Lord Caitanya on Renunciation, Part 15
BY: SUN STAFF
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu
Feb 27, 2011 CANADA (SUN) An exploration of Sri Caitanya's instructions on renunciation.
In our ongoing discussion of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's instructions on renunciation, we recently quoted several verses of Bhagavad-gita from the 18th chapter, 'Perfection of Renunciation'.
"But he who performs his prescribed duty only because it ought to be done, and renounces all attachment to the fruit--his renunciation is of the nature of goodness, O Arjuna."
In considering Sri Krsna's instructions to Arjuna on renunciation, and how these teachings are reflected in Lord Caitanya's pastime of taking sannyasa, first of all we have to establish the fact that Lord Caitanya was already in goodness when He was a householder. He was exhibiting the perfection of renunciation in goodness as a householder, not that He had to take sannyasa in order to do so. In His lila pastimes, He was first a brahman, and His whole lifestyle was in the mode of goodness. So this wasn't a benefit or quality that He acquired by taking sannyasa.
All pure devotees, regardless of whether they're householders or sannyasis, are by definition in the mode of goodness. In the case of Lord Caitanya, His renouncing the comforts of home in order to preach is suddha-sattva, pure transcendental goodness. There is a great difference between this and renunciation in sattva-guna, outside the context of Krsna Consciousness as it was exhibited by the Lord Himself.
For those who are in the mood of Lord Caitanya and practicing Krsna Consciousness inline with His teachings and pastimes, even in the purest Vedic system, renunciation does not refer to taking sannyasa. In Vedic culture, the idea of a person within varnasrama taking sannyasa is that they're renouncing family life and giving themselves an opportunity to execute and preach Krsna Consciousness. But a devotee in Caitanya-lila, or those in direct and pure lineage to Lord Caitanya, are yukta-vairagya, or renounced in any position they find themselves in within society, whether it be householder or brahmacari.
The main example that Lord Caitanya sets in taking sannyasa is that especially in the context of India, where the remnants or reflections of varnasrama were still observed and participated in by the population, the position of sannyasi greatly facilitates the propagation and preaching of Krsna Consciousness.
From Lord Caitanya's time until now, there is not only the renounced order of sannyasa, but also of babaji. The Goswamis had taken more of a babaji position. Sri Advaita and Nityananda were not sannyasis but they too, of course, were the personification of yuktya-vairagya.
In his Introduction to Srimad Bhagavatam, 'A short life sketch and teachings of Lord Chaitanya', Srila Prabhupada says this about Lord Caitanya's taking sannyasa:
"After accepting this order He became a full-fledged preacher of the Bhagavata-dharma. Although He was doing the same preaching work in His householder life, when He experienced some obstacles to His preaching He sacrificed even the comfort of His home life for the sake of the fallen souls."
The same principles apply today. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur preached as a householder. For the sake of preaching, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta took sannyasa. Srila Prabhupada exhibited a combination of both, but we know that as a nitya-siddha, he is perfectly situated in Krsna Consciousness regardless of his external circumstances as grihasta or sannyasi.
So within our tradition, taking sannyasa does not designate one as being renounced. All devotees, whatever their circumstances within society, are obliged to be renounced in order to serve Krsna. In order to participate in Lord Caitanya's lila or His sankirtana movement, one has to be renounced. You have to renounce sense gratification in order to serve Krsna purely. In order to relish chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, in order to serve Krsna, sense gratification is a great deterrent and obstacle, and must be eliminated. But because the taste one gets from associating with Krsna through His Holy Name and through His service is so intense and so high, it's much easier for a devotee to be renounced than any other aspiring transcendentalist. And that's the beauty and the mercy of Lord Caitanya and His sankirtana movement.
The same principle applies to the concept of the mode of goodness, wherein brahmans are, by definition, expected to be firmly fixed in the mode of goodness compared to other persons within society. That also applies to the sannyasis. But that same principle of goodness is automatically bestowed upon a devotee regardless of his status in society or his position within varnasrama. In fact, our sastra teaches us that to be Krsna conscious in a state of suddha-sattva, which is pure goodness, is far beyond the goodness aspired to and exhibited by pure brahmans who are not in Krsna consciousness, such as strict Mayavadi sannyasis.
So these principles of goodness and the principle of renunciation are automatically achieved by purely executing Krsna Consciousness under the guidance of a pure devotee Spiritual Master inline with Lord Caitanya. If, under the orders of the Spiritual Master, one decides that it's best for their own Krsna consciousness and for their efforts to please the Spiritual Master through preaching to accept the order of sannyasa as a means or a tool that is favorable for that reason, that is the highest principle. According to Lord Caitanya's instructions, we as devotees don't accept sannyasa as a matter of protocol, or simply because we want to follow varnasrama, or because we're in some awkward material situation that we want to extricate ourselves from. We accept it as a means to accelerate and facilitate our service to Lord Caitanya, to the Spiritual Master, and to Lord Sri Krsna.
Lord Caitanya gave up a situation which no mortal personality could ever renounce. According to Vedic custom, He should not have renounced His widowed mother and young wife, who had no one to protect them, and who treated Him with the highest degree of love and affection. So He was not escaping some material entanglement. He took sannyasa simply because it facilitated His ability to preach Krsna Consciousness, which He demonstrated by immediately beginning to travel and preach.
As Bhagavad-gita 18.9 states, "…he who performs his prescribed duty only because it ought to be done, and renounces all attachment to the fruit--his renunciation is of the nature of goodness..." In Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement, it's every devotee's prescribed duty to execute Krsna Consciousness and spread the mercy of Lord Caitanya. For the preachers to execute this prescribed duty, taking the renounced order is something that ought to be done. Lord Caitanya set the highest standard, and many of His followers such as the Goswamis, and Raghunatha das Goswami in particular, gave up similar ideal householder circumstances in order to facilitate the sankirtana movement.
Of course, one of the 'fruits of renunciation' that one has to be careful of not becoming attached to in the renounced order is the reciprocation that followers bestow upon the sannyasi, whether it be money, prestige, adoration or distinction. This, too, is perfectly exhibited by Lord Caitanya, and by all the bona fide Sampradaya Acaryas who came after Him. Whatever prestige or money or any kind of opulence is given to them, they immediately utilize it in Krsna's service, and never succumb to using it to their own material advantage. That demonstrates the essence of renunciation in goodness, both as it is described by Bhagavad-gita 18.9 and as exemplified by the transcendentally perfect sannyasi, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
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