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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Bhaktivinoda Thakura > Bhajana Rahasya > Introduction


Out of the sixty-four items of devotional service, five items—association with devotees, chanting the holy names, hearing Shrimad Bhagavatam, living in Mathura, and worshiping the Deity with faith—are very important. Among these five items, chanting the holy names is the best.

In the Hari-nama Cintamani, Shrila Bhaktivinode Thakura has explained the glories of the holy name, the qualities needed for chanting, different varieties of namabhasa and namaparadha, and in brief, the procedure for performing bhajana. In this Bhajana-rahasya, Shrila Bhaktivinode Thakura elaborates on the secrets for performing bhajana, therefore he has introduced this book on the opening page as a sequel to Hari-nama Cintamani.

The process of chanting the holy name of the Lord should be nurtured by both the sadhaka (practicing devotee), and the siddha (perfect devotee). As a result of chanting the holy names in the association of devotees, the sadhaka gradually becomes free from anarthas, he develops firm faith, then ruci (taste), then attachment for devotional service. In this way he becomes free from material bondage. Then he is eligible to practice bhava and then prema-bhakti. He then realizes the name of Krishna as nondifferent from Krishna, and while chanting the maha-mantra, Shri Shri Radha-Krishna along with Their associates in Vrindavana manifest within his heart.

The concepts of pure devotional service regarding raganuga-bhakti have been discussed by Vaishnava acaryas such as Rupa Gosvami in Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu and Vishvanatha Cakravarti in Madhurya Kadambini and Raga-vartma-candrika. Following them, Shrila Bhaktivinode in Bhajana-rahasya has explained some details regarding chanting, as well as an outline on the practice of raganuga-bhakti according to the instructions given by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the Shikshashtaka. In this way this book is like a torch light to help one progress on the devotional path in the line of Rupa Gosvami and his followers.

In the Catuh-shloki Bhagavatam, Krishna explains to Brahma that the confidential subject, sa-rahasya, must be realised through the process of devotional service:

shri-bhagavan uvaca

jnanam parama-guhyam me

yad vijnana-samanvitam

sarahasyam tad-angam ca

grihana gaditam maya

The Personality of Godhead said: Knowledge about Me as described in the scriptures is very confidential, and it has to be realized in conjunction with devotional service. The necessary paraphernalia for that process is being explained by Me. You may take it up carefully. (Bhag. 2.9.31)

The word rahasyam in this verse has been explained by the acaryas in different ways. Shridhar Svami says it means bhakti. Jiva Gosvami says rahasyam refers to prema-bhakti. He explains that after complete freedom from aparadhas, the sadhaka can realize the Supreme Personality of Godhead. At that time the rahasya (prema-bhakti) manifests. In the Catuh-shloki, Krishna states that the pure devotees who are wholely dependent on Him realize the ever-blissful object (rahasya), which is known as prema. Moreover, this rahasya is so rare that it is covered by anarthas such as offenses. Therefore ordinary persons cannot realize this subject, which is thus known as rahasya.

Vishvanatha Cakravarti has also said that rahasya refers to prema-bhakti, which is revealed to the perfect devotees who have the right qualification to realize this subject. As described in the Shrimad Bhagavatam (11.11.49):

athaitat paramam guhyam

shrinvato yadu-nandana

su-gopyam api vakshyami

tvam me bhrityah suhrit sakha

“My dear Uddhava, O beloved of the Yadu dynasty, because you are My servant, well-wisher, and friend, I shall now speak to you the most confidential knowledge. Please hear as I explain these great mysteries to you.”

Shrila Prabodhananda Sarasvati explains rahasya in the Chaitanya-candramrita (59):

kincid rahasya-pada-lobhita-dhir aham tu

chaitanyacandra-caranam sharanam karomi

“For myself, my mind is greedy to attain the great secret of pure love of Krishna, and for this reason I take shelter of the feet of Lord Chaitanyacandra.”

In Bhajana-rahasya, Bhaktivinode Thakura systematically discusses the different stages of devotion beginning with shraddha up to prema. He bases this development on the Shikshashtaka, supporting his comments with references from Shrimad Bhagavatam and various Gosvami scriptures.

He has divided this book into eight sadhanas, or practices, which correspond to the eight periods of the day. These eight periods are together known as ashta-kala, or ashta-yama, terms which are explained by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura in the preface.

