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Spiritual Leaders - Gaudiya-Vaisnava Acaryas (gurus)
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu  


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krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam
yajanti hi su-medhasah

In the first anuccheda, Sri Jiva cites an important verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is considered to be the vastu-nirdesa verse of his treatise. In this verse the subject of the treatise is identified. "In Kali-yuga, those who possess very fine theistic intelligence (sumedhasah) worship Sri Krsna (krsna-varnam) who has appeared in disguise (tvisakrsnam) as Sri Krsna Caitanya. They do so through congregational chanting of the name of God (yajnaih sankirtana-prayaih), as Sri Caitanya himself, with his arms raised in surrender as his only weapons (sangopangastra-parsadam) has taught along with his eternal associates and expansions)."

By citing this verse at the outset, Jiva Goswami indicates that Sri Caitanya is the subject of Tattva-sandarbha (vastunirdesa). Because Tattva-sandarbha is also a treatise that explains the Srimad-Bhagavatam, it is indicated herein that the Bhagavatam is ultimately about that which Sri Caitanya embodies. This opening verse has been explained in various ways, thus Sri Jiva has sought to define and thus fix its meaning in anuccheda two, wherein he offers his obeisances to his deity (namaskara).

Jiva Goswami follows the lead of Sri Sanatana Goswami in explaining this verse. It was Sanatana Goswami the eldest of the legendary Six Goswamis of Vrndavana, who first explained the verse as a reference to Sri Caitanya. As we shall see, this explanation is pivotal to the entire Gaudiya Vaisnava theology. It identifies the deity of the Gaudiyas (Sri Caitanya) as God, a God who has come with his associates to teach the worship of himself (Sri Krsna), while at the same time hiding the fact that he is God. Thus although Sanatana Goswami's explanation is one that draws out a hidden meaning, it fits with the overall theory of the Gaudiyas-that in the Kali-yuga God incarnates in a hidden manner, disguised as a devotee to teach the worship of himself.

The context in which this verse of the Bhagavatam is found lends well to Sanatana Goswami's interpretation. In the eleventh canto of the Bhagavatam, Karabhajana Muni is explaining the avataras of the four cosmic time cycles, or yugas, to King Nimi. Karabhajana Muni briefly describes the characteristics of the yuga-avataras. He then explains the principal, and thus most efficacious, means of worship for each yuga, as taught by these millennia incarnations. After describing the first three yugas, Satya, Treta, and Dvapara, Karabhajana comes to the present yuga cycle, Kali-yuga. It is here that we find this verse.

As mentioned, other commentators have not revealed that this verse indicates Sri Caitanya. Even Sridhara Swami's Bhagavatam commentary, Bhavartha-dipika, which Sri Caitanya so much respected, does not point to Sri Caitanya. Yet in the eyes of the Gaudiyas, this, rather than opposing their conclusions, indirectly lends support. This is so because the Gaudiyas contend that the prerogative to reveal the yuga-avatara, so special as he is in this particular Kali-yuga, lies with the avatara himself and his subsequent followers. Thus even Vyasadeva wrote about Sri Caitanya in a covert way out of deference to Krsna's own desire to remain hidden until his own direct followers proclaim his appearance to the world after his descent.

In the verse, the word varnam has several meanings, all of which fit well with the contention that the verse describes Sri Caitanya. Varna means syllable, class, and color. It can also mean varnayati, to describe. "Krsna-varnam" therefore primarily indicates he whose name contains the syllables kr and sna. Sri Caitanya's name after accepting the renounced order (sannyasa) became Sri Krsna Caitanya, and he is known to have constantly uttered the holy name of Krsna. He is, according to Jiva Goswami, in the category of God (svamsa) and not that of the living entities (vibhinnamsa). Yet such is true of all yugaavataras; therefore, more precisely krsna varnam indicates that this avatara is of the class of Krsna, that is, he is not an avatara of Visnu. He is Krsna (blackish), yet in this incarnation he does not appear blackish (tvisakrsna) to the general public. Sri Jiva notes, however, that Sri Caitanya did appear in dark complexion on rare occasions such as when he revealed himself to Ramananda Raya. Thus the color of his soul within is black (antah krsnam), yet he has accepted the disposition of his devotee to hide himself and is thus bearing an outward complexion that is golden (bahir gauram).

Vital to this explanation is the well-known Bhagavatam verse in which the four yuga-avataras are discussed in terms of their complexions. "Your son appears in every yuga and has assumed previously three different colors-white, red, and golden. Now he is appearing in a blackish color." In this verse, Gargamuni, Krsna's family priest, is conducting the traditional name giving ceremony. He mentions that Krsna appeared in other millennia (other than the Dvapara-yuga), and that he bore white, red, and golden complexions. Because he now had a blackish complexion, he was to be called Krsna (black). As the avataras of the Satya and Treta yugas are white and red respectively, this verse confirms that the Kali-yuga-avatara is golden. Although he is the yuga-avatara of the Kali-yuga, he is not merely a yuga-avatara of golden (pita) complexion, but he is that same black Krsna (avatar)) appearing in a golden complexion.

The Gaudiyas maintain that Krsna is the very source of all avataras yet occasionally appears in the place of the yuga-avatara for a special purpose. This special purpose is relative to his own inner pleasure, more so than to the plight of the bound souls whose benefit is the direct concern of the yuga-avatara. Through Sri Caitanya, Krsna himself, the bound souls are doubly blessed. Not only do they learn the yuga-dharma, they are benedicted with the special compensation of Krsna prema. Through the recommended dharma of the yuga, they are afforded the special opportunity to attain the highest spiritual love of Krsna (Krsna prema) and enter into the inner realm of Krsna.

In the Gaudiya understanding we find a God who takes the role of searching himself out. As it is particular to the human species to search out its origins, so the supreme deity as Sri Caitanya searches himself out in the guise of a human being. Thus the absolute teaches and experiences the self-exploration that is crucial to human existence. The search of Sri Caitanya is bhakti, devotion, within which self-introspection finds its deepest expression. Bhakti churned into prema, transcendental love, reveals the optimum about the nature of the absolute. Thus love itself is the goal of life, even more so than is Krsna - love's ultimate object. Since that love is personified as Sri Radha, devotion to her is the zenith of transcendental achievement for the Gaudiyas. This is the hidden message of the Bhagavatam. It is this message that the combined form of appearing as Sri Caitanya has come to relish and distribute to all souls.

Excerpt from Srila Jiva Goswami's
Commentary by Swami B.V. Tripurari
© 1995 Clarion Call Publishing
Used with permission