When the great Bhakti Yoga teacher, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, was present in the 15th Century he left behind only 8 prayers known as the Siksastakam. They cover the spiritual growth journey from beginning faith to deep love and they inspire and instruct every step of the way.
They also present a structure that we can use to offer our own heartfelt prayers to the Lord, or to help us be more conscious as we recite other prayers. It goes like this - celebrate, practice, request, and express.
The first 2 verses of the Siksastakam celebrate all the great things that happen when we connect with Krishna’s Name - it cleanses the heart, extinguishes lamentation, blesses all, and even more than that - there are hundreds and millions of Names! Yet, at the end of the 2nd verse there is a tinge of lamentation - how unfortunate I am that I have no interest in or taste for chanting.
The next 2 verses address that lamentation by giving us a practice to help us get that taste. Be humble like a blade of grass, more tolerant than a tree, respectful to all, and watch our desires for profit, fame, adoration! If we really want spiritual growth and realization of the true self, these things must be consciously attended to.
Then come the 2 prayers of request, full of sincere feeling, especially if we follow the humility practices introduced in the verses before. It’s a call out for help - ‘Please pick me up’. And questions - ‘When will I feel some love? When will I have genuine tears?’
The last 2 verses are deep expressions of love. What does mature love for Krishna feel like? What does it look like? We find it here - when the depths of that prema (spiritual love) are reached a moment away from Krishna feels like ‘12 years or more’. There are ‘tears like torrents of rain” and the whole world “feels vacant’. And such love is without conditions.
We may experience similar emotions in our relationships in this world, but none will truly satisfy or last for the long term. We pretend they do. The gift of Lord Caitanya, in this Siksastakam prayer, is the invitation to the extraordinary experience of spiritual love between the soul and Krishna. It’s in our nature, inside each of us, a treasure waiting for us. So celebrate, practice, request and express. And repeat!