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Sikshastakam - In honor of Mahaprabhu's appearance

Jagat - Sat, 06 Mar 2004 05:59:54 +0530
This article was published in JVS a few issues back. I am posting it here for the pleasure of Mahaprabhu's devotees. I will do the introduction and then each verse.

Sri Chaitanya’s Sikshastakam:

Comparing the original with two translations.

No short account of Krishna Chaitanya’s life fails to note something like, “Chaitanya only left eight verses by which we can know his belief system.” The authorship of even these has been cast into some doubt by scholars on the basis of statements by Karnapur and others, who declare unequivocally that Chaitanya wrote nothing at all.(1) Over time, a number of a number of works have been attributed to Chaitanya, but few of these claims are credible.(2) Even the most consistently attributed text, the Radha-prema-rasayana-stotram,(3) has not been accepted as Chaitanya’s own writing by the tradition.(4) In any case, a perusal of the works in question, where they are available, shows little of interest that would strike the hearts of the devotees as the work of the Supreme Lord himself.(5)

On the other hand, the verses known to us as the Sikshastakam (“eight verses of teaching”) have had a resilience that has not only endured, but continues to grow, with several new commentaries, primarily in Bengali, being published in recent decades. The power of these eight verses is in great part attributable to the genius of Krishna Das Kaviraj, the author of Chaitanya’s most influential biography, Chaitanya Charitamrita. Certainly Chaitanya himself never wrote these verses as a single coherent work, for they are found scattered throughout Rupa Goswami’s collection of verses, Padyävalé, where they are subsumed under various different categories(6) and are not singled out for particular attention, praise or veneration.(7)

Even in the form and sequence given to them by Krishna Das Kaviraj, they do not immediately convey a single coherent theme. Unlike most hymns of the astaka genre, they are not composed in the same metre, nor do they have a refrain repeated in the fourth strophe of each verse, nor is the work concluded with a ninth verse containing a sruti-phala. Nevertheless, in the context of the Chaitanya Charitamrita, they take on a cohesiveness that teaches, at the very least, the importance of having good editor. Krishna Das Kaviraj, in fact, shows decided brilliance in making this selection of eight verses the centerpiece of the concluding chapter of his hagiography, arraying them in a manner that summarizes both the essential teachings as well as the spiritual career of the avatar. Thus the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition can be summarized in the statement of Manindranath Guha, who argues that the reason he wrote nothing other than these eight verses was that he had no need to: they above all and in a nutshell perfectly summarize his entire teachings, identified as näma-prema—the holy name and love of Krishna.(8)

Krishna Das, to whom we have credited the arrangement of the eight verses as well as their naming as Sikshastakam, presents them in the context of his description of Caitanya’s progressive ecstasies, which show a deepening absorption in devotional trance colored by an ever-increasing anxiety of separation in love from Krishna. Krishna Das’s language is heavily influenced by Rupa Goswami’s analysis of emotions in accordance with the terminology of Sanskrit dramatics. Thus his opening verse contextualizes the eight verses as ecstatic utterances:

lapitaM gauracandrasya
bhAgyavadbhir niSevyate
The words that Gauracandra gushed in a mixture of emotions born of love—enthusiasm, jealousy, anxiety, humility and pain—are served by those who are most fortunate.(9)
The word niSevyate, “served,” means listened to again and again with veneration. So that the point is not lost on the reader, Krishna Das repeats the point twice in the next several verses and then again introduces each individual verse with the particular emotion or mixture of emotions that gave birth to it. In this way, he both reminds us of the guiding principle that determines Chaitanya’s status as an incarnation—his devotional ecstasies—and uses these to validate the only utterances that he left his followers as “the word of God.”

Amazingly, the first real commentary on the Sikshastakam appears to have been the 19th century revivalist Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s Bhajana Rahasya (1903). Bhaktivinoda’s engagement with the eight verses began with his translations of the as Bengali songs in GItAvalI (1893), but in Bhajana Rahasya he uses the eight verses as a heuristic guide to Chaitanyaite theology by combining them with two other celebrated “eights” in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, namely the eight times of day in which Krishna’s pastimes take place and which form the central guiding principle of nAma-bhajana within the tradition, and the nine levels of progressive advancement in devotional life, which are adjusted somewhat to fit his eight-step schema.(10) Manindranath Guha, in his much later but learned discourse on the eight verses, also follows the expanded fourteen-level analysis given by Vishwanath Chakravarti in his commentary to Bhagavata Purana 1.2.21.(11) Though this may not have been Krishna Das’s exact intention, there is certainly a hierarchical progression in the eight verses that provides it with an enduring dynamism and possibilities for continued exegesis, the task of which is to find the essence of all Gaudiya Vaishnava teachings in them.

Though it would be interesting to provide a detailed comparative analysis of the various commentaries made on the Sikshastakam (including Radha Govinda Nath’s elaborate explanation in his Chaitanya Charitamrita), we will simply give English renderings of the original verses and the Bengali translations of Krishna Das and Bhaktivinoda.


(1) Chaitanya-candrodaya 1.13-14: pAripArçvikaH: bhAva ! kiM teneha tene hariNA svAbhimata-mata-vyAJjako granthaH ? sUtradhAraH: yadyapi ko na veda veda-kartRtvaM bhagavatas tathApi khalv antaryAmI yAm Ihate preraNAm | na khalu sA bAhyopadeçato deçato vA kAlataç ca paricchinnA bhavitum arhati | The answer to the direct question whether Chaitanya wrote anything is to say that he inspired others to do so, and that this is how he (i.e. God) composed the Vedas. [URL=javascript:history.back()]

(2) S.K.De “Doubtful works ascribed to Chaitanya.” Indian Historical Quarterly, 1934, 310-317. RETURN[/URL]

(3) (ed.) Krishnadas Babaji. Kusuma Sarovara, n.d. [URL=javascript:history.back()]

(4) Cf. Sadhana-dipika, Saptama-kaksha, where it is said that Gadadhar Pandit was the true author and that Chaitanya appropriated it as a token of his appreciation of it. RETURN[/URL]

(5) The one exception is Padyavali 74, which is also quoted in Chaitanya Charitamrita, 2.13.80. [URL=javascript:history.back()]

(6) Verses 1-2, nAma-mAhAtmyam (22,31); verse 3, nAma-kIrtanam (32); verse 4 and 6, sotkaNThA-prArthanA (94, 93); verse 5, dainyoktiH (71); verse 6, sotkaNThA-prArthanA (93), verses 7-8, harer mathurA-praveze (324, 337). RETURN[/URL]

(7) Outside the Chaitanya Charitamrita, the quotation history of the eight verses in the early Gaudiya literature is also rather limited. Verse 3 is quoted in Jiva Goswami’s Bhakti-sandarbha (269) and verse 8 in Rupa Goswami’s Ujjvala-nIlamaNi, 13.79, where it plays a rather minor role as an example of the vyabhichari, mati. Nor did second generation Vaishnava authors show much interest in these verses, being more preoccupied with aspects of Radha Krishna mythology than with fundamentals. Nor did the verses seem to form a significant part of the early doxology, which was dominated by Bengali hymns rather than Sanskrit. [URL=javascript:history.back()]

(8) Sri-Chaitanya-Sikshastakam, 4. RETURN[/URL]

(9) Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.20.1. [URL=javascript:history.back()]

Adau zraddhA tataH sAdhu-saGgo’tha bhajana-kriyA
tato’nartha-nivRttiH syAt tato niSThA rucis tataH
tathAsaktis tato bhAvas tataH premAbhyudaJcati
sAdhakAnAm ayaM premNaH prAdurbhAvaH bhavet kramaH
“The progressive development of prema goes through the steps of faith, association with the saintly, undertaking devotional practice, the dissipation of contamination in the consciousness, firm commitment, relish, attachment, deep emotion and then ecstatic love.” (BRS 1.4.14-15)
Bhaktivinoda divides these as follows: (1) çraddhA, (2) sAdhu-saGga, bhajana-kriyA and anartha-nivRtti; (3) niSThA; (4) ruci (5) Asakti, (6) bhAva; (7) prema in separation, and (8) prema in union. This schema reveals clearly that Bhaktivinoda’s preoccupation here was not to provide an elementary summary of Vaishnava theology, but to explore the higher reaches of devotional experience. RETURN[/URL]

satAM kRpA mahat-sevA zraddhA guru-padAzrayaH
bhajaneSu spRhA bhaktir anarthApagamas tataH
niSThA rucir athAsaktI ratiH premAtha darzanam
harer mAdhuryAnubhava ity arthAH syuz caturdaze
(1) One first receives the blessings of a devotee; (2) one then engages in service to such a great soul (mahat seva); (3) one develops faith; (4) one takes shelter of a spiritual master in initiation; (5) one begins trying to perfect the performance of devotional practices; (6) one starts to experience devotion; and (7) one’s anarthas begin to disappear. Next one proceeds through the stages of (8) steadfastness in devotional practice (nishtha), (9) taste (ruchi), (10) attachment (asakti), and (11) bhava. Then one comes to (12) the stage of ecstatic love (prema), followed by (13) the direct vision of the Lord, and (14) a full experience of the Lord’s sweetness.RETURN
Jagat - Sat, 06 Mar 2004 06:12:57 +0530

The cleansing of the mirror of the mind

The first verse is prefaced by Krishna Das’s reminder of the “external reason” for Chaitanya’s descent: to teach the religious practice for this age, which is the loud glorification of Krishna’s name. In this spirit he cites the all-important verse from the Bhagavata Purana, Chaitanya’s followers’ pramANa-ziromaNi, or most authoritative text, that is given as evidence of this. (12) The chanting of the holy name is specified as a yajJa or sacrificial performance. The ruling emotion is harSa, or elation.


ceto-darpaNa-mArjanaM bhava-mahA-dAvAgni-nirvApaNaM
zreyaH-kairava-candrikA-vitaraNaM vidyA-vadhU-jIvanam
AnandAmbudhi-vardhanaM prati-padaM pUrNAmRtAsvAdanaM
sarvAtma-snapanaM paraM vijayate zrI-kRSNa-saGkIrtanam
All glories to Sri Krishna sankirtan!
It cleans the mirror of the mind;
It extinguishes the blazing conflagration of material life;
It spreads the moon rays that make
the white lotus of auspiciousness bloom;
It is the life of spiritual knowledge; (13)
It increases the ocean of divine ecstasy
and at every moment gives a full taste of ambrosia,
bathing the entire soul.
(14) (CC 3.20.12)

Krishna Das Kaviraj’s translation :

saGkIrtana haite pApa saMsAra nAzana
citta zuddhi sarva-bhakti-sAdhana udgama
kRSNa-premodgama premAmRta AsvAdana
kRSNa-prApti sevAmRta samudre majjana
From sankirtan comes the destruction of sin and material entanglement, the purification of the mind and heart, the arising of all the other practices of devotional life. It then leads to the awakening of love for Krishna, the relishing of the flavors of that love, and then to the attainment of Krishna, where one plunges into the nectarean ocean of service to the Lord. (CC 3.20.13-14) (15)
Bhaktivinoda’s Gitavali:

Gauranga Mahaprabhu appeared in his golden form to purify the age of Kali. Absorbed in divine ecstasy, he sang the following song:

“All glories to Sri Krishna Sankirtan, which enters our hearts and minds and cleans them like a mirror!

“All glories to Sri Krishna Sankirtan, which extinguishes our sufferings and puts out the forest fire of material existence with great ease!

“All glories to Sri Krishna Sankirtan, the most joyful act of devotion, the moonlight that makes the night-lotus of auspiciousness blossom.

“All glories to Sri Krishna Sankirtan, the eternally perfect form of the Lord! It is the life of pure transcendental knowledge.

“All glories to Sri Krishna Sankirtan, which is famed for expanding the ocean of ecstasy and immerses me in that ocean!

“All glories to Sri Krishna Sankirtan, which at every step gives us a taste for the divine nectar and bestows on me love for Krishna!

“All glories to Sri Krishna Sankirtan, the source of love for Krishna, which bathes Bhaktivinoda’s entire soul in love for him.”


(12) Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.20.10. Bhagavata 11.5.32. [URL=javascript:history.back()]

(13) The words vidyA-vadhU-jIvanam literally mean “the husband of knowledge,” the husband being the “life” of the wife; i.e., that which is served or followed by knowledge. RETURN[/URL]

(14) Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati builds on the analogy of the sacrifice by likening the seven actions of the Name given in this verse to the seven-tongued sacrificial fire. (Cf. Mundaka Upanishad 1.2.4 and Hari-bhakti-vilasa, 2.92ff.) [URL=javascript:history.back()]

(15) Krishna Das has not attempted to follow the verse exactly, so there is no one to one correspondence to the Sanskrit verse. In verse 11, he names three most important results that come from chanting: the destruction of anarthas or sin, the manifestation of all auspiciousness (sarva-zubhodaya) and the joy of love for Krishna. RETURN[/URL]
Jagat - Sat, 06 Mar 2004 06:32:07 +0530

The power of the holy name

Krishna Das introduces the second verse with Chaitanya’s mood, which has now turned to viSAda (remorse) and dainya (feelings of inadequacy). Having explained the powers of Krishna’s name in the first verse, an answer is given to the question about ritual restrictions of purity and so on. The answer is given that it is not restricted like other practices. Nevertheless, in spite of this, one’s fallen nature prevents one from taking it up.


nAmnAm akAri bahudhA nija-sarva-zaktis
tatrArpitA niyamitaH smaraNe na kAlaH
etAdRzI tava kRpA bhagavan mamApi
durdaivam IdRzam ihAjani nAnurAgaH
You have expanded your names into so many forms
And in them, you have invested all your personal potencies;
no rules have been made about when one can remember them.
Such, O Lord, is the greatness of your mercy,
and yet my misfortune is such
that I have developed no attraction for them.
Krishna Das Kaviraj’s translation

aneka lokera vAJchA aneka prakAra
kRpAte karila aneka nAmera pracAra
khAite zuite yathA tathA nAma laya
deza-kAla niyama nAhi, sarva siddhi haya
There are so many different people with such a variety of different desires. So in your compassion, you have made known that you have so many different names.

One can chant your name in any condition at all, whether eating or lying down. There are no rules governing the time and place for chanting; one can attain all perfections in any case. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.20.18)
Bhaktivinoda Thakur:

You are the ocean of compassion, and in order to deliver the living beings, you have appeared to teach them your innumerable names.

In each of these names you have placed all your potencies and yet placed no restrictions as to where or when they can be chanted.

The holy name is the most valuable gem. It is not different from you and yet out of your great mercy, you distribute it freely throughout the world.

How great is your charity! How great your compassion! And yet how great my misfortune, how pitiable am I!

O Lord, no taste for chanting these Names has arisen within me. Thus Bhaktivinoda says: “My heart is full of distress.” (17)


(16) These are the second and third of the vyabhicAri-bhAvas, described in Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 2.4.14-20 and 21-25 respectively. [url=javascript:history.back()]

(17) Elsewhere Bhaktivinoda clearly states daza aparAdha AmAra durdaiva “The ten offences are my misfortune.” (Saranagati, 8) This verse thus provides the opportunity for discussing the ten offenses, which are breaches in orthodoxy and ethical norms, which seemingly contradict the liberal tenor of the verse. The next two verses, however, do to some extent confirm the paradox. There is a quid pro quo—God freely gives His benedictions and mercy, but requires that His devotee become transformed into His image. RETURN[/url]
Jagat - Sat, 06 Mar 2004 06:42:45 +0530

Who is qualified to chant?

The question of qualification is a great concern in all Sanskrit philosophical texts. Normally, the adhikAra for devotion is very broad—nR-mAtrasyAdhikAritA (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.60), though faith (zraddhA) is generally given as the minimum requirement for devotional activity (ibid. 1.2.14-19). Here and in the next verse, however, faith is being assumed and certain ethical or behavioral norms are stipulated. This verse in particular is social, while the next concentrates on personal morality. This verse in particular is probably the most frequently quoted of the eight verses in the Vaishnava literature. Certainly Krishna Das gives it special mention in the Chaitanya Charitamrita, telling all devotees to “string this verse on the thread of the holy name and wear it around your neck.” (1.17.32)


tRNAd api sunIcena
taror iva sahiSNunA
amAninA mAnadena
kIrtanIyaH sadA hariH
One who is lower than even the grass,
who is as tolerant as the tree,
who has no desire for personal honor
but is ready to give honor to all others,
can sing the glories of the Lord constantly.
Krishna Das Kaviraj’s translation

je rUpe laile nAma prema upajaya
tAhAra lakSaNa zuna svarUpa rAma-rAya
uttama haJA ApanAke mAne tRNAdhama
dui-prakAre sahiSNutA kare vRkSa-sama
vRkSa yena kATileha kichu nA bolaya
zukAJA maileha kAre pAnI nA mAgaya
jei je mAgaye tAre deya Apana-dhana
gharma-vRSTi sahe Anera karaye rakSaNa
uttama haJA vaiSNava habe nirabhimAna
jIve sammAna dibe jAni kRSNa-adhiSThAna
O SvarUpa and RAmAnanda, listen to the way you must chant the holy name so that love for Krishna awakens. Even though you may be the best of human beings, you should still think of yourself as lower than the grass. You should engage in two kinds of tolerance, following the example of the tree. A tree does not protest, even when it is being cut, and it asks no one for water, even if it is drying up and dying of thirst. The tree also gives all its riches to whoever asks for them and through rain and heat provides shelter to whoever takes it. A Vaishnava may be the greatest person, but he is without pride. He respects all living creatures, knowing them to be the abodes of Lord Krishna. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.20.20, 22-24)
Bhaktivinoda Thakur:
If you desire to engage in chanting Krishna’s names and glories,
then do everything you can to gain the qualifications necessary to do so.

Give up false ego and think of yourself
as very lowly and wretched, more insignificant than grass.

Practise the virtue of tolerance by emulating the trees.
Give up revenge and look after other creatures.

Do not give distress to any other being in order to maintain your body;
forget your own selfish concerns by serving others.

Even if you possess all good qualities, do not try to profit from it
by looking for prestige. Keep your heart simple.

Know that all living beings carry Krishna in their heart
and so you should offer them respect in all circumstances.

Cultivate the four qualities of humility, compassion, respect for others
and indifference to worldly honors, and chant the holy name.

Bhaktivinoda cries out the following plea at the Lord’s lotus feet:
“When, O when will you make me qualified to chant your holy name?”


(18) Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.20.19.RETURN
Jagat - Sat, 06 Mar 2004 06:52:48 +0530

The only desire of the pure devotee

This verse contains a key word used to define bhakti in the Bhagavata Purana, ahaitukI – “without any motivation.” True love seeks the pleasure of the other. A devotee seeks nothing but devotion that has no ulterior motive. Here again, Krishna Das states that dainya is Chaitanya’s principal emotion while speaking this verse. Indeed, as humility has been stressed in the previous verse, Krishna Das reiterates, “Love for God is such that anyone who has the slightest connection to it feels that he is completely bereft of any devotion to the Lord.” (verse 28)


na dhanaM na janaM na sundarIM
kavitAM vA jagad-Iza kAmaye
mama janmani janmanIzvare
bhavatAd bhaktir ahaitukI tvayi
I ask not for wealth, nor followers,
Nor beautiful women, nor for poetry or wisdom. (19)
All I ask, O Lord of the Universe,
is that I may have unmotivated devotion
to you, God, birth after birth. (20)
Krishna Das Kaviraj’s translation :

dhana jana nAhi mAgoM kavitA sundarI
zuddha bhakti deha more kRSNa kRpA kori
I ask not for wealth or followers, nor beautiful poetry. O Krishna, be merciful and give me pure devotion only.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s couplets in Bhajana-rahasya: (21)

gRha dravya ziSya pazu dhAnya Adi dhana
strI putra dAsa dAsI kuTumbAdi jana
kAvya alaGkAra Adi sundarI kavitA
pArthiva-viSaya madhye e saba bAratA
ei saba pAibAra AzA nAhi kari
zuddha-bhakti deha more kRSNa kRpA kari
Household affairs, possessions, disciples, farm animals, crops or whatever else one may call wealth; wife, sons, servants and relatives, and whomever else one calls one’s friends; well-written poetry or whatever else one calls beautiful literature—all these are nothing but material things. I want none of them, O Krishna! All I desire is that you mercifully give me pure devotional service.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s song in Gitavali:
O Lord! I make this submission at your lotus feet: I desire no bodily pleasure, great learning, wealth or followers. I ask not for heaven, nor for liberation; I ask not for mystic power. In whatever birth I obtain as a result of my good and bad deeds, all I ask is that I be able to glorify your name and attributes. This is my only hope and I pray to your lotus feet that such causeless blessings will awaken in my heart at all times.

May the kind of attraction I currently have for material sense pleasures be converted into an attraction for your service. In success or failure, wealth or poverty, may I remain steadfast and unchanged. May the power of the holy name always have an increasing hold on me. Bhaktivinoda prays; “Whether I take birth as a bird or a beast, or whether I am born in the heavenly worlds or the nether regions, may devotion to you always dwell in my heart.”


(19) The two words kavitAM sundarIM have given rise to different interpretations, since sundaré could either be an adjective describing kavitA, or a noun meaning “beautiful woman.” The latter seems more likely, as that is the way the Krishna Das appears to be taking it in his translation. The absence of a fourth na to separate these two items is the basis of the argument for seeing them as a single item. However, the desires for worldly gain, fame and sex are so customarily joined as pitfalls on the spiritual path that it seems unlikely for this third choice to be left behind here. Kavitä can mean either poetry or wisdom. Poetry is an unusual object of desire, though a possible one. Liberation, the customary consequence of wisdom in Indian philosophy, is generally the fourth pitfall and likely the one being intended here also. [url=javascript:history.back()]

(20) Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.20.29. [url=javascript:history.back()]
(21) Bhaktivinoda has generally used Krishna Das’s translations in Bhajana-rahasya. This is an exception. RETURN[/url]
Jagat - Sat, 06 Mar 2004 07:03:14 +0530

Praying to realize one’s spiritual identity

The bhakti path of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas is fundamentally conceived of as the culture of a particular identity, the minimum definition of which is “servant of Krishna.” This is seen as the “eternal constitutional position” of the individual soul, but one that nevertheless requires cultivation through practice or sadhana. In the Bhajana Rahasya, Bhaktivinoda elaborates on this verse as the sadhaka’s prayer for knowledge of this eternal spiritual identity in the way further elaborated in Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, namely that of a maidservant engaged in serving the divine couple, Radha and Krishna.

ayi nanda-tanuja kiGkaraM
patitaM mAM viSame bhavAmbudhau
kRpayA tava pAda-paGkaja-
sthita-dhUli-sadRzaM vicintaya
O Krishna, son of Nanda, I am your eternal servant,
but I have fallen into this dreadful ocean of material existence.
Please be merciful and think of me
as a speck of dust at your lotus feet.

Krishna Das Kaviraj’s translation

tava nitya-dAsa Ami tomA pAsariyA
paRiyAchi bhavArNave mAyA-baddha haJA
kRpA kari kara more pada-dhUli-sama
tomAra sevaka karoG tomAra sevana
I am your eternal servant, yet I have forgotten you and fallen into this ocean of material existence, bound by illusion. Please be merciful to me and make me a speck of dust at your feet so that I may be your servant and serve you forever. (CC 2.20.33-34)
Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s song from Gitavali:
As the fruit of beginningless entanglement in karma, I have fallen into the ocean of material existence. I see no means to escape from it.

My heart burns day and night from the poisonous effects of sense gratification; I thus find no peace of mind.

The bonds of desire are infinite and they give me constant trouble. Whatever actions I take are to no avail, for they simply produce more waves in that ocean.

The six enemies such as lust and greed are pirates that intimidate me. And if I think there is refuge on some shore, then knowledge and ritualistic religion are two thugs that beat me up and throw me back into the water. At such a time, Krishna, you are the only one who is powerful and compassionate enough to save me.

Bhaktivinoda prays, “O merciful one! I am your eternal servant, but somehow I have forgotten this and become bound in ropes of illusion. Take this fallen servant of yours and make him a speck of dust at your feet. Give me refuge there.”


(22) Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.20.32. RETURN
Jagat - Sat, 06 Mar 2004 07:08:04 +0530

The external signs of success in devotional practice.

This verse and the next one reflect the importance Gaudiya Vaishnavas give on ecstasies as a concrete and objective sign of spiritual success. Krishna Das once again only singles out dainya as the predominanting mood.

nayanaM galad-azru-dhArayA
vadanaM gadgada-ruddhayA girA
pulakair nicitaM vapuH kadA,
tava nAma-grahaNe bhaviSyati
When will my eyes be filled with tears
my throat block with a faltering voice
and all the hairs on my body stand erect
as I chant your holy name?

Krishna Das Kaviraj’s translation

prema?dhana vinA vyartha daridra jIvana
dAsa kari betana more deha prema-dhana
Without love for Krishna, my life is trivial and without meaning. Therefore I pray that you make me your servant and pay me in the coin of ecstatic love for you. (CC 3.20.37)

Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s song in Gitavali:
Due to offenses, my heart has become hard as a thunderbolt. Therefore no ecstatic transformations take place when I chant your name. I have become desperate, O Lord, and so again and again I call out your name as loud as I can.

O most merciful treasure house of compassion! Give me a few drops of feeling for you and save my life.

When will my eyes flood with torrents of tears as I utter your names? When will my throat block the words I try to pronounce, only allowing me to utter incomplete sounds?

When will my entire body be covered with goose bumps, and when will I perspire, tremble or become motionless? When will I lose color and even faint, remaining alive only by the grace of the holy name?

When will the day come when all these symptoms manifest? Bhaktivinoda cries out this prayer, losing all composure.


(23) Padyavali 93; Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.20.36. RETURN
Jagat - Sat, 06 Mar 2004 07:15:32 +0530

Prema is first experienced in separation

Continuing the theme of ecstasies begun in the previous verse, the element of separation is added as the principal trigger to such ecstasy. The awareness of the incredible gulf of difference between the divine ideal and the human reality are felt so acutely that the soul’s night appears unbearably and irredeemably dark. The allegory of love here becomes dominant and for the first time in the Sikshastakam we start to get overtones of the erotic love of Radharani after Krishna has left the cowherd village for Mathura. This is indeed the context where Rupa Goswami places this verse in the Padyavali.

Krishna Das observes this change of context with the word rasAntarAveze. The overriding mood of dainya continues to be present, but with the addition of viSAda (remorse) and udvega (anxiety). (24)


yugAyitaM nimeSeNa
cakSuSA prAvRSAyitam
zUnyAyitaM jagat sarvaM
govinda?viraheNa me
A blink of the eyes has become equal to an age,
my eyes have become like monsoon clouds,
and the entire universe has become void
to me in the absence of Govinda.
Krishna Das Kaviraja’s translation—

udvege divasa nA jAya kSaNa haila yuga-sama
varSAra megha-prAya azru variSe nayana
govinda-virahe zUnya haila tribhuvana
tuSAnale poRe jena nA jAya jIvana
In my suffering, the days seem never to pass. Each moment is as long as an age. Tears pour out of my eyes as though they were clouds in the rainy season. The three worlds have become void in Govinda’s absence. I burn in the fire of separation, and yet I am unable to die. (CC 3.20.40-41)
Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s songs from Gitavali: (26)

What is happening to me as I repeatedly chant the holy names? I have come to understand that I am Krishna’s eternal servant.

I have realized that I am trapped in the bonds of illusion within this material world and am suffering in so many ways due to my separation from Govinda.

This worldly life no longer brings me any pleasure. The only thing I want to know is what I must do in order to see Krishna.

My eyes fill with tears, from which they pour like torrents of rain, like the downpour of the monsoon season.

Every moment seems like a hundred ages. I can no longer tolerate this separation from my Lord.


Looking in every direction, I see the world as completely empty and this has made me indifferent to life. What should I do? What on earth should I do? I am no longer capable of living.

O residents of Vrindavan! Please grant me life by showing me Radharani’s beloved Lord. Please accept the prayers of Bhaktivinoda and take me with you.

I can no longer bear this separation from Krishna. I think it is only a matter of days before my life abandons me.


As I sang the names of the Lord, various ecstatic moods have started to rise up inside me. I saw Krishna standing on the bank of the Yamuna, accompanied by the daughter of King Vrishabhanu, playing the flute under the kadamba tree, looking like an actor about to go on stage.

When I saw this Divine Couple, my mind became unsteady and I lost consciousness. I don’t know how long it was, but when I came back to consciousness, I could no longer see them.


O sakhi ! How can I go on living? A moment has become as long as an age.

My eyes are flowing like the downpours of the rainy season and the world has become a void. In Govinda’s absence, my life airs no longer stay within me. Tell me how can I go on living?

I have become so anxious. Even so, taking shelter of the holy name again, Bhakivinode calls out to the Lord of Radharani: “Please show yourself to me. Please save me, or I am sure to die.”


(24) Udvega is not usually listed amongst the 33 vyabhicAri-bhAvas, but is specifically used to designate one of the ten states of separation, of which it is the second, i.e., an early stage. The last of these ten stages is death, the danger of which always seems to be present in the darkest moments of separation, allusions of which are brought out more fully in Bhaktivinoda’s Bengali version of the verse below. [url=javascript:history.back()]

(25) PadyAvalI 324; Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.20.39. [url=javascript:history.back()]
(26) Though there is only one signature verse, the following song is unusual in the realm of Vaishnava padAvalI in that it improvises along four different themes arising from the Sikshastakam verse. They describe the passage from sAdhaka-deha to siddha-deha, i.e., from the aspirant’s external consciousness of his worldly situation to an inner consciousness shaped by the mythical realities of Vrindavan. RETURN[/url]
Jagat - Sat, 06 Mar 2004 07:27:19 +0530

Total dependence on Krishna.

Bhaktivinoda characterizes the last verse as love for Krishna (prema) in union, whereas the previous verse was love in separation. This love is characterized by total dependence, knowing that Krishna is fickle and is not subject to the desires of his devotee, which are always subject to a degree of selfishness, even in the most noble moments. This is the lesson of the rasa-lila, where Krishna tells the gopIs that the only way that he can reward them for their love is by playing with their sentiments through sometimes being present with them and sometimes absent. Their staunch commitment to him throughout it all makes it possible for them to experience the ecstasies of love.

Krishna Das has given the most importance to this verse, giving it a longer introduction and a translation of sixteen tripadi verses. After the transitional verse seven, the transformation of Chaitanya into an incarnation of Radha’s love has become complete and the voice of the mortal aspirant for devotion most clearly expressed in verse five has been totally subsumed in that of Radha. Krishna Das’s introduction is as follows:
“Krishna has absented himself in order to test you. Just ignore him,” say the sakhis. The pure-hearted Radha thinks this suggestion over and her natural love for Krishna wells up. Jealousy, eager hope, humility, boldness and modest supplication all welled up in her simultaneously, causing her to lose composure. Finally, she spoke a verse in which mature self-confidence (prauDhi) dominated.”

AzliSya vA pAda?ratAM pinaSTu mAm
adarzanAn marma?hatAM karotu vA
yathA tathA vA vidadhAtu lampaTo
mat?prANa?nAthas tu sa eva nAparaH
Krishna is a debauchee, who may tightly embrace me, who am devoted to his lotus feet, or who may torment my heart by never appearing before me. Whatever he decides to do with me, he is the lord of my life and I will have no other. (Sikshastakam, 8) (27)
Krishna Das Kaviraj’s translation :

Ami kRSNa-pada-dAsI teGho rasa-sukha-rAzi
AliGgiyA kare Atma-sAtha
kibA nA deya darazana jArena mora tanu-mana
tabu teGho mora prANa-nAtha
I am Krishna’s maidservant and He is the storehouse of all joy. Whether He should embrace Me and make Me His own or not allow Me to see Him and cause My body and mind to suffer, He is still the only lord of My life. (CC 3.20.48)
Krishna Das’ expanded translation:
My dear friend, please hear what I have decided: Whether Krishna returns My love, or whether He makes Me so unhappy that I die, He alone is the lord of My life.

Sometimes, when He leaves all His other women and gives Himself to Me, body and mind, Krishna makes Me feel like the most fortunate woman in the world. At those times, He makes all the others suffer by showing off to them while dallying with Me.

Then, at other times, that unfaithful cheater, that shameless rascal womanizer goes off with His other girlfriends and dallies with them right in front of My eyes. Even so, He is still My only love.

I don’t mind the pain He gives Me. All that concerns Me is His pleasure. My greatest joy is to see Krishna happy. If that happiness comes at the expense of My suffering, it still gives Me joy. That pain is My greatest pleasure.

If Krishna is attracted by another woman, lusting for Her beauty, and feels unhappy because she is unattainable, then I fall down at that woman’s feet, take her by the hand to Krishna’s side and make Him happy by having them enjoy together.

Sometimes Krishna gets pleasure when His mistresses are angry with Him. He enjoys being chastized and told off. When it is fitting, I get angry with Krishna, knowing that He enjoys it, but He can always always appease Me without much effort.

The woman who continues to be uncompromisingly angry with Krishna when she knows that it gives Him pain is living in vain. She thinks that her own pleasure is the goal. May a thunderbolt strike her dead! All I want is to see Krishna satisfied.

If a gopi is envious of Me, but satisfies Krishna and Krishna desires her, I do not hesitate to go to her house and become her slave. That indeed will bring Me the greatest happiness. The wife of a Brahmin suffering from leprosy proved to be the most chaste of all women by serving a prostitute in order to please her husband. She thus stopped the movement of the sun, brought her dead husband back to life and satisfied the three principal gods--Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

Krishna is My life and soul. Krishna is the treasure of My life. Krishna is the very life of My life. I cherish Him always in My heart and try to please Him by rendering service. That is My constant meditation.

My happiness comes of serving Krishna, whereas His pleasure is in union with Me. So, I give Him My body. He makes Me His mistress and calls Me His divine goddess; I, however, think of Myself as His slave.

Service to My lover is the essence of happiness and is even more pleasurable than union itself. The goddess of fortune herself is witness to this, for although she dwells on Lord Narayan’s chest, her mind is always on her service to His lotus feet. She thus serves Him as a maidservant.

Gauranga relished these words spoken by Radha, which show the characteristics of the purest love for Krishna. In His ecstasy, the Lord lost His composure and various transformations spread throughout His entire body so that He became completely unsettled in body and mind.

The pure devotional service in Vrindavan is like the gold nuggets found in the Jambu River. There is not a trace of personal sense gratification in Vrindavan. ÇrI Chaitanya Mahaprabhu wrote this sloka to announce this purest love to the world and I have here explained in Bengali verse. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.20.49-62)
Bhaktivinoda’s translation (28)


My friends! Listen to my words: When I am immersed in meditation, then the thief of my heart appears to me.

But if I think I will be clever and find a way to see him, he always disappears. When this happens, my heart screams in pain and my misery knows no limits.

Sometimes the Friend of the Universe takes me with him, but whatever he decides to do with me, he remains the master of my life.

He is the treasure of my life, whether he bestows on me the joy of his vision, brings happiness into my life by whispering loving words to me, or whether he sets fire to my heart by remaining invisible, and thus threatens to put an end to my life.

My happiness is in what brings him happiness. I am indifferent to my own pleasure or pain.

Bhaktivinoda declares: In union or in separation, Krishna is the lord of my life. My joy is in his happiness. He is mine and is never a distant stranger.
In the centre of the Vrindavan forest is the heart of the divine world, the Yoga Pitha. There Krishna sits with Radha, surrounded by the eight sakhIs, playing his flute and enchanting the world with his beauty. My life is at his feet.

I serve the Divine Couple on the orders of the sakhIs, and I think of myself as a maidservant, whose destiny is in their hands.

Sometimes they take me by the hand and speak sweet, compassionate words. They take the tambula I offer them and they wear the garlands I have strung.

Then sometimes they play a trick on me and disappear. Not seeing the two of them, my heart burns to a cinder.

But wherever they are—in or out of my presence—I am their maidservant. In union I feel joy, in separation pain, but that is all the same to me.

Radha and Krishna are my life and soul, in life or in death. They can keep me or kill me, as long as they are happy.

I, Bhaktivinoda, know nothing other than this. I fall down at the sakhI’s feet and declare that I want nothing but to be a member of Radharani’s group and to render service to the Divine Couple.

Thus, success in spiritual life is achieved in a stable identification relative to the Other. It is not one’s identity in this world that counts, no matter how prestigious or successful. Though Krishna Das did not choose to include it in the Sikshastakam, the one other verse that can be attributed to Chaitanya with some assurance, confirms this very conclusion:

nAhaM vipro na ca narapatir nApi vaizyo na zUdro
nAhaM varNI na ca gRhapatir no vanastho yatir vA |
kintu prodyan-nikhila-paramAnanda-pUrNAmRtAbdher
gopI-bhartuH pada-kamalayor dAsa-dAsAnudAsaH ||
I am not a Brahmin, nor am I a Kshatriya;
Not a Vaishya, nor a Shudra am I.
I am neither brahmachari, nor householder, nor retiree,
nor am I a monk who has renounced the world.

Instead, I make this claim: I am a servant to the servant
to the servant of the lotus feet of Lord Krishna,
who is the lover of the gopis,
the overflowing ocean of nectar
and the only source of supreme and immortal joy.


(27) Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.20.48. [url=javascript:history.back()]

(28) Once again, Bhaktivinoda has given two interpretations of the verse, appropriate to two differing attitudes (adhikAra-bheda). RETURN[/url]
Jagat - Sat, 06 Mar 2004 07:35:14 +0530

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PrabodhAnanda SarasvatI. Chaitanya-candrAmRtam. (ed.) MaNIndranAtha GuhA. KalikAtA: Savitri Guha, Beng. 1377.

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Rupa Goswami. Ujjvala-nIlamaNi. With comm. Locana-rocanI by JIva Goswami and Ananda-candrikA by VizvanAtha Cakravartin. (ed.) Pandit Durga Prasad and Vasudeva Laxman Sastri Pansikar. reprint. Delhi: Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratisthan, 1985.
Jagat - Sat, 06 Mar 2004 08:12:54 +0530
This is now posted on my website at Sikshastakam.