda-bhagyah: because they are unfortunate.  No one knows what he shall eat the next morning or in the evening.  Everyone is in need.  There is scarcity all over the world.

And people are disturbed.  With the progression of Kali-yuga, people will be disturbed by two things especially: taxation and scarcity of food.  That is stated in Bhagavatam [12.2.9]: durbhiksa-kara-piditah.  Kara means taxation.  People will be embarrassed for want of food, and at the same time, every year there will be an increase of taxation.  They will be so disturbed that they will give up their money, wife, children – everything.  They will be disgusted: ‘Now it is impossible to maintain.  Let me go away.’

This is our position in Kali-yuga.  So five thousand years ago, when Krsna spoke Bhagavad-gita, at that time the position was manusyanam sahasresu – ‘one among thousands will try for perfection.  Now, on account of Kali-yuga, it is ‘one among millions.’  The percentage has increased to one in millions and millions.  

Therefore nobody is interested in this Krsna consciousness movement.  We are trying to give the highest perfection of life, but people are not interested.  They want to remain like cats and dogs and suffer the consequences.  That is going on.

This Krsna consciousness movement is very difficult to understand, but by the grace of Krsna it has been made very easy.  That is stated in the Srimad Bhagavatam [12.2.51]: kaler dosa-nidher rajann asi hy eko mahan gunah.  Sukadeva Goswami described the faults of Kali-yuga to Parikisit Maharaja, but he encouraged him with one verse.  ‘My dear king, Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults, but there is one very nice gain.’  What is that?  Kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet: ‘Simply by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra one can become free from all the troubles of Kali-yuga, become liberated, and go back home, back to Godhead.’  So take Krsna consciousness very seriously and make your life perfect’

Thank you very much.’ [Back To Godhead Magazine, March/April 2006]

18 March 2001, Sri Mayapur Dhama

Vaishnavas are like salt.  Salt pervades a dish, but cannot be seen.  Similarly, the presence of great devotees has a high impact, yet they never push themselves forward.  Jananivas and Pankajanghri prabhus are like that.   I never met them during my first visit to Mayapur in 1997, but certainly felt their presence.  As twin pujaris of ISKCON Mayapur, Jananivas and Pankajanghri are an integral part of the Mayapur experience.  This time I had heard more of their glories and wanted to hear from them and witness their unwavering dedication to Radha-Madhava.  I was not  disappointed.

Subhaga Maharaja gave the English Srimad Bhagavatam class in the Sankirtan Building on the morning of March 18 2001.  He spoke philosophically about the beauty and joyfulness of the bhakti process from Chapter 15 of the 7th Canto.  He related an incident where an impersonalist came to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur with mangos.  Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati distributed the mangoes to his disciples, leaving one rotten one for the impersonalist.  Bhaktisiddhanta said, ‘All is one.  So, this is the same’.  The man reluctantly ate the rotten mango.  He explained how Bhaktisiddhanta encouraged his disciples to honour sumptuous offerings of prashadam (offered foods) – gaja, sweet dal and laddhu – in Jagannatha Puri.  He quoted the founder of the Hare Krishna Movement, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, telling his disciples to ‘Eat Simply Wonderful [a delicious milk sweet], and go back to the wonderful world’.  Prashadam should be taken in moderation, however.  As we make advancement we should minimize our intake of prasada.  Today was Srivas Thakur’s Appearance Day.  It was also the tithi celebration of Jananivas and Pankajanghri prabhu’s Appearance Day.  Subhaga Maharaja ended his class by saying, ‘Happy Birthday’ to the twins.  Pankajanghri prabhu humbly responded, ‘Make us happy’.

I visited the Yoga Pitha – the Birthplace of Lord Chaitanya – with Padmanabha prabhu.  Yoga Pitha means ‘blending-spot’ – where the spiritual comes in contact with the material creation.  We offered our obeisances to lord Siva – at the site where Mahaprabhu appeared. We bathed in Ganga again.  Then went home. I heard there was going to be a celebration – a vyasa-puja ceremony – for the twins, but did not know where it was going to take place.  The observance of the twins’ birthday was kept  secret because, in their humility, they often disappeared at the hint of a celebration.  They lived to serve Radha-Madhava and the Deities of the ISKCON Mayapura Candrodaya Mandir.

Some time after noon I saw Ganga prabhu, one of the local residents of Mayapur, leaving the Conch Building.  I followed him to Jananivas and Pankajanghri’s quarters, behind the Altar.  The devotees had brought two vyasasanas into their room and the brothers were seated next to each other with garlands around their necks.  A group of about thirty devotees – permanent residents of Mayapur – were singing the guru vandanam prayers, offering garlands and gifts to the brothers.  There was a queue of devotees standing in line.  Some were standing, some were making offerings to them and others were bowing at their feet.  The twins, in return, were handing out maha-prasada from the Deities.  It was a sweet and moving scene.

I gave Jananivas prabhu a picture of Radhanath Maharaja and His Grace dressing Radha-Gopinatha.  He exclaimed, ‘Oh, it’s Chowpatty!’  Jananivas placed a large simply wonderful in my hand.  I bowed and made way for the next person in  line.  Someone handed me a pair of karatalas, which I played ecstatically.  The kirtan was brief, but rousing.  Then Bhakti Purussotama Maharaja recited the prema-dhvani prayers.  The devotees moved in a colourful procession to the marble corridor behind the Deities.  A huge transcendental feast was served.  Some of the local preparations and western dishes that the twins liked were served.  The feast was out of this world:  I ate and ate but did not feel full.

Jananivas and Pankajanghri were sitting on the far end of the corridor with the Bengali brahmacaris.  At one point a cluster of brahmacaris leaned forward and took the remnants of both twins from their plates!  This is very rare because Jananivas and Pankajanghri are very humble and rarely let anyone take their remnants.  I sat there and appreciated their wonderful qualities and the wonderful celebration of their lives.

Yad advaitam brahmopanisadi tad apy asya tanu-bha/ya atmantaryami purusa iti so ‘syamsa-vibhavah/sad-aisvaryaih purno ya iha bhagavan sa svayam ayam/na caitanyat krsnaj jagati para-tattvam param iha

‘What the Upanisads describe as the impersonal Brahman is but the effulgence of his body, and the Lord known as the Supersoul is but His localized plenary portion.  He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna Himself, full with six opulences.  He is the Absolute Truth, and no other truth is greater than or equal to Him’ 

[Sri Caitanya-Caritamrita, Adi-lila 1.3 (verse three of the 14 verse mangalacarana or introductory invocation]

Sri Caitanya Caritamrita, Adi-Lila, Chapter 2, is basically a lengthy purport to this third verse of the mangalacarana .  Krishna Das Kaviraja Maharaja argues that Lord Chaitanya is none other than Krishna Himself – or Narayana (not Vaikuntha Narayana, but Krishna who is also called Narayana).  A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has, therefore, aptly entitled this chapter: ‘Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead’.

The Vaishnava acaryas (spiritual masters) are always trying to establish the siddhanta (spiritual conclusions) of the guru-parampara.  The word parampara means ‘chain’.  The guru-parampara is an unbroken “chain” or line of spiritual preceptors that goes all the way back to the original spiritual master, or guru – Lord Krishna.  Hence the saying, ‘Guru is one’.  In other words, the guru simply represents Krishna and Krishna’s teachings.  Krishna and His representatives (the guru-parampara) try to establish, amongst other things: Krishna’s position as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the supremacy of devotional service and the authenticity of the disciplic succession.

Krishna Das Kaviraja Maharaja begins his argument in Adi-Lila 2.9: ‘He whom Srimad Bhagavatam (SB) describes as the son of Nanda Maharaja has descended to earth as Lord Caitanya’.  CC Adi-Lila Chapter 2 gives the supporting argument to this statement. In order to establish that Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kaviraja Maharaja has to establish Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Krishna Das Kaviraja describes the three features of the Lord, as they appear in Verse 3 of the mangalacarana – Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan.  He also quotes SB 1.2.11: vadanti tat tattva-vidas/tattvam yaj jnanam advayam/brahmeti paramatmeti/bhagavan iti sabdyate – ‘Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth say that it is nondual knowledge and is called impersonal Brahman, localized Paramatma and the Personality of Godhead.’  He then proceeds, quoting scripture,  to distinguish the incomplete realizations of the Absolute truth – Brahman and Paramatma – from the complete realization, namely Bhagavan.


What Is Prashadam?

Krishna is the Supreme Lord (isvara) and the Supreme Enjoyer (purusa).  The living entity, or the jiva, is the enjoyed (prakriti).  It is the jiva’s eternal function to serve God.  That is called sanatana-dharma, or ‘eternal religion’.  We are all servants of God.

Since Krishna owns everything, it is only proper to honour His proprietorship by offering everything back to Him.  The Supreme Lord does not need our meagre offerings.  What He wants is our devotion.  The Bhagavad-gita, therefore, describes the process of sanctification of food – patram puspam phalam toyam/yo me bhaktya prayacchati/tad aham bhakty-upahrtam/asnami prayatatmanah – ‘If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I will accept it’.  Sanctified foodstuffs are called prasadam, the ‘mercy’ of the Lord.  Krishna is also known as bhava-grahi janardana – in other words, He sees the intent behind our offering.  Our offerings, therefore, should be imbued with love for Him.

