Tag Archives: raganuga bhakti

Diving into Bhakti-Rasamrita Sindhu

Question: We are reading the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu in a workshop. Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī has ten practices considered “primary in the beginning”—including worship of the banyan tree, etc. Then he speaks of the last five practices as having “extraordinary and incomprehensible power.”

My question is, why are śravaṇa, smaraṇam (smṛti), and dhyāna placed in the middle of the 64 items and not commented upon as especially important when they seem to be the highest goal?

Answer:  Bhakti is the path of turning a non-devotee, bahirmukha-jīva, into a person whose regard is turned toward Bhagavān i.e an antarmukha-jīva. This is its distinction from all other paths.  Therefore, the process of bhakti begins with taking shelter of a guru, prapatti or śaraṇāgati. 

Śravaṇa, kīrtana, etc., can be done by anyone, i.e., they can be done without accepting śaraṇāgati. But that would not make one a bhakta if he is not prapanna or śaraṇāgata. You can witness many people coming to a kirtan-fest and participating in śravaṇa and kīrtana. Even Kaṁsa and Śiśupāla performed smaraṇa, but that did not count as bhakti. Therefore, you will see that prapatti or śaraṇāgati is always the first step in bhakti, e.g., Gītā 18.66, SB 11.3.21, Gītā 4.34.

Thus Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī writes that the first three limbs are the foundation of bhaktitrayaṁ pradhānamevoktaṁ gurupādāśrayādikam (BRS 1.2.83). These three are guru-pādāśraya, dīkṣā and śikṣā, and guru-sevā. All other limbs of bhakti are based on these three. Without these three, there is no bhakti. Why? Because the person is still a bahirmukha. This is a very important point to understand and a very crucial one for a serious sādhaka. We see a lot of stress given to śravaṇa and kīrtana. That is fine but we should not overlook the requirement to take shelter of a guru.

Question: In verse 270, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī begins his discussion on rāgānugā but states rāgātmikā needs first to be understood. Having divided rāgātmikā into kāma-rūpā and sambandha-rūpā, he then jumps into a ten-verse discussion (verses 274–282) about various ways of fixing the mind on Kṛṣṇa, favorably or unfavorably, all of which belong to vaidhī. He does not announce he is taking this excursion—it seems to come under the rubric of rāgātmikā-bhakti. Any thoughts on this from a structural point of view?

Answer: It is not true that in verses 274-282, he describes vaidhī bhakti. Verses 274–275 are examples of kāma-rūpā and sambandha-rūpā-bhakti, as mentioned in verse 273. In these verses, the gopīs are examples of kāma-rūpā-bhakti, and the Vṛṣṇis are examples of sambandha-rūpā-bhakti. In verses 274 and 275, he describes how many people in the past have attained Kṛṣṇa by absorbing their mind in Him. Absorption of mind is the essence of rāga bhakti. He gives examples of different people who attained Kṛṣṇa by absorption. There is no vidhi mentioned in these verses; there is no verb of an injunction. There cannot be any vidhi for kāma or sambandha. Then in verses 276 and 277, he explains that although there cannot be any injunction for fear, bhaya, and hatred, dveṣa, they cannot be counted as bhakti. One may doubt how bhaktas and enemies can attain the same position; he explains that from verse 278 onwards until verse 282. The purpose of all this description is to explain rāga bhakti and not vaidhī. A hint of this was already given in verse 1.2.3, 4.

Question: I had no idea rāgātmikā included Kaṁsa, etc. I had always associated rāgātmikā exclusively with the Vraja community. But it makes sense to think of Kaṁsa and such as utterly and spontaneously absorbed in Kṛṣṇa. 

Answer: He is rāgātmikā but not a bhakta. His absorption in Kṛṣṇa is natural. It was not achieved by any practice or because of some injunction. He feared Kṛṣṇa that he would kill him. Thus his absorption was not favorable. Therefore, it is not accepted as bhakti. Similarly Śiśupāla was also absorbed in thoughts of Kṛṣṇa but out of hatred, dvēṣa. This is stated by Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmi in 1.2.276 – ānukūlya-viparyāsād bhīti-dveṣau parāhatau. 

Question: I’m not clear, in verse 276, why sneha denotes only sakhya, and if so, denotes specifically vaidhi-bhakti. Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī does say later that if sneha denotes prema, it would be rāgānugā.

Answer: In verse 275, sneha is used in reference to the Pāṇḍavas—snehād yūyam (Nārada spoke this to Yudhiṣṭhira). The Pāṇḍavas were sakhās (see Gītā 4.3 and 11.41). This bhāva is considered vaidhi because the Pāṇḍavas were very much aware of Kṛṣṇa’s aiśvarya-jñāna. Pure rāgātmikā does not have aiśvarya-jñāna in it. The second part of your question is a misunderstanding. He says that if the word sneha is to be taken to mean prema, then it does not have any utility in the description of rāgānugā sādhana-bhakti. Prema is sādhya and not sādhana.

Question: Is the point that the lower level sneha is of lesser intensity than prema and so still needs to be bolstered by vaidhi?

Answer: It is lower intensity because it is vaidhi and not the other way around.

Question: Would this then be referencing Kṛṣṇa’s aiśvarya friends in Dvārakā and the Mahābhārata?

Answer: Yes. The point is that when one has aiśvarya-jñāna, the level and intensity of prīti go down. You cannot be intensely intimate with someone if he or she is much superior to you, and you are aware of this dynamic. Prema gives intimacy and aiśvarya brings distance, a sense of reverence.

Question: Why only sakhya? Why can’t this type of sneha be found in the other bhāvas?

Answer: It is possible in other bhāvas but here it refers specifically to the Pāṇḍavas.

Question: Sārūpya can be of two modalities, yes? One can have a form like Viṣṇu’s and reside in Vaikuṇṭha as a separate being, one of the five kinds of mokṣa frequently referred to, or one can merge into Kṛṣṇa’s body like Agha? In the latter case, one is no longer a separate entity and so cannot express prema but can experience the ānanda of Kṛṣṇa’s body, which would be greater than brahmānanda—is this correct?

