Wednesday November 22, 2017

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: The devotee who spread the nectar of Bhakti

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By Nithin Sridhar 

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Guru Poornima Special: Part 4

He whom the Bhaagavatam describes as the son of Nanda Mahārāja has descended to earth as Lord Chaitanya”- Chaitanya Charitaamrita (1. 2.9)

In Bhagavata Purana (11.5.32), while speaking about how Lord Keshava (i.e. Krishna) appears in various forms in various yugas, it is said that in Kali Yuga, the manifestation of Lord Krishna will be such that he would always be chanting the name of Krishna, and he would be of “non-blackish complexion”. In other words, Krishna will incarnate as a devotee who is always immersed in the Bhakti of Krishna.

The Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition identifies this incarnation of Lord Krishna with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (also called “Gauranga” or Golden i.e. non-black in complexion) who incarnated to sow the seeds of Bhakti in all directions.

Therefore, the fourth segment of the Guru Poornima series will be dedicated to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Life and times of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

According to Chaitanya Charitaamrita, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born on 1407 of sakha era (i.e. 1486 AD) and lived for 48 years. His father was Jagannath Misra and mother Sachi Devi.

He was born in Nabadwip in West Bengal and his childhood name was Viswambar.

In his youth, he was an erudite scholar of Nyaya (Logic) and indulged in various debates and discussions. Once, during his visit to Gaya, he met his Guru Ishwara Puri, who initiated him on the path of bhakti.

This made Viswambar turn inwards and completely immerse himself in Bhakti. Later, at the age of 24, he took Sannyasa (renunciation) from Keshava Bharati and got rechristened as “Krishna Chaitanya”.

After Sannyasa, he toured various parts of the country from South India to Vrindaavan and finally settled down in Puri, Odisha.

He stayed at Puri for the large part of the next 24 years and sang and danced with Krishna’s name on his lips. He finally left the world in 1534 AD.

 

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Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings and legacy

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was one of the most important proponents of Bhakti (devotion) and was one of the most important teachers in Gaudiya Vaishnav tradition.

He had his initiation into mantra from Ishwara Puri who was from Madhva lineage (i.e. Dvaita/dualist philosophy) and had his initiation into Sannyasa from Keshava Bharati who was a monk in Shankara lineage (i.e. Advaita/non-dual philosophy).

But his personal philosophy which he taught others was one that harmonized both. It is called as “Achintya-bheda-abedha”. The gist of the philosophy is that Brahman is both dual and non-dual simultaneously and is beyond the grasp of human intellect and this Brahman itself is Lord Krishna.

Hence, he taught pure and unattached love as the ultimate means to liberation.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu personally wrote only one work called, “Sikshaastakam”. It is a simple eight verse prayer to Lord Krishna, which also serves as an instruction to the devotees and disciples.

In verse 1, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu explains the importance of chanting of the God’s name or namajapa. He says that chanting of God’s name cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for years and grants liberation.

In verse 2, he says that the holy names of God are many, each of them is infused with Lord’s power. Further, there are no restrictions to chanting of the God’s name like proper time etc. But, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu cautions (Verse 3) that one should be very humble, forbearing and without pride while chanting God’s name.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was the driving force behind the Bhakti revival in Bengal and Odisha. He taught by example how a devotee should live and practice bhakti. He sang and danced in praise of Lord and inspired many others to follow him.

He taught his six disciples who later came to be known as Goswamis of Vrindavana, the various aspects of his Bhakti philosophy and asked them to systematically present them in their writings.

Hence, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu sowed the seeds of Bhakti in Indian society, which bore fruits in the later centuries and had a far reaching influence on Indian life and practice including on spiritual stalwarts like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

ChaitanyaMahaprabhuStudyEducationYouth

More in this segment:

Guru Poornima Special- Part 1

Guru Poornima Special- Part 2

Guru Poornima Special- Part 3

 

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Exploring the Faces of Faith and Devotion: 7 Principal Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism

Foremost among the several gods and goddesses of Hinduism are the Trimurti; Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, the holy triad that signify supreme divinity in Hinduism – the creater, sustainer and destroyer of the world

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Are you familiar with the various gods and goddesses of Hinduism? Pixabay

New Delhi, October 9, 2017 : Devout Hindus have a god for every occasion and every day – over 33 million, according to popular beliefs. While people of other religions often interpret them as fictional characters, the multiple gods and goddesses of Hinduism are held with utmost devotion and sincerity by the believers.

