Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sri Chaitanya’s Sikshastakam: Comparing the original with two translations.

This article was published in Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Details not available. It was also on Gaudiya Discussions, but I did not have a copy on the blog. So here it is for the record. I have just recorded myself singing the Śikṣāṣṭakam and you can see it on YouTube. I have embedded the video at the end of this document. This article is fairly long for a blog, but I have not split it up. Notes are at the end, but there are no internal links. 



No short account of Krishna Chaitanya’s life fails to note something like, “Chaitanya only left eight verses by which we can know his belief system.” But the authorship of even these verses has been cast into some doubt by scholars on the basis of statements by Karnapur and others, who declare unequivocally that Chaitanya wrote nothing at all.(1) Over time, a number of a number of works have been attributed to Chaitanya, but few of these claims are credible.(2) Even the most consistently attributed text, the Radha-prema-rasāyana-stotram,(3) has not been accepted as Chaitanya’s own writing by the tradition.(4) In any case, a perusal of the works in question, where they are available, shows little of interest that would strike the hearts of the devotees as the work of the Supreme Lord himself.(5)

On the other hand, the verses known to us as the Śikṣāṣṭakam (“eight verses of teaching”) have had a resilience that has not only endured, but continues to grow, with several new commentaries, primarily in Bengali, being published in recent decades. The power of these eight verses is in great part attributable to the genius of Krishna Das Kaviraj, the author of Chaitanya’s most influential biography, Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Certainly Chaitanya himself never wrote these verses as a single coherent work, for they are found scattered throughout Rupa Goswami’s collection of verses, Padyāvalī, where they are subsumed under various different categories(6) and are not singled out for particular attention, praise or veneration.(7)

Even in the form and sequence given to them by Krishna Das Kaviraj, they do not immediately convey a single coherent theme. Unlike most hymns of the aṣṭaka genre, they are not composed in the same metre, nor do they have a refrain repeated in the fourth strophe of each verse, nor is the work concluded with a ninth verse containing a śruti-phala. Nevertheless, in the context of the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, they take on a cohesiveness that teaches, at the very least, the importance of having good editor. Krishna Das Kaviraj, in fact, shows decided brilliance in making this selection of eight verses the centerpiece of the concluding chapter of his hagiography, arraying them in a manner that summarizes both the essential teachings as well as the spiritual career of the avatar. Thus the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition can be summarized in the statement of Manindranath Guha, who argues that the reason he wrote nothing other than these eight verses was that he had no need to: they above all and in a nutshell perfectly summarize his entire teachings, identified as nāma-prema—the holy name and love of Krishna.(8)

Krishna Das, to whom we have credited the arrangement of the eight verses as well as their naming as Śikṣāṣṭakam, presents them in the context of his description of Caitanya’s progressive ecstasies, which show a deepening absorption in devotional trance colored by an ever-increasing anxiety of separation in love from Krishna. Krishna Das’s language is heavily influenced by Rupa Goswami’s analysis of emotions in accordance with the terminology of Sanskrit dramatics. Thus his opening verse contextualizes the eight verses as ecstatic utterances:

premodbhāvita-harṣerṣyod-
vega-dainyārti-miśritam
lapitaṁ gauracandrasya
bhāgyavadbhir niṣevyate
The words that Gauracandra gushed in a mixture of emotions born of love—enthusiasm, jealousy, anxiety, humility and pain—are served by those who are most fortunate.(9)
The word niṣevyate, “served,” means listened to again and again with veneration. So that the point is not lost on the reader, Krishna Das repeats the point twice in the next several verses and then again introduces each individual verse with the particular emotion or mixture of emotions that gave birth to it. In this way, he both reminds us of the guiding principle that determines Chaitanya’s status as an incarnation—his devotional ecstasies—and uses these to validate the only utterances that he left his followers as “the word of God.”

Amazingly, the first real commentary on the Śikṣāṣṭakam appears to have been the 19th century revivalist Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s Bhajana-rahasya (1903). Bhaktivinoda’s engagement with the eight verses began with his translations of the as Bengali songs in Gītāvalī (1893), but in Bhajana-rahasya he uses the eight verses as a heuristic guide to Chaitanyaite theology by combining them with two other celebrated “eights” in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, namely the eight times of day in which Krishna’s pastimes take place and which form the central guiding principle of nāma-bhajana within the tradition, and the nine levels of progressive advancement in devotional life, which are adjusted somewhat to fit his eight-step schema.(10) Manindranath Guha, in his much later but learned discourse on the eight verses, also follows the expanded fourteen-level analysis given by Vishwanath Chakravarti in his commentary to Bhāgavata-purāṇa 1.2.21.(11) Though this may not have been Krishna Das’s exact intention, there is certainly a hierarchical progression in the eight verses that provides it with an enduring dynamism and possibilities for continued exegesis, the task of which is to find the essence of all Gaudiya Vaishnava teachings in them.

Though it would be interesting to provide a detailed comparative analysis of the various commentaries made on the Śikṣāṣṭakam (including Radha Govinda Nath’s elaborate explanation in his Caitanya-caritāmṛta), we will simply give English renderings of the original verses and the Bengali translations of Krishna Das and Bhaktivinoda.

—o)0(o—

(1)

The cleansing of the mirror of the mind

The first verse is prefaced by Krishna Das’s reminder of the “external reason” for Chaitanya’s descent: to teach the religious practice for this age, which is the loud glorification of Krishna’s name. In this spirit he cites the all-important verse from the Bhāgavata-purāṇa, Chaitanya’s followers’ pramāṇa-śiromaṇi, or most authoritative text, that is given as evidence of this. (12) The chanting of the holy name is specified as a yajña or sacrificial performance. The ruling emotion is harṣa, or elation.

ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanaṁ bhava-mahā-dāvāgni-nirvāpaṇaṁ
śreyaḥ-kairava-candrikā-vitaraṇaṁ vidyā-vadhū-jīvanam
ānandāmbudhi-vardhanaṁ prati-padaṁ pūrṇāmṛtāsvādanaṁ
sarvātma-snapanaṁ paraṁ vijayate śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam
All glories to Sri Krishna sankirtan!
It cleans the mirror of the mind;
It extinguishes the blazing conflagration of material life;
It spreads the moon rays that make
the white lotus of auspiciousness bloom;
It is the life of spiritual knowledge; (13)
It increases the ocean of divine ecstasy
and at every moment gives a full taste of ambrosia,
bathing the entire soul. (14) (CC 3.20.12)

Krishna Das Kaviraj’s translation :

saṅkīrtana haite pāpa saṁsāra nāśana
citta śuddhi sarva-bhakti-sādhana udgama
kṛṣṇa-premodgama premāmṛta āsvādana
kṛṣṇa-prāpti sevāmṛta samudre majjana
From sankirtan comes the destruction of sin and material entanglement, the purification of the mind and heart, the arising of all the other practices of devotional life. It then leads to the awakening of love for Krishna, the relishing of the flavors of that love, and then to the attainment of Krishna, where one plunges into the nectarean ocean of service to the Lord. (CC 3.20.13-14) (15)

Bhaktivinoda’s Gītāvalī:




—o)0(o—

(2)

The power of the holy name

Krishna Das introduces the second verse with Chaitanya’s mood, which has now turned to viṣāda (remorse) and dainya (feelings of inadequacy). Having explained the powers of Krishna’s name in the first verse, an answer is given to the question about ritual restrictions of purity and so on. The answer is given that it is not restricted like other practices. Nevertheless, in spite of this, one’s fallen nature prevents one from taking it up. (16)

nāmnām akāri bahudhā nija-sarva-śaktis
tatrārpitā niyamitaḥ smaraṇe na kālaḥ
etādṛśī tava kṛpā bhagavan mamāpi
durdaivam īdṛśam ihājani nānurāgaḥ
You have expanded your names into so many forms
And in them, you have invested all your personal potencies;
no rules have been made about when one can remember them.
Such, O Lord, is the greatness of your mercy,
and yet my misfortune is such
that I have developed no attraction for them.
Krishna Das Kaviraj’s translation —

aneka lokera vāṣchā aneka prakāra
kṛpāte karila aneka nāmera pracāra
khāite śuite yathā tathā nāma laya
deśa-kāla niyama nāhi, sarva siddhi haya
There are so many different people with such a variety of different desires. So in your compassion, you have made known that you have so many different names.

One can chant your name in any condition at all, whether eating or lying down. There are no rules governing the time and place for chanting; one can attain all perfections in any case. (Caitanya-caritāmṛta 3.20.18)
Bhaktivinoda Thakur:

You are the ocean of compassion, and in order to deliver the living beings, you have appeared to teach them your innumerable names.

In each of these names you have placed all your potencies and yet placed no restrictions as to where or when they can be chanted.

The holy name is the most valuable gem. It is not different from you and yet out of your great mercy, you distribute it freely throughout the world.

How great is your charity! How great your compassion! And yet how great my misfortune, how pitiable am I!

O Lord, no taste for chanting these Names has arisen within me. Thus Bhaktivinoda says: “My heart is full of distress.” (17)


—o)0(o—
 (3)

Who is qualified to chant?


The question of qualification is a great concern in all Sanskrit philosophical texts. Normally, the adhikāra for devotion is very broad—nṛ-mātrasyādhikāritā (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.60), though faith (śraddhā) is generally given as the minimum requirement for devotional activity (ibid. 1.2.14-19). Here and in the next verse, however, faith is being assumed and certain ethical or behavioral norms are stipulated. This verse in particular is social, while the next concentrates on personal morality. This verse in particular is probably the most frequently quoted of the eight verses in the Vaishnava literature. Certainly Krishna Das gives it special mention in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, telling all devotees to “string this verse on the thread of the holy name and wear it around your neck.” (1.17.32)

