The following article is from a transcription of a talk given by Radhanath Swami on the occaision of Gaura Purnima, March 11th, 1990 at the Radha Gopinath Temple in Mumbai, India.
This evening we, the devotees of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya (linage), are celebrating the most sacred and auspicious of all evenings of the year. It is the evening of Gaura Purnima, the night when the Lord incarnated in this world as His most munificent and merciful of all incarnations, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is accepted as the Lord Himself by the followers of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya. Many people consider Him simply to be a great saint or a great devotee. But there are many references in sacred texts which declare Him to be the Yuga Avatar – the particular incarnation who appears in this age for the purpose of establishing the spiritual practice which is most practical for this time.
krishna-varnam tvishakrishnam / sangopangastra-parshadam
yajnaih sankirtana-prayair / yajanti hi su-medhasah
(Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5.32)
The Srimad Bhagavatam states that in the current age, those who have good intelligence will worship the Supreme Lord who is always surrounded by His devotees and is constantly chanting the holy names of the Lord in congregation. And that those intelligent persons worship this beautiful form of the Lord by congregational chanting of the holy names – kirtan.
So this is the great opportunity we have. And on this most glorious evening of Gaura Purnima let us meditate and let us take very seriously, how to accept the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu by following in His foot steps. For instance, by humbling oneself as He did, by accepting the position that without the blessings of the great souls, love of God is not possible. Through the process of humbling ourself before the great souls, we can receive in full the blessings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. And what is that mercy? That we receive the holy name. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught us…
trinad api sunicena / taror iva suhisnuna
amanina mana-dena / kirtanayah sada hari
(Caitanya-caritamrita Antya 6.239)
One should chant the name of the Lord humbly like a blade of grass, more tolerate than tree, ready to offer all respect to others and expecting none in return.
Forget about trying to be a great advanced devotee. Forget about trying to be a saint. Sri Caitanya did not like this idea. He simply wanted us to become the servant of the servant of the servant of the Lord and to chant the name in that spirit. That should be only our aspiration. Because it is that aspiration alone that opens our heart to really and truly accept the mercy of the lord.
So Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu has taught us by his example. He taught us was there are two ways to chant the holy name. When Lord Caitanya was in Vrindavana, He sat in a secluded place and simply fixed His mind on the names of God. But for the common masses, and in His own life, He emphasized the process of kirtan, in the congregation of others, with raised arms, gracefully chanting. Factually there is no greater way of glorifying Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu than to chant His holy name in kirtana. There is nothing that pleases Him more than to simply accept the gift that He has given us.
So tonight is His birthday. It is generally the practice that on someone’s birthday you offer Him a gift. Now, what can you offer to God as a gift? What does he need? He does not need anything? The question is, what does He want? He wants you to become blissful eternally in His loving service. And He has giving you, by His own mercy, the way to become blissful in His eternal loving service. By coming together. Yajnaya Sankirtan priyair
– those with sufficient intelligence, in the current age, worship the lord through the process of congregational chanting of the holy name. Kirtan means we come together in the mood of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His followers and we dance and we chant.
Now Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu has also taught us how to perform kirtan as well. Our kirtan should not simply be a dance. We should know that the purpose of dancing is to express our devotion to God. Every movement of our arms, every movement of our legs, every movement of our heads, every part of our body. It is to dance, but it is to dance as a way of gracefully expressing our devotion to god.
Lord Caitanya danced with His arms raised. Extending His heart through His arms to the Lord. Very simple, nothing complicated – not that you have to go to dance school and learn for many years to how to dance in kirtan. You can learn in one day, in one minute. You just have to listen – very simple. And when we sing we should sing from our heart, as an offering, as an expression of our love. We should sing like a baby crying for its mother. When we dance we should be reaching out for the mercy of God.
We should all learn how to do kirtan nicely together. Not that everyone just does what they want to do. Let us all dance together. Let us all chant together. When we chant, we should chant knowing that the Lord is in our heart and is listening. We should chant with the sweetest and nicest voice we can. If everyone sings like that, how sweet the sound will be! We should also be very loud. We should sing with enthusiasm. Our chanting should enliven the ecstasy of all the other devotees in the Kirtan – by our devotion. When we dance, our dancing should be in the same way – dancing together. We should have certain formations we all follow – coming in and out. Sometimes coming in and sometimes going out of circles. Our dancing should be very sweet, very graceful – all of us going in a same motion together like waves for the pleasure of the Lord.
So how can we give Lord Caitanya the best gift? The best gift we can give Him is to put our life and our soul into congregational chanting of the holy name. Everything Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu has given us on His birthday, we can give Him – each and every one of us, as an individual as well as a unit, can give him the most glorious gift by chanting together, expressing our devotion and love with every movement of our body. Tonight is not the only night, but at this very moment we all have the opportunity of presenting, from our hearts, our gift of love on the birthday of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This kirtan – let’s do it in such a way that we never forget it for the rest of our lives. With great enthusiasm, with great devotion, with great emotion, and with great gratitude, let us chant the holy names, let us dance, let us unite in love of one another in the glorification of the holy name of Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu.