Param Vijayate Sri-Krishna-Sankirtanam

mahaprabhuBy Swami Tripurari, from Siksastakam of Sri Caitanya.

In the beginning of his eightfold teaching, Gaura Krishna trumpets the virtues of Sri Krishna sankirtana in an effort to awaken sraddha (faith) in its efficacy and thus give rise to sraddha’s outward expression of saranagati (surrender). Such faith creates eligibility for treading the bhakti-marga. Divine faith is the beginning of Krishna bhakti. Filled with such faith, Gaura Krishna cries out, param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam.

The words param vijayate call for exclusive adherence to Sri Krishna sankirtana, forgoing any other path. With a similar emphasis on sraddha and saranagati, Bhagavad-gita, Sri Krishna’s song to Arjuna, reaches its conclusion. The famous words sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja bring Sri Krishna’s song to a close.1 Following this conclusion, Krishna’s life story, Srimad-Bhagavatam, begins with the same emphasis. The words dharmah projjhita-kaitavo ’tra open the book about his life.2 Both the closing statement of Bhagavad-gita and the opening statement of Srimad-Bhagavatam advocate faith in exclusive devotion to Sri Krishna and the surrender that corresponds with it.

As Krishna’s concluding words of the Bhagavad-gita are strong yet prefaced by more than six hundred verses justifying them, so too are the opening lines of Srimad-Bhagavatam strong yet well supported when they dismiss all other expressions of dharma and even the ideal of salvation. The insistence on exclusive devotion in the Bhagavata’s introduction is followed by almost eighteen thousand verses in support of its premise. Similarly, Siksastakam’s initial emphasis on sraddha and saranagati has been prefaced by Gaura Krishna’s entire life of divine love, which speaks louder than precept. Gaura’s position is also well supported by the virtues of nama-sankirtana that he lists in the balance of this initial Siksastakam sloka, the seven successive verses of Siksastakam, and the ocean of scripturally based literary support that the Vrindavana Gosvamis and their successors churned from the Siksastakam.

Thus Siksastakam promotes from the outset faith in the efficacy of exclusive Sri Krishna sankirtana. This faith is not blind, dogmatic belief, but rather enlightened faith drawn from revelation. Such faith mandates change in our lives, a change of heart that involves saranagati, the stage on which the drama of krishna-bhakti is performed. The first six steps on the ladder to vraja-bhakti—from initial sraddha to ruci (taste)—is the process of fully erecting the stage of saranagati within one’s heart, thus connecting the ray of faith that first dawns in one’s heart with the sun of faith that never sets in the land beyond doubt and misconception. It is faith in the efficacy of Sri Krishna sankirtana that situates one on the path, and faith-filled sankirtana itself that moves one along.

While Sri Caitanya glorifies sankirtana in an effort to elicit faith in its efficacy, he does not explain the significance of the term sankirtana, which, aside from its ordinary meaning, has a special significance for Sri Caitanya and his followers. Here in Siksastakam Mahaprabhu qualifies his sankirtana, referring to it as “Sri Krishna sankirtana.” It is necessary to mine the significance of all four of these words—Sri, Krishna, sam, and kirtana—to realize the wealth of Sri Caitanya’s intentions.

Kirtana means glorification of another. It derives from the verbal root kirti, which means fame. It is that by which one makes the virtues of others well known, and that by which one becomes virtuous oneself. In general, one becomes glorious by praising others, as opposed to glorifying oneself. One can praise another’s name, qualities, form, or activities, making for different kinds of kirtana.

Here in Siksastakam, Sri Caitanya emphasizes nama-kirtana, but not kirtana of just any name. He calls for exclusive kirtana of the name of God, which is considered to be nondifferent from God himself. If there is any difference between Krsna and his name, it is that in the form of his name he is more approachable. Sri Rupa Gosvamipada has explained this in his Sri-krsna-namastakam:

O Harinama!
You manifest in two svarupas
as “named” and “name.”
The name’s fame exceeds that of the named.
What proof is there of this?
The name’s serious offender
upon becoming a repenter
with words and worship of this name in a sea of bliss will always bathe.3

Thus in the form of Krishna kirtana, Krishna nama is both high, being one with God, and highly accessible at the same time.

Mahaprabhu has further qualified his method of kirtana, advocating not only kirtana of the name of Krishna but sankirtana of Krishna nama. Sam means full, complete, and comprehensive. The word sankirtana implies comprehensive glorification that is both quantitatively and qualitatively so. Glorification is quantitatively complete if it is unanimous—if everyone present participates. Thus sankirtana suggests glorification in unison with other like-minded persons, and thereby the association of saintly persons—sadhu-sanga.

