Appearing in English for the first time:
Residence in Vraja
Excerpts from an informal discourse given by
Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Öhäkura Prabhupäda
on 8 October 1932 during Vraja-maëòala Parikramä
[NOTE: This page uses Balarama font (available here)
for better transliteration of Sanskrit into English]
Hankering for Perfection
In 1932 in the month of Kärttika, the Gauòéya Maöha organised Vraja-maëòala Parikramä, spanning
eighty-four kosas,1 under the leadership of oà viñëupäda Çré Çrémad Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté
Prabhupäda. Thousands of devotees from all parts of India participated. The first day of the Parikramä saw a grand procession with nagara-saìkértana, as the pilgrims visited the holy places of Mathurä.
On different days, Çréla Prabhupäda had his followers sing various songs composed by the
liberated mahäjanas, great souls. Through these songs, which are full of heart-felt appeal, Çréla
Prabhupäda showed that their example of continuous hankering for perfection (siddhi-lälasä) should be the sole purpose of all aspirants who have attained the stage of anartha-nivåtti, in which unwanted obstacles are cleared. Çréla Prabhupäda personally selected the following songs by Çréla Narottama däsa Öhäkura for the devotees to sing:
1 Eighty-four kosas is approximately 168 miles.
hari hari! kabe haba våndävana-väsé
nirakhiba nayane yugala-rüpa-räçi
Prärthanä (Song 29)
1 Eighty-four kosas is approximately 168 miles.
O Çré Hari, when will I be able to live in Våndävana
and be a real Vrajaväsé? When will my eyes behold
the beautiful forms of the Divine Couple, Çré Rädhä-
rädhä-kåñëa sevoì mui jévane maraëe
tära sthäna, tära lélä dekho rätri-dine
Prärthanä (Song 48)
I shall serve Çré Rädhä and Çré Kåñna in life and in
death. I shall behold Their transcendental abode and
pastimes night and day. ...
hari hari ära kabe palatibe daçä
ei saba kariyä bäme, äba våndävana dhäme,
ei mane kariyächi äçä
Prärthanä (Song 27)
O Çré Hari, when will my life change? When will I
renounce all worldly affairs and make my way to Çré
Våndävana-dhäma? I cherish this hope. ...
On Çréla Prabhupäda’s direction, the devotees
also sang the following songs by Çréla Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura:
dekhite dekhite, bhuliba vä kabe,
nayane heribo, vraja-pura-çobhä,
Géta-mäla (Part 5, Song 2)
When will I see that I have forgotten my gross bodily
identity and am beholding the exquisite beauty of
Vraja, full of eternal, spiritual bliss and cognizance. ...
Çaraëägati (Svékara, Song 4)
A small cottage in a grove on the banks of Rädhäkuëòa,
Govardhana Hill, the banks of the Yamunä...
(ämi) yamunä-puline, kadamba-känane,
ki herinu sakhi! äja
(ämär) çyäma vaàçé-dhäré, maëi-maïcopari,
kare’ lélä rasa-räja
Kalyäëa-kalpataru (Ami Yamunä Puline)
O sakhé, what did I see today! In a kadamba grove on the bank of the Yamunä, a beautiful blackish boy
holding a flute was standing on a jewelled platform, performing His pastimes as rasa-räja, the monarch of all transcendental mellows. ...
2 For the complete song by Çréla Narottama däsa Öhäkura, please refer to the inside back-cover of this issue of
Rays of the Harmonist., No14 Kartikka 2004
The Nature of Spiritual Rasa
At midday on 8 October, at the end of a grand festival with kértana, Çréla Prabhupäda began to speak
to the assembled devotees in Mathurä. On Çréla Prabhupäda’s instruction, Çrémad Bhakti Viläsa
Gabhasti-nemi Mahäräja sang the prayer “Hari Hari Ära Kabe Palatibe Daçä”2 from Çréla Narottama däsa Öhäkura Mahäçaya’s collection of poems called Prärthanä. At that time, Sir Çré Devaprañäda
Sarvädhikäré, former Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, arrived and, after paying his regards to Çréla Prabhupäda, sat down amidst the gathering.
Çréla Prabhupäda proceeded to explain this prayer of Öhäkura Mahäçaya, one line at a time:
bhramiba dvädaça vane, rasa-keli ye ye sthäne
I shall wander through the twelve forests of Våndävana where Çré Kåñëa performed His pastimes full of rasa.
While explaining this part of the prayer, Çréla Prabhupäda said that Çré Gaurasundara has stated:
anyera hådaya – mana, mora mana – våndävana,
‘mane’ ‘vane’ eka kari’ jäni
Çré Caitanya-caritämåta (Madhya-lélä 13.137)
For most people, the mind and heart are one. But My mind is never separated from Våndävana, and therefore I consider My mind and Våndävana to be one.
Çréla Prabhupäda continued: “Rasa arises in such a pure heart when the sthäyébhäva-rati, or permanent sentiment in one of the five primary relationships with Çré Kåñëa, combines with four other ingredients, namely, vibhäva, anubhäva, sättvika-bhäva and vyabhicäré-bhäva.3 This rasa in the form of any of the five principal rasas complimented by the seven secondary rasas 4 surpasses the realm of mundane emotions and manifests on the platform of a heart that has become resplendent with çuddha-sattva, or pure, spiritual existence. At that time, one experiences intense astonishment in satisfying the senses of Vrajendra-nandana Çré Kåñëa, the embodiment of all transcendental rasa.
“That same heart, which shines with çuddhasattva, is indeed the platform we call ‘vana’ and shelters the twelve rasas. Wherever Çré Kåñëa’s sweet pastimes saturated with rasa manifest, they are inundated by prema from the fusion of rasa. If, as with an ‘annicut’5, a sluice in the form of a trace of any desire other than to serve Çré Kåñëa is placed in the path of the current of rasa, then that rasa can no longer flow as before.
