I have begun to explain the very important maṅgalācaraṇam verse of Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta by Śrīla Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura, as found in Śrī Caiyanya-caritāmṛta:
cintāmaṇir jayati somagirir gurur
me śikṣā-guruś ca bhagavān śikhi-piñcha-mauliḥ
līlā-svayaṁvara-rasaṁ labhate jayaśrīḥ
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 1.57)
All glories to Cintāmaṇi and my initiating spiritual master, Somagiri. All glories to my instructing spiritual master, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who wears peacock feathers in His crown. Under the shade of His lotus feet, which are like desire trees, Jayaśrī [Rādhārāṇī] enjoys the transcendental mellow of an eternal consort.
Śrīla Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura first offers his obeisances to Cintāmaṇi, who had directed him towards Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and then to his dīkṣā-guru, Somagiri. The word cintāmaṇi in this verse also means that the guru is like cintāmaṇi, a wish-fulfilling stone, because guru gives us Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
The word cintāmaṇi also refers to Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself, who is actually Śrīla Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura’s śikṣā-guru. How beautiful this śikṣā-guru is – with peacock feathers in His crown, with three folds on His neck and abdomen, and with a three-fold bending form. He sings so sweetly. His lotus feet are like wish-fulfilling trees, and they are like soft leaves, His toenails shine very beautifully, the tips of His toes are more beautiful than the rays of the moon, and the rays of His toenails are very fragrant.
The name Jayaśrī in this above-mentioned verse refers to Śrīmatī Rādhikā, who gives Her heart, Her life, and Her soul to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Offering Her entire life thousands of times over, She performs ārati to the rays emanating from His toenails, and by this She feels the same happiness as if it were Her svayaṁvara.
What is the meaning of svayaṁvara? To help you understand, I will tell you about the svayaṁvara of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Once, Kṛṣṇa’s cousin-sister Draupadī met with all His queens – Satyabhāmā, Rukmiṇī, Lakṣmaṇā, and others – at Kurukṣetra. Draupadī asked the queens how they had become so fortunate as to have gotten Kṛṣṇa as their husband, and Lakṣmaṇā then told the story of how she became His wife. Lakṣmaṇā was the darling daughter of a powerful king who, seeing her as an extremely beautiful and qualified girl, wanted to ensure that she would be given to an equally qualified husband.
The king thus arranged for a svayaṁvara ceremony. He placed a very high pillar in the earth, on the top of the pillar he placed a spinning cakra, and above the cakra was an artificial fish. He had promised the hand of Lakṣmaṇā to the one who, while looking down at a reflection of the fish in a pool of water, would be able to shoot with an arrow the pupil in the eye of the fish.
The world’s champion archers were invited to attend, including Kṛṣṇa, Karṇa, Duryodhana, Jarāsandha, Śiśupāla, Bhīma, Nakula, Sahadeva, and Arjuna, and each was confident that he would marry the beautiful Lakṣmaṇā. Bhīṣma and Droṇācārya also came, thinking, “If I shoot that fish in its pupil, I will then arrange that this girl be married to Duryodhana.” However, except for Kṛṣṇa, every one of these archers failed in his attempt. Most of them could barely even see the reflection of the fish in the water, so they gave up their bows. Karṇa saw the fish, but couldn’t aim. Arjuna came forth very boldly and aimed at the fish, but his arrow only touched the tail of the fish. All were helpless.
Then, Śrī Kṛṣṇa stepped forward and moved so swiftly that no one could see when He picked up His bow, shot the arrow, and pierced the pupil of the fish’s right eye. Lakṣmaṇā told Draupadī, “I became overjoyed, and my friends gave me a garland to place on the neck of Kṛṣṇa.”
The selection of a bridegroom from thousands of suitors is called svayaṁvara, and this was a tradition in ancient India. At Lakṣmaṇā’s svayaṁvara there were thousands of princes, and although these princes were very handsome and qualified, she had given her heart to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Having heard His glories she wanted to marry Him, but she had felt hopeless in that regard.
When Kṛṣṇa shot the eye of the fish, Lakṣmaṇā’s face glowed with happiness, the hairs on her body stood on end, and she could barely stand up. She trembled and her eyes looked down as she stealthily gave a sidelong glance towards Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa, who is always searching for beautiful girls, also secretly glanced toward Lakṣmaṇā. When she received His glance, she was so overwhelmed that she could not raise her arms to place the garland on His neck; her girlfriends had to help her. She became so overjoyed that she lost external consciousness. This is the happiness of svayaṁvara.