The quality of Gaura Krishna’s sankirtana cannot be understood without mentioning Radha. The word sri in Gaura’s first verse speaks of Krishna’s divine consort. It is in pursuit of her love that Krishna becomes Gaura and sings in sankirtana. He sings in her mood, seeing himself through her eyes. No one knows Krishna better than Radha. Her love is called samartha-rati, competent love. It is capable of completely conquering Krishna, and as we shall see from the final sloka of Siksastakam, it is this kind of love that Sri Caitanya tastes and distributes in Sri Krsna sankirtana—the highest quality of love, Sri Radha’s prema in mahabhava.

Although sankirtana is the dharma of Kali-yuga, in the current yuga cycle there is a special concession. Not only does Gaura Krishna distribute dharma in the broadest possible outreach, he distributes the highest quality of prema, inviting everyone into the innermost chamber of his own heart. Thus he has woven a wreath out of both prema and sankirtana and seeks to garland the world with it.4

When the raja of Puri first witnessed the sankirtana of Gaura’s associates, he was filled with wonder (camatkara). He had never witnessed this kind of kirtana, this kind of dancing, this kind of love.5 Prataparudra Maharaja was no stranger to glorification of Krishna. He presided over a city centered on Krishna’s glorification, a city that was host to millions and millions of pilgrims. When he asked his brother-in-law what kind of kirtana it was, Gopinatha replied, caitanyera srsti ei prema-sankirtana: “This is the creation of Sri Caitanya. It is called prema-sankirtana.”6 Not all forms of sankirtana offer prema, but the sankirtana of Gaura Krsna is about prema alone. Indeed, it frowns on mere deliverance (mukti).

The principal nama-mantra invoked by Sri Caitanya in his prema-sankirtana is mentioned in the sruti. Kalisantarana Upanisad calls this nama-mantra of sixteen names taraka-brahma nama. Taraka means deliverance, and here it implies that chanting this nama-mantra results in deliverance from samsara, especially in Kali-yuga. In fact, this is the nama-mantra that the yugavatara distributes in the dark age of Kali, the Hare Krishna nama-mantra. However, neither the yugavatara for the age of Kali nor the Upanisads speak of prema.

The special concession of prema-sankirtana is a result of Sri Caitanya’s being Krishna. He is not the usual Kali-yuga avatara, who appears in the world to deliver people from birth and death by advocating the yuga-dharma. He is not an avatara of Narayana or Krishna but rather Krishna himself. Although he does teach the yuga-dharma, he has another internal agenda of his own. He does not chant merely taraka-brahma nama but paraka-brahma nama. Paraka means “competent.” Here it implies that the Hare Krishna nama-mantra is competent not only to deliver one from samsara but furthermore to give the treasure of prema.7

Thus Siksastakam’s phrase param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam heralds the glory of that which is the best form of sadhana/sadhya, or spiritual practice that naturally leads to the highest form of spiritual perfection in prema. What then is the need for any other sadhana, and where can one find a higher sadhya?

After praising the paramount spiritual practice with the words param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam, Sri Caitanya delineates seven effects of nama-sankirtana. In the vision of Thakura Bhaktivinoda, these seven effects correspond with the seven sequential steps that follow sraddha and sadhu-sanga and end in prema as delineated by Sri Rupa Gosvami in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. Sri Rupa writes:

First faith, then holy association,
followed by the acts of bhajana,
resulting in the cessation of obstacles,
then steadiness, taste, attachment,
ecstasy, and divine love.
This is the order of the stages
through which prema arises in sadhakas.8

The first two of these steps, sraddha and sadhu-sanga, have already been discussed.9

After arousing faith in the method of his divine madness and implying that it is best pursued in the company of sadhus, Sri Caitanya has chosen to enumerate seven particular glories of nama-sankirtana, which correspond with the seven steps remaining to attain Krishna prema. Each of these steps is further described in greater detail in the next seven verses of Siksastakam.

  1. Bg. 18.66 []
  2. SB 1.1.2 []
  3. vacyo vacakam ity udeti bhavato nama svarupa-dvayam
    purvasmat param eva hanta karuna tatrapi janimahe
    yas tasmin vihitapradha-nivahah prani samantad bhaved
    asyenedam upasya so ’pi hi sadananadambudhau majjati
    (Sri-krsna-namastakam 6) []
  4. nama-prema-mala ganthi’ paraila samsare (Cc. 1.4.40) []
  5. aiche prema, aiche nrtya, aiche hari-dhvani kahan nahi dekhi, aiche kahan nahi suni (Cc. 2.11.96) []
  6. Cc. 2.11.97. []
  7. krsna-nama’ paraka hana kare prema-dana (Cc. 3.3.257) []
  8. adau sraddha tatah sadhu-sango ’tha bhajana-kriya
    tato ’nartha-nivrttih syat tato nistha rucis tatah
    athasaktis tato bhavas tatah premabhyudancati
    sadhakanam ayam premnah pradurbhave bhavet kramah
    (Brs. 1.4.15–16) []
  9. Sadhu-sanga is also implied in the second verse of Siksastakam, as the spiritual practice discussed therein necessitates association with sadhus. []

Tags: ,

About the Author

13 Responses to Param Vijayate Sri-Krishna-Sankirtanam

  1. The distinction between deliverance (taraka) and spiritual perfection (prema), (I have no sanskrit training, I am inferring the definitions from the article.) is one that resonates with me from this lesson. Deliverance in and of itself could be considered karmic in that it keeps one in the action/reaction trap, and devotional service or glorification of another simply for deliverance, I think would absolutely be karmic in nature. The deliverance through spiritual perfection that Caitanya made available is something else entirely. Deliverance is not the end one is after, but perfection attained through bhakti yoga. This service is ongoing and eternal and through it more mysteries become clear as through it you’re better able to become familiar with the name, qualities, for and activities of Krishna. Until that time, when all the knowledge of the universe is able to be comprehended, we have the holy name, which we can easily comprehend. Nurturing a love of service to this name (if that’s the limits of our comprehension at this time), and having faith that through that service we will progress in spiritual understanding, is the very first step in cultivating our divine connection, the concrete pilings on which the stage of surrender is built in your heart, if you will. Spiritual life is not about escape, but it is about living more fully, about opening life up to all that is possible through spiritual advancement, and by life, I mean eternal spiritual life, not just life on this planet. I hope this does not come off as too long, but writing this out helps me organize my thoughts. Thank you for making these lessons available to us.

    • “Deliverance in and of itself could be considered karmic in that it keeps one in the action/reaction trap”

      Deliverance (mukti) is by definition outside the realm of karma.

    • Anthony,

      Citta Hari is correct in stating that mukti is not an aspect of karma. However, I believe the point you are raising in this connection is that the desire for mukti feels selfish to you. This is true from the Gaudiya perspective, especially sayujya mukti, in which there is no opportunity for divine seva due to the lack of perceived distinction between the Infinite and the finite. Because the karmic realm is all about selfishness, your way of describing the desire for mukti as karmic is understandable while technically incorrect. While literally wrong, you are correct in spirit.

      Gaudiya Vaisnavism excels in selflessness to the extent that it acknowledges a gradation of spiritual selfishness above material selfishness that continues up into Vraja-bhakti and Sri Radha’s love for Krishna.


  2. An explanation of “spiritual selfishness” may be in order. This is completely free from material selfishness that causes the self to contract. Free from such material selfishness, the self expands in terms of its identification with its surroundings. In theism it realizes the universality of its Deity, with whom it is identified in love—a union of will. However, this union takes shape in a gradation of intimacy, and the degree of intimacy with the Absolute that one realizes relative to one’s approach determines the degree to which one is spiritually selfish or selfless. I have used the word selfish to describe this gradation because it constitutes a gradation of maintaining one’s sense of self as different from the object of one’s love.

    Generally speaking there is a gradation of identification with the Godhead, from seeing the Godhead as venerable, to actively venerating, to losing sight of the object of worship as such and thereby bridging the distance between the Deity and oneself. This final beatitude is what the Goswamis have called prema—prema prayojana. In this end there is no sense of one’s self worshiping the Deity, because the self has become worship itself, which is now truly termed love—a dynamic selflessness to the extreme.

  3. This discussion reminded me of something I’ve been thinking about recently. As far as I understand, devotees are not supposed to desire the five types of liberation, including living on the same planet as Krsna (‘salokya’) or having his constant association (‘samipya’). But devotees often speak of going “Back To Godhead” and associating with Krsna as our ultimate goal and it is indeed very difficult not to feel those desires. So how are we to reconcile this?

  4. The teaching is not to try to see God but to try to serve God. But actually seeing God lies within serving him. The desire for anything other than prema is an impediment to attaining it. Here prema is used in reference to Vraja-lila. To desire to go “Back to Godhead” in terms of raga-bhakti is to desire to attain prema, and living with Vrajendranandana lies within this prema. But the experience is not that one lives on his planet, but rather that he lives among us (the Vrajavasis). We should desire to go back to Godhead in terms of identifying with the nature of that plane, the serving nature of the dhama.

    To desire this kind of prema is, among other things, not to desire the four types of devotional mukti. Devotional mukti is the goal of the vaidhi marg samparadayas. Therefore Mahaprabhu did not feel that the Tattvavadi’s ideal fully represented all that the Bhagavata speaks of, its highest ideal of prema—prema prayojana, not mukti.

  5. So in this lesson—param vijayate sri krsna sankirtanam— we find faith (sraddha) and holy association (sadhu sanga). These are the first two stages on the path to prema.

    Here sraddha is not blind, but rather rooted in revelation that invites one to reason about itself. It is also the human answer to the outreach of revelation, and thus outwardly expressed as surrender (saranagati).

    The sense in which sadhu sanga is represented in Sri Caitanya’s phrase param vijayate sri krsna sankirtanam is derived from the preface sam in sankitanam inasmuch as it denotes chanting in unison with others. This prefix while speaking of broad outreach also speaks to us of the depths of love from whcih this sankirtana comes to this world and where it seeks to take us. As Narottama dasa Thakura sings, golokera prema dhana hari nama sankirtana. The wealth of Goloka’s prema descends to this world through Krishna sankirtana.

    So this is the method to the madness of Sri Caitanya’s prema that awakens sraddha in others and thereby thrusts them into holy association that in turn serves to foster this initial faith. Although here we are speaking of the holy association that results from following one’s awakend faith, it should also be noted that faith itself is initially derived from holy association as well. The difference between these two types of association is the the former is random and the latter systematic.

    If there are no further questions or comments by the end of today (6.5.09). We will move on to the next lesson—ceto darpana majanam—tomorrow.

    • I find use of the term random pretty interesting. Selection of jiva for the descent of bhakti is random ( like a lottery ticket) after which the process of bhakti becomes more systematic. As an aside I was thinking of how mutation is random and it is followed by the more systematic natural selection. Actually many people use the word random in philosophical circles to indicate lack of direction or purpose in the universe. But it is not the case as you illustrate here.

      In nature there is structure and order that science has beautifully exploited but science goes overboard in its ambition to fit certain models to nature exactly. So to fit everything they have to introduce randomness. There is both randomness and structure in nature as there is both determinism and free will. Complete determinism takes out the juice or rasa out of life.

  6. Here random means that the jiva’s good fortune in coming to bhakti is made possible by saints who move randomly. That is, they move in the world not by the force of karma, but rather out of love for Bhagavan. And love does not answer to reason. The Bhagavata uses the word “yadrcchaya” to describe Sukadeva’s movements through which Pariksit was blessed with good fortune. Luck—good fortune—here means not a causal karmic influence, but rather the independent movement of bhaktidevi in the world through the heart of the intermediate devotee. So the good fortune of the jiva (bhagyavan jiva) that affords it sukrti and the opportunity for bhakti (bhakti-lata bija) is one aspect of sadhu sanga. Then the systematic sadhu sanga that plants and waters the seed of bhakti through, diksa, relevant instructions etc. follows.

  7. So the initial sukriti to receive bhakti is randomly arranged for the jiva maybe when Bhagavan has a plan in mind for jiva to realize his svarupa etc. No effort from the jiva can attract that sukriti, right?

    • It is random in that bhakti is not caused by anything other than herself. She is not subject to the laws governing the baddha-jiva’s life. She comes from outside of this material influence. So in our world she has no cause. She has free movement and goes wherever she likes, even to the demoniac if she so chooses. Whereas jnana, for example, does not have this idependence. This does not change the fact that Bhagavan may have in mind before hand how he ultimately wants to accept seva from any particular jiva.

      Yes, no effort alone can cause bhakti sukriti.

      • There is apparent randomness from our perspective but as I understand it, from bhagavan’s perspective a plan maybe in place for the time when bhakti sukriti will descend for a particular jiva.

        One more thing about your remark,” effort alone cannot cause bhakti sukriti”. Has effort got any role at all to play in attracting bhakti sukriti ? How do we place Krsna’s verse 4.11 in this context wherein he says that he reciprocates as one surrenders unto him and everyone follows his path. Is there again a tension between free will and determinism which is hard to resolve?

        We are one with bhagavan but krsna wants to give us the feeling that we are making the choice . This creates contradictions, for instance, between determinism and free will, that no theologians or philosophers have been able to resolve it through classical human logic. But I think this is what makes life mysterious and beautiful!

        That again makes me think about the fact that what may seem random in nature, according to human observation, may in fact have an agenda which is not comprehensible through limited human logic.

        • No amount of effort can cause bhakti sukriti to ocurr. However, effort and grace combined are said to be the means to advance once bhakti has taken root. At the same time grace alone is sufficient.

          In 4.11 “prapadyante” means to “resort to” “to surrender,” with regard to bhakti this implies a systematic approach that follows in the wake of sraddha— actually treading the path of bhakti. Sri Krishna shows each devotees a particular form of himself that corresponds with their particular love (bhava). Yes, there is tension between free will and determinism. We are one with him and we are different form him. The experience of the devotee is that he or she is choosing to serve Bhagavan in a particular way, but his or her choice is not independent of grace, or Bhagavan revealing how he would like to play himself out in lila through the devotee. The jiva is a manifestation of the Godhead as sakti-tattva. The One becomes many for lila. This is true in sristi-lila and in Vraja-lila as well. In the Vraja-lila, the “One becomes many” means that Krishna becomes Radha and thus bhakti is born. Mysterious and beautiful indeed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