—o)0(o—

tṛṇād api sunīcena
taror iva sahiṣṇunā
amāninā mānadena
kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ
One who is lower than even the grass,
who is as tolerant as the tree,
who has no desire for personal honor
but is ready to give honor to all others,
can sing the glories of the Lord constantly. (18)
Krishna Das Kaviraj’s translation —

je rūpe laile nāma prema upajaya
tāhāra lakṣaṇa śuna svarūpa rāma-rāya
uttama hañā āpanāke māne tṛṇādhama
dui-prakāre sahiṣṇutā kare vṛkṣa-sama
vṛkṣa yena kāṭileha kichu nā bolaya
śukāñā maileha kāre pānī nā māgaya
jei je māgaye tāre deya āpana-dhana
gharma-vṛṣṭi sahe ānera karaye rakṣaṇa
uttama hañā vaiṣṇava habe nirabhimāna
jīve sammāna dibe jāni kṛṣṇa-adhiṣṭhāna
O Svarūpa and Rāmānanda, listen to the way you must chant the holy name so that love for Krishna awakens. Even though you may be the best of human beings, you should still think of yourself as lower than the grass. You should engage in two kinds of tolerance, following the example of the tree. A tree does not protest, even when it is being cut, and it asks no one for water, even if it is drying up and dying of thirst. The tree also gives all its riches to whoever asks for them and through rain and heat provides shelter to whoever takes it. A Vaishnava may be the greatest person, but he is without pride. He respects all living creatures, knowing them to be the abodes of Lord Krishna. (Caitanya-caritāmṛta 3.20.20, 22-24)
Bhaktivinoda Thakur:

If you desire to engage in chanting Krishna’s names and glories, then do everything you can to gain the qualifications necessary to do so.

Give up false ego and think of yourself as very lowly and wretched, more insignificant than grass.

Practise the virtue of tolerance by emulating the trees. Give up revenge and look after other creatures.

Do not give distress to any other being in order to maintain your body; forget your own selfish concerns by serving others.

Even if you possess all good qualities, do not try to profit from it by looking for prestige. Keep your heart simple.

Know that all living beings carry Krishna in their heart and so you should offer them respect in all circumstances.

Cultivate the four qualities of humility, compassion, respect for others and indifference to worldly honors, and chant the holy name.

Bhaktivinoda cries out the following plea at the Lord’s lotus feet: “When, O when will you make me qualified to chant your holy name?”

—o)0(o—

(4)

The only desire of the pure devotee


This verse contains a key word used to define bhakti in the Bhāgavata-purāṇa, ahaitukī – “without any motivation.” True love seeks the pleasure of the other. A devotee seeks nothing but devotion that has no ulterior motive. Here again, Krishna Das states that dainya is Chaitanya’s principal emotion while speaking this verse. Indeed, as humility has been stressed in the previous verse, Krishna Das reiterates, “Love for God is such that anyone who has the slightest connection to it feels that he is completely bereft of any devotion to the Lord.” (verse 28)

na dhanaṁ na janaṁ na sundarīṁ
kavitāṁ vā jagad-īśa kāmaye
mama janmani janmanīśvare
bhavatād bhaktir ahaitukī tvayi
I ask not for wealth, nor followers,
Nor beautiful women, nor for poetry or wisdom. (19)
All I ask, O Lord of the Universe,
is that I may have unmotivated devotion
to you, God, birth after birth. (20)
Krishna Das Kaviraj’s translation :

dhana jana nāhi māgoṁ kavitā sundarī
śuddha bhakti deha more kṛṣṇa kṛpā kori
I ask not for wealth or followers, nor beautiful poetry. O Krishna, be merciful and give me pure devotion only.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s couplets in Bhajana-rahasya: (21)

gṛha dravya śiṣya paśu dhānya ādi dhana
strī putra dāsa dāsī kuṭumbādi jana
kāvya alaṅkāra ādi sundarī kavitā
pārthiva-viṣaya madhye e saba bāratā
ei saba pāibāra āśā nāhi kari
śuddha-bhakti deha more kṛṣṇa kṛpā kari
Household affairs, possessions, disciples, farm animals, crops or whatever else one may call wealth; wife, sons, servants and relatives, and whomever else one calls one’s friends; well-written poetry or whatever else one calls beautiful literature—all these are nothing but material things. I want none of them, O Krishna! All I desire is that you mercifully give me pure devotional service.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s song in Gītāvalī:
O Lord! I make this submission at your lotus feet: I desire no bodily pleasure, great learning, wealth or followers. I ask not for heaven, nor for liberation; I ask not for mystic power. In whatever birth I obtain as a result of my good and bad deeds, all I ask is that I be able to glorify your name and attributes. This is my only hope and I pray to your lotus feet that such causeless blessings will awaken in my heart at all times.

May the kind of attraction I currently have for material sense pleasures be converted into an attraction for your service. In success or failure, wealth or poverty, may I remain steadfast and unchanged. May the power of the holy name always have an increasing hold on me. Bhaktivinoda prays; “Whether I take birth as a bird or a beast, or whether I am born in the heavenly worlds or the nether regions, may devotion to you always dwell in my heart.”

