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An Analysis of Bhakti-abhasa or the Semblance of Bhakti
yad bhaktyabhasa-lesho ’pi dadati phalam uttamam
tamananda-nidhim krishna-chaitanyam samupasmahe
“We worship Shri Krishna Chaitanya, who is an ocean of transcendental bliss. Even a faint trace of devotion unto Him yields the highest result.”
My dear devotees! In the previous chapter we discussed the intrinsic nature ( svarupa) and extrinsic characteristics ( tatastha-lakshana) of bhakti. In this chapter we will discuss bhakti- abhasa or the semblance of bhakti. We have already discussed a little about bhakti-abhasa while reviewing the tatastha-lakshanaof bhakti, and indeed, bhakti-abhasa is actually included within the category of the tatastha-lakshana of bhakti. But since it is not really suitable for bhakti-abhasa to be thoroughly analysed in a section where both the svarupa and tatastha- lakshana of bhakti are being described, it has become necessary to write a separate chapter on the topic of bhakti-abhasa. We hope that this article will serve to further clarify the subject mat- ter of the previous chapter.
It has already been stated that the natural and unadulterated endeavour of the infinitesimal consciousness, the jiva, towards the complete consciousness, Krishna, is called bhakti. Jivas are situated in two stages, the liberated stage and the conditioned stage. In the liberated stage the jiva is free from all varieties of material relationships and is situated in his pure, constitutional position. In such a stage the jiva remains free from any material designation and hence within him there is no opportunity for the marginal characteristics of bhakti to exist. In the condi- tioned stage the jiva forgets his constitutional identity as his spiritual intelligence is deluded by the coverings of the subtle and gross bodies. In this stage the jiva acquires various material des- ignations. When a mirror is free from dust, it gives a clear reflection of any object, but when it is covered with dust, it does not give a clear reflection. In such a condition we can say that the mirror has acquired a designation. When something covers the svabhava or nature of an object, then that covering is called the object’s designation. Material nature covers the pure constitutional nature of the jiva, and that covering is the jiva’s designation. It is said in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.37):
bhayam dvitiyabhiniveshatah syad
ishad apetasya viparyayo ’smritih
tan-mayayato budha abhajet tam
The jiva’s innate tendency of unalloyed devotion towards the complete consciousness, Bhagavan Shri Krishna, is his nitya-dharma or eternal occupational duty. When the same jiva becomes opposed to Bhagavan, then he is gripped by fear and his intelligence is lost. Maya is the apara-shakti or external potency of Bhagavan. Considering the existence of this material world which has manifested from the external potency to be an independent element from Bhagavan, the unfortunate jiva falls into material existence. Intelligent people, accepting the shelter of the lotus feet of a sad-guru, engage themselves in the exclusive bhajana of the para- ma-deva or supreme god, Shri Hari.
From the above verse we can conclude that the jiva’s mayabhinivesha or absorption in the material energy imposes a false designation upon him. In such an adulterated stage, the bhakti of the jiva easily deteriorates and appears as bhakti-abhasa. Those who desire nothing other than entrance into shuddha-bhakti should completely cross over bhakti-abhasa and take shelter of kevala-bhakti, exclusive and uninterrupted devotion. For this reason we are reviewing the topic of bhakti-abhasa in great detail. This in-depth analysis of bhakti-abhasa is extremely con- fidential; only intimate devotees are qualified to hear it. This is because those who consider bhakti-abhasa to be bhakti will never be pleased upon reading this book until they become truly fortunate. I am feeling immense pleasure in presenting this topic before the intimate devotees.
