Monthly Archives: March 2014

Happy 528th Birthday to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534)

Not all people can reason.  But all understand the language of love.  Everyone knows the magic of love.

More than five hundred years ago, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu understood this fact and he touched the hearts of millions of people.  His life and teachings filled the hearts of all with pure, unselfish, divine love.  Even now if anyone reads his biography will experience the divine love for God and for all beings.

 Vision of Sri Ramakrishna:  In 1870, the Master (Sri Ramakrishna) went on a pilgrimage to Nadia, the birth-place of Sri Chaitanya.  As the boat by which he travelled approached the sand-bank close to Nadia, Sri Ramakrishna had a vision of the “two brothers”, Sri Chaitanay and his companion Nityananda, “bright as molten gold” and with haloes, rushing to greet him with uplifted hands.  “There they came! There they come!” he cried.  They entered his body and he went into a deep trance.  (From the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna)

DSC04106 (2)
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Nityananda

Sri Chaitnya Mahaprabhu was born on the famous Holy Festival day.  According to the Hindu moon calendar this year his birthday falls on Sunday, March 16, 2014.

The following Hindi biography of Sri Chaitanaya Mahaprabhu, titled “Sri Sri Chaitanya Charitavali” written by Shri Prabhdutt Brahmachari is a good resource about his life and teaching.  It is published by Gita Press, Gorukhpur, India.

Sri Sri Chaitanya Charitavali

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s life is very interesting.  I will give a brief outline of his life.  His father’s name was Pundit Jagannatha Mishra and mother’s name was Shri Shachi Devi.  He was born in Navadwip (also known as Nadia), a city of Bengal.  At that time, Navadwip was the center of knowledge.  The schools of Navadwip produced many scholars of Sanskrit and various branches of philosophies based on the Hindu scriptures.  His childhood name was Nimai.  People say that he was born under a Neem Tree.  That is why his name was Nimai.  Because he was of fair complexion, he was also known as Gauranga.  But, in his young age he was known as “Nimai Pundit.”

Nimai was a naughty boy.  There were many interesting childhood pranks of Nimai including sitting on the garbage pile to tease his mom, eating food offered to God by an orthodox Brahmin, tying lose clothes of two people meditating on the bank of a river so their clothes come off when they get up and many others.  Because his elder brother Vishwarupa renounced the world in order to realize God, Nimai’s parents did not want him to go to school.  Somehow he convinced his parents to let him go to school.  When Nimai was eleven years old, his father passed away.

Nimai started to learn from a famous Sanskrit Grammar school of Pundit Gangadas.  Nimai mastered “Panchitika,” the famous book of Sanskrit grammar and wrote a commentary on this book.  This commentary was so helpful that Nimai became famous among the scholars of Navadwip and outside.

Then, Nimai mastered the “Nyaya Philosophy,” which is logic.  Many of the logic formulas of this philosophy are being taught in our universities’ logic classes today.  There is an important event happened at this time which brought out the greatness of Nimai.  His classmate Pundit Raghunath was a great scholar of logic and he was writing a book.  Raghunath heard that Nimai is also writing a book on logic.  One day he requested Nimai to read his manuscript to him.  Both got on a boat and Nimai started reading his manuscript.  Initially, Raghunath was making some sounds of acknowledgement that he was listening.  But, after a while he was quiet.  Nimai looked at him and found that Raghunath was profusely crying.  Nimai asked the reason for his crying.  Raghunath told him, “I was thinking that my book on logic will be famous one day.  But, after listening to your manuscript, I am sure that no one will read my book.”  Nimai laughed and said that it is a very trifle thing for which he should not be upset.  He said that for his friend he can do anything.  By saying this, Nimai simply tossed his manuscript into the river.  Pundit Raghunath embraced Nimai saying that only Nimai can let go such name and fame.  Thus, the world lost a great book on logic, but found a greater person who surpassed the logic.

