Speech of the Spirit
In our quest to commune with God, what will be the language of our communication? While no language is inherently spiritual, some may look to Sanskrit, which is called the language of the gods. But this title refers to the gods who reside within the material realm of experience, while the realm of God is said in the sruti to lie beyond the reach of words and mind, yato vaco nivartante aprapya manasa saha: “From whom speech and thought return (unable to reach him).”1 This, of course, means that Bhagavan cannot be adequately described by words or fully understood by thought. Thus there is not enough that we can say about him. While it is said that those who sincerely chant his name capture Bhagavan, such utterance is not just a lip exercise. Rather it is a heart exercise. He is bhava grahi janardana. He accepts the spirit of our offering and speaks the language of our heart.
Sriman Mahaprabhu told Sri Isvara Puri that the learned say “visnave” and the ignorant “visnaya.” However, Bhagavan hears and understands the heartfelt utterance of “visnaya“, but not the learned but heartless utterance of “visnave.” So, to enter the lila we must learn the language of the heart, as this is the real language of the lila, even though what is spoken may appear to be a vernacular of this world.
We do know from sastra that Sri Krishna speaks all languages, even those of the less evolved forms of life, birds and beasts. He is vividhabhuta-bhasa-vit, expert in different and astonishing languages. However, knowing another’s language does not ensure actual communication. Thus here again the spirit of this quality is that Krishna knows the hearts of all, for it is our heart that we try unsuccessfully to express in words: “I wanted to tell you that I love you, but the words got in the way.”
The above notwithstanding, Sri Rupa Goswami tells us,”Krishna expresses himself in the vernacular of the young gopis of Vraja, in Sanskrit to the respectful Indra, and in the colloquial dialect to the animals, the people of Kashmir, and the parrots. How amazing! How has he become expert in all these languages?”2 Sri Jiva Goswami comments as follows:
This is the statement of an elderly observant resident of Vraja. Though the young girls of Vraja are mentioned, it is understood that all the residents are included. Krishna spoke to them all in a special dialect of that particular region called sauraseni, which is the language of Mathura. Vraja and Mathura, of course, were practically the same place with the same dialect. The word saurim, from the word sura, means Sanskrit, the language of the devas. Krishna also spoke to animals, including the cows and buffalos. Kiresu refers to the people of Kashmir and to parrots. Apabhramsa refers to a very low form of colloquial language. The idea is that according to the situation, he spoke the particular language.
In the above quotations, Sri Rupa and Jiva Goswamis are describing the prakata, or manifest, lila of Sri Krishna, but there is no reason why the same cannot apply to his aprakata-lila. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu primarily spoke Bengali in Navadwipa during his prakata-lila, and he was also a Sanskrit scholar. However, as already pointed out, such languages are not inherently spiritual anymore than any other aspect of the lila is, such as the style of clothes Mahaprabhu and Krishna wear. One may dress oneself in an approximation of the fashion of the dhama-vasis and learn the languages they appear to speak, but this will not qualify one to enter there. To enter we need to import the bhava that fuels the lila into our hearts, for in actuality the dress and language of the lila are all bhava. We must learn to speak in this tongue.