The discourses that followed when Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu met Ramananda Raya, on the banks of River Godavari, in Vidyanagara, is one of the most confidential and elaborate discussions to have ever taken place instructing us regarding the perfection of human life, our ultimate object of worship and the path to be followed to achieve the same. The above mentioned talks are vividly described in Chaitanya-Charitamrta (Madhya,ch 8) and is generally referred to as ‘Ramananda Raya Samvada’ and constitutes the highest conclusions of the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, as we all know, is none other than the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna, who advented, about 500 years ago in the small town of Navadwip, in Nadia, West Bengal, to propagate the Supreme Science of Bhakti Yoga, and the chanting of God’s holy names, as the only means of deliverance in this fallen age of Kali.
Ramananda Raya was the then Governor of Madras and was by birth, a Shudra. When the two personalities met, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu embraced Ramananda, and tears of jubilation and ecstatic symptoms became manifested in both of them. The ritualistic brahmanas , accompanying Ramananda Raya, became struck with wonder, and were surprised to see such a great sannyasi touch a shudra, and they were also surprised to see Ramananda Raya, who was a great governor and practically king of that province, crying simply by touching a sannyasi.
When the two personalities sat down to discuss the confidential subjects subsequently, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took the role of a student and Ramananda Raya assumed the role of an instructor.
Mahaprabhu then asked Ramananda Raya to recite a verse from the revealed scriptures concerning the ultimate goal of life. Ramananda Raya quoting from Vishnu Purana stated that Lord Vishnu is worshipped by the proper execution of duties in the system of varna and ashrama. There is no other way to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One must be situated in the institution of the four varnas and ashramas and perform his duties accordingly.
After hearing Ramananda Raya expound upon the proper execution of a regulated life, Lord Chaitanya said that such regulations are simply external. Indirectly He asked Ramananda to expound on something superior to such an external exhibition. (eho bahya, age kaha ara).
Actually here Lord Chaitanya, wanted to reject a class of philosophers who think that God is subject to one’s work, and if one works nicely, God is bound to give good results. The above regulations are at a very elementary stage of realizing the Supreme Truth. Formal execution of rituals and religion is useless unless it culminates in the perfection of devotional service.
Lord Chaitanya was pointing out that if a man has a material conception of life, he cannot attain the highest perfection even if he follows all the ritualistic regulations.
Ramananda Raya, then put forward the practice of offering the result of one’s activities unto the Supreme Lord, as the ultimate goal of one’s life (kṛṣṇe karmarpaṇa — sarva-sadhya-sara). To support his statement, he cited a verse from Bhagavad Gita (9.27), in which Lord Krishna instructs Arjuna, to offer whatever he does, he eats, whatever he offers in sacrifice, or gives in charity, or whatever austerities he performs , unto Him.
Mahaprabhu rejected this second statement as well and asked Ramananda to speak further.
The reason being, that offering everything to the Supreme Lord is better than making the Supreme Lord subject to our work, but it is still short of surrendering to the Supreme Lord. The above process instructs one to offer everything to the supreme Lord , but there is no information given on how to get out of the material entanglement and shall hence keep one engaged in the fruitive activities, making him identify himself with his material existence.
On having his proposition rejected twice, Ramananda Raya proposed that ‘To give up one’s occupational duties in the varnasrama system is the essence of perfection.’ (svadharma-tyaga, ei sadhya-sara).
To support his point he quoted from Bhagavad Gita (18.66):
sarva-dharman parityajya,mam ekaṁ saraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvam sarva-papebhyo,moksayisyami ma sucah
After giving up all kinds of religious and occupational duties, if you come to Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and take shelter, I will give you protection from all of life’s sinful reactions. Do not worry.
After hearing Ramananda Raya speak in this way, Sri Chaitanya rejected his statement again and asked him to speak something more. Lord Chaitanya, here, wanted to demonstrate that only renunciation, or detachment from material conditions, is not sufficient, to attain the highest perfectional stage and to attain the same there should instead be some positive engagement.
After having his proposal rejected again, Ramananda raya proposed that devotional service based on philosophy and logic is a more advanced position (jnana-misra bhakti — sadhya-sara).
To support his statement, Ramananda Raya quoted from the Bhagavad Gita (18.54) in which Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that “One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments, nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.”
Lord Chaitanya however rejected this proposal as well citing it to be external, and asked Ramananda Raya to tell him of something superior.
Although there is no material contamination when one attains the stage of Brahman realization, this stage is not perfect as there is no engagement in spiritual activities. And a pure living entity is not liberated unless he is completely engaged in spiritual activity. As a result, the concerned person in this case continues to hover on the mental platform and is absorbed in impersonal thoughts or thoughts of the void, and finds it difficult to clear the mind of all material variegatedness.
Jnana Sunya Bhakti
After his proposal was rejected for the fourth time, Ramananda Raya suggested of something superior. He replied that “Pure devotional service without any touch of speculative knowledge is the essence of perfection.” (jnana-sūnya bhakti — sadhya-sara)
To support his view, Ramananda Raya gave evidence from Srimad Bhagavatam (10.14.3) wherein Lord Brahma tells Krishna:
“My dear Lord, one should give up monistic speculation and the cultivation of knowledge altogether. He should begin his spiritual life in devotional service by receiving information of the Lord’s activities from a realized devotee of the Lord. If one cultivates his spiritual life by following these principles and keeping himself on the honest path in life, then although Your Lordship is never conquered, You become conquered by such a process.”
At this point, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu accepted Ramananda’s statement, but asked him to speak further regarding advanced devotional service. (eho haya, age kaha ara)
By accepting this statement, Lord Chaitanya demonstrated that the Highest stage of transcendental activity is always free from material desires, fruitive efforts and speculative knowledge. The highest stage concentrates on the simple, favorable execution of pure devotional service.
To put forward something higher, Ramananda Raya proposed that ‘ecstatic love in devotional service to the Lord is the essence of all perfection’ (prema-bhakti — sarva-sadhya-sara). He stated that the devotional service to the lord cannot be achieved by pious activity in hundreds and thousands of lives and that it can only be attained by paying the price of an intense greed to obtain it.
Lord Chaitanya accepted the above statement, but urged Ramananda to speak further.
Dasya Rasa (Servitorship)
Ramananda Raya then stated that ‘spontaneous loving service (unto the Lord) in servitude — as exchanged by master and servant — is the highest perfection.’
The service of Daruka to Krishna or Hanuman towards Lord Ram is in this loving mood of servitude (Dasya Rasa). Mahaprabhu accepted it and urged Ramananda to speak further on advanced devotional service.
Ramananda Raya was diving deeper and deeper into the subjects of transcendental science. He compared himself to the parrot who was being inspired from within by Mahaprabhu to speak on these subjects.
Sakhya & Vatsalya Rasa (Fraternity & Parental Affection)
Ramananda explained that the service unto the Supreme Lord in the relationship of fraternity (Sakhya Rasa) or parental affection (Vatsalya Rasa) is still higher . Citing the examples of the cowherd boys of Vrindavan, Ramananda explained that when the relationship with Lord Krishna increases in affection, the elements of fear or the consciousness of the superiority of the Supreme Lord diminish. In such friendship, there is a sense of equality between Krishna and His friends.
Ramananda Raya exclaimed that it is difficult to even comprehend the enormous good fortune that was bestowed upon Nanda Maharaj and mother Yasoda, so that they could have Krishna as their little son. ‘The favor mother Yasoda obtained from Sri Kṛṣṇa, the bestower of liberation, was never obtained even by Lord Brahma or Lord Siva, nor even by the goddess of fortune, who always remains on the chest of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Viṣṇu.’ (cc Madhya, 8.78)
Madhurya Rasa (Conjugal Love)
Hearing this, Lord Chaitanya exclaimed that Ramananda’s statements were certainly getting better and better and urged him to proceed even further (eho uttama, age kaha ara). Ramananda then replied that conjugal love with Krishna (Madhurya Rasa) constituted the highest relationship (kanta-prema sarva-sadhya-sara).
To cite an example he quoted from Srimad Bhagavatam that ‘When Lord Sri Kṛṣṇa was dancing with the gopis in the rasa-lila, the gopis were embraced around the neck by the Lord’s arms.
This transcendental favor was never bestowed upon the goddess of fortune or the other consorts in the spiritual world. Nor was such a thing ever imagined by the most beautiful girls in the heavenly planets, girls whose bodily luster and aroma resemble the beauty and fragrance of lotus flowers. And what to speak of worldly women, who may be very, very beautiful according to material estimation?’
Ramananda further explained that whatever relationship a particular devotee has with the Supreme Lord, it is the best for him. Still , if judged from a neutral point of view, it can be verified, that there are higher and lower degrees of love. In other words, intimate relationships with Krishna develop from an ordinary conception of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to the conception of master and servant (Dasya), and, when this becomes confidential, it develops into a friendly relationship (Sakhya), and when this relationship further develops, it becomes paternal (Vatsalya), and when this develops to the highest point of love and affection, it is known as conjugal love (Madhurya) with the Supreme Lord.
Hearing this, Lord Chaitanya replied that this indeed was the the limit of perfection and urged Ramananda to speak further, if there was anything superior. (prabhu kahe, — ei sadhyavadhi suniscaya).
