Lord Sri Chaitanya and His Teachings
By A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita is the record of immortal activities of the Lord. In the first part, 9th Chapter of the book, the welfare activities of the Lord are described in nutshell.
According to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, everyone who is born in the holy land of Bharata-varsha, or India, must engage himself in the welfare activities for the human society. He says that one desirous of doing welfare activity must implant in his own life the real ideas of welfare. For without knowing the art of doing such welfare activities, nobody can do real welfare to the human society.
Why He has stressed on the point of taking birth in the land of Bharata-varsha? Because Bharata-varsha is the land of real culture. The sages and rishis of India cultured very gravely the problem of life and all of them agreed in one point that no permanent welfare can be done so far the material body and mind is concerned.
Lord Buddha renounced this material world to practice the means of attaining Nirvana or the ultimate annihilation of all distress. He preached the cult of non-violence. Sri Sankaracharya preached that this material world is non-reality and the spirit-soul is the Supreme Truth. He stressed on renunciation and culture of knowledge as the means to attain to the highest stage of realisation.
None of them however preached that a material plan, under the guidance of modern scientific and experimental thought, can bring in real happiness to the human being. Both of them preached different patterns of ultimate voidness and stressed on the point of renunciation. In other words both of them stressed only on the point of uselessness of the material world. But none of them gave any positive information of the life in eternity.
In the Bhagavad-gita the living entity has been described as the eternal or santanam. And actually we want from the very core of our heart an eternal life. We think so because actually we are eternal. We want eternal life not as an ideal but actually there is eternal life and eternal enjoyment without labour.
In our present status of life everyone tries to labour hard for a bit of temporary happiness. And despite all their endeavor, nobody can be rid of the four principle distresses of material existence, namely the distress of repeated birth, the distress of repeated death, the distress of old age and the distress of diseases. We can falsely claim advancement of scientific knowledge but with all we are unable to overcome all the above distresses by any welfare thought. The nirvana idea is an idea of suicide and the renunciation idea is an idea of negation only of the above mentioned distresses.
The positive life and happiness is the real reality that we want. Without such positive knowledge, we are apt to utilise this present temporary life for all sorts of material happiness in terms of the philosophy of Charvaka. Charvaka did not believe in the eternity of life. He believed in Hedonism and therefore recommended an irresponsible life of eat, drink, merry and enjoy. He advised there is nothing after death. And Buddha and Shankara advised there is practically voidness after death. Voidness is another name of nothingness. People therefore took up the idea of nothingness after death and they clinged to everything of this present world. To save them from such hopelessness of voidness and nothing after death, the message of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has to be propagated all over the world. Lord Jesus Christ also promised the kingdom of heaven and the fatherhood of the Almighty God but nothing in detail. So also preached His Holiness Hazrat Mohammed. But none of these great prophets of the world preached the idea of a life of planning only for material enjoyment which is never to be perfected.
According to Vedanta-sutras or Vedanta philosophy, Brahman or the Supreme Truth is by nature anandamaya or full transcendental bliss and happiness. And the living entities have been identified with the nature of the Supreme Truth. Apart from the controversies of dualism and monism of the Vaishnava and Mayavada schools of thought we can practically experience that every living entity is fond of a jolly or merry life and his only struggle for life is to attain to a perfect stage of happiness. But nobody finds that perfect stage of happiness in this material world because according to the experience of Brahma or the original father of the human race – everybody in this material world has to work very hard for the ideal of happy life. Labour, anxiety and happy life all these go ill together.
Happiness minus labour is the standard of happiness. This idea of happiness in the material world has created the classes of haves and haves-not. The haves class or the capitalist class have created an artificial way of happiness by material adjustment with the help of modern scientific thought but they have to maintain the status quo, which is always tottering, with the greatest caution. The haves not class or the labour class is trying to reach the status quo of so-called happy capitalist class and as a result of such perpetual struggle for attaining happiness without labour is going on in this material world. The labour class leader leaves the labour party when he is exalted to the position of an earldom. That is the practice in the material world. So everyone has to create his position of earldom from the position of serfdom and nobody is free from it in the interim period of labour between the positions of the earldom and that of serfdom.
