Chapter 18: The Conversations with Prakāśānanda

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Teachings of Lord Caitanya

In those days, by misusing their brahminical heritage, the brāhmaṇas passed a law to the effect that anyone not born in a brāhmaṇa family was to be considered a śūdra. Thus even the kṣatriyas and vaidyas were also considered śūdras. Because the vaidyas were supposed to be descendants of brāhmaṇa fathers and śūdra wives, they were sometimes called śūdras. Thus Candraśekhara Ācārya, although born in a vaidya family, was called a śūdra in Benares. As long as Lord Caitanya stayed in Benares, He remained at Candraśekhara's home, and He took His food at the home of Tapana Miśra.

When Sanātana Gosvāmī met Lord Caitanya at Benares, he learned the process and principles of devotional service during two months of continuous teaching. Lord Caitanya's instructions to Sanātana Gosvāmī have been described in the first part of this book. After receiving these teachings, Sanātana Gosvāmī was authorized to propagate the principles of devotional service and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. It was during this time that both Tapana Miśra and Candraśekhara Ācārya were feeling very sorry about the strong criticism against Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and they came together and prayed for the Lord to meet the Māyāvādī sannyāsīs.

"We have been mortified by hearing unfavorable criticisms from the Māyāvādī sannyāsīs against You," they informed Lord Caitanya. "Indeed, it has become intolerable for us." They requested the Lord to do something so that these criticisms might be stopped. While they were discussing this subject, a brāhmaṇa came to Lord Caitanya and invited Him to his home. All the sannyāsīs had been invited but Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and now the brāhmaṇa came to invite Him. Knowing that the Lord did not associate with Māyāvādī sannyāsīs, the brāhmaṇa fell down at Caitanya Mahāprabhu's feet and implored Him: "Although I know that You do not accept invitations, I still implore You to come and take prasāda at my home with the other sannyāsīs. If You accept this invitation, I will consider it a special favor."

The Lord took this opportunity and accepted the brāhmaṇa's invitation in order to meet the Māyāvādī sannyāsīs. Actually this was an arrangement made by the Lord Himself. Although the brāhmaṇa who invited Him knew that the Lord did not accept any invitations, he was still very eager to invite Him.

The next day Lord Caitanya went to the house of the brāhmaṇa and saw that all the Māyāvādī sannyāsīs were sitting there. He offered His respects to all the sannyāsīs as was customary, and then went to wash His feet. After washing, He sat down beside the foot basin, a little distance from the other sannyāsīs. While He was sitting there, the sannyāsīs saw a glaring effulgence emanating from His body. Being attracted by this glaring effulgence, all the Māyāvādī sannyāsīs stood up and showed Him their respects. Amongst them was one sannyāsī named Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī. He was the chief amongst the impersonalist sannyāsīs, and he addressed Lord Caitanya with great humility, asking Him to come and sit amongst them.

"My dear Sir, why are You sitting in that filthy place?" he asked. "Please come and sit with us."

"Oh, I belong to an inferior sect of sannyāsīs," Lord Caitanya replied. "Therefore I think that I should not sit with you. Let Me remain down here."

Prakāśānanda was surprised to hear such a thing from such a learned man, and he actually took the Lord's hand and requested Him to please come and sit with him. When Lord Caitanya was finally seated amongst them, Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī said, "I think Your name is Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, and I understand that You belong to our Māyāvādī sect because You have taken sannyāsa from Keśava Bhāratī, who belongs to the Śańkarācārya sampradāya."

According to the Śańkara sect, there are ten different names for sannyāsīs. Out of them, three names — Tīrtha, Āśrama and Sarasvatī — are given to the sannyāsīs considered to be the most enlightened and cultured. Since Lord Caitanya was a Vaiṣṇava, He was naturally humble and meek, and He wanted to give the better sitting place to Prakāśānanda, who belonged to the Sarasvatī sampradāya. According to Śańkara's principles, a brahmacārī of the Bhāratic school is called Caitanya. However, although Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu took sannyāsa, He kept His brahmacārī name and did not take up the title of Bhāratī.

