Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Appearance—The Exoteric and Esoteric Reasons
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There are many ways to know a person. One can know a person by guessing what they might, or should, be like, study the person from a distance—say from the Gossip column, Internet, or Facebook— hear about them from others who may, or may not, know them, or we may directly experience the person through a loving personal relationship. The last way is the best because if we love a person we will discover, and they will reveal to us, all their secrets. It is similar with Krishna. Even though he is both infinite and inconceivable he has the prerogative to reveal himself to those who love him purely and selflessly. In regard to Krishna, and specifically Shri Chaitanya, there is both an exoteric (apparent) as well as an esoteric (hidden) reason for his appearance.
The closer we come to Krishna the more we will know about him, by his grace. And there are many ways to explain the necessity of the Lord’s various forms and energies. For example, great devotees have looked very carefully at Krishna, and discovered another person, Radha, or devotion personified, who is most dear to Krishna. There is Krishna, and his energies, all of which come from Radha. And looking even more closely at the Divine Couple, pure devotees have found that Radha and Krishna have combined together to become one, in the person of Shri Chaitanya. Such pure souls, such as the Six Goswami’s of Vrindavan, Shri Krishnadas Kaviraja, and others, have shared their experience with us in their writings, and given us the logic of their love, referenced by the Vedic scriptures.
If we study the lila, divine activities, of Radha and Krishna as revealed in the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita commented on our Gaudiya Vaishnava acharyas including Shrila Prabhupada, we will understand that there must be a Lord Chaitanya to fulfill Krishna’s unmet need. Krishna is perfect, complete, and full in himself, so when he wants to experience something, he manifests a situation and spiritual body accordingly. A person who can immediately fulfill his desires is called, satya-saṅkalpa, or he whose desire, intention, or purpose always comes to pass. We could call Krishna’s various incarnations, the Lord’s “emotional moments,” which when experienced by him create a tangible reality. Of course such “moments” don’t really have a beginning, but because they manifest in the material world for a particular purpose, we speak about them in relationship to time.
Thus, by Krishna’s arrangement and desire during his lila, or divine pastimes on Earth, upon observing the standard of unconditional love of the gopis, or cowherd women, he began to wonder if he was really the king of love, or Rasaraja. We could call this Krishna’s “existential crisis,” when he began to doubt himself, and felt something lacking. He had never seen such a quality of love, and a desire arose within him to taste this loving sentiment himself. We find in the Chaitanya Charitamrita that Shri Krishna appeared as Lord Chaitanya, for three esoteric, personal reasons unrelated to any purpose in the world, as is the case in his other incarnations. These three reasons grew out of the desire that arose in Krishna when he observed the unparalleled selfless love of the gopis for him, and specifically, as expressed by Shri Radha.
“The first purpose [of Krishna’s descent as Shri Chaitanya] was to relish the position of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, who is the prime reciprocator of transcendental love of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Lord Kṛṣṇa is the reservoir of transcendental loving transactions with Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. The subject of those loving transactions is the Lord Himself, and Rādhārāṇī is the object. Thus the subject, the Lord, wanted to relish the loving mellow in the position of the object, Rādhārāṇī.
“The second reason for His appearance was to understand the transcendental mellow [experience or taste]of Himself. Lord Kṛṣṇa is all sweetness. Rādhārāṇī’s attraction for Kṛṣṇa is sublime, and to experience that attraction and understand the transcendental sweetness of Himself, He accepted the mentality of Rādhārāṇī.
