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The Brilliant Path of Spontaneous Devotion
By Shrila Raghunatha dasa Goswami
©2003 by Sarvabhavana dasa
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I repeatedly offer my obeisances at the feet of all those pure devotees who relish like cakora birds the ambrosia of Shrila Rupa Gosvami's instructions. By just a drop of mercy from such devotees, am I able to begin writing this book, which is like the sparkling rays from the moon of raga-marga, the path of spontaneous devotional service.
The Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu-bindu summarized raganuga-bhakti, spontaneous devotional service; this commentary elaborates on that summary.
Raganuga-bhakti and lobha Vaidhi-bhakti is devotion inspired by following scriptural rules, whereas raganuga-bhakti is devotion inspired by lobha, or greed. To be inspired towards bhakti means to be single-minded in executing all the different processes of bhakti. Therefore the two ways to foster bhakti are first by strictly following scriptul al rules, and, second. through developing intense greed (lobha) to serve the Lord. Of these two methods, Shrila Rupa Goswami gives more importance to lobha, as he expresses in his book the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu:
tat-bhava-adi-madhurye shrute dhir-yad-apekshate
natra shastram na yuktim-ca tallobhotpatti-lakshanam
This verse means that after the devotee has heard the detailed descriptions of the sweetness of Lord Krishna's loving spiritual sentiments (bhava-madhurya) with His associates, he is spontaneously drawn towards those sentiments of Krishna's beloved associates. Such a devotee, desiring to possess those feelings, shakes free the shackles of logilc and scriptural bindings. Liberating himself from these bonds is the devotee's first symptom of lobha.
When a devotee becomes greedy for Krishna while hearing about the different ecstatic emotions displayed by a parikara (confidante) participating in Krishna's Vraja pastimes, the devotee thinks, let this spiritual emotion also bloom in my heart. Such meditations are never interrupted by a need to seek consent from either the scriptures or logic. If by chance a devotee feels any uncertainty, then, his desire to possess the spiritual emotions of a Parikara cannot be called lobha. No one can ever develop lobha from following scriptural injunctions, nor, can one obtain the desired spiritual object if the mind is endlessly analyzing whether or not one is eligible. Real lobha appears immediately when one sees or hears about Krishna.
Lobha has two divisions according to the two sources from which it may develop: (i) the pure devotee's mercy and (ii) the Supreme Lord's mercy. The first division of lobha, that which is owing to the devotee's mercy, is of two kinds: ancient and modern. Ancient lobha appears by the mercy of pure devotees steeped in the same sweet, eternal devotional mellows the constant associates of Lord Krishna relish. When lobha originates from the grace of pure devotees in the present time it is known as contemporary, or modern. When lobha starts from the previous birth and begins to bloom in the present life then the devotee must take shelter of a guru who is a raganuga pure devotee. The second kind of lobha, or modeni lobha, is developed only after the devotee Likes shelter of his spiritual master.
The Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu confirms:
karunya- matra lobhaika hetuka
pushti-marga-taya kaishcid iyam raganugocyate
Lobha is produced solely by the mercy of Krishna and His pure devotees. Devotion initiated by such lobha is defined as raganuga bhakti; sometimes it is termed pushti-marga-bhakti.
When both kinds of devotees, the one yearning for ancient lobha, the other for modern lobha, hear how to acquire the devotional mellows possessed by Krishna's eternal associates, or nitya parikara, they seek guidance from the proper scriptures. This is because the authorized method for attaining bhava is delineated in scriptural injunctions and purports; no other sources for receiving this information are indicated anywhere.
The following analogy illustrates this point: A person becomes greedy for milk and its products, but first he must want to know how to procure milk. He then has to seek advice from a trustworthy person conversant with the subject who will tell him how to purchase a cow and how to take care of her properly. In other words, knowledge on a subject cannot be simply invented-proper guidance is necessary. As Lord Brahma explains in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (8.6.12):
yathagnim edhasy amritam
bhuvy annam ambudyamane ca vrittim
yogair manushya adhiyanti hi tvam
guneshu buddhya kavayo vadanti
As one can derive fire from wood, milk from the milk-bag of the cow, food grains, and water from the land, and prosperity in one's livelihood from industrial enerprises, so, by practise of bhakti-yoga, even within this material world, one can achieve Your favor or intelligently approach You. Those who are pious all affirm this.
For a raga-bhakta (the devotee who is following the path of raga-bhakti) this intense eagerness for hearing and chanting about the all-purifying qualities and activities of Krishna, begins with the raga-bhakta's surrender to the lotus feet of his guru and continues to flourish until he attains his spiritual goals. The more a devotee is purified by hearing and chanting, the more spiritual realizations he will have; just as medicine applied correctly to diseased eyes cures, so hearing and chanting cures of material ignorance.
The Guru, the Disciple, and the Scriptures Shrila Uddhava describes the mercy of the Lord in the following verse,
The Supreme Personality of Godhead directly manifests Himself externally as the guru and internally as the Supersoul to instruct the devotee in the process of attaining his desired spiritual goal, which is the lotus feet of his worshipable Lord.
Uddhava's statement confirms that some seekers attain full knowledge of bhava, as the scriptures describe, through the elevated guru's direct instructions, while others seek this knowledge from the teachings of pure devotees realized in the science of raganuga-bhava. For those rare souls who already possess pure devotion, bhava spontaneously appears. Their innate spiritual yearning, fanned by enthusiasm, thirsts for Krishna more and more, just as a materialist's craving for enjoyment multiplies once he has achieved a long-desired prize.
The Shrimad-Bhagavatam contains the essence of the Vedas, Upanishads, and other scriptures which deal in particular with the different relationships between the Supreme Lord and His devotees. The Shrimad-Bhagavatam is accepted as the most authoritative text On the subject of raganuga-bhava. Further elaborating on the topic of bhakti as propounded by the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, are the corollary literatures headed by the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu.
The bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu gives three fundamental instructions: The first is that the devotee must immerse himself in remembering (smarana) and discussing Lord Krishna and those intimate associates of the Lord whom the devotee finds attractive and wishes to emulate. The devotee must also reside in Vrindavana dhama; if a devotee cannot be there in body, then he should be there in spirit.
The second instruction states that a sadhaka devotee, one who has not yet attained siddhi (perfection on the path of raganuga-bhakti) must serve Lord Krishna, particularly in His Vraja pastimes. The sadhaka should do this in the circumstances he is in at the present. He must serve Krishna under the guidance of a pure devotee who is steeped in the mood of those intimate associates of the Lord who complement the sadhaka's own spiritual, feelings. The siddha-bhakta, a perfect devotee, serves Lord Krishna in Vraja,, internally becoming absorbed in deep meditation by accepting his perfected spiritual form suitable to his type of service. Intensely yearning for the same devotional mood that Krishna's beloved associates possess, such a devotee always follows in their footsteps.
The third instruction explains that in vaidhi-bhakti all directives for the different processes of devotion, beginning with hearing and chanting, are listed systematically according to different grades of spiritual development. The acaryas have applied in principle the same devotional procedures in raganuga-bhakti,
These three instructions analyze the different stages of raganuga bhakti in general, and now these stages will be explained in terms of kamanuga-bhakti. Ragatmika-bhakti has two branches: sambandha-rupa (relationship) and kama-rupa (sensual attraction). Devotees such as Nanda Maharaja and Yasoda-mayi are in the category of sambandha-rupa, while the gopis of Vraja are in the kama-rupa category.
The first basic instruction that the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu gives, “remembering Lord Krishna", advocates that in the raganuga-bhakti process the devotional aspect of remembering is of prime importance because raga is a state of mental discipline, or consciousness. In the Sanskrit for this instructicin, the word prestham (most beloved) refers to Lord Krishna, the Lord of Vrindavana, whose pastimes appropriately portray the devotee's own spiritual sentiments. The word janancasya describes the Lord's eternally, surrendered associates. In order to remove any doubt regarding who they are, the word nijasamihitam, much desired persons, has been used and this actually refers to devotees such as the Queen of Vrindavana, Shrimati Radhika, Lalita-devi, Visakha-devi, and Shri Rupa Manjari. Although Lord Krishna is the worshippable object for those pure devotees who experience the precious Jewel of bhava, it is the Lord's intimate associates, Shrimati Radhika and the Vraja who possess bhava to the highest degree. Therefore, the pure devottees situated in bhava want to serve and worship such intimate associates of the Lord.
The next instruction '' to reside in Vrindavana" means that if it is physically impossible to do so, then the devotee must be present there in spirit. (The subject of residing in Vrindavana as a sadhaka will be automatically covered when we expand upon the second instruction.)
In the second instruction, the terms sadhaka devotee and siddha devotee, with their different devotional attitudes and statuses, are explained. The sadhaka serves according to his level of advancement, and the siddha serves in his revealed spiritual form according to his eternal spiritual relationship with Kisna. Tad-bhava-lipsuna means to take shelter of dearmost Krishna, His associates and paraphernalia, and to foster the intense desire to emulate the deep devotional mood of Shrimati Radhika and the other associates of the Lord. The devotee should serve the Lord using appropriate ingredients collected, either mentally for meditative service or physically for practical service. As for the quality of service, the term. vrajalokanusaratah aptly describes it as following in the footsteps of the residents of Vraja. A sadhaka devotee must serve the residents of Vraja such as Rupa Gosvami, following his devotional mood. A siddha devotee, in his siddha-deha, or eternal spiritual form, must serve the Vrajabasis like Shri Rupa Manjari, under the guidance of such Vaishnavas as Rupa Gosvami.
The Vrajabasis, whom the sadhaka devotee follows, have a permanent relationship with Lord Krishna in Vrindavana. Devotees such as Candrakanti and the sakhis (girlfriends), the munis of Dandakaranya mentioned in the Vamana Purana, and the personified Shrutis are in this category. They are good examples of Vrajabasis because of their devotional behaviour.
The first two instructions dealt with smarana and Vrajabasa (residing in Vraja), and now the third instruction deals with hearing about the Lord and chanting the glories of the Lord, and the other devotional processes-sravanot-kirtandini. As the devotee sincerely performs sravanam and kirtanam, he deeply laments his own inadequacy. By this humility, the devotee finds secure shelter in his guru and in the other devotional activities. Manishibhih (or according to the authoritative preceptors) reiterates the point that without diligently practising processes such as sravanam and kirtanam, one cannot obtain the protection and guidance of a Vrajabasi who is the key to a realm of new spiritual enlightenment. We can conclude that an intelligent sadhaka (madhyam adhikari devotee), with his personal realizations and purified consciousness assisting him, analyzes and assesses his spiritual inclinations. According to such a sadhaka's conclusions, he then practises specific disciplines, carefully avoiding any activities contrary to his devotional predilection because they impede his advancement on the path of bhava-bhakti.
However, certain activities recommended in the Agamas (scriptures consisting of the Mantra-vidhi, Brhad-gautamiya, Krama-dipika, Narada-pancaratra, and so on), are not regarded as arcana-bhakti. These activities are listed as: worshipping oneself (ahangraha-upasna), mudra (hand postures during prayer), nyasa (religious rites accompanied by prayers), Dvdrakd-dhydna (meditating on Dvaraka and Krishna's pastimes there), and worshipping Rukmini-devi and the other queens of Dvaraka.
While on the path of sadhana-bhakti, shortcomings and discrepancies may appear in how a devotee performs his service, but there is no loss or diminution-this is the clear verdict of the scriptures. This same point is echoed by Nimi Maharaja in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (Navayogendra-samvada):
yan asthaya naro rajan
na pramadyeta karhicit
dhavan nimilya va netre
na skhalen na pated iha
O King! those who have emraced the path of devotional service are never deterred by danger fear. Futhermmore, even if they tread this path blindfolded they cannot fall down or become victimized.