Ours is a polytheistic religion – in other words, a myriad of gods and goddesses of Hinduism. Foremost among the several gods and goddesses of Hinduism are the Trimurti; Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, the holy triad that signify supreme divinity in Hinduism – the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the world. These divine forces are known to appear in different avatars, embodied by different gods and goddesses.

In Hinduism, Lord Brahma is the creator of the Universe and the first member of the holy trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh). However, he is not worshiped as Vishnu or Shiva with only one temple dedicated to him, the Pushkar temple of Rajasthan.

Here are some of the many gods and goddesses of Hinduism.

1. Vishnu

Vishnu is the second member of the holy Hindu triad, who sustains the entire world – Vishnu is believed to return to the earth during distressed times to restore the balance between good and evil.

gods and goddesses of Hinduism
Lord Vishnu. Wikimedia

Believed to have incarnated nine times, Vishnu symbolizes the principles of order, righteousness, and truth. His associate is Lakshmi, the goddess of family life and prosperity.

Vishnu is always depicted with a blue-colored human body with four hands, each of which carries four different objects – a conch, chakra, lotus flower and mace. The god is shown to ride the Garuda, an eagle.

So far, Vishnu has appeared on earth in various incarnations. These include fish, turtle, boar, Narsimha (half lion, half man), Vamana (dwarf sage with the ability to grow), Parsuram, Ram, Krishna and Buddha. Devotees believe he will re-incarnate in a last avatar, popularly known as ‘Kalki’, close to the end of this world.

Hindus who worship Vishnu are primarily known as Vaishnava and regard him as the greatest god.

2. Shiva

One of the members of the holy Hindu trinity, Lord Shiva is as the god of destruction, so that the world may be recreated by Brahma. Thus, his destructive powers are perceived as regenerative: necessary to make renewal possible.

Known by different names like Mahadeva, Nataraja , Pashupati, Vishwanath and Bhole Nath, Shiva is known to have untamed enthusiasm, which drives him to extremes in conduct. It is his relationship with wife Parvati which established the balance. While other gods and goddesses are represented in glorious avatars, Shiva is dressed in plan animal skin and usually sits in a yogic aasana.

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God Shiva, Wikimedia

Shiva is often addressed as the Lord of Dance, with the rhythm of the dance believed to be symbolic of the balance in the universe, masterfully held by Shiva. His most significant dance form is the Tandav.

Hindus who worship Shiva as their primary god are known as Shaivites.


3. Lakshmi

One of the most popular goddesses of Hindu mythology, Lakshmi gets hers name from the Sanskrit word ‘lakshya’, meaning ambition or purpose. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, prosperity and purity and is the associate of Vishnu.

Lakshmi is believed to reside in places of hard work, and sincerity, However, the goddess leaves whenever an individual is overcome with greed or malice or when these qualities are not evident anymore. Hindus believe Sita is an incarnation of Lakshmi. Hence, they worship the goddess of prosperity primarily during Diwali, which commemorated the Hindu epic Ramayana.

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Goddess Lakshmi. Wikimedia

Lakshmi is widely represented as an enchanting woman with four arms, settled or standing on a lotus flower.

Devout Hindus worship Lakshmi at temples and inside homes alike, and believe worshipping her with utmost sincerity blesses an individual with success and fortune.


4. Ganesha

The pot bellied, elephant-headed god Ganesha, also known as Ganpati, Vinayak and Binayak, is the son of Shiva and Parvati. one of the most popular gods and goddesses of Hinduism, Ganesha is revered as the remover of all obstacles, which is why his presence is first acknowledged before beginning any new work.

The lord of success and wealth, Ganesha is also the patron of knowledge and learning; devotees believe he wrote down parts of the Hindu epic Mahabharata with his broken tusk.

gods and goddesses of hinduism
Ganesh Puja. Wikimedia

Ganesha is typically depicted as a pot-bellied, elephant-headed red colored god, with four arms and a broken tusk. This head is believed to characterize the atma or the soul and the body represents the maya or mankind’s earthly existence. The rats, which can gnaw their way through every hardship, are believed to symbolize Ganesha’s ability to destroy all obstacles.