Offering Food To Krishna 

The process of offering foodstuffs to the Deity of the Lord in the Temple is restricted to brahmana-initiated Vaishnavas. Devotees, however, understand that everything should be offered to the Lord.  Therefore, a simple process for offering foodstuffs to the Lord is prescribed for the uninitiated or the lay-person.  Such offerings are made before pictures of one’s personal guru, Srila Prabhupada, the disciplic succession and Deities of the Lord.

Vaishnava Kitchen Etiquette

I read an interview one of Prabhupada’s female chefs in a Back To Godhead magazine where Prabhupada emphasized three important factors in the preparation of devotional offerings – cleanliness, quality of ingredients and consciousness.

1.  Our kitchen should be suci or clean.  The cooking paraphernalia of a suci kitchen is the exclusive property of the Lord.  The Lord also has a separate plate, cup and various thalis (bowls) to eat from.  Strict devotees make sure their own condiments (spoons, cups and plates) are not mixed with those reserved for the Lord.  This generally means that our own condiments, and those reserved for guests, are stored outside of the kitchen.

Devotees do not taste food until it has been offered.  Nor do they eat from the Lord’s pots, or with the Lord’s cooking equipment.  If the Lord’s equipment is used by mistake, it is considered contaminated and should not be used cooking or offering to the Lord again. Eating, which is considered unclean, is also prohibitted in a suci kitchen.  We do not use the sink to wash our plates or hands after eating.  The kitchen sink is for washing vegetables, cleaning the Lord’s pots and running water for cooking.  Devotees generally wear shoes reserved kitchen use only (‘kitchen shoes’) as a further standard of cleanliness.  Women (and men with long hair) generally cover their hair while cooking.

The cook should, ideally, be suci or clean.  On the strictest level this means that cook should have showered and should be wearing clean cloth.  If you eat, evacuate, go outside or enter a toilet then you are considered ‘dirty’ again.  If you touch your eyes, nose or ears you should wash your hands (in a suci basin outside of the kitchen).  Women should not enter the kitchen while they are “off the altar” (ie. during their monthly period).  We are also considered contaminated if we take rest for longer than 45 minutes.  If we do so, and we want to follow the highest standards of cleanliness, then we should take bath and put on fresh clothes.  We should not eat with an apron from the kitchen on either.

2.  We should use the best quality foodstuffs if we can.  If possible, we should use organic vegetables, pure cow’s ghee, non-irradiated spices, sea salt or pure salt.  Ideally, we should grow our own fruit, vegetables and shrubs for Krishna and milk cows bred exclusively for the pleasure of the Lord.  This is not always possible in modern cities.  Soya, mushrooms, cakes made with flour, bread and canned foods are not offered to installed Deities in the Temple.  They can, however, be offered to pictures of the Lord at home (in the case of mushrooms they should be growing naturally in a field, not on stool).  According to the Manu Samhita and Hari Bhakti Vilasa (a Vaishnava manual for etiquette), we cannot offer Krishna onions or garlic.  A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, however, permitted the offering of brinjal, tomatoes and carrots which are often excluded from a strict Vaishnava diet.

3.  The quality of our consciousness is the most important factor in the preparation of foodstuffs for the Lord.  Cleanliness and quality of ingredients are servants to the principle of good consciousness.  We should be Krishna consciousness ie. situated in spiritual consciousness.  How do we achieve this?  We should, if possible, be chanting a minimum of 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra.  Our kitchen should be clean, like the altar of our Temple.  We should not cook if we are in bad consciousness (for example if we are angry or feeling lusty thoughts).  We should listen to spiritual discourses or devotional music and only discuss spiritual subject-matters or subjects related to our cooking service with the other cooks.  We can also chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.

A Simple Food Offering

The following is a very basic method of offering, usually within a devotee’s kitchen or on a simple altar with pictures of the Lord.  In a more sophisticated Temple set-up, the devotee would close the curtain of the alter while offering food, and perform a more elaborate ritual before offering food to the Lord.

Devotees perform acamana (pronounced ‘ah-cha-mun’) before the process of offering.  Acamana is a purificatory process involving mantras and the sipping of water from an acamana cup and acamana spoon.  (This process need not be followed by beginners).  The devotee takes the acamana spoon in his right hand and pours three drops of water on the same right hand.  The devotee then pours three drops of water on the left hand and chants ‘Om keshavaya namah’, then sips the water from the base of the palm of the hand.  Having done this, the devotee pours three drops of acamana water on the bell and then takes the bell in his/her left hand.  The bell has to be rung while the mantras for offering are recited.  The bell is only stopped when the final mantras have been chanted.  Devotees usually take off their socks, aprons and head-coverings when offering bhoga to the Lord.