In another section of the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, Lord Krishna tells Uddhava:
na hy angopakrame dhvamso mad-dharmasyoddhavanv api
O Uddhava! one of the symptoms of devotional service to Me is that as soon as a person embarks upon this path, in spite of mistakes and oversights in its execution, he remains unaffected and his devotion unscathed.
The word yan in the first sloka refers to all the devotional processes beginning with hearing and chanting. Thus even if sravana, kirtana, and so on are imperfectly performed the sadhaka's devotional life is not endangered. The Narada-pancratra states:
shruti-smriti-puranadi- pancaratra-vidhim vina
aikantiki harer bhaktir utpatayaiva kalpate
Devotional service to the Lord performed without reference to the Vedas, Puranas, pancaratras, etc., must be considered sentimentalism, and it causes nothing but disturbance to society.
Without possessing the desire to conform to scriptural edicts, a person may sometimes begin devotional service motivated by lobha. Nevertheless, if he still follows those scriptural injunctions although they may be contrary to his devotional mood, he still becomes a parikara (eternal associate) of one of the Dvaraka queens.
The scriptures substantiate this fact:
viramsam sushthu kurvvan
yo vidhi margena sevate
kevala-naiva sa tada mahishitvamiyat pure
One who aspires for the higher spiritual mellows but approaches it by the path of vaidhi-bhakti is rewarded with eternal companionship to one of the queens of Dvaraka, in Dvaraka.
The word kevala-naiva in this sloka means krtsnenaiva-to perfectly execute vaidhi-bhakti without any omissions, including those parts that conflict with one's devotional preferences (such as worshipping the queens of Dvaraka). The famous Amarkavi also supports this view that kevala means krtsna (or full, entire). Amarkavi has also written in the Amarkosa, “nirnite kevalamiti,” in his purport to the above verse.
As for the worship of Krishna's queens in Dvaraka, some argue that one becomes an etemal maid-in-attenclance (dasi) to the queens of Dvaraka, in Dvaraka, only through the process of vaidhi-bhakii. The argument continues that the misra-bhakti (mixed bhakti) process, or the process that is a blending of raga-bhakti with vaidhi-bhakti, results in obtaining the etemal companionship of the queens of Mathuna, in Mathura.
Such an argument is unsatisfying and ignites more questions because it lacks balanced and conclusive logic. This theory implies that the devotee in vaidhi-bhakti serves Rukmini, or one of her other co-queens, in Dvaraka as a handmaiden. One may ask, then, who is that queen in Mathura that a devotee in misra-bhakti serves? It is illogical to answer that one becomes the servant of Queen Kubja in Mathura, because according to the authoritative scriptures dealing with devotional mellows Queen Rukmini possesses a higher degree of rasa, thus holding a superior position.
Another relevant point is that when comparing the results of the kevala vaidhi-bhakti process (becoming Queen Rukmini's handmaiden) with the results of misra-bhakti (becoming Kubja-devi's handmaiden) misra-bhakti is given here an inferior position, Undoubtedly this is highly irregular. The shruti scripture, the Gopala-tapani, states:
ramaniruddha-pradyumna-rukminya sahito vidhuh
The Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna eternally resides in Mathura with Balarama, Aniruddha, Pradyumna, and Rukmini-devi.
This suggests that Rukmini-devi was married in Mathura. Assuming this, if a person speculates that misra-bhakti will bestow eternal residence in Mathura as a dasi of the queen of Mathura, (Rukmini-devi being that queen), then this argument is also inconsistent because the idea that Rukmini-devi married in Mathura does not have unanimous authoritive support.
Why should a sadhaka become a parikara to Queen Kubja or Queen Rukmini when he is worshiping the Divine Couple, Radha and Krishna? This is also highly irregular. We must note that devotional service on the path of vidhi bhakti inspired by loba is actually raga-marga. Devotional service on the path of vaidhi-marga motivated by vidhi, or scriptural edicts, is known as vidhi-marga or vaidhi-bhakti. By the verdict of the Narada-pancaratra, devotional service to Lord Krishna performed without the guidance of scriptural injunction, or vidhi, is “an unnecessary disturbance in society”.
The other aspects of raganuga-bhakti dealing with five specific attitudes in rendering devotional service are as follows:
nija abhista-bhava-maya (fully absorbed in one's cherished devotional sentiments)
nija abhista-bhava-sambandhi (connecting with one's cherished devotional sentiments)
nija abhista-bhava-anukula (favourable to one's cherished devotional sentiments.
nija abhista-bhava-avruddha (not contradicting one's cherished devotional sentiments)
nija abhista-bhava-vinruddha (contradicting one s cherished devotional sentiments)
Some of these devotional sentiments hold dual status: sadhya (the goal), and sadhana (the path). In their application these feelings remain unchanged in sadhya and sadhana the only difference is weather these spiritual emotions are mature or immature. some of these devotional moods motivate the devotee to strive for the ultimate goal-pema; a few are instrumental causes (nimitta-karana); some are specific symptoms of devotional service (bhajana-cinha); some are beneficial, some unbeneficial, and others marginal, neither advantageous nor detrimental.
Dasya (servitorship), sakhya (fraternity), and other mellows in the mood of connecting with one's cherished devotional sentiments, are both sadhya and sadhana. Devotional activities such as surrender to the guru chanting, and meditation motivate the devotee on his path to prema, and are therefore described as bhava-sambandhi (helping to connect the devotee with his cherished devotional sentiments). The phrase japena-nityam-ananya-dhih “chant daily with single-minded devotion", supports the above statement. The Ganoddesa-dipika gives an original interpretation: japya sva- abhista-samsargi krishna-nama-mahamanuh; “It is the devotee's duty to chant the maha-mantra because Krishna's name connects him to his most coveted object.” The following discusses this statement in detail.
The Ganoddesa-dipika explains the word Govinda in the following way: go means the senses, hence Gopijana-vallabha (the enjoyer of the gopis, Krishna) is pervading my senses. Therefore, Krishna's name in the form of the maha-mantra is nila-abhista-sambandhi. According to this explanation of the Ganoddesha-dipika, the eighteen-syllable mantra and the ten-syllable mantra are accepted as the most extraordinary. Processes such as the hearing and chanting of Krishna's name, beauty, qualities, and pastimes that complement the devotee's own spiritual predilection are ingredients that fan his devotional inclinations. Hence they are in the category of bhava-sambandhi.
