This issue is dedicated to a momentous event in the history of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON): the inauguration of the worship of life-sized deities of Sri Panca-tattva (Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His four principal associates) in Mayapur, West Bengal. Ten thousand Hare Krsna devotees from around the world attended the March festival, the culmination of years of preparation and the fulfillment of the vision of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, ISKCON's founder-acarya.
Departing from our standard editorial policy, this issue presents several articles written by one person: Braja-sevaki Devi Dasi. She was our on-site reporter (she lives in Mayapur), and we're indebted to her for the skill, energy, dedication, and enthusiasm she put into producing these articles for the benefit of our readers.
The issue also includes a philosophical article by Satyaraja Dasa about Sri Panca-tattva and a lecture by Srila Prabhupada about the identities of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda.
Hare Krsna.—Nagaraja Dasa, Editor
• To help all people discern reality from illusion, spirit from matter, the eternal from the temporary.
A Sense of Belonging
I have finally found what I have been searching for my entire life. I have always been spiritual but never had an organized religion that filled my needs. I almost gave up and resigned myself to being spiritual but no religion. But things happened, and in a matter of a month several things came into my life that directed me.
I remember a saying: "When the student is ready, the Master will appear." Little did I know it would be when I was in my 50's. What a gift! Krsna is so good, and I am so lucky.
When I start talking to a devotee, I just want to hang on and not let go. I am in the process of changing my life so I can spend time studying and listening, surrounded by devotees.
This is the first time in my life I feel I belong somewhere. How wonderful!
Increased Devotional Service
May I please know what is the best method of increasing our devotional service unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna? I have been chanting sixteen rounds of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra daily for many days and reading copies of Srimad-Bhagavatam and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta that I bought from ISKCON Nepal, of which I am a Life Member. But I am not satisfied with my devotional service unto Lord Krsna; hence I would like to request you to suggest more methods of devotional service.
Our reply: Because Lord Krsna is so qualified and we ourselves are so insignificant compared to Him, it is not surprising that devotees like yourself may feel dissatisfied with their devotional service. That you want to improve your devotional service is a good quality.
Some powerful ways of invoking the favor of the Lord, besides the ones you suggested, are associating with devotees, living in a holy place, and worshiping the deity in the temple with faith. Over and above this, if you try to share Krsna with others, you will be greatly blessed. Lord Caitanya wants His holy name distributed all over the world, and whatever you can do to help Him, with your intelligence, skills, and wealth, will help you greatly. The Lord comes to uplift the fallen souls, and so if you can assist Him in this endeavor, that is the best service.
Evolution and the Vedas
It is said that scriptures like the Vedas existed from the time of creation. That means that a living being must have been there to preserve this great knowledge. But now it is proved that there was no human being on earth at the period of microorganisms and dinosaurs. Then who has preserved the Vedas?
Why did human beings come to exist later than these creatures? Why did God not create human beings at the beginning of creation?
Do you agree that man comes from apes? If so, why is Manu (the father of mankind) mentioned in the Vedas? If evolution is a gradual change from ape to man, then is there any need for a creator? Human and other forms will automatically appear along with adaptation, and so forth.
Our reply: The Lord reveals the Vedic knowledge to the original living being, Lord Brahma, from within his heart, and Brahma expands it through his descendents.
There is evidence that human beings existed during the time of the dinosaurs. You can find this in Forbidden Archeology or its condensed version, The Hidden History of the Human Race.
First God creates Brahma. Then Brahma creates the prajapatis, and the prajapatis create humans, animals, and plants. This is described in Human Devolution.
We do not accept that humans descended from apes. If you look at the evidence in Forbidden Archeology, you will see that apes, ape-men, and humans appear to have all existed for millions of years into the past. The fossil record is missing transitional forms between the vast majority of species. In fact, the evolutionists had to dream up a scheme called punctuated equilibrium to justify the lack of evidence in this area. It is simply blind faith to accept the process of gradual evolution based on the scanty evidence for it.
More About Radharani
Can you suggest how I can find more resources about Srimati Radharani, either online or in your bookstore?
I have read articles posted on Krishna.com and have read Krsna book too. But apart from these, is there any other place I can learn more about Goddess Radharani?
Guru Krishna Ram
Our reply: We consider Srila Prabhupada the greatest authority on Srimati Radharani in recent times, and Her greatest servant, because personally, and through his faithful followers, he has created hundreds of Radha-Krsna temples all over the world. Besides his Krsna book, the other books of his that discuss Srimati Radharani are The Nectar of Devotion and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. Of these it is better to read The Nectar of Devotion first. It contains many descriptions of Radharanis pastimes and feelings of love for Krsna.
Ultimately appreciation of Radharani is possible for one whose only aspiration is to serve Krsna, for that is Her only desire. The beautiful instructions of Rupa Gosvami, as explained for our time by Srila Prabhupada in The Nectar of Devotion, can help us become pure devotees of Krsna and thus come to appreciate more fully the glories of Krsna's foremost devotee, Srimati Radharani.
Please correct a misquote in your article "Hare Krsna Youth on Tour" [Jan/Feb 2004]. I never said that we drove the Radha-Damodara busses "into the ground" or that we didn't repair the transmissions. The Radha-Damodara party always had a dedicated maintenance crew. At its peak, Dayal Candra Dasa headed up a crew of five devotee repairmen in a large garage in Manhattan.
As author of the article "When the Road Becomes a Temple" [May/June 2004], I have come to realize that it was left with a major oversight. Tattva Darsana Dasa, a trusted and loyal person, was hardly mentioned. Without his good Vaisnava support, as in driving the support van, doing laundry, preparing delicious veggie wraps, shopping for supplies, arranging accommodations at campsites or people's homes, contacting media, and just providing companionship, the cross-Canada trek could not have gone on. It goes to show that Vaisnava association is essential in undertaking any devotional project. My greatest appreciation goes to him.
Please write to us at: BTG, P. O. Box 430, Alachua, FL 32616, USA. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the late fifteenth century, Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu appeared in West Bengal to drive away the darkness of ignorance.
by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto Sri Krsna Caitanya and Lord Nityananda, who are like the sun and moon. They have arisen simultaneously on the horizon of Gauda [West Bengal] to dissipate the darkness of ignorance and thus wonderfully bestow benediction upon all."
—Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi 1.2
SriKrsna Caitanya has many expansions, and the first is Lord Nityananda, who is Krsna's brother, Balarama. We have to understand these things from the mahajanas, the great sages who are learned in the science of Krsna consciousness. Narottama Dasa Thakura, a mahajana, says, vrajendra-nandana yei, saci-suta hoilo sei, balarama hoilo nitai: "Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Lord Krsna, the son of Nanda Maharaja, and Sri Nityananda Prabhu is Balarama."
Sometimes foolish people say that Nityananda is an expansion of Radharani. That is not a fact. Nityananda is Balarama. We have to know from the mahajanas; we cannot manufacture our own ideas. That is blasphemy.
A mahajana is one who follows the previous mahajanas. This is the system. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu strictly followed this principle, and Krsna also recommended it in Bhagavad-gita (4.2): evam parampara-praptam. We have to receive knowledge through the disciplic succession; we cannot manufacture it. The concoction of so-called spiritual philosophies has killed the spiritual life of India. "You can think in your way, and I can think in my way"this idea is not at all scientific. Suppose you claim that two plus two equals three, or five. Is that acceptable? No, two plus two equals four, and you cannot claim otherwise.
Balarama is presenting Krsna, and therefore He is the original guru. Any bona fide guru must be a representative of Balarama, or Nityananda. And because Balarama is presenting Krsna, He is called prakasa. When the sun shines, you can see everything clearly. That is called prakasa. At night, in the darkness, everything is covered and we cannot see, but during the daytime, when there is prakasa, illumination, we can see everything.
Nityananda Prabhu is Balarama, prakasa-tattva. And just as Balarama is manifesting Krsna, Nityananda is manifesting Sri Krsna Caitanya, who is also the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
When Nityananda Prabhu was preaching in Bengal, He first of all delivered Jagai and Madhai, and by delivering them He showed how to serve Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself. Sri krsna caitanya radha-krsna nahe anya: "Sri Krsna Caitanya is Radha and Krsna combined." And Nityananda is presenting Lord Caitanya.
How can one present Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu? By His personal example Nityananda Prabhu has given us a lesson. Caitanya Mahaprabhu would send Nityananda Prabhu and Haridasa Thakura to preach on the streets of Navadvipa, home to home. Once they saw a big crowd on the street, and Nityananda Prabhu inquired from the people, "Why are there so many people assembled?" He was informed that there were two gundas, rogues, creating some trouble. The gundas were Jagai and Madhai. Now, even though they physically attacked Nityananda Prabhu, He continued to preach Krsna consciousness to them, and He delivered them. This is the best way to serve Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu —by preaching Krsna consciousness boldly.
The business of gundas is to create trouble, that's all. Especially at the present moment in Bengal there are many gundas creating trouble. This is due to not enough preaching of Krsna consciousness. Nityananda Prabhu is not being given the chance to preach. He is very eager to preach Krsna consciousness, but He's not being given the chance.
In Bengal there is a family who say they are descendants of Nityananda Prabhu. There is a controversy concerning their claim. But apart from the controversy, if they are descendants of Nityananda Prabhu, their business is to act like Nityananda Prabhu. What is that business? That is described by Narottama Dasa Thakura: dina-hina yata chilo, hari-name uddharilo. Their business should be to do what Nityananda Prabhu did, along with Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and that is to deliver all the fallen souls by teaching them to chant Hare Krsna.
Sri Krsna Caitanya and Nityananda are the same as Lord Krsna and Balarama. When Krsna incarnated, these two brothers were engaged as cowherd boys, as friends of the gopis, and as sons of mother Yasoda and Nanda Maharaja. That was Their life in Vrndavana village.
Later, when They went to Mathura, They killed Kamsa and the wrestlers, and when They went to Dwarka They had to fight so many demons. But They spent Their childhood up to Krsna's sixteenth year in Vrndavana, living a happy life. Simply love. Krsna and Balarama enacted these early pastimes just to enliven Their devotees (paritranaya sadhunam). The devotees are always anxious to see Krsna and Balarama and Their associates, and they are always very much aggrieved when separated from Them. To rejuvenate their life, Krsna and Balarama played Their childhood days in Vrndavana. And out of Vrndavana, in Mathura and Dwarka and other places, Their business was killing the demons.
Same Lords, Same Businesses
Krsna and Balarama have two businesses—pacifying the devotees and killing the demons. Of course, since Krsna and Balarama are the Absolute Truth, there is no difference between Their killing and Their loving. Those who are killed are also delivered from material bondage.
Now these same two brothers have again descended as Sri Krsna Caitanya and Nityananda Prabhu. They are compared to the sun and the moon. The business of the sun and the moon is to dissipate darkness. The sun rises during the daytime, and the moon rises at night. But the sun and moon of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda are wonderful because They have appeared simultaneously.
Still, Their business is the same as that of the ordinary sun and moon: tamo-nudau, to dissipate darkness. Everyone in this material world is in darkness. In other words, they're ignorant, like animals. Why are they animals? Such civilized men, so well dressed and with university degrees. Are they in darkness? Yes, they are in darkness. What is the proof? The proof is that they are not Krsna conscious. That is their darkness.
Now, someone may ask, "Who says this is proof we are in darkness?" We do not say it—Krsna does: na mam duskrtino mudhah prapadyante naradhamah mayayapahrta-jnana. [Bhagavad-gita 7.15]
Mayayapahrta-jnana means that although someone may have a university degree, although he is called civilized, his knowledge has been stolen by illusion, and therefore he does not surrender to Krsna. Krsna is personally canvassing: sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekamsaranam vraja. "Just give up your nonsense and surrender to Me." [Bhagavad-gita 18.66] He's personally canvassing, but because these rascals and fools are in darkness, they do not know what the goal of life is. Therefore they are not willing to surrender to Him.
Krsna also describes these fools as naradhama, "the lowest of mankind." How have they become naradhama? By always engaging in sinful life. What is sinful life? Illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication, and gambling. People who are addicted to these things are duskrti, "miscreants," and naradhama, "the lowest of mankind." And whatever knowledge they have acquired by their so-called education is all false knowledge (mayayapahrta-jnana). This is their position.
Krsna and Balarama, being merciful, have descended again as Sri Krsna Caitanya and Nityananda Prabhu. They are canvassing for the same principle—sarva-dharman parityajya—but in a different way. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu have appeared to drive away the darkness of ignorance. There is no actual difference between Krsna's preaching and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu's preaching. The only difference is that Krsna, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, demands, "You rascal, surrender unto Me. You are suffering so much on account of your duskrti, sinful activities. I am your father; I want to see you happy. Therefore, I have come. Surrender unto Me and I shall give you all protection."
Except for Krsna conscious activities, whatever you do is sinful. The whole world is full of sinful activities, and they have been summarized into four categories: illicit sex, meat-eating, gambling, and intoxication. This is the summary, but there are many, many branches of these activities. Still, if you cut the root of sinful activity—illicit sex, gambling, meat-eating, and intoxication—then automatically the other sinful activities will go.
Therefore we who are propagating this Krsna consciousness movement are requesting that you give up these sinful activities. Otherwise, you will be implicated. What is that implication? Your implication is that your sinful life will get you another body. And again you will suffer. As soon as you get a material body, there is suffering. It may be a king's body or a cobbler's body; it doesn't matter: the suffering is there. But because people are mayayapahrta-jnana, ignorant, they are accepting suffering as pleasure. This is called maya, illusion.
When a pig is eating stool, he thinks he's enjoying life. He does not know that he's suffering. Maya has given the living entity a pig's body so that he will suffer, but even in the pig's body he's thinking he's enjoying life. This is illusion.
Everyone in this material world is suffering, but there are different grades of suffering, just as in the prison. There are different grades of prisoner—first class, second class, third class—but if the first-class prisoner thinks he is enjoying life, that is ignorance. In the prison, where is the enjoyment? It is all suffering. It may be first-class suffering, but it is still suffering.
The whole of human society is in darkness, and out of Their kindness Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu have appeared to dissipate this darkness.
Thank you very much.
Descendents of a long line of South Indian deity carvers cast the Panca-tattva deities according to strict scriptural guidelines.
by Braja-sevaki Devi Dasi
As this year slid slowly into February and the cold mornings blurred into soft-sun days, winter began to shed its skin in Mayapur. The residents breathed a sigh of relief; weary from long months of heat and thick monsoon rain, they had welcomed the cold weather, but were now just as anxious for some sun-filled days with warm breezes. On a morning that woke lazily under a blanket of fog, an electric charge filled the atmosphere as word spread: "Sri Panca-tattva are coming today!"
Devotees streamed out of the temple, through the main gates, and onto Bhaktisiddhanta Road, the main road that follows the Ganges into Mayapur. Their destination was the birthplace of Lord Caitanya (the yogapitha), one kilometer from Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir. As devotees gathered at the gates of the yogapitha, where they would meet the deities, the tension increased. Finally, the distant sound of kirtana reached them. It was the chanting of hundreds of devotees who had gone on ahead and were now escorting the truck carrying the deities.
As the procession came into view, the sight was amazing—colorful ags on bamboo poles danced in the air, held aloft by a stream of devotees who surrounded the heavy-load truck. Those waiting at the yogapitha fell to the ground, offering their respects to the precious cargo aboard the forty-foot flatbed. The smiling driver, Muruge-shan, had driven for five days and nights from Kumbakonam in South India.
The kirtana increased, the sound tumultuous, sweeping all into its irresistible embrace. From houses and shops, local villagers emerged, curious about the source of this wonderful celebration. Work stopped at the five-story construction site next to the yogapitha temple as laborers hung over balconies, their faces breaking into huge smiles.
As the truck made its way slowly along the narrow village road, Lord Nityananda's hand protruded from its careful packaging. It curved, gently and softly, towards the edge of the truck. One by one, devotees lined up to receive the first blessings and the loving touch of the most merciful Sri Nityananda Prabhu, His golden fingers caressing everyone.
As the truck turned into the back entrance of the Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir and rolled gently to a standstill, the cargo didn't budge; precious as it was, it was secured tight. No chances had been taken—nothing, not even an earthquake, would shift it. For this special load was the Supreme Lord in His deity form—Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, along with His eternal associates Lord Nityananda, Sri Advaita Acarya, Sri Gadadhara, and Srivasa Pandita.
Sri Panca-tattva's journey began in the village of Swamimalai, where the deities were cast under the expert hands of Devasenapathy Stapathy and his sons, Radhakrishna and Srikand. The family traces its lineage back to the era of King Chola—fifteen hundred years, or three hundred generations. The king ruled the Tanjore district, and placed great importance in art, music, sculpture, and architecture. When he desired to build a temple, he brought families of sthapatis (deity carvers) from the north of India. The temple, which took thirty years to build and is still standing today, was the biggest temple in the world at the time. Its tower was constructed from a single stone, weighing eighty tons and covering the entire temple, so that the shadow of the temple never touches the ground. After the temple was completed, the sthapatis remained, and still today they make up the village of Swamimalai.
Before the deities were cast, there were many years of preparation. Bharata Maharaja Dasa, who was to play a major part in the deities' creation, began to study the Silpa Sastras, the scriptures covering deity making. He en-countered a major problem: Worship of Sri Panca-tattva is from the Bengali tradition, and no scriptures existed for their worship. So Bharata turned to the South Indian traditions but modified the deities' proportions according to the written records of the Panca-tattva's pastimes in Navadwip around five hundred years ago.
Still there were countless details to be resolved, including the height of the deities and their pose. Towards the end of 1997, the Sri Mayapur Project Development Committee (SMPDC) decided upon the poses from drawings submitted by Caitanya Candrodaya Dasa, an artist who worked in the SMPDC's London office.
Bharata Maharaja's study of the scriptures and his involvement with the sketching and the subsequent molding of clay models gave him a strong idea of how the deities would look. He worked strictly under the direction of Jananivasa Dasa, the head pujari (priest) at Mayapur. Jananivasa's instructions related to the mood and characteristics of each personality of the Panca-tattva.
"We didn't just have the deities carved according to some formula or computer-generated calculation," Bharata Maharaja said. "Jananivasa put the personality and mood into each deity; he captured the expressions that you see on each face."
Jananivasa would relay his directions to Bharata, who would then produce a clay model of the particular part of the body discussed. Then the artists would copy it and produce the final cast. In this way, the deities developed individually.
Recently, sitting behind the closed doors of the altar in the Panca-tattva temple and adding the finishing touches to the deity forms, Bharata Maharaja admitted that it was unavoidable that Western concepts would inuence the shape and form of the deities.
"Different cultures have different conceptions of beauty," he explained. "In African tribal traditions, for example, a long neck is considered beautiful. In South India, their concept of beauty is different from a Bengali viewpoint. So in this way, through the involvement of South Indian sthapatis and Western devotees, we have produced these deities."
Bharata Maharaja smiled as he looked up at the outcome.
"The ultimate result is uniquely beautiful."
A Needed Push
Towards the end of 2001, though, things had been at a standstill. Ganga Dasa and Bhagavatamrta Dasa, both long-time residents of Mayapur who were involved in the deity-casting project from start to finish, decided the time was right to get things done. They were keen to revive the project and see it through to the end.
Ganga told Bharata, "We thought we could just get on our motorbikes, ride down to South India, and get everything moving—get these deities made!"
It was to take a lot more than that, but it was no doubt because of the involvement of these two devotees that things took a giant step towards completion. They once again approached Devasenapathy, who sent his eldest son, Radhakrishna, to Mayapur. Radhakrishna discussed the desires of the team and showed examples of his previous work. Because of Devasenapathy's ill health, the job was given to Radhakrishna and his brother, Sri-kand, and the fiberglass models of the deities were sent south to their workshop. When the father saw the model of Lord Caitanya, he approved, saying it was made according to the South Indian scriptures that guided his tradition. He gave the nod for the work to commence, telling his sons, "Take extra care with this work—it's a special project." Sadly, Devasenapathy would not live to see the result: He passed away in 2002 before the casting began.
One of the main contributions to the deities' form from the South Indian tradition is the ornaments and intricate engraving on the bodies. This was one of the conditions that Devasenapathy made to Jananivasa—that he would cast the deities as long as he could include these traditional ornamental carvings. He told Jananivasa this condition must be met; otherwise his entire line—hundreds of generations—would be cursed, since sthapatis never make deities without clothing. Jananivasa agreed. The result speaks for itself.
