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Shri Madhurya Kadambini

Shrila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura


Translated by Sarvabhavana dasa
©2003 by Sarvabhavana dasa

All Rights Reserved

 1.  The First Shower of Nectar

 2.  The Second Shower of Nectar

 3.  The Third Shower of Nectar

 4.  The Fourth Shower of Nectar

 5.  The Fifth Shower of Nectar

 6.  The Sixth Shower of Nectar

 7.  The Seventh Shower of Nectar

 8.  The Eighth Shower of Nectar



1. The First Shower of Nectar

Like cloudbanks filled with life-giving showers, may Lord Krishna Chaitanya's mercy revive the plant of my life perishing in the desert of material existence. His mercy is unrestricted, giving life to the seeds of the nine-fold path of devotion sown in the fields of the heart. The very appearance of Lord Chaitanya's mercy cools the scorching heat of material life and gives joy to the entire universe.

The nine practices of devotion: to hear, chant, and remember the Lord's transcendental name, qualities, pastimes; to serve His lotus feet; to worship and pray to Him; to become His menial servant and friend; and to offer oneself in total surrender to Him are attained only by the mercy of Lord Chaitanya. The mature fruit of these devotional practices is prema, or love of Godhead.

The eternal associates of Lord Chaitanya have preached and thereby firmly established the path of devotional service all over the world. All this has been done by Lord Chaitanya's grace alone, for pure devotional service is attained solely by the blessings of the Supreme Lord and His pure devotees. The Sandilya Sutra confirms this in the following verse, describing Lord Chaitanya's mercy as unlimited and freely distributed. The verse further explains that no one can obtain devotion to Lord Krishna by the process of yoga, the practice of austerities, or any other method except by the mercy of Lord Chaitanya and His [Ed1]pure followers:

bhaktih purvaih shrita tantu rasam pasyed yadattadhih

tam naumi satatam rupa-nama-priya-janam hareh

In the past, saintly persons have always taken shelter of devotional service. Five hundred years ago such a person appeared by whose mercy seekers are able to distinctly perceive that path of devotional service to Lord Krishna, a path steeped in spiritual mellows. I offer my repeated obeisances to that great soul Shrila Rupa Gosvami, who is very dear to the Lord.

Devotees from previous ages like Uddhava, Narada, Sukadeva Gosvami, Shri Yamunacarya, Nathmuni, and others have rendered loving devotional service to the Supreme Lord. But Lord Chaitanya propagated spontaneous, unalloyed devotion, and on the Lord's order Shrila Rupa Gosvami established this platform. This process is therefore available only to the followers of Shrila Rupa Goswami, and so Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura offers his invocatory prayers to Shrila Rupa Gosvami.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead and Brahman

The sruti or Veda offers irrefutable evidence that establishes the Absolute Truth. The Taittiriya Upanishad states that Brahman is the support and mainstay (brahma-puccham pratistha) of He who is the embodiment of unlimited absolute bliss (the Supreme Godhead), His existence being dependent on Brahman. By this statement the sruti gives preeminence to Brahman, although in a later verse the Taittiriya Upanishad states that the Supreme Lord is the reservoir of rasa or ecstatic pleasure (raso vai sa), and on attaining this reservoir of ecstatic pleasure, who is the Supreme Godhead, even that one Brahman who embodies brahmananda becomes submerged in sublime joy (rasam-hy eva-ayam labdhanandi bhavati).

This statement clearly asserts that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is superior to everything, including Brahman. In this way, the One who has been defined as the reservoir of ecstatic pleasure, rasa svarupa, is described in that crestjewel. and essence of all revealed scriptures Shrimad-Bhagavatam as Krishna, son of Maharaja Nanda, the embodiment of rasa.

The Shrimad-Bhagavatam (10.43.17) states,

The wrestlers saw Lord Krishna as a thunderbolt, the men of Mathura [saw Krishna] as the best of males, the women [saw Krishna] as Cupid in person.

This statement clarifies that the gradual development of spiritual joy depends entirely on rasa and the degree of its intimacy. Therefore rasa is the singular support of spiritual happiness and bliss.

The Supreme Lord Himself declares in the Bhagavad-gita (14.27), “I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman....” The Supreme Lord describes Himself in this way to reveal His real position. Therefore the Vedic scriptures, both sruti and smriti, point out that Krishna, son of Maharaja Nanda, is the Supreme Lord, eternally situated in pure goodness. He is the primeval Supreme Godhead who manifests Himself through His name, form, qualities, and pastimes, independent of any causes or conditions. Krishna reveals Himself by His sweet will in such a way that the jivas can experience Him with their senses, mind and intelligence.

The Lord and Suddha Bhakti—Self-manifest and Independent

Just as the Supreme Lord appears by His independent will as Lord Krishna in the Yadu dynasty, or as Lord Ramacandra in the Raghu dynasty, so also by His sweet will He reveals Himself to the jivas, who perceive Him by their senses. (This fact then determines that it is by the Supreme Lord's will and grace that the jivas can attain God.) Like the Supreme Lord, the process of pure devotional service, belonging to the Lord's internal spiritual potency, also requires no cause or condition to manifest herself.

As the Supreme Lord independently appears to the jivas by His own sweet will, so Bhakti-devi is also self-manifest and fully independent, appearing in any place of her choice. (There is no difference between sakti, or energy, and the energetic principle; hence devotional service, or Bhakti is nondifferent from the Lord in all respects). Therefore Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.6) states,

The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.

Loving devotion is described here as being without any motive for personal gain. This establishes that bhakti is unfettered by causes or conditions, The use of the term ''uninterrupted" in this verse implies that nothing is more pleasing than bhakti Therefore Bhakti-devi cannot be hindered or interrupted; she is free to appear at will, and for the jivas to perceive her with their senses.

How the Lord Bestows His Mercy and Pure Bhakti

In the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.20.8) it is stated:

yadricchaya mat-kathadau            jata-sraddhas tu yah puman

na nirvinno nati-sakto            bhakti-yogo 'sya siddhi-dah

bhakti has been described by the word yadricchaya, or “own volition.” Again, in Shridhara Svami's commentary on this verse, he writes that bhakti is free to act at will. The dictionary meaning of the word yadricchaya is “spontaneous and independent”. Some persons interpret the meaning of yadrcchaya as “a sort of luck or fortune”. But when explained in this way there are bound to be apparent fallacies. For example, is this fortune because of pious activities? or misfortune because of impious acts? or simply a lack of good actions? If we accept that good fortune as a result of pious activities creates bhakti then it makes bhakti dependent upon, and subservient to, pious activities. In other words, this explanation infringes upon the principle of bhakti's free will.

If we agree to the other suggestion that lack of good fortune gives birth to bhakti then we admit that such fortunes are capricious, unpredictable, and therefore imperfect. How can the imperfect produce anything that is perfect? And if one says that the Supreme Lord' mercy is the ultimate cause of bhakti then one has to again undergo tedious research to pinpoint the cause of His mercy. It is certain that after much probing and speculation a single irrefutable cause will not be established. In following this line of thought, confusion reigns. On the other hand, if we agree that bhakti impregnates the devotee's heart as a result of Krishna's causeless mercy, then understanding this become easier. Yet one may raise the question as to why the Lord's mercy often seen to be unequally dispensed. Is the Supreme Lord guilty partiality? If the Lord's grace is causeless then He must shower it everywhere without consideration, but it is seen that His mercy is not freely given to all. Should we blame Krishna for being biased, or even unfair? The open discrimination the Lord practices against the demons by killing them, and the favor he shows towards His devotee does not tarnish the Lord's reputation, but rather becomes an embellishment in His character. Krishna's quality of bhakta-vatsalya; His protective affection towards the devotees, surpasses His other transcendental excellences. (The Eighth Chapter will deal with this point in detail.)

It is frequently pointed out that the pure devotee's mercy is also the cause of devotion. just as the Lord's mercy is known to be causeless, so His devotees who possess the same qualities as the Lord also shower their causeless mercy. Hence, when we declare that the devotee's causeless mercy is the reason which inspires bhakti but that bhakti is not being equally distributed, naturally this will be criticized as partiality. Though it is wrong to say that the causeless mercy of both the Lord and the pure devotee is prejudiced, we read in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.46),

The madhyam adhikari offers his love to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is a sincere friend to all the devotees of the Lord, shows mercy to ignorant people who are innocent and disregards those who are envious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

These characteristics clearly indicate that the madhyam adhikari devotee does not distribute his mercy equally to everyone. The truth is that the Supreme Lord is subservient to His devotee's wishes; therefore He emulates His devotee in disbursing mercy. Based on this fact it is easy to see that if the madhyam devotee is merciful to someone the Lord automatically showers His mercy on that recipient This conclusion is sound in all respects.

The single cause that attracts the mercy of the Lord is the bhakti that permanently resides in the pure devotee's heart. In other words, Krishna's mercy will not be invoked without that bhakti within the heart of His devotee which attracts His mercy to appear in the first place. Therefore, because bhakti is completely independent, even from previous piety and good fortune, it is undisputedly confirmed that bhakti is self-manifest. As mentioned earlier, devotion is the only cause of devotion; Bhakti-devi does not require any cause or reason to appear other than her own sweet will.

The Supreme Lord Is Subservient to His Pure Devotee

The word ati-bhagya (extreme good fortune) in the verse “yah kenapyati-bhagyena jatasraddho'sya sevane" wherein it describes “one who engages in devotional service with firm faith due to some extreme good fortune", takes on a new and deeper meaning. It no longer means extreme good fortune as a result of previous pious activities, but extreme good fortune received owing to the pure devotee's compassion.

Here, one may present a counter argument saying that devotees are always under the Lord's control, therefore how can the devotee's mercy appear first, independently, and not as a successor to the Lord's causeless compassion? Krishna Himself provides the solution to this problem by openly declaring that He is voluntarily subservient to His pure devotees. The Lord empowers His devotees to distribute mercy as they like, and in this way He broadcasts their superexcellent position.


The Lord Acts on His Own Sweet Will


When the devotees are experiencing the results of their past actions unfolding on the stage of this material world, the Supreme Lord retains full independent control over His mercy potency towards them. The Lord can utilize at will that mercy potency (krpa-sakti) He has entrusted to His devotees. In other words, the devotees do not have full liberty in distributing mercy.

Despite this fact, the Lord's kindness to His surrendered devotees is very clear. In the Bhagavad-gita, the Lord says, mat-prasadat param santim mat-samsthamadhi-gacchati. “My devotees obtain by My mercy alone the supreme peace that fully reposes in Me. “Here the word prasada means the kindness the Lord shows to His devotees by entrusting them with His mercy potency. This was already mentioned earlier. Besides this, from the verse, “by the nature of His fully independent will", certain relevant points require elaboration.

One can understand from many scriptural evidences that the internal reason the Lord incarnates is simply because of His independent will. Yet the external reason the scriptures give for His appearance is to alleviate the burden of sin weighing down mother Earth. Similarly, no one commits a grievous mistake by saying that desireless activities—whereby one does not aspire to enjoy the fruits of action-are a means to approach bhakti, or devotional service. Again, the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.12.9) explains:

yam na yogena sankhyena            dana-vrata-tapo-'dhvaraih

vyakhya-svadhyaya-sannyasaih            prapnuyad yatnavan api

Even though one engages with great endeavor in the mystic yoga system, philosophical speculation, charity, vows, penances, ritualistic sacrifices, teaching of Vedic mantras to others, personal study of the Vedas, or the renounced order of life, still one cannot achieve Me.

Here the scripture clarifies that all such practices cannot lead to bhakti. Elsewhere, the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (10.47.24) declares:

dana-vrata-tapo-homa            japa-svadhyaya-samyamaih

sreyobhir vividhais canyaih            krishne bhaktir hi sadhyate

Devotional service unto Lord Krishna is attained by charity, strict vows, austerities and fire sacrifices, by japa, study of Vedic texts, observance of regulative principles and, indeed, by the performance of many other auspicious practices.

The type of bhakti attained by performing the activities mentioned in this verse refers to a devotion dominated by knowledge and on the mundane platform of the mode of goodness. It definitely does not refer to the unalloyed devotion that is transcendental to the material modes and on the plane of prema, or spontaneous love of Godhead.

Some scholars explain this verse by saying that charity means to give to Lord Vishnu and His devotees; fasting means to observe fasts like Ekadashi, Janmastami; and renunciation and penances means to renounce sense gratification and accept a simple lifestyle to attain the lotus feet of Lord Krishna. When these activities are thus explained they acquire the characteristics of sadhana-bhakti, or regulative devotional service. Bhakti is cultivated perfectly by the nine processes of devotional service, Therefore the scriptural declaration is that bhakti is the cause of bhakti.

This philosophical presentation summarizes the different counter arguments and establishes the principle that bhakti is causeless.

Pure Bhakti Is the Only Means to Perfection

Bhakti is the only means to attain complete perfection. To abandon this path and accept voluntary hardships in pursuit of empirical knowledge is as futile as beating the empty husks of wheat. As the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (10.14.4) describes in the following verse, one gains nothing from it but useless toil.

sreyah-shritim bhaktim udasya te vibho

klisyanti ye kevala-bodha-labdhaye

tesham asau klesala eva sishyate

nanyad yatha sthula-tushavaghatinam

My dear Lord, devotional service unto You is the best path for self-realization. If someone gives up that path and engages in the cultivation of speculative knowledge, he will simply undergo a troublesome process and will not achieve his desired result. As a person who beats an empty husk of wheat cannot get grain, one who simply speculates cannot achieve self-realization. His only gain is trouble.

The Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.5.17) states, kovartha apto' bhajatam svadharmatah—that if a man gives up his occupational duties to serve the Supreme Lord, Hari, and in the process accidentally falls down before attaining perfection, then still there is no loss by his having abandoned his occupational duties. Again the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (10.14.5) describes that many yogis in the past tried to attain the Lord's lotus feet by their own endeavors; they offered the results of yogic practices the Lord and, because of it, became eligible to hear about transcendental glories. Hearing those transcendental topics an rendering devotional service made them self-realized, and thus achieved the supreme destination.

These scriptural evidences clearly indicate that for the yogis, jnanis, and karmis to become successful in their individual paths, their engagement in devotional service is imperative. Whereas to attain perfection the path of bhakti which results in spontaneous love of Godhead prema, there is no need of yoga, jnana karma, or any other process. The scripture (SB. 11.20.31) states that the cultivation of knowledge renunciation are not conducive to the path of bhakti, and that one who has left all other types of religion and is solely surrendered unto Krishna is the best of all saintly souls. From these instructions we understand that there is no question of bhakti ever being dependent on anything extraneous. In fact, all other processes like yoga, jnana and karma are able to offer the practitioner the desired results only with the help of bhakti. Thus Bhakti-devi, instead of being dependent on the other processes, in turn lends her potency to them so that these other processes are able to give the desired results. Bhakti-devi on her own can offer same results. Hence the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.20.32-33) states,

Everything that can be achieved by fruitive activities, penance, knowledge, detachment, mystic yoga charity, religious duties, and all other means of perfecting life is easily achieved by devotees through loving service to Me.

Besides, what is the use of acquiring such results without bhakti? Therefore the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya (3.11-12) declares:

bhagavad-bhakti-hinasya            jatih sastram japas tapah

apranasyaiva dehasya            mandanam loka-ranjanam

A person's noble birth, studying the Vedas, chanting mantras performing penances, and so on are an worthless if he is bereft of devotion, or bhakti, Just like the decorations of a dead body.

Pure Bhakti Is Independent Unlike Other Processes

As the proper functioning of the body is solely dependent on life being present in it, similarly, yoga, jnana, karma and so on are subservient to and singularly dependent on, bhakti. Another fact is that karma-yoga, is effective only when the right conditions are present: the time, place, ingredients, performer, circumstances, and so on have to be auspicious and accurate. Mistakes in observing any of these regulations render fruitless all endeavor. (Detailed information about this is available in the smriti scriptures dealing with karma-yoga.) None of these stipulations, however, govern the practice of bhakti. In order to clarify this point the Vishnu-dharmottara states:

na desa-niyamas tatra            na kala-niyamas tatha

nocchishtadau nishedhas ca            shri-harer namni lubdhakah

O hunter! in the matter of chanting the holy name or executing other such processes of devotional service there are no hard and fast rules dependent on time, place, circumstance, etc. In fact, one can chant the holy names even in a contaminated state.

Bhakti is able to award absolute perfection without having to depend on anything. Again the Padma Purana (the Shri Vyasa Padyavalya) declares:

sakrid api parigitam sraddhaya helaya va

bhrigu-vara nara-matram tarayet krishna-nama

O best of the Bhrgus! if anyone chants Lord Krishna's name even once unreservedly, whether in a derisive mood or with proper faith, the holy name will certainly award him liberation.

If while executing karma-yoga a person commits the slightest mistake in observing its many rules and regulations it results in negative, inauspicious influences. Therefore the smriti scripture warns that while peforming yajna, or sacrifice, if the Vedic mantras are chanted improperly, or the intonations and pronunciations like anudatta, udatta, and svarita are faulty then these acquire the fearsome form of a thunderbolt that devastates the performer.

An example of the importance of following such stipulations found in the story of Vrtrasura, wherein Tvasta Rsi performed sacrifice to vanquish Indra. While chanting the mantras the rsi mispronounced the word indra-satruh Pronounced correctly the word means “enemy of Indra {Vrtrasura}", instead it came to mean “Indra, enemy of Vrtrasura”. This mistake proved fatal for Vrtrasura.

All Jivas Have the Right of Admission into Bhakti-yoga

Similarly, in jnana-yoga, or the cultivation of empirical knowledge, the conditions are that the, jnana-yogi must purify his internal senses, namely: the mind, the intelligence, and the consciousness. In the case of karma-yoga, the yogi must relinquish the fruits by which his internal senses are purified. At this stage of practice he becomes eligible to embrace the path of jnana-yoga. This proves that jnana-yoga in some ways is dependent upon, and subservient to, karma-yoga. In jnana-yoga, if the jnani either accidentally or deliberately has the slightest falldown the scriptures (SB 7.15.36) condemn him as a shameless person, likening him to someone who eats his own vomit. Although such persons as Kamsa, Hiranyakasipu, and Ravana were very erudite and accomplished jnana-yogis, yet they are infamous characters condemned throughout history for their moral aberrations. The slightest hint of profligacy penalizes the jnana-yogi and his spiritual preceptors then ostracize him.

In the case of bhakti-yogi; the path of pure devotional service, even if the devotee is infected with lust, greed, and other such faults he is still eligible to take up the process. Later, by the practice of bhakti, which is completely independent and beyond all rules and regulations, the devotee's heart and consciousness become purified of any defects. Therefore, the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (10.33.39) explains:

vikriditam vraja-vadhubhir idam ca vishnoh

sraddhanvito 'nushrinuyad atha varnayed yah

bhaktim param bhagavati pratilabhya kamam

hrid-rogam asv apahinoty acirena dhirah

Anyone who faithfully hears or describes the Lord's playful affairs with the young gopis of Vrindavana will attain the Lord's pure devotional service. Thus he will quickly become sober and conquer lust, the disease of the heart.

In this verse the Sanskrit for “attains pure devotional service is an infinitive verb and it is placed in the beginning of the verse. By doing so it means that, in spite of the person being afflicted with lust, he first attains bhakti and later roots out the material diseases.


The Bhakti-yogi Is Above Censure


In the Bhagavad-gita (9.30) Lord Krishna says,

Even if one commits the most abominable action, if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination.

The scriptures elsewhere (SB 11.14.18) also indicate that the Lord's devotees may come under the control of lust, greed, and so on.

From such authoritative statements we can conclude that despite character blemishes the scriptures do not censure such devotees. The appearance of the Vishnudutas, the messengers of Lord Vishnu, at the time of Ajamila's death proved that he was a devotee of the Lord. He had called out his son's name (Narayana) with his last breath, simply out of affection for his child and thus chanted the Lord's name in sanketa (a hint-alluding to the Lord). Even though Ajamila did not consciously chant the holy name, according to the scriptures his unconscious chanting was a sufficient reason for such a devotee to be praised and accepted as saintly and to not be defamed.

For the karma-yogi, the essential key to success is the proper consideration of time, place, and circumstance. In jnana-yoga, purification of the internal senses is the essential ingredient for progress. In both these processes the slightest deviation from the set rules neutralizes any success. Jnana-yoga and karma-yoga fully depend on bhakti to help them achieve their respective goals; therefore bhakti is their resuscitator. Neither karma-yoga nor jnana-yoga are independent-they are always inferior to bhakti because, unlike bhakti, karma and jnana-yoga are regulated by stringent rules. To say that jnana is the only means to execute bhakti is indeed foolish. The ultimate goal of life is mukti, or liberation, but bhakti takes one to. the highest spiritual realm.

The scriptures (SB 5.6.18) declare that the Lord easily grants one liberation, but rarely does He bless someone with bhakti, or devotion. The Shrimad-Bhagavatam (6.14.5) confirms this:

muktanam api siddhanam            narayana-parayanah

sudurlabhah prasantatma            kotishv api maha-mune

O great sages, among many millions who are liberated and perfect in knowledge of liberation, one may be a devotee of Lord Narayana, or Krishna. Such devotees, who are fully peaceful, are extremely rare.

Bhakti is the Ultimate

In His Vamana incamation the Supreme Personality of Godhead acted as Inda's junior Vamanadeva was the omnipotent Supreme Lord and the maintainer of India, and so the learned sages understood this as the Lord's kindness and not that His taking the inferior position was in any way demeaning. Similarly, when scriptural statements give more importance to jnana and show bhakti as its appendage, this does not confound the wise. They understand that although bhakti is placed in a secondary position to jnana, it is there to act as a support to jnana. The scriptural adage (SB. 11.3.31) “bhakti gives rise to bhakti'' proves that the ultimate goal of devotion is prema (spontaneous love of Godhead) - And prema is the pinnacle of all spiritual perfections. Bhakti-devi is the Supreme Lord's direct internal potency, and like the Lord she is omnipresent, supremely autocratic, subjugating everyone, the life-giving force, the highest principle, self-manifest. These are but a few of Bhakti-devi's unlimited qualities.

Perfection found by following any path other than the path of bhakti-yoga is limited, to say the least. It is clear that if a person chooses to embrace any of these other methods for spiritual elevation, we can understand that he has not read the authorized scriptures at all, or, if he has read them, that he has missed their essential teachings. The scriptures stress the point that only animals, who are inferior to human beings, do not worship and serve the Supreme Lord. This proves that those who are really on the human platform naturally must develop devotion to the Supreme Lord.


2. The Second Shower of Nectar


The Madhurya-Kadambini eliminates the need to discuss dualism and monism, but if a reader feels that such a discussion is necessary then he should read the Aisvarya-Kadambini, also by Visvanatha, Cakravarti Thakura.

Now we shall discuss bhakti and the symptoms of bhakti. There are two kinds of bhakti: sraddha (devotional service performed with faith) and misra (mixed devotional service). Pure devotional service, or suddha-bhakti is free from any traces of empirical knowledge or fruitive activity. Pure devotion is like a desire tree or creeper, eternal and unfettered by the concepts of the dualities of birth and death. Yet Bhakti-devi. appears on the sensual plane so that those who have embraced this path may perceive her. Those devotees who seek only the sublime nectar of spiritual life and who have denounced any desire outside of the service to the Supreme Lord, accept the shelter of the creeper of devotion.

Bhakti-devi is the inspiration for all activities favorable to the process of surrender to the Supreme Lord. Like the touchstone, Bhakti-devi gradually converts the iron of material sense perception to the gold of spiritual understanding merely by the power of her association.


The Two Types of Bhakti


From this creeper of devotion burgeons two fresh leaves both representing sadhana bhakti or regulated devotional service. The first leaf is called klesaghni (destroyer of distresses), and the second leaf is known as subhada (bestower of good fortune.) (These two leaves may also be described as vaidhi-bhakti, regulated devotional service, and raga-bhakti spontaneous devotional service. Their difference of mood depends entirely on the practitioner's level of realization). The soft inner core of these two leaves represents the devotee's mood of constant hankering for a loving relationship with the Lord and His eternal associates, When he attains this loving relationship, the devotee feels that he belongs to the beloved Lord and His associates. This elevated stage is known as raga-bhakti, or spontaneous love.

The outer portion of the leaves represents the devotee's dutiful attitude towards Krishna—his spontaneous feelings are curbed by scriptural edicts, his mood borders on formality, and lacks cozy familiarity, tenderness, and open expression of his intention and feelings. His relationship is on the platform of vaidhi-bhakti or regulated devotional service, and it is not as pure as a relationship in raga-bhakti. In actual fact, there is very little difference between these two stages of devotion as far as their ability to destroy distresses and bestow good fortune is concerned.

The Causes of Distress and the Means to Neutralize Them

Distress is caused by five things: nescience, false ego, material attachments, envy, and mundane engrossment, all of which essentially represent different aspects of the mode of ignorance. Sinful reactions, which are also part of klesa (distress), go through four stages:

prarabdha (already mature)

aprarabdha (not yet mature)

kuta (the stage before the seed)

bijam (the seed stage) .

Sins are abominable and they add only partly to man's material distress. The godly traits in man are his aversion towards the temporary, attraction for the divine that is connected to the Supreme, acceptance of that which is favorable to devotional service, mercy, forgiveness, truthfulness, simplicity, impartiality, patience, gravity, respectfulness, humility, and good fortune. The scriptures (SB. 5.18.12) also confirm that the Lord's devotees are automatically embellished with all the excellent qualities that are found in the demigods.

The Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.42) declares, bhaktih paresanubhavo viraktir anyatra caisha trika eka-kalah, that along with devotional surrender and direct perception of the Supreme Lord, aversion to, and detachment from, matter occur simultaneously. This supports the principles discussed earlier that sadhana-bhakti destroys distress and bestows good fortune. Now, although both these leaves of sadhana-bhakti sprout at the same time there is still a slight difference in their growth. The time lapse between distress being destroyed and good fortune being bestowed is so indistinct that the appearance of the two appear to happen simultaneously. Yet by the subtle symptoms of these two actions, the learned have been able to distinguish the difference.


Bhakti Begins with Faith


The pilgrim undertaking a journey on the path of devotion must have faith (sraddha), a faith synonymous with the firm conviction to act on the words and the instructions of devotional scriptures. Faith is of two kinds: svabhaviki (natural) and balotpadika (inspired by an external force). Faith gives birth to the desire to surrender to a bona fide spiritual master and to learn from him the proper rules and etiquette of the devotional science. Sincerely following the spiritual master's instructions bestows upon a disciple the good fortune of wanting to associate with an elevated saint experienced and absorbed in the same devotional mood as the disciple himself aspires for-min other words, a like-minded saintly instructor. At this point begins the stage of bhajana-kriya, the platform of serious devotional activities.




Bhajana kriya is divided into two parts anishthita (unsteady) and nishthita (steady). When devotional activities are performed on the anishthita platform, there is no fear of deviation or lethargy. Anishthita (unsteady devotional service) is further divided into six gradations:

utsahamayi (sudden enthusiasm)

ghana-tarald (sometimes enthusiastic, sometimes lethargic)

vyudha- vikalpa (a stage when doubts assail one's resolve)

visaya-sangara (a stage of internal tug-of-war with material sense enjoyment)

niyamaksama (although one practises regularly, full justice is still not done to the process)

taranga-rangini (attachment to wealth, adoration, distinction, and so on).

Let us first discuss the beginning stage of bhajana-kriya—the stage of utsahamayi. When a young student begins higher education he is very proud, thinking himself to be a praiseworthy scholar. Such thoughts encourage the student to apply himself and to perform well. Similarly, when a novice commences spiritual life he takes to it so enthusiastically, thinking himself to be somebody special.

The example of the same young scholar explains the stage of ghanataral. At times the student concentrates deeply on his studies, but sometimes, because of his inability to understand something, he becomes apathetic. In devotional activities the neophyte goes through similar spells of opposing attitudes sometimes enthusiasm, other times lethargy.

Vyudha-vikalpa is an interesting stage on the path of spiritual life. sometimes the devotee thinks “I shall convince my wife and family to become Vaishnavas and serve the Supreme Lord. I shall convert my house into a temple and remain there happily practicing devotional service.” At other times he thinks, “I shall leave my family, home, and the rest of my worries behind me and go to Vrindavana. I shall reside there, for it is the holiest of places, and I shall cultivate devotional surrender through the nine practices of devotion.” Or he will say, 'Ultimately, I have to give up my home and all my other attachments, then should I not first plunge into the pool of sensual pleasures until I am satisfied?”

Or he may think, The scriptures speak of family and wife being like a dark and dismal well. Should I not leave home this very moment? Sometimes the scriptures encourage me to perceive that this material life, family connections, wife, children are abominable and to renounce them. Yet how can I do that? My parents are old and infirm, who will take care of them? Besides, if I should leave home prematurely, with my material desires to enjoy still unfulfilled, my mind will continue to dwell on sense pleasures until my final days. This would be a disaster! Therefore, I can understand from my own thoughts that I am too weak to follow the Lord's instructions and renounce family life. For now I shall live simply. When the proper time comes I shall hasten to Vrindavana and spend my days and nights in deep meditation on the pastimes of the Supreme Lord.”

The scriptures (SB. 11.20.31) say that neither knowledge nor renunciation is helpful in performing devotional service; since renunciation cannot give birth to bhakti, practicing renunciation separately is unnecessary. After one is situated in devotional service, however, renunciation is an asset because then renunciation proves not only the effectiveness of bhakti but also its superiority. it is both wrong and foolish to cultivate knowledge and renunciation separately once a person enters the path of devotional service.