The following statements prove that the process connecting the devotee to his cherished devotional sentiments (bhava-sambandhi) must be done without intenrruption. Namani rupani tadarthakani gayan vilajjo vicaredasangah, “discard bashfulness and spurn society, live by glorifying with sweet hymns the self-illuminating holy name of Krishna and His sublime beauty.” And again, srnvanti gayanty gayanty abhiksnasha, smaranti nandanti tabehitam janaah, “Your devotees experience supreme exhilaration by incessantly hearing, chanting, glorifying, and remembering Your spotless character.” With this in mind, smarana (remembering), previously described as being a prominent devotional activity, must be placed under the auspice of the kirtana discipline. In Kali-Yuga, kirtana as devotional service is the most important devotional practice. For this reason all the scriptures unanimously declare that is the foremost devotional discipline.
The Ujjvala-nilamani describe the Shrutis (the personified Vedas) as having performed tapasy (austerities) with great faith and reverence on their to attaining full Prema. In their next life the personified Vedas were born in Vraja, the Lord's spiritual abode.
Based on this evidence, undergoing tapasya is a valid means for obtaining gopi-prema (the gopis' love for Krishna). Performing austerity in Kali-yuga, however, is sternly criticized, and so the Supreme Lord says: mad-artham yad-vratam tapah, “observing religious vows to please Me is real tapasya.” Thus vows like Ekadashi and Janmastami are like austerities-the efficient cause of bhakti. It is also stated that to neglect these vows is detrimental to spiritual life. (The importance, of these vows establishes that they are not temporary, but unquestionably eternal in nature.) The smriti scriptures state: govinda-smaranam nrnam yad-ekadasy-uposanam fasting on Ekadashi is the best way to remember Govinda or help the devotee achieve govinda smaranam.” These devotional practices a sound footing on the path of smaranam and therefore such vows as fasting on Ekadashi become at least partially bhava sambandhi.
When a person breaks Ekadashi the Skanda Purana describes him as: “matrha pitrha ca-iva bhratrha guruha tatha'' a murderer of his mother, father, brother, and guru. Such sins as breaking Ekadashi allow nama-aparadha (offences against the holy name) to appear. Again, according to a statement from the Vishnu-dharmottara, a killer of brahmanas, a drunkard, a plunderer, and a ravisher of the guru's wife, can find recourse in the scriptural recommendation to undergo atonement, or prayascitta, for a possible pardon, but a person who breaks Ekadashi becomes implicated in an inexonerable sin.
The scripture's scathing censure verifies how important it is to follow such vows as Ekadashi. These activities must not be neglected and looked upon as temporary restrictions. On the contrary the sastras stress their observation so strongly that we must under stand such activities as eternal disciplines. The Skanda Purana reiterates how necessary it is for Vaishnavas to observe Ekadashi vows:
harshe va samupasthite
na-ekadashim tvajed yastu tasya dikshasti vaishnavi
samatma sarva-jiveshu nija-acaradaviplutah
vishnvarpita-akhilacarah sa hi vaishnava ucyate
One who in the face of both the sternest reverses and greatest happiness does not neglect to observe the Ekadashi vows, proves worthy of his initiation into the Vaishnava fold. And he who surrender's all activities to Vishnu and is equally disposed to all living entities is worthy to be a vaishnava.
A devotee of the Lord is forbidden to eat food that has not been offered to the Lord. But in regards to Ekadashi, the Skanda Purana states: vaishnavo yadi bhunjita ekadasyam pramadatah.... “that the devotee is prohibited from even eating maha-prasadam on this day.”
Vows of austerity followed in the month of Kartika (Kartika-vrata) are an efficient cause (nimitta-karana), and as part of such processes as sravana, kirtana they become the upadana-karana (motivating cause) for raganuga-bhakti. In many instances, Shrila Rupa Gosvami has mentioned names like Kartika-deva, Urjja-devi, and Urjjesvari. This focuses on the importance of the Kartika-vrata and the fact that by observing it one can get the shelter of Shrimati Radhika, the Queen of Vrindavana.
The smriti scripture states: ambarisa suka-proktam nityam Bhagavatam srnu. “Ambarisha! you must regularly hear the Shrimad-Bhagavatam as spoken by Shrila Shukadeva Gosvami.” On the authority of this statement we can understand that hearing Shrimad-Bhagavatam is an eternal devotional activity (nitya-krtya) the following quotation is from the Shrimad-Bhagavatam:
katha imas te kathita
sangiyate 'bhikshnam amangala-ghnah
tam eva nityam shrinuyad abhikshnam
krishne 'malam bhaktim abhipsamanah
I simply repeated to you the instructions of great sages. Persons interested in attaining unalloyed devotion to Krishna must hear uninterruptedly the wonderful characteristics of Lord Krishna, who is glorified in choicest of verses, hearing of which can permanently destroy all inauspiciousness.
This statement confirms that the processes of hearing, chanting, and the other devotional practices are eternal activities that the devotee should perform incessantly, connecting him with his cherished bhava (bhava-sambandha). The other instruments of bhava-sambandha are eating offered tulasi leaves, smearing the body with scent and sandalwood pulp offered to the Lord, and to respectfully adorn oneself with offered garlands and Deity's dresses. Some examples of Vaishnava cinha, or signs of a devotee, are tulasi beads, gopicandana tilaka, and the Lord's names and His lotus feet drawn on the body. These are called bhava-anukula. Some other activities favourable to one's devotional sentiments are worshipping Tulasi-devi, circumambulating the Deities, tulasi, and the dhama. Offering respectful obeisances to the cow, the asvattha tree, and the brahmanas are classified as bhava-aviruddha, or activities not contradicting these devotional feelings.
