Tag Archives: Caitanya Mahaprabhu

Prema-vilāsa-vivarta—Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s divine play with Śrī Rādhā – Part 1

At the request of a friend, Babaji’s editor and co-author Navadvipa Das Ji, translated Śrī Radha-Govinda-natha’s six-page Bengali commentary on the eighth Chapter of Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā, Text 150 (191 in the BBT edition), dealing with prema-vilāsa-vivarta. We are sharing it in two installments. Here is the first part, beginning with text 149.  

prabhu kahe – ei haya, āge kaha āra

rāya kahe – ihā va-i buddhi-gati nāhi āra

Mahāprabhu said: “What you have said [regarding the vilāsa of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa] is perfectly appropriate. If anything more lies beyond this, please disclose it.”

Rāmānanda Rāya replied: “Beyond this, there is nothing that lies within the scope of my intellectual grasp (buddhi-gati).” (CC 2.8.149)

 Commentary

            It is due exclusively to the overpowering influence of prema—here signifying, the innate disposition (vāsanā) to please Śrī Kṛṣṇa in every possible manner—that the root longing (vāsanā) for the intuition of vilāsa was awakened [in Mahāprabhu], and on the pretext of this awakening of vilāsa, the glory (mahimā) of prema became manifested. On this account, Prabhu wished to hear the glory of the vilāsa of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. In the course of describing the glory of vilāsa, Rāmānanda Rāya spoke of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s feature as dhīra-lalita, “a hero in the aesthetics of amorous seduction.” All of the characteristics of the dhīra-lalita feature described by him are indicators of the glory (māhātmya) of the vilāsa arising from Rādhā’s prema.

            In examining the question of just how great (mahān) is the transcendental entity (vastu) known as vilāsa, it must first be emphasized that its influence was exerted on none other than He who is omnipresent (sarvaga), limitless (ananta), omniscient (vibhu), the womb of all existence (sarva-yoni), the ground of all being (sarvāśraya), the Source of all potencies (sarva-śaktimān), the propounder of all the Vedas, and He of infinite glory, the end of which is never reached even by the Śrutis themselves, in spite of proclaiming them continuously throughout ceaseless revolutions of the cosmic ages (yuga-yugānta). It is in this Śrī Kṛṣṇa-candra Himself, who is the Supremely Independent Reality (parama-svatantra), the Supreme Absolute (parama-brahma), and the transcendentally qualified Personal Absolute in His ownmost original identity (Svayam Bhagavān), that vilāsa impelled an irresistible urge (loluptā) for rasa and compelled Him to come under the control (vaśyatā) of His preyasīs. Having awakened the most profound state of enthrallment (mugdhatva) in this crown jewel of Omniscience (sarvajña-śiromaṇi), vilāsa bound Him, although He is the All-pervading Reality (sarva-vyāpaka tattva), to remain day and night in the secluded groves of Vṛndāvana out of greed (lobha) for the company of His preyasīs. Who then can describe the greatness of the transcendental entity (vastu) known as vilāsa and the magnitude of its majestic power (śakti-mahīyasī)?

            The glory (mahimā) of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s vilāsa that was disclosed by Rāmānanda Rāya was of such unfathomable import, yet Prabhu remained unsatiated even by this and wished to hear something more. Effectively, Prabhu said to him: “Rāmānanda, there is no doubt that in your discussion, the extraordinary glory (asādhāraṇa-mahattva) of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s vilāsa is certainly disclosed. Yet, I wish to know all the truths regarding the glory of vilāsa of which you have not yet spoken as well as whatever confidential mystery (gūḍha rahasya) there may yet be. Please continue, Rāmānanda.”

            Hearing this, Rāmānanda Rāya replied: “Prabhu, there is nothing beyond what I have spoken that lies within the scope of my intellectual grasp (buddhi-gati).” In reality, there is not even a single topic regarding the existential truth of the aesthetics of transcendental play (līlā-rasa-tattva) that is accessible to anyone’s intellective capacity (buddhi-gamya). Such topics can be immediately intuited (anubhava-gamya) only by the grace of Bhagavān.