Nimai married to Lakshmi Devi, the daughter of Pundit Vallabhacharya.  After completing his studies, Nimai Pundit became a teacher.  But, his naughty-nature remained same as a young student.  After teaching he used to mix with his students and he used to make his students laugh with his funny talks and acts.  With his playful nature he used to tease orthodox devotees and so-called pundits by intellectually exploring their weaknesses.  At that time a scholar Pundit Ishwar Puri of Navadwip was writing a book “Shri Krishnalilamruta.”  Pundit Ishwar Puri wanted Nimai Pundit to listen to this manuscript and suggest any correction or make comments.  For several evenings Nimai  Pundit heard this manuscript and both scholars had discussions on various topics of the manuscript.  After listening to this book Nimai Pundit’s love for Lord Krishna overpowered his intellectual outlook.

Nimai Pundit with his students then went to places of pilgrimage in East Bengal.  He met many notable scholars and inspired many people to chant name of God for spiritual development.  During this time his wife Lakshmi Devi passed away.  Nimai and his mother were very sad for this loss.  Nimai focused his mind in teaching.  At that time a famous scholar Pundit Keshav of Kashmir came to challenge all the scholars of Navadwip.  He was on a mission to prove his superiority in his knowledge of scriptures, Sanskrit language, and poetry.  He had defeated many scholars in other cities.  However, young Nimai Pundit in a casual conversation found several mistakes in his recently wrote poem.  The Pundit of Kashmir was amazed by Nimai Pundit’s depth of knowledge and intellectual sharpness.  Pundit Keshav of Kashmir’s ego was completely destroyed.  He gave up his mission of challenging scholars and devoted his mind to spiritual development.

Mother Shachi Devi was worried about Nimai.  Considering mother’s wish, Nimai agreed to marry Vishnupriya, a daughter of the court Pundit Sanatam Mishra.  After some time, an upsurge of renunciation arose and captured Nimai’s mind.  He realized that life is very short, nothing is permanent in this world, and the purpose of life is to chant name of God and to make efforts for spiritual development.  He started asking his students to do regular spiritual practice and build a good character.

A most important event in Nitai’s life was his pilgrimage to Gaya.  After performing rituals for his father, he went to Gaya temple and in front of Lord Vishnu he had an ecstasy.  At that time he met Pundit Ishwar Puri again.  They both were happy to meet each other.  Nimai sincerely requested him to give him initiation.  Pundit Ishwar Puri gave initiation to Nimai and taught him a mantra “Gopijanavallabhaya namah.”  Upon listening to the mantra Nimai’s mind was uplifted to Lord Shri Krishna, his heart was filled with love for him and he had  a state of Samadhi.

After coming back from Gaya, Nimai’s life was completely changed.  He asked his students to chant the name of Lord Krishna.  He told them that the chanting of Lord Krishna’s name will remove their miseries, help them attain the eternal peace and happiness and make their lives blessed.  He closed his school, collected sincere devotees of God and taught them how to chant name of Lord Krishna.  He followed strict moral discipline and closely monitored his disciples to help them in their spiritual path.  When he found that his close disciples were firmly established in their spiritual foundation and it was time to teach all people who are ready to learn to take name of God, he went out with his disciples to chant name of Lord Krishna in public.  Rest of his life was spent in chanting name of Lord Shri Krishna, remaining in bliss of Krishna-Consciousness and inspiring people to do the same.  At one point he completely renounced the world to devote his life fully for spiritual enlightenment of people.  From Nimai Pundit, he became Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.  He transformed many lives for good.  He touched the hearts of poor people, neglected people, kings, rulers and people of all walks of life.

DSC04103 (2)
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu transformed the lives of robbers

As I mentioned before not all people can reason, but everyone understands the language of love.  Sri Chaitanya Mahprabhu taught people to build a moral life, to love God, to enjoy chanting name of God, and to enjoy the bliss of God-Consciousness.  He loved all unselfishly.  Many cruel people were transformed into loving people by love of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.  A wave of love of God (Lord Shri Krishna) came from his heart and flooded whole Bengal with that love.  Later on this wave of love spread all over India and outside India in many countries inspiring people to chant the name of God.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu wrote only one hymn called “Shikshashtakam,” eight verses to learn his guidance.  One of them is a very famous verse which I will quote here:

Learn to be more humble than grass

Learn to be more forbearer than a tree

Do not seek respect or name and fame

Give respect to all, and

Always chant name of God.

Let us learn to develop love for God and love all unselfishly seeing God in them.

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu:

In the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna we find often Sri Ramakrishna talk to the devotees about Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s life and love for Lord Krishna.  The following are a few quotes from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna:

  • “The Master (Sri Ramakrishna) sang, “And, for that love, the mighty yogis practice yoga from age to age.  When love awakens, the Lord, like a magnet, draws to Him the soul.”  Then he said, “Chaitanya used to shed tears of joy at the very mention of Krishna’s name.  God alone is the substance; all else is illusory…”
  • “Master said, “You talk glibly about prema (love for God).  But is it such a common place thing?  There are two characteristics of prema.  First, it makes one forget the world.  So intense is one’s love for God that one becomes unconscious of outer things.  Chaitanya had this ecstatic love;…Second, one has no feeling of ‘my-ness’ toward the body, which is so dear to man.  One wholly gets rid of feeling that the body is the soul.”
  • “Master said, “Chaitanya experienced three states of mind.  First, the conscious state, when his mind dwelt on the gross and subtle.  Second, the semi-conscious state, when his mind entered the causal body and was absorbed in the bliss of divine intoxication.  Third, the inmost state, when his mind was merged in the Great Cause…..While conscious of the outer world, Chaitanya sang the name of God; while in the state of partial consciousness, he dances with the devotees; and while in the inmost state of consciousness, he remained absorbed in Samadhi.”
  • “Sri Ramakrishna said, “The caste-system can be removed by means of one means only, and that is love of God.  Lovers of God do not belong to any caste.  The mind, body, and soul of a man become purified through divine love. Chaitanya and Nityananda scattered the name of Hari to everyone, including the pariah, and embraced them all.  A Brahmin without this love is no longer a Brahmin.  And a pariah with the love of God is no longer a pariah.  Through bhakti (love of God) an untouchable becomes pure and elevated.”

Happy 178th Birthday to Sri Ramakrishna

Sri Ramakrishna was born on Wednesday, February 18, 1836 in Kamarpukur, a village in Bengal, India.  It is amazing to see that a boy who was born in a village and spent his childhood in that environment, became a source of great inspiration for millions of people in India and abroad.  All over the world, through various religions and philosophies, people are still trying to solve the mystery of life and God.  This boy, who later became Sri Ramakrishna, realized all the aspects of life and God and the essence of all scriptures and religions.

Sri Ramakrishna

This year according to the Hindu calendar Sri Ramakrishna’s birthdate falls on Monday, March 3, 2014.  On this day, let us first remember how a few known personalities looked at Sri Ramakrishna:

Leo Tolstoy called Sri Ramakrishna a “remarkable sage.”

Romain Rolland considered Sri Ramakrishna to be the “consummation of two thousand years of spiritual life of the three hundred million people.”

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Sri Ramakrishna’s life enables us to see God face to face. He was a living embodiment of godliness.”

Maharshi Aurobindo wrote, “When skepticism had reached its height, the time had come for spirituality to assert itself and establish the reality of the world as a manifestation of the spirit, the secret of the confusion created by the senses, the magnificent possibilities of man and the ineffable beatitude of God. This is the work whose consummation Sri Ramakrishna came to begin and all the development of the previous two thousand years and more since Buddha appeared has been a preparation for the harmonization of spiritual teaching and experience by the Avatar (Incarnation of God) of Dakshineshwar (Sri Ramakrishna).”

Jawaharlal Nehru described Sri Ramakrishna as “one of the great Rishis of India, who had come to draw our attention to the higher things of life and of the spirit.”

Sri Ramakrishna

Sri Ramakrishna’s life and teachings appeal to me for several reasons.  The following are a few of these reasons:

1.  Sri Ramakrishna as a young man had an intense desire to realize God. Through his determination and self-effort he realized God.  Later on with various teachers he had the same experience of God through various paths.

