vande gurūn īśa-bhaktān
tat-prakāśāṁś ca tac-chaktīḥ
vande—I offer respectful obeisances; gurūn—unto the spiritual masters; īśa-bhaktān—unto the devotees of the Supreme Lord; īśam—unto the Supreme Lord; īśa-avatārakān—unto the incarnations of the Supreme Lord; tat—of the Supreme Lord; prakāśān—unto the manifestations; ca—and; tat—of the Supreme Lord; śaktīḥ—unto the potencies; kṛṣṇa-caitanya—Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya; saṁjñakam—named.
I offer my respectful obeisances unto the spiritual masters, the devotees of the Lord, the Lord's incarnations, His plenary portions, His energies, and the primeval Lord Himself, Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya.
Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī has composed this Sanskrit verse for the beginning of his book, and now he will explain it in detail. He offers his respectful obeisances to the six principles of the Absolute Truth. Gurūn is plural in number because anyone who gives spiritual instructions based on the revealed scriptures is accepted as a spiritual master. Although others give help in showing the way to beginners, the guru who first initiates one with the mahā-mantra is to be known as the initiator, and the saints who give instructions for progressive advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness are called instructing spiritual masters. The initiating and instructing spiritual masters are equal and identical manifestations of Kṛṣṇa, although they have different dealings. Their function is to guide the conditioned souls back home, back to Godhead. Therefore Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī accepted Nityānanda Prabhu and the six Gosvāmīs in the category of guru.
Īśa-bhaktān refers to the devotees of the Lord like Śrī Śrīvāsa and all other such followers, who are the energy of the Lord and are qualitatively nondifferent from Him. Īśāvatārakān refers to ācāryas like Advaita Prabhu, who is an avatāra of the Lord. Tat-prakāśān indicates the direct manifestation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nityānanda Prabhu, and the initiating spiritual master. Tac-chaktīḥ refers to the spiritual energies (śaktis) of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Gadādhara, Dāmodara and Jagadānanda belong to this category of internal energy.
The six principles are differently manifested but all equally worshipable. Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja begins by offering his obeisances unto them to teach us the method of worshiping Lord Caitanya. The external potency of Godhead, called māyā, can never associate with the Lord, just as darkness cannot remain in the presence of light; yet darkness, being but an illusory and temporary covering of light, has no existence independent of light.
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