 

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ye vā prema-vilāsa-vivarta eka haya

tāhā śuni tomāra sukha haya ki nā haya

Rāmānanda Rāya then said to Mahāprabhu: “There is, however, one other essential truth, known as prema-vilāsa-vivarta. Please hear of it and decide whether or not it meets with Your pleasure.” (CC 2.8.150)

 

Commentary

Hearing Prabhu’s words, Rāmānanda Rāya said: “Prabhu, it is true that the confidential mystery (gūḍha rahasya) of the glory of vilāsa is beyond the purview of my intellect. Yet by Your grace, I have at once realized the truth that the glory of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s vilāsa is the most confidential mystery (gūḍhatama rahasya). In the song of my own composition, I will endeavor to provide an indication of this mystery. I will sing this song and thus enable You to hear it. The mystery that is indicated in this song is known as prema-vilāsa-vivarta.”

We will now comment on Rāmānanda’s statement: “Please hear of it and decide whether or not it meets with Your pleasure” (tāhā śuni tomāra sukha haya ki nā haya). Rāmānanda said: “Yet, Prabhu, in this song of my composition, I do not know whether or not I will be able to convey the true significance of this indication, and whether or not I will be able to bring about the disclosure of the most confidential mystery of the glory of vilāsa. If I am not able to do so, then You will derive no pleasure by hearing my song. Or, if in my song there is no indication of the mystery You wish to uncover, then also it will not meet with Your pleasure—then Your root longing (vāsanā) will not be satiated. Hence, the doubt has arisen in my mind, Prabhu, as to whether or not You will be pleased by hearing my song. Nonetheless, I myself will sing my song and thus enable You to hear it. Please hear it, Prabhu, and see whether or not it contains the transcendental entity (vastu, i.e., vilāsa) that is the object of Your longing (abhilaṣita).”

This song is cited in payāras 152-156. In the midst of this song, Śrī Rādhā says: “He [Kṛṣṇa] cannot be identified as my lover (ramaṇa), nor I as His beloved (ramaṇī). The innate longing born from our hearts [manobhava, i.e., the vāsanā to please each other] has powdered our two minds into a unified substance, such that [all distinction between us has disappeared]” (CC 2.8.153). The most confidential mystery of the glory of vilāsa is implicit in this verse. But what exactly is this mystery? In order to uncover this mystery, it will be helpful to first examine the meaning of the term prema-vilāsa-vivarta.

The term prema-vilāsa means “the divine play (vilāsa, i.e., kheli) arising from prema.” The word prema means “the innate disposition (vāsanā) to please only the object (viṣaya) of one’s love, without the faintest trace of desire for personal happiness (sva-sukha-vāsanā).” On this basis, prema-vilāsa means “the divine play (vilāsa) brought into unification (saṅghaṭita) by the impelling force (preraṇā) of the innate disposition (vāsanā) arising from such prema.” This is not the vilāsa that is incited by the desire for personal happiness. Such self-interested enjoyment is known as kāma-vilāsa, which is comparable to the enjoyment of animals. Not only is it devoid of all glory, but it is also a matter of abhorrence. The word prema in prema-vilāsa refutes any possibility that the reference could be to kāma-vilāsa. Syntactically, the term prema-vilāsa-vivarta thus means “the vivarta of the divine play (vilāsa) arising from prema.” But what is the meaning of the word vivarta? The word vivarta is filled with the most profound significance (viśeṣa-gurutva-pūrṇa) and imbued with inscrutable mystery (rahasyamaya).