Bharata Maharaja was called to South India to oversee the refinements that were added at each stage of the carving.
"Every stage of the work saw changes made," said Bharata, "and every person involved added something. We didn't move backwards."
The preparations for the castings began, starting with puja (worship).
"The casting is not a manufacturing process," Radhakrishna explained. "Everything is done according to culture."
First, Radhakrishna and Srikand, along with their wives, invited brahmanas to the area where the casting would take place. Purification rites were performed during a fire sacrifice, and the brahmanas were asked to give their benediction that work would flow smoothly. This was followed by Go-puja (worship of the cow) and Tulasi-puja (worship of the sacred Tulasi tree). Finally, Agni-pujaworship of Agnideva, the god of fire—was performed, as the process of casting is done under conditions of intense heat. Sixty to a hundred devotees performed kirtana continuously throughout the casting period.
In April 2003, Lord Caitanya was cast first, followed by Nityananda, then Gadadhara, Advaita Prabhu, and finally Srivasa. The casting of each deity was performed strictly according to astrological calculations. Auspicious days, hours, and minutes were chosen, as directed by scripture.
On the day of casting Gadadhara, heavy rain surrounded the area and threatened the workyard. Because of the intense heat of the liquid metal, not a drop of water can be mixed into the metal; such a mixture could result in small explosions capable of injuring those onsite.
Radhakrishna approached Jananivasa and said to him, "Maybe today there will be no casting."
A dose of mercy was needed, and it seems that Krsna gave it.
"While all around the sky was black and rain fell continuously," Ganga Dasa said, "the entire work area was dry."
Work continued day and night. When it was suggested that outside help be brought in to speed things up, the workers refused: No one but them was going to work on these deities! They increased their pace. Radhakrishna says that without Bhagavatamrta's pushing, the deities would never have been finished in time. Although the work was going on, Bhagavatamrta came daily, pushing harder and harder, encouraging everyone to work faster. He was the main force behind Sri Panca-tattva's arriving in Mayapur on time. He was anxious to share the excitement with devotees worldwide. His emails, sent hurriedly from South India, captured the mood that was prevalent as the deities prepared to leave for Mayapur.
A Well-Earned Title
Loading the deities onto the truck and unloading them at the other end would prove to be another obstacle, which lasted several days. Along for the ride was Ravi Chandra, the chief engineer in charge of ensuring that the deities were taken care of properly and unloaded without damage.
The job was left in his capable—and in the end, damaged—hands. When Lord Nityananda was being worked on in December, He broke free of His ropes —not once, but three times. The third time, Ravi put both his hands out to stop the deity from falling—quite a remarkable feat, considering the deity weighs in at around two and a half tons. Somehow, Ravi's hands did the job, and Lord Nityananda was saved. But Ravi's left hand was trapped underneath the deity's left hand—the same hand that reached out of the packaging and beckoned the devotees while still on the truck—and required twenty-four stitches. He also broke a finger on his right hand. Regardless, he showed up for work the next day.
Refinements continued up to the installation. Radhakrishna was particularly thoughtful when asked if he was satisfied with the result.
"Ordinarily, when we began to work, our father would guide us. After finishing a job, we would ask his approval. This time, our father was not here, so we wanted to make this job better than anything we had done in his presence, so that we knew he would be pleased, wherever he may be."
He added that seeing the deities complete and watching the devotees' reactions to the first darsana (audience) was a moving experience for him.
"I was standing at the front of the altar, but when the doors opened and the devotees roared with delight, I was thinking I should have stood at the back, because I wanted to see the looks of joy on the faces of the devotees, to see their longing to see the Lord."
During the abhiseka (bathing) ceremony at the installation, which Radhakrishna describes as "the most grand abhiseka I have ever seen anywhere," he was amazed at the devotees' reactions: Tears of joy poured from their eyes, and their love for the deities was evident in their chanting and in their blissful faces.
When asked how he felt about leaving the deities in the care of devotees in Mayapur, Radhakrishna said, "Usually the father likes to see that the son is very well situated, not doing as well as the father, but better. Similarly, when I made Lord Caitanya and His associates, they became like my sons."
Radhakrishna pauses, choosing his words carefully. "When I saw how everyone was worshiping the Lord so nicely, with so much love, I was very happy."
He lifted the corner of his cloth, wiping the tears from his eyes.
"I can say with confidence, 'the son is doing very nicely.'"
It is evident that Radhakrishna is pleased with the outcome.
"I have made many deities before these, but only now, after making Lord Caitanya, can I say that I have earned the title 'sthapati.'"
Thousands of devotees worldwide will certainly agree.
Braja Sevaki Devi Dasi is a disciple of His Holiness Tamal Krsna Goswami. She is the author of three books, and her poetry has been published in Aus-tralia and Britain. She lives in Mayapur with her husband, Jahnu Dvipa Dasa.
This year, for the first time, everyone can write an offering to honor Srila Prabhupada on his Vyasa Puja (appearance day) and have it read by thousands of devotees around the world.
Whether you're a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, a grand-disciple, a follower or well-wisher, please send in an offering. Everyone can submit an offering to be posted in the Online Vyasa Puja Book.
This year, 2004, is the 108th anniversary of Srila Prabhupada's appearance and also the 60th anniversary of the launch of Back to Godhead magazine. Join in the celebration by sending in your offering, and be part of a world of devotees glorifying Srila Prabhupada.
The Online Vyasa Puja Book accepts offerings in all languages, so if English isn't your native language you can write in your mother tongue if you prefer.
There is no deadline for your offering. But by submitting it sooner rather than later, you'll avoid the last-minute rush and be assured that your offering is online by Srila Prabhupada's Vyasa Puja day, which falls in early September. So please send your offering as soon as possible.
Submit your offering online (www.krishna.com/vyasapuja), or e-mail it to email@example.com.
Praises of the members of the Panca-tattva by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's main biographers capture the significance of the Mayapur installation.
photos by Nitya-trpta Devi Dasi
An ordinary person knows few words that can describe an event as vibrant, humbling, magnificent, enlivening, and awe-inspiring as the arrival and installation of Sri Panca-tattva in Mayapur. Nothing can compare to the beauty and artistic expressions already penned by the great saints who left their legacy in the form of scripture, especially Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta) and Srila Vrndavana Dasa Thakura (Sri Caitanya-bhagavata). Let these exalted authors deliver with their words the majestic and spectacular commentary on this memorable occasion.
"Let me offer my obeisances unto Lord Sri Krsna, who has manifested Himself in five as a devotee, expansion of a devotee, incarnation of a devotee, pure devotee, and devotional energy."
"When the five members of the Panca-tattva saw the entire world drowned in love of Godhead and the seed of material enjoyment in the living entities completely destroyed, they all became exceedingly happy."
"Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates of the Panca-tattva distributed the holy name of the Lord to invoke love of Godhead throughout the universe, and thus the entire universe was thankful."
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
"I am the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Being summoned by the incarnation of Maha-Visnu, Advaita Acarya, I will descend from Goloka-dhama and appear on the earth in Navadwip, Mayapur-dhama, on the banks of the Ganges. I will appear in the form of a brahmana with a large golden-complexioned body, endowed with the thirty-two signs of a maha-purusa, and bearing the title Misra. Then, decorated with all of the auspicious qualities of a maha-bhagavata, endowed with renunciation, devoid of worldly desires, and learned in the science of pure devotional service, I will accept sannyasa as a devotee relishing the mellows of ecstatic love for Krsna."
"All glories to Sri Gauracandra, the life and soul of the universe! Please give Your lotus feet in charity to my heart."
"The beauty of millions upon millions of cupids seemed pale and ordinary next to the beauty of the Lord. His golden complexion was effulgent, and His blissful face was beaming like millions of glowing full moons. The Lord looked down upon Advaita Acarya with great affection. Golden pillars were no match against the graceful and powerful arms of the Lord, and the ornaments that decorated His arms paled any gems."
"Upon seeing the bewilderingly beautiful form of the Lord, Nityananda wanted to taste the beauty with His tongue, drink the beauty with His eyes, embrace the beauty with His arms, and absorb the beauty with His nose. To everyone's astonishment, Lord Nityananda stood speechless, completely enchanted by the wondrous splendor of the Lord."
"How enchanting They look, Lord Nityananda and Lord Gauranga, as they roam about Navadvipa with the devotees, chanting the holy names! What is the luster and value of pearls next to Lord Caitanya's teeth? One is sure to lose his mind at the sight of the Lord's beautiful cascading black hair, which is tied in a topknot. Next to the pinkish, graceful lotus eyes of the Lord, the beauty of all other lotuses looks faded and seems to disappear. His long hands extend down to His knees, and the thin line of His brahmana thread hangs loosely across His broad and expansive chest. A thin and perfect tilaka decorates His broad forehead. Without any jewelry or ornaments, every limb of His beautiful body looks exquisite and captivating. What is the brilliance of millions of precious gems compared to His dazzling nails? What is glittering gold next to the Lord's aura? The full moon has lost interest in her own beauty, and she yearns to see the glowing face of the Lord."
Sri Nityananda Prabhu
"Lord Caitanya said, 'Now, I understand that You, Lord Nityananda, are the full-manifestation of the Lord's energy. You are non-different from Him. The living entities can obtain loving devotional service at the lotus feet of Krsna simply by worshiping You. You purify the entire cosmic manifestation, and Your transcendental nature is inconceivable, incomprehensible, and esoteric. You are the personification of the highest ecstatic love of Krsna. Even a moment's association with You can dissolve millions and millions of sins. I can now understand that Lord Krsna intends to purify and redeem Me as He is giving Me Your association. It is my great fortune that I am able to see Your lotus feet. I know that if I worship Your lotus feet, then I will surely receive love of Krsna.'"
"All the devotees were jubilant upon meeting Lord Nityananda, and their minds were steeped in thoughts of Him.
"Lord Nityananda is the object of Lord Caitanya's complete love, and my heart's desire is that Lord Nityananda will reside in my heart as my most beloved Lord and master."
"Whoever hears Lord Nityananda's pastimes of coming to Navadvipa will be blessed with Krsna-prema."
"I worship Lord Nityananda, the limitless root of the tree of devotional service. As He walks with the grace of a majestic elephant, His pure, splendid beauty shines like the full autumn moon."
Sri Advaita Acarya
"Advaita Acarya Prabhu swooned in ecstasy, and lifting His hands, He began to cry, 'I have brought, I have brought My Lord. The Lord has left His supreme abode in the Vaikuntha planets and appeared here in answer to My prayers.' Saying this, He fell to the ground weeping."
"Who is capable of understanding the mind of Sri Advaita Acarya? By His spiritual potency He was able to invoke the appearance of the Supreme Lord in this world."
"Lord Visvambhara [Caitanya], the all-merciful Supreme Godhead, looked at Advaita Acarya Prabhu and said, 'I have descended to this earth because of Your vow and Your constant devotional service and worship. I was resting on the ocean of milk, and Your roaring woke Me up. You are so merciful that You could not bear the sufferings of humanity, and so You have brought Me here to alleviate their sufferings. All these demigods, sages, devotees, and associates who surround Me have appeared in answer to Your prayers. You have arranged for all living entities to see these great devotees, of whom even Lord Brahma is constantly thinking.'"
"Now perform My worship,' Lord Caitanya said. Having received this instruction, Advaita Acarya Prabhu began to worship the Lord's lotus feet in great ecstasy. First, He washed His feet with scented waters, and then He covered Them with highly scented oil. He dipped tulasi manjaris into sandalwood paste and placed them upon the Lord's lotus feet. Then, as tears of love unrestrictedly from His eyes, He began to offer worship with scents, incense, frankincense, and lamps."
"Advaita Acarya Prabhu saw everything glowing all around Lord Caitanya. The Lord, His devotees, and the beautiful ornaments that decorated the Lord's transcendental form shone brilliantly. An extremely beautiful goddess, Ganga Devi, was offering the Lord obeisances, seated upon a chariot. All around, the demigods were offering eulogies and prayers to the Lord. Turning around, Advaita Acarya saw that hundreds and hundreds of demigods were on the ground offering their obeisances and repeating Lord Krsna's name. Seeing these wonderful sights, Advaita Acarya Prabhu lifted Himself up from His prostrated position, overcome with awe and reverence."
Sri Gadhadhara Pandita
"No one can say how merciful Lord Caitanya is to Gadadhara Pandita, but people know the Lord as Gadaira Gauranga, 'the Lord Gauranga of Gadadhara Pandita.'"
"All glories to Sri Gadadhara Pandita, the reservoir of love!"
"All glories to Srivasa Pandita, the friend of the poor!"
"Srivasa was engaged in worshiping Lord Nrsimhadeva behind closed doors. Lord Caitanya came and repeatedly kicked the door. He screamed out, 'Whom are You worshiping? Whom are You meditating upon? The person whom You are worshiping is here!' He spoke to Srivasa, calling out, 'O Srivasa, all this time you have not known who I am. I have left My spiritual abode of Vaikuntha and come down to this material world at your beckoning—because of your loud chanting of the holy names and Advaita Acarya Prabhu's loud calling.'"
"Srivasa is most dear to Lord Caitanya; therefore, Lord Caitanya blessed him and everyone present by placing His lotus feet upon their heads. Smiling, the Lord said, 'May your attachment and attraction for Me increase.' How can I possibly describe the glorious and magnanimous nature of Srivasa Pandita? A little dust from his lotus feet can purify the entire creation."
"Srivasa Pandita said to Lord Caitanya, 'O Lord of my heart, please listen to me. Now that I have met you, I disregard all of my fears. All my sorrows and sufferings have vanished. My life has begun again; my day has come. My whole life and all of my endeavors have now become successful. The sun of good fortune has risen in my heart. My forefathers have been liberated, and my house has been sanctified. My eyes have never been blessed with such a wonderful sight as I am seeing today. I see Him whose lotus feet are most worshipable by the goddess of fortune, Sri Rama Devi.'"
by Braja-sevaki Devi Dasi
A gold moon shines in the Bengal sky; grace descends to earth;
Their light illuminates the days of Kali's darkened reign;
Echoes of Caitanya's song are heard throughout the nation,
The world rejoiced, the golden age had come; but would it stay?
The years went by, the message faded, changed by faulty men;
Time still passed, and one by one blessed souls the world did see—
Then one unique amongst them all, one thing set him apart,
Again the globe resounded, the same divine vibration
Just as Bhaktivinoda had known that one day soon he'd see
And now the ground of Mayapur is trod by many feet;
So once more five stars appear in a darkened Bengal sky;
Their forms have come to Mayapur, a miracle to behold;
They're here to take their mission forth, which Prabhupada began,
So in this year 2004, as thousands come to greet
The members of the Panca-tattva characterize the inconceivable unity and variety of the Absolute Truth.
by Satyaraja Dasa
Although Lord Caitanya is the incarnation of Krsna for the current age, He is generally unknown beyond India. Even within India, few outside the Gaudiya Vaisnava line are familiar with the Panca-tattva, whose installation in their deity forms in Mayapur drew thousands of Hare Krsna devotees from around the world. For persons unfamiliar with the Panca-tattva, we often give a simple description: the Panca-tattva is Lord Caitanya and His four main associates. But that's only part of the story. The Panca-tattva ("five truths") is actually one God in five features.
At first glance the idea of God in five features may seem peculiar. By definition, God is One, the unequalled source of everything. He is the Supreme Being, from whom all other beings originate. If another shared His preeminent position, He could not be considered God. For God to be supreme, He must be a singularity, without comparison and without competition. The world's monotheistic traditions have gone to great lengths to establish God's oneness, His exclusive position as the original cause of all causes.
And yet, despite their insistence that God is one, many in the Christian world accept the idea of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—and that all three are in some sense God. This is not to say that some Christians believe in three Gods, which would be polytheism, but rather that they believe in three complete persons composing one God. Similarly, those who recognize the truth of the Panca-tattva accept one God who manifests in five features. This ability to expand into various personalities is evidence of God's incomprehensible nature, and is detailed in all holy scriptures, from the Bible to Vedic literature.
Though God manifests in a variety of forms, and though these forms are simultaneously one and different, we might legitimately ask, Why would one Supreme Being manifest as five? What is His motivation? Gaudiya Vaisnava thinkers since the time of Caitanya Maha-prabhu concur that the One becomes many to exchange and disseminate divine love. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosva-mi, author of the Caitanya-caritamrta, explains: "Spiritually there are no differences between these five truths, for on the transcendental platform everything is absolute. Yet there are also varieties in the spiritual world, and in order to taste these spiritual varieties one should distinguish between them." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi 7.5).
Expanding for Love
Kaviraja Gosvami has further written that the characteristics of Krsna are understood to be like a storehouse of transcendental love. Although this repository of love certainly accompanied Krsna when He was present in the world five thousand years ago, it was subsequently sealed. When the Panca-tattva arrived some five hundred years ago in Bengal, they broke the seal and plundered the storehouse to drink transcendental love of Krsna. The more they tasted it, the more their thirst for it grew. This is the nature of love. It is dynamic—a constant surge upward. The more it is relished, the more it is desired.
It follows, then, that if God has more love than any other being—indeed, He is the very embodiment of love—His yearning for love must be greater than anyone else's (as is His potency to fulfill that yearning). But love is not enjoyed alone: it is shared between people. Therefore, the One becomes many (and, inconceivably, remains One). So He becomes the Panca-tattva to relish loving exchange. Even prior to the manifest pastimes of the Panca-tattva, God expanded for love: He first expands into His eternal consort, Sri Radha, and into His full expansions and incarnations, and then into the multifarious living entities, or jivatmas, who are removed expansions and therefore constitute a separate category, known as jiva-tattva.
The two primary living beings, Radha and Krsna, reunite in the form of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and so the expression of love that the Lord manifests in this feature is beyond the ken of ordinary and extraordinary perception. So inconceivable is this love, writes Kaviraja Gosvami, that "although the members of the Panca-tattva plundered the storehouse of love of Godhead and ate and distributed its contents, there was no scarcity, for this wonderful storehouse is so complete that as the love is distributed, the supply increases hundreds of times." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi 7.24)
According to Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.32),
"In this Age of Kali, people endowed with sufficient intelligence will worship the Lord, who is accompanied by His associates, by performance of sankirtana-yajna [the chanting of the holy name]." Traditional exegesis reveals that this verse and others like it refer to Caitanya Mahaprabhu. As a manifestation of Radha and Krsna in one form, Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the original Godhead in His most confidential and intimate feature. As the prime member of the Panca-tattva, He is accompanied by His plenary expansion (Nityananda Prabhu), His incarnation (Advaita Prabhu), His internal potency (Gadadhara Pandita), and His marginal potency (Srivasa Thakura).
Of these five truths, only Sri Caitanya is called Mahaprabhu ("the Great Master"), because even among manifestations of God, He is supreme. He appears in this world in a vibrant golden form, much like that of Sri Radha, whose essence He embodies. He brings to the world the congregational chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, far beyond ritualistic forms of religion that offer ordinary salvation, and He brings the inner core of spiritual love—the highest achievement of devotional sentiment. Armed with profound philosophy and the mood of Krsna's greatest lovers, He comes with the best secret known to man: bhakti, or devotional love. By His own example He shows how to practice this love, and He exhibits the symptoms that come from embracing Krsna in one's heart of hearts.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu cannot be understood or approached without the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu, who is the cardinal guru of the universe and who serves as an intermediary be-tween Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the devotee. As Balarama, Krsna's elder brother, is described as Krsna's "second body," so too is Nityananda the second body of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He is the Lord's active principle, He functions as such in both material creation and in spiritual lila, or pastimes. This means that Krsna is simply engaged in play, while "serious business" is handled by His first expansion, Balarama. In kingly terms, a monarch is merely interested in enjoying his well-deserved delights, while his immediate associates tend to his various services and obligatory necessities. This is similar to how the "servitor" Godhead—whether Balarama or Nityananda—functions in relation to Lord Krsna.
In manifested earthly lila, Nityananda Prabhu is senior to Caitanya Mahaprabhu by more than a decade. He is statuesque, like Caitanya Mahaprabhu, though He is whitish in complexion, whereas Caitanya Mahaprabhu is golden. His graceful gait is often compared to that of an elephant, and in a deep voice He is always repeating "Krsna, Krsna."