The reader must clearly understand that respecting and serving the Vaishnavas, is just as essential a duty as the other processes previously mentioned. An interesting point here is that baby Krishna is very much dependent (posya) on His mother, Yasoda-devi. For Yasoda, however, objects such as butter, cream, and yogurt, which complement and sustain consciousness of Krishna (tat-posaka), have priority over the Lord because these ingredients are used in His service. For example, baby Krishna loved to drink His mother's breastmilk, but Mother, Yasoda stopped Him from drinking when He was still hungry and ran to attend to the boiling milk. Similarly, some of the devotional processes such as sravana and kirtana are posya, or dependent on raga-bhakti. For the realized devotees treading the path of raga-bhakti, the tat-posaka (that which sustains) of sravana and kirtana, including the different aspects of raga-bhakti just mentioned, reign superior.
Activities such as aham-graha-upasana (worshipping the self); nyasa (religious rites accompanied by prayers); showing mudras (different hand postures shown during Deity worship); Dvaraka and mahisiarcana (meditating in the Dvaraka mood, and worshipping the queens of Dvaraka), are apakarada, or classified as unbenefical for promoting raganuga-bhakti. Hearing or reading the Puranas and similar literatures are tathastha (marginal) activities-neither beneficial nor unbeneficial. Bhakti is described as sac-cid-ananda-rupa (having the form of eternality, absolute knowledge, and bliss). Though bhakti does not accept vikara (alteration or deviation from the original form) it has been referred to in the Puranas as upadana-rupa (constituent cause) because such nomenclatures help to clarify recondite theological truths. In authoritative literatures on the science of devotion, prema is described as possessing six bhavas such as sneha (affection). In texts describing the principles of devotional mellows, rasa is referred to as vaibhava. Similarly, in this book terms such as upadana have been used for comprehensible and pleasurable reading. I pray the saintly souls will absolve me of any inadvertent offences.
The exquisite damsels of Vraja have made Kama-deva, or Cupid, their well-wishing friend. And Syamasundara, Krishna, always enjoys being surrounded by them. Krishna remains so enchanted in their company that He never experiences any loss, discomfit, or anxiety of any kind. From authentic descriptions we can understand that Krishna is captivated by the amorous advances of Shrimati Radhika and the other young gopis of Vrindavana, enthralling Him so much He can not concentrate on anything else. When the Lord is totally absorbed in His relationships with His beloved associates, one may ask the question, 'Who receives the services and worship the raganuga-bhaktas have always offered to the Lord'? Who hears their heartfelt prayers and words glorifying the Supreme Personality of Godhead?” The reply may be that since the absolute part and the absolute whole are nondifferent, then the Supersoul or Paramatma receives and hears everything. Such reasoning, however, only increases the devotee's apprehension. Uddhava's speech from the Shrimad-Bhagavatam solves this problem:
mantreshu mam va upahuya
priccheh prabho mugdha ivapramattas
tan no mano mohayativa deva
In summary this verse describes Uddhava as saying, “O my Lord! When the discussion arose as to whether You should conquer and kill Jarasandha or go to the Raja-suya yajna you signaled me to come to You and You asked me, 'O Uddhava, what am I to do in this situation? You questioned me as if You were in a trance. Your divine disposition of eternal enlightenment and self-realization is transcendental to the influences of time, place, and circumstances; You are always absolute constant. You were acting the part of an ordinary man who, when in a dilemma has to seek the advice of someone wise. You are omniscient and yet your becoming confused has indeed mystified me. Therefore, when persons try to explain this phenomena by saying that when You are showing confusion, in reality, You are not confused, and similarly, my state of being mystified is also not factual , then their interpretation is not consistent. Statements such as your activities are all effortless and You take birth although You are the unborn, exposes their fictitious interpretations; such misrepresentations of the truth should not be voiced.”
When more light is thrown on the topic we find that in the Dvaraka pastimes of the Lord His omniscience is predominant, yet the fact that He becomes enchanted cannot be denied. But in the Vrndavana pastimes His enchantment dominates, while His omniscience, which is produced of His inconceivable potency, is very conspicuous.
Thus Shrila Bilvamangala Thakura writes in the Krishna-karnamritam: sarvajnatve ca maugdhye ca sarvabhaumamidam maha. “In all of the Supreme Lord's pastimes both the features of omniscience (sarvajiiatva) and enchantment (maugdhata) are simultaneously present, so we must accept that they have sprung from His inconceivable potency.” [The Lord is enchanted by the loving exchanges with His divine associates, but He simultaneously remains cognizant of the prayers and hymns of His raganuga-bhaktas.]
Some people mistakenly speculate that omniscience means awesome opulence and not sublime sweetness (madhurya). They also think that madhurya can only be that kind of enchantment, devoid of opulences, displayed only in the Lord's human pastimes (nara-lila).
When Krishna enacts His nara-lila it is known as madhurya provided no anomalies exist in the lila-bhava, Even if the Lord reveals His awe-inspiring opulence His nara-lila is still considered madhurya. For example, when Lord Krishna killed the demoness Putana, He had been innocently sucking her breasts just like a little human child. When He killed the terrible demon Sakata, Krishna was then merely three-months old-lying helplessly on His back and kicking His lotus feet in the same way as an ordinary human baby. Again, when Mother Yasoda unsuccessfully tried to tie a very long rope around baby Krishna's waist, she became alarmed, fearful, and bewildered. When Krishna placed Lord Balarama, Brahma, and the others into illusion He displayed His omniscient feature and took the cows to graze as He would normally do (govatsa-carana-lila). At other times, Krishna, although in full command of His divine opulence, covered it and stole butter like a communion thief, or, as the Supreme object of everyone's awe and respect, hid this feature and acted as a so-called debauchee with the gopis.
If a person audaciously proposes that Lord Krishna's nara-li1a requires the element of enchantment, without any display of opulence, to qualify as madhurya, he has to also accept the view that an ordinary, restless, playful young boy's enchantment is also madhurya. All such speculations and fabrications about madhurya must cease.