Lord Ganesha is shown riding mouse, which can gnaw their way through every hardship, are believed to symbolize Ganesha’s ability to destroy all obstacles.


5. Krishna

Believed to be the most popular and the most powerful avatar of Vishnu, Krishna is revered as the Supreme Being or the Purana Purushottam out of a list of several hundred gods and goddesses of Hinduism, by several devout Hindus. One of the most loved and mischievous gods, Krishna means ‘black’ and can be believed to denote mysteriousness.

In Hinduism, Krishna takes several different roles- that of a hero, leader, protector, philosopher, teacher and a friend and is believed to have lived on earth between 3200 – 3100 BC. His birth is widely celebrated on the midnight of Ashtami during the month of Shravan, and is called Janmashthami.

gods and goddesses of Hinduism
Picture of idols of Lord Krishna and Radha, decorated for Janmashtami. Wikimedia

Stories of Krishna’s birth, childhood and youth and widely read and circulated, with every mother wanting to have a child like him. His raas with Radha is also remembered widely.

Krishna is held with utmost reverence for his role as the charioteer of Arjuna, as explained in the Mahabharata. It was in the middle of this war that Krishna delivered his famous advice about ‘Nishkam Karma’ which propagated action without attachment, which formed the basis of the Bhagwat Gita.

Krishna is extremely fond of white butter and there are several stories about how he stole butter from gopis throughout his childhood. He is depicted as a dark and extremely handsome, usually depicted with a flute which he used for its seductive powers.


6. Ram

Maryada Purushottam Ram is the ideal avatar of Vishnu. An epitome of chivalry, virtues and ethical demeanor, Ram is the seventh incarnation of Vishnu who is believed to have taken birth to eradicate all evils from the world.

gods and goddesses of Hinduism
Ram Darbar. Wikimedia

Unlike all other gods and goddesses of Hinduism, Ram is believed to be a historical character, instead of an imaginary figure. The Hindu epic Ramayana is a retelling and celebration of Ram’s life – a tale of his fourteen years in exile with his wife and brother.

Ram’s birthday is celebrated as Ramnavmi, wherein devotees invoke him with religious chants to attain his blessings shield. The festival of lights, Diwali, which is one of the major festivals in Hinduism, is also observed to celebrate the return of Ram, Laksham and Sita back to Ayodhya after an exile of fourteen years.

Ram bears a dark complexion to show his resemblance to Vishnu and his other avatar Krishna, and is almost always depicted with a bow and arrow in his hands and a quiver on his back. Ram also wears a tilak on his forehead. Accompanying the statues of Ram are idols of his wife Sita, brother Lakshman and the celebrated monkey-god Hanuman, who together combine the Ram Darbar.

7. Saraswati

Daughter of Shiva and Durga, and the consort of Brahma, Saraswati is revered as the goddess of wisdom, learning, speech and music. She is the goddess of knowledge and arts. Devotees often worship the deity before commencing any educational work- books and stationary items are often revered as Saraswati is believed to reside in them.

Saraswati Vandana, religious chants dedicated to the goddess of music often begin and end all Vedic lessons. The goddess also plays songs of wisdom, affection and life on the veena, a string instrument.

gods and goddesses of hinduism
Sarswati, Wikimedia Commons

Saraswati is visually represented in pure white attire and rides a peacock, with a lotus in one hand and sacred scriptures in the other. She also has four hands that signify the four aspects of learning- mind, intellect, alertness, and ego.

Out of all the 33 million gods and goddesses of Hinduism, devout Hindus believe only Saraswati can grant them moksha- the ultimate emancipation of the soul.

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10 quotes from Bhagavada Gita to kick start your day

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By Sakchi Srivastava

Bhagavada Gita or the Song of the God, in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, is a narrative between Arjuna and Krishna. Krishna passes on sermons and teachings on life and death to Arjuna. These teachings are universal truths which have proved their relevance through millenniums. They are of extreme relevance to people of all ages, no matter which nationality they belong to. These are eternal truths which help every individual to pass the necessary ordeals of life.

Here are 10 special quotes from the Bhagvada Gita which can enlighten the mind and the soul –

1. “It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.”
People are born in this world as individuals responsible for their own actions. They should make their own decisions no matter how right and wrong they are, without trying to imitate others. People should learn to take ownership of their life rather walking on someone else’s road.