Shrila Rupa Gosvami has not given a separate analysis of bhakti-abhasa in Bhakti-rasamrita- sindhu. Within the first half of the verse “ anyabhilashita-shunyam jnana-karmady anavritam” he has given a complete yet hidden explanation of bhakti-abhasa. While discussing the topic of rati-abhasa or the semblance of rati in his review of rati-tattva, Shrila Rupa Gosvami has nicely explained bhakti-abhasa. I am presenting this deliberation on bhakti-abhasa upon the basis of the conception of rasacarya Shrila Rupa Gosvami. Bhakti-abhasa exists prior to the stage of shud- dha-bhakti. From bhakti-abhasa the stages of shuddha-bhakti and rati in shuddha-bhakti appear in sequence. Shrila Rupa Gosvami says ( Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.3.45), “ pratibimbas tatha chaya ratyabhaso dvidha matah.” There are two types of bhakti-abhasa: pratibimba-bhakti- abhasa and chaya-bhakti-abhasa. The difference between the two is that pratibimba remains apart from the original object and appears as another separate entity, while chaya is completely dependent on the original object and from a position of proximity to it appears as a partial manifestation of the original object. When a tree is reflected in water, the tree which is visible in the water is called the pratibimba or reflection of the original tree. The reflection is never in touch with the original object. The existence of the reflection is due solely to the existence of the original object; still, the reflection is accepted as a separate identity. The form which appears because of the tree’s blockage of the path of light and which resembles the form of the tree itself is called the chaya or shadow. The existence of the chaya is entirely dependent upon the original object. Shrila Jiva Gosvami says, “ tasman nirupadhitvam eva rater mukhya- svarupatvam sopadhitvam abhashatvam tattva gaunya vrittya pravarttamanatvam iti,” which means that when bhakti is unadulterated, it is svarupa-bhakti or devotion in its intrinsic state, but when bhakti is adulterated, then it is called bhakti-abhasa. Bhakti-abhasa is manifested by the gauni-vritti or secondary inclination of the jiva. The jiva’s intrinsic inclination is called the 14 mukhya-vritti and the inclination which is obstructed or covered is called the gauni-vritti. Pratibimba-bhakti-abhasa and chaya-bhakti-abhasa are both categorised as gauni-vritti or sec- ondary tendencies. When bhakti reaches its pure form, it is completely free from the tenden- cies of pratibimba and chaya. At that time only the original object itself, pure spontaneous devotion, is manifest.
Pratibimba-bhakti-abhasacan be divided into three categories: (1 ) nirvishesha-jnanavrita-bhakti- abhasa, (2) bahirmukha-karmavrita-bhakti-abhasa, and (3) viparita vastu me bhakti-buddhi- janita bhakti-abhasa.
(1) In nirvishesha-jnanavrita-bhakti-abhasa, bhakti remains hidden by a covering of impersonal knowledge. At that time a curtain of impersonal knowledge exists between the sadhaka and svarupa-siddha-bhakti, making direct realisation of svarupa-bhakti impossible.
The conception of impersonal jnana is that within cit-tattva or transcendence, names, forms, qualities, pastimes and other attributes don’t exist. According to this philosophy, these attrib- utes exist only in material objects and when the jiva becomes liberated from material existence, he merges into undifferentiated brahma. Wherever such nirvishesha-jnana exists, shuddha-bhakti cannot manifest there. Krishnanushilana is called shuddha-bhakti. But the activities of bhakti are not possible in the nirvishesha stage because neither Krishna, the krishna-dasa-jiva, nor devotional endeavours are present. If someone believes that when the perfectional stage of liberation is achieved bhakti no longer exists due to the destruction of the mind, body and false ego, but simultaneously they continue to follow the process of bhakti to achieve such perfection, then how can their krishna-bhakti be called eternal and free from deceit? Such a person tries to please Krishna for the time being and in the end attempts to extinguish Krishna’s existence. In precisely the same way, Vrikasura pleased Shiva with his worship and after obtaining a boon from Shiva that he could kill anyone by merely placing his hand on their head, he tried to kill Shiva him- self. The devotion of such a person is deceitful and temporary due to his ignorance of the intrinsic nature of nitya-siddha-bhakti. In Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.3.44, 46), Shrila Rupa Gosvami has described the attributes of such deceitful bhakti:
kintu bala-camatkara-kari tac-cihna vikshaya
abhijnena subodho ’yam ratyabhasah prakirtitah
ashramabhishta-nirvahi rati-lakshana lakshitah