Both Maha-Visnu and Sadasiva—forms of the Lord who evoke awe and reverence in the spiritual world—descend in Caitanya's lila as Advaita Acarya. Because He is identical to Visnu, the all-pervading Lord, He is called Advaita, meaning "nondifferent." Advaita Acarya is one cause of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's appearance in this world: Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself confirmed that it was because of Advaita's prayers that He manifested His pastimes. Sadasiva (who appears as Advaita) is the intermediary between the spiritual world and the material world; it is therefore fitting that it was Advaita Acarya's prayers that brought Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Advaita Acarya, the senior Vaisnava of Navadwip, was middle-aged when Caitanya Mahaprabhu was born. He is usually depicted with white hair and a long white beard. His clothes are as white as His facial hair, and sometimes their whiteness is compared to that of the moon or the jasmine er. Great devotees meditate upon Him as the root of transcendental joy and the cause of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's appearance in this world.
Gadadhara Pandita is understood to be Krsna's sakti, or internal energy, and is described both as a direct incarnation of Radharani and as an incarnation of Sri Radhas effulgence. Caitanya Mahaprabhu is often called "the life and soul of Gadadhara Pandita." The relationship between them is intimate, if not perplexing. For example, since Caitanya Mahaprabhu is both Radha and Krsna, and Gadadhara is in fact Radha, there seems a strange overlapping of spiritual identities.
But mundane limitations should not be foisted upon divine personalities.
A closer look reveals that Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Radha in the mood of separation from Krsna. In the intimacy of love, Her mood is to be demanding of Krsna, while being uncompromising in Her service to Him. Gadadhara, on the other hand, is Radha in the mood of Rukmini, one of Krsna's prominent queens in Dwarka. In Her undeviating devotion, Her mood is to be conciliatory and accommodating. These different moods manifest as different personalities in Caitanya's lila. Such distinctions are difficult to understand, and one must be realized to enter into their mystery.
At least this much may be understood: Gadadhara Pandita is a perfect manifestation of Krsna's hladini potency, embodied as Sri Radha. The hladini potency is the power by which God enjoys pleasure. It is also the potency by which the servants of God enjoy the highest spiritual pleasure in love of God. The essence of love of God is bhava, or intense spiritual emotions, the ultimate development of which is called mahabava, embodied in Sri Radha. As it is said, Lord Krsna enchants the entire world, but Sri Radha enchants Him. Therefore, She is the supreme goddess, above all others. She is the purna-sakti, the full power, and She manifests in Caitanya lila as Gadadhara Pandita. He is the very form of blissful love, and to gaze upon His sweet, smiling face is to see love personified. To achieve His association is the goal of existence.
Srivasa Thakura is an incarnation of Narada Muni, one of the twelve traditional Vedic authorities and perfectly pure devotees of the Lord. Narada's devotional life is unique in that he was blessed with a spiritual body and the ability to travel throughout the cosmos to awaken people to the Absolute Truth. Narada is a musician, depicted as playing his vina and melodically chanting the holy names of the Lord. Srivasa Thakura, as an incarnation of Narada, also emphasized chanting, and the unparalleled kirtanas that took place in the courtyard of his house are legendary. His house became a virtual "parent church" in the universal sankirtana mission of Sri Caitanya. A facsimile of Srivasa Thakura's house exists today in Mayapur and is known Srivas Angan. Srivasa is a leader among Lord Caitanya's devotees. Therefore the Panca-tattva mantra ends with the phrase srivasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrnda: "[All glories to] the devotees of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, beginning with Srivasa." (The full mantra is jaya sri-krsna-caitanya prabhu nityananda sri-advaita gadadhara srivasadi-gaura- bhakta-vrnda.)
Five Factors for Action
The members of the Panca-tattva can fulfill all aspects of devotional life and bring happiness and spiritual bliss to all devotees who serve them. Those who honor the Panca-tattva will reach perfection. According to Bhagavad-gita (18.13-14), there are five factors in the accomplishment of any action: karta (the performer), cesta (endeavors), daivam (Supersoul, or the will of God), karanam (the senses), and adhisthanam (the place of action). The performer is the devotee, represented by Srivasa Thakura; the endeavor requires energy, the supreme form of which is known as Gadadhara Pandita; the Supersoul is Advaita, the embodiment of Visnu; the senses are controlled by following the guru, the external manifestation of Nityananda Prabhu; and the place of action is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's heart, from which everything else expands. In conclusion, we reect on the words of scripture: "By remembering the lotus feet of the Panca-tattva, a dumb man can become a poet, a lame man can cross mountains, and a blind man can see the stars in the sky." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi 8.5)
Satyaraja Dasa is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a regular contributor to BTG. He has written twenty books on Krsna consciousness, and is the editor of the recently published Holy War: Violence and the Bhagavad Gita. He lives with his wife and daughter near New York City.
This article was based on the author's book Sri Panca Tattva: The Five Features of God, available from the Krishna.com Store.
Unity in Variety: The Five Spiritual Truths
Taken together, the five categories of truth, or spiritual reality, represented by the Panca-tattva give us a full picture of the Absolute Truth, or God. Lord Caitanya represents the isvara-tattva. Isvara means "controller." The Supreme controller, above all others, is Lord Caitanya (who is Lord Krsna Himself). Lord Nityananda represents the prakasa-tattva. Prakasa means "expansion." From Nityananda (who is Lord Balarama) expand all the Visnu or Narayana forms of God. Advaita Acarya (who is Maha-Visnu) represents the avatara-tattva. All the avatars, or incarnations of the Lord in the material world, expand from Him. Gadadhara Pandita represents the sakti-tattva. Sakti means "energy," and here refers specifically to the internal energy of God, which includes the eternal spiritual world and the ever-liberated associates of the Lord who reside there. Finally, Srivasa Pandita represents the jiva-tattva. The jiva is the infinitesimal living entity (we ourselves), who, like the forms and energies of God mentioned before, are also spiritual. In this way the members of the Panca-tattva represent the main spiritual varieties that make up the one Absolute Truth.
Vedic rites and mantras mark the appearance of Sri Panca-tattva in their deity forms.
by Sri Prahlada Dasa and Braja-sevaki Devi Dasi
As the festivities and formalities unfolded in the temple, thousands were drawn into the whirl of color and sound emanating from the main altar as Sri Panca-tattva were unveiled for the first time. Amongst the activities, one stood out in its beauty and intensity: the yajna, or fire sacrifice, being carried out center-stage. Huge flames licked the forty-foot-high ceiling, urged on by great wooden spoonfuls of ghee (clarified butter) and accompanied by a chorus of strong voices chanting Vedic mantras and prayers. This is tattva homa, one of the six rites of the deity installation process—a magical, spiritual, esoteric journey for the senses, mind, and spirit.
The Vedic scriptures teach that the Lord's name, form, qualities, and pastimes are identical to Him. Thus the deity, as the Lord's form, and the Lord Himself are identical. Then why the need for an installation? Essentially, the installation process formalizes the Lord's manifestation. It is a conscious acknowledgment, a contract, so to speak, between the devotee and the Lord, whom the devotee requests to be formally present and to reciprocate with a certain standard of worship. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita (4.11), ye yatha mam prapadyante: "As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly."
Just as the chanting of the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—destroys the false ego and gradually awakens the spiritual identity of the chanter, so the six rites of the installation process symbolize a twofold theme: purifying the material elements the deity was carved from, and "re-creating" the deity from spiritual ingredients. In other words, the theme of the installation is purifying matter and transforming it into spirit. Srila Prabhupada explains this process in his SriIsopanisad (Mantra 8) commentary:
The Lord's worshipable form (arca-vigraha), which is installed in temples by authorized acaryas who have realized the Lord in terms of Mantra Seven, is nondifferent from the original form of the Lord. The Lord's original form is that of Sri Krsna, and Sri Krsna expands Himself into an unlimited number of forms, such as Baladeva, Rama, Nrsimha, and Varaha. All of these forms are one and the same Personality of Godhead. Similarly, the arca-vigraha worshiped in temples is also an expanded form of the Lord. By worshiping the arca-vigraha, one can at once approach the Lord, who accepts the service of a devotee by His omnipotent energy. The arca-vigraha of the Lord descends at the request of the acaryas, the holy teachers, and works exactly in the original way of the Lord by virtue of the Lord's omnipotence. Foolish people who have no knowledge of SriIsopanisad or any of the other sruti-mantras consider the arca-vigraha, which is worshiped by pure devotees, to be made of material elements. This form may be seen as material by the imperfect eyes of foolish people or kanistha-adhikaris, but such people do not know that the Lord, being omnipotent and omniscient, can transform matter into spirit and spirit into matter, as He desires.
Chanting and Deity Worship
Chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra with a prayer for the Lord to appear in the deity form is the most essential aspect of the deity installation process. Therefore during the installation ceremony at ISKCON's Krsna-Balarama temple in Vrndavana in 1975, Srila Prabhupada told devotees that kirtana is sufficient to install deities. Still, he arranged for local brahmanas to perform the installation yajna so that the residents of Vrndavana would accept that the deities had been "officially" installed.
In former ages, the means of attaining spiritual perfection were complicated and required a high degree of purity of mind and senses that is difficult to attain in Kali-yuga. Those methods included meditation, deity worship, and sacrifice. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.3.52) states:
krte yad dhyayato visnumtretayam yajato makhaihdvapare paricaryayamkalau tad dhari-kirtanat
"Whatever result was obtained in Satya-yuga by meditating on Visnu, in Treta-yuga by performing sacrifices, and in Dvapara-yuga by serving the Lord's lotus feet [through deity worship] can be obtained in Kali-yuga simply by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra."
Then why so much ritual in the installation of Sri Sri Panca-tattva, who appeared to establish the chanting of Hare Krsna as the religion of this age? One could even take the question further and ask, why the need for deity worship in this age? The answer is that while meditation, deity worship, and yajnas are less relevant methods of worshiping the Lord in Kali-yuga, when employed in subordination to the chanting of the holy name they make a powerful impression that purifies the mind and senses. Service to the deity through such rituals provides an opportunity for the aspiring devotee to engage his senses in spiritual activity.