2. “I am Time, the great destroyer of the world.”
As goes the great saying “Time and Tide wait for none”, Bhagvada Gita also propagates the beliefs that time is the most valuable ornament of our existence. Any being belonging to any age group cannot afford to waste it. It teaches us how to be organized and have a productive and meaningful life. Once wasted, it can never be compensated.

3. “O Krishna, the mind is restless”
The mind is a powerful element that cannot be controlled by any force. It is its own master. At one point people believe in something and at the very other moment they support something else. The mind is always in a state of flux.

4. ‘Reshape yourself through the power of your will.’
Life should be conquered by the will. Will is the strongest emotion which drives the entire existence. People’s will to achieve their goals or to become something in life helps them to achieve success.

5. “Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward.”
People have the right to work, but never to the fruit of that work. They should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should they long for inaction. Hard work should be the soul dedication and the result will follow. People should always be patience.

6. “There is nothing lost or wasted in life.”
Everyone has the privilege of living only one life. People come into this world without belongings but as individuals. They should not have regrets in this life. They don’t even lose their loved ones, they are all here.

7. “Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.”
Every man is an individual with different opinions and perspectives. A man is known by his beliefs. Whatever he believes in becomes his identity.

8. “There is neither this world nor the world beyond nor happiness for the one who doubts.”
Anyone who doubts his decisions, his likings, his dislikes or is not confident about his choices will fail to be happy no matter how many chances are given to him. He will not find happiness in any state of mind.

9. “One can become whatever one wants to be (if one constantly contemplates on the object of desire with faith).”
All have hankering towards achieving goals in life. Though some are successful but some lose the battle because they are in doubt. People should understand humans have the capability to achieve everything in life only if they believe in themselves.

10. “I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Anything that takes birth is destined to die. Everything, that breathes, which includes plants and animals, also have a lifespan.

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Hafeez Jalandhari: The Man behind Pakistan’s National Anthem also Wrote Urdu Poem-Krishn Kanhaiya to Praise the Hindu God Krishna

Decoding Hafeez Jalandhari's 'Krishn Kanhaiya'

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Hafeez Jalandhari wrote Krishn Kanhaiya, praising Hindu God Krishna
Hafeez Jalandhari wrote Krishn Kanhaiya, praising Hindu God Krishna. Pixabay
  • Hafeez Jalandhari weaved a poem that has a political and devotional angle to it
  • Hinduism uses sight as a way to connect with the almighty
  • The poet doesn’t refer to Krishna as a God but he says that Krishna represents glory and majesty of God

New Delhi, August 31, 2017: This year, Pakistan’s 70th Independence Day coincided with Hindu Festival Janmashtami (a festival to celebrate Krishna’s birth). Both were on 14th August. The famous Urdu poet Hafeez Jalandhari wrote the Qaumi Taranah, Pakistan’s national anthem. But not many people know that the same poet penned Krishn Kanhaiya, a unique Urdu poem beautifully describes the greatness of the Hindu Deity.

The idea of a Muslim poet in today’s time writing on a Hindu God raises all sorts of reactions (some of which are negative) coming from different ethnic groups in South Asia: suspicion, anger, surprise, joy or mere curiosity.

There is much more nuance to the poem Krishn Kanhaiya than what the reader thinks on its first reading. This is not just a devotional poem. Jalandhari had a political bend of mind be it him as a thinker or a writer. So, even this poem of his is not an ordinary one, it talks about Krishna’s grand persona, Hindu idol worship, what makes him different, his righteousness, describing the role he played in a Hindu epic Mahabharata.

He weaved a poem that has a political and devotional angle to it. The hidden meaning of it, when compared with Qaumi Taranah, is that it tells about the cultural politics of South Asia- in the 20th Century and has relevance today.

Decoding the poem:

Idol Worship

In the first line of the poem, the poet says “O, onlooker”- he might be saying this as he’s talking about a Hindu God and Hinduism gives importance to seeing a God, they believe in Idol worshipping, Hindu Gods have a form, a face. Thus, Hinduism uses sight as a way to connect with the almighty. The poet wants the readers to have mental darshan of Lord Krishna by saying, onlookers. Jalandhari wants the readers to have a mental image of Krishna in their minds.

