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Nitya-dharmer Namantara Vaishnava-dharma
Another Name For the Eternal Religion Is the Vaishnava Religion
The cottage of Lahiri Mahashaya and the cottage of Shri Vaishnava dasa stood side by side. Nearby were some mango and kanthala trees. Small betel plants gracefully enclosed the place on four sides. In the courtyard was a large circular terrace. The terrace had been there since the days when Pradyumna Brahmacari lived there. Many days since then the Vaishnavas came to call that place "Surabhi's Terrace" and became accustomed to circumambulate it and offer dandavat obeisances.
It was shortly after dusk. Sitting on a leaf-seat in his cottage, Shri Vaishnava dasa chanted the holy names of Lord Hari. It was the dark fortnight. The night was gradually becoming dark. A flickering lamp burned in Lahiri Mahashaya's cottage. Seeing a snake at his doorway, Lahiri Mahashaya quickly trimmed the lamp and took up a stick to kill the snake, but when he came outside with his lamp, he did not see the snake. The Lahiri Mahashaya said to Vaishnava dasa, "Take care. A snake has entered your cottage." Vaishnava dasa replied, "Why do you worry about a snake? Come. Enter my cottage without fear." Lahiri Mahashaya entered the cottage and sat on the leaf-seat. Still, his mind was agitated about the snake. He said, "O noble-hearted one, Shantipura is very good in this way. It is a city and there is no fear of snakes or other dangers. In Nadiya there is always fear of snakes. Especially Godruma and the other forest places. It is hard for a gentleman to live in those places.
Shri Vaishnava dasa Babaji replied, "O Lahiri Mahashaya, It is foolish to let the mind be agitated over these things. You must have heard the story of Maharaja Parikshit in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Giving up all fear of snakes, with an unagitated mind he heard nectar descriptions of Lord Hari from the mouth of Shrila Shukadeva Gosvami. In this way he attained transcendental bliss. No snake can kill a man's spiritual body. The spiritual body is bitten only by the snake of separation from hearing the nectar topics of the Supreme Lord. The material body is not eternal. Some day you must give it up. One may do everything to maintain his material body. Still, whenever Lord Krishna wills, that material body will certainly collapse, and one will not be able to protect it. If the time of one's death has not yet come, one may even sleep beside a snake, but the snake will not harm him. Therefore one who gives up fear of snakes or other dangers may be called a true Vaishnava. If it is afraid of every danger, the mind will always be restless. How can a restless mind always think of Lord Hari's lotus feet? Therefore one should abandon all fear of snakes and all attempts, born from that fear, to kill snakes.
Becoming a little faithful, Lahiri Mahashaya said, "O saintly one, your good words have made my heart fearless. I know that only a person with a noble heart is qualified to attain the final goal of life. The great souls who stay in mountain caves and worship the Lord there are never afraid of wild animals. On the contrary, it is because they fear the association of materialistic persons that they voluntarily live in the forest surrounded by wild animals."
The saintly babaji then said, "When Bhakti-devi (the goddess of devotional service) appears in someone's heart, that heart naturally becomes exalted. The whole world loves such a person. Saints and ruffians alike, everyone loves a devotee of the Lord. Therefore every human being should become a Vaishnava."
Hearing this, Lahiri Mahashaya said, "You have given me great faith in the eternal religion. The Vaishnava religion is very close to the eternal religion. That is my belief. I am not convinced that the Vaishnava religion is completely identical with the eternal religion. Therefore I ask you to tell me what you think of all this. Vaishnava dasa Babaji then said:
"In this material world two different religions are called by the name the Vaishnava religion. One is the pure Vaishnava religion and the other is the contaminated Vaishnava religion. The pure Vaishnava religion is one, although it is divided into four according to the different rasas. Thus there is the Vaishnava religion in servitorship (dasya), a Vaishnava religion in friendship (sakhya), a Vaishnava religion is parental love (vatsalya), and a Vaishnava religion in conjugal love (madhurya). Still, the pure Vaishnava religion is one. It is not many. `The eternal religion' and `the transcendental religion' are merely other names for the Vaishnava religion. The Shruti-shastra declares:
yaj jnatam sarvam vijnatam bhavati
"By understanding the Supreme, one comes to understand everything."
"These words refer to the Vaishnava religion. This truth will gradually be revealed to you.
"The contaminated Vaishnava religion is of two kinds: 1. Vaishnava religion contaminated by fruitive work (karma), and 2. Vaishnava religion contaminated by the impersonalist fallacy (jnana). The activities of the Vaishnava religion as conceived by the smarta panditas are the Vaishnava religion contaminated by fruitive work. Although it includes initiation in chanting a Vishnu-mantra, this conception of the Vaishnava religion belittles the all-pervading Supreme Personality of Godhead and makes Him subordinate to fruitive work. According to these people, even though He is the master of all the demigods, Lord Vishnu is merely a part of the process of karma and is Himself subject to the laws of karma. Thus karma is not subordinate to the will of Vishnu, but Vishnu is subordinate to the will of karma. According to them all worship and spiritual practices are merely various aspects of fruitive work, and therefore nothing is higher than fruitive work. This form of Vaishnava religion according to the conception of the mimamsaka philosophers has existed for many days. In India many follow this idea, and they claim to be Vaishnavas. They do not accept the pure Vaishnavas to be Vaishnavas at all. Such is the misfortune of the mimamsakas.
Vaishnava religion contaminated by impersonal philosophy is also prevalent in India. According to the impersonalists, in order to attain the qualityless impersonal Brahman one should worship Surya, Ganesha, Shakti, Shiva, or Vishnu. Then, when one attains perfect knowledge, he can discard the form that he had worshiped. Then, at the end, he attains the qualityless impersonal Brahman. Accepting these ideas, many persons dishonor the pure Vaishnava religion. The worship of Lord Vishnu is included in the impersonalists worship of five Deities (Surya, Ganesha, Shakti, Shiva, or Vishnu, as described above), and that worship includes initiation, Deity worship, and the other aspects of devotion to Lord Vishnu. Sometimes it may even include the worship of Shri Shri Radha-Krishna. Still, this is not the pure Vaishnava religion.
The pure Vaishnava religion is different from these kinds of contaminated Vaishnava religion. It is the true Vaishnava religion. Because of the defects of Kali-yuga, many people do not understand what is the pure Vaishnava religion. They think these varieties of contaminated Vaishnava religion are the true Vaishnava religion.
The worshipers of the Paramatma (Supersoul) wish to meet the Supersoul. Desiring to enter a mystic trance and there meet the Supersoul, they engage in kriya-yoga, karma-yoga, or ashtanga-yoga. According to these people, initiation into chanting Vishnu-mantras, worship of Lord Vishnu, meditating on Lord Vishnu, and other kinds of devotional service, are all various aspects of karma-yoga. Among these people Vaishnava religion contaminated by fruitive work is manifested.
Shrimad-Bhagavatam explains that the most fortunate persons are attracted to pure devotional service, service to the pure form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such persons engage in Deity worship and the other activities of devotional service. These activities of devotional service are not subordinate aspects of kriya-yoga, karma-yoga, or the speculations of the impersonalists. Rather, they are aspects of pure devotional service. These activities are the pure Vaishnava religion. Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.1.11) explains:
tattvam yaj-jnanam advayam
bhagavan iti shabdyate
"Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this non-dual substance Brahman, Paramatma, or Bhagavan."*
One should see in this way. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is not different from either the Paramatma or the impersonal Brahman, is the highest, the final manifestation of the Supreme. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is Lord Vishnu, who is supremely pure. Individual spirit souls that become His followers are also pure. The activity of such pure souls is called `bhakti' (devotional service). Hari-bhakti (devotional service to Lord Hari) is also called by the names shuddha-vaishnava-dharma (pure Vaishnava religion), nitya-dharma (eternal religion), jaiva-dharma (duty of individual souls), bhagavata-dharma (religion of worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead), paramartha-dharma (way to attain the final goal of life), and para-dharma (highest religion). Religions that strive to attain the Paramatma and the impersonal Brahman are all temporary religions. A material motive pushes one to seek the impersonal Brahman. Therefore the religion of the impersonal Brahman is materially motivated and temporary. It is not eternal. The individual soul trapped in the material world is eager to escape his material bondage. To escape this material bondage the soul searches for the impersonal Brahman. In this way he takes shelter of a religion that is both temporary and materially motivated. Therefore the religion of seeking the impersonal Brahman is not eternal. Seeking the happiness of rapt meditation (samadhi), a soul may take shelter of the religion of seeking the Paramatma. Thus, seeking a more subtle kind of material pleasure, he follows a temporary religion based on a material motive. Therefore the religion of seeking the Paramatma is not eternal. The religion of serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead is alone eternal."
Hearing these words, Lahiri Mahashaya said, "Please describe to me the pure Vaishnava religion. I am advanced in years. I take shelter of your feet. Please be merciful and accept me. I have heard it said that a person previously initiated and instructed by an unworthy person should find a worthy teacher and accept initiation and instruction from him. For some days I have heard your good instructions and now I have faith in the Vaishnava religion. Please be merciful. Teach me the Vaishnava religion and, when your teaching is concluded, initiate me and purify me.
A little embarrassed, the saintly babaji said, “Saintly brother, I will teach you as far as I am able, but I am not qualified to be an initiating spiritual master. However that may be, you should now learn about the pure Vaishnava religion.
"Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is the original spiritual master of the entire world, teaches that there are three basic truths in the Vaishnava religion. They are: 1. sambandha (the relationship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the individual spirit soul), 2. abhidheya (the activities in that relationship), and 3. prayojana (the final goal, which is pure love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead). One who understands these three truths can act properly. He is a pure Vaishnava, or a pure devotee of the Lord.
"Within sambandha are three distinct truths: 1. the material world, or the illusory potency maya, 2. the individual soul, or the subordinate living entity, and 3. the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is one and unrivaled, the master of all powers, all attractive, the abode of all opulence and sweetness, and the only shelter of both the individual spirit souls and the illusory potency maya. Although He is the only shelter of both the individual spirit souls and the illusory potency maya, He is always supremely independent, and His transcendental form is both sublimely handsome and eternal. The impersonal Brahman effulgence is merely a distant reflection of of the splendor of His limbs. With His potency of transcendental power (aishi shakti) He manifests the material universes and places the individual souls within them. Then He expands to become the Supersoul. As the Supersoul He enters the material universes. In this way He is the Supreme Controller. When He manifests His feature of supreme opulence, He is Lord Narayana in the spiritual sky. When He manifests His feature of supreme sweetness, He is Lord Krishnacandra, the gopis' beloved in Goloka Vrindavana. His different forms and pastimes are all limitless and eternal. No person or thing is His equal. Nothing is superior to Him. All His forms and pastimes are manifested by his para shakti (transcendental potency). Of His many different transcendental potencies, three are especially known to the individual souls. One of these potencies is called the cit potency. Employing this potency, the Supreme Personality of Godhead enjoys all His transcendental pastimes. Another of these potencies is called the jiva potency or the marginal potency. By this potency limitless individual souls are manifested and maintained. The third potency is called the maya potency. By this potency all material things, material time, and material activities are manifested. The Supreme Personality of Godhead has a relationship with the individual spirit souls. The material energy and the individual spirit souls both have relationships with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Supreme Personality of Godhead and the individual souls both have relationships with the material energy. These different relationships are called sambandha. Sambandha is understood when one understands these different relationships. Without first understanding these relationships it is not possible for anyone to become a pure Vaishnava."
Lahiri Mahashaya said, "From the Vaishnavas themselves I have heard that Vaishnavas surrender to their emotions and therefore they have no need for knowledge. What kind of statement is that? I myself, up to this time, have chanted the holy names of Lord Hari only to attain a certain feeling. I did not strive to understand any relationships."