"Well, Sir," Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī continued, "You belong to our Śańkara sect, and You are living in Benares — so why don't You mix with us? What is the reason? Another thing — You are a sannyāsī and are supposed to engage simply in the study of Vedānta, but we see that instead You are always engaged in chanting and dancing and playing music. What is the reason? These are the activities of emotional and sentimental people but You are a qualified sannyāsī. Why not engage in the study of Vedānta? By Your effulgence it appears to us that You are just like the Supreme Nārāyaṇa, the Personality of Godhead, but by Your behavior, You appear to be otherwise. So we are inquisitive to know why You act in this way."

"My dear sir, My spiritual master considered Me a great fool," Lord Caitanya replied. "Therefore he has more or less punished Me by saying that because I am such a fool I have no capacity to study Vedānta. So in turn he gave Me the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. My spiritual master told Me, 'Just go on chanting this Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra: it will make You all-perfect.' "

Actually Lord Caitanya was neither foolish nor ignorant of the principles of Vedānta. His purpose was to demonstrate to modern society that fools who have no history of penance and austerity should not try to study Vedānta just for some recreational purpose. In His Śikṣāṣṭaka, Lord Caitanya said that one should be in a humble state of mind, should think himself lower than the grass on the street, should be more tolerant than a tree, and should be devoid of all sense of prestige and ready to offer all kinds of respects to others. In such a state of mind, one can chant the Vedānta philosophy or the holy name of God constantly. The Lord also wanted to teach that a serious student of transcendental science should follow the words of his spiritual master. According to the calculations of the spiritual master, Lord Caitanya appeared to be a fool; therefore he said that He should not indulge in the study of Vedānta but should continue chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. Lord Caitanya strictly obeyed this order. In other words, Lord Caitanya impressed on the Māyāvādīs that the words of a bona fide spiritual master must be strictly followed. By following them, one becomes perfect in all respects.

Vedānta indicates that the last word of Vedic knowledge is the understanding of Kṛṣṇa. Vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham: "By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed, I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas." (Bg. 15.15) When one actually comes to understand the Vedānta, he comes to know Kṛṣṇa and his relationship with Kṛṣṇa. One who understands Kṛṣṇa, understands everything. The knower of Kṛṣṇa is always engaged in the transcendental loving service of Kṛṣṇa. This is confirmed by the Lord Himself in Bhagavad-gītā:

ahaḿ sarvasya prabhavo

mattaḥ sarvaḿ pravartate

iti matvā bhajante māḿ

budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ

"I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts." (Bg. 10.8)

A living entity is eternally related with Kṛṣṇa in the relationship of master and servant. Once that service is wanting — or, in other words, when one is not situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness — it is to be understood that study of Vedānta is insufficient. When one does not understand Kṛṣṇa or does not engage in His transcendental loving service, it is to be understood that he is adverse to the study of Vedānta and to the understanding of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The path of Vedānta study shown by Lord Caitanya should be followed by all. A person who is puffed up by so-called education and who has no humility does not seek the protection of a bona fide spiritual master. He thinks that he does not require a spiritual master and that he can achieve the highest perfection by his own efforts. Such persons are not eligible for the study of Vedānta-sūtra. Those who are under the spell of material energy do not follow the instructions of the disciplic succession but try to manufacture something of their own and thereby step outside the sphere of Vedānta study. A bona fide spiritual master must always condemn such independent mental speculators. If the bona fide spiritual master directly points out the foolishness of a disciple, it should not be taken otherwise.

A person who is completely ignorant of the science of God cannot be considered learned. More or less, everyone who is not in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is subject to foolishness. Sometimes we display our foolishness by accepting someone who is barely educated as a spiritual master. It is our duty to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose lotus feet are worshiped by all the Vedas. One who does not understand Him and is proud of a false understanding of Vedānta is actually a fool. Mundane attempts at academic knowledge are simply another type of foolishness. As long as one cannot understand the cosmic manifestation as a representation of the three modes of material nature, he must be considered to be in the darkness of inebriety and caught in the duality of this material world. A person who is in perfect knowledge of Vedānta becomes a servitor of the Supreme Lord, who is the maintainer and sustainer of the whole cosmic manifestation. As long as one is not transcendental to the service of the limited, he cannot have knowledge of Vedānta.