2.  He had no formal education, but hundreds of educated people of Kolkata would come to him to learn about the most important aspect of life.

3.  Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings are simple but very profound.  He explains the essence of scriptures through simple stories and analogies from the day-to-day life of common people.

4.  His teachings cover all levels of spiritual life; from the period of curiosity and initial questioning to the state of realization of God.

5.  We all talk about having interfaith dialogue and tolerance of other faiths.  Sri Ramakrishna realized God through his own tradition and then through other religions. He realized through his experiences that all religions are various paths leading to the same God.

6.  At the time of Sri Ramakrishna, many youngsters and the elite started believing that all Hindu scriptures and their religious ideas were primitive and useless.  Sri Ramakrishna single handedly destroyed these doubts and wrong ideas from the minds of the youngsters and elite and established the essential truths of the scriptures.  Since his words had the power of direct experience of the Truth, they prevail over all skepticism and faulty arguments.

7.  He prepared a few spiritual giants whose influence, even today, inspires millions of people to be good and to do unselfish service for humanity.  His idea of ‘seeing God in all and serving each one as though doing worship to God’ was revolutionary.  He said that a human being is an insignificant little insect crawling on the Earth.  How can this limited being do good to the world? Instead, we should realize that by doing good to the world we actually do good to ourselves.

8.  His every act and word was a manifestation of the Ultimate Truth described by the scriptures. At the end of his life, he could not eat any food due to the cancer of his throat.  His beloved disciple, Narendra, asked him to pray to the Divine Mother to enable him to eat a little so that he could keep his body for the good of many.  Upon inquiry, Sri Ramakrishna said that the Divine Mother had told him, “Are you not eating through the millions of mouths of all beings? Why worry if one mouth stops eating?”

9.  Sri Ramakrishna guided each disciple according to his/her mental chemistry.

10.  Sri Ramakrishna never uttered a degrading word for anyone and for any religious path.  He always encouraged everyone. People with various paths and sects went to him and each one felt that Sri Ramakrishna belonged to his/her path or sect.  Sri Ramakrishna encouraged householders and said that they can also realize God.

Let us remember a few of his teachings:

(i)  The goal of life is “God Realization.”

(ii)  The main obstacles in God Realization are lust and greed.

(iii)  Never think that ‘My religion is true and other religions are false.’  All religions are nothing but different paths made to suit people of different temperaments to reach the same God.

(iv)  Use your common sense in the spiritual path.  (Remember the story, “Elephant is Narayana, but so is the Elephant-driver.”)

(v)  Have intense desire and determination to realize God and make efforts for it.  (Remember the story of the determined farmer who worked hard to bring water to his field.)

(vi)  Spiritual progress is based upon the positive transformation that happens in life including the manifestation of virtues described in the scriptures.  Spiritual progress cannot be judged by the amount of lectures one has given about spirituality.  (Remember the story of Poddo who had not cleaned the temple, but did not hesitate from blowing the conch loudly)

(vi) As one gallon container cannot hold 10 gallons of milk, a finite human mind cannot comprehend the infinite God (Brahman).  Think that there is a huge hill of sugar grains.  An ant took one grain of sugar in its mouth from the hill and was going towards its hole.  While going the ant thought that next time it will take the whole sugar-hill in her hole.  A Salt-doll wanted to measure the depth of an ocean.  She took a measuring stick and went to the ocean.  As soon as she went into the ocean, she was totally merged in the ocean.  How can she measure the depth of the ocean?  A human mind tries to comprehend infinite Brahman.  But, when it goes closer to Brahman, it starts losing its separate identity.  Finally, when it merges with Brahman, there is no one else left to measure the Brahman.

One can learn many things about Sri Ramakrishna’s life and teachings from the following books:

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
Sri Ramakrishna Divine Play
Sri Ramakrishna & His Divine Play

May we get inspiration for our spiritual development from Sri Ramakrishna’s life and teachings.