—o)0(o—
(5)

Praying to realize one’s spiritual identity


The bhakti path of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas is fundamentally conceived of as the culture of a particular identity, the minimum definition of which is “servant of Krishna.” This is seen as the “eternal constitutional position” of the individual soul, but one that nevertheless requires cultivation through practice or sadhana. In the Bhajana-rahasya, Bhaktivinoda elaborates on this verse as the sadhaka’s prayer for knowledge of this eternal spiritual identity in the way further elaborated in Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, namely that of a maidservant engaged in serving the divine couple, Radha and Krishna.

ayi nanda-tanuja kiṅkaraṁ
patitaṁ māṁ viṣame bhavāmbudhau
kṛpayā tava pāda-paṅkaja-
sthita-dhūli-sadṛśaṁ vicintaya
O Krishna, son of Nanda, I am your eternal servant,
but I have fallen into this dreadful ocean of material existence.
Please be merciful and think of me
as a speck of dust at your lotus feet.(22)

Krishna Das Kaviraj’s translation —

tava nitya-dāsa āmi tomā pāsariyā
paṛiyāchi bhavārṇave māyā-baddha hañā
kṛpā kari kara more pada-dhūli-sama
tomāra sevaka karoṅ tomāra sevana
I am your eternal servant, yet I have forgotten you and fallen into this ocean of material existence, bound by illusion. Please be merciful to me and make me a speck of dust at your feet so that I may be your servant and serve you forever. (CC 2.20.33-34)
Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s song from Gītāvalī:
As the fruit of beginningless entanglement in karma, I have fallen into the ocean of material existence. I see no means to escape from it.

My heart burns day and night from the poisonous effects of sense gratification; I thus find no peace of mind.

The bonds of desire are infinite and they give me constant trouble. Whatever actions I take are to no avail, for they simply produce more waves in that ocean.

The six enemies such as lust and greed are pirates that intimidate me. And if I think there is refuge on some shore, then knowledge and ritualistic religion are two thugs that beat me up and throw me back into the water. At such a time, Krishna, you are the only one who is powerful and compassionate enough to save me.

Bhaktivinoda prays, “O merciful one! I am your eternal servant, but somehow I have forgotten this and become bound in ropes of illusion. Take this fallen servant of yours and make him a speck of dust at your feet. Give me refuge there.”

—o)0(o—

(6)

The external signs of success in devotional practice.


This verse and the next one reflect the importance Gaudiya Vaishnavas give on ecstasies as a concrete and objective sign of spiritual success. Krishna Das once again only singles out dainya as the predominanting mood.

nayanaṁ galad-aśru-dhārayā
vadanaṁ gadgada-ruddhayā girā
pulakair nicitaṁ vapuḥ kadā,
tava nāma-grahaṇe bhaviṣyati
When will my eyes be filled with tears
my throat block with a faltering voice
and all the hairs on my body stand erect
as I chant your holy name? (23)

Krishna Das Kaviraj’s translation

prema-dhana vinā vyartha daridra jīvana
dāsa kari betana more deha prema-dhana
Without love for Krishna, my life is trivial and without meaning. Therefore I pray that you make me your servant and pay me in the coin of ecstatic love for you. (CC 3.20.37)

Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s song in Gītāvalī:
Due to offenses, my heart has become hard as a thunderbolt. Therefore no ecstatic transformations take place when I chant your name. I have become desperate, O Lord, and so again and again I call out your name as loud as I can.

O most merciful treasure house of compassion! Give me a few drops of feeling for you and save my life.

When will my eyes flood with torrents of tears as I utter your names? When will my throat block the words I try to pronounce, only allowing me to utter incomplete sounds?

When will my entire body be covered with goose bumps, and when will I perspire, tremble or become motionless? When will I lose color and even faint, remaining alive only by the grace of the holy name?

When will the day come when all these symptoms manifest? Bhaktivinoda cries out this prayer, losing all composure.

—o)0(o—

(7)

Prema is first experienced in separation


Continuing the theme of ecstasies begun in the previous verse, the element of separation is added as the principal trigger to such ecstasy. The awareness of the incredible gulf of difference between the divine ideal and the human reality are felt so acutely that the soul’s night appears unbearably and irredeemably dark. The allegory of love here becomes dominant and for the first time in the Śikṣāṣṭakam we start to get overtones of the erotic love of Radharani after Krishna has left the cowherd village for Mathura. This is indeed the context where Rupa Goswami places this verse in the Padyāvali.

Krishna Das observes this change of context with the word rasāntarāveśe. The overriding mood of dainya continues to be present, but with the addition of viṣāda (remorse) and udvega (anxiety). (24)

yugāyitaṁ nimeṣeṇa
cakṣuṣā prāvṛṣāyitam
śūnyāyitaṁ jagat sarvaṁ
govinda-viraheṇa me
A blink of the eyes has become equal to an age,
my eyes have become like monsoon clouds,
and the entire universe has become void
to me in the absence of Govinda.(25)
Krishna Das Kaviraja’s translation—

udvege divasa nā jāya kṣaṇa haila yuga-sama
varṣāra megha-prāya aśru variṣe nayana
govinda-virahe śūnya haila tribhuvana
tuṣānale poṛe jena nā jāya jīvana
In my suffering, the days seem never to pass. Each moment is as long as an age. Tears pour out of my eyes as though they were clouds in the rainy season. The three worlds have become void in Govinda’s absence. I burn in the fire of separation, and yet I am unable to die. (CC 3.20.40-41)
Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s songs from Gītāvalī: (26)
(1)

What is happening to me as I repeatedly chant the holy names? I have come to understand that I am Krishna’s eternal servant.

I have realized that I am trapped in the bonds of illusion within this material world and am suffering in so many ways due to my separation from Govinda.

This worldly life no longer brings me any pleasure. The only thing I want to know is what I must do in order to see Krishna.

