After offering respects to Lord Caitanya, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja begins offering them to Lord Nityānanda in the seventh verse of the Caitanya-caritāmṛta. The author explains that Lord Nityānanda is Balarāma, who is the origin of Mahā-Viṣṇu. Kṛṣṇa's first expansion is Balarāma, a portion of whom is manifested as Saṅkarṣaṇa, who then expands as Pradyumna. In this way so many expansions take place. Although there are many expansions, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the origin, as confirmed in the Brahma-saṁhitā. He is like the original candle, from which many thousands and millions of candles are lit. Although any number of candles can be lit, the original candle still retains its identity as the origin. In this way Kṛṣṇa expands Himself into so many forms, and all these expansions are called viṣṇu-tattva. Viṣṇu is a large light, and we are small lights, but all are expansions of Kṛṣṇa.
When it is necessary to create the material universes, Viṣṇu expands Himself as Mahā-Viṣṇu. Mahā-Viṣṇu lies down in the Causal Ocean and breathes all the universes from His nostrils. Thus from Mahā-Viṣṇu and the Causal Ocean spring all the universes, and all these universes, including ours, float in the Causal Ocean. In this regard there is the story of Vāmana, who, when He took three steps, stuck His foot through the covering of this universe. Water from the Causal Ocean flowed through the hole that His foot made, and it is said that that water became the river Ganges. Therefore the Ganges is accepted as the most sacred water of Viṣṇu and is worshiped by all Hindus, from the Himalayas down to the Bay of Bengal.
Mahā-Viṣṇu is actually an expansion of Balarāma, who is Kṛṣṇa's first expansion and, in the Vṛndāvana pastimes, His brother. In the mahā-mantra—Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare—the word "Rāma" refers to Balarāma. Since Lord Nityānanda is Balarāma, "Rāma" also refers to Lord Nityānanda. Thus Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Rāma addresses not only Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma but Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityānanda as well.
The subject matter of the Caitanya-caritāmṛta deals primarily with what is beyond this material creation. The cosmic material expansion is called māyā, illusion, because it has no eternal existence. Because it is sometimes manifested and sometimes not, it is regarded as illusory. But beyond this temporary manifestation is a higher nature, as indicated in the Bhagavad-gītā (8.20):
- paras tasmāt tu bhāvo ’nyo ’vyakto ’vyaktāt sanātanaḥ
- yaḥ sa sarveṣu bhūteṣu naśyatsu na vinaśyati
"Yet there is another unmanifested nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is." The material world has a manifested state (vyakta) and a potential, unmanifested state (avyakta). The supreme nature is beyond both the manifested and the unmanifested material nature. This superior nature can be understood as the living force, which is present in the bodies of all living creatures. The body itself is composed of inferior nature, matter, but it is the superior nature that is moving the body. The symptom of that superior nature is consciousness. Thus in the spiritual world, where everything is composed of the superior nature, everything is conscious. In the material world there are inanimate objects that are not conscious, but in the spiritual world nothing is inanimate. There a table is conscious, the land is conscious, the trees are conscious—everything is conscious.
It is not possible to imagine how far this material manifestation extends. In the material world everything is calculated by imagination or by some imperfect method, but the Vedic literatures give real information of what lies beyond the material universe. Since it is not possible to obtain information of anything beyond this material nature by experimental means, those who believe only in experimental knowledge may doubt the Vedic conclusions, for such people cannot even calculate how far this universe extends, nor can they reach far into the universe itself. That which is beyond our power of conception is called acintya, inconceivable. It is useless to argue or speculate about the inconceivable. If something is truly inconceivable, it is not subject to speculation or experimentation. Our energy is limited, and our sense perception is limited; therefore we must rely on the Vedic conclusions regarding that subject matter which is inconceivable. Knowledge of the superior nature must simply be accepted without argument. How is it possible to argue about something to which we have no access? The method for understanding transcendental subject matter is given by Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself in the Bhagavad-gītā, where Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna at the beginning of the Fourth Chapter:
- imaṁ vivasvate yogaṁ proktavān aham avyayam
- vivasvān manave prāha manur ikṣvākave ’bravīt
"I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvān, and Vivasvān instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikṣvāku." (BG 4.1) This is the method of paramparā, or disciplic succession. Similarly, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam explains that Kṛṣṇa imparted knowledge into the heart of Brahmā, the first created being within the universe. Brahmā imparted those lessons to his disciple Nārada, and Nārada imparted that knowledge to his disciple Vyāsadeva. Vyāsadeva imparted it to Madhvācārya, and from Madhvācārya the knowledge came down to Mādhavendra Purī and then to Īśvara Purī, and from him to Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
One may ask that if Caitanya Mahāprabhu is Kṛṣṇa Himself, then why did He need a spiritual master? Of course, He did not need a spiritual master, but because He was playing the role of ācārya (one who teaches by example), He accepted a spiritual master. Even Kṛṣṇa Himself accepted a spiritual master, for that is the system. In this way the Lord sets the example for men. We should not think, however, that the Lord takes a spiritual master because He is in want of knowledge. He is simply stressing the importance of accepting the disciplic succession. The knowledge taught in that disciplic succession actually comes from the Lord Himself, and if the knowledge descends unbroken, it is perfect. Although we may not be in touch with the original personality who first imparted the knowledge, we may receive the same knowledge through this process of transmission. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is stated that Kṛṣṇa, the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead, transmitted transcendental knowledge into the heart of Brahmā. This, then, is one way knowledge is received—through the heart. Thus there are two processes by which one may receive knowledge: One depends directly upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is situated as the Supersoul within the heart of all living entities, and the other depends upon the guru, or spiritual master, who is an expansion of Kṛṣṇa. Thus Kṛṣṇa transmits information both from within and from without. We simply have to receive it. If knowledge is received in this way, it doesn’t matter whether it is inconceivable or not.
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam there is a great deal of information given about the Vaikuṇṭha planetary systems, which are beyond the material universe. Similarly, a great deal of inconceivable information is given in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Any attempt to arrive at this information through experimental knowledge will fail. The knowledge simply has to be accepted. According to the Vedic method, śabda, or transcendental sound, is regarded as evidence. Sound is very important in Vedic understanding, for if it is pure it is accepted as authoritative. Even in the material world we accept a great deal of information sent thousands of miles by telephone or radio. In this way we also accept sound as evidence in our daily lives. Although we cannot see the informant, we accept his information as valid on the basis of sound. Sound vibration, then, is very important in the transmission of Vedic knowledge.
The Vedas inform us that beyond this cosmic manifestation there are extensive planets in the spiritual sky. This material manifestation is regarded as only a small portion of the total creation. The material manifestation includes not only this universe but innumerable others as well, but all the material universes combined constitute only one fourth of the total creation. The remaining three fourths is situated in the spiritual sky. In that sky innumerable planets float, and these are called Vaikuṇṭhalokas. In every Vaikuṇṭhaloka, Nārāyaṇa presides with His four expansions: Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Vāsudeva. This Saṅkarṣaṇa, states Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja in the eighth verse of the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, is Lord Nityānanda.