The Tattva of Pancha-Tattva
By Swami B.V. Giri

In the shruti-shastra, we find the following verse –

parasya shaktir vividhaiva shruyate

The potencies of the Absolute are simultaneously different and non-different from Him. (Svetasvatara Upanishad 6.8)

In the eternal lila of Mahaprabhu, the advaya-jnana-tattva (non-dual Absolute Truth) appears in five features known as the Pancha-Tattva. Although they are one and the same, nonetheless they exhibit fivefold differences according to their variegated pastimes and their relishing and distribution of the various devotional rasas. Thus, the five features of the Pancha-Tattva manifest as the bhakta-rupa (Sri Chaitanya), bhakta-svarupa (Sri Nityananda), bhaktavatara (Sri Advaita), bhakta-shakti (Gadadhara Pandita) and shuddha-bhakta (Srivasa Thakura).

Amongst the Pancha-Tattva, the bhakta-rupa, bhakti-svarupa and bhaktavatara are the svayam, prakasha and amsha forms of vishnu-tattva. Mahaprabhu is svayam (the original Godhead), Nityananda is prakasha (the first expansion of the original Absolute) and Advaita is amsha (a partial avatara of the Absolute). This is confirmed by Kaviraja Goswami:

advaita acharya – prabhu amsha avatara
tanra pada-padme koti pranti amara

Advaita Acharya is the Lord’s amsha-avatara. I offer millions of obeisances at His lotus feet. (Cc. Adi 1.39)

nityananda-raya – prabhura svarupa-prakasha
tanra pada-padma vando yanra muni dasa

Nityananda Raya is the Lord’s svarupa-prakasha. I am His servant and I offer my obeisances at His lotus feet. (Cc. Adi 1.40)

shri krishna chaitanya prabhu svayam-bhagavan
tanhara padaravinde ananta pranama

Lord Sri Krishna Chaitanya is svayam-bhagavan. I offer unlimited obeisances unto His lotus feet. (Cc. Adi 1.42)

Gadadhara and Srivasa, as the bhakti-shakti and shuddha-bhakta, take shelter of vishnu-tattva and are in the category of potencies, or shakti-tattva.

gadadhara panditadi – prabhura nija shakti
tan sabara charane mora sahasra pranati

Gadadhara Pandita and others are the Lord’s internal potency. I offer all of them thousands of obesiances at their feet. (Cc. Adi 1.41)

All five features of the Pancha-Tattva can be divided into two divisions – aradhaka (worshippers) and aradhya (worshipped). Mahaprabhu is the sarva-shreshtha-para-tattva (the topmost Absolute Truth), whereas Nityananda and Advaita are in the category of ishvara-tattva. All three personalities are worshipable by all other tattvas and are counted as aradhya. Gadadhara, representing the antaranga-bhakta (intimate devotee) and Srivasa, representing the shuddha-bhakta (general pure devotee) are in the category of aradhaka. However, Nityananda and Advaita are the submissive facets of ishvara, whereas Mahaprabhu accepts the predominant aspect of Parameshvara. Thus, we find that the two aradhya-tattvas and the two aradhaka-tattvas offer service to Mahaprabhu.

bhakta-avatara tanra acharya-gosai
ei tina tattva sabe prabhu kari gai

Advaita Acharya Gosai is bhakti-avatara. Thus we sing about these three tattvas (Sri Chaitanya, Nityananda and Advaita) who are all our Masters. (Cc. Adi. 7.13)

eka mahaprabhu ara prabhu dui jana
dui prabhu seve mahaprabhura charana
One of Them is the maha-prabhu (Great Lord) and the other two are prabhus. The two prabhus serve the lotus feet of Mahaprabhu. (Cc. Adi. 7.14)
ei tina tattva sarvaradhya kari mani
chaturtha ye bhakta-tattva aradhaka jani
These three tattvas are worshipable by all. The fourth principle of bhakta-tattva (namely Gadadhara and Srivasa) should be understood to be in the position of worshipers. (Cc. Adi. 7.15)
Amongst the five features of the Pancha-Tattva, we find three aspects that are potent (shaktiman) and two that are potencies (shakti).

Srivasa Thakura represents the general devotee section from the marginal potency – those pure devotees that are sharanagata-bhaktas (fully surrendered), who are anyabhilasha-shunya (without material desires) and have no care for karma, jnana, yoga etc. Kavi-karnapura’s Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika describes Srivasa as the avatara of Narada. In connection to Srivasa Thakura, Srila Kaviraja Goswami says:

prabhura upanga – srivasadi bhakta gana
hasta-mukha-netra-anga chakrady-astra sama

The devotees, headed by Srivasa are considered to be non-different from the Lord’s hands, face, eyes and weapons. (Cc. Adi. 6.38)

Srimad Gadadhara Pandita is the subordinate potency of Mahaprabhu, and indisputably His most intimate servitor. Just as Mahaprabhu is the predominating half of the Transcendental Entity, Gadadhara Pandita is the predominated half. In gaura-lila, Gadadhara engages in the service of Krishna under the shelter of madhura-rati, and those devotees who are attracted to Radha-Govinda’s madhurya-rasa-lila take shelter of Gadadhara and simultaneously become intimate associates of Gauranga Mahaprabhu. It has been explained by Srila Sridhara Deva Goswami that Gadadhara represents Radharani in the mood of magnanimity (audarya). However, ontologically he is Her bhava-murti (the form of Radharani’s mood). After Mahaprabhu has ‘plundered’ the rebellious spirit of Radharani, whatever remains is Gadadhara who maintains a passive and submissive mood, comparable to that of Rukmini.