A famous aphorism in logic is, “When the renunciate goes begging from door-to-door, he finds all the family larders full with grains because he is given charity.” Basing his argument on this logic the aspiring devotee thinks, “I must take up renunciation”. Next moment he comes across another scriptural maxim (SB.10.14.36) stating that unless one develops loving devotion to the Lord his home is a prison. So he says to himself, “Must I remain in household life and try to develop devotional surrender to the Lord? Maybe I should practice hearing about Krishna or chanting Krishna's name and fame. Should I emulate Ambarisa Maharaja and simultaneously perform all the nine devotional activities?” When bhajana-kriya goes through this state of doubt and vacillating resolve it is known as vyudha-vikalpa.

Visaya-sangara is the stage when conflicting doubts and arguments are resolved in the devotee's heart and he is convinced about the path of renunciation. Scripture states that just as an object lost in the west cannot be found in the east, similarly, a person engrossed in materialistic activities will never become attached to Krishna. The devotee feels that his desires for sensual enjoyment are forcing him towards fulfilling them, and so his attraction for chanting and devotional service becomes weak. Therefore he thinks he should immediately discard those desires and wholeheartedly chant the holy name, although even in the process he may sometimes fall victim to sense gratification. The devotee still remains convinced of the scriptural truth that perfection can be achieved through devotional service. And although he may fall prey to sense enjoyment, he rebukes himself and feels remorseful, always continuing his devotional practices. Thus the devotee wages a war against his desire for sense gratification: sometimes the victor, sometimes the defeated. When he does fall victim, the devotee at this stage of unsteady devotional service still feels regret and revulsion at his weakness.

The next stage of unsteady devotional service is niyamaksama, where the devotee vows to increase his devotional activities. He resolves to chant sixty-four rounds daily, offer one hundred prostrated obeisances to the Deities and the Vaishnavas; serve the senior devotees; avoid talking about mundane topics; shun the company of materialistic minded people, and so on. Daily he makes these vows, but at the last moment he is unable to honor them. The difference between visayasangara and niyamaksama is that in the former the devotee is helpless to give up material sense pleasures, and in the latter he is unable to increase and improve his devotional activities.

Now let us discuss taranga-rangini the last stage of anishthita devotional service. In describing the nature of bhakti it is said that everyone is attracted towards the reservoir of bhakti, the devotee. The devotee himself becomes a treasure-house of good qualities and mercy. These characteristics attract people who, in turn, crown the devotee with wealth, adoration, distinction and position. Although these accolades come to him as by-products of bhakti they nevertheless may stunt the spontaneous growth of the creeper of devotion if he uses them for his self-aggrandizement. Taranga means “waves” and rangini means “play”. Therefore, in the vast unlimited ocean of bhakti these by-products are waves that create tempests in devotional life. The devotee aspiring for pure devotion sees these waves to be harmless,-only gleefully playing and cresting.


3. The Third Shower of Nectar


This chapter discusses anartha-nivritti, the cessation of unwanted desires. (Anartha means unwanted desires in the heart, and nivritti means to cease.) There are four kinds of anartha:

(1) Duskrtottha (anarthas coming from sinful activities)

(2) Sukrtottha (anarthas coming from pious deeds)

(3) Aparadhottha (anarthas coming from offences)

(4) Bhaktyuttha (anarthas coming from devotional service)

Earlier we discussed the bad effects of material attachments, such as envy and anger. These causes of distress are born of sinful activities (dushkriti). The craving for temporary sensual pleasure is also a detrimental desire in the heart, an anartha stemming from sukriti (pious activities). [Suffering comes from impious deeds, whereas pious deeds facilitate enjoyment of the senses.] Some scholars say that sukritottha anarthas are part of the five causes of distress: envy, pride, anger, ignorance, and attachment.

Chanting—the Remedy for Offences

Obstructions on the path of pure devotion are caused by aparadhottha anartha (unwanted desires coming from offences). These offences refer particularly to nama-aparadhas, or offences against the holy name, and they do not include seva-aparadha, offences committed in devotional service and in worship of the Deity. Seva-aparadhas are excluded because conscientious devotees remove such offences by reciting prayers and constantly performing devotional service, thereby avoiding the possibility of the offence in its seed form growing into a future reaction. Chanting the holy name of the Lord also effectively removes the reactions to seva aparadha. Therefore, if a devotee is careless in avoiding seva-aparadha, knowing that his chanting will nullify his reactions to such offences, then that is an offence against the holy name. The scriptures warn us that committing sins on the strength of chanting the holy name is a very serious nama-aparadha.

Although chanting is shown here to be the remedy for curing seva-aparadha, it is actually the remedy for offences committed in performing all parts of devotional service. The scriptures state that if a person sins knowing that later he can perform some atonement (prayascitta) to absolve them, the sins instead of being removed become even more serious.

In different scriptures, the Supreme Lord states that anyone who tries to serve Him, even unsuccessfully, need not be concerned, because the devotee's service, however imperfect, is never wasted. Again Krishna has said that anyone who simply chants a particular ten-syllable mantra [(klim) gopijana-vallabhaya svaha] attains all perfections.

Offences are not in the Category of Sins

Then one may ask whether it is a nama-aparadha if a devotee cannot complete this discipline on the path of devotion. The reply is that it is not. Sinning on the strength of chanting means that one sins deliberately and thereby is guilty of nama-aparadha. (Whereas sinful activities can be recognized as those actions strongly condemned in the scriptures, and whereby the scriptures give remedial measures to rectify them.) A person who is unable to reach his spiritual goal sometimes fails from carelessness, not necessarily from the compulsive habit of committing sins.

It is interesting to note that when a person does not attain the goal of karma-yoga the scriptures strongly condemn it, but when one fails to reach the goal of devotional service the scriptures do not react in the same way. The Shrimad-Bhagavatam (SB 11.2.34-35) states:

ye vai bhagavata prokta            upaya hy atma-labdhaye

anjah pumsam avidusham            viddhi bhagavatan hi tan

yan asthaya naro rajan            na pramadyeta karhicit

dhavan nimilya va netre            na skhalen na pated iha

The Lord's instructions to people in general who are ignorant about the ultimate goal of life regarding God realization is factually true religion and is also preached in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Those on this path of perfection may run blindfolded but will never trip over and fall down to illusion.

Anyone who wholeheartedly takes up devotional service (bhagavatat-dharma) even with knowledge of its deep philosophy and its many practical aspects, may act contrary to the rules of one or some of its various practices much like the neophyte may. However, such a devotee still does not incur sin, nor is his advancement depreciated. In this case the word “blindfolded" cannot be interpreted to mean being blind or ignorant of the rules of the sruti and smriti scriptures, otherwise this would obscure the principal purport of the text. The word “blindfolded" does not mean that one should ignore the thirty-two offences in devotional service just because the Lord said that “one may run blindfolded but will never ... fall down to illusion. (Two examples of these thirty-two offences [seva aparadha] to avoid are that one cannot enter the temple with shoes on or whilst one is riding on a palanquin. Both of these are offences prohibiting certain actions.)


How to Absolve Offences


A person who offends the Supreme Lord is referred to as a two-legged animal. It is mentioned that offences committed against the holy name may be old offences or new ones; if either of the offences are done unwittingly then certain symptoms will surely reveal as much. Constant chanting of the holy name will lead to unflinching faith in devotional service. This constant chanting gradually diminishes the effects of the offences. But if the offences were committed knowingly, right from the start, then special arrangements for counteracting them are recommended.

Blaspheming a Saintly Person Is Deadly

Now we shall discuss the ten offences against the holy name: The first offence is to criticize and blaspheme the devotees. Blaspheming in this context means to be envious of, and antagonistic towards, the saintly devotee. If one even accidentally commits this offence against a Vaishnava he must bitterly repent of his low behavior. just as poison is counteracted by poison, similarly, the offender, having set aflame his spiritual life with blasphemy, must be purified in the fire of contrition. The offender must go and fall at the feet of the devotee he reviled and beg forgiveness until he is again able to please that Vaishnava. He Must approach the devotee with trepidation in his heart and think that by pleading, praising, offering repeated obeisances, or by any means he must satisfy the offended devotee. Yet, if for some reason he is unable to appease the devotee then the offender must continue to serve him for many days in a way that will impress and satisfy him, In case the offence is of such a serious nature that the Vaishnava's ire remains unpacified, then the offender must strongly condemn his own abominable action and think, “Oh, how shameful! I have blasphemed a Vaishnava' I shall have to suffer millions of years in the fire of hell.” With a heavy heart, the aparadhi must then take complete shelter of the holy name and chant incessantly, knowing this to be his only hope.

The holy name of Krishna is all-powerful and can absolve any offence, however serious. The offender may incorrectly think, “If this is true about chanting, their why should I have to fall at the Vaishnava's feet in such a humble manner and demean myself? After all the scriptures ensure that for one who commits nama-aparadha chanting on its own will clear away all offences, hence I shall certainly be again pardoned.” Such thinking is incorrect. Instead, the offender becomes enmeshed in another heinous nama-aparadha, that of committing sin on the strength of chanting the holy name.

The offender may once again try to rationalize his misbehavior by saying, “According to the scriptures (SB 11.11.29) only those who are compassionate, peaceful, and tolerant are called sadhus, or saintly persons. Therefore, the offence of blaspheming a devotee is appropriate only when someone who possesses these characteristics is criticized, not for one who has not developed these qualities. In reply, the scriptures state that even if reprobates, cheaters, hypocrites, pretenders, outcastes, and worse take up devotional service, needless to say they are still considered to be sadhus. They must not be criticized for their past, however terrible it may have been, and they cannot be barred from being accepted as Vaishnava devotees. nor can their devotion be deprecated.

The sastra further declares that if a maha-bhagavata, or an elevated pure devotee, is offended, he simply brushes aside the entire episode because he possesses immense compassion, and he will not acknowledge the behavior as an offence. As for the guilty party, he must fall at the sadhu's feet and beg forgiveness so that his heart may be purified. We learn from the sastra and the sadhus that even if the maha-bhagavata. effortlessly tolerates the foolish person's blasphemy, his followers cannot bear this atrocity; they punish the offender by wishing him to suffer appropriately for his offence.

The pure devotees are incorruptible and independent in thought. They do not require a reason to shower their causeless mercy on any soul, however wretched he may be. Sometimes they display great magnanimity by showing profound mercy to a downright offender and harsh critic. At the same time they are not swayed by praise in order to make them act compassionately. The story of the elevated devotee Jada Bharat is a good example. King Rahugana once engaged Jada Bharat to carry his palanquin. After going some way, the king began to rudely criticize Jada Bharata who simply showered him with mercy. In another incident, the atheistic Daityas were very offensive to Uparicara Vasu, the King of Cedi. A third example is that of the despicable Madhai who threw a stone at Lord Nityananda, causing His forehead to bleed profusely, yet the Lord showed him causeless mercy. So far we have discussed the first nama-aparadha, that of offending a devotee. The same principle is applied to another offence against the holy name that of disobeying the orders of the spiritual master.


Differences Between Lord Vishnu and Lord Siva


We now continue our discussion by explaining the differences between Lord Vishnu and Lord Siva. Consciousness is of two kinds: independent consciousness and dependent consciousness. Supreme Consciousness, or the Supreme Controller, is all-pervasive and fully independent. The subordinate consciousness is present in the body in the form of jiva energy. This consciousness is the living entity who is always under the control of the Supreme Consciousness.

The Supreme Consciousness is further divided into two classes: (a) that which is beyond the illusory potency, maya's jurisdiction, and (b) that which voluntarily accepts the influence of maya for executing universal affairs Lord Narayana belongs to the first category. The scriptures (SB 10.88.5) have often described Lord Narayana as the Supreme Being who is transcendental to the material modes. Lord Siva belongs to the second category of Supreme Consciousness. The scriptures describe Lord Siva as eternal, possessing divine energies, and all the three lingas (the three levels of sakti: svarupa, maya, and jiva saktis). And although he is covered by the material modes Siva is not in the category of jiva, The Brahma-samhita (5.45) states:

kshiram yatha dadhi vikara-visesha-yogat

sanjayate na hi tatah prithag asti hetoh

yah sambhutam api tatha samupaiti karyad

govindam adi-purusham tam aham bhajami

Just as milk is transformed into curd by the action of acids, but yet the effect curd is neither same as, nor different from, its cause, viz., milk, so I adore the primeval Lord Govinda of whom the state of Sambhu is a transformation for the performance of the work of destruction.

In the other Puranas and Agamas, Lord Siva's supreme status has been unequivocally declared. The Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.23) states that Lord Hari alone is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the sole purpose of creation, maintenance, and annihilation of this universe. He enters into the three material modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance, and then expands as Lord Siva, Lord Brahma, and Lord Vishnu, respectively, to carry out such work as the creation. This statement confirms that Lord Brahma is the Supreme Controller, although at the same time it must be understood that this is so because he has been empowered by the Supreme Lord, Vishnu. The Brahma-samhita (5.49) confirms this:

bhasvan yathasma-sakaleshu nijeshu tejah

sviyam kiyat prakatayaty api tadvad atra

brahma ya esha jagad-anda-vidhana-karta

govindam adi-purusham tam aham bhajami

I adore the primeval Lord Govinda from whom the separated subjective portion Brahma receives his power for the regulation of the mundane world, just as the sun manifests some portion of his own light in all the effulgent gems that bear the names of surya-kanta, etc.

The Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.24) explains that smoke is more subtle than inert wood and fire is superior to smoke because it receives the oblations in Vedic sacrifices. Similarly, the material mode of passion is higher than ignorance, and goodness is higher than passion because it reveals Brahman. Although the Shrimad-Bhagavatam places the mode of passion above ignorance, smoke, here symbolic of the mode of passion, is unable to bring one to the stage of God-realization. Direct perception of the Supreme Lord is possible only in the stage of sattva guna, symbolized by the fully ignited sacrificial fire.

Of course, God-realization is latent within tamah guna, just as fire is latent in firewood. Tamah guna a state of deep slumber: one experiences a feeling of undifferentiated euphoria similar to that experienced by the monists in search of knowledge. The final destination of the monists is the state of undifferentiated bliss known as susupti, or deep slumber. One must be in a position to analyze aphorisms from the scriptures and draw the right conclusions to avoid confusion.

The Jiva

Now we shall discuss the jiva, the other conscious being. The jiva's position is that of eternal loving servitorship to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. jiva is of two categories, the first category being those under the spell of illusion and nescience. Demigods, humans, animals, and lesser beings are in the first category of jivas. The second kind, those who are free from nescience and illusion, are subdivided into two sections:

Those who are absorbed in the opulence of the Supreme Lord and worship Him reverentially

Those who are neither attracted to the Lord's opulence nor to this mood of reverential worship.

