The equality between Shri Shri Radha-Krishna and Lord Gauranga
is not much discussed amongst the Gaudiya Vaisnavas. Everybody accepts: Lord Shri Krishna appeared, covered by Shrimati Radharani, in a very special combined form in Navadvipa, as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
He Himself teached the chanting of Lord Krishnas name, which is praised in all the Vedas:
hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare
hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare
sodasaitani namani dvatrimsad varnakani hi
kalau yuge maha-mantrah sammato jivatarane
varjayitva tu namaitad durjanaih parikalpitam
chandobaddham susiddhanta viruddham nabhyaset padam
tarakam brahma-namaitad brahmana gurunadina
kalisantaranadyasu sruti-svadhigatam hareh
praptam sri brahma-sisyena sri naradena dhimata
namaitad-uttamam srauta-paramparyena brahmanah
utsrjyaitan-maha-mantram ye tvanyat kalpitam padam
mahanameti gayanti te sastra-guru langhanah
tattva-virodha-sanprktam tadrsam daurjanam matam
sravatha pariharyam syadatma-hitarthina sada
hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare
hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare
Hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare, hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare: This sixteen-name, thirty-two syllable mantra is the mahamantra in the age of Kali by which all living beings can be delivered. One should never abandon chanting this mahamantra and take to other so-called purificatory processes which are practiced by rascals, or engage in chanting other metrical compositions of the name of Krishna that are against the pure conclusions of the scriptures, or are filled with rasaabhaas. About this divinely spiritual mahamantra, which delivers one from material existence, the original guru, Lord Brahma, has said, kali-santararadi sruti, "The srutis have declared this mantra to be the best means of deliverance in the age of Kali". Having all heard this from Brahma, the sons and disciples of Brahma, beginning with Narada, all accepted the Hare Krishna mahamantra and, having meditated on it, attained perfection. (Ananta-samhita*)
By reading that, we can guess, how fortunated we are to be in contact with this mahamantra, which was distributed very freely by Lord Gauranga Mahaprabhu and His associates.
So, at his point we can think: "No other mantra and no other names should be chanted." Yes, this may be right, if we only look on the above verse of Ananta-samhita. But as we know:
harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha
Hearing, chanting and remembering the holy names of Shri Hari (Krishna) is the kali-yuga-dharma and Krishna has countless names. That means, we are not in the position to declare which names are allowed to be chanted and which not. Everything depends on the individual attraction to a certain form or name of the supreme Lord. Just think about Murari Gupta and how happy Lord Caitanya was to see his deep love for Lord Ramacandra (Cc II,15.138-155).
Normally nobody has a problem to agree with that. But, what is with the chanting of Lord Gaurangas own names?
Within the last few years, something "new" arised within the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Actually it is not really new, it was handled in the past just more confidential. Some devotees started to preach very strongly the chanting of Lord Gaurangas and Shri Nityanandas names. As we can imagine, very soon started an opposition, who declared this idea as apasampradaya, against the siddhanta and conclusion of the Vedas and the former acaryas. Well, every devotee has the right to think like this. On the other hand, I believe, there should be a much deeper investigation on this subject.
Apasampradaya or Gaudiya-Vaisnava-Siddhanta
Even in the very same Ananta-samhita* (quoted above), which stresses so much the Hare Krishna mahamantra, we find this verses:
striyo ye purusah priyah
kalau te 'vatarisyanti
gopa dvadasa balakah
viharisyami tair aham
kale nastam bhakti-patham
sthapayisyamy aham punah
gacchantu bhuvi te putrah
kurvantu te mamajnaya
prabhur gauro gaura-harir
My dear male and female associates, headed by Shridama and Subala, who came to this world at the time of My advent as Lord Krishna, will come again during the Kali-yuga.
The gopas will become the sixty-four mahantas and the twelve gopalas. To establish the truth of religion, I will enjoy many pastimes with them.
In this way I will again reveal the path of devotional service, which has been destroyed in the course of time. My sons should also descend to the earth, assume the forms of devotees, and, by My order, also work to re-establish the principles of true religion.
At this time My names will be: Krishna Caitanya, Gauranga, Gauracandra, Sacisuta, Mahaprabhu, Gaura and Gaurahari. Chanting these names will bring devotion to Me.
And Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura declares in the first chapter of his Navadvipa Dhama Mahatmya:
Listen, everyone, to one more confidential topic. The most suitable thing for the souls of Kali-yuga is this treasure of Gauranga-lila. Gaurahari is the combined form of Radha and Krishna, who eternally enjoy pastimes in Vrndavana along with the sakhis. The truth of Radha and Krishna's eternal pastimes and the glories of Vraja-dhama are known by everyone through the scriptures. And the unlimited glories of Krishna's name and abode are known through the scriptures by people all over the universe. But still, actually obtaining krishna-prema is not at all common. Let us contemplate the reason why.
Herein lies the secret of secrets which the living entities bound by Maya cannot discern. One who does not attain love of God after worshipping Krishna birth after birth has certainly committed heaps of offenses. For only by chanting Krishna's name without offenses can one attain incessant krsna-prema.
Shri Caitanya's incarnation, however, is most uncommon. By His mercy, a serious person, though filled with offenses, can quickly obtain love of God. When someone calls out the names of Nitai and Caitanya, Krishna-prema comes looking for him. Offenses do not hinder his progress, and he soon sheds tears of ecstasy out of pure love of God. By the mercy of Lord Caitanya, all the offenses quickly flee away, the heart becomes pure, and love of God fully blossoms. Because people in Kali-yuga commit unlimited offenses, which are difficult to check, there can be no means of deliverance other than Gauranga's name. Therefore, in Kali-yuga, I see no alternative to Shri Gauranga. This is also the proclamation of the scriptures.
As Shri Gauracandra appeared in Navadvipa, it is therefore the crest jewel of all holy places. Offenders are the object of punishment at other holy pilgrimage places, but in Navadvipa-dhama they are purified. The example is the two brothers Jagai and Madhai, who committed great offenses yet still received Nitai and Gaura. What to speak of other places, at Vrndavana the offenders are punished. But a person who has committed hundreds of offenses can easily receive the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu and overcome those offenses in Navadvipa-dhama. For this reason, sages endlessly praise Navadvipa of Gaura-mandala. (Navadvipa Dhama Mahatmya)
According my humble opinion, there is no need to start an oppostion against the regular chanting of Lord Gaurangas names. Krishna says: "Chanting these names (Krishna Caitanya, Gauranga, Gauracandra, Sacisuta, Mahaprabhu, Gaura and Gaurahari) will bring devotion to Me."
And after all: Harer Nama is the yuga-dharma and who wants to declare, that Lord Gaurangas or Nityanandas names don't belong to "harer nama"?
Therefore I'm convinced, the chanting of Gauranga-nama stands in the line AND siddhanta of our guru-parampara AND the holy scriptures.
Let me end with the words of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura:
"The Hare Krishna Mahamantra considers the offenses whereas the Names of Gaura-Nityananda don't consider offenses. An offensive chanter will never achieve the fruit of chanting (pure love for Krishna) by chanting the Hare Krishna Mahamantra. Therefore till the time he is commiting offenses, he should chant the names of Nityananda and Gauranga. Due the repeated chanting of the names of Nityananda and Gauranga, the offenses will be destroyed and he will achieve the fruit of chanting.
The name of Krishna and Gauranga - both are non-different than the named Lord. Those who think that Krishna is in any way inferior or limited than Gauranga are in gross ignorance. But in practical considerations with respect to the benefit awarded to the conditioned souls, the chanting of Shri Nityananda and Gaurangas name is more useful and helpful for everyone. The mercy of Krishnas names is generally only upon liberated or perfected souls who are surrendered to Him. But the magnanimity of the names of Lord Nityananda and Gauranga is especially for the souls who are offenders and full of anarthas and desires for material sense-gratification. The chanting of Lord Nityananda and Lord Gaurangas Names and Their worship quickly delivers the soul from all the offenses and thus the soul achieves shelter at the lotus feet of Lord Gaura-Krishna without any delay." (Purport of Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 8.31)
(*Ananta-samhita is a Pancaratra agama, part of the pancaratra corpus known collectively among Gaudiya Vaisnavas as the Narada Pancaratra)
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