There are different grades of planets all over the universe. And in all the planets there are different grades of life. In the upper regions which are known as Bhuva-loka, Svaraga-loka, Jana-loka, Tapa-loka, Maha-loka and Brahma-loka situated above the planet called the earth or the Bhu-loka, life is comparatively good. But persons who have no information of such lokas are busy in the matter of adjusting things in the Bhu-loka or this earth. The recent adjustment of welfare activities have been started in this matter of Bhoodan Yajna which is a plan of adjustment between the classes of haves and the haves not. So there is also labour and struggle and therefore there is no chance of unhampered life in these got up happiness.
The life in the other Lokas are better than the life in this loka. For example, the duration of life in the Svarga-loka is many, many times more than the duration of life on the earth. It is said that one day in the Svarga-loka is equivalent with the period of six months on the planet of earth. People live there for ten thousands years of such six monthly days and the standard of life is far superior than what we can enjoy in the very best life here. And the standard of life and existence period is still more higher and higher in the other planets mentioned above. In the Bhagavad-gita the standard of life and duration of existence in the Brahma-loka i.e. the highest planet in the universe is described. It is said there that the sum total of one thousand grand yugas is calculated to be twelve hours in the life of the people in the Brahma-loka. The sum total of one grand yuga is calculated to be 4300000 solar years. Multiply these years by 1000 and thus the 12 hours of Brahma-loka is equivalent to the solar years of this earth to the extent of 430,00,00000 i.e. four hundred and thirty crores of solar years. That makes the day of 12 years and there is the night. The people in Brahma-loka live to such 100 years of life. And in proportion to this age, the standard of life also is higher than what we have got here.
Can any plan maker bring in the type of Svarga-loka or Brahma-loka on this planet of earth? No it is never possible.
In the Bhagavad-gita (8.15-16) therefore it is described as follows:-
mam upetya punar janma duhkhalayam shashvatam
napnuvanti mahatmanah samsiddhim paramam gatäh
a-brahma-bhuvanal lokah punar avartino 'rjuna
mam upetya tu kaunteya punar janma na vidyate
After attaining Me, the great devotees do not any more take birth in this non-permanent abode of distress because by such attainment one attains perfection of the highest quality, But Oh Arjuna! Life even in the Brahma-loka is revolving. Oh the son of Kunti, by attainment of My abode one is freed from the cycle of birth and death.
Herein we get the information of a life where there is no struggle for existence i.e. where there is no labour, neither there is the distresses of birth, death, old age and diseases. This stage of life is called paramam samsiddhi or the highest quality.
Buddhadeva and Sankaracharya propagated the distressful nature of the existence in the material world. Sripad Sankaracharya gave a little information of the nature of spiritual life in full cognizance. But Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu not only gave the spiritually cognizant life but its full varieties of spiritual bliss. Other Vaishnava acharya such as Sri Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Vishnuswami and Nimbarka also gave such spiritual existence but not to the limit of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Spiritual life, that exists beyond the reach of the highest planet of Brahma-loka is the highest attainable perfection. We get this information from Bhagavad-gita. And this perfection is attained by the great devotees who have been described here as the Mahatmas. The mahatmas are only the unalloyed devotees and not the mental speculators or the hard labourers. The hard labourers or the karmis can reach utmost the Svarga-loka. The empiric philosophers can reach utmost the Brahma-loka. The highest Vedantist is Brahma himself and he lives in the Brahma-loka. The jnani, or the empiric philosophers, after many, many births when he is able to surrender unto the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, then there only he can attain to the highest perfection of life in the abode of the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord is all spirit, the life there is all-spiritual and the varieties all there are spiritual methods. None of them are comparable to the material varieties which are full of miseries, distress and are of the non-permanent nature, may be in the highest region of the Brahma-loka.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's welfare activities were concerned to take the people 'Back to Godhead' by the simple devotional activity of sankirtana. His method of welfare work is not only simple but also applicable universally. Sri Damodara Swarupa Goswami rightly appreciated the welfare activities of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and described it as follows –
heloddhulita-khedaya vishadaya pronmélad-amodaya
shamyac-chastra-vivadaya rasadaya cittarpitonmadaya
shashvad-bhakti-vinodaya sa-madaya madhurya-maryadaya
sri-chaitanya daya-nidhe tava daya bhuyad amandodaya
Oh my Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the ocean of mercy! Let it be so that my heart may give rise to such non-corrosive welfare activities which are freed from all varieties of diffidence, which are completely pure and stainless, which are full of transcendental bliss, which stop all varieties of arguments of the revealed scriptures which turn the heart into intense madness, which make the devotional activities favourably pleasing and which bring in the real sweetness of happiness.
