Category Archives: Articles by Satyanarayana Dasa

What is Anartha?

The word artha is derived from the Sanskrit root artha, which means “to desire.” Thus the word artha means a desirable object, purpose, goal, wealth, etc. Anartha means that which is not artha. On the path of bhakti, our goal or artha is prema. To achieve a goal, we also need the means. Then those means also become artha or desirable. Thus artha is of two types—the goal and the means to achieve the goal. Anything that supports these two is acceptable. Everything else is anartha. For example, to achieve prema, one needs to engage in sādhana-bhakti, so sādhana-bhakti is also artha. One needs to keep one’s body fit. For that, good sleep is necessary. Although sleeping is neither the goal nor the means to achieve the goal, it supports sādhana-bhakti and thus is not an anartha. Once we understand the definition of anartha and are clear about our goal, we can apply the definition to test whether something is an anartha.

If we are not clear about our goal, then we are not clear about the distinction between artha and anartha. This is the situation with people in general, who are manipulated by social media. Social media programs the mind, and people follow it blindly. Social media, however, is controlled primarily by the corporate world and politicians. The corporate world wants to sell its products and make a profit, and the politicians want to remain in power. Thus they manipulate the minds of people to these two ends.

Some rare people get out of this rat race and take to spirituality. But if such spiritual enthusiasts are not adequately educated about their goals and the means to achieve them, they are again exploited by men seeking wealth and power in the garb of spiritual leaders. If spiritual leaders are not adequately educated in their field, then knowingly or unknowingly, they repeat the same scenario that occurs in society—the pursuit of wealth and power. The common spiritualist cannot see this due to a lack of education.

Everyone is born with a natural attachment to the physical body. This is nature’s arrangement or an outcome of anādi avidyā. The body has its physical needs, and to satisfy those needs, one requires wealth. Even if one somehow acquires wealth, one must protect it from others. Hence there is a need for power. Thus there is a natural inclination to amass wealth and power. These two are natural arthas. However, if one studies life deeply, they realize that mere wealth and power do not bring fulfillment. They are necessary for survival, but the purpose of life is not simply survival. Everyone wants to be happy. But it is seen that the very wealth and power one needs to survive also result in suffering, which is an anartha. Indeed, everything material, no matter how attractive and necessary, is a source of suffering if one does not have the goal of prema.

Thus, if one has proper knowledge of prema and the process to achieve it, one can understand the true anarthas. Otherwise, even so-called arthas are also anarthas. 

Therefore, Śri Kṛṣṇa advises us to surrender to Him. The idea of surrender is to get rid of this anartha. But to our materially conditioned minds, surrender appears like a poison pill. Because of avidyā, the real artha seems like an anartha, and the anarthas seem like arthas. The purpose of spiritual practice is to get rid of anarthas or anartha-nivṛtti—not to engage in anarthas or anartha-pravṛtti.

Surrender is not something new to us, but we have not deliberated on it. We are all surrendered to our bodies completely. We do everything to please our minds and senses. We climb mountains, engage in dangerous sports like skiing, drink horrible-tasting liquids, and smoke unhealthy fumes—simply for the pleasure of the mind and body. We also work odd hours in unpleasant situations just to earn money. This is because we are naturally surrendered to the body. Surrendering to Kṛṣṇa is not as austere as surrendering to our body and senses. There is no need to eat or drink unpleasant substances. Yet because we do not like surrendering to anyone, we have trouble following spirituality. But if we can utilize our intellect correctly, we can avoid all anarthas. This is the ultimate advice Kṛṣṇa  gives to Uddhava:

eṣā buddhimatāṁ buddhir manīṣā ca manīṣiṇām
yat satyam anṛteneha martyenaāpnoti mām ṛtam 

“This is the intellect of the intelligent and the wisdom of the wise, that by using this temporary, mortal body, they attain Me who is eternal and Truth.” (SB 11.29.22)

 

A Unique Interpretation of Tat Tvam Asi

In the first anuccheda of Prīti Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī begins establishing love for Bhagavān, prīti, as the ultimate goal of human life, puruṣārtha. During the course of his explanation, he remarks that the famous mahāvākya (great statement) tat tvam asi (You are That) actually hints at the prīti between a jīva and Bhagavān. This is a very unique view of this famous mahāvākya from the Upaniṣad. It is a lengthy anuccheda, so below I present just a few relevant lines from Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī’s writing followed by my commentary on it.

Translation of Original Text

Similarly, statements such as “You are that” (CHU 6.8.7) should be taken as descriptive of His love, just as it said [about someone who is very intimate] “You are that very person.” Moreover, material dealings are also seen to be centered on love alone. All living beings are striving for love, for the sake of which one even sacrifices one’s life, etc. But being unable to find a suitable object of love, people give it up for unqualified objects. Thus everyone‘s wish is to seek out a suitable object of love. This wish is materialized only in Bhagavān.

Commentary

In Bhagavat Sandarbha (2-7), it was made clear that Brahman is the qualityless manifestation of Bhagavān. By the intuitive experience of Brahman one certainly becomes liberated, but there is no qualitative experience in this state. Although one is free of any suffering, there is no positive experience of bliss. One loses sense of one’s distinct identity in Brahman like a drop of water falling into the ocean. In actual fact, the drop is never lost, but it has no sense of itself as an individual apart from the ocean. Similarly, in the state of Brahman realization, there is no loss of one’s identity yet there is no scope for reciprocation between the jīva and Brahman. This is so because the liberated jīva fully identifies with Brahman. It was therefore concluded in Bhagavat Sandarbha (81) that Brahman is an incomplete and lower manifestation of the Absolute. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī thus here emphasizes again that the direct experience of Brahman as a person, i.e., Bhagavān, is the puruṣārtha.

Having established this, the next very important point, which is also one of the distinctive features of the Gauḍīya school, is that love or prīti is the real puruṣārtha and not merely an experience of Bhagavān. It is only in prīti that Bhagavān reveals Himself. Without prīti no one can know His nature. Therefore, without prīti, even if one sees Bhagavān, that is not very wonderful. People like Śiśupāla and Kaṁsa also saw Kṛṣṇa, but they had no prīti for Him and so could not understand who or what He was. It is a different issue that because of Kṛṣṇa’s greatness, they benefitted from contact with Him, but they could not experience the bliss of having His vision. In reality, they did not even see Kṛṣṇa per se. What they saw was only a māyika covering of Kṛṣṇa. This was described in Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha(106.2): “): “Additionally, the Viṣṇu Purāṇa makes the following statement about Śiśupāla:

 ātma-vināśāya bhagavad-asta-cakrāṁśu-mālojjvalam akṣaya-tejaḥ-svarūpaṁ parama-brahma-bhūtam apagata-dveṣādi-doṣo bhagavantam adrākṣīt.

