An Exposition of Bhakti as Delineated by Srila Rupa Goswami

by Sri Srimad Bhakti Promode Puri Goswami Maharaja

Excerpt from an editorial entitled "Varsa-sesa", meaning "At the End of the Year"

A Brief Synopsis of Prema

The Gaudiya Vaishnavas’ exclusive object of worship is Sri Vrishabhanu-nandini’s most beloved Vrindavanacandra, the son of the King of Vraja. The Gaudiyas’ only sadhana is the path of pure spontaneous devotion as exhibited by Bhagavan Sri Gaurasundara, who is the combined form of Sri Radha-Madhava. And their exclusive and ultimate goal (sadhya) is prema, the fifth goal of human life. This prema belittles the four goals of religion, economic development, fulfilment of selfish desires and liberation.

Prema has five prominent rasas, or loving moods in which Bhagavan is served. They are (1) tranquility (santa), (2) servitude (dasya), (3) friendship (sakhya), (4) parenthood (vatsalya) and (5) conjugal affection (madhurya).

Prema also has seven secondary rasas: (1) laughter (hasya), (2) wonder (adbhuta), (3) chivalry (vira), (4) mercy (karuna), (5) anger (raudra), (6) apprehension (bhayanaka) and (7) disgust (vibhatsa).

Although prema in these primary and secondary rasas is relished in gradation according to one’s eligibility for a specific relationship, Gaudiya Vaishnavas completely reject discussions on rasa that are inappropriate for, or beyond, one’s level of eligibility (adhikara). At the same time, they prescribe as imperative, discussions on bhakti that are appropriate for one’s eligibility. Since such talks do not create a spiritual impediment, Gaudiyas never disapprove of them.

Srila Rupa Gosvami informs us:

sarvathaiva duruho’yama-bhaktair bhagavad-rasah
tat-padambuja sarvasvair-bhaktir evanurasyate
Non-devotees, who desire sense enjoyment and liberation and who are thus averse to Sri Hari, cannot possibly comprehend the sweet flavour (rasa) of service to Bhagavan in a particular relationship. Bhakti-rasa can be attained only by those for whom the lotus feet of Sri Krishna are everything. (Sri Bhaktirasamrita-sindhu 2.5.131)

He further says, “With the help of a person’s previous and present impressions, deep and powerful attachment (rati) to the lotus feet of Sri Hari becomes resplendent and itself becomes the form of bliss. It thus manifests exclusively as rasa, the condensed liquid essence of integrated transcendental emotions.

“This takes place in the heart of a devotee whose every contamination has been washed away by the influence of bhakti, who is always joyful due to possessing an enlightened heart, who is attached to Sri Bhagavat, and therefore adept in the sentiments of transcendental rasa, who remains intoxicated in the association of rasika Vaishnavas, whose very life is the wealth of giving satisfaction to Sri Krishna through his service, and whose activities reflect the integral functions of prema. On the path of realisation that very rati, with the help of vibhava and other constituents of rasa, attains its acme in the form of astonishment caused by highly condensed bliss.”

vyatitya bhavana-vartma yas camatkara-bharabhuh
hridi sattvojjvale badham sva-date sa-raso matah

Sri Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (2.5.132)
When one’s sthayibhava (permanent emotion) combines with four other ingredients, namely, vibhava (the stimulus that causes one to taste one’s eternal bhava), anubhava (visible symptoms of that bhava), sattvika-bhava (eight transformations that occur when the heart becomes saturated with pure emotion) and vyabhicari-bhava (bhavas that rise like waves in the ocean of one’s eternal relationship), surpasses the path of mundane contemplation and manifests on the platform of a radiant heart that is thoroughly purified by suddha-sattva, it constitutes rasa. It is the basis of excessive astonishment and it is only relished in a heart that is pure.

Rasa arises when one’s sthayibhava, or permanent sentiment in one of the five primary relationships, mixes with the above-mentioned four ingredients. When a person has no realisation of his sthayibhava, and when not even a semblance of suddha-sattva is seen in his heart, his show of relishing rasa and proclaiming himself to be rasika is sheer impudence. Such behaviour only gives rise to anarthas. Gaudiya Vaishnavas continually remind us of this.