In the first sadhana, entitled Shraddha, Bhaktivinode Thakura has quoted the first verse of the Shikshashtaka and glorified the chanting of the holy names with various scriptural references.

In the second sadhana the importance of sadhu-sanga has been discussed. One who chants the holy name in the association of devotees becomes attentive. Lord Chaitanya has said in the second verse of Shikshashtaka that, although the holy name has all potencies, by durdaiva (in this case namaparadha) one cannot attain the fruit of prema while chanting. Therefore one should be careful to avoid namaparadha while chanting.

The third sadhana describes the procedure and qualification for chanting the holy name on the basis of the third verse of the Shikshashtaka. Gradually by attaining the qualities for chanting, a sadhaka attains faith in devotional practices.

The fourth sadhana describes the pure devotee as having no desire other than pure devotional service. He therefore sincerely serves Krishna and simultaneously attains detachment from bhukti and mukti. Then he attains all auspicious qualities and his false ego is completely destroyed. At this stage he develops a taste (ruci) for devotional practices.

In the fifth sadhana it is said that after achieving the stage of attachment (asakti), a sadhaka becomes aware of his eternal form as a servant of Krishna as described in the fifth verse of Shikshashtaka. The devotees who practice raganuga-bhakti take shelter of the lotus feet of Shrimati Radharani and pray to become Her maidservant.

The sixth sadhana describes the external symptoms of perfection as given in the sixth verse of the Shikshashtaka. The symptoms of sthayi bhava, or rati, are also described. It also describes how a sadhaka who is practicing raganuga-bhakti serves Krishna externally in sadhaka form and internally in his spiritual form. In this way after attaining bhava he can relish the sweetness of Krishna following in the mood of the gopis.

The seventh sadhana describes the internal symptoms of perfection, wherein the devotee relishes service in separation as explained in the seventh verse of the Shikshashtaka.

In the eighth sadhana the meditation of the perfect devotee is given following in the mood of the eighth verse of the Shikshashtaka.

Shrila Bhaktivinode Thakura thus scientifically shows the steps from shraddha to prema. Only at the stage of asakti when the sadhaka is freed from anarthas can he meditate on his eternal form. If before reaching this stage however, a sadhaka with anarthas imitates the behavior of advanced devotees, then he will be bewildered:

adhikara na labhiya siddhadeha bhave

viparyaya buddhi janme shaktira abhave

“If one thinks of his siddha-deha without achieving the adhikara his intellect gets bewildered.”

Shrila Prabhupada has also given the following advice in his purport to the Chaitanya-caritamrita Madhya-lila 11.195, “One reference is made here for those who are very anxious to imitate the behavior of Thakura Haridasa in an unnatural way. One must receive the order of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu or His representative before adopting such a way of life. The duty of a pure devotee or a servant of the Lord is to carry out the order of the Lord. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu asked Nityananda Prabhu to go to Bengal and preach, and He asked the Gosvamis, Rupa and Sanatana, to go to Vrindavana and excavate the lost places of pilgrimage. In this case the Lord asked Haridasa Thakura to remain there at Jagannatha Puri and constantly chant the holy names of the Lord. Thus Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu gave different persons different orders, and consequently one should not try to imitate the behavior of Haridasa Thakura without being ordered by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu or His representative.

“Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura condemns such imitations in this way:

dushta mana! tumi kisera vaishnava?

pratishthara tare,    nirjanera ghare,

tava hari-nama kevala kaitava

“`My dear mind, you are trying to imitate Haridasa Thakura and chant the Hare Krishna mantra in a secluded place, but you are not worth being called a Vaishnava because what you want is cheap popularity and not the actual qualifications of Haridasa Thakura. If you try to imitate him you will fall down, for your neophyte position will cause you to think of women and money. Thus you will fall into the clutches of maya, and your so-called chanting in a secluded place will bring about your downfall.'“

It is therefore hoped that this book will help and inspire devotees to follow the order of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His representative, the spiritual master. In this connection, Shrila Prabhupada writes in the purport to Chaitanya-caritamrita Madhya-lila 6.241, “When Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya asked the Lord which item was most important, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu immediately answered that the most important item is the chanting of the holy names of the Lord—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”