Written by Gopali 

A few years ago Guru Mahārāj insisted, “For Vyāsa-pūjā, I don’t care about balloons – I want meaningful decoration, full of quotes.” Though I wasn’t involved in décor, his words remained in my mind as unfulfilled instruction. For the 2017 Vyāsa-pūjā, the décor team began the transformation of the hall by placing Caitanya-caritāmṛta quotes on the walls and creating a beautiful Desire Tree of Devotion, as described in Caitanya Caritamrita.

Guru Mahārāj appreciated our endeavours. “Thank you for the decorations,” he said, “It is meaningful. But you could have added more explanation to it – some devotees have not read Caitanya-caritāmṛta and therefore didn’t fully understand the tree. I gave some explanation during the Vyāsa-pūjā lecture, but maybe you could write an article explaining the tree?” So here goes – my first article ever!

This tree, dear readers, is extremely magical. The roots grow deep, the branches expand unlimitedly, and the entire tree even moves! Every one of its parts can perform the action of all the others, and it bestows wondrous fruits which satisfy the hearts of every living entity. Most thrilling of all – we are a part of this tree! One branch sprouts from Rūpa Goswami, the subsequent Gaudiya ācāryas, to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, to Jayādvaita Swami, then to Guru Mahārāja and then to us! Thus, we legitimately attached photos of his dīkṣā and śikṣā disciples onto the Caitanya tree.

We can learn a lot about the Caitanya tree, or the desire tree of devotional service, in Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Adi-lila Chapter Nine, Ten and Eleven. If we carefully read the Ninth chapter we’ll find that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself is the tree of transcendental love of Kṛṣṇa, its gardener and also the bestower and enjoyer of its fruits. He sowed the seed and sprinkled upon it the water of His will. In Śrī Mādhavendra Purī the seed of devotional service first fructified. The seed of devotional service next fructified in the form of Śrī Īśvara Purī, and then the gardener Himself, Caitanya Mahāprabhu, became the main trunk of the tree of devotional service. By His inconceivable powers, the Lord became the gardener, the trunk and the branches simultaneously. Paramānanda Purī, Keśava Bhāratī, Brahmānanda Purī and Brahmānanda Bhāratī, Śrī Viṣṇu Purī, Keśava Purī, Kṛṣṇānanda Purī, Śrī Nṛsiṁha Tīrtha and Sukhānanda Purī — these nine sannyāsī roots all sprouted from the trunk of the tree. Thus the tree stood steadfastly on the strength of these nine roots. From the trunk grew many branches and above them innumerable others. Thus, the branches of the Caitanya tree formed a cluster or society, with great branches covering all the universe. From each branch grew many hundreds of sub-branches. No one can count how many branches thus grew. At the top of the tree, the trunk branched into two. One trunk was named Śrī Advaita Prabhu and the other Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu. From these two trunks grew many branches and sub-branches that covered the entire world. These branches and sub-branches and their sub-branches became so numerous that no one can actually write about them. Thus the disciples and the grand-disciples and their admirers spread throughout the entire world, and it is not possible to enumerate them all.

As a big fig tree bears fruits all over its body, each part of the tree of devotional service bore fruit. Since Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu was the original trunk, the taste of the fruits that grew on the branches and sub-branches surpassed the taste of nectar. The fruits ripened and became sweet and nectarean. The gardener, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, distributed them without asking any price. All the wealth in the three worlds cannot equal the value of one such nectarean fruit of devotional service. Not considering who asked for it and who did not, nor who was fit and who unfit to receive it, Caitanya Mahāprabhu distributed the fruit of devotional service. The transcendental gardener, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, distributed handful after handful of fruit in all directions, and when the poor, hungry people ate the fruit, the gardener smiled with great pleasure.

If these nectarean descriptions captured your mind, then I have good news for you – there is so much more to relish. Pick up your Caitanya-caritāmṛta, turn to the Ninth chapter, and dive into the ocean of blissful descriptions. There you will read how Caitanya Mahāprabhu distributed the fruits and instructed each and every one of us to do the same. In those passages, all the branches and sub-branches of the Desire Tree are also described.

The sweet fruit of love of Godhead distributed by Caitanya Mahāprabhu is so intoxicating that anyone who eats it, filling his belly, immediately becomes maddened by it, and automatically chants, dances, laughs and feels transcendental ecstasy. By engaging in this Kṛṣṇa conscious movement, we advance step by step, and eventually experience these ecstatic symptoms in our own lives.

So that was the purpose of creating these decorations – to please Guru Maharaj and remind devotees that we are part of this magical process and society established by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. I would like to thank the many devotees who spent hours and days preparing our Vyāsa-pūjā decorations. There were so many that I cannot name them all, but at least I’d like to give my sincere thanks to Āniyora, Gaur Mohan, Jalāśaya, Kālindī Nivasinī, Lucka, Mālinī, Manbiharinī, Naimiṣāraṇya, Navadvīp, Sandhinī, Tattvavatī, Tejo-gaura and Yogeśvar.

We plan to produce the same tree again next year, but with more details, more śāstric depth, more acaryas, more pictures, and more photos of disciples. If you would like to help us with artwork or collecting photos, please let me know – the more the merrier! Next year we will be planting pearls…

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