In his commentary on this payāra, Śrīpāda Viśvanātha Cakravartī has glossed the word vivarta as viparīta, meaning “inverted” or “reversed.” In his commentary on Ujjavala-nīlamaṇi, Uddīpana-vibhāva-prakaraṇa, verse 37, Śrīpāda Jīva Gosvāmī has glossed the word vivarta as paripākaḥ, meaning “fully ripened,” “completely evolved,” or “uniquely transformed” (i.e., viśeṣeṇa vṛttaḥ), in his comment on the phrase bakārer mādhurīṇāṁ nava-vivartaḥ, “the ever-newly completely evolved state of Bakāri’s [Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s] mellifluousness.” In addition, one common meaning of the word vivarta that is known to all is bhrama, or “perplexity.”

Consequently, the word vivarta is understood to have three meanings—namely, “inverted” (viparīta) or “inversion” (vaiparītya); “completely evolved” (paripāka) or “complete evolution” (paripakvatā); and “perplexity” (bhrama) or “confusion” (bhrānti). In the context of the analysis of the term prema-vilāsa-vivarta, these three meanings all have utility (upayogitā) and significance (sārthakatā). Among these three meanings, the sense of the word vivarta as “completely evolved” (paripāka) certainly carries the primary (mukhya) utility and significance. The meanings of vivarta as “inverted” and as “perplexity” carry concomitant (ānuṣāṅgika) utility and significance. They are external symptoms (bahir-lakṣaṇas) or indicators (sūcakas) of the primary meaning (mukhya-artha) as “completely evolved” (paripāka). The meaning as paripāka is thus the whole (aṅgī) of which viparīta and bhrama are its component parts (aṅga).

If we take the primary sense of the word vivarta, the meaning of the term prema-vilāsa-vivarta would be “the complete evolution (paripakvatā), or in other words, the state of the highest exultation (carama-utkarṣa-avasthā), of the divine play (vilāsa) arising from prema.” In this state of supreme exultation, two symptoms (lakṣaṇas) are manifested—namely, “perplexity” (bhrānti) and “inversion” (vaiparītya). An object (vastu) that is imperceptible (alakṣya) by the cognitive senses can be recognized by its external symptoms (bāhira-lakṣaṇas). The state of the highest exultation (carama-utkarṣa-avasthā) of the divine play (vilāsa) arising from prema is imperceptible by the cognitive senses. Its presence can be inferred only by all those symptoms (lakṣaṇas) that are manifested externally. Consequently, Cakravartipāda specifies one of these symptoms as “inverted” (viparīta) or “inversion” (vaiparītya). An additional symptom is “perplexity” (bhrānti), which gives rise to the state of inversion. How this is so will now be examined.

In the fourth Ullāsa of Kāvya-Prakāśa, in the commentary on the verse dhanyāsi yā kathayasi, it is written: “The supreme state (caramāvasthā) of amorous play (kāma-krīḍā) is the state of complete identity or oneness (tanmayatā) with vilāsa alone.” The state of the highest exultation of vilāsa, or in other words, of complete oneness with vilāsa alone, is one in which the lovers have no occupation (vyāpāra) whatsoever other than vilāsa. Moreover, the hero and heroine (nāyaka-nāyikā) are devoid of cognizance (anusandhāna) even of their own existence (asthitva). When this state arises, the object of the lovers’ remembrance (smṛti) and cognizance (anusandhāna) is nothing other than vilāsa. The one and only object of their attention (anusandhāna) is how the systematic unfolding (pāripāṭya), or the unique marvel (vaicitrī), of vilāsa can be brought to consummation—how the bliss (ānanda) of vilāsa can be further augmented. Moreover, when in the act of attending (anusandhāna) exclusively to vilāsa, the lovers are bereft even of the awareness (anubhuti) of who is doing so—then, under the influence of progressively evolving supreme longing (carama-utkaṇṭhā), inversion (vaiparītya) of the hero and heroine’s actions becomes possible.

An indication of this inversion is found three verses later in Rādhā’s song: “He [Kṛṣṇa] cannot be identified as my lover (ramaṇa), nor I as His beloved (ramaṇī). The innate longing born from our hearts [manobhava, i.e., the vāsanā to please each other] has powdered our two minds into a unified substance, such that [all distinction between us has disappeared].” In glossing the word vivarta as viparīta, Cakravartipāda might well have had this specific instance of inversion (vaiparītya) in mind. The immediate cause of this inversion is the state of perplexity (bhrānti)—the state of forgetfulness of themselves (ātma-vismṛti) as hero and heroine (nāyaka-nāyikā). This state of perplexity (bhrānti) is itself the result of complete identity (tanmayatā) with vilāsa alone. Thus, perfect identification with vilāsa alone is that by which the state of the highest exultation of vilāsa is recognized. Because this state is imperceptible to the senses, it is understood by the perplexity (bhrānti) that arises from it, and by the inversion (vaiparītya) of action that arises out of perplexity. In this respect, the three previously mentioned meanings of the word vivarta are admitted. The primary meaning is “complete evolution” (paripakvatā) or “the state of supreme exultation” (carama-utkarṣa-avasthā). “Perplexity” (bhrānti) is its consequence, and “inversion” is the result of the latter.

This inversion of action (vaiparītya), or inverted play (viparīta-vihāra), is, however, only an external symptom (bāhira-lakṣaṇa) of the state of the highest exultation of prema-vilāsa. Of its own accord, it is not the state of highest exultation. Moreover, this type of inversion is not even the prime symptom (viśea-lakṣaṇa) of prema-vilāsa-vivarta. This inversion does not indicate the state of the highest exultation of prema-vilāsa in all situations. If this inversion occurs through active involvement of the will on the part of the hero and heroine, then it is not an indicator (paricāyaka) of the state of the highest exultation of vilāsa. Rather, if this inversion (vaiparītya) manifests of its own accord (svata sphūrta) unknown to the lovers under the influence of complete self-forgetfulness (sampūra ātma-vismti), or in other words, out of the perplexity (bhrama) that arises from the state of perfect identity or oneness (tanmayatā) with vilāsa alone, then only inversion (vaiparītya) is a true indicator (paricāyaka) of prema-vilāsa-vivarta, and not otherwise. In the introductory volume of the six volume edition of Caitanya-caritāmta (p. 222-237), there is an elaborate essay on the topic of prema-vilāsa-vivarta, which may also be consulted. The nature of this inversion (vaiparītya) will be described a little further ahead with reference to the statements of Gopāla-campu.

In the state of the highest exultation of the divine play (vilāsa) arising from prema, due to the compelling force of complete identity with vilāsa alone, the crown jewel of heroes (nāyaka-śiromaṇi), Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and the crown jewel of heroines (nāyikā-śiromaṇi), Śrī Rādhā, have only one root longing (vāsanā) in their hearts—namely, the longing to expand the bliss of vilāsa. At such times, their two minds become as if one. This is the import of Rādhā’s upcoming statement (verse 153): “The innate longing born from our hearts [manobhava, i.e., the vāsanā to please each other] has powdered our two minds into a unified substance, such that [all distinction between us has disappeared].”

In stating that their two minds had become one, the implication is that they no longer held any awareness (jñāna) of the distinction (bheda) between them. The state of the highest exultation of prema-vilāsa occurs only in the absence of the awareness of this distinction (bheda-jñāna-rāhitya), which itself arises out of complete identification (tanmayatā) with vilāsa alone. Śrīpāda Kavi Karṇapūra has also confirmed the same point in his Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Mahākāvya: “Having disclosed the state of the highest exultation of prema implicit in the exceptionally skilled hero and heroine (vidagdha-nāgara-nāgarī) [Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa], Rāmānanda Rāya sang a song that is relished by their love-laden companions (sarasāli-pītam) and that brings to light the state of supreme oneness (paraikya) of the two lovers” (Sarga 13.45).

End of part 1. Translation by Navadvipa Das

Fall from Param Padam, Bestowing Prema

Question: How do you understand the term paraṁ padam in SB 10.2.32 (ye’nye’ravindākṣa vimukta-māninas…) in the sense that paraṁ padam refers to the highest abode, and this verse is speaking about falling from there. Some argue that the verse mentions paraṁ padam and therefore must be speaking about some fall from the “highest position,” which could be Vaikuṇṭha or Brahman.

Answer: Śrīdhara Svāmī glosses paraṁ padam as good birth, tapas, high education etc.—satkula-tapaḥ-śrutādi. Jīva Gosvāmī glosses it as jīvan-mukti attained by following jñāna-mārgajīvanmuktirūpam. Viśvanātha Cakravartī also glosses it as the jīvan-mukti state. Śukadeva (Nimbarka scholar) glosses it as the human body—nṛ-deham. Virarāghava Ācārya glosses it as being born in varnāśrama society—varnāśramādi rūpaṁ paraṁ padam utkṛṣṭa sthānam. So none of the commentators take paraṁ padam to mean Vaikuṇṭha or even Brahma-sāyujya. 

The meaning of words should be given as per the context in which they are being used. First of all, the verse is speaking about those who are not inclined for bhakti at all – tvay-asta-bhāvād. Rather, they are offensive towards Bhagavān – anādṛta-yuṣmadaṅghrayaḥ. How can such a person attain the “highest position” in the form of Vaikuṇṭha or even Brahman? This verse is immediately contrasted by the following verses that deny any falldown for a devotee. So again, there is absolutely no possibility of param padam referring to any spiritual position.

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Question: In relation to those statements made in the Caitanya Caritāmṛta regarding Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s unparalleled magnanimity, you said that those who were benedicted with prema did actually possess some background adhikāra. Could you kindly explain?

Answer: Not everything that is written is to be taken literally. When it is said that He gave prema to someone, it could be that He actually bestowed prema or that was just His līlā with His associates who already had prema but were playing the part of ordinary conditioned beings. This is not unusual. You can see this in the pastime of Kṛṣṇa instructing Arjuna. Arjuna is an eternal associate of Kṛṣṇa and is counted as one among the Kṛṣṇa’s vibhutis – pāṇḍavānāṁ dhanañjaya ( Gītā 10.37), and vīrāṇam aham arjunah (SB 11.16.35). Yet Kṛṣṇa instructed him as if Arjuna was truly bewildered. In any case, whether Mahāprabhu actually betowed prema on a conditioned being or on His eternal associate who played the role of a conditioned being, the principle conveyed is that He is munificent and comes to teach about prema. Even for sādhakas, prema ultimately comes by the grace of the guru, just as it is said that Kṛṣṇa, seeing the labor of mother Yaśodā, became bound by His own kṛpā.

Question: I also thought about the biographers employing their “ecstatic voice” in describing such events. The problem is that other Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas could then claim that statements about Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu being Kṛṣṇa (what to speak of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa) could also be taken in that light.

Answer: The other sampradāyas do not accept Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu as Kṛṣṇa. I do not know any sampradāya that accepts this. So do not worry about that.

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Question: Does Gaura-līlā take place only in the Kaliyuga of the different Mahayugas and kalpas? Because kīrtan and nāma japa are the yuga dharma of Kaliyuga alone, the Gaudiya sampradāya focuses more on them than other sampradāyas. In other yugas, the yuga dharma was different from kīrtan and nāma japa. Does Kṛṣṇa come as Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in Kaliyuga alone or in other yugas as well?

Answer: Gaura-līlā happens only once in a day of Brahmā, i.e., only once in 1000 Kaliyugas.

Ultimate Authorities for the Gaudiya Sampradaya

Question: Who are the ācāryas we take as final authorities to settle differing opinions?