The definition of aishvarya (awe, reverence, and opulence) is to deny the Supreme Lord's nara-lila bhava and highlight only His isvara-bhava as the Supreme controller. Lord Krishna exhibited His opulence to His parents Vasudeva and Devaki-devi. Krishna states in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam:
etad vam darshitam rupam
nanyatha mad-bhavam jnanam
My dear father! My dear mother! I showed you My four-handed form to remind you of My previous birth. Otherwise if I appear in human form My real identity will be mistaken.
Lord Krishna told Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita, “Behold My universal form of mystic opulence”, and then went on to manifest His divine, amazing opulence to him. In Vrindavana, too, He showed His magnificent opulence to Brahma revealing hundreds of thousands of four-handed forms.
What effect does aishvarya-jnana (knowledge of aishvarya) have on devotees who worship this aspect of the Lord? Shri Vasudeva told Krishna and Balarama that They were not his sons but the Supreme Controllers. After seeing Krishna's universal form, Arjuna said to Him, “O Krishna! please forgive me for whatever I may have said or done in madness or in love without knowing your glorious opulence.” We can understand from their statements that after they saw Lord Krishna's opulence, Vasudeva's vatsalya-bhava (parental feelings) and Arjuna's sakhya-bhava (fraternal feelings) diminished. This is aishvarya-jnana.
When the devotee is not sobered in the slightest by feelings of awe and opulence, even after realizing Krishna is God-that state is called madhurya-jnana. In this condition the devotee's heart still remains steady and his devotional proclivity strengthened even further.
Examples cited from the Yugala-giti help explain this madhurya-jnana. The Gandharvas and other demigods praised the Lord with sweet hymns. The demigods encircled Him, glorifying and worshipping Him with musical instruments and flowers. Elders like Lord Brahma and others began to offer prayers at Krishna's lotus feet as He walked along the way. According to these cited verses, while Krishna was returning from the pastures with His cows and calves, Lord Brahma, Indra, Narada, and other demigods were singing His glories to the accompaniment of musical instruments. They worshipped the Lord by offering gifts, to His lotus feet. Though Shridama, Subal, and Krishna's other friends (sakhas) witnessed everything, their sakhya-bhava never diminished. Similarly, the gopis also saw and heard all this, but their madhurya-bhava remained unaffected. Maharaja Nanda and Yasoda-devi responded in the same way; they were steadfast in their vatsalya-bhava. In fact, mother Yasoda exclaimed how fortunate she was, that her son was the Supreme Lord! This sort of matemal pride indicates a deepening of vatsalya-bhava, or parental affection, towards Krishna. In the same way, the friends of Krishna remarked how lucky they were that their friend was the Lord of Lords. The gopis' joyous response was to know that their own beloved one was the Supreme Personality bringing them immense good fortune. The conclusion of these examples is that despite realizing that Krishna is God, the devotees' respective devotional bhavas further matured.
When the devotee is united with the Supreme Lord aishvarya-jnana is never manifest completely in his heart. The divine union is as soothing as the sublime and cooling rays of the moon, but in moments of separation (viraha) it is scorching like the piercing rays of the sun. Aishvarya-jnana, then, is never fully displayed. When aishvarya-jnana does influence the devotee slightly, awe, reverence, opulence, and the hallmark feelings of adoration are absent. In that case, it cannot be classified as aishvarya-jnana.
The gopis' statements are recorded in the scriptures in the following words:
mrigayur iva kapindram
striyam akrita virupam stri-jitah kama-yanam
balim api balim attvaveshtayad dhvanksha-vad yas
tad alam asita-sakhyair dustyajas tat-katharthah
In His incarnation as Lord Ramacandra, He slew Vali, the king of monkeys, like a hunter. An ordinary hunter takes another life out of greed to eat flesh, but Ramacandra killed Vali for no reason at all, hence He is more cruel than the hunter. Again, although He was subservient to the desires of women He cut lusty Surpanakha's nose off. In His Vamana incarnation the Lord accepted King Bali's worship, but in spite. of this, with a crowish mentality, He bound him. Therefore we do not care for the love and friendship of the dark-complexioned boy. But of course we are always talking about Him because we find it impossible to stop.
This verse clearly demonstrates that the gopis of Vraja were wellinformed about Lord Krishna's aishvarya but were neither impressed nor attracted by it.
Before Lord Krishna lifted Govardhana hill, the residents of Vraja had no inkling that Krishna was God. But after Lord Krishna lifted Govardhana, as well as visited Varuna's underwater abode, the residents realized that their beloved Lord Krishna was the Supreme Controller. Nevertheless, this aishvarya-jnana did not even remotely affect them, and their hearts remained saturated with madhurya-jnana. We learnt that Vasudeva, addressing Krishna and Balarama, had said that They were not his sons. The statements of Varuna and Uddhava affirm that although Nanda Maharaja, the King of Vraja, knew Krishna was the Supreme Lord, Nanda Maharaja never once mentioned it, nor for a moment thought that Krishna was not his son. This proves that the residents of Vraja were always absorbed in pure madhurya-jnana, and the Lord's associates in Mathura and Dvaraka were completely satisfied with madhurya-jnana mixed with aishvarya-jnana.
In His pastimes in Mathura and Dvaraka (called pura-lila) Krishna, the son of Vasudeva, enacted His pastimes just like a human being. But the Lord was always conscious of His Supreme Divinity. Similarly, in His Vraja-lila, was Krishna, son of Nanda Maharaja, always aware that He was the Absolute Godhead? If the answer is yes, then in pastimes where Yasoda bound Krishna's waist with a rope (Damodara pastime), and little Krishna became very afraid and began to weep, would not have occurred. If one argues that Krishna's apparent fear and distress are simply make-believe or acting, then such a conjecture is incompatible with the views of knowledgeable devotees. Such a theory is aired only by the foolish.
Kunti-devi prays to Lord Krishna in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.8.31):
gopy adade tvayi
kritagasi dama tavad
ya te dashashru-kalilanjana-sambhramaksham
vaktram niniya bhaya-bhavanaya sthitasya
sa mam vimohayati bhir api yad bibheti
My dear Krishna, Yashoda took up a rope to bind You when You committed an offense, and Your perturbed eyes overflooded with tears, which washed the mascara from Your eyes. And You were afraid, though fear personified is afraid of You. This sight is bewildering to me.
Learned devotees do not agree with the speculation use of the term “bewildering" proves that Krishna's fear and weeping is make-believe. A person may also muse that the phrase, “fear personified is afraid of You", emphasizes the aishvarya-jnana of Kunti-devi, and her saying, “and You were afraid", means actual fear. And if one supposes that Queen Kunti knew that Krishna's fear was merely faked, then she would not have been bewildered.
For argument's sake, if a person presumes that Krishna is unaware of His Absolute Divinity, then the dilemma arises as to how Krishna's eternal knowledge is veiled, although He embodies unlimited knowledge? Maya covers the conditioned soul's knowledge with avidya, or ignorance, so she can hurl him down to the material world and punish him. For mother Yasoda, and other eternal associates, Krishna's internal spiritual potency, or cit-shakti, covers their jnana with transcendental madhurya to allow these devotees the divine pleasure of participating in Krishna's pastimes. Similarly, Krishna's svarupa-jnana (knowing Himself to be God) is obscured by prema, the quintessence of cit-shakti, simply to endlessly increase His pleasure. Since prema is a manifestation of Krishna's svarupa-shakti (His original spiritual potency), there is no discord when prema helps to cover His svarupa-jnana.
Avidya shackles the jiva by material attachments (mamata) and metes out suffering. The prison and the chains and the ropes holding a prisoner captive torture him. For an honoured man, he is enslaved by fine robes, expensive gifts, and the joy and pride of material success. In varied ways avidya keeps the jiva enthralled and causes him distress. But Lord Krishna, although prema subjugates Him, is extremely satisfied in Himself. Just as the bumble-bee feels pleasure in the sanctuary of the closed lotus' stem, so the shroud of prema that Lord Krishna cloaks Himself with gives Him great happiness. The following statements can be cited: ''O Supreme Lord! You are forever enthroned in the lotuslike heart of Your pure devotees and You never forsake them”, and again, “Your lotus feet are bound by the ropes of Your dear devotees sublime love for You.”
According to the degree of ignorance present in the living entity, his jnana is veiled proportionately. The five types of suffering are then meted out to him accordingly. [The five types of suffering are:
(1) Avidya-ignorance. To mistake that which is impermanent to be permanent, that which is full of misery to be full of bliss; that which is impure to be pure; and what is not the self to be the self.
(2) Asmita-false ego, or the bodily identification of “I" and “mine”.
(3) Raga-attachment. The desire for material happiness and those means that will give it.
(4) Dvesha-hatred; aversion to unhappiness or the causes of unhappiness.
(5) Abhinivesha-absorption in the body as the basis for sense gratification and fear of death.]
In the same way, depending on the different intensities of prema, both the jnana of Krishna and the aishvarya-bhava of the pure devotee, is to that extent covered or uncovered. In turn, this regulates the measure of ecstasy one experiences. The Vrajabasis' unalloyed prema, such as that of mother Yasoda, ties a knot of sublime attachment between Krishna (the visaya, or object of love) and His Vrajabasi devotees (the asraya, or pure devotees), creating a feeling of sweet dependence on each other. This obscures jnana and aisvaiya-bhava and bestows an intense divine happiness. Prema mixed with jnana and aisvasya (jnana-aishvarya-misra prema) like Devaki's and the other associates in Dvaraka, does not offer the same degree of ecstasy.
Lord Krishna is so entranced with the parental love of mother Yasoda and other Vrajabasis that in His pastimes with them He is unaware that He is the Supreme Lord. Lord Krishna's omniscient nature (sarvajnata) manifests only when the devotees in Vraja feel intimidated by the appearances of demons and perils like the forest fire (davanala). This phenomenon occurs because Lord Krishna's lila-shakti, the Lord's internal potency that manifests His pastimes, creates these to protect and maintain His premi devotees (those who have pure love for Him). Previously, we have discussed that even when Lord Krishna is enchanted by pure love, He continues to receive His devotee's worship and service. This indicates the play of Krishna's samajnata, which is a product of His acintya-shakti, or inconceivable spiritual potency.
So far, we have described vaidhi-marga and raga-marga, aishvarya and madhurya, aishvarya-jnana and madhurya-jnana. The conclusions on svakiya- and parakiya-bhavas have been analyzed in detail in the Ananda-candrika commentary to the Ujjvala-nilamani.
Devotional service to the Divine Couple, Radha and Krishna, done strictly according to scriptural regulations (vaidhi-marg) results in attaining Goloka in Vaikuntha. The devotee's devotional mood is aishvarya-jnana, with the difference between svakiya-bhava and parakiya-bhava remaining indistinguishable to him. When a vaidhi-maie. develops an intense desire for madhurya-bhava, he becomes an eternal associate of Queen Satyabhama in Dvaraka serving her and Krishna in svakiya-bhava, with madhurya jnana mixed with aishvarya-jnana. This is because the particular devotional mood prompts him to perceive Radha on an equal level with Satyabhama. In following the process of devotional service in raga-marga, however, the devotee is elevated to the highest spiritual abode of Vraja where he resides as an eternal associate of Shrimati Radhika, serving Her in parakiya-bhava and pure madhurya-jnana.
Shrimati Radhika is Lord Krishna's hladini-shakti (pleasure-giving potency), and She is Krishna's personal lover. However, when worshipping Radha and Krishna, They are not venerated in that mood. Rather, the devotee adores the Deities in a more formal attitude that does not intrude on Their more intimate pastimes. There are no corroborative evidences anywhere, even in the Writings of self-realized sages and acaryas, that Shrimati Radharani and Lord Krishna were a wedded couple. Therefore Shrimati Radhika, in any form manifest or unmanifest, always holds the parakiya status and never the svakiya status. We are able to offer here only the essence of this vast subject.
We will now discuss how a person achieves the ultimate goal-direct perception of his most desired object, Krishna, or the abhista-vastu. Through the process of raganuga-bhakti the devotee gradually advances from anartha-nivritti (removal of unwanted desires), nishtha (firm faith), ruci (taste), asakti (attachment), and finally to prema. (pure love of God). The following quote from the Ujjvala-nilamani describes the results of worshipping the Lord in raganuga-bhakti:
janaste sadhane ratah
tad-yogyam-anuragaugham prapyot kantha-anusarathah
ta ekasho 'thava dvitrah kale kale vraje' bhavan
Those sadhakas who are strongly inclined towards the devotional mood of the Vrajabasis on the path of raganuga-bhakti develop utkantha, or eagerness, characteristic of this mood of bhajana. Accordingly, singly or in small groups. time to time, they take birth in Vraja bhumi.
Here the word anuragaugham refers to the cagcnicss typical of raganuga-bhajana. This eagerness is not the anuraga (attachment or inclination) found in sthayi-bhava (permanently matured emotions), because the attachment in sthayi-bhava cannot appear in a sadhaka, or an imperfect practitoner. The purport of vrage bhavan is that when Lord Krishna incarnates in this material world, the gopis of Vraja, who are eternally His beloved girl-friends, also descend along with Him. The sadhana siddhas take birth in Vraja front the wombs of the gopis. Accepted as the most elevated devotees, the gopis possess the highest devotional mellows extending up to maha bhava. Gradually, by their association and by seeing the Lord, directly, by engaging in kirana and so on, the sadhana-siddas as gopis develop and manifest all the different stages of prema such as sneha, mana, pranaya, raga, anuranga, and the ultimate loving mood of maha-bhava. For the sadhana-siddha gopis, such devotional mellows, could never have flourished in previous births as sadhakas.
Some of the extraordinary excellences of the gopis are explained in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam: They experience extreme jubilation on seeing their beloved Lord Krishna. To them, a fleeting moment without seeing Krishna seems an endless eon. Thus the gopis have said that without seeing Krishna a moment extends to an unbearable yuga. This feeling of the endlessness of time is symptomatic of maha-bhava.
One may ask why the sadhaka who has attained the platform of prema and has left his material body, has to take birth in a gopi's womb. Why doesn't he simply appear, as with spiritual appearances and disappearances (prakata and aprakata) and directly attain the form of a gopi? Such a devotee could then gradually acquire the various ecstasies of prema in the association of the nitya-siddha gopis. The answer to this question is that in order for the nara-lila, or human pastimes, to be logically and realistically enacted, the sadhaka must be born in a Vrajagopi's womb and experience different family relationships.
The next enquiry would be, “Could the sadhaka take birth in Vraja in the aprakata-lila pastimes?” This is also impossible. The spiritual realm of Vrindavana is manifest beyond the grasp of materialism and therefore any living entity tinged with imperfection cannot reach it. Only the perfected souls, or siddha-purusas, can enter that sanctified sphere. The obvious conclusion is that Vrindavana is unquestionably the absolute abode meant only for self-realized and perfect souls. Although absolute, Vrindavana does not facilitate the sadhaka in perfecting even his intrinsic but immature bhava such as the quality sneha.
For those devotees whose sneha-bhava is still imperfect, Yoga-maya, the Lord's internal potency, helps their prema flourish. Before they can be with Krishna's eternal associates, participating with them in the Lord's pastimes in Goloka Vrindavana, those possessing immature sneha appear in the Vrindavana that 'is manifest on the material plane at the time when Krishna incarnates.
The Vrindavana that is manifest on the material plane beckons and shelters the karmis, the sadhaka devotees, and the siddha devotees. Hence it is both. a sadhaka-bhumi (land of sadhakas) and a siddha-bhumi (land of siddhas).
The next question asked is, “Where does the sadhaka devotee, eager for perfection and already experiencing prema, go between his death and attainment of the spiritual form of a gopi?” The Supreme Lord mercifully reveals Himself and His associates to this loving devotee even though the devotee's prema, sneha, and so on are still immature. The Lord also allows such a devotee to serve in the way he most desires. For example, Narada Muni, in his previous birth, was able to behold the Supreme Lord in his heart. Later, the Lord befittingly gave Narada Muni the form of a gopi. Yoga-maya arranges for the sadhaka to be born in a gopi's womb when the Lord is about to incarnate in prakata Vrindavana, or the manifest Vrindavana, in this material universe. No time is wasted since the Lord's manifest pastimes occur continuously. In whichever part of the universe that Krishna's pastimes are manifest, in that very Vraja-dhama that sadhaka is born as the daughter of a gopi. The sadhaka's departure from his material body and the Supreme Lord's appearance, along with His associates, are a continuous and simultaneous process. Therefore, here is a clarion call to all eager and loving sadhakas-do not fear! Be patient for you are extremely blessed souls, and great fortune awaits you.
O Lord Gokulananda, Krishna! You are absorbed in the pleasure of performing pastimes; You are the avid bumble-bee suckling honey from the bhakti-manjaris (the delicate blossoms of the creeper of devotion). You are the reservoir of enchantment and omniscience; I offer my obeisances to You.
O Lord! You have said “I give my devotees the spiritual understanding by which they can attain and come to Me”. So I am praying: “O son of Maharaja Nanda! King of Vraja, the gopis give You pleasure by caressing You with their breasts. Be merciful and fill me with the spiritual understanding that can gift me with engagement in Your transcendental service.”
Those who say that raganuga-bhakti is always far above the rules and regulations of the scriptures, and those who reject the scriptural injunctions but take up Deity worship with faith, are condemned by the Bhagavad-gita in the words vidhihina asprstnna. This censure disturbs them now and in the future. There is no need for further elaboration on this topic. Just remember, the path of raganuga-bhakti is labourious and cumbersome even for the demigods. O Krishna conscious and intelligent devotees, use this moon-like beacon to give you clear vision on the path of raga-bhakti.