Shri Advaita Acharya—Teaching the Secret Bliss of Servitorship
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“I offer my respectful obeisances to Shri Advaita Acharya, whose activities are all wonderful. By His mercy, even a foolish person can describe His characteristics.” [Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi-lila 6.1] Shrila Prabhupada, my guru, and the founder/exemplary teacher of the Hare Krishna movement, referred to the bhakti scriptures as “the science of God.” This term is amply demonstrated by the appearance days of various incarnations or expansions of Godhead. Shri Advaita Acharya is one such expansion of God, specifically of Krishna, whom Gaudiya Vaisnava’s see as the fountainhead or Source of all incarnations—or we could say, the Source of our conception of God which is in relationship to the material world. Within this tradition Shri Advaita Acharya is famous, and celebrated for His compassion, as it was His pure prayers for Krishna that caused Krishna to personally appear (as Shri Chaitanyadeva) for the deliverance of suffering humanity. Specifically, Shri Advaita is the cause of the material creation and is considered an expansion of Maha-Vishnu, that aspect of Krishna who maintains and sustains the material world.
It can all seem terribly confusing if you are only used to one aspect of God, but please note that we are not promoting the worship of many competing gods, but the worship of the one supreme God in his diverse manifestations. The Vedas are very elaborate in describing not just that “God is great” but how great He is in tremendous detail. It is easier to say that God is the supreme “One” and leave it at that, yet that oneness has many expansive aspects. Spirit is not limited by time, space, or our mental capacity to understand, so when we refer to “Godhead” we refer to a spiritual substance with manifestations for infinite divine purposes, and loving relationships. In connection to Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Shri Advaita is considered an incarnation of a devotee.
In the sixth chapter of Adi-lila (beginning pastimes) of Chaitanya Charitamrita (Shri Chaitanya’s biography), we find the fascinating and profound perspective, that the identity or mentality of being a servant is more attractive than in even being the Supreme Lord. Considering that in the material world everyone, to varying degrees, is trying to be the master or supreme within their sphere, this is news! While this is but one significant purpose of the appearance of Shri Chaitanya, Shri Nityananda, and Shri Advaita Acharya, it is important enough to devote this blog to trying to elaborate on it.
Shri Advaita is God with the mentality of a servant of God, just as is true with Shri Chaitanya and Nityananda. They are all in the category of God, yet in this lila or divine pastime of popularizing the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra, they are in the mood of devotees (bhaktas), or servants of the Lord. By doing this they teach us how to worship God by sankirtana (congregational chanting of the holy name), and to taste it themselves. Lord Krishna and Lord Chaitanya are both considered the original Supreme Personality of Godhead, or the origin of everything. Since we are part of Them we share their nature in minute quantity. They are primarily interested in tasting rasa, or the sweetness of loving relationships, so we also have that propensity, though we have a limited capacity to do so in the material world. By the process of hearing and chanting the name, form, qualities and pastimes of Radha and Krishna and Their associates in the association of pure devotees, we revive our eternal spiritual love and devotional serving mood.
Philosophically, God is the Supreme Enjoyer and no one’s servant, but He is the also the best servant in the sense that He sustains and maintains the infinite universes and gives materially conditioned (illusioned) souls all facilities for enjoying the world. Yet, more than this giving of facilities, Krishna has arranged that those who engage in serving Him enjoy more than He does—we are all part of Krishna, so in a sense there is only Krishna and his energies, of which we are one. We enjoy by serving the center, which is what we are meant for. By His Divine will, the position of servitorship is the highest, and most enjoyable position in all existence, and is adopted by all the devotees of God, and even all the incarnations of God. They all have the mood of service to God.
Even the Fountainhead of all incarnations, Shri Krishna, wants to adopt the mood of servant to taste its sweetness. This is one meaning of the appearance of Shri Chaitanya (who is considered Krishna, in the mood of His greatest devotee, Shri Radha)—He wants to taste the love Radha feels for Him, and the qualities in Him that attracts her. Shri Nityananda and Advaita along with their other associates are helping Shri Chaitanya in his various spiritual purposes. In the divine play or lila of the appearance of the incarnation for this age, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Shri Advaita Prabhu, plays a significant role. I have already mentioned His prayers for the appearance of Krishna Himself, on account of the severity of the fallen condition of the souls of Kali, who are devoid of spiritual understanding.
However, all His dealings with Lord Chaitanya are full of insightful instructions for those wishing to embark on the path of Bhakti, and specifically for this blog, He often demonstrates how the position of being a servant of God is the most desirable. If even God wants to taste the bliss of being a devotee of God, this should tell us about its value, and serve as an impetus for us to adopt this mentality and pray to realize the depth of its sweetness. For example, in this lila Shri Advaita Prabhu, is a senior to Lord Chaitanya and thus always respected by Him. Advaita Acharya greatly dislikes being so respected by Shri Chaitanya, and once preached the monistic (mayavadi) doctrine that the ultimate truth is merely impersonal energy, just so Shri Chaitanya would chastise him and treat him as a subordinate--which he did! So following the example of Shri Advaita Acharya, let us all imbibe the mood of being servants of Shri Chaitanya and His devotees!
Shri Advaita Prabhu teaches us His ecstasy in the following verse from the Cc:
caitanyera dāsa muñi, caitanyera dāsa/caitanyera dāsa muñi, tāńra dāsera dāsa