Nowadays you have to use the word ‘God’ with great caution – it can conjure up all kinds of images. Some think of God as a strict and unforgiving judge; the old man who sits on a grand throne and hurls down thunderbolts every time someone deviates. Others consider Him a crutch for the weak; an imaginary being who brings peace, hope and comfort, but has little to do with objective reality. Some think of God as a mythological tool of the power-hungry elite, used to keep the masses in line and maintain the status quo. For many, God is simply the cosmic order supplier; a convenient port of call in times of need and want. The Vedic canon paints a slightly different picture. The extraordinary revelation is not only that God exists, but that He is bursting with colour, character and bliss. God is “raso vai sah”1 – the very embodiment of affectionate relationships, loving relish, and transcendental sweetness.
Lord Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, eternally resides in the spiritual world. That realm is known as Vaikuntha: the place of no anxiety, the place where every step is a dance, every word a song, and where all relationships are infused with selfless love. In that abode the spontaneous and natural relationships with Krishna transcend ritual, formality and reverence; fully satisfying the heart’s yearning. Maybe Nietzsche was searching for Krishna – the enchanting flute player who dances with the cowherd maidens in the moonlight. Maybe we all are. Throughout cosmic history, Krishna periodically descends to Earth and reveals knowledge of the eternal reality. He re-establishes genuine spirituality and teaches the practical means to develop God consciousness.
In 1486, Krishna appeared as Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. While a renaissance of philosophical and theological thought was going on in the world, Shri Chaitanya ushered in a spiritual revolution through the process of nama-sankirtan, or congregational chanting of the holy names of Krishna: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare Through His personal interactions, philosophical discourses and most importantly His joyous public chanting and dancing, He established a process of God consciousness that was open to everyone regardless of caste, colour or creed. He went beyond ritualistic worship, dry philosophising, and materialistic piety, instead emphasising the very essence of religion – unmotivated and unconditional love of God.