MEDITATIONS ON SRI CAITANYA’S SIKSASTAKA PRAYERS (PART 2)

April 18th, 2012 § 0

These eight verses of instruction embody the teachings and mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. They reveal the process of pure love of Godhead, bhakti, and the congregational chanting of the holy name of Krsna as the best method for spiritual perfection within the bhakti path.

 

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu´s murti which was worshiped by Srila Prabhupada

 

In this first verse, Sri Caitanya expresses the purpose of His advent on the earth. As the yuga-avatara for the age of Kali, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaches the yuga-dharma, the recommended process for God realization. He says: “Let there be all victory to the Sri-Krsna-sankirtana”. This indicates that the chanting of the Holy name awards all types of perfections to the chanter. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur explained in his commentary to this verse that the following 7 perfections are achieved by the process of chanting the Holy name of God, the maha-mantra Hare Krsna:

 

  1. The mirror of the heart or consciousness is cleansed.
  2. The blazing fire of material life is extinguished.
  3. All good fortune blesses the life of the chanter.
  4. Transcendental knowledge becomes revealed.
  5. An ocean of divine happiness fills the heart of the chanter.
  6. The material existence is completely uprooted.
  7. Everything becomes complete by the process of chanting.

Public Sankirtana in Czech Republic

 

As a practitioner (sadhaka) on the path of devotion to Krsna, I can say that, albeit I have still a long way to go, I’m experiencing glimpses of the divine gifts of the holy name mentioned by Sri Caitanya in this verse. I cannot claim to be immersed in an ocean of divine bliss nor to have extinguished the fire of material existence in my life, but I can say that daily chanting gives me a concrete sense of connection to God, inner peace and satisfaction, and a clear and definite purpose in life. Chanting Hare Krsna gives me also strength and intelligence to overcome the natural difficulties of life and to not “buy in” the false propaganda of material happiness. Chanting the holy name allows me to taste a higher taste in life: the taste of that nectar for which we are always anxious.

 

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is described by Srila Prabhupada as the great apostle of love of God and the father of the congregational chanting of the Holy name of God. This He has expressed in this verse of Sri Siksastakam. Every day He would go into the streets with His devotee companions and would perform public congregational chanting of the Holy name, sankirtana, and would inspire other people to join the chanting. He ordered His follower to do the same for the benefit of others.

 

Sri Caitanya y Sri Nityananda en Sankirtana

 

The first time I heard congregational chanting happened in a little room my friends and me had rented to the cultural centre of my hometown. We had a youth group for research about UFOs and parapsychology, and also yoga and hidden sciences. That day I came in the room and 2 or 3 of my friends were euphorically singing accompanied by hand cymbals and a little metal box that they used as a drum. They had not taken any drugs nor drank any liquor or alcoholic drinks. They simply were singing with their hearts, voices and bodies, which were moving from side to side following the rhythm of the chanting and the instruments. Their faces beamed due to a contagious spiritual happiness that inundated the place. When I entered the room I felt that my whole being was enraptured by an intense spiritual happiness. There was no doubt that this was not an ordinary singing or music. It was full of spiritual power and there was no question for me to doubt about its authenticity, as much as a person who tastes the most delicious meal will not doubt the experience.

 

Some weeks later I went to the temple in Barcelona for the first time and experienced my first kirtana with temple devotees. I was already chanting the holy names on my beads, reciting 16 rounds of the maha-mantra Hare Krishna and my friends and me used to meet regularly and have our kirtanas, sometimes in one of our parapsychology rooms, which we had transformed into a temple, and other times in a nearby forest or park. Still, when I experienced the first kirtana in the temple with a larger number of devotees and their enthusiastic and expert dancing the experience became stronger. I felt immersed in an ocean of bliss. Perhaps this sounds like a stereotyped expression, parroting the words of Sri Caitanya, but I have not better words to describe it. It was a real, tangible and intense spiritual living experience. After that kirtana I decided: “I want to come here and live here with these people”. Since it was my first time in the temple, I had not made any friends. Yet, the experience was so powerful that increased my growing desire to follow Sri Caitanya’s teachings and mission.

 

Shortly after, I participated regularly in the Sunday harinama sankirtana processions that the devotees organized in Barcelona. I was not dressed like them and I was less experienced than them, but this did not make any difference to me. I was going out to bring the experiences I was having so that others could get the same opportunity. Somehow the sankirtana of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His devotees had touched me so deeply that I became part of His mission and was actively propagating it. The happiness I experienced and I still experience surpasses, beyond any comparison, the ordinary happiness of the material mind and senses. Therefore, as Sri Caitanya says in this verse: param vijayate sri krsna sankirtanam, let there be all victory to the Holy name of Krsna which expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life.

 

Meditations on Sri Caitanya’s Siksastaka Prayers (Part 1)

March 19th, 2010 § 1

Chanting Hare Krishna is Blissful

“Let there be all victory for the chanting of the holy name of Lord Krsna, which can cleanse the mirror of the heart and stop the miseries of the blazing fire of material existence. That chanting is the waxing moon that spreads the white lotus of good fortune for all living entities. It is the life and soul of all education. The chanting of the holy name of Krsna expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life. It gives a cooling effect to everyone and enables one to taste full nectar at every step.”

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is known by His followers as the yuga-avatara, the incarnation of God for the present age. According to the Vedic scriptures, there are four ages of time which occur cyclically in a similar way that the four seasons of the year. In each age or yuga, there is an incarnation of God, avatara, that comes to the world to teach humanity a suitable process for spiritual elevation and enlightenment according to the characteristics of the people. The incarnation of God that teaches and exemplifies the process of spiritual elevation for each corresponding age is named yuga-avatara.

Sri Caitanya is known not only as the yuga-avatara for the age of Kali, but also as God Himself, who descends to the world in the garb of a devotee to teach by His personal example how to worship and how to love God. Srila Prabhupada writes in his book “Teachings of Lord Caitanya” that as a teacher writes the A,B,C to show his pupils how to read and write, Sri Caitanya educates humanity in how to re-establish and develop our relation with God, which culminates in unconditional pure love.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu

When I first came in contact with the Hare Krsna movement, the personality of Caitanya Mahaprabhu intrigued me and attracted me. Having being trained as a catholic in my childhood, I had great appreciation and feeling for the personality of Lord Jesus, although I was not practicing his teachings very much. To hear and read about Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu evoked in my heart some of those feelings I had experienced during my catechesis in an increased way.  I liked that Sri Caitanya had shown the path to spiritual perfection by giving up everything to serve the Lord and that He propagated vigorously the chanting of the holy name. I already had experienced a higher happiness in chanting Hare Krishna with my friends in my hometown and later on with the devotees in the Hare Krishna temple in Barcelona. It was a happiness that was not of this world. Every week I would anxiously wait for the weekend to go to the temple which was 30 kilometres away from my hometown to join the devotees and sing and dance with them, and to experience the happiness of that chanting.  For me, this was a living proof that made me identify with the character of Sri Caitanya and fanned in my heart a growing vocation to follow Him, a vocation that has marked profoundly my life and that I pray continue until my last breath.

In those beginning days I used to read and re-read the introduction of Srila Prabhupada’s Srimad-Bhagavatam, where he wrote a summary of the life of Sri Caitanya. Prabhupada entitled it: “A short sketch of the life and teachings of Lord Caitanya, the preacher of Srimad-Bhagavatam”. In the description I learned that Sri Caitanya was a great scholar practically since childhood and that he had astounded and humbled great intellectual and spiritual champions of his time such as Kesava Kasmiri, Prakasananda Sarasvati and Sarvabhauma-Bhattacharya. These influential and renowned personalities became followers of Sri Caitanya or, at least, accepted the Vaisnava teachings after meeting Him. It was amazing to read that in spite of being such a prodigious scholar, Sri Caitantya Mahaprabhu compiled only 8 verses, the Sri Siksastaka. The translation of these verses was quoted at the end of Srila Prabhupada’s summary and I used to enjoy reading their poetry and deep spiritual feeling. They expressed profound spiritual emotions showing the greatness of God and how tiny we are in comparison to Him and, yet, how a very intense, sweet and sometimes bitter relationship develops between the Lord and His devotee. Somehow I felt identified with those sublime expressions in my own way. I saw it, and still see it, as an ideal to be achieved: intense emotions for God and open and honest communication with Him. Later on, when I decided to become a novice in a Hare Krishna temple in Spain, I would recite those same verses every morning, both in Sanskrit and Spanish, as part of the morning spiritual programme. Now, after more than 30 years, I still derive great inspiration from reciting and regularly meditating on those same 8 verses.

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