The jivas who are absorbed in the Lord's opulence are again divided into two kinds:

(a) Those who appear directly from the state of pure consciousness and are saturated in the absolute truth. (The four Kumaras are a good example of this category.)

(b) Those who appear as a result of the action of the illusory potency and are covered by the awe-inspiring aspect of the cosmic creation. (Lord Brahma is the best example of this second category.)

The jivas who are unattracted to the opulence of the Lord are also further divided:

(i) those who cultivate jnana (speculative knowledge) and desire to merge with the Supreme Lord

ii) those who mechanically perform devotional activities (sadhanabhakti) but who have no desire to merge with the Lord.

Those who desire to become one with the Lord are in a dangerous and suicidal situation, whereas those who perform devotional activities mechanically are not in such a precarious position, because they are able to relish a sweet and more intimate relationship with the Supreme Lord.

Because both Lord Vishnu and Lord Siva (Sadasiva) embody the same Supreme Consciousness they are nondifferent. However, both Lord Vishnu and Lord Siva (Sadasiva) reside simultaneously on dual planes of nirguna (transcendence), and saguna (material nature). The unmotivated and transcendental devotees worship only the nirguna Supreme Consciousness, while the sakama fruitive workers can worship simply the saguna aspect of the Supreme Consciousness. This shows the inherent distinction between Lord Vishnu, Lord Siva, Lord Brahma, and the jivas.

It is important to note that many Puranas propound the theory of Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma being one. The analogy of the sun and the precious gem suryakanta mani, will help as to understand this oneness. In a sense, the sun and the reflected glory of the sun in the gem are the same. In some mahakalpas, or millenniums, the Supreme Lord empowers certain jivas to take up the position of Lord Siva or Lord Brahma. just as the jewel is dependent on the sun for its glory, Lord Brahma and Lord Siva are dependent on the Supreme Lord for theirs. This point has been confirmed in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa (1.73):

yas tu narayanam devam            brahma-rudradi-daivataih

samatvenaiva viksheta            sa pashandi bhaved dhruvam

The scriptures also state that if a person, after considering all these facts, adamantly equates Lord Vishnu with demigods like Lord Brahma, Lord Siva, and so on he is condemned as an atheist and an offender. The basis of this scriptural injunction lies in the fact that while Lord Brahma is generally an empowered jiva, Lord Siva at times is also an empowered jiva. Persons who have not researched deeply 'into this subject matter end up forming their own speculative ideas. They make such comments as, “Lord Vishnu is God and not Lord Siva”, or “Lord Siva is the Supreme, not Lord Vishnu.” They continue to say, 'We are undeviating devotees of Lord Vishnu; we do not care for Lord Siva”, and vice versa. Hence their inclination to polemics leads them to commit offences. Now, the only way they can mitigate their offences is to meet a devotee well-versed in this topic who is willing to instruct them properly. The confused can become enlightened about everyone's real position, including in which way Lord Siva and Lord Vishnu are qualitatively nondifferent. Such persons begin to repent of having committed such offences and sincerely take up chanting the Lord's holy name. In fact, it is this chanting that finally exonerates such people from their offence.

Some say that these sections of the Vedas do not carry the slightest mention about the science of devotional service, so they are fit to be praised and appreciated only by mundane scholars. Those who lash out with such caustic criticism against those parts of the Vedas that propound the process of empirical knowledge and fruitive action will have to appease, with reconciliatory praises, those who follow such sections. Additionally, the offenders must chant the holy. name to absolve the fourth nama-aparadha: blaspheming the Vedic scriptures and its corollaries.

One may ask why not indeed criticize those section emphasize empirical knowledge and fruitive action. The answer is because the scriptures are most merciful. By some unexpected good fortune if an offensive person meets a devotee who is knowledgeable about the Vedas, he will receive proper instructions on Vedic understanding. If the offender sincerely understands these instructions then he will truly appreciate the Vedas. Out of compassion for persons who are unfit for devotional service, who are duplicitous in action, and totally absorbed in mundane matters, the Vedas inspire them to become resolute in following its divine edicts, thus helping to uplift them. The Vedas benevolently draw these erring souls away from the pravrtti-marg (the path of worldly-mindedness) and towards nivrttt-marg ,(the path of detachment). Without having the realization that the Vedas are benevolent, and without possessing a deferential mood towards the sruti, one's offences cannot be mitigated. Thus we have discussed the prime cause of offences as well as how to absolve them.


Five Steps to Revoke Anarthas


Now we shall talk further on the anarthas (unwanted desires) that crop up in the execution of devotional service. Unwanted desires tend to smother the natural growth of the creeper of bhakti. At first glance unwanted desires look like off-shoots from the bhakti-lata (the creeper of devotion), but in reality they are mundane desires for position, adoration, and opulence. They color and taint the practitioner's consciousness. Thriving in this way these anarthas arrest the growth of the creeper of devotional service.

The four anarthas mentioned in the beginning of this chapter can be mitigated in the five following ways:


i) eka-desavarttini (partially);

ii) bahu-desavarttini (substantially);

iii) prayiki (almost completely);

iv) purna (completely);

v) atyantiki (absolutely thoroughly).


The many anarthas stemming from aparadhas are partially destroyed in the final stages of bhajana-kriya (rendering devotional service under the guidance of a spiritual master). This is known as eka-desavarttini. When bhajana-kriya gains maturity it turns to nishtha, or steadiness, in devotional activities. In this stage of development the mitigation of anarthas is substantial (bahu-desavarttini); thereafter, on the platform of rati (attraction) the unwanted desires in the heart are almost completely absolved (prayiki). With the first awakening of prema, or divine love, these anarthas are completely removed (purna). Finally, the anarthas are totally uprooted (atyantiki) when the devotee receives the mercy and shelter of the Lord's lotus feet.

Examples of Offences Cited from the Scriptures

At this point, one may ask, “How could Citraketu be guilty of offending Lord Siva, despite having attained a direct interview with the Supreme Lord?” King Citraketu's offence against Lord Siva is an allegorical offence, not a perceived offence, because even after the king was cursed he did not forfeit his spiritual wealth of prema. This proves that curses do not take proper effect on such elevated souls. What is of the utmost significance is that subsequently King Citraketu became an eternal associate of the Supreme Lord.

Another incident from the Bhagavatam is that of Jaya and Vijaya offending the four Kumaras. The scriptures say the reason for their deliberately offensive action was because their love for the Lord (prema) prompted it. In fact, Jaya and Vijaya had prayed to the Lord for such a situation:

My dear Lord Narayana! O master of the demigods! We have reasons to believe You desire to fight. But we do not see anyone fit to engage You in combat. Although we are strong, we are not inimical to You. Therefore somehow You must arrange a situation whereby we become Your opponents and You can satisfy Your chivalrous mood by fighting with us. We cannot tolerate to see you even slightly deprived of anything since You are eternally the complete whole, fully self-satisfied. We are Your humble servants. Therefore as You are bhakta vatsala kindly grant our prayers even if we fall far short of Your expectations of the level of devotional qualities.

If one mentally commits offences by misunderstanding the status of such devotees, then he must overcome such aparadhas by proper scriptural judgement.

Now let us discuss the anarthas arising from impious activities, or duskrtottha. These anarthas are almost eradicated (prayiki) in the bhajana-kriya stage of devotional service, completely absolved (purna) in the developmental stage of nishtha (steady faith in devotional service), and destroyed absolutely without a trace (atyantiki) in the stage of asakti, or unwavering attachment to devotional service.

Anarthas stemming from bhakti are absolved in the following manner: eka-desavarttini (partially) in the bhajana-kriya stage; purna (completely) in the nishtha stage; and atyantika (absolutely thoroughly) in the ruci stage (relishing devotional service).

This is the conclusion of the holy sages after their considerable deliberation on this topic. A famous axiom states that as the sun, upon rising, dissipates the darkness of night, similarly the holy name of God, when once heard or chanted, destroys all the sins a person can commit. There is much evidence in the scriptures (SB 6.16.44) supporting this aphorism, such as that even a candala (dog-eater) becomes liberated simply by once hearing or chanting the Supreme Lord's holy name. We learn from the story of Ajamila in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam that the holy name chanted even once in the namabhasa stage (shadow of the holy name) can eradicate all anarthas, even that of avidya (nescience), and is capable of elevating one to the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord.

It could be said that the method for removing the anarthas listed in the previous paragraphs is perhaps imbalanced. There is no doubt about the unlimited potency and capacity of the holy name, but the holy name, being displeased with offenders, withdraws His potencies and does not manifest Himself to them. Thus we can understand that this is the reason why all sorts of anarthas, offences, and sins are present in a person. Despite the presence of such obstacles, the Yamadutas (the servants of the god of death) are ineffectual against those who chant the holy name even with offences. The scriptures (SB 6.1.19) confirm that those fortunate persons who are chanting the holy name need never set eyes on Yamaraja (the god of death) or his fearsome messengers, even during a dream.

Chanting Without Offence Brings Prema

Elsewhere, the scriptures describe that such an offender cannot be purified by the eight-fold yoga process. This point is explained by the example of a wealthy landlord who, although capable of looking after his needy relatives, does not do so, because they are inimical towards him. Naturally, this neglect exacerbates their unhappy state. This means, of course, that the landlord would never be generous to strangers seeing that he even neglects his own family. This aptly describes the topic discussed in the previous paragraphs. However, if the inimical relatives change their attitude, understanding the inner feelings of the wealthy landlord and endeavoring to please him, then they are gradually helping to mitigate their own distress. Similarly, if a person sincerely serves the Vaishnavas, the guru, and the scriptures he invokes the mercy of the holy name, who in turn exonerates him from sins. It is unacceptable if anyone claims that he does not commit any of the offences against the holy name, because everything is easily judged by its results, whether of recent or past actions. One may continually chant the holy name for a long time, but if the signs of love of God do not manifest then we can understand that this is because of' nama-aparadha, or offences against the holy name. The following verse from the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (2.3.24) explains:

tad asma-saram hridayam batedam

yad grihyamanair hari-nama-dheyaih

na vikriyetatha yada vikaro

netre jalam gatra-ruheshu harshah

Certainly the heart is steel framed which, in spite of one's chanting the holy name of the Lord with concentration, does not change when ecstasy takes place, tears fill the eyes and the hairs stands on end.

The following quote from the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu further states:

ke te'paradha vipendra namno bhagavatah krtah

vinighnanti nrinam krityam prakritam hyanayanti hi

O best of the brahmanas, offences against the holy name result in a person losing all piety and for him the mundane manifests in transcendental objects.

What is the destructive nature of these offences against the holy name? Hearing and chanting the Lord's holy name, qualities, and so on bestows prema; visiting places of pilgrimage connected with the Lord's pastimes rewards one with perfection; and regularly honoring the Lord's prasadam subdues the senses, yet nama-aparadha is so devastating that, although transcendental and completely spiritual, these activities appear mundane. How serious are these offences that can cause such a phenomenon!

What are those offences? This question expresses deep astonishment. One may say that the offender against the holy name is condemned to develop aversion to God, making it impossible for him to remain firmly fixed in devotional service under the guidance of his guru. This is certainly true. It is also true that just as a very sick patient loses his appetite, a grievous offender to the holy name loses his attachment for hearing, chanting, and other devotional activities. However, just as the patient's sickness abates after some time, his appetite gradually returning, so also, when the offender's sensual cravings decrease after a long period of sense enjoyment, his interest in devotional service is rekindled.

The conclusion is that the offender again becomes eligible to render devotional service. To continue the analogy, a nourishing and healthy diet of milk cannot fully revitalize a seriously diseased man. It helps him slightly but does not kill the germs and bacteria. By proper medicines and diet, however, the patient is gradually able to regain good health. In this way, after again becoming eligible to perform devotional service, the devotee eventually manifests devotional symptoms such as sincere hearing, chanting, and serving. In other words, the different stages of devotion listed in the scriptures such as sraddha, sadhu-sanga, bhajana-kriya, anartha-nivritti, nishtha—step-by-step they all form a foolproof method of advancement. (Anartha-nivritti removes both prarabdha and aprarabdha anarthas.)

When some people do not see ecstatic symptoms manifest in those devotees fully engaged in hearing and chanting, when they see that these devotees are also inclined towards sinful activities, they often imagine aparadhas. Not only that, but when they see devotees suffering everyday distress such persons assume that devotees are not free from prarabdha sins.

The Ajamila story helps to clarify the matter. The events in Ajamila's life: his immoral association with a prostitute, his son's receiving the name Narayana, the affection he felt when calling his son by name many times in a day, his being judged innocent of offence by the Vishnuduttas—all constitute reactions from prarabdha sins. However, in the case of Yudhisthira Maharaja, although free from the reactions of prarabdha sin, he still had to suffer many harrowing adversities.


Surrendered Devotees are Under the Lord's Protection


The philosophical conclusion to this is deftly explained by the analogy of a fruit-bearing tree that bears fruit only after a certain period of time, not just at any time, nor immediately upon being planted. Similarly, a devotee blessed by the holy name because of his devotion, is showered with the mercy of the name, all in the proper time. As for the sinful reactions the devotee suffers because of his previous impiety, they are compared to the striking of a fangless snake—inconsequential. Therefore his sorrows, reversals, retributions, and diseases are not a consequence of prarabdha sins. The Supreme Lord has declared: (SB. 10.88.8)

shri-bhagavan uvaca

yasyaham anugrihnami

harishye tad-dhanam sanaih

tato 'dhanam tyajanty asya

svajana duhkha-duhkhitam

The person who is blessed by Me, I gradually take away his wealth. His friends and relatives drift away from him because of his poverty and suffering.

In another place the Lord says:

nirdhanatva-maharogo mad anugraha-lakshanam

The awesome affliction known as poverty is in fact a sign of mercy.

The truth is that the Supreme Lord, the greatest benefactor of His devotees, purposely inflicts suffering on His devotees just to increase their humility and yearning for Him. Thus the devotee's woes are not because of fruitive reactions nor are they reactions of prarabdha sins.

MK 4: The Fourth Shower of Nectar

4. The Fourth Shower of Nectar

In the Second Shower of Nectar, we discussed the two types of bhajana-kriya: steady (nishthita) and unsteady (anishtha). Unsteady bhajana-kriya was further divided into six sections, but little was discussed about bhajana-kriya bhakti performed on the steady, or nishthita, platform. Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.17-18) explains the reason for following this particular sequence in the following verses:

shrinvatam sva-kathah krishnah


hridy antah-stho hy abhadrani

vidhunoti suhrit satam

Shri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone's heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted.

nashta-prayeshv abhadreshu

nityam bhagavata-sevaya

bhagavaty uttama-sloke

bhaktir bhavati naishthiki

By regular attendance in classes on the Bhagavatam and by rendering of service to the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is almost completely destroyed, and loving service unto the Personality of Godhead, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact.

