Ācharya Kesarī desired to give sannyāsa to his three foremost disciples—Sajjana-sevaka, Rādhānātha, and Gaura Nārāyaṇa. Although he had previously requested Sajjana-sevaka and Rādhānātha to accept sannyāsa, they had humbly declined, feeling unqualified in comparison to the eminent sannyāsa disciples of Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura.
One day, Ācharya Kesarī sat in the company of his dear godbrother, Śrīpāda Sanātana Prabhu. Gurudeva sat at their feet as they discussed arrangements for the upcoming Navadvīpa Parikramā in 1952.
When their conversation was concluding, Ācharya Kesarī looked over to Gaura Nārāyaṇa and said, “I wish to initiate you into the renounced order of sannyāsa. Many people do not understand the prema-dharma of Mahāprabhu. I am overjoyed that you have fully accepted the inner mood and heart’s desire of Mahāprabhu, and I am confident that you are able to spread these esoteric teachings throughout the world.”
Having completely surrendered himself already, Gurudeva caught hold of Ācharya Kesarī’s feet and began to weep. He said, “I have given up all attachment to my past family. I completely submit myself at your lotus feet. You can give me the veṣa (dress) of sannyāsa, or order me to do anything as you please. I am yours, and shall do as you wish.”
Beaming in satisfaction, Ācharya Kesarī called Sajjana-sevaka and Rādhānātha. “Gaura Nārāyaṇa is fully surrendered and prepared to take sannyāsa,” he said. “When he does, will you bow down to him with respect, even though you are senior by years in the temple?” Hearing Ācharya Kesarī’s sweet, joking words and understanding his desire, Sajjana-sevaka and Rādhānātha Prabhu agreed to accept sannyāsa.
On Gaura Pūrṇimā day in 1952, Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja bestowed the sannyāsa–mantra and cloth to his three beloved disciples. Sajjana-sevaka became renowned as Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Mahārāja, Rādhānātha as Bhaktivedānta Trikrama Mahārāja,
and Gaura Nārāyaṇa as Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja.
It was the first time Ācharyadeva had given sannyāsa to anyone. The title he bestowed upon his sannyāsīs is unprecedented and has deep significance. Ācharya Kesarī established that the true objective of Vedānta, otherwise known as the Brahma–sūtras, is to illuminate the path of bhakti-yoga. The 550 aphorisms of Vedānta are the essence of the 1100 Upaniṣads, which are the cream of the Vedas. The purpose of the Vedic scriptures is to enable one to transcend the cycle of birth and death by awakening unalloyed devotion for the Supreme Person, Kṛṣṇa. Hence, Ācharya Kesarī gave the title Bhaktivedānta to read awareness that the conclusion of Vedānta is bhakti.
When Vyāsadeva composed the Vedānta-sūtras, he knew that future preceptors would write commentaries to promote their own ideologies, minimizing the importance of pure bhakti. Therefore he composed the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as the natural commentary and true purport of Vedānta. He mentioned this in other Vedic scriptures, such as the Garuḍa-purāṇa, which states:
artho ‘yaṁ brahma-sūtrāṇāṁ bhāratārtha-vinirṇayaḥ
gāyatrī-bhāṣya-rūpo ‘sau vedārtha-paribṛṁhitaḥ
The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam elucidates the meaning of the Brahma–sūtra, and explains the import of Mahābhārata. It is a natural commentary on the gāyatrī-mantra, and is the essence of all the Vedas.
The Vedas, Upaniṣads, and especially Vedānta-sūtra prescribe devotion to Kṛṣṇa. The word jñāna (knowledge) has not been mentioned even once throughout the 550 aphorisms of Vedānta. The aphorism ‘janmādyasya yataḥ’ clearly states that the Supreme Person is the creator, maintainer, and destroyer of this cosmic manifestaon. This proves the divine existence of His form, potency, and transcendental qualities. The aphorism ‘arūpavad eva hi tat pradhānatvāt’ describes the transcendental form of the Supreme Person. The aphorism ‘ānandamayo ‘bhyāsyāt’ confirms the pleasurable pastimes of Kṛṣṇa and His beloveds, and the aphorism ‘anāvṛtti śabdād anāvṛtti śabdāt’ states that the only process to attain the Supreme Truth is through nāma-saṅkīrtana, congregational chanting of the holy names.
