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6. The Sixth Shower of Nectar
As ruci ripens, the Supreme Personality of Godhead becomes the devotee's only object of worship and meditation. This is described as the stage of asakti, or attachment. Asakti is like a cluster of buds unfurling from the main stem of the creeper of devotion. Shortly, some of these buds may blossom into the flowers of bhava, or loving sentiments, and others may mature into the fruits of prema, or love of Godhead.
Ruchi and Asakti
Ruci is the means to perfection, while asakti is the goal, the object of worship, and meditation. In the case of ruci, the devotee increases these symptoms of bhakti (innate in both ruci and asakti) by refining the process of devotional service. In the case of asakti, the devotee achieves the same by surrendering to the attractions of the object (Krishna). In essence both the end and the means qualify to become one, so at a certain stage of realization they are the same.
Confidential devotional service and meditation at the stage of ruci is not mature, but at the stage of asakti it is properly mature. In that case we can conclude that the difference between ruci and asakti lies in how mature is the devotee's confidential meditation. Asakti is able to cleanse the mirror of the devotee's consciousness to the extent that the Supreme Lord is always reflected in it. In the early stages of ruci the devotee comments, “Alas! I am under heavy siege from materialistic life, so how can I bring my heart to the sanctuary of devotional service to the Supreme Lord?” Such a sincere prayer releases one's consciousness from its material bondage and attaches it to the Supreme Lord. For the devotee at the asakti stage before he even attempts such a prayer, he finds himself already attached to the Lord. All this is accomplished effortlessly.
At which particular juncture the neophyte devotee forgets the Supreme Lord's form, qualities, and so on and finds himself in the materialistic whirlpool is impossible to pinpoint. But the devotee in the stage of asakti can easily determine at what point he severed ties with the materialistic concept of life and reposed his entire being in meditation on the Supreme Lord.
Dealings of the Devotees on the Platform of Asakti
Next we shall discuss the dealings of a devotee who is on the platform of asakti. If he meets a saintly person he humbly addresses him like this, 'Where are you coming from) Is that small casket you wear around your neck carrying a Salagrama-sila? I can hear you softly chanting the holy name and tasting the nectar, thus your tongue continuously vibrates Krishna's name, hankering to relish its sweetness. It has been a great fortune that a wretch such as myself was able to meet you; I am now feeling immensely happy. Kindly tell me which holy places you have visited and the saintly souls you have met. Who were the self-realized devotees who blessed you by giving you the benefit of their spiritual insight? And which fortunate soul's life became spiritually enriched by your association?''
After some spiritual discussion the asakti devotee goes on to another place. Meeting a professor of Shrimad-Bhagavatam there he speaks to him, “By the sight of that uncommonly beautiful book under your arm, I take it that you are a scholar. I therefore request you to explain any passage from the Tenth Canto of the Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Kindly revive me with your ambrosial words, for my eager and parched mind is withering away.” The Bhagavatam discourse brings him feelings of ecstasy, his body erupting in goose bumps.
Such a devotee on the asakti platform then moves to another place in search of saintly association because any other company no longer attracts him. Coming upon an assembly of devotees, he cries out, “At last I have come to a place where I shall surely be blessed because this gathering of devotees will remove the evil within me.” He throws himself to the ground and speaks from the heart in utter humility. A mahabhagavata, who is the crest jewel of any Vaishnava assembly, comes forward to receive the visitor and embraces him with warm affection, offering him a place to sit. On his part, the newcomer feels hesitant but sits down humbly. He appeals to the Vaishnavas, “O saviours of the fallen souls, you are the best healers for the plague of materialism. Kindly diagnose my malady and prescribe the proper medication and diet to restore my spiritual wellbeing.”
Tears streaking down his cheeks, such a devotee begs for the Vaishnava's mercy. He eagerly awaits to hear their nectarean instructions and stays in their company for a week or so, filled with happiness, basking under their compassionate glances and always looking for opportunities to serve them to their full satisfaction.
On one occasion he accompanies a devotee for a walk in the woody glades. Upon seeing a herd of black antelopes he thinks, “If Lord Krishna is truly merciful to me then those antelopes will approach me without fear, knowing me to be harmless, or else they will simply disappear into the woods.” How birds, beasts, and other natural phenomena react to him he also interprets either as Krishna's mercy to him or His chastisement.
On another occasion, while walking past a village he sees a young brahmana boy engrossed in playing. He bows down before the boy, remembering such great sages as Sanaka and Sadananda, and asks him, “Shall I ever be able to find my Lord Vrajendra-Nandana Krishna?” The inarticulate reply that the child gave at the time elated him, but at other times it leaves him feeling melancholy.
Once in a while this asakti devotee feels like staying at his home. Here he broods like a greedy trader thinking, “Where can I go to? What shall I do? How can I acquire my most coveted of objects, my beloved Lord?” Listless, he so ponders with a sad, drawn countenance. Next moment he falls off to sleep, wakes up again and sits up with a blank faraway look. When family members gently question him on his uncanny behaviour he remains silent. At times he feels like offering some explanation but is forced to remain silent because he is unable to articulate his emotions. It starts to dawn upon the family members that he may be actually confused, or even mentally deranged, and the foolish neighbours simply regard him as mentally retarded. The logicians think him a fool, the Vedic scholars view him as one suffering from acute psychological aberrations. The karmis, or fruitive workers, avoid him as if he were depraved; and those who are suspicious and even offensive to devotees slander him, calling him arrogant, and so on. This way people brand him as mute and mad.
In actual fact he is a highly-qualified devotee and a realized soul so elevated that he is unsullied by the mundane show of people offering him respect or showering him with insults. He is as oblivious of the urbane as he is of the banalities of material existence. Such a devotee is swimming in the nectarean currents of devotion because of his strong attachments to the transcendental association of saintly devotees.