The Fruit of Sadhana-bhakti

By performing sadhana-bhakti, rati (bhava) arises. If that rati is propelled favourably, it matures into prema. As prema is increasingly enhanced, it progressively attains the extremely rare stages of sneha, mana, pranaya, raga, anuraga, bhava and mahabhava.

Srila Rupa Gosvami describes bhakti as “a special potency of Bhagavan and the natural, eternally perfected function of the soul”. Our endeavours, such as hearing and chanting, that we execute through our senses in an attempt to arouse that perfect nature is called sadhanabhakti. When sadhana-bhakti matures, it manifests as bhava-bhakti, and when it matures further, as premabhakti.

Sadhana-bhakti is of two types: vaidhi-sadhana-bhakti and raganuga-sadhana-bhakti. The inclination to perform the sadhana-bhakti that is aroused by gradually following the discipline of the scriptures, instead of by spontaneous attachment, is called vaidhi-sadhana-bhakti, and it has sixty-four limbs. The first twenty limbs are likened to the door to the kingdom of bhakti. Among them is acceptance of shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Guru.

When a person is initiated into the krishna-mantra by Sri Gurudeva, he receives teachings from him on sambandha, abhidheya and prayojana. He should then perform guruseva with one-pointed faith, considering Sri Guru to be a non-different manifestation of Bhagavan and at the same time mukunda-preshtha, Bhagavan’s dear most associate. He should have complete faith that all perfection can be attained by Sri Guru’s mercy.

Among the sixty-four limbs (angas) of bhakti, five have been determined as most prominent. They are: (1) sadhu-sanga (associating with the devotees of the Lord), (2) nama-kirtana (chanting the holy names of the Lord), (3) bhagavat-sravana (hearing from Srimad-Bhagavatam and other scriptures based on the conceptions of Bhagavatam), (4) mathura-vasa (residing in Vraja-mandala) and (5) sraddha-purvaka-srimurti-seva (serving the deities with faith.) Prema arises in one who even slightly performs these five angas.

Qualification to Perform Raganuga-bhakti

Only the bhakti of the Vrajavasis, which is naturally inherent in their atma and full of raga (attachment), is called ragatmika-bhakti. Bhakti that is performed in pursuance of ragatmika-bhakti is called raganuga-bhakti.

Svarasiki rati, or natural, condensed absorption in one’s cherished object of love, is known as raga. It results from an excessive thirst that is full of prema for that object. A person has the right to perform raganuga-bhakti only when a genuine greed is aroused within him to attain the extremely pure and truly natural attachment for Krishna that is present within the Vrajavasis. Therefore the mahajanas state:

krishna-bhakti-rasa-bhavita matih
kriyatam yadi kuto ’pi labhyate
tatra laulyam api mulyam ekalam
janma-koti-sukritair na labhyate
The consciousness that is saturated with krishnabhakti-rasa, the condensed liquid essence of integrated transcendental emotions, cannot be attained even by spiritual merit accumulated over millions and millions of births. Indeed, there is only one price to attain it – intense greed. If it is available anywhere, one must purchase it immediately.      (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila 8.70)

There are two types of ragatmika-bhakti: (1) kamarupa (conjugal relationship in which one’s every endeavour is solely for Krishna’s happiness) and (2) sambandha-rupa (relationship in which one identifies as Krishna’s parent or friend).

The unprecedented and renowned kama-rupa-bhakti exists within the Vraja-devis alone. “Premaiva goparamanam kama ity agamat pratham ity auddhavadyo ’peyatam vanchanti bhagavat-priyah – the sublime, pure transcendental prema of the gopis which consists of offering all of one’s senses solely for Krishna’s pleasure is known traditionally as kama. Therefore, even those like Uddhava, who are already so dear to Bhagavan, desire this kama-rupa prema.”