My eyes fill with tears, from which they pour like torrents of rain, like the downpour of the monsoon season.

Every moment seems like a hundred ages. I can no longer tolerate this separation from my Lord.

(2)

Looking in every direction, I see the world as completely empty and this has made me indifferent to life. What should I do? What on earth should I do? I am no longer capable of living.

O residents of Vrindavan! Please grant me life by showing me Radharani’s beloved Lord. Please accept the prayers of Bhaktivinoda and take me with you.

I can no longer bear this separation from Krishna. I think it is only a matter of days before my life abandons me.

(3)

As I sang the names of the Lord, various ecstatic moods have started to rise up inside me. I saw Krishna standing on the bank of the Yamuna, accompanied by the daughter of King Vrishabhanu, playing the flute under the kadamba tree, looking like an actor about to go on stage.

When I saw this Divine Couple, my mind became unsteady and I lost consciousness. I don’t know how long it was, but when I came back to consciousness, I could no longer see them.

(4)

O sakhi ! How can I go on living? A moment has become as long as an age.

My eyes are flowing like the downpours of the rainy season and the world has become a void. In Govinda’s absence, my life airs no longer stay within me. Tell me how can I go on living?

I have become so anxious. Even so, taking shelter of the holy name again, Bhakivinode calls out to the Lord of Radharani: “Please show yourself to me. Please save me, or I am sure to die.”

—o)0(o—

(8)

Total dependence on Krishna


Bhaktivinoda characterizes the last verse as love for Krishna (prema) in union, whereas the previous verse was love in separation. This love is characterized by total dependence, knowing that Krishna is fickle and is not subject to the desires of his devotee, which are always subject to a degree of selfishness, even in the most noble moments. This is the lesson of the rāsa-līlā, where Krishna tells the gopIs that the only way that he can reward them for their love is by playing with their sentiments through sometimes being present with them and sometimes absent. Their staunch commitment to him throughout it all makes it possible for them to experience the ecstasies of love.

Krishna Das has given the most importance to this verse, giving it a longer introduction and a translation of sixteen tripadi verses. After the transitional verse seven, the transformation of Chaitanya into an incarnation of Radha’s love has become complete and the voice of the mortal aspirant for devotion most clearly expressed in verse five has been totally subsumed in that of Radha. Krishna Das’s introduction is as follows:
“Krishna has absented himself in order to test you. Just ignore him,” say the sakhis. The pure-hearted Radha thinks this suggestion over and her natural love for Krishna wells up. Jealousy, eager hope, humility, boldness and modest supplication all welled up in her simultaneously, causing her to lose composure. Finally, she spoke a verse in which mature self-confidence (prauḍhi) dominated.”

āśliṣya vā pāda-ratāṁ pinaṣṭu mām
adarśanān marma-hatāṁ karotu vā
yathā tathā vā vidadhātu lampaṭo
mat-prāṇa-nāthas tu sa eva nāparaḥ
Krishna is a debauchee, who may tightly embrace me, who am devoted to his lotus feet, or who may torment my heart by never appearing before me. Whatever he decides to do with me, he is the lord of my life and I will have no other. (Śikṣāṣṭakam, 8) (27)
Krishna Das Kaviraj’s translation :

āmi kṛṣṇa-pada-dāsī teṅho rasa-sukha-rāśi
āliṅgiyā kare ātma-sātha
kibā nā deya daraśana jārena mora tanu-mana
tabu teṅho mora prāṇa-nātha
I am Krishna’s maidservant and he is the storehouse of all joy. Whether he should embrace me and make me his own or not allow me to see him and cause my body and mind to suffer, he is still the only lord of my life. (CC 3.20.48)
Krishna Das’ expanded translation:
My dear friend, please hear what I have decided: Whether Krishna returns my love, or whether he makes me so unhappy that I die, he alone is the lord of my life.

Sometimes, when he leaves all his other women and gives himself to me, body and mind, Krishna makes me feel like the most fortunate woman in the world. At those times, he makes all the others suffer by showing off to them while dallying with me.

Then, at other times, that unfaithful cheater, that shameless rascal womanizer goes off with his other girlfriends and dallies with them right in front of my eyes. Even so, he is still my only love.

I don’t mind the pain he gives me. All that concerns me is his pleasure. My greatest joy is to see Krishna happy. If that happiness comes at the expense of my suffering, it still gives me joy. That pain is my greatest pleasure.

If Krishna is attracted by another woman, lusting for her beauty, and feels unhappy because she is unattainable, then I fall down at that woman’s feet, take her by the hand to Krishna’s side and make him happy by having them enjoy together.

Sometimes Krishna gets pleasure when his mistresses are angry with him. he enjoys being chastized and told off. When it is fitting, I get angry with Krishna, knowing that he enjoys it, but he can always always appease me without much effort.

The woman who continues to be uncompromisingly angry with Krishna when she knows that it gives him pain is living in vain. She thinks that her own pleasure is the goal. May a thunderbolt strike her dead! All I want is to see Krishna satisfied.

If a gopi is envious of me, but satisfies Krishna and Krishna desires her, I do not hesitate to go to her house and become her slave. That indeed will bring me the greatest happiness. The wife of a Brahmin suffering from leprosy proved to be the most chaste of all women by serving a prostitute in order to please her husband. She thus stopped the movement of the sun, brought her dead husband back to life and satisfied the three principal gods--Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

Krishna is my life and soul. Krishna is the treasure of my life. Krishna is the very life of my life. I cherish him always in my heart and try to please him by rendering service. That is my constant meditation.

My happiness comes of serving Krishna, whereas his pleasure is in union with me. So, I give him my body. He makes me his mistress and calls me his divine goddess; I, however, think of myself as his slave.

Service to my lover is the essence of happiness and is even more pleasurable than union itself. The goddess of fortune herself is witness to this, for although she dwells on Lord Narayan’s chest, her mind is always on her service to his lotus feet. She thus serves him as a maidservant.

Gauranga relished these words spoken by Radha, which show the characteristics of the purest love for Krishna. In his ecstasy, the Lord lost his composure and various transformations spread throughout his entire body so that he became completely unsettled in body and mind.

The pure devotional service in Vrindavan is like the gold nuggets found in the Jambu River. There is not a trace of personal sense gratification in Vrindavan. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu wrote this sloka to announce this purest love to the world and I have here explained in Bengali verse. (Caitanya-caritāmṛta 3.20.49-62)
Bhaktivinoda’s translation (28)

(1)

My friends! Listen to my words: When I am immersed in meditation, then the thief of my heart appears to me.

But if I think I will be clever and find a way to see him, he always disappears. When this happens, my heart screams in pain and my misery knows no limits.

Sometimes the Friend of the Universe takes me with him, but whatever he decides to do with me, he remains the master of my life.

He is the treasure of my life, whether he bestows on me the joy of his vision, brings happiness into my life by whispering loving words to me, or whether he sets fire to my heart by remaining invisible, and thus threatens to put an end to my life.

My happiness is in what brings him happiness. I am indifferent to my own pleasure or pain.

Bhaktivinoda declares: In union or in separation, Krishna is the lord of my life. My joy is in his happiness. He is mine and is never a distant stranger.
(2)
In the centre of the Vrindavan forest is the heart of the divine world, the Yoga Pitha. There Krishna sits with Radha, surrounded by the eight sakhIs, playing his flute and enchanting the world with his beauty. My life is at his feet.

ī serve the Divine Couple on the orders of the sakhīs, and I think of myself as a maidservant, whose destiny is in their hands.

Sometimes they take me by the hand and speak sweet, compassionate words. They take the tambula I offer them and they wear the garlands I have strung.

Then sometimes they play a trick on me and disappear. Not seeing the two of them, my heart burns to a cinder.

But wherever they are—in or out of my presence—I am their maidservant. In union I feel joy, in separation pain, but that is all the same to me.

Radha and Krishna are my life and soul, in life or in death. They can keep me or kill me, as long as they are happy.

I, Bhaktivinoda, know nothing other than this. I fall down at the sakhī’s feet and declare that I want nothing but to be a member of Radharani’s group and to render service to the Divine Couple.
—o)0(o—

Thus, success in spiritual life is achieved in a stable identification relative to the Other. It is not one’s identity in this world that counts, no matter how prestigious or successful. Though Krishna Das did not choose to include it in the Śikṣāṣṭakam, the one other verse that can be attributed to Chaitanya with some assurance, confirms this very conclusion:

nāhaṁ vipro na ca narapatir nāpi vaiśyo na śūdro
nāhaṁ varṇī na ca gṛhapatir no vanastho yatir vā |
kintu prodyan-nikhila-paramānanda-pūrṇāmṛtābdher
gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ ||
I am not a Brahmin, nor am I a Kshatriya;
Not a Vaishya, nor a Shudra am I.
I am neither brahmachari, nor householder, nor retiree,
nor am I a monk who has renounced the world.

Instead, I make this claim: I am a servant to the servant
to the servant of the lotus feet of Lord Krishna,
who is the lover of the gopis,
the overflowing ocean of nectar
and the only source of supreme and immortal joy.

NOTES

(1) Caitanya-candrodaya 1.13-14: pāripārśvikaḥ: bhāva ! kiṁ teneha tene hariṇā svābhimata-mata-vyāñjako granthaḥ ? sūtradhāraḥ: yadyapi ko na veda veda-kartṛtvaṁ bhagavatas tathāpi khalv antaryāmI yām Ihate preraṇām | na khalu sā bāhyopadeśato deśato vā kālataś ca paricchinnā bhavitum arhati | The answer to the direct question whether Chaitanya wrote anything is to say that he inspired others to do so, and that this is how he (i.e. God) composed the Vedas.

(2) S.K.De “Doubtful works ascribed to Chaitanya.” Indian Historical Quarterly, 1934, 310-317.

(3) (ed.) Krishnadas Babaji. Kusuma Sarovara, n.d.

(4) Cf. Sādhana-dīpikā, Saptama-kakṣā, where it is said that Gadadhar Pandit was the true author and that Chaitanya appropriated it as a token of his appreciation of it.

(5) The one exception is Padyāvali 74, which is also quoted in Caitanya-caritāmṛta, 2.13.80.

