Sri Caitanya's Nectarian River Pastimes, Part 3

BY: SUN STAFF - 11.6 2020

Sri Caitanya's transcendental pastimes with rivers.

Before we proceed to explore Lord Caitanya's pastimes with specific rivers. we would like to summarize some of the many other references to rivers found in Caitanya-caritamrta. Many of these speak either to the philosophy in general, or to rivers in general. All provide an interesting context for Mahaprabhu's lila pastimes in, on and alongside holy rivers.

In the Bhaktivedanta Purport to Antya lila 4.98 we read:

"India has many sacred rivers, such as the Ganges, Yamunā, Narmadā, Kāverī and Kṛṣṇā, and simply by bathing in these rivers people are liberated and become Kṛṣṇa conscious."

Throughout the philosophy, as presented in Caitanya-caritamrta, we find instructions on so many spiritual activities that are to be done in association with rivers and other sacred waters. For example:

"Whatever edibles a sannyāsī gets from a householder's house he should take outside near some lake or river, and after offering the food to Viṣṇu, Brahmā and the sun (three divisions), he should eat the entire offering and not leave anything for others to eat." (Madhya 3.74)

The purifying effects of water are described:

"As soon as one enters a holy place, he must observe fasting for the day, and after shaving his head clean, he must take a bath in a river or ocean near the holy place. These methods are adopted to neutralize the effects of sinful activities." (Madhya 11.112)

The holy rivers themselves are purified by coming into contact with the Supreme Lord, as described here:

"When Kṛṣṇa takes His bath in universally purifying rivers like the Yamunā and the Ganges of the celestial world, the great personalities of those rivers greedily and jubilantly drink the remnants of the nectarean juice from His lips.

Aside from the rivers, the trees standing on the banks like great ascetics and engaging in welfare activities for all living entities drink the nectar of Kṛṣṇa's lips by drawing water from the river with their roots." (Antya 16.146-7)

There are many references to the ways in which associating with sacred rivers helps the jiva to become Krsna conscious and to advance in spiritual life. There is a narrative in Madhya lila 24 in which Narada Muni is counseling a hunter and his wife on how to engage in the proper stages of renunciation, advancing from grihasta to vanaprastha, and eventually to the sannyasa asrama. After distributing their wealth to the brahmanas, the husband and wife are instructed to leave with home with only one cloth each:

"Nārada Muni continued, 'Leave your home and go to the river. There you should construct a small cottage, and in front of the cottage you should grow a tulasī plant on a raised platform. (Madhya 24.260)

The water of rivers is also used as a metaphor by Sri Ramananda Raya, as he describes pure devotional service to Sri Caitanya:

"The regulative principles according to the injunctions of the śāstras are necessary insofar as one's original dormant Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not spontaneously awakened. An example of spontaneous action is the flowing of rivers into the ocean. Nothing can stop this flow of water. Similarly, when one's dormant Kṛṣṇa consciousness is awakened, it spontaneously flows to the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa without impediment." (Madhya 8.70 Purport)