Advaita Acharya is non-different from Sada-Shiva and Maha-Vishnu and has been described as the jagat-karta (universal creator) by Kaviraja Goswami. As Maha-Vishnu (Karanabdhishayi), He is the foundation of the created cosmos (mukhya-karana). He further expands into Garbhodakashayi Vishnu and maintains every universe. Advaita exhibits dasya-rasa and sakhya-rasa amongst the transcendental mellows.

Nityananda Prabhu, who is non-different from Baladeva in krishna-lila, represents the general principle of the akhanda-guru-tattva in the four primary rasas (i.e. shanta, dasya, sakhya and vatsalya). He is the first expansion (svayam-prakasha) of Godhead. Just as Balarama shows fraternal love towards Sri Krishna, Nityananda exhibits the same type of affection towards Gauranga. Chaitanya-charitamrita considers Nityananda-Baladeva to be the efficient cause of the universe (nimitta-karana).

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is Svayam-Bhagavan and the combined form of Radha-Govinda (radha-bhava dyuti-suvalitam naumi krishna-svarupam). In the form of Mahaprabhu, Krishna becomes ornamented with the bhava (mood) and kanthi (complexion) of Radharani. In the words of Srila Saraswati Thakura:

Srimati Vrishabhanu-nandini is Krishna’s counter-whole, not His counter-part. Srimati Radhika’s external bodily effulgence has completely surrounded the beauty of Shyama; it has also covered His mind. Such is the intensity of Their embrace. They Both become inseparable. Sri Gaurasundara is not simply Radhika, nor is He simply Krishna – He is the intense embrace of Sri Radha and Sri Krishna,

In Sri Chaitanya we find two specific characteristics of two different lilas combined – the madhurya of krishna-lila and the audarya of gaura-lila. Both Krishna and Mahaprabhu are avatari, the source of all other avataras, two phases of the highest ontological aspect of the Absolute Truth. In gaura-lila, the highest rasa that the Predominating Moiety Sri Krishna relishes with the predominated Moiety Sri Radha, is being widely distributed by Sri Chaitanya and the Pancha-Tattva. Much more could be said on these divine personalities, but we do not wish to increase the size of this article.

At the beginning of Chaitanya-charitamrita it is said:

vande gurun isha-bhaktan isham ishavatarakan
tat prakashamsh cha tacchaktih krishna-chaitanya-samjnakam

In this namaskara-shloka of the charitamrita, Kaviraja Goswami first offers his respects to the plurality of gurus (gurun), namely his vartma-pradarsaka guru, diksha-guru and shiksha-guru. He then offers respects to isha-bhakta referring to Srivasa and the other pure devotees, ishavatara referring to Advaita Prabhu, prakasha denoting Nityananda, shakti signifying Gadadhara Pandita and finally unto the Supreme Lord Himself, Sri Chaitanya. Thus, the author describes six tattvas. Along with the five aspects of the Pancha-Tattva, guru-tattva has also been included in this verse. In this regard Srila Saraswati Thakura has written the following:

The specialty found in the six tattvas described in the verse vande gurun, and the five tattvas in the verse pancha-tattvatmakam, is the guru-tattva. Apart from Sri Krishna Chaitanya, any of the other four tattvas can be considered as guru-tattva. For example, Srila Vrindavana Dasa Thakura’s guru was Sri Nityananda Prabhu, Srila Yadunandana Acharya’s guru was Sri Advaita Prabhu, Sri Achyutananda Prabhu’s guru was Sri Gadadhara Pandita Goswami Prabhu and the guru of all the general devotees was Srivasa Pandita. Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the exclusive vishaya-vigraha of these four gurus and prabhus. Thus there is no difference between the five tattvas and the six tattvas.

The guru-tattva is non-different from the undivided non-dual Krishna who is no different from the Pancha-Tattva. However, according to the standpoint of achintya-bhedabheda, He is simultaneously both different and non-different. (Letter, July 24th, 1930)