Vedānta indicates the final conclusion of all the Vedas, which is Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The conclusion of the Bhāgavatam is rāsa-līlā. A Bhaktivedānta is he who is qualified to get entrance into the topics of rāsa-līlā, which is the process through which the soul will gain entrance into the love dance of the gopīs with Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Only in the line of Ācharya Kesarī are the sannyāsīs given the title Bhaktivedānta.
At the Gaura Pūrṇimā festival, Ācharya Kesari invited many senior disciples of Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura to bless his first sannyāsis. Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Mahārāja, Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Trikrama Mahārāja, and Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja were requested to speak before a large assembly. Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Mahārāja and Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Trikrama Mahārāja spoke about the meaning of sannyāsa, explaining:
“To accept sannyāsa means to renounce all things other than the service of Kṛṣṇa. True renunciation is a complete dedication born out of love. If one does not utilize his body, mind, and speech in loving service, his renunciation will remain external and temporary. The nature of the soul is to love. This tendency to love must be directed to Kṛṣṇa.
“When initiated into the renounced order, one is given entrance into the school of sannyāsa and is thereby given a chance to perfect his life. A real sannyāsī is engaged in Kṛṣṇa’s service twenty-four hours a day. The stages of practice within the renounced order are not the same as the state of perfection. Only when bhakti awakens in the heart does the soul become completely attached to Kṛṣṇa and experience its eternal form and nature. In such a state, one will naturally renounce all activities detrimental to bhakti.
“The vraja-gopīs are the perfect sannyāsīs. When Kṛṣṇa called them on His flute, they left everything to serve Him without ever looking back.
yā dustyajaṁ sva-janam ārya-pathaṁ ca hitvā
bhejur mukunda-padavīṁ śrutibhir vimṛgyām
Aho! The Vraja-devīs have given up everything that is most difficult to renounce, such as family and the path of social etiquette and have taken exclusive shelter of the path to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, which is eternally sought after by the Śrutis.
“Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura instructed his sannyāsīs, ‘The Vaiṣṇava sannyāsī accepts the staff of renunciation made of three rods of bamboo. This symbolizes engaging the mind, body, and speech in Kṛṣṇa’s service. The three rods indicate that the mendicant should first offer himself completely to Śrī Guru, who is the expansion of Baladeva Prabhu, the sandhini-śakti (existence potency); secondly to Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, the hlādini-śakti (bliss potency); and finally to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the samvit-śakti (knowledge potency). By taking tridaṇḍī-sannyāsa, one completely surrenders to Śrī Guru and the Dine Couple, Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. The determination of a sannyāsī in the Gauḍīya tradion is: ‘I renounce everything for the attainment of the Vraja-devīs’ moods of service to Kṛṣṇa.’ ”
Ācharya Kesarī next instructed Śrīla Gurudeva to speak on the reasons for Kṛṣṇa’s descent as Mahāprabhu, the glories of vraja–bhakti–rasa, and how this could be obtained. Gurudeva stood up and spoke before the assembled Vaiṣṇavas. When Śrīla Gurudeva concluded, the whole crowd clapped enthusiastically. Many stalwart ācārya disciples of Bhaktisiddhānta Prabhupāda were pleased to hear Gurudeva’s speech, and they blessed him to continue the line of the Gauḍīya-paramparā. Śrīla Gurudeva spoke as follows:
In Dvāpara-yuga, Śrī Kṛṣṇa took birth at Gokula Mahāvana as the son of Nanda Mahārāja and Yaśodā Mātā. For ten years He resided in Vraja and then left for Mathurā and Dvāraka. The Vrajavāsīs never forgot their love for Kṛṣṇa, and could not cease thinking of Him for a single moment.
Kṛṣṇa thought, “I will stay far away and witness the glory of the Vrajavāsīs’ love in separation.”
He tested the Vrajavāsīs by imparting to them brahma–jñāna (impersonal spiritual knowledge), saying, “I am God; I am present everywhere. I reside in all hearts. You are not separate or distant from Me. If you remember Me, then I will be present with you.”
Brahma–jñāna is incomplete—it is dry and devoid of rasa. Bhakti is full of rasa—love and sweetness. The pure love for Kṛṣṇa in Śrīmatī Rādhārānī’s heart is like a Sun emanating rays of love that cover all of Vraja with transcendental bliss.
tābhir ya eva nija-rūpatayā kalābhiḥ
goloka eva nivasaty akhilātma-bhūto
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
The all-pervading Śrī Govinda, who exists within the hearts of all, eternally resides in His own abode, Goloka-dhāma, with Śrī Rādhā, the embodiment of His pleasure potency and the counterpart of His own spiritual form Sri Radhā is the repository of transcendental rasa, and expert in all six-four arts. The Divine Couple is accompanied by the sakhīs, who are expansions of Śrī Rādhā’s own transcendental body, and who are infused with blissful, spiritual rasa. I worship that Śrī Govinda, the original personality.
The Vrajavāsīs relish ānanda-cinmaya-rasa, the transcendental bliss of boundless divine love. Hence they are not thirsty for anything else. They have so much love for Kṛṣṇa. How can they forget Him or think that He has le them? When separated from Him, they feel intense longing, thinking, “Who will serve Kṛṣṇa? No one knows His heart. How can they please Him?”
Ānanda-cinmaya-rasa is only present in Vraja. It is not present in Mathurā, Dvārakā, Ayodhyā, Vaikuṇṭha, or anywhere else. Then why did Kṛṣṇa leave Vraja and suffer the agony of separation from the Vrajavāsīs while residing in Mathurā and Dvārakā? He wanted to bring all His devotees under the shelter of vraja–rasa and have them realize the glories of the Vrajavāsīs. Only those who are humble and have spiritual greed can achieve vraja–rasa. Even the desire for that rasa is not easy to obtain.
When Kṛṣṇa appeared on Earth, He could not understand or taste Śrīmatī Rādhārānī’s exalted love because He was not solely surrendered to Her. He had many bhaktas in different places and all of them wanted to be with Him. Consequently, He left Vraja for Mathurā. He sometimes stayed in Dvārakā, sometimes He went to Hastināpura, and sometimes He went elsewhere. Although Kṛṣṇa wanted to bring all His devotees into the shelter of Śrīmatī Rādhikā and the Vraja-devīs, they were not qualified. The residents of Mathurā and Dvārakā are attracted to Kṛṣṇa, but they do not know nor do they want to follow His heart. Where opulence and brahma–jñāna are predominant, it is impossible to receive vraja-bhakti-rasa. In order to attain vraja-rasa, one must abandon all other things and develop firm determination.
Upon concluding His pastimes in the material world, Kṛṣṇa felt morose back in the transcendental abode of Vraja. He went to a solitary place, feeling great distress. From morning to afternoon, the Vraja-devīs and Vrajavāsīs were searching for Him, with the mood, “Has Akrūra come and taken Kṛṣṇa away to Mathurā?” It is not possible for Kṛṣṇa to be distant from His eternal beloveds in the spiritual world. Perhaps the residents of Vraja may experience that they are separated from Kṛṣṇa, but actual separation does not occur. After searching in many places, Viśākhā-devī found Kṛṣṇa alone in a garden, softly weeping with head in hands.
“O Śyāma, what saddens You?” Viśākhā asked.
Kṛṣṇa did not speak a word. Only tears dropped to the ground from between His fingers. Then Lalita, the sakhīs, and the mañjarīs came and asked Kṛṣṇa, “What is the matter?”
He gave no answer.
The anxious sakhīs went and told Śrīmatī Rādhikā, “Kṛṣṇa is very distressed and we cannot discover the cause. Please come and arrange some solution.” Śrīmatī Rādhikā came, but Kṛṣṇa still would not speak.