Similarly, Śrīla Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura wrote that Śrīmatī Rādhikā becomes overjoyed to serve the rays coming from Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s lotus toenails.
Śrīla Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, and the Vaiṣṇavas in our disciplic line are not pleased to hear about Śrīmatī Rādhikā serving Śrī Kṛṣṇa in this way. Rather, they prefer to hear that Kṛṣṇa is obtaining happiness by serving the lotus feet of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. They want to see Kṛṣṇa praying for this opportunity.
Śrīla Prabhodānanda Sarasvatī writes:
vaṁśī karān-nipatitaḥ skhalitaṁ śikhaṇḍaṁ
bhraṣṭaṁ ca pīta-vasanaṁ vraja-rāja-sunoḥ
yasyāḥ kaṭākṣa-śara-phāta vimūrcchitasya
tāṁ rādhikāṁ paricarāmi kadā rasena
Struck by the arrows of Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s sidelong glance, the son of the King of Vraja loses external consciousness. His flute falls from His hand, His peacock feather is askew, and His yellow garment is in disarray. When will I be able to render service to Śrīmatī Rādhikā with the topmost devotion?
Once, as Kṛṣṇa was going to herd the cows, He saw Śrīmatī Rādhikā in a beautiful grove. She glanced at Him from the corner of Her eyes, which were crooked like a bow shooting arrows of prema. Beholding this scene, Kṛṣṇa lost control of Himself, His flute fell from His hands, His peacock feather fell from His head, He lost external consciousness, and His body trembled. Seeing Kṛṣṇa in this way, Madhumaṅgala nudged Him and asked, “O friend, what are You doing? Nanda Bābā, Yaśodā-maiyā, and many elders are here. You cannot behave like this in front of them. Be careful.” Kṛṣṇa immediately came to His senses.
In this verse, Śrīla Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī is praying, “I want to serve this Śrīmatī Rādhikā. Her veil, fragrant from contact with Her body, carries this sweet fragrance to Kṛṣṇa’s nostrils, and upon His inhaling that fragrance He loses all control.”
The love and affection of Śrīmatī Rādhikā is higher than that of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Although Śrīla Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura indicates that Kṛṣṇa is superior to Rādhikā, those in the line of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, and Śrīla Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī desire that Rādhikā be always victorious over Kṛṣṇa – and it actually happens that way.
In this way, Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura is praying to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, his śikṣā-guru. What kind of śikṣā-guru? Kṛṣṇa is caitya-guru, the guru in the hearts of all beings. In His pastimes, Kṛṣṇa Himself comes as the śikṣā-guru. For example, He became guru for Arjuna. He is extremely merciful, and prayers to Him do not go in vain. Therefore, the first duty of the devotees is to have faith in Him.
Śrīla Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura and Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī are examples of devotees who possess such faith. Rūpa Gosvāmī and Sanātana Gosvāmī often discussed with each other the glories of Śrī Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. On one such occasion, Śrīmatī Rādhikā noticed that it was already midday, and they had not yet eaten. Appearing as a teenage village girl, She came to Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and said, “You have not prepared any foodstuffs today. Are you fasting? My mother has given Me some milk, rice, and sugar, so please make kṣīra (sweet-rice) for yourselves.” But Rūpa Gosvāmī had no time to make the kṣīra, because he and his brother were totally absorbed and sharing with each other Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s glories.
Therefore, Śrīmatī Rādhikā offered to make it for them. She brought some dry cow dung, and by Her mere desire a fire was manifested. In a moment, She made very beautiful, tasteful kṣīra, presented it to Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, and said, “Please offer this kṣīra to your worshipable Deity, then give some to your brother, and then take some yourself.”
After tasting that remarkable kṣīra, Sanātana Gosvāmī began to wonder who the girl was. He questioned Rūpa, “O Rūpa, have you prayed to Rādhikā, requesting Her to come?”
“No, I have not.”
“But She came and cooked for us. Taste this kṛṣṇa-prasādam. It could only have been cooked by Her.”