The Supreme Lord is the greatest benefactor of the pure devotees, the saintly sadhus. Therefore the only way to receive the Lord's mercy is to first receive the grace of the pure devotees. The first verse quoted previously describes the unsteady bhajana-kriya stage of devotional service. The second verse (1.2.18) describes naisthiki-bhakti, or steady devotional service, also known as the nishtha stage. In describing the two stages of bhakti both the verses mention destroying inauspicious things in the heart, of purifying the heart of unwanted material desires. The second verse quoted suites that impurities are almost completely destroyed, meaning that some residue of impurity is still there in the heart.

Five Obstacles to the Process of Anartha-nivritti

Now, according to the proper order, nisthiti-bhakti will be explained. Devotion that possesses nishtha (firm commitment and undeviating faith) is known as nishthita-bhakti. At the stage when anarthas still persist in the heart the devotee may try as hard as possible to counteract them by devotional activities, yet the five internal obstacles, laya, viksepa, apratipatti, kasaya, and rasasvada, undermine his attempts to reach steadiness in devotion. Once the ananhas are removed, then these five obstacles are almost abolished and devotion becomes firm and undeviating. Therefore it can be said that the absence of these five impediments in the heart are symptoms of nishthita-bhakti.

The five obstacles are defined in the following way:

Laya is the weakness of being more soporific during hearing about the Lord than while chanting His names, and more soporific while remembering Lord Hari than during hearing about Him.

Viksepa is talking or thinking about mundane nonsense during devotional activities such as hearing or chanting.

Apratipatti is when both laya and viksepa are absent, but at times one still feels incapable of, or disinterested in, hearing, chanting, and so on.

Kasaya is defined as the tendency to display such faults as anger, greed, and arrogance during devotional activities.

Rasasvada means that the mind is so attached to sense pleasure, often meditating on it, that he is unable to hear and chant with concentration.

With the removal of these obstacles, the devotee makes progress towards nishtha, or steady devotion. When naistha-bhakti blossoms in the devotee's consciousness, the immediate effect is that he is no longer ruled by anger, greed, or any other influences from the modes of passion and ignorance. The naisthiki bhakta becomes firmly fixed on the Supreme Lord, who is always situated in pure goodness, and experiences divine bliss. The Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.19) confirms this:

tada rajas-tamo-bhavah

kama-lobhadayas ca ye

ceta etair anaviddham

sthitam sattve prasidati

As soon as irrevocable loving service is established in the heat the effects of nature's modes of passion and ignorance, such as lust, desire and hankering, disappear from the heart. Then the devotee is established in goodness, and he becomes completely happy.

In this verse, the Sanskrit word ca ("and") conveys the presence of passion and ignorance in the heart of the devotee. But in the same verse the expression ceta etair anaviddham (that the mind is unaffected by these) establishes that these material modes are not obstacles on the path of devotion, but reside in the heart in a neutral state until the devotee on the platform of steady devotional service attains bhava. (Bhava is the stage of spontaneous loving devotion to the Lord.)

The Two Types of Fixed Faith

Nishtha (fixed faith) has two varieties: (1) saksat bhakti-visayini or nourishing spontaneous bhakti, and (2) vastu-visayini, or the fostering of complementary bhakti qualities. Saksat-bhakti has many variations that can be broadly categorized into three divisions:


i) kayiki (physical)

ii) vaciki (oral)

iii) manasiki (mental).


Some say that there is a definite order of development in these three divisions of saksat-bhakti. The devotee first cultivates spontaneous bhakti with kayiki, followed by vaciki and manasiki respectively. The opposing group, however, contends that there is no such successive order. Be as it may, qualities like enthusiasm, firm conviction, and unremitting energy are found in varying degrees in devotees. Because some devotees are not inclined to express such qualities in their actions, this gives the impression to others that they are not singleminded in their devotion to the Supreme Lord.

The idea that these different stages of nishtha-bhakti have an order of sequence as mentioned earlier is thus thrown off-balance. Consequently it lends weight to the idea that the different types of saksat-bhakti do not follow in order. Furhiermore, qualities such as humility, which specifically means renouncing respect given to the self by others but still offering respect to others, friendliness, and compassion are conducive to the culture of devotional service. Sometimes it appears that certain devotees who are self-controlled and equipoised possess these, qualities, although they lack bhakti-nishtha, or unwavering faith in devotional service. Conversely, in other cases, an arrogant and therefore disrespectful devotee does not seem to be decorated with these good qualities although he does, in fact, possess bhakti-nishtha. In fact, the presence of these qualities clearly indicates undeviating faith in bhakti, and the absence of these qualities such as friendliness and compassion means lack of faith in the process of bhakti. This is obvious to most people.

The Shrimad-Bhagavatam declares that with the appearance of naisthiki-bhakti the devotee's consciousness is unaffected by the material modes of passion and ignorance. His consciousness, thus purified of evil traits like lust, then becomes fixed in the mode of goodness and the devotee experiences divine happiness. The essential yardstick for measuring perfectly the depth of nishthita-bhakti, or the lack of it (anishthita-bhakti), is whether hearing and chanting has intensified or has stagnated. An increase of hearing and chanting thus indicates a rise in nishthita-bhakti, while any decrease implies the presence of anishthita-bhakti.


5. The Fifth Shower of Nectar


The golden jewel of bhakti becomes when warmed in the fire of abhyasa , repeated devotional service, and this abhyasa conceives the taste for bhakti in the heart. Ruci is defined as the taste or attraction that first helped the devotee to relish the process of hearing, and now ruci assists the devotee in the process of chanting. As the devotee's taste increases, the repetition of hearing and chanting seems not in the least exacting. Thereafter, ruci soon transforms into strong attachment for hearing and chanting. The devotee feels that any activities outside Krishna conscious ones are a waste of energy. For example, a young brahmana student has to study the scriptures daily by rote. Gradually he begins to understand the import of the scriptures; this creates fresh interest for him and his studies are no longer a burden.

Another example of the effect ruci has on one's devotional life is that of the man suffering from jaundice. The jaundiced patient finds the sweetness of sugarcandy unpalatable, but he is ignorant of the fact that sugarcandy can cure his disease, as a more well-informed person would know. By constantly eating sugarcandy the patient recovers his normal taste; he begins to relish the sweetness which indicates that he has recovered from his illness. In the same way, when the living entity's normal consciousness is aberrated by ignorance, his only recourse is to repeatedly force himself to do devotional service, beginning with hearing about Krishna. Nescience is thus destroyed, and he develops a taste (ruci) for devotional service.


The Two Types of Ruci


The taste for devotional service is of two types: vastu vaisistya-apeksini (that which awaits specific requirements) and vastu vaisitya-anapeksini (that which does not await any requirements). (Vastu means the object of worship-the Supreme Godhead.) In the first type of ruci certain requirements are desirable for hearing about Lord Krishna and chanting His name, form, qualifies, pastimes, and so on in order for the devotee to develop a taste for them. For example, the devotee's attraction for kirtana and bhajana is very much dependent on accurate beat, rhythm, and sweet and appropriate melody; when listening to narrations of the Lord he is dependent on the sound of the voice; when he is worshipping the Deity he is dependent on such conditions as the sanctity of the place, punctuality, a sincere priest, and beautiful flower arrangements.

We may ask the question that if a man is truly starving does he care about the quality or variety of food he is offered to eat? If he does impose such conditions, then his appetite is lacking. The first type of ruci is similar in character to this seemingly hungry person, because even the slightest moral aberratious impel the devotee to dictate certain conditions for hearing and chanting the Lord's name. (Conditions such as the ones we discussed beforehand like the melody, the type of voice, and so on.) Therefore the type of ruci called vastu vaisistya-apeksini can be referred to as the mercury that measures a devotee's internal discrepancies.

The second type of ruci, vastu vaisistya-anapeksini, is unlike the first type. A devotee who possesses the second type of ruci hears and chants the Lord's name, qualities, pastimes, and so on in a strong and steady way. When attractive embellishments are added to practices such as hearing and chanting, ruci gains maturity and uproots the last vestiges of bad qualities from the heart. (In the first type of ruci such conditions as the kirtana or bhajana having a beautiful melody was an indispensable requirement.)

The Type of Ruci Independent of Material Considerations

Some of the symptoms of vastu vaisistya-anapeksini ruci are that the devotee thinks, “Why have I foolishly exchanged the nectar of chanting Krishna's name for misfortune in the form of material life, hankering after what I do not possess and toiling to protect what I have gained. Despicable wretch that I am, I think of advising others! The causeless mercy of my spiritual master has delivered to me a priceless treasure, yet I could not value it. Instead, I chased after the mirage of material happiness. I wasted my life in a futile search for broken pieces of colored glass thinking them gems and so found myself in a fathomless ocean of materialism. I avoided all devotional activities and shamefully exhibited moral bankruptcy. Alas! I am bereft of any good character. My tast was such that I considered spurious talk valuable and tried in vain to relish it. Consequently I turned my back on the narrations of the transcendental qualities and names of the Supreme Lord. How great is my misfortune! Whenever I had the opportunity to hear about Krishna I fell asleep, but as soon as I heard any mundane ramblings I forgot my weariness and eagerly absorbed every word. In this way I endlessly insulted saintly persons and intruded on their assemblies. What abominable means had I not used to fill my belly. I am ignorant to the consequences of my actions; what hell will my behaviour force me to visit, and for how long?

Thus in this way a devotee must repent. And someday, by a streak of good fortune, he will come across the greatest of all literatures, the works that describe the transcendental glories of the Supreme Person ality of Godhead, Shri Gauranga This literature captures the essence of the Vedas, which is said to be a mystical flowering tree fulfilling all desires. The devotee should become like a honey-bee who constantly drinks the ambrosia from the flower blossoms. Let the devotees seek the company of saints and shun the common crowds of moneymongers. Residing in holy places, they must engage in serving the Supreme Lord with a pure heart.

After serving the Lord with a pure heart, ruci, the divine dancer, then attracts the devotee's attention, and he aspires to learn dancing. The devotee should then associate with the rasika-bhaktas (those who meditate on the Lord's pastimes of conjugal love) who are expert in the same art of dancing and learn it from them. For the first time the devotee thus experiences an ecstasy beyond description. With the passage of time, when the two perfect dancemasters, bhava and prema, appear and teach the devotee the sublime dances, who can describe the heights of divine bliss he will climb.


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.

Ruci 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.


7. The Seventh Shower of Nectar


Strong attachment (asakti) is gradually transformed into bhava, or spontaneous spiritual emotion. Bhava later climaxes into rati, or the first stirrings of divine love. Eternality, absolute knowledge, and divine bliss (sat, cit, ananda) are emanations of the original state of consciousness, or the svarupa. Bhava is the budding blossom of these three energies: sat, cit, and ananda. Bhava has also been described as the gleaming blossoms of the creeper of devotion.

The external splendour bhava exhibits is factually unattainable for the average person, and its internal grandeur makes the revered status of liberation insignificant. In truth, even a minute fraction of the splendour of bhava can thoroughly dispel any trace of ignorance in the human consciousness.

The sweet, far-reaching fragrance of the blossoms of bhava sends enchanting invitations to the Supreme Lord, gently inducing Him to appear in person before His devotee. Furthermore, when the soul's natural sentiments are even faintly scented by bhava, they melt and flow unrestrained toward the Supreme Lord, bathing His divine form with love. As soon as bhava appears in the devotee's heart it elevates him to a high podium of spiritual communion. Even if he happens to be born in a family of candalas, or dog-eaters, he is indeed to be revered even by brahmanas, the priestly class.

The Magnificient Symtnptoms of Bhava

The symptoms that embellish the sublime sentiments of bhava are magnificent: The devotee's eyes are constantly inebriated from seeing the beauty of Vrajendra-Nandana Krishna-His complexion the colour of a monsoon cloud; His pinkish lips, His compassionate eyes; the brilliance of His perfect moonlike face with its innocent, gentle smile; and His shining yellow dress and radiantjewels. The devotee's voice chokes up as he perceives the beauty of His Lord and tears flow incessantly' saturating his body. His eager ears strain to hear the haunting melody of Krishna's flute, His captivating honeyed voice; they strain to hear all the instructions on serving and worshipping His lotus feet. The devotee experiencing bhava-bhakti restlessly moves about trying to collect any information about his beloved Lord and how to serve Him. The bhava-bhakta sometimes pauses in one spot, rooted to the ground as if he is trying to hear a faint voice, moving his head in different directions in order to hear better.

Bhava is self-willed and moves on it's own volition. The actions of a devotee in bhava are unpredictable-he may suddenly try to Imagine how it feels to be touched by the tender palms of the Lord, and when all the hairs of his body stand on end, it appears as if it is actually happening to him: On other occasions the devotee's nostrils flare from inhaling deeply the sweet lingering aroma of the Lord's transcendental body, sending him into raptures. Sometimes he thinks, “Shall I ever be fortunate enough to relish the ambrosia issuing from Krishna's sublime lips?” Immediately he begins to lick his own lips as if his tastebuds have been given a magnificent treat only his cherished dream could fulfill. Again at times such a devotee experiences waves of pleasure transmitted from the Lord, the reservoir of all pleasures, and an ineffable joy envelops his heart, making him feel the same as when he sees the Lord face-to-face. In this way he becomes absorbed in the bliss of pure Krishna consciousness.

Occasionally these ecstatic feelings disappear, and the devotee plunges into a sea of deep despair and gloom. In this condition he nevertheless decorates his heart with sancari-bhava [one of the four kinds of bhava], thus reviving with renewed impetus his beleaguered spiritual sentiments.

In bhava-bhakti, the devotee focuses his mind with unwavering attention on the Supreme Lord. In sleeping, waking, or dreaming he always remembers Krishna. With incessant and intense desire to properly serve the Lord, the devotee in bhava discovers his original spiritual form. Naturally and perfectly gliding into that form, he more or less discards his sadhaka tabernacle. Now his sentiments, his entire being, yearns to be transformed into a bumble-bee humming and searching for honey around the lotuslike feet of the Supreme Lord. The devotee at this stage has acquired a priceless treasure trove, but he hides his wealth like a miser-his spiritual sentiments of bhava-and displays only abject poverty. Ordinary people are unable to appreciate the value of riches such as qualities of austerity, tolerance, and forgiveness in a person, whereas wise saints shower laurels on him. A nondevotee considers pure devotees like these to be either scatter-brained or mad.

This bhava is of two kinds: raga-bhakti-uttha (springing from spontaneous devotional service) and vaidha-bhakti-uttha (springing from regulated devotional service). A devotee displaying the first kind of bhava (raga-bhakti-uttha) denounces worship in awe and reverence because he shies away from any awareness of position (jati) and scriptural knowledge and edicts (pramana). One relates to the Lord more or less on equal terms, thus lending depth and weight to this particular bhava.

The second kind lacks the intensity of the jati and pramana sentiment, and therefore bhava becomes influenced by the opulence of the Lord, thus reducing its weight and depth. Hence these two varieties of bhava are relished by its two kinds of devotees respectively in hearts laden with transcendental desires to serve, in two different ways.


Rasa—Spiritual Taste in Bhava


Now we shall discuss the different ways of relishing that rasa. Sweetness is present in different foods in varying degrees. Jackfruit is sweeter than mango, sugarcane sweeter than jackfruit, and raisins sweeter than the rest. Similarly, the different devotees relish varying intensities of bhava according to their taste, and this produces five variations: santa (neutral); dasya (servitude); sakhya (friendship); vatsalya (parental); and madhurya (conjugal). Bhava is thus displayed as serenity in a santa-bhakta, as affection in a dasya-bhakta, as camaraderie in a sakhya-bhakta, as filial love in a vatsalya-bhakta, and as conjugal love in a madhura-bhakta.

These five kinds of rasa, according to their will, modify themselves as vibhava, anubhava, and vyabhicari-bhava. Then sthayi-bhava, the reigning king of bhava, surrounded by his subjects, the other bhavas, and in alliance with them, is transformed into the five rasas: santa, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, and madhurya. In other words bhava becomes metamorphosed into rasa. The following quotation from the Vedas lends authority to this, 'The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the embodiment of rasa, and the jiva exults upon receiving it.”

Another truth arises from this quotation: For the many different bodies of water-ponds, lakes, streams, rivers-the ocean is their final destination and shelter. By the same token, the many incarnations of the Supreme Lord all display that rasa, but Lord Krishna, the source of all incarnations, like the ocean is the only paramount emblem of that rasa. The initial transformations of bhava reveal the Supreme Lord to the devotee, and later in prema the rasika devotee directly perceives Him as the absolute personification of the divine rasa.


8. The Eighth Shower of Nectar


In the Second Chapter we discussed the two leaves of sadhana-bhakti that unfolded from the creeper of devotion. Later, the creeper burgeoned forth flowers of bhava, and now shiny and delicate leaves known as anubhava have unfurled around those flowers. Those leaves are pretty and have been nurtured by hearing and chanting. Every so often the leaves infuse the buds to ripen into the nectarean fruits of prema. What is more wonderful is that the leaves, clusters, flowers, and fruits of the creeper of devotion, even after maturity, do not relinquish their innate nature. They flourish perennially in everfresh ways to lend beauty to the complete creeper.

Prema Inspires the Devotee's Consciousness

Alongside the blossoming of prema, marvellous changes occur. The devotee's consciousness, previously entrapped by materialistic attachments for home and family, is now inspired by prema to disdainfully discard them and set itself free. Just as the touchstone jewel transforms ordinary objects to, gems by touching them, by its potency prema also miraculously transforms earthly attachments and makes them shine with sublime resplendence like its own self. Prema enfolds these attachments and bathes them in the nectar of the Supreme Lord's transcendental name, beauty, qualities, and so on.

Rasa Attracts Krishna

Prema has appeared like the radiant sun in the sky to overshadow the dim glow of the four purusartha, or Vedic goals. Prema is relishable only by tasting the rasa flowing from it. The intrinsic nature of this rasa is to inebriate the taster with immeasurable bliss. And the Sakti, or energy, who completely nourishes this rasa is described as one who attracts even Lord Krishna to Herself. Thus when the devotee begins to experience this rasa he does not care for any obstacles or consider anything as a hindrance. He turns into a fearless knight clad in the strongest of armour, confident of his victory at all times. His mind becomes so absorbed like that of an avaricious thief coveting an immense treasure somewhere that devours his every moment and robs him of all reason.

The devotee's eagerness for the Lord is like an insatiable hunger that is still unsatisfied even after being supplied with unlimited varieties and amounts of sweet milk preparations. (The devotee's eagerness, on one hand, is like the burning sun and on the other hand, like the cooling rays of a million moons.)"rhe raw power generated by the quality and degree of eagerness is contrary in nature to its soothing peacefulness. Although it seems impossible for these opposites to coexist in a person, the marvellous ways of prema chooses the pure devotee in whom to manifest this wonder.

The pure devotee thus begins to desire at every moment a direct audience with the Lord. The burning arrow of extreme eagerness lacerates him, it's intensity causing him dissatisfaction despite his exulting in the Supreme Lord's sublime beauty and arnbrosial pastimes. His desire fuels his frustration toward everything in general. Relations with friends, family, and other relatives lose meaning and resemble dried-up wells. His home looms ominously before him like a forest of thorny bushes and to even eat becomes a punishment. Praise pains like the bite from the poisonous fangs of a snake, and his daily chores and duties take on a deathly pallor. He carries the limbs of his body like unbearable weights. His well-wisher's consolations are like cloudbursts of noxious rains. His waking hours drown him in an ocean of repentance, and the rare moments of sleep become an intolerable torment. Living becomes a burden of guilt, a censure from providence. Like scorched paddy, meditations are devoid of substance, and activities, which had earlier given him satisfaction, now lack purpose. Even remembering the Lord's lotus feet becomes an excruciating effort and he feels as if someone was tearing him limb from limb.


Through Prema One can See the Lord


At a later stage prema assumes the character of a strong magnet drawing to itself even Lord Krishna, the all-attractive iron, and one day prema arranges for the pure devotee a direct audience with the Lord. And the Supreme Lord reciprocates by revealing to the pure devotee His intimate., divine, and auspicious attributes such as His ravishing beauty; physical fragrance; melodious voice; everfresh youthfulness; versatile love; magnanimity, and compassion, which the pure devotees directly perceive with their senses. As these attributes are nectarean and dynamic, prema produces in the devotee's heart an ever-increasing, powerful desire to fully relish the Lord's transcendental qualities. The devotee finds himself swimming in an unlimited ocean of bliss that no words can adequately describe.

The exultation of a devotee experiencing prema is likened to traveller who, after painfully traversing the burning desert sand in the middle of summer, finds an oasis cooled by a fresh stream gurgling under the shade of a huge banyan tree. The bliss of prema is further likened to the happiness a wild elephant feels after being trapped for days in a smouldering forest fire and then suddenly drenched in torrential rains; or like a gourmet, who after many days of sickness and being fed medicines and a bland, frugal diet becomes well and is given a feast. Of course, these descriptions offer merely an idea of the devotee's state of joy because it cannot be compared to any material happiness. Material happiness and spiritual happiness are totally different from each other by nature-material happiness is a product of maya-sakti, or the illusory potency, whereas the devotee's bliss directly comes from the Lord's internal spiritual potency, or svarapa-sakti.


How the Lord Reveals Himself to the Prema-bhakta


When prema blossoms, the Lord reveals first His form of matchless beauty to the enraptured devotee. The devotee's senses and mind become one and he beholds with all his senses the Lord's exquisite beauty. At the sight of the Lord's unparalleled beauty, the devotee feels ecstatic symptoms (asta-sattvic vikara) like being paralyzed, quivering, weeping, and so on. These ecstatic symptoms begin to hinder his vision of the Lord; not only that, but the exhilaration renders him unconscious.

Seeing the devotee's condition, the Lord consolingly manifests His second ambrosial attribute-His physical fragrance-which immediately arrests the devotee's sense of smell. Now all the devotee's senses withdraw from the sense of sight and rush to centre on the sense of smell. This overpowers him, and once again intense joy causes him to lose consciousness.

Krishna once again rescues the devotee, and this time the Lord revives him with His melodious voice. The Lord speaks to him saying, “My dear devotee! I am now your captive, fully under your control. Do not be overwhelmed, just perceive Me and fulfil the desire of your heart”. The devotee's senses become surcharged and they seek to hear and absorb the sweet melody of his beloved Lord's voice. Again he is unable to contain his ecstacy and he becomes bereft of consciousness. Then the Lord, full of compassion, embraces the devotee with His body, displaying His fourth nectarean opulence of tender youthfulness To the dasya denotee (mellow of servitorship) He places His lotus feet on his head; to the sakhya devotee (mellow of friendship) He entwines His lotus fingers with his fingers; to the vatsala devotee (parental mellow) the Lord wipes away his tears with His lotus hands; and to the madhuiya devotee (conjugal mellow) He draws him to His chest and wraps His arms around him in a tender embrace. From this we understand that the Lord reciprocates appropriately with the different mellows of each devotee's love.

Just as before, when the devotee swoons in indescribable joy, the Lord shows His fifth opulence, that of versatile loving exchanges. Krishna offers the devotee sublime ambrosia in the form of chewed remnants from His mouth and lips. As the bhakia fully relishes it, his sense of taste becomes satiated. At this stage the Lord appears to His devotee who is now absorbed in the conjugal mellow, and initiates him into a transcendental emotional exchange of intense loving intimacy, long coveted by him. Of course, the Lord never divulges such a confidential mood to any other devotee except one who is in madhurya-rasa (congugal mellow).

Once again the devotee is drawn into an overwhelming mood of divine bliss from this intimate encounter with the Lord, and again he swoons. The Lord's succor to him this time is in the form of showers of audarya, or magnanimity-His sixth transcendental attribute. In this condition the devotee will not respond to any consoling. Audarya in this instance means when all the transcendental attributes of the Lord are at one. time forced onto the devotee's conglomerate senses: sight, hearing, mind. Prema now responds almost as if to the Lord's bidding. It waxes by leaps and bounds, and the devotee's thirst for it increases proportionately. Gradually, like the waxing moon, these transcendental attributes combine together to mature fully. Uncountable like the waves in the ocean of unlimited bliss, a plethora of transcendental pastimes helps prema to stir and shatter the devotee's heart. Prema then installs itself in the devotee's mind as its guardian deity, repairing and rebuilding his inner being. Prema radiates its energy, audarya, in such a way that the devotee is able to relish unhindered all of the Lord's transcendental qualities.

Thus it cannot be refuted that the devotee can taste to his complete satisfaction all the different qualifies of the Lord, nor can it be argued that he relishes full bliss at this stage. This is possible owing to the Lord's wonderful and inconceivable potency that helps the devotee concurrently perceive all of the Lord's attributes with his five senses and the mind. This naturally inspires the devotee beyond imagination.

These transcendental topics are outside the jurisdiction of mundane logic. The Upanishad confirms this: acintydh bhava ye bhava na tamstarkena-yojayeta. “Spiritual subject matter is inconceivable to the mind hence beyond the realm of mundane thoughts and arguments.”

The pure devotee is eager to relish altogether each of the Lord's sublime attributes such as His exquisite beauty. Butjust as a swallow with its beak shut tight is unable to slake its thirst even when it rains, so the devotee isalso helpless on. his own against the Lord's opulences inundating his senses. Seeing the devotee's predicament the Lord thinks, “Is this confusion the purpose of My matchless beauty?” So the Lord offers to the devotee His seventh opulence, compassion. This opulence is the headmistress of all the other attributes. It is she who is enthroned in the corolla of the eight-petalled lotus constituting the eight potencies like Vimala, Utkarsini, and so on, known collectively as svarupa-sakti (the Lord's internal potency).


The Lord's Compassion is the Crown Jewel of His Attributes


This seventh opulence of the Lord is also known as anugraha, or mercy. She manifests herself in the Lord's lotus eyes in varied splendour. To the dasya-bhakta she is compassion, to the vatsalya-bhakta she is filial fondness, and to the madhurya-bhakta she is heart-melting magnetic power. In this way she appears in different loving moods of the devotees.

The Lord's krpa-sakti (mercy potency) induces the all-pervasive iccha-sakti, or independent will, to reach out to the sinful souls and create in them emotional variety (raga). The influence of icchi-sakti fills the great atmaramas or self-satisfied enlightened persons, with wonder and takes them to great heights of spiritual splendour. In fact, it is once again Krishna's krpa-sakti that brings to light the Lord's magnanimous attribute of bakta-vatsalya, or protective feelings and affection towards His surrendered devotees. Mother Earth's speech in the First Canto of Shrimad-Bhagavatam (SB 1.16.26-29) is very enlightening, and reveals that the Lord's excellences (such as His truthfulness, purity, and so on) are all-auspicious and transcendental, and they act on the directive received from krpa-sakti. Krpa-sakti, the regal queen, directs Krishna's bakta-vatsalya potency. This bhakta-vatsalya potency, in turn, reigns supreme over all the other qualities of the Lord.

The Eighteen Faults

The scriptures have identified eighteen human shortcomings that go against its tenets. They are as follows: illusion, sleepiness, uncivility, lust, greed, madness, envy, cruelty, lamentations, over-endeavour, deceit, anger, desire, fear, mistakes, intolerance, and dependence. The scriptures proclaim that the Lord's qualities are absolutely free from these discrepancies. Occasionally, krpa-sakti arranges the display of some of these discrepancies in the dealings of Krishna, Rama, and so on, and the devotees then perceive them. By the ingenuity of krpa-sakti, however, these same faults are transformed from banality to divine magnificance. They become converted to transcendental excellences embellishing the Lord's personality. In order to delight in the Lord's divine qualities, which the Lord Himself so explicitly exhibits, the enlightened and powerful devotees in the later stage of prema has to constantly and repeatedly relish them. Simultaneously, as these qualities blossom to their fullest possible expression, the devotee's heart floods with wonder, sweeping him to perfection. He relishes that the Lord's bhakta-vatsalya quality (protective love for His devotees) is beyond compare. Again and again he remembers the Lord's magnanimity, melting his heart with sublime emotions, The Supreme Lord acknowledges His devotee's feelings and says to him, “My dear devotee, you have sacrificed wife, children, wealth, and home countless times in many births. You have tolerated such sufferings as the ravages of scorching summers, freezing winters, hunger, thirst, pain, and disease only so you could serve Me as I had asked you to. You have disregarded a million humiliations from others and maintained your life by begging, yet so far I have been unable to reciprocate with you and offer you anything. This makes Me indebted to you. Now tell Me, what can I offer you? Lordship of the entire universe, the position of Lord Brahma, all the mystic opulences, and so on are not befitting, hence how can I offer them to you? Is it becoming of a gentleman to offer grass, straw, and other animal fodder to a human being? Considering all this, I offer Myself to you; although I am unconquerable and indomitable, I am won over by you-I am now your property. I shall simply depend on your gentle disposition.” The Lord's ambrosial words enter the devotee's ears like pearly drops of nectar.

The devotee replies, “My dear Lord! O Supreme Person! You are an ocean of mercy. Seeing me swept away by the swift currents of gross materialism and becoming the helpless prey of the cruel venomous snake of Time, You took pity on me. Your petal-soft heart melted, and to remove my lust and nescience You appeared before me as the most perfect spiritual preceptor. Your appearance is awe-inspiring, like the powerful presence of the Sudarsana Cakra is to His natural energies, You thus rescued me from the horrendous poisonous fangs and grim black coils of the snake of Time.