By observing the symptoms of shedding tears and trembling in persons who desire material enjoyment and liberation, it may seem that they have developed krishna-ratior excessive attach- ment for Krishna. But only foolish people, who are easily influenced by a show of external symp- toms, will consider such so-called rati as genuine. Those who are knowledgable know it as rati-abhasa. Such a person’s trembling and shedding of tears are due to two reasons. The first reason is that they have a hankering for impersonal liberation and by remembering Krishna, who alone can award such mukti, they feel great pleasure. This pleasure is the cause of their shed- ding tears and trembling; it is not due to spontaneous love for Krishna. The second reason for their shedding tears and trembling is the happiness derived from thinking that simply by the performance of such bhakti-abhasatheir inner desires for material enjoyment will be easily ful- filled. varanasi-nivasi kashcid ayam vyaharan hareshcaritam yati-goshthyamutpulakah sincati gandadvayimasraih Once, in the city of Varanasi, a sannyasi was chanting the names of Hari in an assembly of sannyasis and eventually he began trembling and tears started flowing from his eyes. While chanting harinama he was thinking, “Aha! By such a simple process I will attain impersonal lib- eration.” Shrila Rupa Gosvami describes the cause of such a condition ( Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.3.47-48): daivat sad-bhakta-sangena kirtanadyanusarinam prayah prasanna-manasam bhogo mokshadi-raginam keshanciddhridi bhavendoh pratibimba udancati tad-bhakta hrinnabhahsthasya tat samsarga-prabhavatah Exhibiting such trembling and shedding of tears is not easy for an impersonalist because jnana and vairagya make the heart hard and push away all the symptoms of bhakti, which is very tender by nature. Even though in the process of shravana and kirtana conducted by the impersonalists the disease of the desires for sense gratification and liberation exists, they still feel a little pleasure in their hearts from their performance of shravana and kirtana. If at such a time by some good fortune they obtain the association of a pure devotee of Bhagavan, then by the effect of that association the bhava which has arisen like the moon in the sky of the hearts of pure devotees is reflected even in their hearts which are contaminated by the impersonal conception. Such an occurrence can sometimes cause a little ecstasy and shedding of tears. But when again they lack the association of such a devotee, they deride the tears and trembling of their own disciples as fraud or cheating. Hence, bhakti can never appear in the heart covered by impersonal jnana, but sometimes there is the appearance of bhakti-abhasa.
(2)In bahirmukha-karmavrita-bhakti-abhasaa blockage comprised of an external covering of karma or fruitive activities is produced by the gauna-vritti or secondary tendency of bhakti. It is as if a curtain of fruitive activity is present between the relisher, the jiva and that which is to be relished, bhakti. This curtain covers the svarupa or intrinsic nature of bhakti. Varna-dharma, ashrama-dharmaand ashtanga-yoga are all classified as karma. Karma is of two types: nitya and naimittika. All actions which result in piety are considered karma. A detailed explanation of karma here would greatly enlarge this presentation. Those who specifically want to understand karma-tattva may read the initial pages of my book Shri Chaitanya-shikshamrita. The process of karma delineated in the books of the smarta-brahmanas is all external karma. The sandhya- vandana or prayers to be recited daily at dusk and so on which are suitable for the proper exe- cution of one’s varnashrama duties and which are mentioned in the books of the smartas are called nitya-karma or daily routine activities. The smartas consider these nitya-karma activities to be bhakti. Yet an in-depth review of these activities will reveal that they are also external. The symptoms of bhakti which are visible in them are due merely to pratibimba-bhakti-abhasa and not real bhakti. This is because the desired fruit of these activities is either the attainment of impersonal liberation or the pleasures of this world or the heavenly worlds. Some people consider the limbs of bhakti-tattva such as shravana and kirtana to be karma and the shravana and kirtanaof karma-tattva to be bhakti. These misconceptions are caused by their ignorance of proper tattva. Although externally there appear to be many similarities between karma and sadhana-bhakti, there exists a fundamental difference between the two. Whatever action is performed to attain mundane happiness in this world or in the heavenly worlds is called karma. This happiness is classified as either sense gratification or relief from suffering in the form of impersonal liberation.