Devotees do not feel themselves qualified to offer foodstuffs directly to the Lord.  The devotee, therefore, offers the food to the Spiritual Master, all the time reciting the Spiritual Master’s mantras.  The devotee then offers the food to Lord Chaitanya, reciting Rupa Goswami’s prayers (namo maha vadanyaya).  The devotee finally offers the bhoga to Radha and Krishna, reciting the relevant mantras.  While offering the bhoga to Lord Chaitanya and Radha-Krishna, the devotee thinks himself the servant of his guru and understands that his guru is actually performing the offering.  The offering will be offered from disciple to guru, through the entire guru succession, until it finally reaches Krishna.

The following mantras are recited three times before the pictures of (1) Srila Prabhupada; (2) The Pancha Tattva/Gaura-Nitai; and (3) Radha-Krishna:

1.  Prayers To The Spiritual Master (Srila Prabhupada Pranati)

nama om vishnu-padaya/krishna-presthaya-bhutale/srimate bhaktivedanta/svamine iti namine‘I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krishna, having taken shelter at His lotus feet’

namas te sarasvate-deve/gauravani-pracarine/nirvesesa sunyavadi/pascyata-desa tarine‘Our respectful obeisances are unto you, O spiritual master, servant of Sarasvati Goswami.  You are kindly preaching the message of Lord Caitanyadeva and delivering the Western countries, which are filled with impersonalism and voidism’

2.  Prayer To Lord Chaitanya (Sri Gauranga Pranama)

namo maha-vadanyaya/krishna-prema-pradayate/krishnaya krishna-caitanya/namne gaura-tvise namah‘O most munificent incarnation!  You are Krsna Himself appearing as Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu.  You have assumed the golden colour of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krishna.  We offer our respectful obeisances unto You’

3. Prayer To Lord Krishna

namo brahmanya-devaya/go-brahmana hitaya ca/jagad hitaya krishnaya/govindaya namo namah‘Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto Lord Krishna, who is the worshipable Deity for all brahminical men, who is the well-wisher of cows and brahmanas, and who his always benefitting the whole world.  I offer my repeated obeisances to the Personality of Godhead, known as Krishna and Govinda.’

hare krishna hare krishna/krishna krishna hare hare/hare rama hare rama/rama rama hare hare

On reciting these mantras the devotee humbly beseeches the Lord to accept these offerings, ‘Please, my Lord, accept these offerings from Your servant.’  The devotee then stops ringing the bell, and leaves the altar room.   The devotee then bows at the side of the altar.  The Lord may now accept the devotee’s offering.

Today is Gaura Purnima, the Holy Appearance Day of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.  Devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) will be celebrating this festival all over the world, especially at ISKCON Mayapur, near the Lord’s birth-place.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is known as the ‘channa avatara’ or ‘hidden incarnation’ of the Lord.  He appears in this world to experience the sweet love of  Radha for Krishna.  As Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Lord appears in the mood of His devotee – not in the mood of the Supreme Enjoyer, Krishna.  His eternal associates like Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis, however, understood His secret identity.

Here are Sanatana Goswami’s prayers to the Lord on first meeting Chaitanya Mahaprabhu at Dasasvamheda Ghata in Prayaga, India.  The first of these prayers is often recited when devotees perform worship, initiation ceremonies and food offerings to the Lord.  The second is not as well known, but equally important.  Lord Chaitanya is also known as ‘karuna avatara’ or the ‘avatara of compassion’:

namo maha-vadanyaya/krsna-prema-pradyate/krsnaya krsna-caitanya-/namne guara-tvise namah

‘O most munificent incarnation!  You are Krsna Himself appearing as Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu.  You have assumed the golden colour of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krsna.  We offer our respectful obeisances unto  You.’

This is Sanatana Goswami’s next verse:

yo jnanam-mattam bhuvanam dayalur/ullaghayann apy akarot pramattam /svaprema-sampat-sudayadbhuteham /sri-krsna-caitanyam amum prapadye

‘Let me surrender unto the lotus feet of Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is the most merciful Personality Of Godhead.  He delivers those souls who are merged in ignorance and offers them the highest gift, love of Krsna, and thus makes them mad after Krsna consciousness’

[Sri Rupa Goswami, Govinda Lilamrita 1.1-2]

Here is another beautiful verse from Sanatana Goswami:

na prema sravanadi-bhaktir api va yogo thava vaisnavo /jnanam va subha-karma va kiyad aho saj-jatir api astiva /hin arthadhika-sadhake tvayi tathapy acchedya-mula sati /he gopijanavallabha vyathayate ha ha madasaiva mam

‘I am poor in love of Godhead, and I have no asset for hearing about devotional service.  Nor do I have any understanding of the science of devotional service, nor any cultivation of knowledge, nor any righteous activities to my credit.  I am not even born in a high family.  Nonetheless, O darling of the damsels of Vraja, I still maintain hopes of achieving You, and these hopes are always disturbing me’

‘Such a devotee, being touched deeply by such strong desires, always chants Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare’ [Teachings Of Lord Caitanya, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, p.139]