Answer: The latter one is not called sārūpya but sāyujya. It is sāyujya, which is of two types—brahma-sāyujya and bhagavad-sāyujya. You are mixing bhagavad-sāyujya with sārupya.

Question: In verse 280, siddha-loka seems to be equated with brahma-sāyujya. I thought it was an actual loka with enlightened siddha beings.

Answer: You are right. It is a place beyond the Virajā River. Those who are śānta-rasa bhaktas live there, and those who attain brahma-sāyujya also exist there without a body.

Question: I am unclear about verse 303. Riraṁsā is the desiderative of ram, meaning that such persons have an intense spontaneous desire. Is this discounted as rāgānugā because it is not focused on a role model in Vraja? If so, does this mean rāgānugā can only be Vraja-centered? Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī seems to say this in 291. Even then, if one has an intense and spontaneous desire to serve Kṛṣṇa in Dvārakā, why would that be classified as vaidhibhakti?

Answer: First, riraṁsā is not pure rāgātmikā. Secondly, it is attained by vaidhi-bhakti. Vaidhi cannot be considered spontaneous. Pure rāgānugā is only in Vraja. Thus, it can be called a type of mixed rāgānugā-bhakti.

Furthermore, verse 303 itself says vidhi-mārgeṇa sevate. That means one is not following the mood of the rāgātmikā-bhaktas, which is the very definition of rāgānugā-bhakti. So, how can it be rāgānugā-bhakti? The word kevalena implies that there is no mood of rāgātmikā-bhakti. To become a gopī, one must follow rāgānugā-bhakti, not vaidhi-bhakti.

Question: What if such a person was not a Vraja-bhakta but a Dvārakā-bhakta but needed no vidhi—what would that be called if it is technically neither rāgānugā-bhakti nor vaidhi-bhakti?

Answer: It is still mixed rāgānugā because such a person would have aiśvarya-jñāna, which will constrict the prīti and cause him to follow specific protocols with Kṛṣṇa because Kṛṣṇa is royalty. He cannot jump on Kṛṣṇa’s shoulders—even if he is in sakhya-bhāva. The friendship would not be like that of the cowherds. Kṛṣṇa will also not be as relaxed as He is in Vraja. He has to maintain His royal demeanor. The mood in Dvārakā is not free as in Vraja. There Kṛṣṇa is a royal person and observes royal protocol. Friends, queens and other devotees are also aware of it and thus their love is not free as those of Vraja residents.

Qualification for Lila-Smaranam and Rasa-katha

Question: In Bhakti Sandarbha 310, Srīla Jīva Gosvāmī writes regarding rāgānugā sādhana as, “ata evāsyā janma-lakṣaṇaṁ bhakti-vyatirekeṇānyatrānabhirucim upalakṣya“. Does that mean that a sādhaka in rāgānugā bhakti will not have a taste for anything apart from bhakti? Does this not imply that he is free of anarthas?

Answer: There will be no gross anarthas like lust and greed.  But some subtle anarthas may linger on.

Question:  In Bhakti Sandarbha 338c, commenting on SS10.33.39 [40], Srīla Jīvā Gosvāmī writes, “kintu rahasya-līlā tu pauruṣa-vikāravad-indriyaiḥ, pitṛ-putra-dāsa-bhāvaiś ca nopāsyā, svīya-bhāva-virodhāt“, what does paurusha vikaravat indriya mean here, and how is this different from lust? I’m asking because SB 10.33.39 states that listening to rasa-kathā frees one from lust, but at the same time, someone with material sense desires should not listen.

AnswerPaurusha vikaravat means sexual agitation. There is not much confidential līlā described in the rasa-līlā chapter, except for a few verses like 10.29.46. Even this should be heard from a qualified speaker, and the audience also needs the qualification of śraddhānvita and dhīraRasa-līlā is not for an aśraddhālu and adhīra.

Moreover, he is prohibiting listening to rahasya-līlā, as described in other works such as Śrī Surata Kathāmṛtam. 

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Question: I have heard that there are two types of līlā-smāraṇam. One is meditating on the pastimes of Vraja, and the other is meditating from the vantage point of our siddha-deha where we are participating in the līlā. Is it sanctioned to do the first type of līlā-smāraṇam (only meditating on Vraja pastimes, not siddha-deha) before attaining laulyam for rāgānugā-bhakti? What are the necessary qualifications for performing either of the types of līlā-smāraṇam?

Answer: Have you taken dīkṣā from a qualified guru? If your reply is no, then you are not qualified for līlā-smāraṇam. If your reply is yes, then please ask this question to your Gurudeva.

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Question: I’ve heard many gurus say that rādhā-dāsyam or mañjarī-bhāva is the highest. But I do not understand what it is. Please explain rādhā-dāsyam in detail and how to practice it.

Answer: I never speak about rādhā-dāsyam or mañjarī-bhāva, so I am the wrong person to ask. Why not ask those gurus who talk about it? 

Question: Whatever you wish for me to do, I will follow. Then what does the Gadādhara-parivāra say is the highest devotional mood?

Answer: I do not know why you ask this question. All Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas follow the śāstras given to us by the Gosvāmīs—Rūpa, Sanātana, and Jīva. Why should the Gadādhara-parivāra or any other parivāra have a different goal than what is described in the śāstra? We follow the teachings of the Gosvāmīs.

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Question: I read one statement by Śrī Viśvānatha Cakravartī Ṭhākura in his book “Svakīya Parakīya Rasa Vicāra,” where he states:

pramāṇāntarasya tu kutrāpy adṛṣṭatvāt

“One cannot find any evidence of description of marriage between Rādhārāṇī and Kṛṣṇa in any scripture.” (Text 4)

I heard that in Brahmavaivarta Purāṇa there is a description of a marriage between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. It is interesting that many moralists, including many devotees, try to justify pastimes between Rādhārāṇī and Kṛṣṇa by citing their marriage as described in Brahmavaivarta Purāṇa and Garga Saṁhitā. There’s also a mention of Their marriage in the Bhandiravana līlāsthali found in Vṛndāvana.

Svakīyavādīs use this to justify their belief that Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa were married. But parakīyavādīs say that since there was no kanya-dāna, it is not a proper marriage and only like a gandharva-vivaha. But the fact of the matter is that gandharva-vivaha is still a vivaha since Brahmā supposedly acted as a priest.

I am confused as to why Viśvānatha Cakravartī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda didn’t refute that part of Brahmavaivarta Purāṇa and the līlāsthali at Bhandiravan.

Answer: Līlāsthali is no proof; it is an interpolation. It did not exist at the time of Viśvānatha Cakravartī Ṭhākura. You can call any place anything you like, and after some time nobody will question its authenticity.

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Can Kṛṣṇa Be Attained Through Enmity? (Part 2)

Two Types of Criticism

Sisupala beheaded
Sisupala beheaded

After explaining the nature of Kṛṣṇa, who is equal in honor and dishonor, Śrī Nārada explained that Śrī Kṛṣṇa does not see a difference between people who approach Him out of enmity, or without enmity, with fear, affection, or desire to enjoy Him (kāma):

tasmād vairānubandhena
nirvaireṇa bhayena vā
snehāt kāmena vā yuñjyāt
kathañcin nekṣate pṛthak

“Therefore, one should develop some type of relationship with Kṛṣṇa, be it out of enmity, fear, devotion, familial relation, or romantic affections. One should be so powerfully bound to Kṛṣṇa that he sees no difference between Kṛṣṇa and himself.” (SB 7.1.25)

While commenting on this verse, Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī raises an objection: We can accept that the Lord is not troubled by dishonor or criticism, but what about the criticizer? Wouldn’t that person be implicated in bad karma by such blasphemy? In response, he explains that criticism is of two types – one that is favorable or pleasing and the other that is unfavorable. The first one arises out of intense love and it is not meant to harm or disturb the person. As an expression of such intense love, it may be uttered out of frustration in separation or some other seemingly undesirable act of one’s beloved. An example of this is the following verse from Bhrahmara Gītā (The Song of the Bee), said to be spoken by Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī Herself (SB 10.47.17):

“Although it is difficult even to give up talking about Kṛṣṇa, let’s try to give up our relationship with Him! Not only with Him but with any and all dark-complexioned people like him! They are probably as unrighteous as he is. As Lord Rama He killed the monkey king like a stealthy hunter killing an innocent dear. He accepted the gifts of Bali Mahārāja and then bound him up with ropes as if he were a crow. As Lakṣmaṇa he disfigured Surparnaka.”

Such criticism out of love can be made only by Śrīmatī Rādhā. This verse was spoken when Kṛṣṇa left Vṛndāvana for Mathurā and sent Uddhava back as a messenger. Seeing Uddhava, the gopīs remembered their pastimes with Kṛṣṇa. At that time, a bumble bee was flying around the feet of Śrīmatī Rādhā. In the madness of love, out of intense separation from Kṛṣṇa, Śrīmatī Rādhā spoke this verse. Such criticism obviously will not create any bad karma.

The second type of criticism, which is not an outcome of devotion, has further two divisions: One is the result of absorption in Bhagavān and the other is without absorption. Śiśupāla is an example of the first one. Although Śiśupāla’s criticism did create bad karma, the very cause of this criticism, i.e., absorption in Kṛṣṇa, immediately destroyed this bad karma and elevated Śiśupāla to the platform of devotion. It is with this intention that enmity has been prescribed in verse 7.1.25 mentioned above.

Although such absorption is beyond any prescription, it has been included as part of a prescription only because it gives the result similar to regulated devotion (vaidhī bhakti). Since such criticism does not bring any disturbance to Bhagavān, it possible that the bad karma of the critique gets nullified. The import of the verse is that, therefore, the mind of a person who has enmity toward the Lord in absorption is fixed on Him.

Relation with Kṛṣṇa in Love

The term nirvaireṇa (without enmity) denotes the process which is devoid of any enmity, in other words, bhakti-yoga. Alternatively, vaira means opponent and nirvairaṁ is the opposite of that, namely an ally. This means one who considers Kṛṣṇa as His or Her son. In verse 7.1.30 this is described by the word sambandha or relation. Thus, nirvaira means a devotee who has a specific relation with Kṛṣṇa.

For this reason, the word snehāt (from affection) should be taken as an adjective of kāma and not as a separate category. Thus, snehāt kāmena means kāma born out of love. If snehāt is taken as a separate category, it breaks the order of other words, which are in the third case, while snehāt is in the fifth.

It is understood that in verse 7.1.25 five types of people are mentioned: an enemy (vaira), a devotee without any specific relation (nirvaira), a devotee with a specific relation (bandha), one who has fear (bhaya), and one who has pure love (snehāt kāma).

All of these people do not see Bhagavān as separate (pṛtak) from themselves. They see Him according to their mood or relation. Just as in love one feels unity, there is also a type of unity that arises from absorption in fear and enmity, although it is unfavorable. Such persons realize this unfavorable unity by attaining sāyujya mukti.