On the other hand, bhakti is the action performed with absorption in those sentiments which only help to increase our natural inborn inclination towards achieving krishna-rati and where the performer has no other desire whatsoever. Despite accruing some other fruits by the perfor- mance of such activity, the performer considers that fruit to be very insignificant. Those acts which nourish shuddha-bhakti are also considered bhakti because bhakti alone is the mother of bhakti; jnana and karma can never be capable of producing bhakti. My dear intimate devotees! You cannot satisfy the people engaged in gross activities by presenting before them this sub- tle difference between karma and bhakti. Only when their faith in karma and jnana dwindles by the accumulation of heaps of pious activities and by the effect of association with pure devotees of Bhagavan will the seedling of undeveloped bhakti appear in their hearts in the form of shraddha. Unless in possession of such shraddha, no one can understand the subtle dif- ference between karma and bhakti. We should understand that if someone thinks that bhakti is simply another form of karma, then he won’t be able to relish the transcendental sentiments of shuddha-bhakti in his heart. The difference between bitter and sweet can be distinguished only by tasting them, not by reasoning. After actually tasting them, it becomes much easier to consider and then determine which of them is superior. Those inclined towards karma some- times dance, tremble, and shed tears while chanting harinama, but all of this is pratibimba- bhakti, not shuddha-bhakti, and is the result of their previous good fortune of having associat- ed with devotees as described in the verses which were quoted previously such as “ sat-bhakta- sangena”. Their trembling and shedding of tears are just bhoga-saukhyamsha-vyanjakaor symp- toms produced by sensual pleasure and are considered mere pratibimba only. At such times they are either immersed in thoughts of heavenly pleasure or absorbed in an imaginary ocean of the pleasure derived from liberation. This is pratibimba-bhakti-abhasa.
(3) In present times we can easily point out viparita vastu me bhakti-buddhi-janita bhakti- abhasa which is produced by the visualisation of bhakti in activities which are actually opposed to bhaktiand which is prevalent in the pancopasana and in the ishvara-pranidhana or concentration upon the ishvara within the yoga process. Those known as pancopasanaconsider that there are five sampradayas—Shaiva (worshippers of Shiva), Shakta (worshippers of Durga), Ganapatya (worshippers of Ganesha), Saura (worshippers of Surya), and Vaishnava (worshippers of Vishnu). All five are followers of impersonalism. The Vaishnava line mentioned here is not the Vaishnava line which follows the genuine principle of bhakti. The four genuine Vaishnava sam- pradayas are not included within the Vaishnava pancopasana-sampradaya mentioned here. Shri Ramanujacarya, Shri Madhvacarya, Shri Vishnusvami and Shri Nimbaditya are the four acaryas of the four bona fide sampradayas of shuddha-bhakti which are described in the verse shri-brahma- rudra-sanakashcatvarah sampradayinah. To indicate these four sampradayas, it is said in the scriptures, “ sampradaya-vihina ye mantras te nishphala matah,” which means mantras not accepted from the four bona fide sampradayas yield no results.
Vaishnavas who belong to the pancopasana section are basically impersonalists, not pure devotees. All the pancopasakas believe that the murtis of their five worshipable deities are ulti- mately imaginary. In other words they believe that brahma has no form and that these forms are conceived only as a convenience for worship while still in the bodily conception of life. According to their concept, when one’s worship becomes perfect they merge into impersonal brahma and the devotion they offered to those ‘imaginary’ murtis whom they consider to be the Rishvara is not eternal. This activity is simply jnanavrita-bhakti-abhasa. One cannot attain shud- dha-bhakti as long as he believes such jnanavrita-bhakti-abhasa to be real bhakti. If symptoms of bhakti such as trembling and the profuse shedding of tears are detected in the performers of this type of bhakti-abhasa, they should be taken only as symptoms produced by sensual pleasure and mere pratibimba or a reflection of the genuine symptoms. Just as the pan- copasakas display bhakti-abhasa towards their ‘imaginary’ murtis of demigods, similarly yogis also display trembling and shedding of tears towards their ‘imaginary’ murti of the Supersoul. These are all examples of pratibimba-bhakti-abhasa. The concept that pratibimba-bhakti- abhasa will gradually develop and will ultimately transform into shuddha-bhakti is totally false because by rejecting impersonal meditation and the benefits sought from fruitive activities the existence of this tattva ( bhakti-abhasa) totally vanishes. There remains no possibility of those practicing pratibimba-bhakti-abhasa actually being benefited unless they completely purify their consciousness from its very root. Impersonalists such as the four Kumaras and the top- most jnani Shukadeva Gosvami could only begin new and more exalted lives when they com- pletely renounced their previous faiths and accepted the path of bhakti. By the strength of their new, exalted lives they achieved the status of our acaryas. Regarding pratibimba-bhakti- abhasa, Shrila Rupa Gosvami says ( Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu1.3.42-43):
vimuktakhila tarshair ya muktair api vimrigyate
ya krishnenatigopyashu bhajadbhyo ’pi na diyate
sa bhukti-mukti-kamatvac chuddham bhaktim akurvatam
hridaye sambhavaty esham katham bhagavati ratih
“How is it possible for the rare bhagavat-rati or intense attachment for Bhagavan in the stage of bhavato appear in the hearts of those desiring material sense gratification and impersonal liberation when such rati is being eagerly sought after by liberated souls who have complete- ly renounced all varieties of material desires and is not easily granted by Shri Krishna to those engaged in His exclusive bhajana?”
