The Leader of the Devotees of Lord Caitanya

By Iskcon Mayapur - 8.3 2018

jaya jaya śrīvāsādi gaura-bhakta-gaṇa
sarvābhīṣṭa-pūrti-hetu yāṅhāra smaraṇa

All glories to the devotees of Lord Caitanya, headed by Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura! In order to fulfill all my desires, I remember their lotus feet. – Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 9.3

What is the significance of Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura to devotees in the line of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu? Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura is one of the five Pañca-tattva, and worshipable to all aspiring servants of the Lord. Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura is the leader of all the devotees of Lord Caitanya; the general of Mahāprabhu’s army.

He is the leader because he represents the perfection of devotional service to the Lord manifested in jīva-tattva. Of the five Pañca-tattva, it is Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura alone who is jīva-tattva, or a manifestation of the marginal energy of the Lord. Thus, in terms of tattva, he is of the same category as all the souls in this world. But because he eternally engages in the worship of the Supreme Lord, he is described by Śrīla Prabhupāda as being worshipable and in the same category as the other four Pañca-tattva.

“Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the Supreme Lord, and Nityānanda Prabhu and Advaita Prabhu are manifestations of the Supreme Lord. All of Them are viṣṇu-tattva, the Supreme, and are therefore worshipable by the living entities. Although the other two tattvas within the category of Pañca-tattva — namely, śakti-tattva and jīva-tattva, represented by Gadādhara and Śrīvāsa — are worshipers of the Supreme Lord, they are in the same category because they eternally engage in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.” (Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 7.15, Purport)

If Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura, as the perfect devotee, is the leader of all the followers of Lord Caitanya, then how should devotees look to him as their leader? One way Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura performs his role as a general in Mahāprabhu’s army is by providing an example of how devotees should fight against māyā.

Śrīla Prabhupāda describes in his purport to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 4.11.1: “Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has also given us a nice weapon for this age, as stated in the Bhāgavatam: sāṅgopāṅgāstra—in this age, the nārāyaṇāstra, or weapon to drive away māyā, is the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra in pursuance of the associates of Lord Caitanya, such as Advaita Prabhu, Nityānanda, Gadādhara and Śrīvāsa.”

This weapon of the holy name was utilized perfectly by Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura. He took complete shelter of the holy names of the Lord. It is described by Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura that Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura and his brothers were constantly absorbed in singing the names of Lord Kṛṣṇa. It was in the home of Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu performed His most intimate saṅkīrtana pastimes. Those nocturnal kīrtanas are compared to the rāsa-līlās of Lord Kṛṣṇa, for they are the topmost and most ecstatic of the Lord’s pastimes.

Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura also exemplifies complete faith in and surrender to the Lord. Śrīvāsa and his brothers are described thus: “These four brothers and their family members fully engaged in the service of Lord Caitanya. They knew no other god or goddess.” (Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 10.11). Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura and his family did not engage in anything other than the service of the Lord and His holy names. Day and night, they would simply chant. In fact, they did nothing to maintain themselves.

Lord Caitanya once asked Śrīvāsa how he maintained his family, and Śrīvāsa merely clapped his hands three times. The Lord asked him to explain the meaning of this clap, and Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura explained that if for three days no food came to his family, he would drown himself in the Ganges. Lord Caitanya became agitated and reminded Śrīvāsa of Kṛṣṇa’s promise in Bhagavad-gītā that for those who worship Him with exclusive devotion, He will preserve what they have and carry what they lack. Lord Caitanya asserted that Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura would never be lacking – even if the goddess of fortune herself became poverty-stricken, the house of Śrīvāsa would never lack anything, because He, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, would personally provide whatever was needed.

Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura had such faith in the Lord that the Lord Himself promised to personally care for him and his family. This cannot be imitated, as faith and surrender cannot be falsely manufactured, but it demonstrates the greatness and devotion of Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura.

Honoring Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura on his appearance day is important to all who are or are aspiring to be gaura-bhaktas. In the ISKCON Śrī Māyāpur Candrodaya Mandir, on this day Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura is decorated with many items of flower jewelry lovingly made by community devotees. In the morning, devotees hear about the glories of Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura and take darśana of him. Around midday, devotees again gather at the temple to witness the wonderful mahā-abhiṣeka offered to him. Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura is bathed with many auspicious substances, such as milk products, honey and various sugar waters, fruit juices, and flower petals, as an ecstatic kīrtana takes place.

All glories to Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura, the leader of the devotees of Lord Caitanya!