(6) Verses 1-2, nāma-māhātmyam (22,31); verse 3, nāma-kīrtanam (32); verse 4 and 6, sotkaṇṭhā-prārthanā (94, 93); verse 5, dainyoktiḥ (71); verse 6, sotkaṇṭhā-prārthanā (93), verses 7-8, harer mathurā-praveśe (324, 337).

(7) Outside the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, the quotation history of the eight verses in the early Gaudiya literature is also rather limited. Verse 3 is quoted in Jiva Goswami’s Bhakti-sandarbha (269) and verse 8 in Rupa Goswami’s Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, 13.79, where it plays a rather minor role as an example of the vyabhichāri-bhāva, mati. Nor did second generation Vaishnava authors show much interest in these verses, being more preoccupied with aspects of Radha Krishna mythology than with fundamentals. Nor did the verses seem to form a significant part of the early doxology, which was dominated by Bengali hymns rather than Sanskrit.

(8) Śrī-Caitanya-śikṣāṣṭakam, 4.

(9) Caitanya-caritāmṛta 3.20.1.

(10)
ādau śraddhā tataḥ sādhu-saṅgo’tha bhajana-kriyā
tato’nartha-nivṛttiḥ syāt tato niṣṭhā rucis tataḥ
tathāsaktis tato bhāvas tataḥ premābhyudañcati
sādhakānām ayaṁ premṇaḥ prādurbhāvaḥ bhavet kramaḥ
“The progressive development of prema goes through the steps of faith, association with the saintly, undertaking devotional practice, the dissipation of contamination in the consciousness, firm commitment, relish, attachment, deep emotion and then ecstatic love.” (BRS 1.4.14-15)
Bhaktivinoda divides these as follows: (1) śraddhā, (2) sādhu-saṅga, bhajana-kriyā and anartha-nivṛtti; (3) niṣṭhā; (4) ruci (5) āsakti, (6) bhāva; (7) prema in separation, and (8) prema in union. This schema reveals clearly that Bhaktivinoda’s preoccupation here was not to provide an elementary summary of Vaishnava theology, but to explore the higher reaches of devotional experience.

(11)
satāṁ kṛpā mahat-sevā śraddhā guru-padāśrayaḥ
bhajaneṣu spṛhā bhaktir anarthāpagamas tataḥ
niṣṭhā rucir athāsaktī ratiḥ premātha darśanam
harer mādhuryānubhava ity arthāḥ syuś caturdaśe
(1) One first receives the blessings of a devotee; (2) one then engages in service to such a great soul (mahat-sevā); (3) one develops faith; (4) one takes shelter of a spiritual master in initiation; (5) one begins trying to perfect the performance of devotional practices; (6) one starts to experience devotion; and (7) one’s anarthas begin to disappear. Next one proceeds through the stages of (8) steadfastness in devotional practice (niṣṭhā), (9) taste (ruci), (10) attachment (āsakti), and (11) bhāva. Then one comes to (12) the stage of ecstatic love (prema), followed by (13) the direct vision of the Lord, and (14) a full experience of the Lord’s sweetness.

(12) Caitanya-caritāmṛta 3.20.10. Bhāgavata 11.5.32.

(13) The words vidyā-vadhū-jīvanam literally mean “the husband of knowledge,” the husband being the “life” of the wife; i.e., that which is served or followed by knowledge.

(14) Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati builds on the analogy of the sacrifice by likening the seven actions of the Name given in this verse to the seven-tongued sacrificial fire. (Cf. Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 1.2.4 and Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, 2.92ff.)

(15) Krishna Das has not attempted to follow the verse exactly, so there is no one to one correspondence to the Sanskrit verse. In verse 11, he names three most important results that come from chanting: the destruction of anarthas or sin, the manifestation of all auspiciousness (sarva-śubhodaya) and the joy of love for Krishna.

(16) These are the second and third of the vyabhicāri-bhāvas, described in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 2.4.14-20 and 21-25 respectively.

(17) Elsewhere Bhaktivinoda clearly states daśa aparādha āmāra durdaiva “The ten offences are my misfortune.” (Śaraṇāgati, 8) This verse thus provides the opportunity for discussing the ten offenses, which are breaches in orthodoxy and ethical norms, which seemingly contradict the liberal tenor of the verse. The next two verses, however, do to some extent confirm the paradox. There is a quid pro quo—God freely gives his benedictions and mercy, but requires that his devotee become transformed into his image.

(18) Caitanya-caritāmṛta 3.20.19.

(19) The two words kavitāṁ sundarīṁ have given rise to different interpretations, since sundarī could either be an adjective describing kavitā, or a noun meaning “beautiful woman.” The latter seems more likely, as that is the way the Krishna Das appears to be taking it in his translation. The absence of a fourth na to separate these two is the basis of the argument for seeing them as a single item. However, the desires for worldly gain, fame and sex are so customarily joined as pitfalls on the spiritual path that it seems unlikely for this third choice to be left behind here. Kavitā can mean either poetry or wisdom. Poetry is an unusual object of desire, though a possible one. Liberation, the customary consequence of wisdom in Indian philosophy, is generally the fourth pitfall and likely the one being intended here also.

(20) Caitanya-caritāmṛta 3.20.29.

(21) Bhaktivinoda has generally used Krishna Das’s translations in Bhajana-rahasya. This is an exception.

(22) Caitanya-caritāmṛta 3.20.32.

(23) Padyāvali 93; Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.20.36.

(24) Udvega is not usually listed amongst the 33 vyabhicāri-bhāvas, but is specifically used to designate one of the ten states of separation, of which it is the second, i.e., an early stage. The last of these ten stages is death, the danger of which always seems to be present in the darkest moments of separation, allusions of which are brought out more fully in Bhaktivinoda’s Bengali version of the verse below.

(25) Padyāvalī 324; Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.20.39.

(26) Though there is only one signature verse, the following song is unusual in the realm of Vaishnava padāvalī in that it improvises along four different themes arising from the Śikṣāṣṭakam verse. They describe the passage from sādhaka-deha to siddha-deha, i.e., from the aspirant’s external consciousness of his worldly situation to an inner consciousness shaped by the mythical realities of Vrindavan.

(27) Caitanya-caritāmṛta 3.20.48.

(28) Once again, Bhaktivinoda has given two interpretations of the verse, appropriate to two differing attitudes (adhikāra-bheda).



12 comments:

Anonymous said...

The practice of दम (Dama), त्याग (Tyāga)and अप्रमाद (Apramāda) polishes the mirror to perfection - to see the true light of one's own reflection.

M.N.


Nilotpal Ghosal said...

for extra knowledge about sri Radha Krishna visit this website:- sriradhakrishnabhakti.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

How do you reconcile "na sundarim" with sahajiyism

Jagadananda Das said...

Sundarim is in apposition to kavitAm, i.e., its adjective and there is no fourth na to indicate that it is a separate item.

But even if we were to take it as a separate item, the purpose of Sahajiyaism is not different from prema bhakti. Beauty that is separate from Krishna is not the goal.

Jagadananda Das said...

We believe in the efficacy of God's name more than in the power of our own practices. Bhakti is about the descent of grace.

Anonymous said...

Jagadananda Das said: We believe in the efficacy of God's name more than in the power of our own practices. Bhakti is about the descent of grace.

M. N. replied: My person knows not the descent of grace (the effect) by bhakti (the cause) to God's name.

You speak the truth Jagananda Das, bhakti to God's name is a valid vehicle to the descent of grace; bhakti to God's name is also a practice in its own right (a practice which takes a life time to complete).

The vehicle of a Kaula's grace is direct union with the nameless one, the primordial being (the one before all others). Undivided, in original form of the light-body as pure consciousness, the Kaula cross over the threshold of life-and-death into the nothing to become as one with the true Guru (THE light which dispels all darkness).

Anonymous said...


Although, as one knows full well, to a practicing Sahajiya, bhakti is not quite the full story to the descent of grace.

Whilst rummaging around looking for a little more information on the subject, one came across a short overview; which readers may wish to gain a nodding acquaintance with the following text:

"Sahajiyās", an entry in Brill's Encyclopaedia Of Hinduism, vol. 3 (2011) - Pages 507-513.

http://www.academia.edu/13187835/Sahajiy%C4%81s_an_entry_in_Brills_Encyclopedia_Of_Hinduism_vol._3_2011_507-513

As a Kaula, reading about the akṣayasarovara (page 511) was especially interesting; although the author has not realised (page 512) that the perfect prema, the stainless and pure spiritual love that bonds Rādhā and Krsna is by the uniting both masculine and feminine of the self within the self (by breath) and piercing the skull in this union to impregnate the void with the spurting seed of this union.

No physical (external) partner is required for this practice, it is purely tantric (a phallus of energy raised above the skull).

M. N.

Jagadananda Das said...

As a Vaishnava, I consider the affective aspect of spiritual life to be the most important. The practices of yoga are complementary. Tantrics and Sahajiyas often tend to look at the "partner" as a mechanical accoutrement, but we are interested in the love. Love is the primary means and the goal.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jagadananda Das,

Yes, it is exactly the same for the Kaula, love is the means and the goal; there really is only love, love eternal. It is only in this love of truth that one goes forward into the light.

The partner is not a mechanistic appendage, but part of the whole - Man is not a machine.

In truth, we are not machines!

M. N.

Anonymous said...


In regard to "ei dehe-i Vrindavan", one came across an interesting text entitled:

The Place of Devotion: Siting and Experiencing Divinity in Bengal-Vaishnavism.

Download:

http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CC8QFjABahUKEwiVhce2lN3HAhVDaRQKHQq-Ac4&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.luminosoa.org%2Fsite%2Fbooks%2Fdownload%2F2%2F254%2Fplace-of-devotion%2F&usg=AFQjCNG2fVX5g1LpVNNjuZf_Ul2bWHvsgQ

As a Vaishnava Jagadananda Das, is this a valid text worthy of study?

Anonymous said...

Sister's of mercy:

tathä ca mahä kaurme
agni-puträ mahätmänas tapasä strétvam äpire |
bhartäraïca jagad-yonià väsudevam ajaà vibhum || 304 ||

See page 146:

http://gaudiyahistory.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Rupa_Goswami_Bhakti_rasamrta_sindhu_Bon_Maharaja.pdf

Anonymous said...

You are a beautiful Rasa Siddha Jagadananda Das.