It is imperative to mention here that those who consider the pleasure derived from illicit asso- ciation with women and taking intoxication to be bhagavat-rati are themselves polluted and may pollute others also.
It is very important for a sadhaka to understand chaya-bhakti-abhasa. Unlike pratibimba- bhakti-abhasa, chaya-bhakti-abhasa is not crooked and shrewd; it has simplicity and virtue. Shrila Rupa Gosvami has written as follows regarding chaya-bhakti-abhasa ( Bhakti-rasamrita- sindhu 1.3.49-53):
kshudra kautuhalamayi cancala duhkha-harini
ratesh chaya bhavet kincit tat-sadrishyavalambini
apy anushangikadesha kvacid ajneshvapikshyate
kintu bhagyam vina nasau bhavac chayapy udancati
yad abhyudayatah kshemam tatra syad uttarottaram
bhavabhaso ’pi sahasa bhavatvam upagacchati
tasminn evaparadhena bhavabhaso ’py anuttamah
kramena kshayam apnoti khastha purna-shashi yatha
There are a few similarities between chaya-bhakti-abhasa and shuddha-bhakti, but by nature the practitioner of chaya-bhakti-abhasa feels some slight curiosity concerning what fruit will be attained by following this process, his mind is restless and some of his material distress is erad- icated. Chaya-bhakti-abhasa is sometimes visible even within a person bereft of spiritual knowledge just by the influence of their having come into contact with the times, places and devotees that are related to Bhagavan. Whether one be a pancopasaka or a sampradayika (coming in a bona fide parampara), one cannot attain the stage of chaya-bhakti-abhasa with- out some special good fortune having arisen within him because upon the shadow of bhava arising just once —in whatever minute degree it may be—it will certainly grow and result in progressive benefit for the sadhaka. Upon obtaining the mercy of a pure Vaishnava, bhava- bhasa can suddenly progress up to the stage of bhava. But on the other hand, if one commits offences at the feet of pure Vaishnavas even the topmost bhavabhasagradually deteriorates just like the gradual waning of the moon in krishnapaksha, the dark fortnight of the lunar month. Chaya-bhakti-abhasa is of two types: (1) sva-rupa-jnanabhava-janita-bhakti-abhasa or bhakti- abhasawhich appears in the absence of knowledge of one’s inherent identity, and (2) bhakti- uddipaka-vastu-shakti-janita-bhakti-abhasa or bhakti-abhasain which the stimulation for bhakti is caused by the influence of having come into contact with objects such as time, place and cir- cumstance which are related to Bhagavan.