As long as one is within the limited jurisdiction of fruitive activities or is involved in mental speculation, he may perhaps be eligible to study or teach the theoretical knowledge of Vedānta-sūtra, but he cannot understand the supreme, eternal, transcendental (completely liberated) vibration of Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. One who has achieved perfection in chanting the transcendental Hare Kṛṣṇa vibration does not have to separately learn the philosophy of Vedānta-sūtra. According to the teachings of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the bona fide spiritual master, those who do not understand the transcendental vibration as being nondifferent from the Supreme and who try to become Māyāvādī philosophers or experts in Vedānta-sūtra are all fools. Studying Vedānta-sūtra by one's own efforts (the ascending process of knowledge) is another sign of foolishness. He who has attained a taste for chanting the transcendental vibration, however, actually attains the conclusion of Vedānta. In this connection, there are two verses in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam which are very instructive. The purport of the first is that even if a low caste person is engaged in chanting the transcendental vibration, it is to be understood that he has performed all types of renunciation, austerities and sacrifice and has studied all the Brahma-sūtras. Thus one can be able to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. The purport of the second verse is that one who chants the two syllables Ha-ri must be considered to have studied all the Vedas: the Ṛg Veda, Atharva Veda, Yajur Veda and Sāma Veda.

On the other hand, there are many so-called devotees who think Vedānta is not meant for devotees. Such people are ignorant of the fact that Vedānta is the only platform of pure devotees. All the great ācāryas of the four Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas have made commentaries on the Vedānta-sūtra, but the so-called devotees known as prākṛta-sahajiyā carefully avoid the study of Vedānta-sūtra. The prākṛta-sahajiyā mistakenly take the pure devotees and Vaiṣṇava ācāryas to be mental speculators or fruitive actors. Consequently they themselves become Māyāvādīs and leave the service of the Supreme Lord.

Understanding the Vedānta-sūtra by academic knowledge never enables one to understand the value of the transcendental vibration. People who are entangled in academic knowledge are conditioned souls who are confused about the facts of "I", "mine" and "my" understanding. Consequently they are unable to detach their minds from the external energy. When a person actually attains transcendental knowledge, he becomes free from this duality and engages in the transcendental loving service of the Supreme Lord. The Lord's service is the only means by which one can become detached from material activities. A person properly initiated by a bona fide spiritual master and engaged in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare gradually becomes freed from the conception of "I" and "mine" and becomes attached to the Lord's transcendental loving service in one of the five transcendental relationships. Such transcendental service is not a subject matter for gross and subtle bodies. Only when one can understand that there is no difference between the Supreme and His name can one be situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. At such a time one no longer needs to make grammatical adjustments. Rather, one becomes more interested in petitioning the Lord: "Hare Kṛṣṇa — O my Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your service!"

Lord Caitanya explained all this to Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī and told him that He had heard all this from His spiritual master. He further informed Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī that His spiritual master had taught Him that Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the actual commentary on Vedānta-sūtra, as stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam by Vyāsadeva, the author of Vedānta-sūtra.

A student is to be considered perfected when he understands the identity of the holy name and the Supreme Lord. Unless one is under the shelter of a realized spiritual master, his understanding of the Supreme is simply foolishness. However, one can fully understand the transcendental Lord by service and devotion. When Lord Caitanya offenselessly chanted the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, He declared that the mantra could at once deliver a conditioned soul from material contamination. In this age of Kali there is no alternative to chanting this mahā-mantra. It is stated that the essence of all Vedic literature is the chanting of this holy name of Kṛṣṇa: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. Lord Caitanya also told Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī, "In order to convince Me about this essential fact of Vedic knowledge, My spiritual master has taught Me a verse from Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa [38.126]. Harer nāma harer nāma harer nāmaiva kevalam/ kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva nāsty eva gatir anyathā: [Adi 17.21] In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way."

