Sri Caitanya's Nectarian River Pastimes

BY: SUN STAFF - 8.6 2020

Sri Caitanya's transcendental pastimes with rivers.

Today we begin a new Feature series on the importance of rivers in the transcendental pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The Vedas sing the glories of Bharat's holy rivers, and we find many references to these sacred waters in Gaudiya Vaisnava literature. Among them, references to Sri Krsna Caitanya's pastimes in, on, and alongside the holy rivers are prevalent in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. Our series will draw primarily upon this text, along with other collected wisdom on the locale, nature and divine history of the rivers Sri Caitanya gave darshan to.

The source of all holy waters on the planet is the great Mother Ganga. In the Introduction to Caitanya-caritamrta, comprised of a series of five lectures given by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in New York in 1967, he explains:

"When it is necessary to create the material universes, Visnu expands Himself as Maha-Visnu. Maha-Visnu lies down in the Causal Ocean and breathes all the universes from His nostrils. Thus from Maha-Visnu and the Causal Ocean all the universes spring, and all these universes float in the Causal Ocean. In this regard there is the story of Vamana, who, when He took three steps, stuck His foot through the covering of the universe. Water from the Causal Ocean flowed through the hole that His foot made, and it is said that that flow of water became the river Ganges. Therefore the Ganges is accepted as the most sacred water of Visnu and is worshiped by all Hindus from the Himalayas down to the Bay of Bengal."

Sri Caitanya's pastimes are themselves compared to the Ganges:

karṇānandi-kala-dhvanir vahatu me jihvā-maru-prāṅgaṇe
śrī-caitanya dayā-nidhe tava lasal-līlā-sudhā-svardhunī

"O my merciful Lord Caitanya, may the nectarean Ganges waters of Your transcendental activities flow on the surface of my desertlike tongue. Beautifying these waters are the lotus flowers of singing, dancing and loud chanting of Kṛṣṇa's holy name, which are the pleasure abodes of unalloyed devotees. These devotees are compared to swans, ducks and bees. The river's flowing produces a melodious sound that gladdens their ears."

This is further explained in the Bhaktivedanta Purport:

"Lord Caitanya's movement of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is full of dancing and singing about the pastimes of Lord Kṛṣṇa. It is compared herein to the pure waters of the Ganges, which are full of lotus flowers. The enjoyers of these lotus flowers are the pure devotees, who are like bees and swans. They chant like the flowing of the Ganges, the river of the celestial kingdom. The author desires such sweetly flowing waves to cover his tongue. He humbly compares himself to materialistic persons who always engage in dry talk from which they derive no satisfaction. If they were to use their dry tongues to chant the holy name of the Lord — Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare — as exemplified by Lord Caitanya, they would taste sweet nectar and enjoy life."
(Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 2.2)

In Kali-yuga, when the Earth planet and her waters are increasingly contaminated, sastra predicts how the waters will again be purified by the sound vibration of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, to be delivered to the world by a great pure devotee, who we know to be none other than Srila Prabhupada. He, along with his predecessor Sampradaya Acaryas, has indeed fulfilled sastra and Sri Caitanya's prophecy that the Holy Names would be spread around to every town and village:

"In the Brahma-vaivarta Purana, in a conversation with Ganga Devi, Lord Krishna describes that after 5,000 years of Kali-yuga have passed, His mantra upasaka, the great sage and worshiper of Krishna's holy names, will appear and spread the chanting of Krishna's names (in the form of the Hare Krishna mantra) not only in India but throughout the world. Lord Krishna explains that by the chanting of His holy names the world will become spiritualized and everyone will be hari-bhaktas, engaged in the process of devotion to the Supreme. The purified devotees will visit the holy places and holy rivers of India and will purify them. They will also purify those with whom they come in contact. Thus, Sri Krishna predicted the appearance of a powerful devotee who would spread the chanting of His names worldwide."[1]

The Caitanya-caritamrta details not only Lord Caitanya's transcendental pastimes with rivers, but also presents a treasure house of instruction on the philosophy, which in many ways is illustrated by, or is a representation of the sacred rivers. This, along with Mahaprabhu's spreading of the glories of Sri Sri Radha and Krsna and Their divine pastimes along the Yamuna River will be discussed over the course of the series.

kṛpā-sudhā-sarid yasya
viśvam āplāvayanty api
nīca-gaiva sadā bhāti
taṁ caitanya-prabhuṁ bhaje

"I worship Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, whose nectarean mercy flows like a great river, inundating the entire universe. Just as a river flows downstream, Lord Caitanya especially extends Himself to the fallen."

Headwaters of the Ganges