(1) The svarupa-jnana or intrinsic knowledge concerning the sadhaka (the practitioner), sad- hana (the practice) and sadhya (the object of achievement) is nondifferent from the svarupa of shuddha-bhakti. When such svarupa-jnana has not yet arisen within a sadhaka but the desire to cross over the ocean of material existence has come within him, then whatever symptoms of bhakti which are visible in him in that condition are merely bhakti-abhasa. This bhakti-abhasa transforms into shuddha-bhakti when one obtains svarupa-jnana. Even for Vaishnavas who are duly initiated into the genuine sampradaya the vastu-prabha, or illumination of one’s eternal identity arising from their diksha-mantra which they received from their diksha-guru, won’t appear until they receive this svarupa-jnana by the mercy of a shiksha-guru. Due to ignorance of svarupa-jnana, svarupa-siddha-bhakti remains covered and hence only bhakti-abhasa is visi- ble. The devotion of pancopasakas who remain aloof from the teachings of impersonalism and perform the worship of their favourite deity by considering Him to be a direct expansion of Bhagavan and the supreme goal is also chaya-bhakti-abhasa. Still, there is a great deal of dif- ference between pancopasaka Vaishnavas and sampradayika Vaishnavas. The nishtha or firm faith of sampradayika Vaishnavas in the personal aspect of Bhagavan is much stronger than that of pancopasaka Vaishnavas. By receiving proper instruction on tattva, a sampradayika Vaishnava remains hopeful of reaching a very exalted stage of shuddha Vaishnavism, but a pancopasaka cannot be as hopeful of achieving such an exalted stage of Vaishnavism by receiving instruction on the tattva according to their own custom. The accessibility of association of pure devotees for sampradayika Vaishnavas is much better than it is for pancopasakas. If by some fortune the pancopasakas obtain the association of devotees and simultaneously keep themselves aloof from the association of impersonalists, they can then be refined by the sampradayika system and can begin pursuing the path of shuddha-bhakti. Two scriptural evidences mentioned in Bhakti-sandarbha are being quoted here. In the Skanda Purana it is confirmed that sam- pradayika Vaishnavas achieve their desired result even by the practice of chaya-bhakti-abhasa. Shri Mahadeva says ( Hari-bhakti-vilasa11.200):
diksha-matrena krishnasya nara moksham labhanti vai
kim punar ye sada bhaktya pujayanty acyutam narah
“Just by receiving initiation into the krishna-mantra one can obtain mukti, so what can be said about what one can achieve by performing bhagavad-bhakti?”
Regarding pancopasakas who remaining free from pratibimba-bhakti-abhasa have devel- oped chaya-bhakti-abhasa, the Adi-varaha Purana (211.85) says:
janmantara-sahasreshu samaradhya vrishadhvajam
vaishnavatvam labhet kashcit sarva-papakshaye sati
“If one worships Ganesha for thousands of births and becomes free from all sins, then it is pos- sible to come to the platform of Vaishnavism.”
The scriptural conclusion is that shaktas or worshippers of the goddess Durga are gradually elevated to bhakti, either personal or impersonal, by first becoming worshippers of the sun- god, then worshippers of Ganesha, then worshippers of Shiva, then pancopasaka Vaishnavas, and finally sampradayika Vaishnavas. By the careful analysis of the words of the scriptures it is understood that by the influence of association with pure devotees chaya-bhakti-abhasa trans- forms into shuddha-bhakti.
(2) In the scriptures there are many examples of bhakti-uddipaka vastu-shakti janita bhakti- abhasa. The tulasi plant, maha-prasada, vaishnava-prasada, the days of devotional observance such as Ekadashi, the Deity of Bhagavan, the holy dhamas, the Ganga, the footdust of Vaishnavas and so on are various objects which act as bhakti-uddipaka or stimuli to bhakti. The jiva receives immense benefit even by coming in contact with these objects unknowingly. Sometimes benefit is accrued even when the innocent jiva unknowingly commits an offence to them. Coming into contact with these objects in this way is also bhakti-abhasa. Devotees won’t be astonished upon witnessing such remarkable results of bhakti-abhasa; all such results are due solely to the immense power of shuddha-bhakti. If the processes of jnana and yoga are not executed purely and if they are not supported by bhakti-abhasa, then they are incapable of granting any result. On the other hand, Bhakti-devi is completely independent; regardless of the motives of those who take shelter of her, she fulfils their innermost desires. Although all these results are visible in bhakti-abhasa, it is not the prescribed conduct. The execution of shuddha-bhakti is our only duty. Those who desire absolute success should not in any circum- stances give a place to pratibimba-bhakti-abhasa within their hearts. By the strength of bhajana performed under the guidance of pure Vaishnavas, they should cross beyond chaya-bhakti- abhasa and take exclusive shelter at the lotus feet of Bhakti-devi. Therefore, all of you kindly accept the following principle presented by Vishva-vaishnava dasa:
pratibimbas tatha chaya bhedattatva-vicaratah
bhaktyabhaso dvidha so ’pi varjaniyah rasarthibhih
Those who desire to relish bhakti-rasa should always remain aloof from both types of bhakti-abhasa. By reviewing the tattva, it is concluded that bhakti-abhasa is of two types, prati- bimba-bhakti-abhasa and chaya-bhakti-abhasa. Pratibimba-bhakti-abhasa has a tendency to make the jiva commit offences while chaya-bhakti-abhasa is incomplete in itself. The execu- tion of shuddha-bhakti is the only recommended activity for the jiva.
Offences towards Bhakti
This is a very dangerous item. We execute so many limbs of bhakti, such as accepting the diksha-mantra from a bona fide guru, everyday applying tilaka to twelve different parts of the body, performing arcana unto Shri Krishna, observing the vow of Ekadashi, chanting harinama and remembering Krishna according to one’s ability, visiting the holy places like Vrindavana and so forth. But unfortunately we don’t try hard enough to avoid committing offences at the feet of Bhakti-devi. Giving the example of the activities of Mukunda, Shriman Mahaprabhu highlight- ed to His devotees the various symptoms of offence towards bhakti ( Shri Chaitanya-Bhagavat, Madhya-lila, 10.185, 188-190, 192):
kshane dante trina laya, kshane jathi mare
o khada-jathiya—beta na dekhibe more
prabhu bole—“o beta jakhana yatha jaya
sei mata katha kahi tathaya mishaya
vashishtha padaye jabe advaitera sange
bhakti-yoge nace gaya trina kari dante
anya sampradaye giya jakhana sambhaya
nahi mane bhakti jathi maraye sadaya
bhakti-sthane uhara haila aparadha
eteke uhara haila darasana-badha”
Mahaprabhu said, “I can never bestow mercy upon Mukunda because sometimes he displays his humility by taking straw between his teeth and at other times he attacks Me; in other words, he keeps one of his hands at My feet (displaying humility) and the other at My neck (attacking Me). According to his own convenience, sometimes he behaves as My follower and at other times he criticises Me. Hence, I cannot reward him. Wherever he goes, seeking his own bene- fit he represents himself accordingly and mixes with people. Sometimes he supports the doc- trine of Mayavada by reciting from the book Yoga-vashishtha which is endowed with Advaita phi- losophy and at other times he shows his faith by abandoning the impersonal concept and cul- tivating krishna-bhakti by becoming meek and humble and dancing and performing kirtana. When he enters the sect of the impersonalists, he rejects the eternity of bhakti and condemns the devotees with the weapon of argument and logic. In this way he has committed an offence at the feet of Bhakti-devi. Therefore, I cannot give him My darshana.”
Mukunda Datta is an eternal associate of the Lord, so whatever Mahaprabhu said to him in this regard is only a lila or pastime. But Mahaprabhu’s objectives are very grave, so there must be an extremely confidential reason for His statements here. His confidential instruction is that we cannot please Krishna just by accepting diksha and executing the various limbs of bhakti. Only those who have unwavering faith in exclusive devotion can satisfy Him. Those who have developed such faith accept the path of shuddha-bhakti with great determination. They don’t visit places where doctrines which are unrelated to shuddha-bhakti are discussed. They go to places where the topic of shuddha-bhakti is being discussed and they listen with great interest. Simplicity, determination and exclusive desire for bhakti are the natural characteristics of such unalloyed devotees. They never approve of statements or activities which are opposed to the principles of bhakti merely to gain popularity; pure devotees always remain indifferent to such things.
These days most people don’t try to avoid the above-mentioned offences. Just from seeing the devotees or hearing bhagavat-katha they display symptoms of apparent spiritual ecstacy such as trembling and the shedding of tears and they support spiritual philosophy in assem- blies, but afterwards they are again seen becoming mad after sense gratification. Therefore, dear readers! What can be said about the so-called nishtha of those who display these bogus sentiments? We understand that just to earn fame they display these symptoms before the devotees. Out of greed to acquire fame or other material benefits they display varieties of this sort of conduct. It is a matter of great sorrow that these people not only commit an offence at the feet of Bhakti-devi by propagating deceitful philosophies in the name of bhakti, but also completely ruin the spiritual lives of the jivas of this world.
Dear readers! We should remain very careful not to ever commit any offence at the feet of Bhakti-devi. First of all, we must vow to perform bhakti while remaining indifferent to all else. We must never do anything or speak anything which is contrary to bhakti just to gain popu- larity or collect followers. We must remain simple and straightforward in our actions. There shouldn’t be any difference between our words and our actions. We must never try to gain the favour of those who are indifferent to bhakti by displaying to them artificial symptoms of advanced devotion. We will always remain chaste to the principles of shuddha-bhakti and will never support any other doctrine. Our external conduct and the feelings within our hearts should be one and the same.