The rituals of the deity installation provide a forum for many devotees to be involved in the installation and have a visual experience of the transformational process. For example, when inviting a friend for dinner, one serves a meal as a medium to enjoy the friend's company. Internally the emphasis is on the relationship; externally the focus is the meal. Similarly, with an installation process, our relationship with the Lord is expressed through specific rituals that involve our senses, thus creating an environment for us to experience the transformation in a tangible way.
Six Installation Rituals
The first of the six installation rituals performed over two days is called sodhita pancagavya snana, a Sanskrit term meaning "purification by bathing with five items from the cow." The five ingredients are milk, yogurt, ghee, cow urine, and cow dung, which are sprinkled over the deities. In Vedic culture, everything about the cow is considered sacred and purifying, so this process purifies the deities of any faults that occurred during the carving. It also indicates that the craftsman's external work on the deities is complete and henceforth the priests are assuming responsibility for the deity service.
The second step is called netra unmilinam, or opening the eyes of the deities. In the Eleventh Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita Arjuna tells Krsna, sasi-surya-netram: "The sun and moon are among Your great, unlimited eyes." In this ritual, honey is poured to "open" the eye that is the moon; ghee is used for the eye that is the sun. Once the eyes are opened, mantras sound while auspicious items are shown to the Lord: gold, silver, copper, stone, rice, ghee, yogurt, the Vedic swastika design, water from the Ganges, earth from a holy place.
In the third part, known as sayanadhivasa, the deities are placed on a bed surrounded by many auspicious items. Rice paddy is placed under the bed, which is decorated with beautiful cloth and owers and surrounded by auspicious water pots. Milksweets are offered to the deities and left by the bed overnight. The deities are invited to rest, and devotees stay up all night singing devotional songs.
The fourth ceremony is known as tattva-samhara-nyasa. In this rite the deities are connected to the fire arena by a rope made of kusha grass. The priest touches different parts of the deities' bodies with a kusha-grass stick while chanting a mantra. The gopala-mantra is chanted backward to destroy the material elements used to create the deities, and then forward in the normal manner to re-create the deities in their spiritual form.
One of the most popular and visual aspects of the installation procedure is the fifth stage, known as abhiseka, or bathing. Rather than merely using water, the priests use pancamrta, or "five nectars"milk, yogurt, ghee, honey, and sugar water. The deities are also bathed in fruit juice, herbal waters, and flower-infused waters. This ceremony culminates with sahasra-dhara, "a thousand streams," when the priests pour water into a silver pot with one thousand tiny holes. Held over the deity's head, it produces a shower of one thousand streams to rinse away all the liquids used to perform the bathing.
The sixth item of installation is known as prana-pratistha, "establishing the life force." The heart of the deity is touched, and He is offered a formal prayer requesting Him to please be present in His deity form. Those performing the ceremony meditate on the Lord in their heart entering the heart of the deity.
At the conclusion of these six processes, the priests conceal the deities behind a curtain to dress them in opulent silk garments, ornament them with jewelry, and offer them a feast of 108 preparations. When the curtain opens, the deities are revealed once again in all Their glory for the pleasure of the assembled devotees, who perform a huge kirtana.
The ritual aspects of the Panca-tattva installation were performed by the students of the Bhaktivedanta Academy, the seed of a Vedic university being developed in Mayapur.
The procedure was conducted according to the directives of Pratistha Viddhi, a manual produced by the Academy for the performance of deity installations and ceremonies accompanying the opening of temples and homes (vastu puja). This manual is based on research compiled by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura in note form but never published.
The Academy provides for the study, practice, and dissemination of the teachings of Srimad-Bhagavatam, the standard works of the Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas, and Vedic philosophy, culture, and science—all in the context of Srila Prabhupada's teachings.
The boys who performed the fire sacrifice and chanted the mantras during the installation are enrolled in the Sri Yajna Varaha Vidyaksetra, a school of the Bhaktivedanta Academy that offers primary and secondary brahminical education to students between the ages of five and eighteen. These students learn Sanskrit and English; Vedic astronomy and mathematics; Vedic philosophy; Puranic history, geography, and natural science; and Vedic culture, including music, cooking, Vaisnava etiquette, and the performance of Vaisnava rituals (puja, yajna, samskara, mantra chanting, and so on). The training is designed to enable the students to continue their education in the Academy's central college, the Sri Rupanuga Paramartha Vidyapitha, after graduation. There students learn fourteen books of Vedic knowledge through Srila Prabhupada's desired courses of Bhaktisastri, Bhaktivaibhava, Bhaktivedanta, and Bhaktisarvabhauma. An honors course supplements each Bhakti level, and students may take advanced-degree courses designed and established by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. The aim of this training is to equip the students as spiritual leaders and caregivers.
In the northeast corner of the Mayapur Project Master Plan, the Bhaktivedanta Academy campus, where the boys live, is being developed as a traditional Vedic ashram according to principles of Vastu Sastra. In line with Srila Prabhupada's concept of "simple living and high thinking," and to maintain a mode-of-goodness atmosphere, the campus, constructed using traditional local methods, is situated in a garden setting with swimming ponds and recreational fields. The kitchen, residences, and school buildings are constructed with traditional thatched roofs and walls of woven bamboo. A library houses ten thousand books for study and curriculum development.
The staff of Back to Godhead would like to express our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Jagajivana Dasa, who passed away on May 2 in Clearwater, Florida. He was a Back to Godhead associate editor.
Jagajivana was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in the early 1970s. His devotional service over the years included editorial work for BTG, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, and the Bhaktivedanta Archives. His main contribution to BTG for the last decade was to select and edit the conversations for "Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out." Jagajivana was a dedicated disciple of Srila Prabhupada and always spoke of him with great love.
We at BTG greatly valued Jagajivana's service to the magazine, and we are confident that Lord Krsna has given him the opportunity to continue his devotional service.
This exchange between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in Mayapur, India, on January 16, 1976.
Srila Prabhupada: If a man does not read the Srimad-Bhagavatam, then he remains a rascal.
Disciple: So, Srila Prabhupada, in the ultimate sense, anything apart from the Vedas is not really knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada: No. It may be some fragmental knowledge, but if one wants full knowledge in life, then he must read Bhagavatam—the pastimes, the dealings, of the Lord and His devotees. The Bhagavad-gita is the preliminary knowledge—ABCD —so that you can distinguish between matter and spirit. And then you should read Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Formerly all the great leaders of society knew all these things. Everyone was taught like that. But now, andha yathandhaih: some big bombastic blind man is leading all the small blind men directly into the ditch. Someone is passing as a great leader—great for giving people wrong direction, so that they can spoil their lives. The great leader cannot even save himself. He can spoil himself—and others—very nicely.
Disciple: These blind leaders have created such chaos, Srila Prabhupada. People's minds have become terribly disturbed.
Srila Prabhupada: But from Bhagavatam we can offer the science of transcendental peace and tranquility. First we can show everyone, scientifically, how they have left the spiritual world and how they have become covered by matter.
The materially affected mind is the first creation for material enjoyment. From the mind the material senses are created: five senses for knowledge-gathering and five senses for working, along with five airs within the body. And then panca-maha-bhuta, the five basic material elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Then materially affected intelligence, and finally ahankara, or false ego, the power to misidentify one's actual, spiritual self with all these material coverings.
So in this way the atmas or jivas, spirit souls who once resided in the spiritual world in full knowledge, are now living in ignorance. Some of them are standing, as trees and plants. And some of them are moving, as insects, animals, and humans. But in your so-called civilization do you have scientific knowledge of how the soul has become bewildered by this material covering, which actually he has nothing to do with? Then what is the value of your knowledge? Hmm? If you do not know these fundamental things, then what is the value of your knowledge? You are simply observing superficially, externally.
But there is good hope. People are receiving these books. So we should take the opportunity of preaching this Bhagavatam, and classes should be held regularly. Let people study Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita, and they will accept it. They are not fools. Simply we have to introduce this great science. The Western people are not fools, but misguided. So you take charge of guiding them; then this Krsna consciousness movement will be successful. People will appreciate, they will take it up and reform, and their life will be successful.
But if they utilize their intelligence merely for developing better ways to kill the child within the womb and for claiming, "The child in the womb has no soul—the soul comes after birth," then what is this nonsense? Unless the child in the womb has a soul, how can he manifest life symptoms?
Disciple: Well, Srila Prabhupada, it's quite obvious that since the child in the womb is growing and reacting to stimuli, then he must have a soul.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The same growing process that we observe later in life, outside the womb, is going on from the very beginning, within the womb. The material body is developing. That's all. Everyone knows that the baby outside the womb has a soul, so how can you say that the baby in the womb has no soul? If he has no soul, how is his body growing and developing?
Such rascals—they are passing as big scientists. What reasoning do they give for claiming that the baby in the womb has no soul?
Disciple: They don't really have an argument.
Srila Prabhupada: Just see. All dogmatic. All dogmatic foolishness that they are propagating. And this is going on in the name of vijnana, science. Real vijnana should be enunciated.
Vijnana: vi- and jnana. Actually, vijnana has two meanings. One is visista-jnana, or genuine knowledge, fully realized and articulated, or enunciated. You can take this meaning. And the other meaning of vijnana is vigata-jnana, or pseudo-knowledge, knowledge lost or stolen by illusion.
So these "scientists"their "vijnana," or "science," is vigata-jnana, knowledge stolen by illusion, so-called knowledge bereft of all real knowledge. That sense is given in Bhagavad-gita: mayayapahrta-jnanahmaya, or illusion, has utterly taken away these people's knowledge, and yet their so-called knowledge is going on as vijnana, science. Maya has made these people rascals, but they are presenting themselves as men of advanced knowledge. That is the defect of Kali-yuga, this age of hypocrisy.
Disciple: Advanced demoniac knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Advanced demons. Actually, they are advanced demons. Asuras. Asuram-bhavam asrita —they are infected with the contamination of atheism, godlessness.
Disciple: Of course, Srila Prabhupada, one thing you can say for these so-called scientists: They know the science of avoiding the real issues. In that sense, they really are expert.
Srila Prabhupada: A child can also avoid the real issues. That is not expert. A child without guidance can also advance very nicely in foolishness. And when the foolish child touches the fire and burns his hand, some other fool may say, "Oh, this is advancement of knowledge."
Similarly, in this material world all these rascals are endeavoring for the advancement of their foolish knowledge. They are following in the footsteps of that ancient demon Hiranyakasipu. He also tried to ignore the soul and the Supreme Soul and tried to immortalize his material body, which is impossible. But just like Hiranyakasipu, today's rascals have become very advanced in that foolishness.
A quiet, unassuming devotee from Australia has played a major role in bringing the Panca-tattva deities to Mayapur.
by Braja-sevaki Devi Dasi
As the preparations for the installation of Sri Sri Panca-tattva unfolded throughout the year, Mayapur was a hive of activity. The casting of the deities was the prime activity, and around that, other preparations began. The most significant were the renovations and alterations to the Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir, the temple that would house the deities. The sound of hammering echoed throughout the vast temple, and plaster A new entrance appeared at the northern end, and brick walls went up. Amid this hectic atmosphere, one man oversaw the construction, an arduous task at the best of times. But added to his burden was the fact that it was India, a notoriously difficult environment for conducting such a huge project. On top of that, he was also overseeing the casting of the deities in South India. With the two most important events of the year gracing his to-do list, this person had to be some kind of special.
It's hard to track down Bharata Maharaja Dasa in Mayapur. He's usually at the temple construction site, but he may be elsewhere, attending to any of a thousand details that in the West would be called "small" but which in India assume gigantic proportions. Even after tracking him down, one finds that he doesn't have much to say. Mainly because he doesn't really have much time to stand around chatting, but really because he's just a very quiet bloke.
An unassuming Australian, Bharata Maharaja Dasa—Bharata to the local devotees—has lived in Mayapur for nearly sixteen years. He met the de-votees in Sydney, and joined ISKCON at the Colo River property north of Sydney in 1981 with his wife, Bhakta Gana Devi Dasi. Both qualified teachers, they were asked to take up service at New Govardhana, the farming community in the tropical northeast corner of New South Wales. The school was seeking both accreditation as a government-recognized school and funding to assist in its operation. Both were granted, and the school Bharata and Bhakta Gana stayed at New Govardhana until the end of 1988, when they came to Mayapur for the second time.
At that time, work on Srila Prabhupada's Samadhi (memorial) had come to a halt, but on Bharata's arrival, the work once again commenced. Bharata had been a potter with his own business in Australia, and one of the first things he did on his arrival was to build his own kiln and hand-fire all the sample terracotta panels that would grace the Samadhi walls. Initially the panels were to be plain terracotta, but soon another devotee, Matsya Avatara Dasa, became involved and introduced color. The result was Florentine-style multi-colored panels, and the work increased. Instead of requiring one firing, the panels required up to four. Consequently Bharata spent eight years instead of the proposed one year on the project, working under the most extreme conditions to complete this beautiful work of art.
At the end of it all, Yamuna Devi, one of Prabhupada's earliest disciples, laughingly said to Bharata, "Only eight years? I'm surprised it was so fast, under the circumstances!"
Such was the difficulty and arduous effort involved.
In 1995, shortly before the completion of the Samadhi, an artist named Milan Bagh, from the nearby town of Krishnagar, came to Mayapur and made the models for the small Panca-tattva deities that currently reside in the temple. Within three months, Bharata Maharaja had cast the deities in the workshop next to his house. In the middle of the casting, the workshop was pulled down and the artists and casters moved into Bharata's house. The work continued in the bedroom, while Bhakta Gana painted the completed deities in the kitchen. Sleeping bodies covered every available inch of floor by night, while work continued on the deities during the day. It was an austere living and working environment that lasted for three months, when the deities were finally ready.
The Clay Models
The deities were installed in 1996 for Prabhupada's Centennial year, on the last Ekadasi before Gaura Purnima. Shortly thereafter, Bharata Maharaja Dasa began working on the clay models for the large Panca-tattva deities. They were made on the roof of the Gada Building, a guesthouse on the grounds, high enough so the floods wouldn't threaten their work. Milan Bagh was again involved, working with Bharata in creating the models that would one day become the eight-foot-tall Panca-tattva deities. Before Milan joined the team, Bharata had tried making other models to test out different poses, but during a flood the models were ruined. After some time, the clay models were approved, and Bharata began work on the fiberglass models. When they were complete, no decision had yet been made as to the casting of the deities and their installment in the temple; the models stood on the verandah of Prabhupada's Samadhi for two years.
During this time, Bharata traveled with Bhakti Caru Swami, working as the art director on the Abhay Caran epic video series, traveling throughout Europe for eighteen months. As 1999 drew to a close, the deity models were still waiting on the verandah of the Samadhi.
Bharata returned to Australia with Bhakta Gana. He imagined that one day, on his return to Mayapur, he would see the deities on the altar. Krsna, it seems, had other plans.
Called to Duty
It was during his visit to Australia that Bharata received a letter from Jananivasa Dasa, the head pujari (priest) in Mayapur: "I really need someone like you to help me in the service of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava and the Panca-tattva. . . . I often think of you because you have a lot of practical experience. You also have good taste, and are a perfectionist."
The casting of the Panca-tattva deities in South India saw that perfectionism come to life. Bharata oversaw the entire operation, and carved the finer features into the faces of all five deities. The result has taken many years and the dedication of many devotees to produce.
"Manifesting the Panca-tattva deities was like having several cooks making a soup," Bharata says. "Over the years, many people added their own personal touches—a bit of Bengali, a drop of New Zealander, a dash of South Indian, a splash of Armenian, a touch of American, a generous helping of old English transcendental vision, and a sprinkling of Italian sea-soning towards the end. My job was just to stir the pot from time to time and mix all these ingredients together."
Bharata Maharaja doesn't have much more to say than that.
"Nothing I say can add anything of significance. Now I just want to build a beautiful temple for the deities."
Few words, true, but Bharata's actions speak volumes, and the temple and deities are a testament to his artistry and eye for detail. The international community of devotees owes Bharata a debt of gratitude and respect for his service and dedication.
A team of women from around the world meet the king-sized challenge of sewing outfits for Sri Panca-tattva in time for their installation.
by Braja-sevaki Devi Dasiphotos by Nitya-trpta Devi Dasi
A group of bubbly, chatting women, their colorful saris rustling as they walk, make their way down the path that runs alongside the temple. Towards the end of the path, they disappear into a doorway and, removing their shoes, climb a flight of stairs. At the top they reach a screen door. To the left, terrazzo floors lead to arched balconies, ornate balustrades, and spectacular views of the lush countryside, thick with the bright green of rice crops. To the right is a screen door. One woman enters through the door, and the others follow her—into absolute bedlam.
This is the deity sewing room, and right now it's chaos. The women call their greetings, but they're barely heard above the hum of several machines and the loud chattering of around twenty other women. At the center of it all, brow creased with anxiety, sits a Scottish woman. Her name is Ramadevi, and she's the head seamstress for Radha-Madhava and Panca-tattva.
Her task is huge—literally: the Panca-tattva deities are over eight feet tall. But their size isn't her only obstacle in completing the outfits in time for their installation. The sewing didn't start until mid-January. Ramadevi was awaiting the arrival of the deities before she started sewing, but after several delays until their arrival in February, she couldn't wait any longer. Although an experienced seamstress who sewed for the London deities under Prabhupada's guidance, and who has continued to do so for over thirty years, this was a whole new ballgame for Ramadevi.
"The size of these deities changes everything," she says. "Nothing is the same when you're talking nine feet! The fabric, the way it falls—everything is different. Taking that into consideration, we really couldn't begin until the forms were here and I could measure them properly. This is God we're dressing, after all—it has to fit!"
Each deity requires around seventeen meters of fabric for one outfit, and since Ramadevi is also the fabric buyer, that meant countless days spent in the narrow, ancient streets of Boro Bazaar in Calcutta, where the sound volume is high, the pace is fast, and the bickering over price even faster. But for Ramadevi, the most amazing thing was finding the fabric she wanted in the quantities required. She explains that for Radha-Madhava, it takes her around a month to gather the fabric, trims, and accessories required to complete just one outfit.
"For Sri Panca-tattva, I found fabric for eleven outfits, plus trim and all the accessories, in three weeks. That's nothing short of a miracle. Anyone who has been shopping in Calcutta should be able to appreciate that."
Once the fabric was bought and transported 135 km back to Mayapur, the task of sewing all the outfits presented a fundamental problem: manpower. Or in this case, girlpower.
"All I can say is, all glories to China!" says Ramadevi. "If not for those twenty women, I don't know what we'd have done. The Chinese ladies sat up for three days and nights sewing the curtains for the altar, all by hand. It was incredible. But all the devotees who helped were amazing, and it was definitely an international effort. We had devotees from everywhere: China, Russia, Poland, Croatia, England, Scotland, South America, Australia, New Zealand, India—you name it, they were here."
The fabrics are glorious: rich silks in a rainbow of colors, embroidered and studded with pearls; classic South Indian dhotis; elegant wraps, fringed with tassels sewn by hand.
"We have Esther and her team to thank for that," Ramadevi says. "The results are unique and beautiful—you can't buy this kind of devotion from a tailor."
Ramadevi is still sewing: There are several sets outstanding, and new sets required for upcoming festivals.
"Those festivals will always come," she say, "and sets will always be required, but these last few weeks have shown me once more what is possible when everyone works together for the one purpose of pleasing Krsna. With a group mentality like this, I'm seeing that anything is possible."
A visit to Mayapur proves to be an unforgettable experience for a group from the Emerald Isle.
by John Alexander
John Alexander and his group of fourteen children and five adults from a school in Dublin, Ireland, visited Mayapur for a weekend last February. The group had been in Kolkata helping to build a school for underprivileged children. The following is an excerpt from his unpublished diary, entitled Kolkata Omnibus.
We are on our way to Mayapur, the Hare Krishna temple complex dedicated to the Lord Chaitanya. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhakivedanta Swami Prabhupada bought the site and it is now a major place of pilgrimage. We are being driven in the Iskcon bus along a pot-holed highway with little square paddyfields of newly planted rice glistening green and watery in the bright February sunshine. Sile is getting more and more excited as we get closer. It is a dream coming true for her. Sanky's Dad, Pragosh Murphy, arranged this visit months ago and she was the last to join our group two weeks ago.
Sunday, 15th Feb., 12:55 P.M.
Mayapur was great. Pragosh Murphy, father of Sankarasana, known as Sanky in Ireland, looked after us really well. Mayapur is near the Bangladesh border, north of Kolkata. It is the birthplace of Lord Chaitanya and the headquarters of the Hare Krishna movement, Iskcon.
We arrived yesterday evening at 5:30 P.M. just as it was getting dark. We went straight to the Temple to start our chanting of the Holy Name. The greeting, whenever you meet someone about the complex, is Hare Krishna and most of us quickly got into the swing of it. The whole thing is colourful and vibrant. Sile was beside herself with ecstasy and Carol and Pat very quickly started swaying and chanting, if not quite jumping up and down with glee. Sophy told Pragosh that she never thought religion could be so much fun! Grace, Marianne and Antoinette loved it too, though the boys were less enthusiastic. Sanky, in his usual incorrigible "chewing gum" manner, gave the impression that he'd seen it all before!
The first thing you feel about the place is the casual informality amidst all the quite elaborate ritual. Spontaneity is the overriding theme and a sense of great individual freedom within the stricture of an ancient and traditional practise. Everyone you meet is welcoming and joyful. There's a subtle measure to the charismatic element. This morning after a particularly heartfelt chanting of love and devotion to Sri Prabhupada in front of his statue, followed by more Hare Krishna singing, I allowed myself to throw my arms in the air and jump to the rhythm. There was a stop and everyone quietly knelt and bowed their heads to the floor in supplication. This was followed immediately by an hour of study with one of the master teachers.
Interestingly the two most visible participants were northsiders from Dublin. The tall thin young man beating his drum and providing the chants in a powerful and infectious tone was Gaurhari from Raheny. He led the hundreds of ecstatic pilgrims around the temple from the altar of Krishna and his consort and gopees to the other shrines like he was the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
The second northsider was our host Pragosh (Paul Murphy) from Clontarf. He was elected recently to be chairman for a year of the worldwide organising committee of Iskcon. This is an honour for him and for Ireland, where there are around 500 members in the movement. He is the very first member to be selected for this position who is not a direct disciple of Sri Prabhupada. Everyone knew him and if we had any problem at all we just had to say we were his personal guests and things were quickly smoothed out!
Last night we joined the Elephant Procession to the Samadhi Temple, an enormous gold-domed marble structure, completed about ten years ago. Pragosh introduced me to Jayapataka Maharaja, a big American in flowing robes and one of Sri Prabhupada's original disciples. I was invited to perform a Puja. For this I had to stand in front of the great animal who was brightly decorated for the occasion and who gazed at me with most gentle eyes, and perform three ceremonies: first with a bundle of burning incense, then with a raised candelabra of Ghee candles and finally with a bowl of rose-petals. Each time I raised these up and rotated them clockwise seven times the crowd around intoned their prayers and the elephant gently flapped his huge ears. The last rotation was accompanied by a surge of energy which filled me from head to toe. The whole scene was dramatically lighted by huge burning torches carried by two smiling devotees, which gave out great heat, while the elephant was being ridden by another four monks.
We met Sile for prashad. She expressed envy at not being present at the puja and said that a great honour had been conferred on us. It was certainly an unforgettable experience. The whole group ate prashad, a sacred meal of spiced vegetables, chapattis and dahl, prepared by holy Brahmins. We sat on our hunkers in a long line eating our simple and inexpensive (30 cents each) holy meal off plates made of leaves with our right hands. Mark had to use his left as he had cut his right one that morning. Most of the youngsters rushed off to Govinda's pizzeria afterwards and Pragosh treated everyone to delicious ice-cream.
Sile and I were the only ones to rise early to join the morning prayers, she at four and me at five o'clock. I meditated for forty minutes on a mat facing Sri Prabhupada while around me hundreds of robed devotees repeated their Hare Krishna mantra using beads to note the repetitions. Two Bengalis beside me were yapping away to each other while Syamananda, another Irish friend, repeated his aloud in my ear. Pragosh interrupted our spiritual practice to invite us for a walk. We went the 300 or so metres down to the River Ganges. There we performed the ritual designed to cleanse sins by splashing the head three times with water. It was now 6:15 A.M. and the rising sun was just becoming visible through the trees surrounding the Samadhi Temple.
We negotiated a rate with the two boatmen in attendance at the ghat and we took a most wondrous ride on a flat-bottomed cot out onto the tranquil morning waters of the mighty river. Bird song intermingled with the prayerful repetitions of the mantras, which Pragosh and Syamananda were intoning. Between my enjoyment of the gentle lapping of the water and the occasional splashing sound of the boatman, propelling us with a single oar from the rear, Pragosh broke my reverie with scraps of conversation. As we got out onto the wide river the sight of people by the water's edge performing morning ablutions was replaced by kingfishers preening their bright plumage among the reeds on the bank and serious looking cormorants planning their breakfast. Pragosh, becoming more voluble, encouraged by my questions, filled me in on the detail of the movement's belief system while I, listening intently, trawled my foot over the side in the cleansing water. Syamananda took beautiful photographs of the great red sun rising over the temple complex with my tiny new Canon digital.
This blissful journey lasted a full forty minutes but we had to return to allow Pragosh to prepare for his morning round of meetings to plan where and how Iskcon would go from here. A visit to his spacious quarters in the epicentre of this worldwide organisation for promoting Krishna Consciousness was followed by a glass each of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice at Govinda's before we shook hands warmly and I thanked him on behalf of us all for an unforgettable experience.
After a proper swim in the clear warm water of the River Ganges I checked that everyone was all right before stealing another twenty minutes with Sile and Pat, who treated me to a roadside ginger and sugar-cane drink, produced on a bicycle-propelled juicer, and a quick tour of the massive Samadhi Temple, where we received Eucharist. An hour later I caught the taxi and amazingly was only thirty minutes late for the opening of the old folks' home. This was definitely low-key in its religiosity compared to Mayapur.
Installing a worshipable deity begins in a conception stage, when the desire or thought manifests in the heart and mind of one person. In the case of Sri Panca-tattva in Mayapur, nearly thirty-five years ago His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada conceived that life-size Panca-tattva deities would be installed in the temple he called the Vedic Planetarium. Their arrival in Mayapur in February was the culmination of that initial thought. In the years since, devotees around the world have been praying that Srila Prabhupada's desire would be fulfilled.
Many devotees came together to make up the team that would see the manifestation of these deities, aware that they were carrying out Srila Prabhupada's desires. The models were made according to descriptions found by the researchers: Bhanu Swami, Jananivasa Dasa, and Bharata Maharaja Dasa. They concluded that each deity should be in an unique pose. Lord Caitanya has His hands wide open, worshiping Lord Krsna and accepting all the conditioned souls. Nityananda and Gadadhara are dancing, and at the same time encouraging the conditioned souls to take shelter of the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Advaita Acarya is dancing in ecstasy and revealing Lord Caitanya. Srivasa, in his humble mood as a devotee, is worshiping Lord Caitanya with folded hands. All are dancing in ecstasy in the sankirtana movement.
I was fortunate enough to be present at the casting of Lord Nityananda. Although the workshop was crude and simple, the presence of over one hundred chanting devotees surcharged the entire atmosphere. That morning I prayed at the Sri Rangadiya Temple at Sri Rangaksetra (as well as other temples along the way) for the successful casting of Lord Nityananda. The casting began at 10:00 P.M. Before the casting I was asked to read out a sankalpa, a Sanskrit text explaining that we are about to perform a sacrifice. The sacrifice was the casting of the image to be installed as the deity. When the casting began, although I could see that this was an industrial process from one perspective, the whole experience left all of us deeply moved, as we all knew something divine was happening: The Lord was taking His form to be installed as a worshipable deity in Mayapur, and would be worshiped in this way by millions of people every year.
The Lord comes as the deity on the invitation of a great spiritual master and by the desire of the devotees. Since Srila Prabhupada requested that Panca-tattva be installed in Mayapur, we know that he is installing these deities through his representatives. With this consciousness, different devotees contributed at the various stages of the installation.
This special edition of Back to Godhead gives just one small perspective on the dedication and inspiration the devotees have for worshiping Sri Panca-tattva. I am profoundly moved that I had any role to play in the pastime of the appearance of Sri Panca-tattva's arca-avatara, or worshipable incarnation. I am grateful for the dedication and enthusiasm of all the devotees involved in performing the service of casting the deities over a thousand miles away from Mayapur and bringing them to Sri Mayapur Dhama.
I request everyone from all around the world to please come to Sri Mayapur Dhama and receive the most wonderful darsana and the endless blessings of Sri Panca-tattva.
Locana Dasa Thakura declares that the two Lords Nitai-Gauracandra—Lord Nitai and Lord Caitanya—are very merciful. They are the essence of all incarnations. The specific significance of these incarnations is that prosecuting Their way of self-realization is simply joyful, for They introduced chanting and dancing. There are many incarnations, like Lord Rama and even Krsna, who taught Bhagavad-gita, which requires knowledge and understanding. But Lord Caitanya and Nityananda introduced a process that is simply joyful—simply chant and dance.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Lord Krsna has mercifully manifest His transcendental feature of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the Panca-tattva for the highest benefit of humanity. These direct manifestations of transcendence are immediate expansions of the internal spiritual potency of the Lord.
The pastimes of Lord Krsna are the essence of all nectar, and that nectar is flowing in hundreds of rivers in all directions. The pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are an eternal reservoir, and one is advised to let his mind swim like a swan on this transcendental lake.
Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami
If one only chants, with some slight faith, the holy names of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda, very quickly he is cleansed of all offenses. Thus as soon aws he chants the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, he feels the ecstasy of love for God.
Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami
He is like a golden mountain that scatters jewels of pure love of God. Because of His great mercy, He wandered this earth planet. That Lord known as Visvambhara, the maintainer of the universe, inundated His own universe with the currents of the Ganges River of the tears of love of Godhead flowing from His eyes. All glories to that Lord, the son of Sacidevi.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura
I offer obeisances to the most magnanimous giver of love of Krsna, Krsna Himself bearing the name Krsna Caitanya, who possesses a form of golden hue. I submit myself to the merciful person Sri Krsna Caitanya, who performed wonderful deeds. With the nectarean treasure of His own love, He intoxicated the world (delirious with ignorance) by freeing it from the malady of nescience.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura