Form according to Bhāva / Uttama-bhakti

Changing Form according to Bhāva

QUESTION: In Chāndogya Upaniṣad, it is mentioned that a mukta jīva can expand into many bodies. How is this possible for the atomic (aṇu) jīva?

ANSWER: Just as a tiny bulb can spread its light in a big room, an atomic jīva can spread consciousness in a big body. The yogīs can spread that consciousness into many bodies. Similarly, a mukta jīva can expand into many forms.

QUESTION: Is it due to the infinite expansion of dharmabhūta jñāna as explained by the Rāmānujites?


QUESTION: Also, how is this compatible with the sthāyi-bhāva concept? For example, can a sādhana-siddha jīva, who has got the body of a manjari due to her sthāyi-bhāva, change simultaneously into different other forms?

ANSWER: Yes, some devotees have more than one bhāva. One is a prominent or dominant bhāva and others are secondary bhāvas. The body is a manifestation of bhāva. As such, a devotee has a body corresponding to the dominant bhāva, but can also expand into more than one body to fulfill the secondary bhāvas.

The essence of any bhāva is dāsya bhāva regardless of the type of bhāva (mañjariī or any other bhāva). A siddha jīva can expand into more than one form if that is needed to perform service. This is why a sādhana-siddha bhakta can be simultaneously in Caitanya-līlā and in Kṛṣṇalīlā in a male and female form respectively.

QUESTION: Also, in Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta, it is seen that the Vaikuṇṭha associates transform into many forms. This transformation seems to support the Rāmānujite concept that a mukta jīva can experience all kinds of emotions corresponding to the emotions of the Lord’s associates. How can one reconcile this apparent contradiction?

ANSWER: Which contradiction? Also please give the exact reference.

QUESTION: In Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism, a particular siddha deha is revealed by Kṛṣṇa through the guru via the siddha-praṇālī or directly through Hari-nāma. During līlā smaraṇa, one meditates on Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa only in one particular deha. This appears to contradict the description of the Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta. There the associates in Vaikuntha change their forms at will, almost like “shape shifters”. Maybe this is what Śrī Vaiṣṇavas mean when they say a mukta jīva can experience all emotions. The reference is BB 2.4.36:

kecid vicitra rūpāṇi dhrtvā dhrtvā muhur muhur

vicitra bhusaṇākāra vihārāḍhya mano haraḥ

“Some moment by moment manifested different wonderful and charming forms, each opulent with different and wonderful ornaments, features, and pastimes.”

ANSWER: You have to broaden your vision. God is unlimited. There are unlimited powers in him. There is so much variety in the spiritual world. When Śrī Vaiṣṇavas say one thing, it does not follow that Gauḍīyas are wrong for saying something else; and vice-versa. Some statements are absolute and some are contextual. I suggest that you first try to understand one school and then try comparative studies. Do not try to study everything simultaneously. It will confuse you.

The associates of Bhagavān are as powerful as Bhagavān. So what is the problem if they change their form? They can do anything for serving Bhagavān.

Even asuras can change forms for fulfilling their desires. An asura took the form of Ugrasena to unite with Padmāvati, Ugrasena’s wife. That is how Kaṁsa was born. Mārīca became a deer to allure Rāma. Yogīs can also change forms.

Devotees change forms if it is required to do service. Still, the devotees have their one siddha form according to their sthāyi-bhāva. They will always come back to that form even if incidentally they take some other form.

This is seen even with the asuras – when Mārīca was shot, he came back to his original form. It was the same with Putanā.

Please first try to understand those parts of theology and philosophy that have a direct bearing on your spiritual practice so that you can experience these things yourself.

We should try to understand what the author is trying to convey. The intention of Sanātana Gosvāmī in Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta is not to talk about a nitya siddha changing forms but to explain uttama-bhakti and the process to attain it. Otherwise we mistake the forest for the trees.

I have seen that many devotees get into this kind of research but do not understand the intent of the author. In Hindi there is a saying – ām khāne se matalab he ki peḍ ginane se – “is the goal to eat mangoes or to count the mango trees?” A man goes to the mango garden but does not eat the mangoes. Instead, he counts the trees, studies their types and measures their age and so on. But he does not taste the mangoes. Then his time is up and he leaves the garden. Later, he gives a big lecture about mango trees. People clap and he collects some donations. But the person does not know the taste of the mango. This is the modern scholar. Let us taste the mango even if we do not know about the variety and number of trees in the garden.

Krsna's prakasa-lila

Levels of Uttama-bhakti

QUESTION: You stated that Rūpa Gosvāmī’s definition of uttama-bhakti applies to all 3 levels of bhakti – sādhana-, bhāva-, and prema-bhakti. But I still don’t understand how uttama-bhakti includes sādhana-bhakti. 

The very nature (svarūpalakṣaṇa) of uttama-bhakti is a 24/7 continuous endeavor to please Bhagavān (the term ‘Bhagavān’ includes one’s guru and the devotees). This endeavor does not stop even during sleep. But how can such continuous endeavor exist in sādhana-bhakti? After all, one is still afflicted with anarthas.

ANSWER: Sleep is of two types: dreamless and with dreams. It is not possible to remember Kṛṣṇa in either of these states at the stage of sādhana-bhakti. In sādhana-bhakti, one resolves to engage in uttama-bhakti; such conscious effort is only possible in the wakeful state. But conscious effort is not possible in dreams and so the sādhaka cannot remember Kṛṣṇa then. Despite this, sādhana-bhakti includes sleep. While sleeping, the sādhaka rejuvenates the body and then utilizes it in uttama-bhakti in the wakeful state. Thus both wakefulness and sleep are also part of uttama-bhakti, although sleep is not directly engaged in bhakti. Even though collecting firewood does not involve offering oblations into the fire, it is also part of yajña. Just as it is not possible to pour oblations into the fire without collecting firewood, it is not possible to execute uttama-bhakti in the wakeful state without sleep. As it is a continuous endeavor (24/7) in this way, sādhana-bhakti is correctly included under uttama-bhakti.

One remembers Kṛṣṇa during sleep only in the stage of sādhya-bhakti, i.e. bhāva- or prema bhakti. If one were able to remember Kṛṣṇa during sleep in sādhana-bhakti, then there was no reason to divide uttama-bhakti into sādhanā and sādhya.

QUESTION: If uttama-bhakti is considered inclusive of sādhana-bhakti, then anarthas and uttama-bhakti exist simultaneously in a person. This contradicts the fact that at the stage of uttama-bhakti, one is free of anarthas.

ANSWER: The confusion is that you are interpreting uttama-bhakti to exclusively mean sādhya-bhakti. But sādhya-uttama-bhakti is different from sādhana-uttama-bhakti.

The word bhakti itself indicates different things depending on the context. The word uttama is used to further indicate a specific type of bhakti. But uttama-bhakti is of three more sub-types. These sub-types are quite distinct although they are referred by one name. Confusion arises when the speaker or the author means a particular sub-type of uttama-bhakti and the listener or reader misunderstands it as a different sub-type.

Many people think that all uttama-bhaktas or all liberated persons have the same characteristics, but this is far from the truth. We try to understand the scriptures or teachings through our stereotypical concepts about these words, but then our understanding may not match the scriptures. This type of confusion occurs often and causes much unnecessary argument and debate.

10 thoughts on “Form according to Bhāva / Uttama-bhakti”

  1. hare krishna babaji maharaj,
    i have a question related to the last part.

    one of the characteristics of uttama bhakti is that it is anusilanam which means that it is continuously performed. ( or performed under the guidance of guru) .

    In the stage of sadhana, because of the presence of anarthas, it is not possible for one to continuously engage in bhakti.

    For eg srila vishwanath cakravarthi thakur in the commentary to “smartvayam satatam visnur …” verse in Bhakti rasamrta sindhu says, ” Satatam means “every day” not “every second,” since continuous remembrance would be impossible to do (in sädhana- bhakti). This would produce loss of faith in the rules of bhakti, because they would be impossible to follow.”

    So when it is not possible to continuously execute bhakti in the stage of sadhana, then how can one practice uttama bhakti when one is in the stage of sadhana because one cannot fulfill the criteria of anusilanam?

    your servant,
    Radhika vallabha das.

    1. The question that you have raised arises because of not understanding the difference between the sādhanā and the sādhya stage.

      I have already mentioned in my reply to the question above that this confusion about the continuous execution of bhakti on the sādhanā platform arises because one mistakenly understands sādhanā to be the perfected stage. The very word “sādhanā” implies that one is not perfect, yet one is engaged in a practice to attain perfection.

      So at the sādhanā platform, one will have anarthas, i.e. inattention while chanting or falling asleep, and thus one cannot execute bhakti continuously. However, because the desire of the sādhaka is to engage in bhakti continuously and attain the stage of perfection, he or she is still engaged in sādhanā of uttama-bhakti. If a person’s mind is not under their control, that is not a disqualification to engage in sādhanā for uttama-bhakti. If the sādhaka willfully deviates from the practice of bhakti, then that is a defect, but if it happens because one is unable to control one’s mind and senses, it is not a defect. Again, to stress my point, your confusion is that you are unable to distinguish between sādhanā and sadhya bhakti. You are thinking of sādhya and apply it to sādhanā. Once a sādhaka sincerely surrenders to a genuine guru and sincerely endeavors on the path of bhakti, he is on the path of uttama-bhakti. He is engaged in sādhanā of uttama-bhakti. Otherwise, how will one attain uttama-bhakti? Will it suddenly drop from somewhere or will it come by performing from some other spiritual practice? It is only by engaging in sādhanā of uttama-bhakti that one will attain sādhya of uttama-bhakti. If one were already perfect as defined in the definition, then there was no need for sādhanā. So the meaning of sādhanā is that one engages one’s mind, body and senses in devotional service without having any other desire as per one’s best ability.

  2. Thanks Babaji for clarifying many points which are most of the time misconstrued.

    I really liked your point that one should thoroughly understand one school of thought before making comparative studies. Is JIVA institute conducting any such courses for Gaudiya Vaishnav Siddhant and Sanskrit etc for people like myself who are in a job and distantly situated and can’t attend regular classes at Vrindavan. Or would there be a regularity of these classes that someone can take them up a couple of years down the line post retirement. I tried looking through this website but could only find one course from Oct-Mar which is also a continuation from previous year.

    If possible could you plan something on a regular basis because it would definitely be a great privilege learning from the most renowned devotee scholar as yourself.

    Best Regards.

    1. Dear Stoka Krsna ji, if you cannot physically attend the classes offered at Jiva Institute, you can still take the Bhakti-tirtha course online and listen to the recordings of the previous course (for the next four years from the middle of October through the end of April) as per your own time. When the new course starts, you can register for that and will receive all the recordings and the study material of that course.

  3. Thanks Malatimanjari Mata ji for the info.

    In my humble opinion learning in person from a teacher is the best, followed by online tutoring, followed by learning through recorded materials and so on. Presently I am getting tutored on line by Vraja Kishore Prabhu(a student of Babaji) and also got to know of JIVA through him.

    What I gathered from this site is that, learnings from Babaji is possible only in person or through his recorded material. I think you still haven’t explored the online teaching aspect of Babaji, maybe for whatever valid reasons the institute has. Just a small suggestion from my side that if you could look at some retreats with Babaji of 10-15 days durations wherein one can learn some specific topics like Yoga, Karma, Bhakti, some Gita Chapters,Bhagavatam Cantos etc with him. That would be very nice for people in jobs like myself. It would give us the opportunity to utilise our leaves in the best possible manner. If something like this works out kindly do put up the schedule of that on this website in advance. Else we would have to wait for our retirements(premature or otherwise) to learn in person from Babaji.

    Secondly is the institute functional only through Oct to Apr when a course is running or also through the rest of the year. I am asking because in my next short trip of 3-4 days to Vrindavan from Mumbai, I was very interested in visiting the place.

    1. Thank you for your suggestions. One of our readers has recently volunteered to help us create an Online-study platform, but it will take some time to do that without big facilities or manpower. Your input is welcome.

      As for the retreats, Babaji has been giving retreats and seminars on various topics in different countries and continents. Over the past five years, we had Japa and Shastra retreats (on Mādhuryā Kaḍambinī and Bṛhat-bhāgavatāmṛta,) and weeklong seminars on Bhagavad Gītā, Vedic psychology, and many other topics, as you can also see on our website.

      If you have a group of people who are interested in a particular topic and if you are interested in helping to organize a retreat in your area, you can let me know and we can try to work out something.

  4. Hare Krishna!

    I was wondering if more could be written about dāsya bhāva and it being contained within the other rāsas.
    I often hear people talking about Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes as if there is no constraint whatsoever, almost as if there is no respect and “rules”, and that leaves me quite perplexed, since even at a material level, the more you love a person, the more you wan to to serve her, and although you are more relaxed in the relationship, respect is there.
    Isn’t there a higher “spiritual aesthetic” (that pleases the Lord) in the way the relationships are expressed?

    Closely connected, I would like to know more about the awareness of the gopīs and gopas of Śrī Kṛṣṇa being the Supreme.
    I often hear that they don’t know He is God but, if I remember correctly, there is even a prayer in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam where the gopīs address Him as God. How can these two aspects be harmonized?

    I feel that knowing the He is God, the very Center of Everything, doesn’t necessarily hinder their capacity to love Him without being formal, quite the contrary, it would give them more reason to do so, since He is the Heart and Soul of their very being.

    Thank you.
    Hare Krishna!

    1. Babaji is travelling at present and will not be able to reply for perhaps one or even two weeks. So please bare with us.

      But please let me say a few words since you are making an interesting point. Indeed, dasya bhāva is included in all other rasas and is their foundation. As the rasas progress, the lower ones are included in the higher ones and, as you say, if there is love, then there is a natural desire to please the other person. This is the difference between kāma and prema. The gopī’s only desire is to serve and please Krishna, so dasya is naturally included.

      The gopīs and gopas are aware that Krishna is God on some level and as long as it does not interfere with their bhava. There are many prayer, for example in the Praṇaya Gītā (SB 10.29.36-37), where they clearly express their awareness that He is Bhagavān:

      “O Lotus-Eyed One, Beloved of us forest dwellers, You allowed us to touch Your feet, which even Lakṣmī can only occasionally serve. From that very moment, it became impossible for us to tolerate the company of any other man.

      Even the gods seek the favor of Śrī, the Goddess of Prosperity. You have given Her an exalted place on Your chest, but She desires to be with Tulasī in the dust of Your feet, which are attended by Your servants. We take refuge of that very same dust.”

      However, just a few verses before they speak of Narāyana as a completely different person. So on one level they are aware, but on another, they are not – whatever serves the līla.

      These are just my 2 cents. Let’s wait for Babaji’s rely.

  5. Hare Krishna!

    Dear Malatimanjari Mataji,
    Thank you very much for your kind and informative reply.
    I am looking forward to Satyanarayana Babaji’s reply as well.

    Hare Krishna!

    1. Prabhu ji, he thought my rely was fine and didn’t want to add anything. So I guess you would have to ask another question along these lines to get his reply, if you want to.

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