The babaji said, "A Vaishnava's feelings of ecstatic love are the final result of his devotional service. However, such love must be pure. They who think that this ecstatic emotion culminates in oneness with the impersonal Brahman cannot have actions and ecstatic emotions that are pure. Their pure ecstatic emotions are all an empty show. A single drop of pure ecstatic love fulfills all the desires of the spirit soul. However, when that emotion is contaminated by impersonalism, the only result is trouble and calamity for the spirit soul. The devotional emotional displays of one who in his heart thinks he is not different from the impersonal Brahman are merely a trick to cheat the innocent people. Therefore pure Vaishnavas must thoroughly understand these relationships.
Faithful Lahiri Mahashaya then said, "Is there something higher than the impersonal Brahman? If the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the origin of the impersonal Brahman, then why do the philosophers not leave the impersonal Brahman and worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead instead?"
The saintly babaji laughed and said, "Brahma, the four Kumaras, Shukadeva Gosvami, Narada, Shiva, and all other truly great philosophers took shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead's feet."
Lahiri Mahashaya said, "If the Supreme Personality of Godhead has a form situated within space, then then that form must also be limited in spatial terms. How, then, can the spatially limited form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead be the resting-place of the all-pervading, spatially limitless impersonal Brahman?"
The babaji replied, "Even in the material world the element ether is also all-pervading and spatially limitless. Why, then, should the impersonal Brahman be considered so glorious merely because it is all-pervading and spatially limitless? From the splendor of His transcendental limbs the Supreme Personality of Godhead manifests the all-pervading, spatially limitless impersonal Brahman, and at the same time His transcendental form is spatially limited, situated in a specific place. Who has seen anyone like Him? Because no one is like Him, and because He has no rival, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is superior to the impersonal Brahman. His form is wonderfully attractive. In His transcendental form all-pervasiveness, omniscience, omnipotence, the greatest mercy, and the greatest bliss are gloriously manifest in their completeness. Is this form good? What virtue does it not have? What power does it not have? Is an amorphous, all-pervading, unknowable something good? The truth is that the impersonal Brahman is the qualityless aspect of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Personality and impersonality exist side by side in the handsome form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The impersonal Brahman is merely one aspect of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This formless, changeless, qualityless, unknowable, and immeasurable feature of the Lord is liked by short-sighted persons. However, they who see everything do not like any feature but the original and complete form of the Lord. The Vaishnavas cannot place their faith in the formless impersonal Brahman, for to do so would block their eternal nature and also block their pure love for Lord Krishna. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna, is the resting-place of both features: the qualityless Brahman and the quality-filled Supreme Person. He is an ocean of transcendental bliss, and therefore He is attractive to all pure spirit souls.
Lahiri: Krishna was born, performed activities, and then left His body at death. How is it possible that His form is eternal?
Babaji: Shri Krishna's form is eternal and full of knowledge and bliss. His birth, activities, and so-called death are not material.
Lahiri: Why do the Mahabharata and other scriptures describe Him in that way?
Babaji: The eternal Absolute Truth is beyond description. Pure souls see Lord Krishna's form and pastimes. These persons then describe these both with words. Those words are like ordinary historical accounts of material persons. They who know the true meaning of the Mahabharata and the other scriptures understand Lord Krishna's pastimes and other features in one way, and the unintelligent materialists understand Lord Krishna's pastimes and other features in a very different way.
Lahiri: When one meditates on Lord Krishna's form, in one's heart naturally arises the idea of a form limited by both time and space. What other way is there to think of Lord Krishna's form?
Babaji: Thinking is an activity of the mind. As long as the mind is not purified and spiritualized, the mind's activity of thinking and meditating cannot be spiritual in its nature. When it develops a devotional attitude, the mind gradually becomes spiritualized. Then the mind's activity of thinking and meditating is inevitably spiritual in nature. When the Vaishnava devotees, who delight in devotional service, chant the holy names of Lord Hari, the material world has no power to touch them. They are spiritualized. Residing in the spiritual world, they meditate on Lord Krishna's daily activities. In this way they attain the bliss of confidential service to the Lord.
Lahiri: Please be merciful and give that spiritual understanding to me.
Babaji: When you give up all material arguments and doubts, and when you chant the holy names day after day, then after a few days genuine spiritual understanding will rise in your heart. As long as those material arguments remain, your mind will stay in the shackles of material understanding. When you taste the nectar of the holy name, the material shackles will become loosened. Then the spiritual world will be gloriously manifested in your heart.