Answer: Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the propounder of our sampradāya. Therefore, Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the ultimate authority. But He did not write any philosophical works, as is seen in the case of the propounders of other sampradāyas, such as Śrī Rāmānujācārya. Rather, he personally instructed Rūpa Gosvāmī and Sanātana Gosvāmī, who wrote many books based on His instructions. Therefore, they are our original authorities. Further, Śrī Gopala Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī and then Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī are closely following them. What they say is our siddhānta because they are the ones who had a direct link to Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī did not personally meet Caitanya Mahāprabhu, but he is the direct disciple of Śrī Rupa Gosvāmī, besides being his nephew.  Anyone who is aligned with them, such as Śrī Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kavirāja, is accepted as authority. 

Question: So, based on this statement, how are we to accommodate the fact that none of the six Gosvāmīs said that there is a gaura-aprakaṭa-līlā? Sādhus like Gopāla Guru, Dhyānacandra, Viśvanātha Cakravartī and so on did indeed say that, but I don’t know of any direct statement from the six Gosvāmīs about this point. I know devotees for example from Advaita Parivāra, who state that according to abhāva-pramāṇa, it is proven that there is no gaura-aprakaṭa-līlā. So, I would like to know your opinion in this regard: If you consider the Gosvāmī-granthas as our ultimate pramāṇa, how do we establish the eternality of gaura-aprakaṭa-līlā, if they didn’t openly speak about it?

Answer: Rūpa, Sanātana, and Jīva Gosvāmīs did not write on Gaura-līlāprakaṭa or aprakaṭa. They did compose some verses in praise of Caitanya Mahāprabhu but did not write specifically any book describing His līlā. But we know from their writings that all avatāras, such as Rāma, have their spiritual abode. The word avatāra means descent, which signifies that He descends into the material world. This is possible if He is already present in the spiritual world. In numerous verses of salutation, the Gosvāmīs did acknowledge Mahāprabhu as an avatāra. So, He must have His own abode, otherwise, the word avatāra becomes misleading or meaningless. 

One logic that Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī gives about the eternality of Kṛṣṇa, His associates, and abode is that Kṛṣṇa is described as worshipable, i.e., an object of achievement. Anything that is not eternal cannot be the goal of worship. You attain whom you worship. This is also stated in Bhagavad Gītā (9.25). The Gosvāmīs accept Mahāprabhu as an object of worship or the ultimate object of achievement. So, He must have an eternal abode. Otherwise, all prescriptions to worship Him, chant His name, and meditate on Him would be futile. 

One may object that devas like Indra are also stated as worshipable. But they are prescribed as objects of worship for material gain. Nowhere it is prescribed to worship them to attain mukti or a final destination.

The Veda is the supreme authority. But there are many things that are not clearly explained in the Vedas. We understand those topics from the Purāṇas and Itihāsas. Similarly, things that are not clearly explained by the six Gosvāmīs are understood from the writings of later ācāryas, like Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda. When I say that Rūpa, Sanāntana, and other Gosvāmīs are the pramāṇa, I mean anything that they say or that matches with what they say is acceptable. Anything that contradicts them is not acceptable.  So if later ācāryas like Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda say that Gaura has a prakaṭalīlā, then it is acceptable because it does not contradict our original ācāryas and moreover, it is in line with their writings in relation to other avatāras.

As far as abhāva-pramāṇa, I have never heard of such a pramāṇa. So I am not clear what you really meant by it. I know that Pūrva-mīmāṁsā and Advaita-vedānta accept anupalabdhi pramāṇa. However, the way you have used it is not a pramāṇa. The Gosvāmīs hardly wrote about Gauraprakaṭalīlā. Then by abhāva-pramāṇa, I should reject Gauraprakaṭalīlā also. It is like saying that because I do not see Kṛṣṇa (abhāva), there is no Kṛṣṇa. This logic is applicable only to those things that are objects of our sense perception. For example, if I do not see a book on the table, then because of non-perception of a book, I understand that there is non-existence of the book on the table. But I cannot apply the same process to something that is imperceptible to the eyes. For example, I do not see air in my room, so I cannot conclude that there is no air. This is because air is not perceptible to the eyes.