yugayitam nimesena caksusa pravrsayitm
sunyayitam jagat sarvam govinda-virahena me
“O Govinda! Feeling Your separation, a moment feels like twelve years or more. Tears are flowing from my eyes like torrents of rain, and I am feeling all vacant in the world in Your absence.’ (Sri Siksastaka, Verse 7)
For devotees of Krishna, the world feels empty in the absence of their beloved Lord. In affairs of love there is no substitute for the beloved—no other person, toy, or material object can replace one’s beloved. Without Krishna the world seems like a playroom filled with meaningless toys—toys that hold no fascination. A devotee wants only Krishna.
Because the devotees desire Krishna intensely, they cry tears. There are two kinds of tears—hot, angry tears and cool, happy tears—but the tears devotees shed when crying for their Lord are of a different type. These tears have a special potency because they wash away whatever contaminations remain over the eyes that block them from seeing Krishna. These tears actually make the devotees’ eyes clear so that they can always see Krishna. So what are we to make of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s wonderful verse that he composed while experiencing the highest ecstasy? Will we forever close our ears and hearts to his urgent message, fearing that we will never ourselves be able to experience exclusive longing? While it is, of course, a mistake to imitate exalted Krishna-conscious states, it is certainly favorable when we hanker for the day when we too will enter the mood of separation from Krishna. When we feel separation in this world, we feel only abject misery. We feel forsaken, forlorn, depressed. But if we can feel separation from Krishna, this separation will create the highest ecstasy in us. How? If we think of Krishna, Krishna will be present. Thoughts of Krishna are identical with Him. If we can think only of Krishna, intensely, then Krishna will be with us intensely. Truly feeling separated from Him and wanting nothing except His association certainly qualifies as intense thoughts of the Lord. In his Padyavali Srila Rupa Goswami cites this verse:
“If I have to choose between union with Krishna and separation from Him, I would choose separation, because when I am with Krishna I see only one Krishna, but when I am separated from Him, then I see Krishna coming toward me from every corner of the universe.”
If while in this world we can actually awaken to the fact that we are now separated from Krishna, we will not feel relaxed about our state. Especially when we are chanting Hare Krishna with an awareness of how we are separated we will begin to feel a deep necessity to reconnect with Him.
In 1969 Srila Prabhupada instructed the devotees to cry prayerfully for Krishna while chanting His name:
“So we are addressing, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna: ’O the energy of the Lord, O the Lord, please accept me.’ That’s all. ’Please accept me.’ We have no other prayer. ’Please accept me.’ Lord Caitanya taught that we should simply cry, and we shall simply pray for accepting us. That’s all. So this vibration is simply a cry for addressing the Supreme Lord, requesting Him, ’Please accept me. Please accept me.’”
It is said that separation is the best mood in which to perform bhajan. Srila Prabhupada once said,
Actually, meeting Krishna is possible through the attitude of separation taught by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. When the feeling of separation becomes very intense, one attains the stage of meeting Sri Krishna. (Caitanya Caritamrita. Adi 4.108, purport) Many of you know how difficult it is to instruct the mind to think something particular. It is just as difficult to instruct the emotions what to feel. When we are unable to feel separation from Krishna and we either think we are doing all right or we remain disturbed by our material problems – that is, we do not long for Krishna – we should know something’s wrong with us. Sri Krishna is the source of all life and happiness. Why don’t we hanker to attain Him? Even a tree feels thirst when it does not rain and an animal feels hunger when there is no food. Isn’t God more to the soul than the food and drink that sustain the gross body? Still, there is hope on the horizon. The realized words of the great acharyas form a stream of sweet water to refresh our tired hearts and awaken in us feelings of devotion. Let us eagerly listen to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his song Kabe ha’be bolo as he makes his appeal:
1. Please tell me, when, o when, will that day be mine when my offenses will come to an end and a taste for the pure holy name will be infused in my heart by the power of divine grace?
2. Feeling myself lower than a blade of grass, welcoming the quality of forbearance into my heart, giving honor to all living beings, and becoming free of false pride, when will I taste the essence of the liquid nectar of the holy name?
3. Wealth, followers, beautiful women as described in worldly poetry—I do not want these bodily pleasures. O Lord Gaurahari! Please give me unmotivated devotion to Your lotus feet birth after birth.
4. When, while articulating the divine name of Sri Krishna, will my body thrill with ecstatic rapture, my words choke with emotion, and my body lose color and tremble ecstatically? When will streams of tears flow constantly from my eyes?
5. When, in the land of Navadvipa, on the banks of the celestial Ganga, will I run about innocently calling out, “O Gaura! O Nityananda’? Dancing and singing, I will wander about like a madman, giving up all consideration of proper social behavior.
6. When will Lord Nityananda be merciful to me and release me from the illusion of worldliness? When will he give me the shade of his own lotus feet and bestow on me the qualification necessary to enter the marketplace of the holy name?
7. Somehow or other I shall buy or steal the mellows of the name of Lord Hari. Becoming thoroughly intoxicated by those liquid mellows I will become stunned. By touching the feet of those great souls who are expert in relishing those mellows I will be constantly immersed in the sweet nectar of the holy name.
8. When will there be an awakening in me of compassion for all fallen souls? Then this Bhaktivinoda will forget his own happiness, and with a meek heart he will set out to propagate by humble solicitation the sacred order of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”
I once met a devotee to whom I confessed the hard state of my heart: “I never feel any longing for Krishna. Rather, I feel satisfied with the present state of my life. What can you recommend so that I can enter the world of spiritual feeling?” The devotee’s answer surprised me: “If you cannot hanker for Krishna, then hanker that one day you will hanker for Krishna. If you cannot hanker for that day, then hanker for the day when one day you will hanker for Krishna.” He went on until his point was clear: start somewhere.
Under the Banyan Tree is a regular column featuring the writing of Sacinandana Swami.