Lahiri: Please be merciful and tell me about that. That I desire.
Babaji: The mind and words cannot understand it. Only when one attains the bliss of spiritual life can one understand it. Give up all your arguments and for a few days chant the holy names of Lord Hari. Then all your doubts will go far away. Then you will no longer ask any question of anyone.
Lahiri: I know that a person who has faith in Lord Krishna and tastes the nectar of His holy names attains the highest of all goals. I have well understood the relationship of the Lord and the individual soul. I will take shelter of the Lord's holy names.
Babaji: That is the best of all. Understand well your relationship with the Lord and you will directly see the spiritual truth.
Lahiri: I understand the truth of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the ultimate form of the Supreme. The impersonal Brahman and the Supersoul are subordinate to Him. He is all-pervading. In the spiritual world He manifests His wonderful form. He is a person, He is eternal and full of knowledge and bliss, and He is the master of all potencies. Even though He is the master of all potencies, He is always overcome with bliss in the company of His hladini shakti (pleasure potency). Now please tell me about the individual spirit souls.
Babaji: Among the limitless potencies of Shri Krishna, one is called tatastha shakti. Positioned between the spiritual and material worlds, this potency can reside in either of them. This potency is also called jiva-tattva (the individual spirit souls). The individual souls are tiny particles of spirit. Because they are tiny particles, they may attain bondage in the material world. However, because they are pure spirit, they may also reside eternally in the supremely blissful spiritual world. the individual spirit souls are of two kinds: 1. souls who reside in the spiritual world, and 2. souls in bondage who reside in the material world. Souls in bondage in the material world are of two kinds: 1. intelligent, and 2. unintelligent. Birds, beasts, and human beings who do not strive to attain the supreme spiritual goal are the unintelligent materially bound souls. Human beings who follow the path of the Vaishnava religion are intelligent. They who are not Vaishnavas so not actively strive for the real goal of life. Therefore the scriptures declare the service to Vaishnavas and association with Vaishnavas are the best of all activities. Intelligent human beings who have faith in the scriptures and chant the holy names of Lord Hari naturally associate with Vaishnavas. They who are not intelligent do not have faith in the scriptures and do not chant the holy names of Lord Krishna. Even though they may serve the Deity form of Lord Krishna according to the rules passed down through the disciplic succession, in their hearts such unintelligent persons do not properly honor Vaishnavas.
Lahiri: Now I understand the truth about Lord Krishna and the truth about the individual spirit souls. Now please tell me the truth about the illusory potency maya.
Babaji: Maya is matter. Maya is one of the potencies of Lord Krishna. Maya is also called apara shakti (material potency) and bahiranga shakti (external potency). As a shadow stays far away from light, so maya stays far away from Lord Krishna and His devotees. Maya manifested the fourteen material worlds, earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego, which makes one think `I am this material body'. The gross and subtle material bodies of the bound souls are manifested by maya. When a soul attains liberation, his spiritual body is cleansed of maya's influence. To the extent he is tightly bound by maya, to that extent the soul is far away from Lord Krishna. To the extent the soul is free of maya's influence, to that extent the soul is able to see Lord Krishna face-to-face. The material universe, which is a place of sense-pleasures for the bound souls, has sprouted from Lord Krishna's will. The spirit souls do not stay forever in the material world. The material world is only a prison for the spirit souls.
Lahiri: O master, now please tell me of the eternal relationship that exists between maya, the individual soul, and Lord Krishna.
Babaji: The tiny spirit soul is an eternal servant of Lord Krishna. The world of maya is the soul's prison. By associating with devotees and chanting the holy names, the soul attains Lord Krishna's mercy. Then, restored to his original spiritual form, the soul tastes the nectar of direct service to Lord Krishna in the spiritual world. These are the confidential relationships between these three. Without understanding this, how can anyone engage in devotional service?
Lahiri: If one should carefully attain this knowledge, must one become a great scholar before becoming a Vaishnava?
