The Two Bhagavatas
The gift of Vraja prema that dawns with the appearance of Sri Caitanya and Nityananda is accessed through the bhagavata, of which there are two: the great scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam and the person who personifies its ecstasy. Sri Krsnadasa writes the following about this important precept,
These two brothers remove the darkness from ones heart, causing one to directly meet two bhagavatas. One bhagavata is the great scripture—Bhagavata sastra. The other is the bhakta—the shelter of bhakti-rasa. Through these two bhagavatas these brothers give bhakti-rasa, and in turn their own hearts are controlled by such prema. One astonishing thing is that these brothers both appear at the same time. The other astonishing thing is the extent to which they illuminate the heart.
Srimad-Bhagavatam is the natural commentary on the Vedanta-sutra of Vyasa, in which Vyasa Muni seeks to demonstrate the concordance of the great Eastern revelation—the Upanisads. What may appear at first to be a diverse body of sounds with no central theme and no specific conclusion does speak in unison to make one central point for those who have the ear to hear, an ear arising from a sympathetic heart.
The Upanisads are the earliest form of revelation on Earth, and Vyasa’s Vedanta-sutra is the world’s first attempt at theology—making sense out of revelation. Such theologizing requires, in some measure, that one speak both the language of love as well as that of reason. Vyasa, as the prototype of the guru, speaks both languages. He is fluent in the Godhead’s language of the heart as well as the human language of the head. Sri guru is thus the “person bhagavata,” from whom we can learn the “book Bhagavata.” Sri guru has solved the mystery of the heart and reasoned well about its significance. He or she brings the revelation, which is itself luminous, to light in an unprecedented manner, thus revealing the ongoing and dynamic nature of revealed truth.
Revelation at its foundation constitutes the Godhead’s reaching out to humanity, answering the “why?” question that human life constitutes. Unlike other forms of life, in human life we encounter more than “how” questions, questions concerning how to survive—how to eat; to sleep; to mate; to defend. Such “how” questions are generally answered by nature, and every species of life finds its answer to these questions in the womb of nature. Existential questions, on the other hand, relate not to the objective outer world of things—matter—but rather to the subjective world of consciousness—to the “I” within. This sense of “I” awakens in the human form of life, thus making human life itself an existential crisis.
Our “I” begs for love but as a result of its identification with the objective world it has little to give. Love is about giving and the best things to give in life are not things at all, for only when we give ourselves do we find love. Looking for love in the objective world we come up empty because love lies not in the objective realm but in the subjective realm of consciousness, that elusive subject of neuroscience and philosophy of mind. Despite the conscious self’s identification with the fleeting world of objects that are here today and gone tomorrow, and the subsequent sense of insecurity that such identification gives rise to, we are pervaded by a sense that we are more than objects. Freud’s “oceanic feeling” is more than a fleeting one.
The self and its capacity for love is the exclusive subject of the Eastern revelation. Sri guru speaks reasonably and with deep feeling and realization about this self and also exemplifies the teachings that he or she presents. Sri guru’s example speaks louder than precept, a precept outlined in revelation, to which sri guru is chaste. His or her philosophy is not unhinged from the initial response of the Godhead to the existential question that human life constitutes. That response to the human question, the sense that there is more to life than things and that we ourselves are much of that more, is a big “Yes,” an affirmation, “Om.” The many sounds that follow when assembled and explained by the realized guide make for philosophy that resolves our existential crisis, dissolving it into a life of positive spirituality. There is a purpose to human life. Thank God. Thank consciousness.
Vyasa wrote the Srimad-Bhagavatam in his maturity. It is his final word on the Upanisadic revelation and, in the opinion of Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja, it itself amounts to all the revelation one needs. The Guadiyas consider the Srimad-Bhagavatam a veritable new testament among the ancient books of the East. The Vedic law is surpassed with the lawless love of Srimad-Bhagavatam, centered as it is on the very love life of the Absolute—Brahman. In Srimad-Bhagavatam, Brahman falls in love! Sri Krishna, the Parabrahman of Gopal-tapani Upanisad, falls in love with Radha, his primal sakti.
The supreme object of love would not be so were there no supreme form of love. In Krishna we find the supreme object of love, in Radha, the supreme form. We find the all-pervasive Brahman moving, indeed dancing, as Nietzsche would have liked. The Absolute, the ultimate conscious reality, exists in celebration of itself, and this celebration is arranged by its own power and potential—its sakti. The powerful (saktiman) is full of power (sakti). The two are one and different at the same time and this truth transcends reason, as it must. Realizing this in the midst his own existential crisis, Sri Krishna becomes Sri Caitanya to explore the depths of this mystery—the depths of Radha’s love for him.
Sri Krishna appears as Sri Krishna Caitanya and his other self, Rama, appears as Nityananda to assist him. Should only one of these two, Gaura or Nityananda appeared, either one of them could have drowned the world in prema. The fact that both of them have appeared together is astonishing. Thus the degree to which they illuminate the heart is unprecedented. But there is a method to their madness of freely giving prema and in doing so dismissing desires for dharma, moksa, and all that lies between the two. The method is rooted in revelation and cultivated by sri guru—two bhagavatas.