Ten Characteristics of Lord Caitanya’s Mercy
Gauranga Darshan Das
The devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa become ecstatic and extremely joyful by rendering loving devotional service unto Him. Once Kṛṣṇa Himself became desirous of experiencing their happiness. So, He concluded that unless He adopts the moodof a devotee, He cannot experience the happiness of a devotee. The topmost devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa is Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī. So, Lord Kṛṣṇa has accepted the emotion and complexion of Rādhārāṇī and became Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
Lord Caitanya is Kṛṣṇa Himself but in the form and mood of a devotee. By becoming a devotee, the Lord personally performed bhakti-yogaand taught it to thehumanity. A devotee is more merciful than the Lord. Thus, in the form of Lord Caitanya, Lord Kṛṣṇa is most merciful (mahā-vadānya) even towards the most sinful people. While Kṛṣṇa killed unscrupulous people, Lord Caitanya transformed them.He bestowednāma (holy name of God) and prema (love of God) even to the most fallen, and no other incarnation exhibits such a high level of causeless mercy.
Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī, one of the most confidential associates of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, offered a prayer to the Lord when he met Him first time at Jagannātha Purī. In that prayer, He described ten characteristics of Lord Caitanya’s divine mercy as follows:
heloddhūnita-khedayā viśadayā pronmīlad-āmodayā
śāmyac-chāstra-vivādayā rasa-dayā cittārpitonmādayā
śaśvad-bhakti-vinodayā sa-madayā mādhurya-maryādayā
śrī-caitanya dayā-nidhe tava dayā bhūyād amandodayā
(CC Madhya 10.119, Śrī Caitanya-candrodaya-nāṭaka8.10)
Let there be Lord Caitanya’s Mercy (śrī-caitanya dayā-nidhe tava dayā bhūyād) which –
- helā uddhūnita khedayā—drives away material lamentation
- viśadayā—purifies everything
- pronmīlat āmodayā—awakens transcendental bliss
- śāmyat śāstra vivādayā—mitigates the disagreements of scriptures
- rasa-dayā—distributes all transcendental mellows
- citta arpita unmādayā—causes jubilation of heart
- śaśvat bhakti vinodayā—always stimulates devotional service
- sa-madayā—along with full ecstasy and joy
- mādhurya maryādayā—glorifies the limit of conjugal love
- amanda udayā—an awakening of good fortune
The following is a short description of the above ten aspects of Lord Caitanya’s divine mercy.
1. Drives Away Lamentation
One of the characteristics of bhaktiis kleśāghni, i.e., pure devotional service drives away all miseries (kleśas). Lord Caitanya appeared to teach everyone the process of bhakti-yoga. Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, a scholarly devotee of Lord Caitanya praises Him as follows in his Śacīsutāṣṭakam:
“He is always removing the suffering of material existence for mankind. He is the goal of life for persons who are dedicated to their supreme interest. He inspires men to become like honeybees (eager for the honey of kṛṣṇa-prema). He removes the burning fever of the material world. I bow down to Gaura, the beautiful Son of Mother Śacī.”
Once a great brāhmaṇa named Vāsudeva was suffering from leprosy. His body was filled with living worms and as soon as one would fall from his body, he would pick it up and place it back again in the same location. Hearing that Lord Caitanya had come to a place called Kūrma-kṣetra, Vāsudeva came to see Him at the house of Kūrma brāhmaṇa. However, Lord Caitanya had already left and Vāsudeva fell to the ground unconscious. When Vāsudeva was thus lamenting since he was not able to see Lord Caitanya, the Lord immediately came to that spot and embraced him. Thus, both his leprosy and distress went away and his body became beautiful. Vāsudeva prayed, “O merciful Lord, such mercy exists not in the ordinary jīvas, but only in You. Upon seeing me, even a sinful person goes away due to my bad bodily odor. Yet You have touched me. Such is the independent behavior of the Supreme Lord.” Lord Caitanya, being very compassionate toward Vāsudeva, cured him of leprosy and transformed him into a beautiful man satisfied with devotional service. Thus, He became known as Vāsudevāmṛta-prada.
2. Purifies Everything
The next facet of Lord Caitanya’s mercy isviśadayā, it purifies everything.Lord Caitanya showed the ultimate method of purifying oneself to the people in Kali-yuga by inaugurating the process of chanting the holy names of the Kṛṣṇa. Ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanam – by chanting Kṛṣṇa’s names the mirror of one’s heart is cleansed.
Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura sings the glories of Lord Caitanya: patita-pāvana-hetu tava avatāra: “O my Lord, You have appeared just to deliver all the fallen souls.” Mo-sama patita prabhu nā pāibe āra: “And among all the fallen souls, I am the lowest.” Thus, one who seeks purification and upliftment from one’s fallen condition must take shelter of Lord Caitanya.
ku-manāḥ su-manastvaṁ hi yāti yasya padābjayoḥ
su-mano-’rpaṇa-mātreṇa taṁ caitanya-prabhuṁ bhaje
In the above verse, Kavirāja Gosvāmī glorifies Lord Caitanya as one who purifies the most impure minded ardent materialists into pure-minded devotees even if they just offer a flower at His lotus feet (CCĀdi 15.1).
3. Awakens Transcendental Bliss
Another aspect of Lord Caitanya’s mercy is pronmīlat āmodayā– it awakens transcendental bliss. Lord Caitanya, along with His associates, performed saṅkīrtanaor the congregational chanting of the holy names of Kṛṣṇa, and plundered the storehouse of love of Godhead and distributed its contents to everyone indiscriminately. Loving devotion to Śrī Kṛṣṇa is achieved through saṅkīrtana, which is the essence of all bliss (nāma-saṅkīrtana—saba ānanda-svarūpa, CC Ādi 1.96)
kṛṣṇa-nāme ye ānanda-sindhu-āsvādana
brahmānanda tāra āge khātodaka-sama
“Compared to the ocean of transcendental bliss that one tastes by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, the pleasure derived from impersonal Brahman realization [brahmānanda] is like the shallow water in a canal.” (CC Ādi 7.97)
During His South India tour, Lord Caitanya met various people and delivered them by inducing them to chant the holy names of Kṛṣṇa in bliss. When such people who became devotees meet other people, they induce them also to chant in ecstasy. Thus, thousands and thousands of people blissfully chanted the holy names of Kṛṣṇa by the mercy of Lord Caitanya.
4. Mitigates Disagreements of Scriptures
Another wonderful feature of Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mercy is śāmyat śāstra vivādayā– it mitigates the disagreements of scriptures. The scriptures sometimes present abheda-vākyas, or statements affirming that all things are one with God, being His dependent expansions. The scriptures also contain many bheda-vākyas, or statements that affirm the unique, distinguishing qualities of the Supreme Lord, different from His expansions or energies. Thus, some Upaniṣadic mantrasemphasize the sameness of God and His creation, while others speak about their difference.
Different philosophers consider these statements according to their own conceptions. The impersonalists read the abheda-vākyasliterally and accept the bheda-vākyasonly in a figurative way. On the other hand, some philosophers emphasize only the bheda-vākyasand explain that the Supreme Lord is totally different from the creation and the living entities.
Reconciling these apparent contradictions in the scriptural statements, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu propounded the acintya-bhedābheda-tattva,the simultaneous oneness and difference between the Lord and His energies which is inconceivable. The Supreme Lord is the energetic person and from Him emanate all His energies that include the creation and the living entities. Without the energetic person, there is no existence for theenergy. Without energy, there is no meaning for ‘an energetic person.’ Thus, the energy and energetic are one. Yet they exist separately. And this is inconceivable to a common man.
Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, “We are all one with Him [Supreme Lord], just as the gold ornaments are one in quality with the stock gold, but the individual gold ornament is never equal in quantity with the stock gold. The stock gold is never exhausted even if innumerable ornaments are emanating from the stock because the stock ispūrṇam, complete; even if pūrṇamis deducted from the pūrṇam, still the supremepūrṇamremains the samepūrṇam. This fact is inconceivable to our present imperfect senses. Lord Caitanya, therefore, defined His theory of philosophy asacintya(inconceivable), and as confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītāas well as in the Bhāgavatam, Lord Caitanya’s theory of acintya-bhedābheda-tattvais the perfect philosophy of the Absolute Truth.” (SB 2.6.16 Purport)
5. Distributes Transcendental Mellows
Caitanya Mahāprabhu, out of His causeless mercy descended to distribute the transcendental mellows (rasa dayā) to the people in this world. Thus, Kavirāja Gosvāmī prayed as follows:
anarpita-carīṁ cirāt karuṇayāvatīrṇaḥ kalau
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasāṁ sva-bhakti-śriyam
“Lord Caitanya has appeared in the Age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow what no incarnation has ever offered before: the most sublime and radiant mellow of devotional service, the mellow of conjugal love.” (CC Ādi 1.4)
Before the creation of this cosmic manifestation, the Supreme Lord enlightened the heart of Lord Brahmā with the details of the creation and manifested the Vedic knowledge. In exactlythe same way, Lord Caitanya, being anxious to revive the lost Vṛndāvana pastimes of Lord Kṛṣṇa (rasa-kelis), impregnated the heart of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī with spiritual potency. By this potency, Rūpa Gosvāmī could revive the Kṛṣṇa’s Vṛndāvana pastimes, that were almost lost to memory. In this way, He spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness throughout the world. (CC Madhya 19.1)
kālena luptāṁ nija-śaktim utkaḥ
sañcārya rūpe vyatanot punaḥ sa
prabhur vidhau prāg iva loka-sṛṣṭim
At Prayāga, Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu gave His teachings to Rūpa Gosvāmi on the process of devotional service and the knowledge of primary and secondary rasas, or transcendental mellows in one’s relationship with Kṛṣṇa, along with their symptoms. At Vārāṇasī, Lord Caitanya gave His more elaborate teachings to Sanātana Gosvāmī enlightening him on various rasasapart from various other aspects of bhakti. Thus, Lord Caitanya distributed the knowledge of rasasto this world through Rūpa and Sanātana Gosvāmīs, who further explained them by writing devotional scriptures.
6. Causes Jubilation of Heart
Lord Caitanya’s mercy also causes jubilation of heart (citta arpita unmādayā). Hearing all His activities filled with compassion and affection causes the greatest happiness to the hearer. Thus, Kavirāja Gosvāmī urges the readers of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, the description of the merciful activities of Lord Caitanya, to study and hear it with great attention to attain jubilation:
śrūyatāṁ śrūyatāṁ nityaṁ gīyatāṁ gīyatāṁ mudā
cintyatāṁ cintyatāṁ bhaktāś caitanya-caritāmṛtam
“O devotees, may the transcendental life and characteristics of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu always be heard, chanted and meditated upon with great happiness.” (CC Antya 12.1)
7. Always Stimulates Devotional Service
Lord Caitanya’s mercy always stimulates devotional service (śaśvat bhakti vinodayā) in the hearts of those who come in contact with Him. Every living entity has an eternal relationship with the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa. However, due to the covering of māyā, or the illusory energy, the conditioned soul has forgotten that relationship. By the performance of bhakti-yoga,one can revive that relation. And Lord Caitanya mercifully descended to teach bhakti-yogaby which one identifies oneself as an eternal servant of Lord Kṛṣṇa and acts accordingly. Thus, Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya extols Him as follows:
śikṣārtham ekaḥ puruṣaḥ purāṇaḥ
kṛpāmbudhir yas tam ahaṁ prapadye
“Let me take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who has descended in the form of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu to teach us real knowledge, His devotional service, and detachment from whatever does not foster Kṛṣṇa consciousness. He has descended because He is an ocean of transcendental mercy. Let me surrender unto His lotus feet.” (CC Madhya 6.254)
Lord Caitanya also preached bhakti, especially that which is performed following in the footsteps of Vraja-vāsīs, through the gosvāmīs (vrajera nigṻḍha bhakti karila pracāra). When Lord Caitanya met His devotees or bade them farewell, He fervently urged them to perform devotional service unto Kṛṣṇa, which includes chanting His names and worshiping Him.
8. Bestows Full Ecstasy and Joy
As Lord Caitanya stimulates devotional service in the heart of a suffering conditioned soul in this world, He simultaneously bestows the ecstasy and joy (sa-madayā) that accompanies bhakti. The conditioned living entity artificially identifies oneself as the master, enjoyer, controller, and proprietor in this world. However, by Lord Caitanya’s mercy, one can give up such false identity by performingkṛṣṇa-bhakti.Being a loving servant of Kṛṣṇa is the original constitutional position of every living entity as Lord Caitanya Himself taught: jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya—kṛṣṇera ‘nitya-dāsa’(CC Madhya 20.108). A drop of the joy and ecstasy of serving Kṛṣṇa cannot be compared to an ocean of happiness that one gets by merging into the impersonal Brahman (CC Ādi 6.44). Lord Caitanya Himself tastes the nectar of kṛṣṇa-premaand inspires others also to taste the same:
vande śrī-kṛṣṇa-caitanyaṁ kṛṣṇa-bhāvāmṛtaṁ hi yaḥ
āsvādyāsvādayan bhaktān prema-dīkṣām aśikṣayat
“Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who personally tasted the nectar of ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa and then instructed His devotees how to taste it. Thus He enlightened them about ecstatic love of Kṛṣṇa to initiate them into transcendental knowledge.” (CC Antya 16.1)
9. Glorifies the Limit of Conjugal Love
Another aspect of Lord Caitanya’s mercy is mādhurya maryādayā, glorifying the limit of conjugal love. There are five primary rasasin connection with Lord Kṛṣna, namelyśānta(neutrality), dāsya(servitorship), sākhya(friendship), vātsalya(fraternity) and mādhurya(conjugal love). By an unbiased comparison, one finds that mādhurya rasais the topmost. And Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is the epitome of all the devotees in mādhurya rasa. Even Kṛṣṇa desires to understand the greatness of Her love and experience the happiness that She obtains by serving Kṛṣṇa. Thus, Kṛṣṇa descended as Lord Caitanya accepting the mood of Rādhārāṇī.
The very appearance of Lord Caitanya with the emotions of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is the greatest testimonial of conjugal rasa. During His discussions with Rāmānanda Rāya (in Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya-līlāchapter 8), Lord Caitanya established the supremacy of mādhurya rasathrough the words of Rāmānanda Rāya. Lord Caitanya taught that the greatest aspiration or attainable goal (sādhya) for a Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava is to worship Kṣṛṇa following in the footsteps of the Vraja-gopīs, because there is no mode of worship better than theirs (ramyā kācid upāsanā vraja-vadhū-vargeṇa yā kalpitā). In His manifest pastimes, especially in the last eighteen years of His stay at Jagannātha Purī, Lord Caitanya was constantly absorbed in the mood of the gopīsand experienced ecstatic feelings of separation from Kṛṣṇa. Thus, He declared to the whole world the glory of the gopīsof Vṛndāvana, the topmost devotees of Kṛṣṇa in mādhuryafeelings.
10. Awakens Good Fortune
Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī mentions that final feature of Lord Caitanya’s mercy as amanda udayā, itawakens all good fortune. Through His teachings, activities, and interactions, Lord Caitanya mercifully awakens the greatest fortune in the lives of the devotees. Towards the end of His manifest pastimes, Lord Caitanya toldSvarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī and Rāmānanda Rāya, “Simply by chanting the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa, one can be freed from all undesirable habits. This is the means of awakening all good fortune and initiating the flow of waves of love for Kṛṣṇa. (CC Antya 20.11).”
nāma-saṅkīrtana haite sarvānartha-nāśa
sarva-śubhodaya, kṛṣṇa-premera ullāsa
The Most Merciful Lord
Thus, Lord Caitanya’s appearance and activities are filled with unparalleled mercy upon the living entities in this world – intelligent, foolish, high-born, low-born, men, women, children, or even non-human species. Lord Caitanya bestowed His mercy upon the animals also in Jharikhaṇḍ forest and made them chant Kṛṣṇa’s names in ecstasy. Lord Caitanya’s supreme mercy acts as the supreme benediction upon the people in this world at various levels – from delivering them from the sufferings of material existence to making them experience the transcendental jubilation of the love of Kṛṣṇa. And this mercy is like a nectarean river flowing downstream and accessible even to the most fallen sinful people in this world (CC Ādi 16.1).Thus, Kavirāja Gosvāmi urges the readers of Caitanya-caritāmṛta to use their logic and reasoning to understand the mercy of Lord Caitanya that is strikingly wonderful (CC Ādi 8.15)
śrī-kṛṣṇa-caitanya-dayā karaha vicāra
vicāra karile citte pābe camatkāra
Gaurāṅga Darśana Dāsa, a disciple of His Holiness Rādhānāth Swami, is the dean of Bhaktivedānta Vidyāpīṭha at ISKCON Govardhan Eco Village (GEV), outside Mumbai, and a member of ISKCON Board of Examinations (BoEx). He is a sastric teacher and is the author of Gītā Subodhinī, Bhāgavata Subodhinī, Caitanya Subodhinī, Disapproved but Not Disowned, Bhāgavata Pravāha and other books.