Tag Archives: Krsna-lila

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 

Expansion of the Siddha-svarupa

Question: We hear repeatedly that our goal is to become eternal servants of Śrī Rādhā Kṛṣṇa  in Goloka Vrindavan. So when one reaches that position, for example as gopī or gopa, and is engaged in one’s eternal service, then at that time what about Gaura-līlā?

Answer: I am sure you know that our ācāryas like Srī Rūpa Gosvāmī have their mañjarī svarūpas. They are also part of Gaura-līlā. This implies that a Gaudīya Vaiṣṇava can have two siddha-svarūpas, one in Gaura-līlā and one in Kṛṣṇa-līlā.

Question: So it means one can have a double existence in the spiritual world, serving in Gaura-līlā and Kṛṣṇa-līlā at the same time? Does the consciousness split into two? 

Answer: Exactly. However, the consciousness does not split into two but expands. Just as Kṛṣṇa can expand into many forms, so also a devotee can expand to render service. When Kṛṣṇa married 16,000 princesses simultaneously in 16,000 different palaces, it is not that only He expanded into 16,000 forms but also His brother, parents, and other relatives. A marriage in Vedic culture requires all these relatives to be present. Similarly, a devotee can be in both Gaura-līlā and Kṛṣṇa-līlā. 


Svarūpa-siddhā bhakti

Question: Is the offering of prasādam considered āropa-siddhā bhakti or svarūpa-siddhā bhakti? By nature, food items are material and yet they become prasāda after being offered to Kṛṣṇa. In the same sense, the faculties of speech and hearing are material but are also connected to Kṛṣṇa. It seems difficult to differentiate between svarūpa-siddhā bhakti and āropa-siddhā bhakti.

Answer: Any activity that is directly related to Bhagavān is svarūpa-siddhā bhakti, such as cleaning the temple, deity seva (which includes the offering of bhoga), nāma-japa, kīrtan, reciting stotras, etc.

Question: In general understanding, a pure devotee has offered himself through his mind, words, and actions to his guru or iṣṭa-devatā and hence all his actions are nirguṇa, including going to Loi Bazaar.

Answer: Yes, in the case of a devotee who has surrendered in the true sense of the word, all his acts are devotion. The mind, body, and senses of such a devotee are used only in service. He goes to Loi Bazar only for service and not for loafing around. That is the meaning of surrender.  


From Brahma-sayujya to Vaikuntha

Question: What is your opinion on Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta 2.2.207 and Sanātana Gosvāmī’s commentary in relation to the possibility that some jīvas may go from brahma-sāyujya to Vaikuṇṭha? I also heard that Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa wrote something similar but I cannot remember the exact quotation.

Answer: It is possible for liberated jīvas to move out of brahma-sāyujya. This is what Sanātana Gosvāmī says in this verse. He does not mention anything more but explains the possibility. The basic point that he is making is that a jīva has a distinct identity even in brahma-sāyujya. The jīva does not become absolutely one with Brahman.

The words tayā śaktyā in the verse refer to the power of bhakti. From this, I conjecture that if a jñānī who was performing sādhanā for brahma-sāyujya develops an attraction for bhakti by bhakta-saṅga, then as per his former wish, he will enter into Brahman and then into Vaikuṇṭha. It is like the example of Dhruva who performed tapasyā for obtaining a kingdom but after seeing Viṣṇu, he lost interest in it. So, he did not ask for a kingdom but because this was his wish to begin with, he had to accept the kingdom and later enter into Vaikuṇṭha. This is how I understand the verse.