Finally, after many requests from Viśākhā, Kṛṣṇa said, “To attract the living beings home to Vraja, I displayed loving activities with My Śakti when I appeared on Earth. Now, ignorant fools insult us. They say, ‘the gopīs left their husbands and went to dally with Kṛṣṇa in the middle of the night. This is against the rules of scripture. Kṛṣṇa is not God; He is a rascal yogī, intent on destroying proper etiquette in society. He is an offender, and anyone who follows Him is also an offender.’ Therefore I am disheartened. Some claim to be God and now forcibly collect other men’s wives to enjoy. Seeing such gross misconduct, many become atheistic and ruin themselves as well as others. What can I do? How will people realize that rāsa-līlā and cīra-haraṇa-līlā (the incident in which Kṛṣṇa steals the gopīs’ clothes) are the highest pastimes and are essential for purification and spiritual perfection?”
“Come again to the material world,” Viśākhā told Kṛṣṇa. “I will become Your guru and will teach how the Vraja-devīs are the greatest devotees, how their behavior is spotless, and how only through their method of practice can one achieve spiritual perfection. I will help You understand and then You can teach this to everyone.”
“Yes, I all go,” Kṛṣṇa agreed, “but I will not take any of you with Me. Twice, as Rāma and Kṛṣṇa, I have taken My Śakti with Me, and both times troubles ensued. This time I will be a sannyāsī and renounce everything. I shall not display apparently mundane activities, rather, I will show everyone the purity of vraja-rasa through My personal character.”
“I’ll change my appearance and become a learned viceroy,” Viśākhā said.
The other sakhīs and mañjarīs declared, “We shall all come as well.”
“I shall go alone,” Kṛṣṇa said.
The sakhīs insisted on coming, reassuring Kṛṣṇa, “We will adopt masculine forms.”
“We will all come with You,” Viśākhā said, “and by the joyful power of saṅkīrtana, we will conquer the hearts of all and bring them to the path of pure bhakti. All beings are hung for affection and settle down wherever they find it. Hence, we all care for all people with such affection that their hearts will change.”
Hearing Viśākhā, Kṛṣṇa was somewhat pacified. Viśākhā then said, “Beg Śrīmatī Rādhikā for Her mood and golden hue, and then go and deliver the world with Her love.”
Kṛṣṇa prayed to Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, “Please bless Me with the mood of Your heart and Your effulgent complexion. By Your mercy I will become devout, leave everything, and follow in Your footsteps.”
Smiling, Śrīmatī Rādhārānī said, “So be it.
Śrīmatī then gave the potency of Her love to Kṛṣṇa so that He could deliver the conditioned souls. By drinking one drop of this love, people become pure and attain the willpower to follow bhakti. Out of intense greed to understand the love of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, and to bring the living entities into Her shelter, Kṛṣṇa appeared as the golden avatāra, Gaurāṅga Mahāprabhu.
prema-rasa-niryāsa karite āsvādana
rāga-mārga bhakti loke karite pracāraṇa
Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Adi-līlā 4.15
Mahāprabhu advented to taste the sweet essence of love for Kṛṣṇa and to propagate spontaneous devotion.
The eight prominent sakhīs descended along with Śrīmatī Rādhārānī and made their residences on the eight islands of Navadvīpa, which are like petals surrounding the lotus heart of Antardvīpa. Śrīmatījī opened a hidden grove in Antardvīpa, Māyāpura, called Rādhā-vana, and it is like Her heart. The truth and glory of Antardvīpa Māyāpura is impossible to comprehend for the conditioned mind. Shrouded in secret, Kṛṣṇa appeared as Gaurahari on this holy island, with Gaurī’s hue and mood. The name Gaurahari is significant in this regard: Gaura refers to Gaurī—She who has a golden complexion, Śrī Rādhārānī—and Hari is He who has taken Her color and mood.
For twenty-four years, Gaurāṅga Mahāprabhu stayed in Māyāpura. He began the saṅkīrtana movement and millions danced in spiritual ecstasy. Mahāprabhu would lift both arms high as He danced and sang the glories of the Vraja-devīs. Why did He dance with upraised arms? He thought, “Now I’ve conquered the foolish living entities! They want sense enjoyment, but do not know the meaning of real enjoyment. They don’t know rasa. Now I am bestowing saṅkīrtana–rasa and the living beings will no longer pursue material relationships or enjoyment.”