‘Upon hearing this request, Ramananda Raya remarked that this was the first time that he had been asked to go further than the gopis in an attempt to understand Kṛṣṇa. There is certainly transcendental intimacy between the damsels of Vraja and Krishna, Ramananda pointed out, but out of all the relationships, the relationship between Radharani and Krishna in conjugal love is the most perfect. No common man can understand the ecstasy of transcendental love between Radharani and Krishna, nor can he understand the transcendental flavor of the transcendental love between Kṛṣṇa and the gopis. Yet if one tries to follow in the footsteps of the gopis, he may become situated in the highest stage of transcendental love. Thus one who wants to be elevated to the transcendental stage of perfection should follow in the footsteps of the damsels of Vraja as an assistant maidservant of the gopis.’
Ramananda further went on to talk about the transcendental features of Sri Krishna, Sri Radha and the transcendental mellows of their love. He further discussed about the subject of prema-vilasa-vivarta, or the ‘resultant bewilderment or revolution in the ecstasy of loving affairs’ between Sri Radha and Krishna.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu ecstatically exclaimed that an unprecedented nectar was flowing from Ramananda Raya’s mouth and confirmed that ‘this is the limit of the goal of human life’ (‘sadhya-vastura avadhi’ ei haya) .
Path to Perfection
After Ramananda Raya finished his talk, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu bestowed His special mercy upon him. Infact Ramananda Raya saw something which has never been seen before. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu revealed His confidential combined form of Sri Radha and Krishna, seeing which Ramananda fell down unconscious.
One of the primary reasons why Sri Krishna descended in this golden form of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, was that he Himself wanted to relish the ecstatic nectar of Conjugal love, as tasted by Srimati Radharani. The Lord thought that undoubtedly Radharani enjoyed His company and He enjoyed the company of Radharani, but the exchange of transcendental mellow between the spiritual couple was more pleasing to Srimati Radharani than to Sri Krsna. Radharani felt more transcendental pleasure in the company of Krsna than He could understand without taking Her position, but for Sri Krsna to enjoy in the position of Srimati Radharani was impossible because that position was completely foreign to Him. Krsna is the transcendental male, and Radharani is the transcendental female. Therefore, to know the transcendental pleasure of loving Krsna, Lord Krsna Himself appeared as Lord Chaitanya, accepting the emotions and bodily luster of Srimati Radharani.
The secondary reason, why Sri Chaitanya descended , was to inaugurate the Sankirtana Movement, and to deliver the fallen people of this age by chanting of the Lord’s holy names :
Hare Krishna hare Krishna , Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare
In the Kali-Santarana Upanishad (1-11) ,the above mentioned Maha-Mantra is established as the only means of deliverance in Kali-yuga.
The glories of the Chanting the maha-mantra has been described by Sri Chaitanya Himself:
“The maha-mantra is capable of dissolving sins and removing impediments. The maha-mantra embalms sufferings and diminishes the detriments that are so charactersitic of Kali-yuga. It redeems the unredeemable residents of hellish planets and nullifies the inevitable sinful reactions carried over from previous births.
The maha-mantra purifies offenses and is the quintessence of all trancendental activities, shining more brilliantly than the Vedas. The scriptures declare that the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is the highest spiritual activity, higher than making pilgrimages to the holiest of places. The maha-mantra is omnipotent and benedicts the chanter with unimaginable good fortune-Its very nature is that It elevates one to experience divine bliss.
The chanter is no ordinary person, for he becomes worthy of the entire world’s praise. The maha-mantra is the only means of salvation for the fallen conditioned souls, and It is always worshippable for It offers the much desired liberation, exalts one to the supreme spiritual abode and blesses the chanter with transcendental love of Godhead, Shri Hari. The shruti and smriti contain proofs of the maha-mantra’s sublime position. It is the supreme destination of all spiritual aspirations and the mainstream of the current of bhakti (devotional service).”
In order to experience the transcendental Rasas with the Supreme Lord , we need to follow in the footsteps of the Vraja Gopis, and following the instructions of Sri Chaitanya, is non-different than following in the footsteps of Srimati Radharani.
By participating whole-heartedly in Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s sankirtana movement ,following His instructions, regularly chanting the Hare Krishna mahamantra and by associating with the devotees in His bonafide disciplic succession, we can gradually cleanse out heart (ceto-darpana-marjanam) and extinguish the fire of our conditional lives , thereby elevating ourselves to the desired transcendental stage of perfection.
~ by Dwaipayan De, Kolkata, India
- Chaitanya Charitamrta – by Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami
- Teachings of Lord Chaitanya – by HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada