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About these eight instructions from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila Prabhupada said:
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu instructed His disciples to write books on the science of krishna consciousness, a task which those who follow Him have continued to carry out down to the present day. The elaboration and exposition on the philosophy taught by Lord Caitanya are in fact the most voluminous, exacting, and consistent— due to the unbreakable system of disciplic succession—of any religious culture in the world. Yet Lord Caitanya, who in His youth was widely renowned as a scholar Himself, left us only eight verses called Siksastaka} These eight verses provide us with the most concise and clear understanding of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's teachings, the essence of which is the chanting of the holy name. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has explained the Siksastaka verses in his book Sri Bhajana-rahasya, the sequel of Sri Harindma-cintdmani. He relates them to the gradual progression of bhakti from the first stages of sraddha up to the topmost platform of pure prema, as described by SrTla Rupa Gosvami:
(1-2) Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.4.15-16
adau sraddha tatah sadhu- sango 'tha bhajana-kriya tato 'nartha-nivrttih sya tato nistha rucis tatah
athasaktis tato bhavas tatah premabhyudancati Sadhakanam ayam premnah pradurbhave bhavet kramah
In the beginning, one must have a preliminary desire for self-realization (sraddha). This will bring one to the stage of trying to associate with persons who are spiritually elevated (sadhu-sanga). In the next stage one is initiated by an elevated spiritual master, and under his instruction the neophyte devotee begins the process of devotional service (bhajana-kriya). By execution of devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master, one becomes freed from all material attachment (anartha-nivrtti), attains steadiness in self-realization (nistha), and acquires a taste for hearing about the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Sri krishna (ruci). This taste leads one further forward to attachment for krishna consciousness (asakti), which is matured in bhava, or the preliminary stage of transcendental love of God. Real love of God is called prema, the highest perfectional stage of life.1
The first sloka of the Siksastaka, by explaining the seven specific transcendental features of the holy name2, enables one to acquire deep faith in the holy name, born from profound understanding and realization of its supreme qualities. Hence, Bhaktivinoda Thakura links this verse to the first stage of devotion, sraddha:
(3) Sri Siksastaka 1
ceto-darpana-marjanam bhava-maha-davagni-nirvapanam sreyah-kairava-candrika-vitaranam vidya-vadhu-jivanam
anandambudhi-vardhanam prati-padam purnamrtasvadanam sarvatma-snapanam param vijayate srl-krishna-sanklrtanam
Let there be all victory for the chanting of the holy name of Lord krishna, which can cleanse the mirror of the heart and stop the miseries of the blazing fire of material existence. The chanting is the waxing moon that spreads the white lotus of good fortune for all living entities. It is the life and soul of all education. The chanting of the holy name of krishna expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life. It gives a cool¬ing effect to everyone and enables one to taste full nectar at every step.1
The next three stages, sadhu-saiiga, bhajana-kriya, and anartha-nivrtti, are addressed by the second sloka of the Siksastaka. Here the importance of avoiding the ten offenses while chanting the holy name is stressed. This, as Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains, is the most important regulative principle of bhajana-kriya, because only then the holy name can display its potency to extin¬guish the anarthas and to awaken attachment in the heart of the chanter:
(4)Sri Siksastaka 2
namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-saktis tatrarpita niyamitah smarane na kalah
etadrsl tava krpa bhagavan mamapi durdaivam idrsam ihajani nanuragah
My Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, in Your holy name there is all good fortune for the living entity, and therefore You have many names, such as krishna and Govinda, by which You expand Yourself. You have invested all Your potencies in those names, and there are no hard and fast rules for remembering them. My dear Lord, although You bestow such mercy upon the fallen, conditioned souls by liberally teaching Your holy names, I am so unfortunate that I commit offenses while chanting the holy name, and therefore I do not achieve attachment for chanting.1
A devotee who is free from unwanted material desires (anartha-nivrtti), attains the stage of nisthd, where he performs devotional service with steady, firm faith. Then he develops the illuminating quality of humility, which is perfectly described by the four symptoms explained in the third sloka:
(5) Sri Siksastaka 3
trnad api sunicena taror iva sahisnuna
amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih
One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honor but is always pre¬pared to give all respect to others, can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord.2
We have elaborately discussed these qualities in the section about pure chanting, starting on page 110. In His contemplation on this verse, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu points out:
(6) Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Antya-lila 20.26
ei-mata hana yei krishna-nama laya
sri-krishna-carane tanra prema upajaya
If one chants the holy name of Lord krishna in this manner, he will cer¬tainly awaken his dormant love for krishna's lotus feet.
This trnad api verse is so important that it should be the permanent guideline of all Vaisnavas, as Srila krishnadasa Kaviraja GosvamI emphatically exclaims:
(7) Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Adi-lila 17.32
urdhva-bahu kari' kahon, suna, sarva-loka
nama-sutre ganthi' para kanthe ei sloka
Raising my hands, I declare, "Everyone please hear me! String this verse on the thread of the holy name and wear it on your neck for con¬tinuous remembrance."
By acquiring deep faith in the holy name, one quickly obtains the stage of ruci, steady taste for chanting. The symptoms of ruci are that one loses all desire for personal aggrandizement and becomes situated on the platform of unalloyed devotion, as depicted in the fourth sloka:
(8) Sri Siksastaka 4
na dhanam na janam na sundarim kavitam va jagad-isa kamaye
mama janmani janmanisvare bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi
O Lord of the universe, I do not desire material wealth, materialistic followers, a beautiful wife or fruitive activities described in flowery language. All I want, life after life, is unmotivated devotional service to You.1
On the stage of ruci, one's attachment is mainly nourished by the different aspects and paraphernalia of devotional service, like hearing, chanting, preaching, worshipping the Deity etc. However, by humbly continuing his bhajana, the devotee's affection will be drawn more and more towards krishna in person. This is the stage of dsakti or krishna-dsakti. Such a devotee recognizes his fallen condition and eagerly awaits the causeless mercy of the Lord. He con¬siders himself to be the eternal servant of krishna:
(9) Sri Siksastaka 5
ayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram patitam mam visame bhavambudhau
krpaya tava pada-pankaja-sthita-dhuli-sadrsam vicintaya
Oh, My Lord, O krishna, son of Maharaja Nanda, I am Your eternal servant, but because of My own fruitive acts, I have fallen in this horrible ocean of nescience. Now please be causelessly merciful to Me. Consider Me a particle of dust at Your lotus feet.'
The next stage is described by Srila Rupa GosvamI as follows:
When devotional service is situated on the transcendental platform of pure goodness [suddha-sattva], it is like a ray of the sunlight of love for krishna. At such a time, devotional service causes the heart to be softened by various tastes, and it is called bhava [emotion].2 These transcendental emotions bring about ecstatic bodily trans¬formations, called sattvika-vibhaws,3 Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu describes such a person:
(10) Sri Siksastaka 6
nayanam galad-asru-dharaya vadanam gadgada-ruddhaya gira
pulakair nicitam vapuh kada tava nama-grahane bhavisyati
My dear Lord, when will My eyes be beautified by filling with tears that constantly glide down as I chant Your holy name? When will My voice falter and all the hairs on My body stand erect in transcendental happiness as I chant Your holy name?4
When bhava softens the heart completely, becomes endowed with a great feeling of possessiveness in relation to the Lord and becomes very much condensed and intensified, it is called prema, pure love of Godhead.1 The internal symptom of such devotion is that one worships krishna in the mood of separation (vipralambha).2 This love in separation is represented in perfection by the gopfs of Vrndavana, headed by Srimati Radharanl. It is illustrated by the seventh sloka:
(11) Sri Siksastaka 7
yugayitam nimesena caksusa pravrsayitam
sunyayitam jagat sarvam govinda-virahena me
My Lord Govinda, because of separation from You, I consider even a moment a great millennium. Tears flow from My eyes like torrents of rain, and I see the entire world as void.3
Finally, the devotee in prema-bhakti, being fully aware of his particular eternal relationship with krishna, firmly embraces the Lord within his heart and thus experiences sambhoga, union with krishna by obtaining His direct association. Then he makes himself fully dependent on krishna's own sweet will and prays, following in the mood of Srimati Radharanl, but never desiring direct enjoyment of krishna:
(12) Sri Siksastaka 8
dslisya va pdda-ratam pinastu mam adarsanan marma-hatam karotu va
yatha tatha va vidadhatu lampato mat-prana-nathas tu sa eva naparah
Let krishna tightly embrace this maidservant, who has fallen at His lotus feet. Let Him trample Me or break My heart by never being visible to Me. He is a debauchee, after all, and can do whatever He likes, but He is still no one other than the worshipable Lord of My heart.4 In summary, we can meditate on the eight slokas of Sri Siksastaka as an illustration to the gradual development of bhakti as it is described in the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu:
• The first verse establishes sraddhd, faith in the holy name, by enumerating its seven transcendental qualities.
• The second verse describes the progress from sadhu-sahga and bhajana-kriya to anartha-nivrtti, by pointing out the great spiritual potency of the holy name as the best means of sadhana, and by stressing the importance of becoming free from anarthas by avoiding the ten offenses against the holy name.
• The third verse illustrates the mood of deep humility of a devo¬tee who has attained the stage of nistha, steady faith.
• The fourth verse expresses the attitude of a devotee on the stage of ruci, who forgets about his material desires and develops un¬alloyed devotion to krishna.
• The fifth verse depicts the prayer of a devotee who is endowed with dsakti, deep affection for krishna, and hankers for nothing than His association.
• The sixth verse shows the ecstatic symptoms of a devotee who has obtained bhdva, ecstatic love for krishna.
• The seventh verse expresses the feeling of separation (vipra-lambha) of a devotee who ultimately has attained the supreme stage of prema, pure love of God.
• The eighth verse finally is the prayer of such a devotee in prema-bhakti who has fully realized his eternal, individual relationship with krishna and experiences sambhoga, direct association with the Lord.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura concludes these descriptions in his Bhajana-rahasya with the following request: O brother, the holy name never loses potency either at the stage of practice or perfection. Therefore, chant the holy name and consider it your sole objective. Do not consider any other means of sadhana.