Kubja had sadharani-rati (general attachment to Krishna). She did not possess this kama-rupa-rati (selfless conjugal attachment to fulfilling Krishna’s desires). Learned scholars accept that although externally her love resembled prema, factually it was not. In kamarupa-bhakti (pure conjugal devotion), which is transcendental, there is not even a scent of desire to satisfy one’s own senses.

In a ragatmika-bhakta’s pure self-conception, he thinks, “I am Krishna’s father” or “I am Krishna’s mother”. This is sambandha-rupa ragatmika-bhakti and it is based on relationship. The word vrishnayah in the statement sambandhad vrishnayah from Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.1.31) simply indicates relationship. We should know that the cowherd men of Vraja are included within this type of ragatmika-bhakti. The gopas are prominent as ragatmika-bhaktas because they completely lack knowledge of Krishna’s majesty.

Ragatmika-bhakti is twofold: sambandha-rupa and kama-rupa. It therefore follows that raganuga-bhakti is also twofold: sambandhanuga and kamanuga. In describing one who is qualified to perform raganugabhakti Srila Rupa Gosvami says:

ragatmikaikanishtha ye vraja-vasi-janadayah
tesham bhavaptaye lubdho bhaved atradhikaravan
tat tad-bhavadi-madhurye srute dhiryadapekshate
natra sastram na yuktinca tallobhotpati lakshanam
vaidha-bhaktyadhikari tu bhavavirbhavanavadhi
atra sastram tatha tarkam-anukulam-apekshate
Only one who has a genuine greed to attain the bhavas of the Vrajavasis, who are steadfast in ragatmika-bhakti, is eligible to perform raganugabhakti. When one hears about the sweetness of the sentiments of Vrajavasis, such as Nanda and Yasoda, from the Bhagavatam and other scriptures, an intense longing within one’s heart to attain those moods without depending on the regulations of sastra or on logic is a symptom of arising greed. As long as bhava has not been aroused, one is eligible for vaidhi-bhakti only and therefore one must depend upon the injunctions of sastra and on logic that supports and encourages the practice of bhakti.
(Sri Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.291–3)
This means that vaidhi-bhakti is performed by one who is devoid of raga and whose inclination for bhakti is aroused by the regulations given in sastra. Raganugabhakti is performed by one whose inclination for bhakti comes from a genuine greed to attain the natural, sweet moods of the Vrajavasis and does not depend upon the discipline and arguments given in the scriptures. The mahajanas have stated, “Vaidhi-bhakti has no power to bestow vraja-bhava.”

The Method of Raganuga-bhakti

Performance of raganuga-bhakti is described as follows:
krishnam smaran janan casya preshtham nija-samihitam
tat tat-katha-ratas casau kuryad vasam vraje sada
seva sadhaka-rupena siddha-rupena catra hi
tad-bhava-lipsuna karya vraja-lokanusaratah

One should always reside in Vraja and remember Krishna and His dear most associates whose moods one cherishes and should remain devoted to the narrations of their pastimes with Krishna. One who yearns to attain the moods of a cherished associate of Krishna should serve under the guidance of His associates present in Vraja, and their followers, with his present, physical body in which he performs sadhana and also with his internally conceived perfected body (siddha-rupa) that is suitable for rendering one’s cherished service to Krishna.
(Sri Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.294–5)

It is prescribed that if possible one should physically reside in places such as Sri Vrindavana, within the area of Sri Nanda’s Vraja, but if that is not possible, he should reside there mentally. In his perfected form (siddha-rupa) one must perform seva in the Vraja pastimes under the direction of the sakhis, such as Sri Lalita, and manjaris, like Sri Rupa-manjari. And with his present physical body in which he performs sadhana (sadhaka-rupa), he should serve in the footsteps of Sri Rupa Gosvami and other Gosvamis. Srila Kaviraja Gosvami writes:
bahya, antara,—ihara dui ta’ sadhana
’bahye’ sadhaka-dehe kare sravana-kirtana
’mane’ nija-siddha-deha kariya bhavana
ratri-dine kare vraje krishnera sevana