“Your intention is to elevate me to become Your maidservant so I can serve Your divine lotus feet, and so You have made Yourself available in the form of the most purifying of syllables-Your holy names-which are nondifferent from You. Your holy names enter my ears and alleviate my excruciating pain, allowing me to repeatedly hear, chant, and remember Your transcendental names and pastimes.

“You are reforming me. Although you have kindly placed me in the assembly of Your pure eternal associates and taught the process of surrender to You, I am so flagitious and fallen that I did not serve you even for a moment. I am fit to be severely rebuked for this atrocious act. Yet You spared me and instead made my eyes drink the most sublime vision-that of Your beatific face. And still you say, 'Now I am indebted to you'?

“These words spoken by my beloved Lord have deeply disturbed me. At thisjuncture I am thinking about my next course of action. To ask to be pardoned for the sins of a few lifetimes, nay a million lifetimes, would be audacious on my part. In fact I feel my wicked offences number more than trillions and have been accumulating since time immemorial. I have already suffered some of their consequences and whatever is left, let me face them, for I refuse to beg for them to be absolved.

“Of late, I have deeply realized the gravity of my offences. I have foolishly compared the Supreme Lord's beautiful form and complexion to the billowing monsoon clouds, or to a blushing bluish lotus flower, or even to a sparkling blue sapphire. I have drawn poetic parallels between His exquisite face and the rising full moon, or the splendour of His delicate feet and the tender leaves of spring. These analogies are as amiss as when a scorched mustard seed is compared to a mountain of glittering gold, an ordinary chickpea to an invaluable touchstone gem, a lowly sly fox to the regal lion, and a miserable mosquito to the awe-inspiring Garuda. I sincerely regret having committed these gross blunders. These were the times when I thought that my glorifications of the Lord were indeed poetic, but in fact I shamelessly paraded my puerile learning for all to see.

“All that is past. From now onward when my eyes behold even for a moment the Lord's sublime loveliness, my words, like an untethered and restless calf, will not distort the truth in a futile attempt to describe His pristine beauty.”

The Lord Reciprocates with His Devotee's Love

These words of endless remorse and lamentation flow freely from the devotee. This pleases the Lord immensely. The Lord reciprocates with the preyasi mood, the mood of a stricken beloved for her lover, which these elevated devotees exhibit. He fulfils their yearnings and immediately manifests Vrindavana, the land immortalized for staging His transcendental pastimes. There the devotee sees Krishna with His most beloved gopi, Shrimati Radharani, daughter of King Vrsabhanu. This maha-yoga pitha is like the wish-fufilling tree. The Divine Couple is surrounded by Lallta-devi and the other girlfriends and maidservants of Radharani. Krishna's friend Subala, and others are also present. Those gopis who consider themselves the Divine Couple's maids-in-attendance and who are completely dependent on the Lord for everything, are gathered around Them. The devotee can see the river Yamuna, Govardhana Hill, Bhandira-vana, and he can also see Nandisvara-giri where Krishna's father and mother Nanda Maharaja and Yasoda-devi are. The devotee sees Krishna's brother, Baladeva and His friends, and Nanda's household servants and maid-servants as well as all the residents of Vrindavana. After revealing to the devotee scenes drenched with superexcellent divine mellows, immersing him in waves of incomparable bliss, Krishna suddenly disappears along with all His associates.

The Symptoms of Prema

Thereafter, the devotee becomes more or less aware of himself and his immediate surroundings. His eyes flutter open and, finding that his beloved Lord is nowhere to be seen, he begins to pine for Him. Unrestrained tears pour down his cheeks in streams. He ponders, “Was I in a dream? No, if it were so I would be still drowsy and my eyes would be sticky from sleep. Then was it all created by someone's mystic powers? That is also not plausible, because the bliss I experienced is not an illusion or something mundane. Maybe it was a hallucination, an error of the mind. That is also not true, otherwise I would feel restless and my heart empty. Could it be all a fabrication of a fertile imagination? No, this experience is beyond the capacity of any imagination. The other possibility is that the Lord's vision may suddenly appear in the mind's eye because of extreme happiness. This is also ruled out because on every previous occasion when I saw the Lord I can remember what they were like, but my present experience is far more unique than those.”

In this way the devotee, assailed by doubts, falls to the ground, rolling in the dust. At times he reverts to constantly entreating the Lord to show Himself again. When the Lord does not appear he is grief-stricken and renews rolling on the ground so vigorously that he causes pain to his body. Finally, the devotee loses consciousness and goes into an ecstatic coma. Some time later he awakes, jumps up, sits down, or weeps incessantly, wailing in a loud voice like a madman. Then suddenly the devotee stops all activities and retreats into a grave silence. On other occasions the afflicted devotee simply neglects all his regular religious and other duties, behaving whimsically and loosely. Again for no apparent reason he begins to speak incoherently like a lunatic. If a devotee friend approaches him with good intentions to pacify him and to make confidential enquiries about his condition, the devotee immediately reveals to his friend everything he has experienced. His friend tries to reason with him saying, “My friend, your immense good fortune has enabled you to directly rneet the Supreme Lord!"

For a while he becomes again calm and composed. Glowing with profound happiness he says, “But alas! Shall I ever behold again His exquisite face?” In the next moment he is plunged into deep despondency and he cries out, “How unfortunate I am! By the grace of a highly enlightened and pure devotee of the Lord I was able to see the Lord's divine and beautiful form. But a mountain of misfortune obstructed me from performing even the slightest devotional service to the Lord. The sudden appearance of the Lord before me was certainly due to some incalculable heaps of piety, but because of immeasurably grievous offences He is now lost from my vision.”

Or the bereft devotee thinks, “Krishna is so merciful that He awarded me His direct audience although I am an insignificant speck floating in an ocean of bad qualities. This is because His mercy is causeless, hence He appeared to me. It is because of some unimaginable good fortune that the boundless ocean was for a few moments in the palm of my hand? But alas! my terrible faults have made this ocean disappear. My ignorance prevents me from discovering what actually happened. The whole experience has dumbfounded me and turned me into a fool. Where can I go? What shall I do? To whom shall I turn to for answers? I feel the world empty and void, absent of any companions, friends, or dear ones; a planet without a sanctuary; a world aflame in a raging forest fire eager to devour me. Under these circumstances, let me go to a secluded place away from crowds so I can meditate on this subject for some time.”

But even a quiet retreat does not bring him tranquillity. He calls out to the Lord, “O my Supreme Master! My beautiful Lord! Your face is like the blossoming lotus. O reservoir of divine nectar, all of Vrndavana is intoxicated. and aroused by the fragrance of Your transcendental body. The swaying garland of wildflowers around Your neck is attracting the honey bees and making them restlessly buzz around it. How can I again have even a moment's glimpse of Your charming face? Only once have I relished the nectar of Your sublime beauty; will it be possible for- me to again taste that delectable ambrosia? I humbly beg You to reveal Yourself to me.”

In this way the devotee laments, sighing, and sometimes rolling in the dust. At times he collapses into an ecstatic state of unconsciousness or suddenly runs hither and thither like a madman. He sees Krishna in every direction and exuberantly laughs, sings, and dances simultaneously. But in the very next moment he breaks down and cries hot tears of remorse. The devotee can thus pass the rest of his life in pursuit of such transcendental symptoms of ecstasy, but never more does he pamper his body. In other words he is unconcerned about his physical wellbeing, feeling it unnecessary to enquire into its needs. After the demise of his body the devotee attains his eternal spiritual form (siddha-deha) and engages in the Lord's service. Factually, the devoteee understands he has reached that siddha-deha stage when he becomes oblivious to his body. He thus thinks, “The Supreme Lord, who is an ocean of compassion, has appeared on my plea, and He will personally engage me in His direct service and take me to His eternal abode.” With this understanding the devotee feels crowned with success.

Sraddha—the First Step to Prema

The scriptures list as follows the different stages of elevation that lead to prema :


1) Sraddha (faith in the words of the guru and the scriptures)

2) Sadhu-sanga (the urge to associate with saintly souls to gain spiritual knowledge)

3) Bhajana-kria (rendering devotional service under the guidance of the guru)

4) Anartha-nivritti (the removal of unwanted desires in the heart)

5) Nishtha (steadiness in devotional service, or using superior intelligence to develop a taste for devotional service)

6) Asakti (single-minded attachment to devotional service, performed by meditating on Lord Krishna's eternal pastimes. These eternal pastimes appear in the devotee's heart spontaneously, by their own will, svarasiki-bhava)

7) Bhava (serving the Lord with spontaneous devotional sentiments)

8) Prema (awakening of love of Godhead).


These systematic levels, beginning with sraddha to prema that Rupa Gosvami proffers in the scriptures are finely presented.

Beyond Prema—the Loftier Regions of Bhakti

Beyond these eight levels, the scriptures describe with precision further stages of advancement in the realm of spiritual realization. If a tree represents bhakti, or true devotional service, these lofty devotional exchanges with the Lord can be described as the mature fruits that ripen on the upper branches of the tree of bhakti. These devotional exchanges are defined as follows:

Sneha (when the heart melts with excessive love)

Mana (extreme sneha that uncovers new, delightful regions of loving exchanges, making the beloved externally behave in a capricious way)

Pranaya (a type of mana that induces the beloved to feel on equal terms with the lover thus bringing about quarrels of love between them)

Raga (conflicting emotions in the beloved-sometimes of unbearable lamentation and sometimes of extreme happiness-while waiting expectantly to meet her lover, Krishna)

Anuraga (love that makes the beloved experience her old lover as if meeting Him for the very first time)

Mahabhava (the highest expression of love with all its diversity and complexity. This is not found in any of the other loving exchanges).

These elevated regions of divine love are inaccessible to a (practitioner). He cannot taste the transcendental fruit. The sadhaka-bhakta is incapable of absorbing and manifesting the tempestuous and contradictory emotions generated by pure spiritual love within himself, therefore details of these topics have been deliberately excluded.

The different symptoms of ruci, asakti, bhava, and prema described in this book are meant to give one the knowledge simply of how to recognize them. Although there are sufficient sastric evidences regarding these subjects they have not been mentioned, because if one bases everything on evidences then this subtle path shown by guru and Krishna Himself may be encumbered by unnecessary and harsh deceptions. Although this section of the book precludes the abstruse, the purpose of this section was not to merely introduce if anyone is insisting on evidences then a few verses from Shrimad Bhagavatam are cited to act as a guide. The following relevant passages from the scriptures are therefore presented as a conclusion to reiterate the main themes of the book:

This verse from Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.5.27) describes ruci:

tasmims tada labdha-rucer maha-mate

priyasravasy askhalita matir mama

yayaham etat sad-asat sva-mayaya

pasye mayi brahmani kalpitam pare

O great sage, as soon as I got a taste of the Personality of Godhead, my attention to hear of the Lord was unflinching. And as my taste developed, I could realize that it was only in my ignorance that I had accepted gross and subtle coverings, for both the Lord and I are transcendental.

Shrimad-Bhagavatam (3.25.15) gives an example of asakti:

cetah khalv asya bandhaya

muktaye catmano matam

guneshu saktam bandhaya

ratam va pumsi muktaye

The stage in which the consciousness of the living entity is attracted by the three modes of material nature is called conditional life. But when that same consciousness is attached to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one is situated in the consciousness of liberation.

Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.5.26) further describes ruci:

tatranvaham krishna-kathah pragayatam

anugrahenashrinavam manoharah

tah sraddhaya me 'nupadam vishrinvatah

priyasravasy anga mamabhavad rucih

O Vyasadeva, in that association and by the mercy of thole great Vedantists, I could hear them describe the attractive activities of Lord Krishna. And listening attentively, my tast for hearing of the Personality of Godhead increased at every step.

This verse describes prema:


pulakango 'tinirvritah

ananda-samplave lino

napasyam ubhayam mune

(SB 1.6.17)

O Vyasadeva, at that time, being exceedingly overpowered by feelings of happiness, every part of my body became separately enlivened. Being absorbed in an ocean of ecstasy, I could not see both myself and the Lord.

This verse describes how ruci acts:

tasmin mahan-mukharita madhubhic-caritra-

piyusha-sesha-saritah paritah sravanti

ta ye pibanty avitrisho nripa gadha-karnais

tan na sprisanty asana-trid-bhaya-soka-mohah

(SB 4.29.40)

My dear king! in that place (where pure devotees live) if one gets a chance to hear their constant flow of nectar which is exactly like the waves of a river, one will forget the necessities of life—hunger thirst—and will become immune to all kinds of fear, lamentation and illusion.

Shrimad Bhagavatam also describes how asakti influences a devotee.

shrinvan su-bhadrani rathanga-paner

janmani karmani ca yani loke

gitani namani tad-arthakani

gayan vilajjo vicared asangah

(SB 11.2.39)

The transcendental appearance, activities and name of the Supreme Lord, who held up the chariot wheel, must be glorified and heard by wandering saints who have no material attachments.

The following evidence describes how one should perceive rati:

yatha bhramyaty ayo brahman

svayam akarsha-sannidhau

tatha me bhidyate cetas

cakra-paner yadricchaya

(SB 7.5.14)

O brahmanas! as iron attracted by a magnetic stone Moves automatically toward the magnet, my consciousness having being changed by His will, is attracted by Lord Vishnu who carries a disc in His hand. Thus I have no independence.

The symptoms of prema are described:

evam-vratah sva-priya-nama-kirtya

jatanurago druta-citta uccaih

hasaty atho roditi rauti gayaty

unmada-van nrityati loka-bahyah

(SB 11.2.40)

The devotee attains the blessed stage of prema vowing to incessantly chant the holy name of His dearmost Lord. The ecstacy of prema melts his heart and he laughs, cries, becomes restless, sings and danceslike a madman, oblivious of everything and everyone around him.

Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.6.33) describes sphurti (momentary vision of the Lord) :

pragayatah sva-viryani

tirtha-padah priya-sravah

ahuta iva me sighram

darsanam yati cetasi

The Supreme Lord Shri Krishna whose glories and activities are pleasing to hear, at once appears on the seat of my heart, as if called for, as soon as as I begin to chant His holy activities.

Shrimad-Bhagavatam (3.25.35) discusses the direct meetings with the Lord:

pasyanti te me rucirany amba santah


rupani divyani vara-pradani

sakam vacam sprihaniyam vadanti

O My mother, My devotees always see the smiling ace of My form, with eyes like the rising morning sun. They like to see My various transcendental forms, which are all benevolent, and they also talk favourably with Me.

Shrimad-Bhagavatam (3.25.36) describes the condition of the devotee after he sees the Lord face-to-face:

tair darsaniyavayavair udara-


hritatmano hrita-pranams ca bhaktir

anicchato me gatim anvim prayunkte

Upon seeing the charming forms of the Lord, smiling and attractive, and hearing His very pleasing words, the pure devotee almost loses all other consciousness. His senses are freed from all other engagements, and he becomes absorbed in devotional service. Thus in spite of his unwillingness, he attains liberation without separate endeavour.


A Synopsis of this Book


After analyzing these verses the relevant evidences can be clearly ascertained.

The essence of everything discussed in this book can be, presented in summary form. Ahankara, false pride, has two characteristics: ahanta (self-engrossment), and mamata (attachment). By becoming attached to the body and everything related to the body, the jiva is kept enthralled. But by cultivating knowledge these two characteristics of false pride are destroyed, and the jiva becomes liberated.

Prema is defined as the state when the jiva thinks himself a member of the Lord's family and His eternal servant, and he worships only the Supreme Lord and His eternal associates, Meditating in this way, through knowledge of the self (ahanta, the jiva desires to serve the Lord and His eternal associates, and he develops attachment (mamata) for the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

In truth, prema is indeed transcendental to material entanglement and more rare than liberation. It is described as being the pinnacle of all material and spiritual pursuits-the ultimate destination of all the scriptures.

A synopsis of the salient features of this book follows. it is formatted in a systematic way, tracing the gradual development of different spiritual conditions.

Good fortune transforms the false ego and gross material attachments. These are replaced by self-knowledge and attachment to the ways of a devotee; this consciousness becomes firm, and the devotee thinks, “I shall become a householder Vaishnava and worship only the Supreme Lord.” (Ultimately, the cause of such a conviction is the saintly soul's compassionate nature.)

Now paramarthiki sraddha enters his heart very slightly; he then becomes eligible to begin the process of pure devotional service. Later, by constantly associating with saintly persons his slight paramarthiki sraddha deepens, and bhajana-kriya is initiated. As long as bhajana-kriya remains anishthita. (regulative, not spontaneous) his ahanta and mamata are partially projected onto spiritual activities, but he is still fully aware of the material world.

When bhajana-kriya becomes nishthita, or concentrated and more spontaneous, then mundane engrossment is practically destroyed, and the devotee experiences the profoundity of spiritual consciousness. Ruci (taste) then increases the attachments for internal spiritual development and material life becomes distant and only a matter of utility, rather than of necessity.

This attachment for the spiritual enhances the internal spiritual experiences to an intense level, thus diminishing material experiences to insignificance.

When bhava enters, spirituality is at a stage where devotional sentiments are continuously intense and material phenomena sometimes appears faintly distant and at other times totally non-existent.

Again at the initial stages of bhajana-kriya, meditation on the Supreme Lord is in little flashes and is always intruded upon by material thoughts. In nishthita, the dhyana (meditation) is hardly interrupted. In the stage of ruci the meditation is for longer periods and without external interruptions. In asakti, the meditations are deep and profound, and in the bhava stage the Suprere Lord appears immediately in the meditation. Finally, in prema, exchanges with the Supreme are constant, direct, and personal.


Shri Bhagavatamrta-Kana -


A Drop of Nectar from the Beautiful Bhagavatam


Lord Krishna, the sweet absolute autocrat and the Supreme Personalty of Godhead, is the main subject matter of this book. Krishna's qualities of aisvarya (unsurpassable, unlimited opulence and power) and madhurya (all-attractiveness) eternally reside in Him at their most perfect, surpassing that found in all His other incarnations.

Narayana, the Lord of Vaikuntha, has potencies almost equal to Lord Krishna. He is the Lord's vilasa vigraha, or Lord Krishna's expansion for enacting His pastimes. Other incarnations of the Lord such as Matsya and Kurma are partial expansions of Lord Krishna endowed with slightly lesser potency.

When a living entity, or jiva, is invested with any one of the divine potencies such as jnana (knowledge), bhakti (devotion), and kriya (action) he is known as avesa. For example, Vyasadeva was invested with the bhakti potency, Prithu, Maharaja with the kriya potency, and the four Kumaras with the jnana potency.

The incarnations of the Supreme Lord are of three main categories: purusa avataras (incarnations that are partial expansions), guna-avataras (qualitative incarnations), and lila-avataras (incarnations for performing specific pastimes).

Purusa-avatars are of three types: The first purusa is the creator of the mahat-tattva (the aggregate of the total material energy), and He enters the mahat-tattva as the universal soul. This first purusa is known as Karanarnava-sayi Vishnu (one who lies on the causal, or karana, ocean), and He is the partial expansion of Lord Sankarsana in Vaikuntha. The second purusa, the universal father of all living entities, gives birth to Lord Brahahma. Known as Garbhodakasayi Vishnu, this second purasa is the partial expansion of Pradyumna in Vaikuntha. The third purusa, Kshirodakasayi Vishnu, is the Lord in the heart of every living entity and the partial expansion of Aniruddha in Vaikuntha.

Lord Vishnu maintains this material universe as He rests on the ocean of milk (ksira). The quality of goodness (sattva-guna) also helps maintain this universe. Lord Brahma, the secondary creator, was born from the lotus coming from Lord Garbhodakasayi Vishnu's navel. In certain kalpas (a kalpa is a complete cycle of four yugas), a highly elevated and pious jiva is selected for the position of Lord Brahma, who then creates the world. When the chosen jiva is then invested with special powers he is known as an avesa-avatara. A Lord Brahma of this type still remains in contact with the mode of passion (raja-guna), so he is not considered equal to Lord Vishnu.

In kalpas where there are no living entities pious enough to cake the post of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu Himself chooses to appear as Lord Brahma. For example, in some manvantaras (a tenure of Manu) Lord Vishnu's incarnation of Yajna appears as Lord Indra (the King of the Heavens). So when Yajna appears as Lord Indra and Lord Vishnu accepts the position of Lord Brahma, in such manvantaras and kalpas both Lord Indra and Lord Brahma are nondifferent from Lord Vishnu in every respect.

The vast material universe, including the seven lower planetary systems like Patalaloka, right up to the topmost planet Satyaloka, is described as the gross body of Lord Brahma. (It can also be described as Brahma.) Hiranyagarbha (another name for Lord Brahma that means “full of gold"), is the subtle presence, or the jiva soul, who resides in the gross form of Brahma.

Lord Garbhodakasayi Vishnu, the second purusa-avatara, is present in Hiranyagarbha's heart as the Supersoul. and the Supreme controller. Lord Siva, the lord of destruction, annihilates this material cosmos through the quality of ignorance, or tama-guna. Lord Brahma is the Vairaja purusa (the aggregate of the material world, which is also his gross body) as well as Hiranyagarbha (the total soul of the jiva). Brahma is the creator of the universe, born from the lotus emanating from Lord Vishnu's navel. (Brahma also appears as Lord Siva to conduct the work of annihilation).

In different kalpas, sometimes very elevated jivas or sometimes Lord Vishnu Himself, take up the position of Lord Siva. But the one known as Sadasiva, is beyond the reach of the modes of material nature, or gunas, he is the vilsa expansion of the Supreme Lord, Vishnu. Sadasiva is also the fountainhead of Lord Siva, one of the guna-avataras. Therefore, Sadasiva is superior to Lord Brahma, equal to Lord Vishnu, and superior to and separate from the jivas who are conditioned by the three gunas.

We shall next discuss the lila-avataras. Some examples of the lila-avataras are the four Kumaras, Narada, Varaha, Matsya, Yajna, Nara-Narayana, Kapila, Datta Hayasirsa, Hamsa, Prsnigarbha, Rsabha, Prthu, Nrsirnha, Kurma, Dhanvantari, Mohini, Parasurama, Raghunath, Vyasa, Balabhadra, Krishna, Buddha, Kalki, and so on. Sometimes described as kalpa-avataras, They appear only once in every kalpa.

The fourteen manvantara-avataras as follows are another category of the Lord's incarnations: Yajna, Vibhu, Satyasena, Hari, Vaikuntha, Ajita, Varnana, Sarvabhauma, Rsabha, Visvaksena, Dharmasetu, Sudama, Yogesvara, and Brhadbhanu.

There are four yugas, or millenniums (Satya, Treta, Dvapara, Kali), and the four yuga-avataras are respectively Sukla, Rakta, Syama, and Krishna. Some of the different varieties of avataras (kalpa-avataras, manvantara-avataras, and yuga-avataras) are prabhava incarnations, some vaibhava, and some paravastha, or shad-aisvarya-purna-avataras. Some incarnations in the avesa category are the four Kumaras, Narada, and Prthu, while Mohini, Dhanvantari, Hamsa, Vyasa, Datta, and-Sukla are some of the prabhava-avataras. The vaibhava incarnations display a more superior potency than the prabhavas, and some of Them are listed as follows: Matsya, Kurma, Nara-Narayana, Varaha, Hayasirsa, Prsnigarbha, Balabhadra, and Yajna. Even more powerful are the paravastha-avataras: Nrsimha, Rama, and Krishna who each exhibit more power than the other. Lord Krishna alone is the source of all incarnations and no other incarnation can supersede Him.

Lord Krishna's four residences, dhamas, are given in descending order of potency Vraja, Mathuna, Dvaraka, and Goloka. Lord Krishna, Lord Balarama, and Their family, along with Vrajadharna, are pamatanza (most complete). In Mathura, Krishna and His dhama are purnatara (more complete), and in Goloka, Lord Krishna and His dhama are purna-kalpa (complete excellences). Because the Lord's Goloka pastimes are on the same level as they are in Vrindavana, Krishna in Goloka is purnatama-samajati (similar in substance, but not the same). However, these peerless, varied features are expressed in purnatamarupa (to the fullest extent) in Krishna's Vrindavana pastimes alone. The element of madhurya (loving devotional sentiment) is available in an increasing order respectively in Goloka, Dvaraka, Mathura, and fully in Vrindavana. The Lord's aisvarya-sakti (opulence mixed with awe and reverence) is veiled in proportion to the manifestation of His madhura-lila. Therefore, as madhurya increases, aisvarya decreases to the same degree. So Goloka has more aisvarya and less madhurya; Dvaraka. more madhurya than Goloka and less aisvarya; Mathura more madhurya than Dvaraka and less aisvarya; and Vrindavana manifests full madhurya.

Maha-Vishnu, creating millions of universes, lies on the River Viraja, which is fashioned from the transcendental perspiration of His body. Above the Viraja River lie the vast Vaikuntha planets, the upper region of which is Goloka. Lord Krishna, the Lord of Goloka, resides here, with His associates, performing pastimes saturated with awe, reverence, and opulence. Krishna's vilasa expansion is the Lord of Vaikuntha-Narayana, and Brahman is Krishna's impersonal, formless manifestation. Lord Baladeva is the second vyuha expansion of Krishna. In Vaikuntha, Sankarsana (Lord Narayana, from the second vyuha expansion) the vilasa-avatara of Lord Baladeva, and Karanarnavasayi Maha-Vishnu (Vishnu who lies on the water of the Karana ocean) is Lord Sankarsana's partial expansion. Garbhodakasayi Vishnu is the vilasa-avatara of Maha-Vishnu, as well as the partial expansion of Pradyumna (Lord Narayana's third vyuha expansion). Kshirodakasayi Vishnu is Garbhodakasayi Vishnu's vyuha the partial expansion of Aniruddha (Lord Narayana's fourth vyuha expansion). Incarnations such as Matsya and Kurma are the vilasa forms of Garbhodakasayi Vishnu.

Lord Krishna's three dhamas—Dvaraka, Mathura, and Vrindavana differ from each other according to how much the Lord manifests His nara-lila—His earthly, human pastimes—and to what degree of intensity madhurya is manifest. Lord Krishna's nara-lila is of two varieties: prakata (manifest) and aprakata (unmanifest). Performing endless pastimes with His intimate associates, Lord Krishna reveals all the varied moods of different human ages—balya-lila (childhood), pauganda (boyhood), kaisora (puberty), and vilasa (mature amorous love). When these eternal pastimes become unmanifest in the material world they are known as aprakata-lila, but when these same pastimes of the Lord and His associates are manifest in the mundane plane they are described as prakata-lila.

Lord Krishna travels between His different dhamas such as Mathura, Vrindavana, and Dvaraka only in His prakata-lila When the Lord travels we can therefore understand His activities are prakta-lila Krishna's arrivals and departures from the dhamas do not occur in His aprakata-lila. The entire prakata-lila such as His janma-lila (birth) and mausala-lila (the internecine conflict that destroyed Yadu dynasty.) are seen in the innumerable universes in an arranged sequence. In each of these universes exist a Vrndavana, Mathura, and Dvaraka visible to the residents of those planets. The Lord's pastimes may be compared to the sun: The sun is seen during the day in a specific place and time every year, while it yet remains invisible in other areas. Similarly, the Supreme Lord, Krishna, while remaining in His own abode, Vrindavana, reveals His original form in His complete pastimes in one particular universe, but He wishes out of His sweet will to shroud it in other universes.

In prakata-lila, the Lord's boyhood pastimes, for example, are con- tinuous and transcendental, enacted in His original form. But the mausala-lila and the (the pastime of kidnapping the captured queens) are like illusions conjured by magic. We must understand that the reason for exhibiting these two krttim-lila, or make believe pastimes, is to hide the truth that His pastimes are eternal. In Krishna's prakata-lila some of His associates, by His own will, do see gem studded Vrindavana dhama in all its sublime splendour, but others, also by His own will, are not given that vision.

It is worth noting that some very advanced devotees are able to directly view the Lord's pastimes even after He has concluded His Prakata-lila. This is because of their profound devotional involvement, their intense spiritual eagerness, and the divine wishes of the Lord.

In this way, it is established that of all the forms and manifestations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that of Lord Shri Krishna, son of Nanda Maharaja, is paramount, and that amongst His many dhamas Gokula, Vrindavana, is the topmost. Lord Krishna's superlative excellences of prema-madhurya (divine conjugal love), lila-madhurya (transcendental pastimes), venu-madhurya (expertise in playing the flute), and shri vigraha-madhurya (matchless beauty) solely existing in Vrindavana dhama.


The following describes the Lord's devotees. Vaishnavas like Markendeya, Ambarisha, Vasu, Vyasa, Vibhisana, Pundarika

, Bali, Uddhava, Dalbhya, Parasara, Bhisma, and Narada are pure devotees in the true sense. just as the Supreme Personality of Godhead must be served and worshipped, similarly, His be served and worshipped, otherwise one commits grave offences.

Not all pure devotees are on the same level—there are different grades of pure devotees. Prahlada Maharaja is considered the best of the pure devotees. The Pandavas are superior to Prahlada; some of the Yadavas are superior to the Pandavas, and Uddhava. is the best of the Yadavas. Superior to Uddhava are the damsels of Vraja Vrindavana, and Shrimati Radhika is the most brilliant gem amongst them .

This essay, Bhagavatamrta-kana, has been specifically composed for all those readers who have not studied Sanskrit, yet are eager to achieve deep devotion to Lord Krishna. May their devotion blossom like a golden flower embossed with the jewels of spiritual realization.