Babaji: A Vaishnava need not study different languages and become a great scholar. To throw far away the bewilderments presented by maya, what the soul must do is take shelter of the feet of a bona-fide Vaishnava spiritual master. By the spiritual master's words of instruction and by the disciple's own spiritual activities, the disciple comes to understand truth of these relationships. This is called diksha (initiation) and shiksha (instruction).
Lahiri: What does one do after initiation and instruction?
Babaji: Living a moral life, one should serve Lord Krishna. This is called abhidheya. Because it is clearly described in the Vedas and all other scriptures, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu called this activity abhidheya.
Lahiri (with tears in his eyes): O spiritual master, I take shelter of your feet. By hearing the honey of your words, I now understand my relationship with Lord Krishna. By your mercy all my pervious ideas of caste, knowledge, and spiritual instruction are thrown far away. Now please mercifully instruct me about abhidheya.
Babaji: There need be no more worry. Now that you are humble, Shri Krishna Chaitanya will certainly be merciful to you. Association with devotees is the only cure for souls bound in the material world. The bona-fide spiritual master mercifully teaches one how to serve Lord Krishna. By engaging in devotional service one gradually attains the goal of life. Thus devotional service is called abhidheya.
Lahiri: Please tell me: How does one serve Lord Hari?
Babaji: Devotional service to Lord Hari is called bhakti. Bhakti has three stages: 1. sadhana (devotional service in practice), 2. bhava (ecstasy), and 3. prema (pure love). The beginning stage is sadhana. By again and again performing sadhana, bhava is manifested. When bhava becomes perfect it is called prema.
Lahiri: What are the different kinds of sadhana, and how are they performed? Please teach me that.
Babaji: In his book Shri Hari-bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, Shrila Rupa Gosvami has elaborately described all this. I will give a brief summary. There are nine kinds of sadhana. In Shrimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.23) it is said:
shravanam kirtanam vishnoh
arcanam vandanam dasyam
"Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia, and pastimes of Lord Vishnu, remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one's best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words serving Him with the body, mind, and words)these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service."*
Thus in Shrimad-Bhagavatam it is written that the nine kinds of sadhana-bhakti are: 1. Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia, and pastimes of Lord Vishnu, 2. remembering them, 3. serving the lotus feet of the Lord, 4. offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, 5. offering prayers to the Lord, 6. becoming His servant, 7. considering the Lord one's best friend, and 8. surrendering everything unto Him. Describing the different limbs and sub-limbs that are parts of these, Shrila Rupa Gosvami describes 64 different kinds of sadhana-bhakti. While considering these points, another topic needs to be explained. Sadhana-bhakti is of two kinds: 1. vaidhi (according to rules and regulations), and 2. raganuga (spontaneous). In vaidhi bhakti one engages in the nine kinds of activities previously described. In raganuga-bhakti one engages in the activities of sadhana-bhakti, but one becomes a follower of the people of Vraja, and in one's mind one serves Lord Krishna as they do. One should engage in the kind of sadhana-bhakti for which he is qualified.
Lahiri: How does one know he is qualified for one or the other of these kinds of sadhana-bhakti?
Babaji: A faithful person who follows the rules and regulations is qualified. In the beginning his spiritual master teaches him vaidhi sadhana-bhakti. Then, when the disciple becomes qualified, the spiritual master teaches him how to worship the Lord by following the path of raganuga-bhakti.
Lahiri: How does a person know he has become qualified for this?
Babaji: One who has not yet experienced in his heart the love that characterizes raganuga-bhakti, and who instead wishes to serve the Lord according to the rules and regulations described in the scriptures is qualified to engage in vaidhi bhakti. One who does not wish to be ruled by the scriptures' rules and regulations in his devotional service to Lord Hari, and in whose heart a spontaneous love for Lord Hari's devotional service has become manifested, is qualified to engage in raganuga-bhakti.
Lahiri: O master, please tell me for which one I am qualified. I cannot understand these explanations of who is qualified for what. I do not know whether I should engage in vaidhi or raganuga bhakti.
Babaji: If you examine your heart you will understand where you are qualified. In your heart do you see the idea that it is not possible to engage in devotional service to Lord Hari without following the scriptures' teachings?
Lahiri: In my mind is the idea that sadhana-bhakti following the scriptures teachings brings the best result. But now in my mind I also think that devotional service to Lord Hari is a great ocean of nectar, and by engaging in devotional service I will gradually be able to taste that nectar.
Babaji: You can now see that the scriptures' rules and regulations are the ruler of your mind. Therefore you should engage in vaidhi bhakti. Gradually the spiritual love that is raganuga-bhakti will manifest in your heart.
Hearing these words, Lahiri Mahashaya, his eyes now filled with tears, touched the babaji's feet and said, "Please be merciful and engage me as I am qualified. I am not able to understand my own qualifications." The saintly babaji then embraced him and made him sit down again.
Lahiri: Please clearly order me, and I will thus engage in devotional service.
Babaji: You should chant the holy names of Lord Hari. Taking shelter of the holy names is the most powerful of all kinds of devotional service. The name of the Lord and the Lord Himself are not different. By offenselessly chanting the holy names one quickly attains all spiritual perfections. Therefore with great faith you should chant the holy names. By again and again chanting the holy names, one engages in all nine kinds of devotional service. By chanting the holy names aloud one engages in shravanam (hearing) and kirtanam (chanting). As one chants the holy names one will naturally remember (smaranam) the pastimes of Lord Hari, and in one's mind one will serve His feet (pada-sevanam), worship Him (arcanam), offer obeisances to Him (vandanam), serve Him (dasyam), think of Him as a friend (sakhyam), and surrender everything to Him (atma-nivedanam). In this way one engages in all nine activities of devotional service.
Lahiri: My heart is very eager to receive the holy names. O master, please be merciful. Please don't delay any further.
Babaji: O great soul, without committing offenses, you should always chant this mantra:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
As he chanted these words again and again, the saintly babaji placed in Lahiri Mahashaya's hands a string of tulasi beads. Weeping, Lahiri Mahashaya again and again chanted the holy names on these beads. He said, "O master, I cannot express the happiness I feel today." Overcome with happiness, Lahiri fell unconscious at the babaji's feet. The saintly babaji carefully picked him up. After a long time Lahiri Mahashaya said, "Today I am fortunate. Never before have I been so happy."
Babaji: O great soul, you are fortunate, for you have faithfully accepted the holy names. Thus you have made me fortunate also.
From that day Lahiri Mahashaya chanted the holy names on those beads. Without fear he stayed in his cottage and chanted the holy names. Some days passed in this way. Lahiri Mahashaya wore the twelve tilaka marks. He did not eat anything but krishna-prasadam. Every day he chanted two lakshas of the holy names of Lord Hari. Whenever he saw a pure Vaishnava, he would always offer dandavat obeisances. Every day he would offer dandavat obeisances to the paramahamsa babaji before attending to other duties. He always served his spiritual master. He was not attracted to useless gossip or non-devotional music. He was not the same Lahiri Mahashaya. Now he was a Vaishnava.
One day he offered dandavat obeisances to saintly Vaishnava dasa Babaji and asked, "O master, what is the final spiritual goal (prayojana)?"
Babaji: Pure love for Lord Krishna (Krishna-prema) is the final spiritual goal for the individual soul. Again and again performing the duties of sadhana-bhakti, one attains the state of bhava (ecstasy). When bhava becomes complete and reaches its perfection, it is called prema (pure spiritual love). That is the individual soul's eternal nature, his eternal wealth, his highest goal. The absence of this love is the greatest calamity. It means bondage in the material world. It means the attempt to enjoy with the material senses. Nothing is higher or better than this spiritual love (prema). Lord Krishna Himself is controlled by this love alone. This love is purely spiritual. It is filled with the most intense spiritual bliss.
Lahiri (weeping again and again): Will I ever be qualified to attain this spiritual love?
Babaji (embracing him): Look, and in a few days your sadhana-bhakti will become bhava-bhakti. A few days after that Lord Krishna will certainly be merciful to you.
Overcome with joy to hear this, Lahiri Mahashaya said, “Ah, aside from the spiritual master, nothing is important. My spiritual master has mercifully rescued me from the blind well of material sense gratification."