Śiśupāla, having been freed from the defect of envy and other such vices, beheld Bhagavān as the Supreme Brahman, whose form (svarūpa) was of imperishable effulgence, shining brilliantly with a garland of rays from the disc He had cast in order to destroy him. (VP 4.15.15)

According to this assertion, the form of Bhagavān that is displayed to the asuras is not His true form (svarūpa), but a manifestation of māyā. If they do actually see the svarūpa of Bhagavān, their envy is dispelled.”

It is prīti alone that brings an ultimate end to all suffering. If there is no prīti then even a vision of Bhagavān does not help, as seen in the case of Duryodhana. Even after seeing Kṛṣṇa and His virāṭ form, Duryodhana was not convinced about His Godship. He thought that Kṛṣṇa was just a magician. Seeing Him directly did not bring Duryodhana any bliss. He also could not understand the truth about Kṛṣṇa and continued to suffer from his envious nature.

Therefore, the conclusion is that prīti is the highest puruṣārtha and not the experience of Brahman or the vision of Bhagavān. Even mukti devoid of prīti is not the supreme puruṣārtha. Other words like bhakti, rati, prema, bhāva, and as we shall see, even mukti or kaivalya, are used in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa as synonyms of prīti. This prīti brings an end to all suffering. Without prīti, one cannot have a true experience of Bhagavān or His qualities. It is prīti that reveals Bhagavān along with His nature. Prīti alone reveals His divine attributes, and it does so in accordance with its amount. These are the six characteristics of prīti.

One may raise a doubt here. If prīti is the highest puruṣārtha, then why there is no mention of it in the Upaniṣads, the cream of the Vedas? Why is it that mukti or mokṣa is propagated as the highest puruṣārtha? Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī cites one of the most important statements of the Upaniṣads, one of the four mahā-vākyas of the Advaitavāda Vedāntīs: “You are that” (tat tvam asi). Although there are many mahā-vākyas in the Upaniṣads, Advaitavāda scholars accept only four, one each from the four Veda. These are:

  1. Prajñānaṁ brahma “consciousness is Brahman” (Aitreya Upaniṣad, Rg Veda);
  2. Aham brahmāsmi “I am Brahman” (Bṛhad Araṇyaka Upaniṣad, Yajur Veda);
  3. Tat tvam asi “You are That” (Chandogya Upaniṣad, Sāma Veda);
  4. Ayam ātmā brahma “This ātmā is Brahman” (Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad, Atharva Veda).

Tat tvam asi is a statement made by Āruṇi to his son Śvetaketu while instructing him about the Absolute Reality. The complete sentence is sa ya eṣo’ṇimaitadātmyam idaṁ sarvaṁ, tat satyaṁ, sa ātmā, tat tvam asi śvetaketo iti (Chāndogya Upanisad 6.8.7)

“That which is the subtle essence, all this, has got that as its Self. That is the Truth. That is the Self. You are that, O Śvetaketo.”

Here the jīva and Brahman are equated. The jīva is limited, conditioned, miserable, and ignorant. The Absolute is just the opposite of that. They cannot be one in existence. Different commentators have tried to resolve this inequality. In brief, their explanations are as follows:

  1. The Advaitavāda view of Śaṅkarācārya holds that there is only one Absolute Reality called Brahman. The jīva is nothing but Brahman conditioned or delimited by māyā. When this conditioning is removed, the jīva again becomes Brahman.
  2. The Viśiṣṭa-advaitavāda view of Rāmānujācārya interprets the pronoun tvam as referring to the Brahman who is immanent within the jīva and the pronoun tat as referring to the Brahman, who is the cause of the cosmos. The relation between the jīva and Brahman is said to be that of the qualifier (viśeṣaṇa) and the qualified Reality (viśiṣṭa).
  3. The Dvaitavāda view of Madhvācārya explains that the complete sentence sa ātmā tat tvam asi should in fact be broken down as saḥ ātmā atat tvam asi, meaning, “You are that ātmā, you are not Brahman.” Alternatively, they say that tat tvam asi is to be understood as tasya tvam asi, “You are His,” signifying that the jīva is a servant of Viṣṇu.
  4. The Śuddha-advaitavāda view of Vallabhācārya explains the statement to mean that there is oneness of essential being, but Brahman is the whole whereas the jīva is Its part.
  5. The Dvaita-advaitavāda view of Nimbarkācārya explains that the relation between the jīva and Brahman is one of simultaneous oneness and difference because the jīva is an intrinsic part of Brahman.
  6. The Acintya-bheda-abhedavāda view explains that they are one because jīva is the śakti of Brahman, who is the śaktimān.

Thus we see that primarily there are two explanations. The Advaitavāda followers interpret it as establishing the absolute identity of the jīva and Brahman. The rest of the commentators refute the idea of absolute oneness. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī belongs to the second group. He accepts the oneness but explains that this oneness is not ontological. It is a oneness based in prīti. According to him such a oneness is possible in prīti. A semblance of such oneness can be experienced even by people of limited intelligence and devotional education. When there is intense prīti between two people then they feel a sense of oneness despite being in separate bodies. One can only imagine how close one must feel in true prīti. An example of this is found in the following statement made by Kṛṣṇa:

preyāṁs te’haṁ tvam api ca mama preyasīti pravādas
tvaṁ me prāṇā aham api tavāsmīti hanta pralāpaḥ
tvaṁ me te syām aham iti yat tac ca no sādhu rādhe
vyāhāre nau na hi samucito yuṣmad-asmat-prayogaḥ

There is a rumor that I am your lover and you are my beloved. O Dear, some blabber that you are my vital air and I am yours. O Rādhe, to even say, “You are mine and I am yours” is not proper. In our mutual dealings, to use the first person (“I”) and second person pronouns (“you”) is not at all appropriate. (Alaṅkāra-kaustubha 5.34)

Even in material dealings, it is seen that when a man and woman are in a loving relationship, they consider themselves as one entity. This desire to be one in love is in everybody, including the lower species. Everyone is hankering to find one loving relationship where one can feel a sense of oneness with the object of love. Prīti gives the highest satisfaction. For the sake of prīti, people can sacrifice everything, including their very lives. If liberation were the highest puruṣārtha, then no one would be willing to give up their life for the sake of prīti.

But the prīti found in the material world is not real and does not give ultimate satisfaction. If it were real, one would feel completely satisfied with it because the very nature of prīti is bliss. The reason for this is that the jīva is atomic in size and has very limited happiness in its essential nature. Moreover, in the conditioned state, it identifies with its coverings, which are material. Thus the so-called prīti of material experience is for the covering enlivened by the self. One cannot even truly experience one’s own svarūpa or that of another jīva. Thus material prīti is very limited and temporary. Our desire is for unlimited, unending happiness. That cannot come from another jīva, which is limited and conditioned by avidyā. Therefore, nobody ever really feels satisfied by material prīti. Being dissatisfied with one love object, one looks for another. This search continues until by good fortune one realizes that only Bhagavān is the suitable object of prīti. It is to explain this prīti, unknown to the world, that Śrī Jīva writes Prīti Sandarbha.

Introduction to Bhagavad Gita – Be Determined

Bhagavad Gītā begins with a question asked by Dhṛtarāṣtra, the father of Duryodhana:

dharma-kṣetre kuru-kṣetre samavetā yuyutsavaḥ
māmakāḥ pāṇḍavāś caiva kim akurvata sañjaya

“O Sañjaya, having assembled in the holy land of Kurukṣetra eager to fight, what did my sons and the sons of Pāṇḍu do?”

Dhṛtarāṣtra was blind by birth. He was sitting in his palace with his secretary, Sañjaya, who had just returned from the battlefield at the end of the tenth day. Bhīṣma had fallen, pierced by the arrows of Śikhaṇḍī. It was known that if Śikhaṇḍī came to combat with him, he would drop his weapons and not fight. The reason was that Śikhaṇḍī was born as a girl and later turned into a boy (a transgender in modern terms). Out of respect for women, Bhīṣma, being a great kṣatriya, did not want to shoot at any woman. He considered Śikhaṇḍī still a woman and thus would not even defend himself when Śikhaṇḍī began shooting arrows at him. Bhīṣma’s whole body was pierced with arrows and finally, he fell like a luminous star from the sky. This was unexpected because nobody could defeat Bhīṣṁa in battle. Even Paraśurāma, who decimated ksatriya kings 21 times, could not defeat him. Sañjaya scurried back to the palace to relate this unprecedented news to Emperor Dhṛtrāṣtra. Dhṛtarāṣtra wanted to know all the details and thus he posed this question to Sañjaya. 

This battle took place because Duryodhana cheated Arjuna’s brother Yudhiṣṭhira, who was also a king, in a gambling match and took his kingdom. Duryodhana then made a condition that the five Pāṇḍava brothers, including Arjuna, and their wife Draupadī, had to go into exile for twelve years. Afterward, they had to live incognito for one year. If they could complete this, he would return their kingdom to them. If however, they were recognized while living incognito, they would have to repeat the whole ordeal.

The Pāṇḍavas completed twelve years of living in exile, and one year of living incognito, and then returned to request their kingdom. Duryodhana refused. He did not expect them to be successful. He had hoped they would die in exile, but if they survived that ordeal, then he would send his spies to find them out while they were living incognito. If they were discovered, they would have to again spend twelve more years in exile, and another year incognito. Duryodhana thought that wherever the Pāṇḍavas would hide, they would surely be found because they were such well-known, powerful men, and thus they would perpetually live in exile until death and their kingdom would never be returned to them. However, Duryodhana’s plan failed because he was not able to trace them. Thus, when the Pāṇḍavas came back and asked for their kingdom, Duryodhana refused to return it since he did not expect it. He had no intention to return it from the very beginning.

Before the battle began, various people advised Duryodhana’s father, Dhṛtarāṣtra, to give back the kingdom, lest there be much bloodshed and the whole family destroyed. Many kings would be killed, they pointed out, and so many armies would be destroyed. Besides this, the Pandavas deserved their kingdom to be returned to them. But Dhṛtarāṣtra was very attached to his son and was worried that since the Pāṇḍavas were very powerful, they could annex, or usurp, the power of his son. So, he would not listen to anybody, or return the kingdom. Even Kṛṣṇa came to thus advise Dhṛtarāṣtra, but he did not listen to Him. Dhṛtarāṣtra knew he was wrong, and that his sons had behaved in an immoral way by attempting to strip the wife of the Pāṇḍavas in a public assembly. Despite this immoral behavior on their part, he was favoring his sons. This is the meaning of his blindness. 

When one knows he is wrong, and his opponent is right, and one still doesn’t act properly, that means he is blind to the truth. The very word “Dhṛtarāṣtra” means “one who has captured the kingdom of another.” This is what an immoral, or greedy, person does. He takes away others’ wealth in an illegal way. He encroaches on others’ rights, property, and wealth. That is what “Dhṛtarāṣtra” signifies. He’s like a person managing the mafia, sitting in his office, knowing that the people he has hired to kill are doing wrong, but still proceeds with evil plans. “Duryodhana” means a tremendous fighter, but one who fights for the wrong cause, which is signified with the prefix – dur. We can always find such people in our lives who act in an unethical, immoral way, and usually, those people who are unethical are in power and they have a lot of followers.

There are also always people who are on the side of good principles, and who act in an ethical, moral way. Those will always be small in number and they will be oppressed. But if they are truthful, if they are with God, and take direction from God and from divine people, then they will be victorious, as happened with Arjuna. The opposing side may be very large in number, but they will be demolished, or defeated.

If we apply this scenario to our spiritual practice, then this battle also happens within our conditioned mind because everybody has two sides—a good and a bad side. When one takes to spiritual life, the bad side, the previous old habits, will object to one taking to spirituality. Our mind will question us, “What is this? Why do you have to get up early in the morning? Why not go to the party and enjoy? What about all your friends and relatives? They will think you have gone crazy.” These ideas will come, and friends will also try to convince you against taking to any spiritual practice. They will argue against it, “There is no God. These are old ideas invented by primitive men out of fear and ignorance. Now science and technology have discovered the laws of nature and invented machines to control it. We have better living standards. We can solve our problems without resorting to some imaginary God.”

But you must remain firm in your conviction and choose Bhagavān. It is quite possible to become weak due to the saṁskāras, or impressions, which influence your intelligence and affect your ability to make good decisions. Then you may deviate from your practice, from your chosen path. This happens to many people. 

So, you must remain fixed on your goal, on your purpose. Whenever any thought, idea, or desire comes into your mind, you should study it and see whether it is helping you to move toward your goal or is trying to deviate you. You should not simply follow what the mind says, but discriminate, always try to deliberate on your desires, emotions, and thoughts. We should remain resolute like Arjuna. The spiritual path is for heroic people like Arjuna. 

This self-reflection should always be done, otherwise, there is a good possibility of becoming lost. People will come and try to sway you from following a spiritual path or following your goal. They will give good logic, and what they say will be very attractive, but you must remain fixed. Remain very staunch and determined in your process! People who are not on the spiritual path have some logic and some convincing arguments, and if you are not very firm in your understanding, if your knowledge is not very deep, then you may become swayed by them.

Bhagavad Gītā teaches us about the meaning of fighting, internal fighting, and the meaning of killing the opponent. It means destroying unhealthy desires and ideas, those thoughts and desires that block our progress in life. We must remove them. That is the meaning of fighting, and for that, we have to be very expert, like Arjuna. 

Arjuna was not just a good fighter by birth, but he underwent a lot of military training. Both, the five Pāṇḍava brothers and Duryodhana and his brothers, all studied from the same teacher, Droṇācārya. When their education was completed, Droṇācārya tested his students. He made a bird from clay, and he placed it on the branch of a tree. Then he instructed the students, one by one, to come and stand in front of this bird, maybe 200 feet away, with a bow and arrow. They were supposed to shoot the eye of the bird. 

One by one he called his students. Droṇācārya asked them, “What do you see?” They replied variously. “I see the tree along with the bird.” “I see the branch and the bird.” “I see the man walking behind the tree,” etc. Some said, “I only see the branch and the tree and nothing else.” 

Hearing such replies, Droṇācārya asked his students to step back and not take a shot. Finally, he called Arjuna. Arjuna came and took his bow and arrow and aimed at the eye of the bird. 

The teacher asked him, “What do you see?” 

Arjuna replied, “The eye of the bird.” 

Droṇācārya said, “Don’t you see the tree and the branch on which the bird is sitting?” 

Arjuna replied, “No. I don’t see anything except the eye of the bird.” 

Then he was permitted to shoot, and the arrow hit the eye of the bird.

The meaning of the story is that Arjuna was a person who was fixed on his aim. He did not see anything else. So, you have to be fixed like this if you are sincere about your spiritual life. In fact, if you are sincere about anything, you must be fixed to achieve your goal. 

Some people give lectures based on Bhagavad Gītā about management and success in life. This is where they find this idea: if you want to be successful in anything then you must remain completely fixed. All of your emotions and actions must be guided by that one goal, and nothing should deviate you from it. 

 

The Blame Game

There is a general tendency to blame others for our difficulties. The ego experiences a sense of satisfaction by blaming others for our problems. It is challenging to think that we can be the cause of our own troubles because this thought hurts the ego. However, blaming others or finding fault in others does not help anyone, especially us, no matter how comforting it may feel. Instead, we remain stuck in our problems and continue to sow seeds for further trouble. Political leaders thrive on this trait—they have a penchant for blaming the opposite party; this is how they harness support. People who like to blame others are often influenced by such political leaders. Both the news media and social media are experts at the blame game.

The Enemy Within and Without

Śṛī Kṛṣṇa advises against this. Both to Arjuna and Uddhava, His two disciples, He pinpoints one’s own mind as the true culprit. In Bhagavad Gītā 6.5–6, He explains in two verses that our real enemy is within and not without:

uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ   nātmānam avasādayet
ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur   ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ

bandhur ātmātmanas tasya   yenātmaivātmanā jitaḥ
anātmanas tu śatrutve   vartetātmaiva śatru-vat

“The self is to be uplifted through the mind and never to be degraded because the mind is indeed the friend of the self as well as its enemy. The mind is a friend specifically to that self by whom the mind is conquered, but for a person whose mind is not under the control of the self, his mind itself behaves adversely, like an enemy.”

The Real Culprit is the Mind

To Uddhava, Kṛṣṇa speaks an entire chapter on this point. He tells the story of a miserly brāhmaṇa who did not use his wealth, not even for his own self. Because of his miserliness, family members deserted him, and thieves plundered his wealth. Being forlorn and destitute, he took to the renounced life and wandered about, mistreated wherever he went. The brāhmaṇa, however, tolerated everything and did not blame anyone. Based on his own experience as well as knowledge from śāstra, he recited a song called Bhikṣū Gītā. The first verse summarizes the whole song: Do not blame others for your troubles. The real culprit is the mind. He sang:

nāyam jano me sukha-duḥkha-hetur na devatātmā graha-karma-kālāḥ
manaḥ paraṁ kāraṇam āmananti saṁsara-cakraṁ parivartayed yat

“These people, the devas, my own self, the stars and planets (graha), karma, or time—none of these are the cause of my happiness or distress. Śāstra teaches that only my mind is the ultimate cause [of my joy and suffering] and is instrumental in the cycle of my birth and death.” (SB 11.23.42)

In the rest of the song, the brāhmaṇa elaborates how none of the entities mentioned in this verse are the cause of his joy or suffering. Generally, we think that we suffer because of others, or because the devas are putting obstacles in our life, or our own self, i.e., the body, is giving us trouble, or we are suffering because of past karma or fate, or it is just the time (such as Kaliyuga or a particular astrological configuration) that is making us suffer. The Bhikṣū Gītā states that none of these are the cause of our suffering. They may appear to be the cause, but the real culprit is the mind. If the mind is not under our control, then any situation—good or bad—or any person—friend or foe —or any state of the body—healthy or sick—or any time—Kaliyuga or sāḍēsātī—can make us suffer. 

Our Experience in Deep Sleep

It is everyone’s experience that when we are in deep sleep, we do not suffer. At that time, the people whom we think are the source of our troubles are alive, but we do not experience difficulty from them. The devas also exist but do not cause us distress. The stars and planets are also in their positions but do not exercise any influence over us. Our fate is not erased, yet we are not influenced by it. Kaliyuga has also not disappeared, but we are not under its sway. The main reason none of these things can make us suffer is that we are not under the clutches of the mind. 

It is also our experience that when we are in deep sleep, we similarly do not experience happiness from any external source. At that time, the people, places, and things that we think are the source of our joy still exist, but we do not experience satisfaction from them. Our favorite chocolate is still there in the kitchen cupboard. Our lover remains next to us in bed. Our gorgeous new saree is hanging in the closet. But none of these things have any sway over our minds when we are in deep sleep. The main reason none of these things can make us feel happy is that we are not under the clutches of the mind. In deep sleep, we become liberated from the mind; thus, nothing external can make us happy.

The Solution

But when we move out of this state into the dream world or wakeful state, our mind takes charge, and we are absorbed in the duality of joy and suffering, friends and foes, health and sickness, good and bad karma, etc. Just take a minute to ponder—if the problem in your life is another person, then why doesn’t that person upset everyone the way they upset you? How is it that this person—who is so selfish, insensitive, or whatever it is that is bothering you about them—is loved by others and has good relationships with them? If the root of the problem is in the other person, wouldn’t everyone have a problem with him also? For example, if sugar is sweet, and sweetness is inherent in sugar, then everyone should have the same experience of its sweet taste when they put the sugar on their tongue. And that is what happens. So, going with that logic, if the person you dislike is the source of your unhappiness, should we all not have that same bitter experience with that person? But that is not how it works. Even for serial killers, there is always at least one person who still loves and cares for them. So, the problem is not with the other person. The suffering and pain lie in the mind, and the sooner we realize and act upon this realization, the sooner our spiritual lives become much easier. If we can transcend the mind, as happens in deep sleep, we will transcend all our problems. 

The Bhikṣū Gītā uses the adjective param or supreme while describing the mind as the cause. That means other things may be a cause but not the supreme cause. In the last verse of the song, the brāhmaṇa gives the solution as service to the feet of Kṛṣṇa, mukundāṅghri-niṣevayā. Therefore, it is better not to waste our time and energy blaming others but focus on engaging our minds in the service of Kṛṣṇa. The mind is listed as one of the vibhūtis in the Tenth Chapter of the Gītā (indriyāṇaṁ manaścāsmi, 10.22). Therefore, it can be controlled only by fixing it on Kṛṣṇa. Otherwise, it will engage in the blame game. That is not helpful. There is a proverb: 

“He who blames others has a long way to go on his journey. He who blames himself is halfway there. He who blames no one has arrived.” 

Why Radha Is Not Mentioned in Bhagavata Purana

By Satyanarayana Dasa

I am asked many times why Rādhā is not mentioned in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Bhāgavata Purāṇa is the supreme pramāna for Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, whose supreme worshipable deities (iṣṭa-devatā) are Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, it is expected that Bhāgavata Purāṇa would give many details about Them. However, one may be surprised that although the major portion of Bhāgavata Purāṇa is devoted to Kṛṣṇa, there is no explicit mention of Rādhā. Thus, the above question naturally comes to mind.

Some scholars allege that Rādhā is a very late development in the religious history of India and that Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas have popularized Her. The reasoning behind this allegation is that Rādhā has not been explicitly mentioned in Gopāla Tāpanī Upaniṣad, Bhāgavata Purāṇa, Viṣṇu Purāṇa, Mahābhārata, Harivaṁśa Purāṇa, or Gautamīya Tantra—the primary scriptures dealing with Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, personality, and worship.

First of all, it may be noted that Rādhā’s name is found in Purāṇas such as Padma Purāṇa, Brahma-vaivarta, Brahmāṇḍa, Skanda, and Devī Bhāgavata, to name a few. Some do not believe in the authenticity of the Purānās because they may contain interpolations. Still, Rādhā’s name can be traced to other books that have no taint of interpolation. For example, Rādhā is mentioned in the Pañcatantra, written in the fifth century. The Pañcatantra contains stories written to instruct students, especially princes, in the science of statecraft. Aesop’s Fable is supposed to be based on this book. In the fifth story of the Mitrabheda chapter of the Pañcatantra, Rādhā is mentioned as a cowherdess and wife of Kṛṣṇa—rādhā nāma me bhāryā gopa-kula-prasūtā prathamam āsīt. Her mention is not part of any story or philosophical discussion related to Her or Kṛṣṇa. Rather, a weaver wanted to enjoy with a princess, so with the help of a carpenter, he got two extra hands attached to his body and flew on a wooden Garuḍa to the princess’s quarters, posing as Nārāyaṇa. He tells the princess that in the past, she was Rādhā, his wife. Rādhā must have been a well-known figure to be mentioned, even incidentally, in the Pañcatantra.

There is an anthology in prākṛta language called Gāthā Saptaśati (Gāhā Sattasaī in prākṛta) by king Śālivāhana, also known as Hāla, of Pratiṣṭhānapura (present-day Jhūsī on the bank of Gaṅgā near Allahabad in the state of Uttar Pradeśa). It is a well-known work cited by great authors on the subject of dhvani. This book contains verses that describe Kṛṣṇa’s Vraja pastimes. Rādhā is mentioned in one of the verses: “O Kṛṣṇa, you are blowing away the dust from the face of Rādhā by blowing air from your mouth. By this act, you are diminishing the greatness of other gopīs (1.89).” King Śālivāhana’s period is ascertained to have been between the first and fourth centuries AD. This shows that Rādhā was well-known to poets like Śālivāhana. 

There is a famous play entitled Bāla-caritam by Bhāsa that describes the childhood pastimes of Kṛṣṇa. It was written between the third century BC and the third century AD. It contains no direct mention of Rādhā, but there is a description of the Rāsa-līlā. It can be assumed that Rādhā must be one of the participants in this pastime of Rāsa-līlā. 

Later, the most famous works that mention Rādhā are the Gīta-govinda of Jayadeva and Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛtam of Bilvamaṅgala Thākura. They were supposedly written in the 12th century AD. From these references, it is clear that Rādhā is not a recent invention of Vaiṣṇava writers.

Then why is she not mentioned in works like the Bhāgavata Purāna? There are different answers given by devotees, some of which are stated below:

1.     Some devotees explain that Rādhā is the guru of Śukadeva. Therefore, he does not utter Her name out of respect. In Vedic culture, speaking the name of one’s guru is forbidden unless necessary. I do not know a reference to Rādhā being the guru of Śukadeva. Therefore, I do not know the basis of this explanation.

2.     Some explain that Śukadeva would enter the state of samādhi if he uttered the name of Rādhā. This would undoubtedly delay the recitation of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Parīkṣit had only seven days to live. Keeping this in mind, Śukadeva avoided uttering Rādhā’s name. For this explanation also, I do not have a source reference, although it is possible that Śukadeva would have entered into samādhi had he uttered Rādhā’s name. However, I would think that to avoid uttering Rādhā’s name, he had to think of Her consciously, which would have also sent him into a state of samādhi. Furthermore, why did he not mention any other gopī’s name?

Various commentators of the Bhāgavata, such as Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī, Viśvanātha Cakravartī, and Dhanapata Sūri trace Rādhā’s name to verse 10.30.28 of the Bhāgavata:

anayārādhito nūnaṁ bhagavān harirīśvaraḥ
yan-no vihāya govindaḥ prīto yām anyad rahaḥ

“Bhagavān Hari, the Iśvara, has been certainly worshiped by this gopī because leaving us aside, Govinda, being pleased, has taken her to a secluded place.”  

This is a verse spoken by the gopīs who Kṛṣṇa deserted in the Rāsa-līlā at the height of their bliss. While searching for Him, from seeing the footprints, they realized He had not left alone but with another gopī. They wondered who this special gopī was. Different commentators have offered other explanations for not explicitly mentioning Rādhā’s name while commenting on the above-mentioned verse. Some of them are given below.

1.     Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī says that the gopīs who spoke the verse were able to recognize the gopī as Rādhā because of Her distinctive footmarks. However, they did not explicitly name Her because the group of gopīs included gopīs from a rival group, i.e., that of Candrāvalī. If they had spoken Her name explicitly, this would have caused more disturbance to the rival gopīs, who were already in grief due to separation from Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, they spoke as if they did not recognize who this special gopī was but still happily praised Her great fortune. Padacihnaireva tā vṛṣabhānunandinī. Paricitya antarāśvāstā bahuvidhagopījanasaṅghaṭṭe tatra bahiraparicaymivabhnayaynyaḥ tasyāḥ suhṛda tannāmanirujtidvārā tasyāḥ saubhāgyam saharṣamāhuḥ.

2.     Kiśorīprasāda, the author of the Viśuddharasadīpikā commentary, writes that according to the Varāha-tantra, the presiding deity of Vṛndāvan is Govinda. One who has controlled this Govinda by Her devotion is none other than Vṛndāvaneśvarī Rādhā because only She can control Him by Her love. He takes this meaning by considering anayā and rādhitaḥ as two separate words instead of anayā ārādhitaḥ. Rādhitaḥ means vaśikṛtaḥ or controlled. According to him, not only Rādhā’s name is indicated in this verse, but also Her greatness. (sa ca anayā saha yātāyā rādhitaḥ vaśikṛtaḥ san govindaḥ śrīvṛndāvaneśvarītvād asyāḥ tasya ca vṛndāvaneśvaratvāditi bhāvaḥ, vṛndāvane to govindmiti varāhatabtreokteḥ).

He says that according to Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (4.2.2)—prokṣapriyāiva hi devāḥ pratyakṣadviṣaḥ, “The devas and sages like indirect descriptions and dislike an explicit one.” This is also stated in SB 11.3.44, 4.28.65, and 11.21.35. Therefore, Śukadeva indirectly refers to Rādhā.

He gives another explanation. Śrī Rādhā is the ātmā of Kṛṣṇa. She is Herself Para Brahman, which is beyond mind and speech, as it is said—yato vācaḥ nivartante aprāpya manasā saha (Taittrīya Upaniṣad 2.9). Therefore, She cannot be described in words. It is said that Baṣkali Ṛṣi asked Vādhva Muni about Brahman, but Vādhva Muni remained silent. Bāṣkali asked him again, and still, there was no reply. Then he asked a third time. Finally, Vādhva Muni said, “I have replied each time, but you do not understand. (sa hovāca adhīhi bhagavo brahma itis a tūṣṇī babhūva taṁ ha dvītīye vā tṛtīye vā vacanaṁ uvāca brūmaḥ khalu tvam tu na vijānāsi, upaṣānto’yamātmā, cited in Śāṅkara Bhāṣya 3.2.17).

3.     Śukadeva Ācārya, the author of the Siddhānta-pradīpa commentary, says that the word rādhita in the verse means “along with Rādhā.” He comments that Kṛṣṇa’s play is incomplete without Rādhā, and this verse is indicative of their līlā in nikuñja, or a bower. This līlā is extremely confidential. Even other gopīs are not allowed in this līlā. Therefore, Śukadeva Gosvāmī has kept Rādhā’s name secret. (rādhā saha jātā asya tathā “tārakādibhya itac”. rādhākṛṣṇavihāre hetubhūteyamityarthaḥ tayā saha vahāro’tigopyatvānnoktaḥ.)

4.     Sanātana Gosvāmi writes in his Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛtam that while Śukadeva was describing the separation of the gopīs from Kṛṣṇa, he became overwhelmed by feelings of separation from Kṛṣṇa and thus lost external awareness. In such a state of mind, he could not pronounce Rādhā’s or any other gopī’s name. 

gopīnāṁ vitatadbhut-sphuṭatara-premānalārcicchatā
dagdhānāṁ kila nāmakīrtanakṛtāt tāsāṁ viśeṣāt smṛteh
tattīkṣaṇojjalancchikhāgrakaṇikāspaśena sadyo mahā
vaikalya sa bhajan kadāpi na mukhe nāmāni kartuḥ prabhuḥ

5.     Harirāma Vyāsa writes that it is a well-known fact that people hide what is most valuable. Rādhā is the most valuable wealth for rasikas like Śukadeva. He gives the example of firing a raw clay pot. To fire a raw clay pot, it needs to be covered entirely. If any part remains uncovered, it will not fire thoroughly and thus remain weak. In the same way, something that is valuable must be kept hidden; otherwise, it loses its importance. Therefore, he did not reveal Her name. 

gopānād iṣṭa-sampatti sarvathā parisidhyati
kulālapurake pātram antar-bāṣpatayā tathā 

(Cited in Bhārtīya Vāṅmaya Me Śrī Rādhā, page 29, by Baladeva Upādhyaya, published by Bihar Rastrabhasha Parishad, Patna, 1963).

6.     Some scholars say that keeping Rādhā concealed is Śukadeva’s genius. They compare other pastimes of Kṛṣṇa to a flow of a river, but the intimate pastimes of the Rāsa-līlā between Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs are like a well. 

līlā-śukasya līleyaṁ līlā-nyāsopavarṇitā
kallolinī-svarūpeṇa rāsaṁ kūpa-jalopamam

Anyone can take water from a river but getting water from a well requires a rope and a bucket. Therefore, only a person who has the rope of deep faith (niṣṭhā) and a bucket in the form of prema can drink the nectar of these pastimes, which are compared to a well. Others will have no clue about them. Therefore, not only Rādhā’s name but the names of all the other gopis are concealed. Rasikas can understand this.

7.     Śrī Gaṅgāsahāya, the author of the Anvitārtha-prakāśikā commentary, writes that just as Gopāla Tāpinī Upaniṣad, Gautamīya Tantra, Viṣṇu Purāṇa, and Harivaṁśa Purāṇa do not mention Rādhā’s name, similarly, the Bhāgavata Purāṇa does not mention Rādhā’s name. It is a particular type of style of writing. (vastutastu yathā gopāla-tāpinyāṁ tadanusāriṇī gautamīya-tantre viṣṇupurāṇe harivaṁśe ca rādhā-nāma-akathanaṁ tathā tāpiyanusāriṇī śribhāgavate’pi tad akathanaṁ śailī-viśrṣa eva.) 

8.     [My explanation] In the Sanskrit language, the meaning of sentences can be divided into three categories, called vācya (primary meaning), lakṣya (secondary or indicated meaning), and vyaṅgya (implied meaning). It is not that every sentence has all three meanings. The primary or direct meaning is the most common usage; it comes from the direct meaning of the words in a sentence. When the primary meaning fails to make sense or convey the intended meaning, then the indicated meaning is taken. Vyaṅgya is the implied sense and may not be related to the words. The poetry that gives meaning by vyaṅgya is considered the best. This is the opinion of great authorities on poetics, such as Mammaṭācārya (damuttamamatiśāyini vyaṅgye vācyād dvanir budhaiḥ kathitaih, Kāvya-prakāśa 1.4). 

Śrīmad Bhāgavata is the topmost work of Vyāsadeva. He himself says that it is meant for rasikas or those who are connoisseurs of rasa (SB1.1.3). Thus, it follows the principles of rasa-śāstra. He has also stated that the description of Reality in this book makes use of all three types of meanings, śrytena artthenacāñjasā (SB 2.10.2). The highest subject of the Bhāgavata is Kṛṣṇa-prema, and Rādhā is the very personification of that prema. Therefore, She has been described only by vyañjanā and not directly. This is also applicable to the other gopīs. There is no name mentioned for any of the gopīs who were beloved of Kṛṣṇa. A popular saying amongst Sanskrit scholars is, “O Maker of Fate, please, please, please let it not be my ill fate that I have to recite my poetry to those who have no sense of rasa.”

Similarly, one can consider that Śri Śuka did not want to reveal Rādhā’s name to nondevotees. Devotees will figure it out anyway. In the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa of Sanātana Gosvāmi (2.147), there is a quote from the Sammohana-tantra:

gopayed devatām iṣṭāṁ
gopayed gurum ātmanaḥ
gopayec ca nijaṁ mantraṁ
gopayen nija-mālikām

“Hide your beloved deity.
Hide your guru
Hide your mantra
Hide your mālā.”

 

Forgiveness

Śrī Kṛṣṇa counts forgiveness among the divine qualities (Gītā 16.3). The question often arises—should we always exercise forgiveness, or are there situations where we should not forgive?

Let us first understand what forgiveness is. In Sanskrit, the word for forgiveness is kṣamā, derived from the root √kṣam meaning “to endure, tolerate, or be capable of.” The word kṣamā is also used to denote “being capable of doing something”; for example, roga-kṣamā means “to be able to fight with disease (roga),” i.e., immunity. With this meaning in mind, forgiveness means tolerating someone’s wrong behavior, although you could take punitive action legally, verbally, physically, socially, or emotionally. You show compassion to the wrongdoer and do not hold a grudge or resentment toward them. This implies that forgiveness is exercised by one capable of punitive action. If the person wronged is incapable and thus does not take any action but chooses to maintain a grudge or some resentment, then that is not forgiveness. Such a person can still exercise forgiveness mentally by giving up the grudging mood. Otherwise, he remains resentful and continues to suffer silently.

Meaning of Forgiveness

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, forgiveness means to cease to feel resentment toward an offender. Therefore, if a person can forgive, it is a powerful means to maintain a peaceful mind, heal relationships, and mend broken hearts. It is letting go of anger, resentment, and bitterness towards someone who has hurt us and choosing to move forward with an open heart and mind. Forgiveness is not easy, but essential for our emotional and spiritual well-being. It is an essential attribute, especially on the path of bhakti. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu advised to be tolerant like a tree, taror iva sahiṣṇunā, and continue one’s sādhana.

Forgiveness is an essential virtue that is deeply rooted in the principle of karma, which states that every action has a consequence. One easy way to forgive is to see that the wrongful act of another person toward oneself didn’t start there. Taking the long view can help a sādhaka see that someone’s improper action towards us has to do with our taking a wrong action toward them either in this life or some past life. Therefore, have the attitude that the root cause of a person’s bad behavior toward us lies in our wrong actions in the past. We are unaware of what we did in the past, but we must know that it is our karma. Even if it is not true, it helps us not to get entangled in petty affairs and keep our minds focused on the larger goal of bhakti. This is also a way to stop the cycle of karma. If we forgive, we bring an end to that particular karma. Therefore, Śrī Brahmā advises us to tolerate the adverse situation as the outcome of one’s past deeds, ātma-kṛta-vipākam (SB 10.14.8). If we do not forgive and take punitive action, it may lead to further action from the wrongdoer, and thus the chain of karma continues. Even if we don’t take any action but harbor bad feelings toward the wrongdoer, we reinforce the saṁskāra of hatred towards that person, which only can ensure one thing—that we will have to face them again to try to work through the same karma in a future life. This chain will continue into future lives until that karma is deactivated by us finally forgiving. 

Examples of Forgiveness

Forgiveness, however, is not easy to practice. The natural tendency is to punish the wrongdoer, which brings great pleasure to one’s ego. One feels a sense of superiority over the offender. To forgive, one needs to transcend one’s pride. Therefore, Śrī Kṛṣṇa lists it among the divine attributes. That also implies that not forgiving is an āsuric quality. According to modern psychology, forgiving is a step up in evolution because animals do not forgive. 

Forgiveness should be extended to anyone who has genuinely repented for their actions and is willing to make amends. Forgiveness should also be given without any expectation of receiving something in return. Draupadī is an excellent example of forgiveness. Aśvatthāmā killed her five heroic sons while they slept. Arjuna subsequently captured Aśvatthāmā and presented him to Draupadī. When Draupadī saw Aśvatthāmā bound with ropes like an animal, she immediately dropped her anger toward him and asked Arjuna to release him. She understood that by killing Aśvatthāmā, her sons would not be revived. Just as she wailed for her sons, Kṛpī, the mother of Aśvatthāmā, would then wail for him. Draupadī did not want that. She was, therefore, full of compassion for Aśvatthāmā and his mother. There are other examples of forgiveness in śāstra, such as Bhagavān Rāma forgiving His stepmother Kekaiyī who sent Him into exile for 14 years for no fault of His own, and young Dhruva forgiving his stepmother Suruci who insulted him for sitting on his father’s lap.

The Flaw of Forgiving

However, forgiveness should not be extended to those who are unrepentant and continue to harm others. If forgiving someone guarantees they will return to their improper behavior or will pressure you to engage in wrong behavior, they should not be forgiven. By forgiving such persons, we invite trouble for others and ourselves. Also, if someone disrespects your boundaries, they should not be forgiven. Such forgiveness is not a virtue because it will only result in trouble and destruction. You should not forgive if the offender will take your forgiveness as a weakness and further exploit you. In this regard, Vidura says:

eka kṣamāvatāṁ doṣo dvitīyo nopapadyate
yad enaṁ kṣamayā yuktam aśaktaṁ manyate janaḥ

“Those who forgive have one flaw, not a second one. The flaw is that the forgiving nature is mistaken as a weakness by other people.” (Vidura-nīti 1.53)

Śiṣupāla was very abusive to Kṛṣṇa from his very birth. Śiṣupāla’s mother knew that Kṛṣṇa would kill him because of his abusive behavior. She, therefore, begged Kṛṣṇa to forgive him. Kṛṣṇa, in response, promised to forgive Śiṣupāla one hundred times. As Śiṣupāla grew, he abused Kṛṣṇa whenever they met, but Kṛṣṇa remained silent. Śrī Kṛṣṇa forgave Śiśupāla 100 times. Śiśupāla, however, did not know about Kṛṣṇa’s promise to his mother; he misunderstood Kṛṣṇa’s forgiving nature. When Śiṣupāla’s abuses reached 100, Kṛṣṇa warned Śiśupāla, who paid no heed to Kṛṣṇa’s warning, thinking Him to be a weakling. Finally, as he abused Kṛṣṇa for the 101st time, Kṛṣṇa killed him.

Forgive but don’t Forget

A glaring example of wrong forgiving in Indian history is King Pṛthvirāja Chauhan’s forgiveness of Muhammad Ghori of Ghazni, Afghanistan. In 1191 AD, Ghori attacked Pṛthvirāja, who was ruling over Delhi and the surrounding area. Ghori was soundly defeated and captured alive. Pṛthvirāja should have killed Ghori, but the latter begged to be forgiven. Pṛthvirāja thus forgave him. But in 1192 AD, Ghori again attacked with a better army and defeated Pṛthvirāja. He did not feel any compassion for Pṛthvirāja and mercilessly killed him. This was the beginning of Muslim rule over India, which continued until the nineteenth century when the Britishers took over. A small mistake by a king changed the whole history of India. Therefore, although forgiving is a great virtue, it can be a vice under certain circumstances. Even when we forgive, we should not forget —this is the middle way. In other words, we do not have to maintain resentment toward someone, yet we do not welcome them back into our lives with open arms. We learn from our mistakes and keep a firm boundary with them, but we are not hateful or rude to them. We maintain a safe distance but accept them as part of God’s creation and, more specifically, as part of our karma. We tolerate and accept them as they are, but we know that a tiger cannot change its stripes. If we remain aware within, then we can protect ourselves. Otherwise, we can be harmed, as happened to King Pṛthvīrāja.

Mañjarī Puzzle

One of the most popular questions I receive concerns the mañjarīs in Kṛṣṇa-līlā. There seems to be an ongoing debate amongst the devotees, with one group saying that the mañjarīs do not have physical association with Kṛṣṇa, while another group argues the opposite. Many others inquire about mañjarī-bhāva, mañjarī-bhāva-sādhanā, the mañjarī-svarūpa, the mañjarīs’ relationship with Kṛṣṇa, etc. Frankly speaking, I rarely talk about the subject because I do not consider myself suitably qualified. Therefore, I generally do not respond to such questions but defer to devotees who may be experts on the topic.

Here I will relate an analogy that may be helpful to such inquirers. About twenty-five years ago, one evening two residents of our Institute were walking to our Guru Mahārāja’s āśrama at Kalidaha. It was a good twenty-minute walk from our Institute. In those days, Sheetal Chāya, where our Institute is located, was open land with only three houses. Bushes and trees covered the land, so cows and goats grazed there during the day while pigs slumbered in the drains. One could see snakes slinking in the grass during the summer and rainy seasons; the land was infested with snakes. I have encountered snakes in our library, kitchen, and even my third-floor balcony. I have also seen snakes hanging on trees in our garden. 

So it was no big surprise that these two students saw a snake on the side of the road at Sheetal Chāya when they returned to the Institute. Later that evening, we met at dinner, and they related their experience. However, they disagreed about the color of the snake. One said it was a black cobra, while the other said it was a brown viper. Both were quite certain about their observations, so I let them argue. After listening for some time, I informed them that they were both wrong. They looked at me in surprise. I told them it was not a snake; it was a rope! I had seen it because I also went to Kalidaha that same afternoon, and I clearly remembered the rope on the side of the path at the exact place where they had seen a “snake.” They did not believe me. I told them they could see for themselves the following day. To their utter astonishment, they found out that I was right. So there was no real snake, only a rope, and they had argued about something they had misapprehended.

This debate about the mañjarīs having or not having association with Kṛṣṇa is similar. It is rooted in a misunderstanding of what a mañjarī is. The most important thing is to understand mañjarī-bhāva. In my opinion, such a question would not arise if we understood the definition of uttamā-bhakti given by Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.1.11): 

anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṃ jṣāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam |
ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānuśīlanaṃ bhaktir uttamā || 

“The continuous enactment (anuśīlana) of favorable service meant exclusively for Śrī Kṛṣṇa, that is devoid of all predilection toward ulterior desire, and that is unobscured by strivings for jñāna and karma, is called paramount devotion (uttamā-bhakti).”

Therefore, it is crucial to study this definition before one delves into the topic of the mañjarīs. If one does not have a clear understanding of the definition of uttamā-bhakti, then one will never understand the secret (rahasya) behind the mañjarīs’ relationship with Kṛṣṇa. 

The definition of uttamā-bhakti seems simple and straightforward, but it is not so. Therefore, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī and Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravarti have written elaborate commentaries on this verse. It is impossible to grasp the meaning without studying these commentaries. Therefore, one must study these commentaries carefully and deliberate on them. In a way, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī has churned the whole Śrīmad Bhāgavata Purāṇa and extracted these two lines. Thus by grasping the meaning of these two lines, one can understand the mystery