In three out of the four millenniums (namely Satya-yuga, Tretā-yuga and Dvāpara-yuga) people had the honor to be able to understand transcendence through the path of disciplic succession. However, in the present age, people have no interest in the disciplic succession. Instead, they have invented many paths of logic and argument. This individual attempt to understand the supreme transcendence (called the ascending process) is not approved by the Vedas. The Absolute Truth must descend from the absolute platform. He is not to be understood by the ascending process. The holy name of the Lord — Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare — is a transcendental vibration because it comes from the transcendental platform, the supreme abode of Kṛṣṇa. Because there is no difference between Kṛṣṇa and His name, the holy name of Kṛṣṇa is as pure, perfect and liberated as Kṛṣṇa Himself. Academic scholars have no entrance by means of logic and other argument into the understanding of the transcendental nature of the holy name of God. The single path in understanding the transcendental nature of Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare is the chanting of these names with faith and adherence. Such chanting will release one from designated conditions arising from the gross and subtle bodies.

In this age of logic, argument and disagreement, the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa is the only means for self-realization. Because this transcendental vibration alone can deliver the conditioned soul, it is considered to be the essence of the Vedānta-sūtra. According to the material conception, there is duality between the name, form, quality, emotions and activities of a person and the person himself, but as far as the transcendental vibration is concerned, there is no such limitation, for it descends from the spiritual world. In the spiritual world there is no difference between the name of the person and the quality of the person. Of course in the material world there is a difference. Because the Māyāvādī philosophers cannot understand this, they cannot utter the transcendental vibration.

Lord Caitanya then told Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī that because He received the order from His spiritual master, He was constantly chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. "As a result of this chanting," the Lord said, "I sometimes become very impatient and cannot restrain Myself from dancing and laughing or crying and singing. Indeed, I become just like a madman. When I first wondered whether I had become mad by chanting this Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare, I approached My spiritual master and informed him that I had gone mad by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. Thus I asked him what was My actual position."

In the Nārada-pañcarātra it is stated:

eṣo vedāḥ ṣaḍ-ańgāni

chandāḿsi vividhāḥ surāḥ

sarvam aṣṭākṣarāntaḥsthaḿ

yac cānyad api vāńmayam



"All Vedic rituals, mantras and understanding are compressed into eight words: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare." Similarly, in the Kalisantaraṇa Upaniṣad it is stated:

hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa

kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare

hare rāma hare rāma

rāma rāma hare hare

iti ṣoḍaśakaḿ nāmnāḿ


nātaḥ parataropāyaḥ

sarva-vedeṣu dṛśyate

"The sixteen words — Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare — are especially meant for counteracting the contaminations of Kali. To save oneself from the contamination of Kali, there is no alternative but the chanting of these sixteen words."

Lord Caitanya informed Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī that when His spiritual master understood Him, he said, "It is the transcendental nature of the holy names of Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare to transport a man into spiritual madness. Anyone who sincerely chants this holy name very soon attains elevation to the platform of love of God and becomes mad after God. This madness arising from love of God is the first perfectional stage for a human being."

Generally a human being is interested in religion, economic development, sense gratification and liberation, but love of God is above all these. A bona fide spiritual master chants the holy names — Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare — and the transcendental sound vibration enters into the ear of the disciple, and if a disciple follows in the footsteps of his spiritual master and chants the holy name with similar respect, he actually comes to worship the transcendental name. When the transcendental name is worshiped by the devotee, the name Himself spreads His glories within the heart of a devotee. When a devotee is perfectly qualified in chanting the transcendental vibration of the holy name, he is quite fit to become a spiritual master and to deliver all the people of the world. The chanting of the holy name is so powerful that it gradually establishes its supremacy above everything in the world. The devotee who chants it becomes transcendentally situated in ecstasy and sometimes laughs, cries and dances in his ecstasy. Sometimes the unintelligent put hindrances in the path of chanting this mahā-mantra, but one who is situated on the platform of love of Godhead chants the holy name loudly for all concerned. As a result, everyone becomes initiated in the chanting of the holy names — Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. By chanting and hearing the holy names of Kṛṣṇa, a person can remember the forms and qualities of Kṛṣṇa.

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His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, Founder Ācārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness