The 443rd Advent Anniversary of Sri Krishna-Chaitanya
Devotional observances on a grand scale extending over a month in commemoration of the four-hundred and forty-third anniversary of the auspicious advent of the Lord instituted originally about forty years ago by Srila Thakur Bhaktivinode in co-operation with many wise persons who established the worship of Sri Sri Gaursundar and Vishnupriya on the site of the residence of Sri Jagannath Misra which had been identified by Sri Jagannathdas Babaji at Sridham Mayapur, the place of advent of the Supreme Lord, under the auspices of the Sridham Pracharini and Sri Vishwa Vaishnava Raj Sabhas also established by Thakur Bhaktivinode, have been rapidly developed to their present enormous dimensions by the exertions of Paramhansa Maharaj Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, the Organiser-in-Chief of the Gaudiya Mission which has its head-quarters at Sri Chaitanya Math at Sri Mayapur. Hundreds of thousands of devotees hailing from the most distant parts of the country have thus been afforded an opportunity of paying their homage to the holy Birth-site and the Birth-tithi of the merciful Saviour of this Iron Age of strife and discord. It has a great significance for the future of this country and of the world.
The pious observances include the circumambulation, instituted by Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, of the Nine Islands constituting Sridham Navadwip, in a huge procession of the assembled devotees preceded by the congregational chanting of kirtan. The circumambulation is performed in regular stages, as laid down in the works of the former Acharyyas, extending over nine days, one day being devoted to each ‘island’ so as to allow time for a thorough inspection and discussion, under the guidance of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur and the Tridandi Sannyasi Maharajas of Sri Chaitanya Math, of the principal sites hallowed by the transcendental activities of the Lord.
The centre of this comprehensive propaganda work is the Sri Chaitanya Math at Sridham Mayapur, the head-quarters of the Gaudiya Mission, with its newly established University of spiritual learning, its Printing Press and Offices of the Nadiaprakash—the daily Vernacular organ of the Mission and its lofty Temple of Sri Sri Gandharbika Giridhari and Gaursundar with the founder-Acharyyas of the four great traditional Vaishnava-sampradayas, whose twenty-nine staples proudly dominate the whole landscape,—all of it being the visible fruits of the unremitting labours of Srila Paramhansa Thakur and his associates and followers. Sri Chaitanya Math itself stands on the site of the residence of Sri Chandra-Sekher Acharyya at whose house Sri Chaitanya appeared in the role of the Divine Shakti in a dramatic performance, the first of its kind in Bengal and in the Bengali language, staged by the associates of the Lord. A stage for the performance of spiritual dramas is going to be set up at the Chaitanya Math in memory of the event.
The Yogapitha or the house of Sri Jagannath Misra situated at the centre of Sridham Mayapur is of course, the cynosure of all eyes. The jubilations attain their climax just as the full-moon of the month of Falgun begins to climb the eastern horizon, the hour when the Supreme Lord manifested His appearance in this world four hundred and forty three years ago. At the hour of Nativity every inch of the Yogapitha, its spacious yard—‘Sachi’s yard—and the open grounds all round the house with the tree-tops, is occupied by an eager and reverent assemblage of pious devotees hailing from all parts of the country. The function begins with singing in chorus of the narrative of the Birth of the Lord led by the Tridandi Sannyasi Maharajas and Brahmacharis of the Sri Chaitanya Math, every word of which is listened to with wrapt attention by the attending crowd as the Holy Images receive the usual worship. At the conclusion of the function the vast assembly spontaneously prostrates itself at the feet of the new-born Babe. The Neem Tree under which the Lord was born and the lying-in room of Sri Sachi Devi at the foot of the Tree receive the profound homage of all hearts. The whole night is passed in joyous exhortations and in the unstinted distribution of a rich variety of mahaprasad to the assembled people. The devotees now break their fast. The three following days are devoted to the annual general meetings of the Sridham Pracharini and Sri Vishwa-Vaishnava Raj Sabhas, reviewing the past year’s work, in appreciative recognition of services rendered by the workers in furtherance of the wishes of Sri Goursundar and in settling a plan of work for the ensuing year.
All this tangible manifestation of the growth of a mighty system of worship on the abandoned forgotten site of a far away Bengal village in this Age of scepticism and irreligion, is in itself an event of the first magnitude that has already drawn to itself the attention of most people of this country. In this materialistic Age the value of a movement is often measured by its physical magnitude and visible results.
But the externals of an institution may nevertheless fail to convey a proper idea of its internal character. It is this which is the cause of the prejudice that is aroused in many persons by all external manifestations especially in the sphere of religion which is supposed to be particularly an affair of the heart. Such a view, however, makes no allowance for external manifestation that corresponds to the internal character of a movement and which in fact constitutes its necessary, natural and inevitable outward expression which is not less important, or less an integral part of the event, than the internal aspect itself.
The external face of a phenomenon of this world gives no clues of its real nature. Empiric science is a persevering attempt to find out this so-called truth of an event which is hid from our view and which is conceived of as different from the visible part. But as a matter of fact it is never possible to find out the final or true character of any worldly phenomenon by the ‘analysis’ of the external face. Those who are aware of this are necessarily sceptical of the advertised truths of this world. Such liberal-minded people are prepared to accept a revision of all current ideas. This open-mindedness is the true sign of genuine liberalism. They should be able mentally at least to distinguish between the pursuit of their selfish temporary interests and the pursuit of the Truth for its own sake. Those newspapers that identify themselves with the local and limited interests of particular groups or countries necessarily fail to take an unbiased view of the Truth. The devotional functions at Sri Mayapur in connection with the anniversary of the Birth of the Supreme Lord have been noticed in the columns of newspapers representing the different ‘sectarian’ opinions in this country and elsewhere. Their treatment of the subject cannot be expected to shed much light on the super-sectarian, spiritual, or eternal aspect of those events.
A detailed account of devotional activities from the pen of an impartial observer and participant need not be undervalued on the ground that it presents the external as distinguished from the internal or real aspect. Such distinction between the external and internal faces does not exist in any function that is really spiritual. The objection to external manifestation applies only to conduct which bears two differing faces. Those who hold the view that so-called external manifestation is out of place in worshipping the Absolute are reduced to the impossible task of worshipping the non-manifest. The worship of an abstraction of our materialized thought is a most dangerous, because subtle, form of idolatry. It is merely a round-about method of admission of the impossibility of realizing the Nature of the Divine Personality in terms of our mundane experience.
Krishna is the only real Person and the Source of all dependant personality. He transcends the abstract, no less than the concrete, notions of our limited thought. The abstract and the concrete cease to quarrel and are easily and harmoniously accommodated within the ample spiritual realm of the Divine Personality although this may seem impossible and unnatural to our paltry reason. Because Krishna is the Supreme Person (Purusottama) therefore it is possible for our tiny personalities to have any relationships with Him. The so-called personal relationships of this world are the delusive face of this real and only form of personal relationship. Our present pseudo-personal existence has its real fulfilment in the realisation of the nature of the Divine Personality and His relation to our tiny personality. Perfection of love requires exclusive devotion to One Supreme Person by all. There would be no variety in Divine service without the existence of an infinite number of serving individuals.
We need not, therefore, dismiss the manifestation of devotional activities on a grand scale at Sri Mayapur as unworthy of our most serious attention merely by reason of their pompous display which only serves to bring out the manifestation of the Reality on a scale suited to the apprehension of diverse mentalities. That which alone it is worth our while to inquire into in connection with the festivities of the Nativity is how far they are really spiritual, or, in other words, are conducted wholly by persons who are themselves free from all taint of worldly guile and self-seeking and fitted to serve Krishna by complete dedication of themselves to the spiritual service of the Absolute.
But even if the devotees of the Sri Chaitanya Math happen to be real Servants of Krishna in accordance with the Shastric test referred to above it would not be possible, on the assurance of the same high authority, for one who is not himself free from all taint of worldliness by reason of his whole-hearted devotion to Krishna, to recognise their real character. The worldly person is not privileged to have a sight of the real nature of a devotee. A worldly person views other persons as actuated by worldliness. He cannot get rid of this defect till he reforms himself.
There is only one way open to the un-initiated for being able to understand the nature of devotional functions when they manifest themselves in this world. We should be fully prepared to exercise real liberalism of out-look and avoid forming any hasty conclusions till we have actually given a patient and unprejudiced hearing to the party himself. The true method as well as the object of a great movement is properly learnt from those agents who are authorized by the movement itself to speak on its behalf. If the Absolute Truth be given a real hearing It will take the initiative Itself and disclose Its real nature to all sincere souls by removing their doubts and difficulties in course of a patient hearing.
Those who have the opportunity of actually joining in these devotional activities are in a position to realise their proper nature in proportion as they choose to submit to be enlightened by the methods of responsible discussion and sincere co-operation with the devotees. Those who are disposed to take the concrete or abstract materialistic view are likely to benefit least by their experience. Devotion is not an abstraction of worldliness, neither is it worldliness in its unrefined grossness. It is super-mundane or spiritual. It is, however, realisable in this life by the spiritualized understanding which is the reward of serving the devotees. The festivities at Sri Mayapur afford an opportunity to all persons to associate on the closest terms with sincere devotees of Krishna in the performance of devotional acts initiated and controlled by the latter. The factors of time and space have no power over spiritual events although they seem to us to be dominated by the laws of physical Nature when they choose to manifest themselves in this world. But these events although they seem to us to be limited by time and space by reason of the defect of our vision are not, as a matter of fact, really so. The shastras bear testimony to the truth of this contention. The truth becomes clearer by the practice of spiritual activities in the shape of listening to the discourses regarding the Truth from the lips of sadhus and by carrying out the principles of the Truth in practice under the guidance of the sadhus. This is the spiritual apprenticeship and no one can acquire the spiritualised understanding without going through this preliminary training in a sincerely submissive and humbly inquisitive mood.
Even the most casual observer of these festivities, provided he is really un-prejudiced, cannot but be struck with the obvious fact of the wonderful correspondence of the external demonstrations with the internal spirit and the prevalence of a unanimous attitude of active, submissive and willing loyalty, on the part of one and all, to the lead of the organizers that characterizes every detail of these prolonged functions requiring the close co-operation of tens of thousands of persons of both sexes, young and old, infants and children, belonging to all grades of society and hailing from different provinces and countries. Those who have once realised the perfect (not mechanical or forced) conscious internal harmony produced by the universal spirit of unselfish service that pervades the whole of these complicated proceedings from start to finish, cannot lightly ignore the contention that these festivities furnish the effective means of imparting to masses a real experience of the working of a spiritual society and demonstrating to impartial observers the feasibility as well as the desirability of its actual establishment now and here.
The Birth of the Lord, the Time and Place of His appearance, are eternal categories. The celebration of the anniversary of His Advent at Sridham Mayapur by His devotees belongs to the same eternal category and need not be wilfully or maliciously compared with the similar observance of the anniversaries of the birth of the high and mighty heroes of this world. These festivities manifested by the mercy of the Lord possess the power of blessing all who serve them in any way with the faculty of the transcendental vision that alone is privileged to behold them as the lila of the Supreme Lord that is being eternally enacted on the spiritual plane. Such enlightenment is tantamount to the permanent and radical cure of all the ills that flesh is heir to. Those who wilfully and perversely disbelieve these assurances of the holy Scriptures and maliciously or ignorantly oppose, obstruct, condemn or belittle the doings of the servants of Krishna, are punished by the perpetuation of their ignorance and want of faith in the Absolute. The slander of sadhus is an offence that is never pardoned by the Lord. The absolution of such calumniative offence can be obtained only by sincere repentance and humble submission at the feet of those devotees against whom the offence is committed. This law of Krishna, which is perfectly justifiable by the principles of unbiased worldly liberalism, honesty and sincerity, has a significance that is deeper, more permanent and more fatal than is conceivable to the perverted judgement of sinful man.