sri sri guru gauranga jayatah!

Special On-line Edition for the disappearance day of Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja
& Harmonist No. 16
Posted: Kartik 2006 & 10 November 2010
& 28 May 2024

Dedicated to
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda

Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja

Inspired by and under the guidance of

Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja

The Compassionate Avatāra - Part 1
Karuṇaya-avatīrṇaḥ Kalau

by Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja

Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī is the confidential servant of Śrī Gaurasundara, the most munificent avatāra who mercifully appeared in the age of Kali (karuṇaya-avatīrṇaḥ kalau). Who but such an intimate servant can understand which mood appears in the heart of Mahāprabhu at what moment, and how that mood augments the hlādinī-śakti (internal pleasure potency) that resides there?

No one has the power to understand the deep and diverse pastimes of Śrīman Mahāprabhu without bathing in the dust of the lotus feet of such an antaraṅgā (intimate, internal) associate. Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī Prabhu always prayerfully contemplated the lotus feet of those internal devotees, and in this way he proceeded in his service [of glorifying Mahāprabhu] without the slightest obstruction. He concludes every chapter of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta with:

śrī-rūpa-raghunātha-pade yāra āśa
caitanya-caritāmṛta kahe kṛṣṇadāsa

Praying at the lotus feet of Śrī Rūpa and Śrī Raghunātha, always aspiring for their mercy, I, Kṛṣṇadāsa, narrate this Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta.

We will understand the transcendental pastimes of Śrī Gaurasundara only when we receive the blessings of Śrīla Rūpa and Raghunātha. For this reason Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī benedicted all jīvas:

anarpita-carīṁ cirāt karuṇayāvatīrṇaḥ kalau
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasāṁ sva-bhakti-śriyam
hariḥ puraṭa-sundara-dyuti-kadamba-sandīpitaḥ
sadā hṛdaya-kandare sphuratu vaḥ śacī-nandanaḥ

May the son of Śrīmatī Śacī-devī, Śrī Gaurahari, forever manifest spontaneously within the innermost core of your heart. Adorned with the radiant splendour of molten gold, He has descended (avatirṇaḥ) in the Age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow upon the world that which has not been given for a long time – the beauty of His own brilliantly radiant ujjvala-prema-rasa bhakti, service in the highest mellow of amorous love. (Vidagdha-mādhava 1.2)

Accomplish this Task

Karuṇaya-avatīrṇaḥ kalau – what kindness Śrī Śacīnandana-hari Gaurasundara has shown the jīvas overwhelmed by the age of Kali by mercifully descending at this time. The people of the world, however, are unable to comprehend His magnanimity, even today. Therefore, to assist us in understanding His purpose for descending, Śrī Gaurasundara Himself made a prediction and liberally ordered the residents of Bharat (India) to accomplish this task.

bhārata-bhūmite haila
manuṣya janma yāra
janma sārthaka kari’
kara para-upakāra

Anyone who has taken a human birth in the land of India should make his life successful by striving for the highest benefit of all others. (Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 9.41)

All of the ācāryas in the line of Śrila Rūpa Gosvāmī have endeavoured tirelessly to inform everyone of this order of Mahāprabhu by writing unprecedented literatures. Commanded by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, oṁ viṣṇupāda Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda proved most effective in his attempts to do this. If his qualified disciples had protected his line of thought and tried to inform the world about Śrīman Mahāprabhu, maybe by now they would have successfully preached the message of Śrī Gaurasundara in all corners of the globe.

What nectar there is in the message of Śrī Gaurasundara! The educated sector of today’s society is most curious to learn about this. In this regard, it is worth noting the words of our respected Dr. Śrīyuta Kalidāsa Nagara. Our commendable godbrother and barrister, Dr. Samvidānanda dāsa, was present one day during a discussion at Dr. Nagara’s house. Śrī Kalidāsa Nagara practically ridiculed us by saying that a certain mission does not have anything worthy to say, yet its members are preaching their message all over the world; but we are still unable to propagate such a grand message of Śrīman Mahāprabhu beyond the borders of Bengal.

We should realise that it is due to our great disqualification that we have not preached this message out of Bengal. If we compete with the jat gosains, (caste gosvāmīs), taking pride in establishing a mere three or four maṭhas and temples and collecting a few disciples and servants, the message of Mahāprabhu will not be broadcast.

“Unless we collectively endeavour to ensure that the most munificent incarnation, Śrī Gaurasundara, manifests in the heart of each and every jīva stricken by Kali, this task will remain unaccomplished.” These were the final words of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda. He told us to work cooperatively to preach the message of Rūpa and Raghunātha. Our misfortune is that we have strived to follow all of his instructions except this one.

The First Step in Attaining Transcendental Knowledge

In his Sārārtha-varṣiṇī commentary on Bhagavad-gītā, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura comments on the verse vyavasāyātmikā buddhir (2:41) as follows:

Iha bhakti-yoge vyavasāyātmikā buddhir ekaiva. mama śrīmad guru-upadiṣṭaṁ bhagavata-kīrtana-smaraṇa-caraṇa-paricaraṇādi kam etad eva mama sādhanam etad eva mama sādhyam etad eva mama jīvātuḥ sādhana-sādhya-daśayostyaktum aśakyam etad eva me kāmyam etad eva me kāryam etad anyat na me karyaṁ nāpy abhilāṣaṇīyaṁ svapne ’pīty atra sukham astu, dukham vāstu, saṁsāro naśyatu, vā na naśyatu, tatra mama kāpi na kṣatiriyeva’m niścayātmikā buddhir kaitava-bhaktāv eva sambhavet, yad uktam – ‘tato bhajeta māṁ bhaktyā śrāddhālur dṛḍha niścayaḥ’ iti.

This means, “On the path of bhakti our sole sādhana is to follow with resolute intelligence the instruction we have received from Śrī Gurupādapadma. With fixed resolve we should endeavour to execute whatever order we have received from him regarding bhagavat-kīrtana. This is both our sādhana (practice) and our sādhya (goal), and our sole duty is to organise our entire life around trying to follow that instruction. We are never to neglect the order of Gurupādapadma, either in the stage of sādhana or when we have attained our ultimate goal.

“Our sole desire in life is to serve Gurupādapadma according to his desire. We should have no other aspiration even in our dreams. If in following the order of Gurupādapadma we encounter happiness or distress, let it be. Our material life may be destroyed or may not, but whatever the case, so be it. Either way, we will neither lose nor gain. ‘Our one and only duty is to serve our spiritual master.’ To be fixed in this understanding is characteristic of resolute intelligence and firm faith. Service to Śrī Guru and Bhagavān performed with this resolve constitutes bhakti. All else we do in the name of bhakti is simply sense gratification.”

When Aurangzeb went to instruct his son, Mohammad, about devotion to his forefathers, Mohammad plainly said, “Must I learn about devotion to my forefathers from you?” Aurangzeb had imprisoned his own father, Śāhājahān, and usurped his throne, so naturally Mohammad was not ready to hear from him any instruction on ancestral respect.

When Vallabha Bhaṭṭa declared his own commentary on the Bhāgavata to be superior to that of Śrīdhara Svāmī, Śrī Gaurasundara replied:

prabhu hāsi’ kahe, – “svāmī nā māne yei jana
veśyāra bhitare tāre kariye gaṇana”

Smiling, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, “I consider that person a prostitute who does not accept the svāmī to be an authority.” (Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya-līlā 7.115)

Bhagavad-gītā instructs us that worshipping the ācārya (ācāryopāsana) is the first principal step in attaining transcendental knowledge. Therefore, one who tries to attain the position of guru by disregarding the ācāryas’ and Śrī Guru’s instructions will never be successful in that position.

The Flow of Mercy

In Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s time, Śrīman Nityānanda Prabhu broke open the dam that blocked the ocean of mercy, and began to distribute prema to any and everyone. The society of goldsmiths in Saptagrāma were harassed by the artificial caste system of Ballal Sena. They were of the lowest caste, yet Śrīman Nityānanda Prabhu went from door to door and delivered them all. “Murkha vaṇikkula karilena uddhara – He delivered the foolish society of goldsmiths.” Each and every person has the right to perform bhakti; one’s caste and dynasty are of no consideration. In this mood, Śrīman Nityānanda Prabhu bestowed prema upon all.

Later on, the so-called caste gosvāmīs claimed that they were the sole representatives of Nityānanda Prabhu’s dynasty, thus again blocking the flow coming from the ocean of mercy. But then the second manifestation of Nityānanda Himself and the embodiment of Gaurāṅga’s teachings (gaura-vāṇī), oṁ viṣṇupāda Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda, broke open that dam and made the river of pure bhakti flow in the same way it did in Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s time.

Śrīla Prabhupāda ordered his qualified disciples to come together and preach the message of Śrī Rūpa and Raghunātha as he had done, but now, for some reason the current of bhakti is again unfortunately coming to a standstill. We should all be diligent to ensure that the river of Śrī Bhaktivinoda’s conceptions never stops flowing.

The Dark Age of Kali

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam describes how the ṛṣis headed by Śaunaka assembled at Naimiṣāraṇya, and according to the line of thought that is appropriate for Vaiṣṇavas, determined the obligatory duties of the jīvas stricken by the age of Kali. Seeing the terrible condition of the jīvas in Kali-yuga, Śaunaka and other ṛṣis said to Sūta Gosvāmī:

prāyeṇālpāyuṣaḥ sabhya
kalāv asmin yuge janāḥ
mandāḥ sumanda-matayo
manda-bhāgyā hy upadrutāḥ

O learned one, the life span of the general person in Kali-yuga is short. Furthermore, he is lazy (lacking resolve in spiritual life), less intelligent, troubled by various obstacles and unfortunate (bereft of sādhu-saṅga). In addition, he is afflicted by the threefold miseries. (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.1.10)

In the age of Kali all the jīvas have short lives, are lazy and possess an intelligence that is riddled with sinful desire. They are aways agitated by obstacles and troubled by sickness and lamentation. The ṛṣis were wondering how, in such a condition, the jīvas could attain their true welfare. The terrible condition of the human race in Kali-yuga has been described in the Twelfth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī told Parīkṣit, “As the days in Kali-yuga pass by, religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, forgiveness, compassion, life span and memory will gradually diminish.”

We are gradually realising this. In Kali-yuga, a person will adhere to a religion in name only. One who tells the truth will not be able to fill his belly. Cleanliness will not exist at all because public places, hotels, restaurants and shops will be full of the most degenerate people with the vilest tendencies. The merit of forgiveness will be forgotten; one who is forgiving will be considered timid or cowardly. Not even members of the same family will be forgiving with each other. The quality of compassion will be found only in fairy tales. Longevity will not exist anywhere, especially in India where people only live for seventy-five years. Memory will be limited to knowledge acquired through books.

In Kali-yuga, the status of one’s birth, conduct and good qualities will be measured by one’s affluence. A person with wealth will belong to the highest caste and be considered to bear all good qualities. No one will inquire as to the identity of one’s mother and father, for at one’s marriage one’s kula (family caste), gautra (family line) and those who gather as witnesses to the marriage will not be considered important.

All social activities, such as giving and receiving, buying and selling, eating and feeding others, and communicating, will consist solely of lying and cheating. The cause of love between male and female will be based on expertise in love-making, style of dress, their decorative ornaments, bodily strength and external beauty.

The term gṛhastha-āśrama will be found only in tales because of the free, unrestricted meeting of men and women. A person will be regarded as a brāhmaṇa simply by wrapping a two-paisā thread around his neck. It will not be necessary to scrutinize him to see if he has the qualities of a brāhmaṇa, or those of a kṣatriya or vaiśya. Sight of this thread will suffice. Wearing saffron cloth and carrying a stick will make one a sannyāsī, and donning white cloth or pants will denote one as a gṛhastha. There will be no need for any actual qualification. Only those with money will receive justice. For example, you won’t be able to enter the courts without first paying the fee of money-stamped paper and a lawyer, what to speak of further court proceedings. The English term for this kind of procurement of justice by money is “to push [throw] good money after bad money”.

One will be known as a scholar if, on the strength of his powerful voice, he can lecture for three to four hours. One who is poor will be considered a ruffian and a thief, and the most honoured sādhu will be one who exhibits the most arrogance and self-importance. One who travels a long distance to take bath in the Gaṅgā at Haridvāra will be considered greatly pious, but such piety will not be attributed to one who takes bath in the Gaṅga flowing through any other city, or even through one’s own locality. Eight-hundred thousand people gathered in Allahabad to take bath during the Kumbha Mela. They had not read Śrīla Narottama dāsa’s prayer which says, “tīrtha-yātrā pariśrama, kevala manera bhrama – going on pilgrimage is simply a useless labour. It is only another kind of satisfaction for the bewildered mind.”

One will look charming if he grows long hair. Nowadays you can even find young boys with long hair. No matter how little they eat and no matter how much their faces shrivel up, they will still grow their hair long to try to look beautiful. The unfortunate and destitute people of Kali-yuga will use soaps and cosmetics in their attempt to look fair and handsome.

A person who can eat to the full satisfaction of his belly will think he has achieved the fourfold goals of life, namely dharma (religiosity), artha (wealth), kāma (sense enjoyment) and mokṣa (liberation from material bondage). He will not consider it necessary to attain anything more. In the age of Kali, people will think that if they are able to feed their wives and children, they will have achieved the expertise King Dakṣa attained by performing fire sacrifices.

Putting a Dog on the Throne

There will be no practical means by which one can make a sacrificial fire. Dharma (religious activities) and sevā (service) will exist in name only. People will be bound to the practices of a so-called religious tradition, motivated by their public image as a religious person and the reputation of their guru. Whether they are religious or not, the world will be filled with people of this mentality. The strongest among them will come forward posing as political leaders themselves. By cheating the unfortunate, less intelligent masses, they will accumulate votes and thus become rulers. Sometimes a pot of milk hanging from the wall may fall accidentally and the cat will think herself fortunate. But what benefit can these low-minded rulers bestow upon the people by such power?

Hitopadeśa states, “Śvā yadi kriyate rājā tat kiṁ nāśnāty upānaham – If a dog-eater becomes the king, can he give up his nature?” Can one ever give up his nature? What benefit is there in making a dog sit on a throne? He will not give up his nature of eating dried flesh. In the same way, it is sure and certain that those who present themselves as rulers, having painted themselves as leaders with the colour of popular vote, will ultimately act according to their acquired nature.

Which scriptures related to maintaining their citizens have they read that their hearts will break for the sufferings of the people? While giving grandiose lectures they will pretend that their heart is breaking, but at the time of action they will only loot and plunder. “Andhera nagarī bakuba rāja, taka sera bhāji taka sera khāja – the king will be as blind and degraded as the citizens.”

In this way a picture of the age of Kali has been painted. Seeing this we can understand why Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said to Śrī Rāmānanda, “varṇāśrama dharama, eho bāhya, āge kaha āravarṇāśrama-dharma is external; please speak something beyond this.”

How can the people of Kali-yuga practise varṇāśrama-dharma? For them everything is in jeopardy.

Translated from Śrī Gaudiya Patrika, Year 7, Issue 1
by the Rays of The Harmonist team.
Published in English for the first time in
Rays of The Harmonist No. 16 Karttika 2006

Rays of The Harmonist On-line, “The Compassionate Avatāra of Kali-yuga – Karuṇaya-avatīrṇaḥ Kalau – Part 1” by Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License to ensure that it is always freely available. You may redistribute this article if you include this license and attribute it to Rays of The Harmonist. Please ask for permission before using the Rays of The Harmonist banner-logo.