That is the picture of the welfare activities of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. People misunderstand Him because He did not open any hospital, because He did not canvass for the undertakers or because he did not labour for any so-called social welfare work. But in fact what He did, that include all varieties of social, political, humanitarian, altruistic, moral and spiritual work.
So far social work is concerned, He gave everyone equal chance to rise to the highest order of life. Sri Haridasa Thakura was born in the family of a Mohammadan but Lord Sri Chaitanya gave him the highest position of a brahmana and was declared as the acharya of the transcendental Holy Name. He delivered Jagai and Madhai from the lowest stage of falldown and He turned to Vaishnavite cult Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya and Prakashananda Saraswati the two great stalwarts of the Mayavada cult. He engaged the services of Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis in the culture of devotional science from their political activities as ministers of Nawab Hussain Shah.
Therefore, He gave equal chances to all classes of people, namely, the politician, the scholars, the fallen, non-Hindu and the atheist, the women, the child, the cats and dogs, the beast of the jungle and who-else not. That is the universal application of the common cult and the standard of real welfare work.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu never meant to elevate His own position. According to the revealed scriptures, He brought with Him His eternal associates and energies with Him to make a propaganda work for the welfare of all. He is not a static bhajananadi or the saint satisfied with his own devotion-but He was a dynamic force for the upliftment of all concerned. His associates Sri Nityananda Prabhu and Sri Advaita Prabhu practically declared a non-violent peaceful war against the fruitive worker, so-called religionists, mundane welfare workers or the salvationists. There are different stages of stumbling blocks on the path of the highest salvation. The ideals of highest action is given above as from the reading of Bhagavad-gita. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu made progress easy to such perfection by His novel method of arts and music.
He asked everybody to help in the propagation of His cult and He asked specially the citizens of India to help Him.
India is now free to act in the cultural field. The people outside India are all really anxious to receive the message of peace and happiness from the land of India. Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Vivekananda Swami, Sri Aurobindo etc. tried to give the message in a mixture of material activities and therefore the same could not be assimilated. The message of peace and happiness in its pure form which delights the heart to the transcendental happiness is the message of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. When one is able to study this message dispassionately, one is able to appreciate the Lord as the highest benefactor.
His ideals of welfare work were meant for this life as well as for the life after death. This life is simply a preparatory stage for the next life. One who does not know this has no knowledge of practical life. This life will be finished today or tomorrow like the life of a cat or dog but before the death overtakes us, we must be prepared for the next stage. Sri Chaitanya makes this preparation to the highest perfection and if at all any welfare work has to be done, the standard must be taken from the revealed scriptures and as demonstrated by the Lord.
praninam upakaraya yad eveha paratra ca
karmana manasa vaca tad eva matiman bhajet
By his work, thoughts and words, an intelligent man must perform actions which will be beneficial for all living entities in this life and the next. (Cc. Adi. 9.43)
(First published in Back to Godhead, Volume 3, Part 4, April 20, 1956)