Pancha Tattva

30 04 2021

This post will be one in which I write down my understanding of something hoping that I am mostly right. The Pancha Tattva is what one could call the “Hare Krishna Trinity,” except it’s a pentarchy.

śrī-kṛṣṇa-caitanya prabhu-nityānanda,śrī-advaita gadādhara śrīvāsādi-gaura-bhakta-vṛnda

To break this mantra down into the five elements:

Sri Krishna Chaitanya: The Golden Avatar of Krishna, a combined incarnation of Krishna and Srimati Radharani, taking on Srimati Radharani’s golden complexion.

Lord Nityananda: The incarnation of Lord Balarama, an avadhuta, He just really wants you to chant the Holy Names of the Lord.

Advaita Acharya: The incarnation of Maha Vishnu and Lord Shiva embracing, or the expansion of Krishna directly responsible for the material manifestation. His prayers are key to calling Krishna’s mercy down into this Kali Yuga.

Gadhadara Pandit: Also an incarnation of Srimati Radharani (confusing, I know), basically here to see how the whole “combined incarnation” of Lord Chaitanya goes and make sure things don’t get out of hand. He represents more the internal mission of Lord Chaitanya in this age.

Srivasa Thakura: An incarnation of Narada Muni. The captain or leader of the devotees. He represents more the external mission of Lord Chaitanya.

The prayer to the Pancha Tattva is prayed before chanting the Mahamantra. The principle behind this is that we’re such a mess in this Kali Yuga that chanting the names of Srimati Radharani and Krishna directly is pretty much impossible without being offensive. We’re just too impure, but the Pancha Tattva is the spiritual equivalent of laundering our dirty money (prayers) so that Krishna will accept it.

Another way to understand this is through the classic Vedic idea of the Absolute Truth being full of eternity, consciousness, and bliss (sat-cid-ananda). But to break this down further, we have to draw a hard line between the material and spiritual worlds. We should understand that the material manifestation, even in its trillions of universes, is merely a small portion of the complete reality which is taken up mostly by the spiritual world. The first expansion of the spiritual world is Lord Balarama, Krishna’s older brother. He is Krishna’s shoes, His golden garment, His flute, etc. He is even the land of Vrindavan itself, in a manner of speaking. When Krishna is walking and gets tired, Lord Balarama shrinks the land so that Krishna arrives at His destination without fatigue. In that way, Advaita Acharya is the first expansion of Krishna in the material world. He gets the ball of creation rolling by His mere glance. Everything in the material world flows out of Maha Vishnu, and at the end of the great cosmic cycle, it is absorbed back into Him like breath being inhaled and exhaled.

If Krishna is the consciousness properly speaking, then bliss is Srimati Radharani, the pleasure potency. Gadhadara Pandit is Srimati Radharani assisting Lord Chaitanya in experiencing the intimate feelings of love and separation. In terms of the mission, I guess one could say that he represents the contemplative element, going deeper into the pastimes and into their most intimate sentiments. Srivasa Thakura, on the other hand, represents the devotee: love of God as experienced in the material world, though in itself it isn’t material. We speak here of the external vs. internal mission.

Parallels can be drawn with the Christian Trinity, especially with the opera ad intra and opera ad extra. The internal operations of the Trinity would mainly be the begetting of the Son by the Father, and the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father (and the Son). These are all relational within the Divine Substance, and indicate no other distinctions. On the other hand, the opera ad extra are the work of all three Divine Persons: Creation, Redemption, and Sanctification. So in a sense, there is a parallel between the Lord’s workings in the internal energy and the working in the external energy. But really, one cannot draw this out too extensively, as the Divine expansions in Krishna consciousness approach infinity, and the wall between God and the creature is essentially non-existent. The creature (i.e. the marginal energy of the Lord) can never be outside the Lord in an absolute sense. Even in Hell, the Supreme Lord sits in the heart of every living entity.

Which brings me to the actual discussion that I wanted to have, and that is to reiterate that the Hare Krishna idea of God isn’t really about God at all. Sure, that idea is included, but the marvel of the Absolute Truth that some call “God” isn’t really about what it does or what it is. It’s about Who it is and what one’s relationship is with that Person. When one really gets to that level of understanding, the material manifestation seems like an unimportant blip, and even many higher spiritual realities become unappealing. The ultimate justification is that, if one’s experience of the Absolute Truth doesn’t have a very specific feeling like one you would have with any person in daily life, it just isn’t real. You’re sort of flirting with atheism, or worshiping yourself through worshiping an idea of your own concoction. That is the ultimate peril of impersonalist monism. If all is ultimately One without qualities or distinctions, and apparent distinctions are illusory, all you are left with is your own impoverished opinion, which dries out your spirit and perishes with the mortal body.

As I may have mentioned elsewhere, it isn’t about God but the love of God. This is made all the more stark in this Kali Yuga, a fallen age of quarrel and hypocrisy. In terms of the external mission, through the Holy Name the Lord’s mercy is being spread everywhere, and everything in the Lord’s storehouse of liberation must go. All you have to do is chant the name of the Lord in the streets and spread His glory: that is the task of the devotee. But along with this is (for a limited time only) Krishna is giving you an opportunity to peek into His most intimate and sweetest pastimes. People in the Golden Age (Satya Yuga) might live for a million years meditating on the Supreme Lord, but they might just get an inkling of Krishna’s intimate pastimes with the gopis. But here in this Kali Yuga, it’s all on the table. And for relatively cheap.

There is something very strange about the most intimate pastimes of Krishna being laid bare in this most fallen age. Let’s be frank for a second, in spite of what we profess to believe, in truth, we at the very least live a dual consciousness. We have to do this or we’d be driven insane in two minutes. All the things I am discussing here “aren’t real,” what’s real is the traffic light, your Internet connection, the words of your boss, and the opinions of the scientific expert. All of this stuff is just what you do on your spare time. Or the Christian, Muslim, or Pagan version, whatever, it’s all a wash at the end of the day. That’s literally the water we swim in, like fish in a bowl. Unbelief isn’t just something we’re prone to, it’s our default “factory setting”. And Lord knows I’ve struggled mightily against it. And yet here, Krishna has deigned to make His most intimate pastimes accessible to all, when it was esoteric knowledge in other “more worthy” ages of humanity. I suppose for me that is the most “incarnational” aspect of the Hare Krishna movement in our context. It’s as if Krishna is putting everything on the table because at this point, what does He have to lose? We’re already so far gone, godless and full of vice almost without exception. That is why Gaura-Nitai and the whole Pancha Tattva is the most merciful manifestation of the Absolute Truth. It’s because we’re bad and getting worse that Krishna is offering us the best in this most peculiar age.



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