Gaurāṅga Mahāprabhu started His harināma-saṅkīrtana movement with His prominent associates, Nityānanda Prabhu, Advaita Ācārya, Gadādhara Paṇḍa, and Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura—the pañca-tattva. Only this nāma-saṅkīrtana is helpful in Kali-yuga; cleanses the mirror of the heart, revealing the true self. Śrīman Mahāprabhu tasted vraja–rasa through the medium of harināma–saṅkīrtana, exemplifying the fact that in Kali-yuga there is no process of redemption other than chanting the holy names.
harer nāma harer nāma harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva nāsty eva gatir anyathā
Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa 38.126
In Kali-yuga, there is no other way to attain deliverance, than by chanting the holy names, chanting the holy names, chanting the holy names of the Lord.
Śrīmatī Rādhikā is Hare, She who attracts the mind of the all-attractive Hari or Kṛṣṇa. In the verse above, harer is in the plural case, including all the Vraja-devīs, who are Śrīmatī’s expansions. Mahāprabhu taught that to relish vraja-bhakti-rasa we must accept the exclusive guidance of the Vraja-devīs and chant their holy names.
Mahāprabhu sang and danced inside the house of Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita for one year before taking the saṅkīrtana outside. In public, the mind may become restless and affected by contaminated mentalities. Therefore, Mahāprabhu taught that association with saintly persons—who have the same mood, are affectionate, and are more advanced in spiritual life—is essential. When the surrounding devotees have the same mood, then enthusiasm and fondness for chanting increases. First, a person will chant for half an hour, then one hour, two hours, three, four, five—until he becomes so absorbed in transcendental nectar that he chants day and night, forgetting all bodily necessities.
At twenty-four years of age, Gaurahari took sannyāsa and became Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya. Caitanya means ‘consciousness,’ and Kṛṣṇa Caitanya means: Kṛṣṇa who became conscious of vraja-bhakti-rasa through Śrīmatī Rādhārānī and then read freely throughout the world. Kṛṣṇa Himself, Parabrahma, the Supreme Absolute Truth, renounced everything and came to Jagannatha Puri as Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Here He prayed:
prema dhana vinā vyartha daridra jīvana
‘dāsa’ kari’ vetana more deha prema-dhana
I have no love. I am Parabrahma. Please make Me your servant and grant Me Your love as My wage.
To achieve this love, Mahāprabhu abandoned His previous life and, surrendering completely to Śrīmatī, He enrolled in the school of the Vraja-devīs. For six years He traversed India reading the near of the Vraja-devīs’ love. He ran searching, “Where can I meet with the Vrajavāsīs? I left Yaśodā Māiyā. I left Śrīmatī Rādhikā, Lalita Viśākhā, and all the Vrajavāsīs.” Wherever He went, He drowned everyone in love by chanting, “Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare/Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare.”
Mahāprabhu then settled in Jagannātha Purī, where He would meet with Svarūpa Dāmodara and Rāmānanda Rāya—who were Lalita and Viśākhā—and from them He received instructions about the love of the gopīs. For eighteen years, He stayed in a small room in Purī, referred to as the Gambhīra, discussing the love Rādhārānī has for Kṛṣṇa. Experiencing such love, He thought, “This is the sweetest nectar!”
Śrīla Gurudeva concluded: Mahāprabhu empowered His unalloyed followers to inculcate the teachings of unconditional love to the people of the world. If anyone tastes even one drop of this love, then on that day he will become a true sannyāsī. The conditioned souls constantly pursue wealth, fame, and position. Before relishing vraja–rasa, everything in this world seems desirable; but after receiving one drop of this highest love, nothing else will appear valuable. Sannyāsa does not simply mean to wear the attire of a renunciant. A sannyāsī is one who has given up everything and taken full refuge of the Vraja-devīs. When we have anurāga, loving aspiration for Kṛṣṇa, then out of greed to serve Him, we will naturally renounce everything. Our mothers may be crying for us, our wives or husbands may be senseless, about to leave their body, or any other family members may try and stop us, but we all never look back!
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (excerpted from “Sri Guru Darshan”, available from [email protected] )