The practice of raganuga-bhakti is twofold: external and internal. Externally, with the present physical body (sadhaka-deha) one performs sravana and kirtana, and within the mind, that is, with his internally conceived, perfected spiritual body (siddha-deha), he serves Krishna in Vrindavana day and night.
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila 22.152–3)

nijabhishta krishna-preshtha pache ta’ lagiya
nirantara seva kare antar mana hana

One who has attained greed for ragatmika-bhakti constantly performs loving service within his mind in the wake of the dear most associates of Krishna in Vraja, whom he cherishes.
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila 22.155)

In relation to the limbs of raganuga-bhakti, Srila Rupa Gosvami has said:
sravanot-kirtanadini vaidha-bhaktyuditani tu
yanyangani ca tanyatra vijneyani manishibhih

Those who are well-versed in transcendental knowledge know for certain that the limbs of bhakti, such as sravana and kirtana, that have been prescribed for vaidhi-bhakti are also limbs of raganuga-bhakti.
(Sri Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.296)

This means that raganuga-bhaktas also should execute the limbs of vaidhi-bhakti according to their respective eligibility. If, however, one lacks the desire to attain a relationship in Vraja, and only serves Bhagavan according to the path of rules and regulations (vidhimarga), one cannot attain the moods of Vraja.

Furthermore, it cannot be accepted that one who imitates performance of raga-marga is actually performing it. One who pretends to be a raganuga bhakta and displays a greed that is artificial, before a genuine greed for transcendental raga-bhaktihas arisen, simply invites many types of anarthas.This results from indulgence in discussions that are inappropriate for one’s qualification.

Mercy Alone Bestows Qualification for the Greed of Raganuga-bhakti

Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.2.309) states: “krishna-tadbhakta-karunya-matra-labhaika-hetuka – the causeless mercy of Sri Krishna and His devotees is the one and only cause of greed for raganuga-bhakti arising in the heart.” Other than genuinely following the path of raga, there is no other means to attain vraja-bhava; therefore the endeavour to imitate the path of raga is never to be equated with truly following it.

The holy name mercifully bestows the qualification for raga-bhakti to arise in the heart of one who takes complete shelter of Sri Nama Prabhu with a clear and sincere desire to attain raganuga-bhakti. Such raganugabhakti is characterised by extreme absorption in one’s worshipable deity in one’s cherished rasa.

Iha haite sarva-siddhi haibe tomara – by chanting the holy name everyone will attain complete perfection in life.” “Nama-sankirtana—kalau parama upaya – in the age of Kali, chanting the name of Krishna is the supreme means of deliverance.” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Antyalila 20.8) Only one who follows these instructions of Sriman Mahaprabhu and takes shelter of Sri Nama Prabhu in every respect will attain full perfection.

“May the current of the conceptions of the followers of Srila Rupa Gosvami (the sri rupanugas) flow in this world. May we never show that we are not inclined, in any situation, to perform sri krishna-sankirtana-yajna, which has seven tongues [flames]. If our increasing attachment to sri krishna-sankirtana remains one-pointed, we will achieve all perfection. With fearlessness and great enthusiasm you should preach the message of Rupa and Raghunatha under the exclusive guidance of their followers, the sri rupanugas. Our highest aspiration is to become the dust of the lotus feet of such rupanugas, and our eternal position is to be foot dust of Sri Rupa Prabhu. That is everything to us. The current of Bhaktivinoda’s conceptions should never stop flowing. You all should vow to preach the internal desire (mano ’bhishtha) of Sri Bhaktivinoda with increasing enthusiasm.”

These supreme instructions of the best of rupanugas, Sri Gurupadapadma Srila Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada, are the sole life of his dear most Gaudiya magazine. To preach and practise these instructions alone is the exclusive activity of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas.

Translated from Gaudiya (monthly), Year 5, Issue 12
by the Rays of The Harmonist team.
Published in English for the first time in Rays of The Harmonist No. 16 Karttika 2006

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