As they each took some of the sweet-rice, they wept uncontrollably and cried out to Śrīmatī Rādhikā, “Now You have disappeared and we have lost our opportunity to offer obeisances and serve You. Instead, we have troubled You by having You cook for us.” Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī then told his brother, “Rūpa, don’t do anything like this in the future.”
How marvelous their devotion is! Let us try to follow in their footsteps. Remembering pastimes such as this, let us try to serve the Divine Couple, Śrī Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.
As mentioned above, Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja has explained that the bona fide dīkṣā-guru is the rūpa of Kṛṣṇa, and the bona fide śikṣā-guru is the svarūpa of Kṛṣṇa. Although they are equal, sometimes śikṣā-guru may be superior and sometimes dīkṣā-guru may be, but they are both liberated, uttama-adhikārī.
Now he will further explain Kṛṣṇa’s manifestation as a bhakta:
īśvara-svarūpa bhakta tāṅra adhiṣṭhāna
bhaktera hṛdaye kṛṣṇera satata viśrāma
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 1.61)
A pure devotee, constantly engaged in the loving service of the Lord, is identical with the Lord, who is always seated in his heart.
The dīkṣā-guru and śikṣā-guru are non-different manifestations of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, as are all Kṛṣṇa’s pure devotees. The hearts of those pure devotees are the abode of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa can take rest in their hearts because their hearts are pure, free from worldly desires. In their hearts there are no sufferings or problems, as there are no problems in the hearts of Śrīla Rūpa and Śrīla Sanātana. They don’t want anything from Kṛṣṇa; therefore, He can take rest in their hearts and sleep very peacefully.
The hearts of jñānīs, karmīs, and yogīs are full of material desires. They pray, “O Kṛṣṇa, give me a very beautiful wife. O Kṛṣṇa, I have no son. O Kṛṣṇa, I want liberation (mukti).” But Kṛṣṇa’s pure devotees don’t want anything for themselves. Their only desire is for their bhakti to increase, to serve Kṛṣṇa more and more.7
These six manifestations – Kṛṣṇa, dīkṣā-guru and śikṣā-guru, the devotees, the diverse energies, the incarnations, and the plenary portions – are all Kṛṣṇa Himself, but manifested separately for the performance of His pastimes. They are different and non-different (bheda and abheda) from Him. This truth is called acintya-bhedābheda-tattva.
vadanti tat tattva-vidas
tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam
bhagavān iti śabdyate
By quoting this verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.2.11), Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja has explained the identity of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Please read from Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja’s translation and purport.
Devotee reads from Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 2.1:
Translation: Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth say that it is nondual knowledge and is called impersonal Brahman, localized Paramātmā, and the Personality of Godhead.
Purport: This Sanskrit verse appears as the eleventh verse of the First Canto, Second Chapter, of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, where Sūta Gosvāmī answers the questions of the sages headed by Śaunaka Ṛṣi concerning the essence of all scriptural instructions. Tattva-vidaḥ refers to persons who have knowledge of the Absolute Truth. They can certainly understand…
Nārada, Vedavyāsa, Brahmā, Śaṅkara (Śiva), and Śukadeva Gosvāmī are all tattva-vit; that is, they know the essence of the Vedic scriptures.
Devotee continues reading:
They can certainly understand knowledge without duality because they are on the spiritual platform. The Absolute Truth is known sometimes as Brahman, sometimes as Paramātmā and sometimes as Bhagavān. Persons who are in knowledge of the truth know that one who tries to approach the Absolute simply by mental speculation will ultimately realize the impersonal Brahman, and one who tries to approach the Absolute through yoga practice will be able to realize Paramātmā; but one who has complete knowledge and spiritual understanding realizes the spiritual form of Bhagavān, the Personality of Godhead.
Devotees of the Personality of Godhead know that Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the son of the King of Vraja, is the Absolute Truth. They do not discriminate between Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s name, form, qualities, and pastimes. One who wants to separate the Lord’s absolute name, form, and qualities must be understood to be lacking in absolute knowledge. A pure devotee knows that when he chants the transcendental name Kṛṣṇa, Śrī Kṛṣṇa is present as transcendental sound.