Thus, we can understand that the non-dual Absolute Truth sometimes manifests as six tattvas and sometimes He manifests as five in terms of lila and rasa.
purve gurv-adi chaya tattve kaila namaskara
guru-tattva kahiyachi, ebe panchera vichara
Previously I offered my obeisances and discussed the sixth tattva concerning the spiritual master etc. Having spoken about guru-tattva, I shall now explain five other tattvas. (Cc. Adi 7.3)
pancha-tattva avatirna chaitanyera sange
pancha-tattva lana karena sankirtana range
These five tattvas descend in association with Sri Chaitanya. Thus the Pancha-Tattva perform sankirtana with great pleasure. (Cc. Adi 7.4)
pancha-tattva – eka-vastu nahi kichu bheda
rasa asvadite tabu vividha vibheda
The Pancha-Tattva are one spiritual substance and there is no difference between them. However, in order to relish rasa, there are varieties of differences also. (Cc. Adi 7.5)
pancha-tattvatmakam krishnam bhakta-rupa-svarupakam
bhaktavataram bhaktakhyam namami bhakta-shaktikam
I offer obeisances unto Sri Krishna, who appears in five features as a devotee (bhakta-rupa), expansion of a devotee (svarupa), incarnation of a devotee, (bhaktavatara) pure devotee (bhakta) and devotional energy (shakti). (Cc. Adi 7.6)
svayam bhagavan krishna ekale ishvara
advitiya nandatmaja rasika-shekhara
Svayam-Bhagavan Krishna is the only Supreme Controller. He is one without a second, the son of Nanda and the emporium of rasa. (Cc. Adi 7.7)
rasadi-vilasi vraja-lalana-nagara
ara yata saba dekha tanra parikara
He is the enjoyer in the rasa dance and the hero of the damsels of Vraja. All others should be seen simply as His associates. (Cc. Adi 7.8)
sei krishna avatirna shri-krishna-chaitanya
sei parikara-gana sange saba dhanya
Sri Krishna advented Himself as Sri Krishna Chaitanya. His eternal associates, who are all equally auspicious, accompany Him. (Cc. Adi 7.9)
ekale ishvara-tattva chaitanya-ishvara
bhakta-bhavamaya tanra shuddha kalevara

Lord Sri Chaitanya is the one Supreme Truth. He is filled with the ecstasy of a devotee and possesses a transcendental form, (Cc. Adi 7.10)
Sri Chaitanya is the Supreme Consciousness amongst all conscious entities (nityo nityanam chetanas chetananam). However although His position is such and He is understood to be non-different from Vrajendra-nandana Sri Krishna, He displays the mood of audarya and appears as His own devotee. Although Sri Krishna is the supremely independent ashraya-vigraha, in the form of Sri Chaitanya He manifests Himself as the vishaya-vigraha and relishes the mellows of a sadhaka absorbed in madhurya-rasa.
krishna-madhuryera eka adbhuta svabhava
apana asvadite krishna kare bhakta-bhava
The conjugal rasa of Krishna is naturally so wonderful that Krishna Himself accepts the mood of a devotee in order to relish it. (Cc. Adi 7.11)
ithe bhakta-bhava dhare chaitanya gosai
bhakta-svarupa tanra nityananda-bhai

Therefore, Chaitanya Gosai accepts the mood of a devotee and in the form of a devotee, accepts Nityananda as His brother. (Cc. Adi 7.12)
The principle function of the Pancha-Tattva is to relish the divine mellows of krishna-prema and to magnanimously distribute it. Previously the rare treasure of prema was very difficult to achieve, but during the lila of Mahaprabhu, the Pancha-Tattva broke open the storehouse of prema and looted it. As they looted that wealth, the Lord’s achintya-shakti (inconceivable potency) continued to fill that storehouse as they continuously distributed its contents to one and all. The rasa of prema began to flow at a tremendous rate and flooded the entire world. Thus, the seed of forgetfulness of the service of Krishna, the characteristic that binds the conditioned living entities, was destroyed. Only the Mayavadis, materialists, jnanis, offenders, proud scholars and atheists were deprived and remained in their depraved positions. In order to rectify this situation and exhibit His pastimes of magnanimity, Mahaprabhu accepted sannyasa in order to deliver such miscreants. In His form as the Pancha-Tattva, the most merciful Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu granted the greatest type of auspiciousness to the world by distributing love for the Holy Name:
ei pancha-tattva rupe sri krishna chaitanya
krishna-nama-prema diya vishva kaila dhanya

In His form as the Pancha-Tattva, Sri Krishna Chaitanya distributed love for the Holy Name of Krishna and for this the whole world was thankful. (Adi 1.163)

This munificent lila of the Pancha-Tattva also manifests as the sixth tattva, Sri Guru, who delivers all the jivas of this world. Thus, the acharya is a manifestation of the great compassion of the Pancha-Tattva.

By understanding the ontological position of the Pancha-Tattva and through the chanting of Their Names, we can become purified, and even from the lowest position prepare to participate in the sublime pastimes of Sri Krishna in Vrindavana.
ha vishvambhara ha maha-rasamaya premaika-sampan-nidhe
ha padma-suta ha dayaridra-hridaya bhrashtaika-bandhuttama
ha siteshvara ha charachara-pate gauravatirna-kshama
ha shrivasa-gadadhareshta-vishaya tvam me gatis tvam gatih
O Vishvambhara, O You who are full of the highest rasa, O ocean of the great wealth of prema; O Nityananda, son of Padmavati, whose heart melts with mercy, greatest friend of the most fallen; O Advaita, Lord of Sita Thakurani, O Master of all animate and inanimate entities, who made Sri Gaura descend to this world; O Gadadhara, O Srivasa – I worship You all. You are my refuge, You are my refuge. (Chaitanya-chandramrita 84)