Krishna is a form of light

The opening lines of the poem are a bit abstract and don’t talk of Krishna; in further lines, the poet asks whether Krishna is a reality or a representation. He refers to him as a “form of light” and then asks is he fire or light. Referring to Krishna as light might indicate to Islamic scholars who said that “Krishna was a righteous prophet sent to the people of the subcontinent.”

Jalandhari finally gives a description of Krishna that we are more familiar with- him being a “flute player” and a “cowherd of Gokul.” The poet doesn’t refer to Krishna as a God but he says that Krishna represents glory and majesty of God.

In the tenth stanza, the poet says that – “Inside the temple / the sculptor of beauty himself / entered and became the idol”. He is talking about Idol Worship done by Hindus who pray to their God in a temple, having a belief that the deity resides in the temple in the idol itself.

ALSO READ: Hindu Temple in Aldenham (UK) Hosts Global Visitors for Largest ‘Hare-Krishna’ celebrations in the world

Krishna Leela

Then we get a glimpse of ‘Krishna Leela’ as the poet talks of Krishna’s playing and dancing around with gopis (cowherd girls), on Yamuna river bank that he describes as a “rare happenings”. He is youthful and charming, to set the tone of the scene, phrases like “intoxicated winds” and “waves of love” are used that there was something heavenly in the atmosphere.

The sound of Krishna’s flute is described as “neither intoxication nor wine / it’s something beyond.”  Such phrases transport the readers into Braj (Krishna spent his childhood and adolescence years here) and they get blissfully lost in the divine sound of Krishna’s flute.

Cheer-Haran of Draupadi and Krishna being her savior

The poem from here takes a serious transition into a serious mood. Here the poet talks of a famous Cheer-Haran (disrobing) scene from Mahabharata as the five Pandavas have lost their kingdom and Draupadi in the dice game. Draupadi is dragged into the court by Duryodhana, the eldest Kaurava, she prays to Krishna to help her.

It is said that Lord Krishna came to her rescue and due to God’s grace, her sari turned into a never ending piece of cloth as when the Kauravas tried pulling it off, more fabric draped her body and saved her dignity.

With this scene, Jalandhari begins to bring a political angle to the poem as Draupadi says, “These beloved princes (her husbands), have all become cowards!” It seems that Jalandhari is accusing India’s rulers, monarchs who behaved like cowards at the time of British Rule.

Some even argue that the poet is referring to all Indians who worked under British Rule as cowards. The poet uses the phrase “the light of India” for Krishna, this seems more of a political symbolism.

Preparations for the Mahabharata war

In the next scene, the poet takes us to the preparations for the great Mahabharata war, where he writes worryingly, “Duryodhana seems victorious.” Duryodhana (eldest kaurava) symbolizes British Rule over India which continued for a pretty long time, like the Mahabharata war.

The irony is that Kaurava army was much larger in number than Pandavas whereas Britishers were very less in number than Indians. But with Krishna’s arrival on the battlefield (from Pandavas side) and how he preached Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna, changes the anxiety and sorrow to much-needed enthusiasm: “the divine decree has been pronounced, the sword has been swung!”

This Krishna is very different from the young playful one which the poet has described earlier. Here, he symbolizes great strength and power: on his “face shines a bright gaze” also his “virtues burn enemies.”  He is so powerful that when he is angry, he can shower lightning. Thus, this Krishna can easily be an icon used for anti-colonial nationalism.

ALSO READ: If you are a Devotee of Lord Krishna, these 10 Lesser Known Facts Will Surprise You!

Relating Mahabharata with British Rule

After this, Jalandhari paints a picture of India suffering under colonial rule, using Vrindavan as a symbol for India. He says that once the joyful Yamuna is now silent, the waves are weak now. The gardens which were earlier beautiful are now ruined and the gopis symbolizing people of India are feeling helpless without their Krishna, their savior.

So, Jalandhari makes a personal plea to Krishna: “Oh king of India, come just once more.” He begs Krishna to return to Mathura (Mathura symbolizes India) and become the King again: “If you come, glory will come, if you come, life will come” With his plea to Krishna asking him to liberate India from British rule, Jalandhari ends his nazm.

If we compare Krishn Kanhaiya to Jalandhari’s more famous work (Pakistan’s National Anthem), we can learn a lot about the cultural politics which has influenced South Asia over the 20th century and continues to do so even today.


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