In this regard, there is something very important to remember:
yāha, bhāgavata paḍa vaiṣṇavera sthāne
ekānta āśraya kara caitanya-caraṇe
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya-līlā 5.131)
If you want to understand Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, you must approach a self-realized Vaiṣṇava and hear from him. You can do this when you have completely taken shelter of the lotus feet of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
It is not possible for us to know everything about spiritual life simply by reading books. It is true that all knowledge is situated in Veda, Vedānta, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, and in all the books of Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja, but that knowledge is under lock and key – a very powerful lock and key. One who is not so qualified will not understand the meaning simply by reading. Yāha, bhāgavata paḍa vaiṣṇavera sthāne. There are two types of bhāgavata : grantha-bhāgavata (śāstra) and bhakta-bhāgavata (Vaiṣṇavas). The grantha-bhāgavata is under lock and key, and the realized soul, the bhakta-bhāgavata, reveals its meanings.
By reading Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and all the other transcendental literatures of Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja in the association of superior devotees, we can deeply understand their beautiful meanings and experience the ocean of rasa1 contained within them. Without the help of an advanced Vaiṣṇava, one may read these books many times and still fall down. Why? Without proper association, one is unable to grasp the essence of these transcendental books.
It is necessary for us to approach the bhakta-bhāgavatas. They are more merciful than Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and under their guidance we can realize the mercy of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Otherwise, it is not possible.
vadanti tat tattva-vidas
tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam
bhagavān iti śabdyate
The Absolute Truth is realized in three phases of understanding by the knower of the Absolute Truth, and all of them are identical. Such phases of the Absolute Truth are expressed as Brahman, Paramātmā, and Bhagavān.
It is essential for us to listen attentively and take this teaching into our hearts. Those who know this established truth (tattva), like Nārada, Vyāsa, Śaṅkara, Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanātana, and Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, have concluded that nothing is separate from Kṛṣṇa. Nothing is independent from Him. This established truth is called advaya-jñāna-tattva, the essential fundamental principle that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the one-without-a-second Absolute Truth.
Everyone is subordinate to Kṛṣṇa, including Baladeva and all other incarnations, all demigods, and all living entities down to the ants and grass. The illusory material nature, māyā, is also subordinate to Him. The only fundamental truth is Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and all others are subordinate to Him. No living entity in this world is or any other world, or even in Vaikuṇṭha or Goloka Vṛndāvana is independent. Only Kṛṣṇa is independent. All that we see is a manifestation of His power. Śrīmatī Rādhikā is the power of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and Lakṣmī-devī is the manifestation of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. And we jīvas in this material world are also within Kṛṣṇa. This principle is called ‘unity in diversity.’ Knowers of reality understand this fundamental truth, that the Absolute Truth is Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja quotes the above-mentioned verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.2.11). Those with impersonal knowledge see this Absolute Truth as Brahman. What is Brahman? It is the perverted reflection of the rays of Kṛṣṇa’s toenails. It is without form, qualities, or pastimes. Paramātmā, the Supersoul dwelling in the hearts of all living entities, is a part of Kṛṣṇa’s eternity (sat) and transcendental knowledge (cit) potencies. He is a small fraction of Kṛṣṇa; He is not independent.
ete cāṁśa-kalāḥ puṁsaḥ
kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam
mṛḍayanti yuge yuge
All of the above-mentioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the original Personality of Godhead. All of them appear on planets whenever there is a disturbance created by the atheists. The Lord incarnates to protect the theists.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa is that Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Personality of the Absolute Truth. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and other śastras confirm this verse from Brahma-saṁhitā:
īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ
anādir ādir govindaḥ
There are many personalities possessing the qualities of Bhagavān, but Kṛṣṇa is the supreme because none can excel Him. He is the Supreme Person, and His body is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. He is the primeval Lord Govinda and the cause of all causes.
Kṛṣṇa’s first manifestation is Baladeva Prabhu in Vraja, who is non-different from Him. Only Their color is different: one white, one a very beautiful black. From Baladeva Prabhu in Vṛndāvana, Mūla-saṅkarṣaṇa (Baladeva in Dvārakā and Mathurā), Mahā-saṅkarṣaṇa (Lord Nārāyaṇa), Mahā-Viṣṇu (also known as Kāraṇodakaśāyī Viṣṇu), Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, Śeṣa, and this entire material world have manifested.
That very Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of the Absolute Truth, advents as Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and His supreme power, Śrīmatī Rādhikā, comes as Śrī Gadādhara Paṇḍita.
1 Rasa means ‘the mellow taste of one’s personal relationship with Kṛṣṇa.