One statement can have different meanings in relation to different people. Therefore the verb yuñjyāt in this verse, which is in the potential case, implies an injunction of fixing the mind on Bhagavān through enmity, fear, etc. Such an injunction is not applicable in case of Śiśupāla whose enmity was natural (out of rāga). Can we, therefore, conclude that it is for other people? Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī says that such an injunction is not possible because śāstra does not propagate enmity toward the Lord. In the definition of śaraṇāgati, it is said that one should perform only favorable actions and avoid anything displeasing to Kṛṣṇa. Moreover, even if enmity were prescribed for people other than Śiśupāla, it would not make their minds absorbed in Kṛṣṇa. Such a practice is certainly not appreciated by Kṛṣṇa Himself. In fact, He prohibits it:

tān ahaṁ dviṣataḥ krūrān
saṁsāreṣu narādhamān
kṣipāmy ajasram aśubhān
asurīṣv eva yoniṣu

“I perpetually hurl these vicious, cruel and impure people, who are the most degraded and lowest among men, into asuric species.” (Gīta 16.19)

Even Kṛṣṇa’s Enemies Are Blessed

One may argue that only natural enmity will cause bad karma, but not enmity described in the scriptures. If this is so, why did Śiśupāla attain liberation from all karma as a result of his natural enmity toward Kṛṣṇa? One may further argue that Śiśupāla is an exception to the rule. Then why are there no examples of saintly people who practiced enmity based on alleged scriptural injunctions. And on what basis should one cultivate unfavorable emotions towards Kṛṣṇa? Only a person who believes that Bhagavān will personally kill him can truly be absorbed in enmity and fear of Him; much like one who is in mortal danger from a tiger or snake will naturally be absorbed in fear and enmity towards them.
Therefore, this verse should be understood as follows: Bhagavān blesses even those who are inimical toward Him, so it is highly improper to have such a negative mood towards Him. One should absorb one’s mind in Him by any other way, avoiding enmity. In Pūrva Mīmāṁsā this method of conveying meaning is called parisaṅkhyaviddhi, where an injunction actually implies prohibition. Accepting this meaning, the prefix nir in nirvaira is to be taken in the sense of negation.

Thus, nirvaira means any other mood than vaira, or enmity, such as that of a friend, a relative, a son, etc. One should fix one’s mind on Kṛṣṇa in this way. The meaning of the term vairānubandhena is to be taken as an adverb, implying the absorption of the mind just as one is absorbed in an enemy. One who is bound (anubandha) to someone is absorbed in that. Taking this sense of vairānubandhena, the mood of indifference has been excluded. Snehāt kāmena means the conjugal desire born out of affection. This is to be read together with the word bhayena, with fear, which means the conjugal desire following in the mood of the damsels of Vraja who had a sense of fear because of giving up the path or morality. The word va (or) along with bhayena implies conjugal feelings devoid of fear. This refers to being a follower of people like Rukmiṇī who had a conjugal desire for Kṛṣṇa devoid of the fear of giving up the path of morality. In the scriptures there are statements about relationships with Kṛṣṇa as a paramour as well as a duly married husband. The first one is stated in Bṛhad-vāmana Purāṇa, “worship of Kṛṣṇa in the mood of a paramour is most intense and superior to any other mood.” The second is described in Kūrma Purāṇa. “The sons of Agnī, the great beings, were born as women and accepted the source of the universe, the unborn all-pervading Lord, as their husband.”

Importance of Emotional Absorption in Kṛṣṇa

The real import of this verse is not giving any specific type of prescription to fix the mind on Kṛṣṇa, but rather it implies that the essence and greatness of devotion lies in the mind being naturally absorbed in Kṛṣṇa. Otherwise, if the literal meaning of the verse were taken, the prescription of enmity or fear, which implies hatred, goes against the very purpose of scripture which is ultimately meant to propagate love. This implied meaning indeed in further conveyed by Śrī Nārada in the following verse:

“The intensity with which a mortal being becomes absorbed through enmity does not happen by prescribed devotion (vaidhī bhakti). This is my definite opinion.”(SB 7.1.26)

Certainly Śrī Nārada, who himself is a great devotee, is not prescribing enmity towards Bhagavān but is teaching the importance of emotional absorption in Kṛṣṇa. The best example is one which can be understood by the student. A common person has experience of enmity, but not of pure devotion. Enmity here also signifies hatred, fear, jealously, and related negative emotions which make one’s mind naturally absorbed in the object of this emotion. Imagine a person lying in his bed in a dark room, knowing that there is a snake in the same room. His mind will be completely immersed in fear of it.

Therefore, to teach how the mind should be absorbed in pure devotion, Nārada gives the example of absorption in thought toward an enmity, which happens naturally. Another example is that of a lusty young man whose mind is engrossed in thoughts of women. Nārada tells Yudhiṣṭhira that Śiśupāla’s tongue should have developed leprosy because of his verbal abuses, but then praises Śiśupāla even more than those engaged in bhakti yoga because of Śiśupāla’s intense absorption in Kṛṣṇa.

Thus, on the path of rāgānuga bhakti, even the mood of enmity toward Kṛṣṇa is praised because it results in absorption of Bhagavān – not to speak of devotees like Vāsudeva and Devakī who have the natural mood of paternal affection toward Kṛṣṇa. Then what more can be said about Nanda and Yaśodā whose absorption grows every moment.

So, can Kṛṣṇa be attained through hatred? An ordinary person cannot be absorbed in Him through hatred or criticism as Śiśupāla was. Therefore, such a person will not attain mukti, but rather glide down to lower species of life. The importance lies in absorption and not in the process or the means to attain it. It is also because of such absorption that rāgānuga bhakti is praised over vaidhī bhakti. Therefore devotion to Kṛṣṇa following the mood of the residents of Vraja is superior to any form of vaidhī bhakti.

Japa and Shastra Retreat in Switzerland

The second annual retreat of Babaji Satyanarana Dasa’s students was recently held in Switzerland, drawing students from Europe, United States, Australia, and India. Although the range of experience and knowledge of the students varied considerably, the objectives for all were to further develop their personal sādhana and to gain a correct understanding of pure devotion (uttama bhakti ). During the first week, students had the rare opportunity of being in an environment that supported long periods of japa chanting, with few external distractions.  Telephone, Internet and computers were not allowed. Everyone was asked to forget everything except the chanting, as if the rest of the world did not exist.

Although chanting is one of the simple processes of devotion, to do it properly requires instruction. Babaji referred to various shastras which describe the proper method of chanting. Babaji also provided personal guidance in proper chanting, and even long-time devotees were able to improve the focus and quality of their chanting.

During the second week, Babaji lectured daily both morning and afternoon for three hours each, on bhakti using Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura’s Mādhurya-kadambinī as the main text, with selected excerpts from Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, as well as Śrīla Jiva Gosvāmī’s Śrī Bhakti Sandarbha. The lectures covered the correct meaning of bhakti, how it is attained, characteristics of bhakti, offenses blocking bhakti, divisions of bhakti (rāgānuga  and vaidhi), and steps in the progress of bhakti. There were lively discussions and questions raised by the participants which illuminated very subtle and practical points about bhakti.

The 30 devotees enjoyed wonderful prasāda, the company of each other, nightly kirtans, and the celebration of Sri Krishna’s appearance day, as well as the beauty of rural Switzerland and the joy of having fresh milk from the local cows.  Fortunately the weather was very pleasant and sunny throughout the retreat, and every day devotees went on walks in the lush green meadows. Babaji consciously didn’t plan or delegate the details of the daily services, like cooking, cleaning and serving since he wanted the devotees to naturally follow their liking, as per the nature of rāgānuga bhakti sādhana. It worked out to the satisfaction of all.

At an iṣṭagoṣṭhī with all the devotees Babaji declared that in the future he will have three levels of retreat. Next year the primary level for beginners will be held in Europe, most probably in Switzerland, from September 7th to 14th. Others who have already taken the retreat are also welcome to join. The second level of retreat will be held in Vrindavan at the Jiva Institute from November 9th to 19th. This will be more intensive than the last retreat and only those who have participated in a  previous retreat can attend. The third level of retreat will be held only for very select devotees. In this intense course course, with devotees in seclusion,  the deepest secrets about japa will be taught.

Babaji also mentioned that beginning from next September he will offer a a three-year degree course on śāstra.  He also revealed his plans for creating Jiva Vedic University at Hodal, part of Vraja,  one hour away from Vrindavan, where Jiva Institute has acquired about 15 acres of land. The construction is scheduled to begin by the end of this year.

Retreat 2013 group photo
Retreat 2013 group photo

 

Feedback and Appreciation Letters from Participants

 

“I have been chanting for 40 years the mahamantra, but have not made significant improvement.  In one week of practicing according to the method prescribed, I felt that I made some head way.

This retreat clarified many misconceptions that were obstacles to the devotional path, explained distinct difference between vaidhi and raganuga bhakti, and provided clear directions for future progress.”

Purushottama Dasa

*

I found this retreat to be so much more than I could ever imagine.
Life-changing, undoing, deep, profound sweetness
that touched my heart and soul.
Community living, love and support, blessed food,
kirtan, seva, and hikes in the beautiful countryside.
The depth, mystery and hugeness of this Bhakti path unfolding…
Reflections of each other
held within Babaji’s wisdom, love and guidance.
True sanga was experienced
while in the practice of Japa and Shasta.
Leaving inspired, with a little more knowledge,
an open heart and an experience of a lifetime.
I will be back for more!

Nanda Devi Dasi

*

 

“I know no words that would describe beatitude that has landed in my heart in these few days of purification through wonderful sanga of You, Babaji, and all Great Devotees, as well as the practice with all programs. It has been deeply touching and certainly an eye opener.

It has given us a real taste of Spiritual life and showed us value of genuine Guru Parampara. Despite such a short duration of this retreat and very mild in discipline, the results are outstanding. My heart has burst into tears of joy and bliss.

Babaji, You have elevated my heart to the dimension that I have long forgotten. Dimension, which for me, has empowered the meaning of altruistic service to the Lord.

In my humble opinion life should be such a retreat, as this retreat was a real TREAT.
The retreat has brought a lot of clarification, empirical knowledge and purity in the heart.
It set meaningful goals in life, cleared all doubts and confusions as well as centered my values and priorities.  In overall, I look forward to the next retreat with, hopefully, longer duration and stronger intensity. ”

Tamal Krishna Dasa

 

*

“What we experienced during the retreat was great happiness because of having the opportunity to have your association and listen to your 6 hrs lectures every day in an ideal environment in which our only task was to learn from Your Holiness. One may think that 6 hrs is a long time for philosophy lectures (sincerely, we had our doubts about our capacity to be able to be attentive during all that time) but your incredible capacity to present in a very clear and easy way the deepest and very complex concepts of Vaisnava philosophy as well as your great sense of humor, rendered your lectures easy to understand (according to our capacity) and very enjoyable. In fact, at the end of the retreat, we felt like we had arrived just one day before but actually we were there for a week!

Also, your lectures were eye opening for us, as we had so many misunderstandings and misconceptions due to our wrong  understanding of Vaisnava philosophy. What else to say?  Maybe a heartfelt THANK YOU for inviting us to the retreat, we feel very motivated and enthusiastic!”

Raghava Dasa and Bhadra Dasi

*

 

Our teacher full of splendor

taught us secrets of surrender

how to love and how to render

service to the Lord so tender

there’s no time that we remember

we felt blessed like this September

– Dandavats and our deepest heartfelt thanks to you, dear Babaji,

and all the assembled Vaishnavas!

Vedanta-krit Dasa and Arjuniya-gopi Devi Dasi

 

*

“I found the retreat very helpful.  It helped to restore my faith in Harinama and sastra, and it showed me how much association really affects us.  We tend to accept credit for our good qualities and overlook our shortcomings or blame others. My understanding so far is that really it all stems from association, our teachers, parents, society etc. The example of the human mind being like a crystal, which takes on the qualities of something placed beside it.

During the retreat setting, with all that external ‘noise’ gone, or minimised, and hearing regularly from sastra and the acaryas, it’s possible to actually be aware and think more clearly. That’s a good environment for sraddha to become strengthened, because it seems sraddha and awareness are linked.
Having returned home, the changes are pretty much instant; in fact they begin at the airport …”

Radheya

*

“As a result of learning the proper method of chanting during last year’s retreat I was eager to improve my practice, and focus on the Holy Name without the distractions of daily life. Babaji gave us the wonderful challenge and a unique opportunity to deeply absorb ourselves in the Name by eliminating all other samskaras and just feed this one – nama japa. Resisting the temptations of the beautiful landscape and relinquishing electronic communications for one week, I endeavored to forget the outside word. Nothing else mattered during this precious period, only our small group of devotees, all gathered for the same purpose, eager to learn from Babaji.

The result was amazing. While I sadly realized how many offenses against the Name I had previously committed, I experienced the Mahamantra in a way I never had in my over 20 years of daily japa. This was very encouraging, and it also showed me how essential a peaceful environment and an undisturbed mind are for good results and progress. Without such retreats, at least for me, such an experience would not be possible otherwise.

The discourses on shastra were equally uplifting and illuminating. In just one week Babaji explained the basic principles about bhakti and clarified many prominent misconceptions one encounters on this path. He gave us enough nectar to quench our thirst, and at the same time our thirst for more nectar from the bhakti ocean only increased. ”

Malati Manjari Dasi

*

 

“We feel very fortunate that we got the opportunity to participate in a week long seminar on the subject of philosophy on bhakti marga, given by Satyanarayana Dasa, in the beautiful countryside of Switzerland. In this intensive, 6-hour daily seminar, we had opportunity to learn about the gradual progress of the spiritual aspirant and the qualities and characteristics one will need to develop in order to reach spiritual perfection on the path of bhakti. Beside all this greatly nourishing shastric studies, guided by an expert scholar and Vaishnava, we had wonderful time, including walks in nature, excellent prasadam, evening bhajans in the association of many participants, coming from many different countries, as far as Australia and US. In conclusion, after our very happy experience we are truly looking forward to the next year’s seminar, that will be arranged in Vrindavana, India. “

Paragati dasa & Sunayana d.d.

*

“The retreat has been a very deep entrance into studying path of pure devotion. Dr. Satyanarayana Dasahas a genuine holistic knowledge of different darshanas as well as full dedication to his own path, being a scholar of the Gaudiya scriptures. It is both wide and very specific, so he can give complete answers to our different questions, and put everything, every concept into its own place. It is very satisfying, pacifying and balancing for the mind.

His company is most precious and valuable. In him are held together the most inspiring Love, the brilliance of an efficient teacher, the full skill and authority of a master, and the total surrender of a devotee to his seva. I could watch and experience it.

He has given his heart to the retreat, so the retreat had real transforming power, and opened us to the Grace of the Lord. I am most grateful.”

M. Agnès – France

 

Gradations of Prema

Question: In his tika on Ujjvala Nilamani 8.137 Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur appears to grade the prema of five groups of sakhis with the parama-prestha sakhis having the best prema for Radha Krsna. Both they and the priya-sakhis are said to have greater prema than the prema of the prana and nitya-sakhis (manjaris). How has the tradition that so strongly asserts that manjari bhava is the fullest measure of unnatojjvala rasa dealt VCT’s comments?

Purva raga / Vrindavan Arts
Purva raga / Vrindavan Arts

Answer:  Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur himself writes in the commentary to this verse that the ‘follower’ gopis are lesser than those they follow; and without following there is no raganuga bhakti. This is one consideration. The other consideration is that the parama-preshta sakhis are the kaya-vyuhas of Srimati Radhika. Sri Radhika expands to give pleasure to Sri Rasaraja in different moods. Thus they are supreme. No one can take their place. They are followed priya-sakhis which make the latter also supreme.

I think when it is said that ‘manjari-bhava is the fullest measure of unnatojjvala rasa’ it means that this is the highest a jiva can attain, not that it is highest in the absolute sense. Highest manifestation of this rasa is in Sri Radhika. No one would argue against that. Next come the parama-presthas who are expansions of Sri Radhika, and then their followers, the priya-sakhis.

There are different aspects to compare. A manjari is on top of the plant, so it is the highest. But it cannot subsist without the branch below it, and in that aspect, the branch is superior, being the support of the manjari above it.

Manjari is a ‘follower’ category, while parama-prestha is a ‘followed’ category.  Therefore the latter is superior. This is my understanding of Sri VCT’s comment. Others may have a different understanding from a different aspect of comparison.

Question: One of the reasons I raised this question was because someone has written a book stressing on the basis of this commentary that by following the parama-prestha-sakhi one can attain the status of a priya-sakhi. Whereas by following a prana-sakhi one can attain the status of a nitya-sakhi. Thus both are points of entry into tad-bhavechamayi madhurya rasa and both are followers, but the priya-sakhi has more prema in following the parama-prestha-sakhi than the nitya-sakhi has in following the prana-sakhi. If this is accurate, it takes away from some of the reasoning in your reply, while going against hundreds of years of tradition it seems.

Answer: The fact is that people write books on these topics without having a clear concept themselves. It is not a matter of reading books and commentaries by oneself. Books are an aid in studying under a qualified teacher. Recently an e-book was also sent to me. The author has worked diligently with profuse quotes from scriptures. But unfortunately it is full of misconceptions which are being supported by quotes and are meant to remove misconceptions.

I was asked to give my comments but frankly i do not want to be part of any controversy. I respect all Vaishnavas. Now the book is written and is available openly. What is the point in pointing out mistakes now?

I see three common problems at present.

  1. Anyone can write books, no one bothers if one is qualified or not. Such was not the case in the past.
    2. Hardly anyone who writes has studied properly under a living qualified teacher.
    3. There is no one to check whether a book should be published or not. In the past there used to be pandit samaj to approve.

These are the problem of the modern age. It is for this reason that in the past in India books were not easily available and knowledge was not given openly lest unqualified people make mess out of it. Now that is gone. Everything is available on the net.