“The third reason that Lord Chaitanya appeared was to enjoy the bliss tasted by Rādhārāṇī. The Lord thought that undoubtedly Rādhārāṇī enjoyed His company and He enjoyed the company of Rādhārāṇī, but the exchange of transcendental mellow between the spiritual couple was more pleasing to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī than to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Rādhārāṇī felt more transcendental pleasure in the company of Kṛṣṇa than He could understand without taking Her position, but for Śrī Kṛṣṇa to enjoy in the position of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī was impossible because that position was completely foreign to Him. Kṛṣṇa is the transcendental male, and Rādhārāṇī is the transcendental female. Therefore, to know the transcendental pleasure of loving Kṛṣṇa, Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself appeared as Lord Chaitanya, accepting the emotions and bodily luster of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.” [SP’s introduction to the CC chapter three]
Next we explore the more widely known reason for Shri Chaitanya’s appearance. Actually this “exoteric” reason seems quite esoteric to most of us, but it is in relationship to the suffering jiva souls like ourselves and it is considered external to the Lord’s personal inner purpose. Generally Krishna entrusts the deliverance of the fallen souls to his Vishnu part, since Krishna is mainly absorbed in his loving relationships with his pure devotees. Never the less, the Lord can accomplish many purposes simultaneously.
It is said in the Chaitanya Charitamrita that as Shri Krishna was contemplating his inner reasons for again coming to the world, it coincided with the time of the Yuga Avatar, or that incarnation who appears in every age to give the process of God realization. Most of us will appreciate this aspect more in the beginning since by the Lord’s grace we have a process of self-realization that is both easy and sublime, and yet gives us a benefit rarely available—namely pure love for Krishna in the mood of the inhabitants of Krishna’s confidential abode, or Goloka Vrindavan.
The apparent, or external, reason for the advent of Lord Chaitanya is given as follows: “Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, after displaying His pastimes as Lord Kṛṣṇa, [5,000 years ago] thought it wise to make His advent [again] in the form of a devotee to explain personally the transcendental mellows of reciprocal service and love exchanged between Himself and His servants, friends, parents and fiancées. According to the Vedic literature, the foremost occupational duty for humanity in this Age of Kali is nāma-saṅkīrtana, or congregational chanting of the holy name of the Lord. The incarnation for this age especially preaches this process, but only Kṛṣṇa Himself can explain the confidential loving service performed in the four principal varieties of loving affairs between the Supreme Lord and His devotees. Lord Kṛṣṇa therefore personally appeared, with His plenary portions, as Lord Chaitanya.” [SP’s introduction to the CC chapter four]
It should be noted that Chaitanya “Mahaprabhu” (greatest master) is not an incarnation of Krishna or Vishnu as are the normal avatars, but since he is Krishna himself, he is also the original Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krishna’s world, Goloka Vrindavana, is compared to a lotus flower, and within that abode, is another lotus (the lotus within the lotus), which is the place of Shri Chaitanya and his associates, or Navadhvipa.
Reading the above should make it clear or remind you that there is much to study and pray to understand with the appearance of Shri Chaitanya. My hope and prayer is that this will fuel your study and help you enter into the mood of the day through chanting the Hare Krishna maha mantra in kirtan and/or on beads in japa, offering other prayers, and reading or hearing about Shri Chaitanya, his associates, and teachings and activities, in good company.
Please let me end with the prayer of Shrila Rupa Goswami glorifying Lord Chaitanya’s advent, and Shrila Prabhupada’s explanation:
nāmne gaura-tviṣe namaḥ
“O most munificent incarnation! You are Kṛṣṇa Himself appearing as Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu. You have assumed the golden color of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, and You are widely distributing pure love of Kṛṣṇa. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You.” [Cc. Madhya 19.53] [I am including the verse following this, which Prabhupada isn’t commenting on below, but which is also revealing: “We offer our respectful obeisances unto that merciful Supreme Personality of Godhead who has converted all three worlds, which were maddened by ignorance, and saved them from their diseased condition by making them mad with the nectar from the treasure-house of love of God. Let us take full shelter of that Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, whose activities are wonderful.”]
“In this verse, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is described as mahā-vadānya, the most munificent of charitable persons, because He gives Kṛṣṇa so easily that one can attain Kṛṣṇa simply by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. We should therefore take advantage of the benediction given by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and when by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra we are cleansed of all dirty things (ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanam), we shall be able to understand very easily that Kṛṣṇa is the only object of love (kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet). [part of Shrila Prabhupada’s purport to SB 10.3.37-38]
In the comments section I provide additional information about Shri Chaitanya’s teachings.