Coming to your specific question. The flaw with this argument is that the author assumes that it is up to the sadhaka to choose whom to follow. Just because something is written in Ujjvala Nilamani or Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu or Caitanya Caritamrita does not mean that it is the recommendation of the author. To make this more clear: There are various types of statements in shastra i.e. descriptive, injunctive etc. Descriptive statements are not recommendations to follow. For example, there are statements such as if you chant the name of the Lord jokingly, indicatively, as a refrain, or even with disrespect, you become free of all sins. (SB 6.2.14). This is not a recommendation to chant like this but a description of the power of the name. But someone can take this statement as authority and chant in the described way and also recommend so to others. In fact this goes on. Similarly there are statements about dying in Vrindavana.

So we have to see what is recommended by Mahaprabhu, and Gosvamis. Do they recommend following paramaprestha-sakhis or this sakhi or sakha? The author himself writes that Rupa, Visvanatha, Gopal Guru, Dhyanacandra, Bhaktivinoda etc are all Manjaris. Even Advaita Acharya and Nityananda are Manjaris, as per their followers, yet [he says that] UN etc recommend to follow parama-prestha sakhis. It means that author is smarter than every one else who preceded him up to Rupa Gosvami. This is a new discovery. A new siddhanta appears.

People are making siddhantas not even reading the books in their original language. Simply based on translations. These books are difficult to understand even when you study them in original under a teacher. What to speak of doing self-study using translations which may be even faulty. We understand according to our samskaras. Bhakti is not in our samskaras, otherwise we would not be here. That is why Krishna recommends, pranipata, pariprasna, and seva to know the truth (Gita 4.34) The meaning of this is to surrender mind, body, speech and ego, which means dump one’s samskaras and just listen. It is to be checked if the particular author has gone thru this process.

I do not argue against anyone because it is none of my business who believes in what. It is not my capacity to correct anyone, and why should I expect anyone to take my answer. I write this because you have raised the question and I needed to go the root cause of the misconception.

This is the age of “How To-Do-It Yourself”. The traditional style of education is out of fashion now. No one can put the humpty dumpty back on the wall. So I am working on a book “How to Understand Sastra”. This book will give some basic principles which will assist a self-reader in knowing the meaning of shastra.

 

 

Practices of Rāgānugā Bhakti

Question: Eight years ago, by his mercy my guru informed me about my siddha-deha (ekādaś bhāva). Gradually I came to understand that rāgānugā bhakti is not possible to practice unless and until one receives siddha praṇāli. Many devotees take initiation but they don’t know about this fact and they mistakenly think that the path of rāgānugā can only be practiced when one is on a very higher platform and that receiving siddha praṇāli is only possible for those who reach prema or at least bhāva. So, they sometimes say that this process of receiving siddha praṇāli is sahajiyaism. Anyway, do you agree that unless and until a devotee has received ekādaś bhāva he cannot follow the process of rāgānugā bhakti?

devotee meditatingAnswer: Please read the definition of rāgānugā in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, in Bhakti Sandarbha of Jīva Gosvāmī and in Mādhurya Kādambini of Śrila Viśvanātha Cakravarti. The major distinction between rāgānugā and vaidhi lies in the inspiration to begin devotion. When pravṛitti or engagement in bhakti is only because of scriptural injunction then it is called vaidhi (BRS 1.2.6), but when one is eager to get the bhāva of the vrajavāsis and engages in bhakti, that is called rāgānugā. For this, smaraa is the main process.

Getting Ekādaś bhāva is one process of rāgānugā bhakti, but it is not the only way. The bhāva can also be revealed later on. It is not compulsory that the guru has to give it at the time of dikṡā, although that is the trend at present. But it is wrong to say that rāgānugā can be practiced only at the level of bhāva or prema. Those who say this have not even understood the definition of rāgānugā bhakti. Also, it is ridiculous to say that receiving siddha praṇāli is sahajism. These people do not understand the meaning of sahajiyasm. They think that to follow anything other than chanting mahāmantra is sahajiyasm. This is pure ignorance.
However even if one has received ekādaś bhāva but does not have the lobha or intense yearning, then it does not fall into rāgānugā bhakti, as per the definition. So, what will it be or how can one begin rāgānugā without the lobha? Śrī Jīva gives the solution in Bhakti Sandarbha (Anuccheda 312).

Vrindavan Research InstituteQuestion: Of course, in agreement with you, there is a misunderstanding that rāgānugā bhakti can only be practised when ones reaches bhāva or prema. In Rāga-vartma Candrikā, Ṡrila Viśvanāth Cakravarti established that the devotee on the path of rāgānugā advances from the platform of anartha nivṛitti. So, that means that even on this level one can practise it. You said:”Getting Ekādaś bhāva is one process of rāgānugā bhakti, but it is not the only way.” Please could you tell which other way/s you are referring to?

Answer: The other way is that it can also be revealed to the sādhaka by the grace of the Holy Name. In Bhakti Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī stresses the importance of nāma-smaraṇa. Then, when the heart is purified by the grace of nāma, one is revealed guṇa, rūpa and līlā and one can do guṇa-smaraṇa, rūpa smaraṇa and līlā smaraṇa.
The point being made is that if the heart is not in sattva, līlā-smaraṇa is not possible and one may even get an adverse effect. This has been seen in many cases. Paṇḍit Ananta Dāsa Bābāji Maharaja also writes this in his commentary on Rāga-vartma-candrikā.

Question: From the verse sevā sādhaka rupeṇa siddha rupeṇa cātra hi of Bhakti-rasāmita sindhu (1.2.295) or from the verse ‘mane’ nija-siddha-deha kariyā bhāvanarātri-dine kare vraje kṛṣṇera sevana from CC (2.22.156) it is very clear that the process of rāgānugā implies to not only engage the mind in lilā smaraṇam but also to conceive in the mind one’s own spiritual form, otherwise is not possible to do mānasī sevā.
Answer: Yes, I am not denying that. I am only saying that there are other possibilities of getting ekādaś bhāva. Moreover, it is not necessary that ekādaś bhāva must be given at the time of dikśā only. They can also be given later when a sādhaka is qualified. Without the mind being in sattva predominantly, līlā smaraṇa is not possible. So nāma-smaraṇa and other physical service is recommended to clean the heart. Even Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu starts his Śikśāṣṭaka with ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanam – cleaning the mirror of the heart by kīrtaṇa.

It may be noted that the BRS verse cited by you has two parts, sevā sādhaka-rupeṇa (service by the sādhaka or physical body) and sevā siddha-rupeṇa (service by the imagined perfected body). The second is preceded by the first. Without first, the second will be almost impossible in most cases, especially at present when people in general are very much under the influences of rajas and tamas.

I would ask you the following question. If one has a qualified guru and is busy serving him in his sādhaka-rupa and thus has no time for the siddha-rupeṇa sevā, will that be rāgānugā or vaidhi or something else?

Do you think that Jīva Gosvāmi who wrote so many books, maintained a library, built a temple, did deity worship, taught to students śāstra and took care of guests from Bengal was following CC 2.22.156 cited above? In fact, do you know any practical example of a devotee at present who is doing what is said in this verse? Remember that this part of CC is talking only of sevā siddha-rupeṇa, and not of sadhaka-rupena.

I am sorry to say that most of the old Gauḍīya temples, libraries and temple properties got lost because too much stress was given to līlā smaraṇa (sevā siddha-rupeṇa), while sevā sādhaka-rupeṇa was neglected because it was considered as a disturbance. But this is not what the Gosvāmis did. Otherwise, how could they build temples and maintain them in Vrindavan, when there were no roads, no means available. They quote from hundreds of books in their writings. In those days there were no printing presses. They had to copy these books or depute people to do that. They quote from Rāmānujācarya and Madhvācarya. How did they get their books? Please think of all this. Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī comments on this famous verse from BRS referred by you, that sevā sādhaka-rupeṇa means following in the footsteps of Rūpa and Sanātana. Please read that part also. Yes, manasi seva has to be done but the other one should not be neglected, which is the case at present.

 

Pearl Story / Vrindavan Art
Pearl Story / Vrindavan Art

Question: My point was that to receive ekādaś bhāva is compulsory for the following rāgānugā bhakti. Siddha Jay Kṛṣṇadās Bābāji said that the rāgānugā guru always gives the information about the ekādaś bhāva to his disciples and also the siddha deha of all the guru varga. So, if one never receives the information about his siddha deha, will he/she will ever have the possibility of doing mānasī sevā as Rupa Gosvāmi and Kṛṣṇadās Kavirāja Gosvāmi said for the practice of the rāgānugā bhakti? If the main limb of rāgānugā bhakti is neglected how can we practice it?

Śrīla Narottama Dāsa said in his Prema Bhakti Candrika: “I will always think of the devotional service to the Divine Couple (mānasī sevā which requires siddha deha) and remain attached to that. The Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sādhaka should think of himself as an adolescent cowherd girl, a female associate of Rādharaṇi, the very life of the mind is smaraṇam of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, this is the practice and this is the goal.” And, “Never neglect the līlā smaraṇam (in the context of mānasī sevā), make it the soul and life of your spiritual life.”

Answer: In my first reply I had asked you to read the definition of rāgānugā bhakti. But you only refer to the siddha deha and mānasī sevā. I am not denying that but please do not overlook the other part. You are citing statements from Śrī Jīva Narottama about mānasī sevā but that is not the only thing he says. I am just trying to bring your attention to two points:

  1. Mānasī sevā needs some qualification which everyone may not have. To come to the level of mānasī sevā one must do sevā sādhaka-rupeṇa.
  2. Even while doing mānasī sevā, the sevā sādhaka-rupeṇa should not be neglected. Please read Śrī Jīva Gosvāmi on this in Bhakti Sandarbha. He says even if one has bhāva, one should do sevā sādhaka-rupeṇa for setting an example for others, and he himself is the best example of this.

The problem with Gauḍīya Math and its branches in general is that they think mānasī sevā is sahjiyaism, and on the other hand bābājis in general think that without mānasī sevā there is no rāgānugā bhakti. I am sorry, but I do not subscribe to any of these views. Gaudīya Vaiṣṇavism is a mess because hardly anyone studies the siddhānta. All these people whom you quote have studied the siddhānta and then they speak of mānasī sevā.

I am sorry to say that at present most people are not qualified for mānasī sevā. I speak from practical experience. So much degradation has come into our sampradāya because of this.
Mānasī sevā needs a sāttvic mind, especially freedom from desire to enjoy the association of the opposite gender. This is very much missing, and repression does not work at all.

People read all these songs of Śrī Narottama Dāsa Thākur and go gaga about it. These songs have to be studied from a bona fide teacher. I use the word “study” and not “read”. These are not “do it yourself” books.

Who gave ekādaś bhāva to Jīva Gosvāmi and the other Gosvāmis for that matter? Nobody.
Even your Guru Maharaja does not give ekādaś bhāva to everybody. You may know it or may not. Rāgānugā bhakti must be understood in principle before getting into its practice, such as mānasī sevā. It is not enough to quote from śāstra, but there has to be some understanding and realization. I may sound harsh and critical, but I do not mean to criticize anyone. I am pointing to the actual state of affairs.

 

 

Jiva Gosvami's bhajan kutir at Radhakunda
Jiva Gosvami’s bhajan kutir at Radhakunda

 

All this said, where is there any reference of ekādaś bhāva in the Gosvāmi literature or the writings of Śrila Viśvanāth Cakravarti Thākur (I do not mean siddha-deha, antah-cinti-deha or mānasī sevā)?

Again, I would like to repeat that I am not against ekādaś bhāva or mānasī sevā. I just stress that it needs some qualification. If you study the commentary by Vyāsa on Yoga Sūtra, he very clearly says that only a sāttvic mind can meditate, and līlā-smaraṇa is not different from that.