“Such works as Bhäva-prakäça, Sähitya-darpaëa and the rasa-çästras of Bharata Muni analyse and present the material mellows (präkåta-rasa) of this world, which exist on the platform of whimsical, mundane conceptions. The various rasas that arise in one’s heart upon reading the life stories of material heroes and heroines, such as Naiñadha and Carita, Sävitré and Satyaväna, and Lailä and Majnü, merely emerge on the platform of transient, material relationships (asthäyi-bhäva). There, the subject of rasa is not the non-dual, unprecedented Personality, Çré Kåñëa.
“The only subject of the rasa that manifests in the twelve forests of Vraja, however, is Vrajendranandana Çré Kåñëa, the non-dual embodiment of all transcendental rasa. He is the only subject of the five types of prema, namely, çänta, däsya, sakhya, vätsalya and mädhurya.”
3 Vibhäva is that in and by which rati is stimulated and thus caused to be tasted. It includes Çré Kåñëa, the devotee and everything that stimulates remembrance of Çré Kåñëa, such as His dress and ornaments, the spring season and the bank of the Yamunä. Anubhävas are thirteen different actions that display or reveal the emotions within the heart. They include dancing, rolling on the ground and singing. Sättvika-bhävas are eight symptoms of spiritual ecstasy, such as becoming stunned, perspiring and the standing of hairs on end. Vyabhicäré-bhävas consist of thirty-three transient, internal spiritual emotions that emerge from the ocean of stäyébhäva, such as despondency, jubilation and fear.
4 The five principal rasas are (1) neutrality (çänta), (2)
servitorship (däsya), (3) fraternity (sakhya), (4)parenthood (vätsalya), and (5) conjugal love
(mädhurya). The seven secondary rasas are (1) comedy (häsya), (2) wonder (adbhuta), (3) chivalry (véra), (4) compassion (dayä), (5) anger (raudra), (6) fear(bhayänaka), and (7) disgust (bébhatsa).
Vraja-maëòala Parikramä with Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Öhäkura Prabhupäda
Take Shelter of the Residents of Vraja
Çréla Prabhupäda continued:
sudhäiba jane jane, vrajaväsé-gaëa-sthäne,
nivediba caraëe dhariyä
I shall enquire about the pastimes that took place in each location from all the Vrajaväsés, reverently
offering them prayers and holding their lotus feet.
“Those who reside in Vraja are conversant with kåñëa-kathä, narrations of Kåñëa’s pastimes, for they are constantly engaged in the service of Çré Kåñëa without cause or interruption. All the cows and calves serve Çré Kåñëa. They become dancing dolls to enhance the pleasure of His transcendental senses. They become instruments in His pastime of milking the cows.
“Nanda-nandana Çré Kåñëa’s servants like Citraka, Patraka, Raktaka and Bakula tend all these cows and also serve Kåñëa’s parents. They wash Çré Kåñëa’s lotus feet with the spiritual waters of Çré Yamunä, which are composed of liquefied transcendence. When Çré Kåñëa’s body becomes covered with the dust of Vraja upon returning to His home in the north [Nandagräma], then Raktaka, Citraka, Patraka and others wash Him with water from the Yamunä.
“What knowledge do Çré Kåñëa’s cows possess? They are none other than great, venerated sages who recited the Vedas and performed penance for many lifetimes to attain Bhagavän’s service. Those very sages have appeared as the treasure of Vraja in the form of its cows, and have learnt the art of giving milk for Çré Kåñëa’s service. They are not ordinary, so-called munis and åñis who have studied Vedänta but not realised its purport.
“It is necessary for everyone to reside in Vraja, taking shelter of its residents. We have learned that Çré
Rüpa Gosvämé Prabhu has said:
krameëa rasanä-manasé niyojya
tiñöhan vraje tad-anurägi janänugämé
kälaà nayed akhilam ity upadeça-säram
Çré Upadeçämåta (8)
It is imperative that a person engage himself in thoroughly and exquisitely singing the glories of Çré
Kåñëa’s names, form, qualities, associates and eternal pastimes. And in the course of remembering these, he should give up discriminating between what is immediately pleasing to him (preyaù) and what is to his long-term benefit (çreyaù). Controlling the whims of the mind, a person should spend all his time residing in Vraja following the mood of any one of the Vrajaväsés. This alone is the essence of all advice. The term ‘Vrajaväsé’ refers only to those servants of Hari who are endowed with transcendental realisation. It does not refer to persons who are averse to devotees and engaged in material sense enjoyment.
“We come to Vraja in vain if we do not become followers of Çré Kåñëa by accepting the guidance of Citraka, Patraka and Bakula but, instead, are led by the senses – like the eyes and ears – to enjoy material objects. This will not awaken intense spiritual ardour (anuräga) in the heart.
“I am enjoying the objects of the senses, and the objects of the senses visible to me are giving me
pleasure: this is called material sense gratification, or indifference to the service of Çré Kåñëa. How can we attain residence in Vraja if we do not develop uncommon attachment for Citraka, Patraka and
Raktaka, who are the abode of däsya-rasa; for Sudäma and Çrédäma, who are the abode of sakhyarasa;
for Çré Nanda and Yaçodä, who are the abode of vätsalya-rasa; and for Çré Rüpa Maïjaré and the other
gopés, who are the abode of mädhurya-rasa. These are the eternally liberated residents of Vraja.
5 Annicut: a dam or other large solid structure made in the course of a stream for the purpose
of regulating the flow of a system of irrigation.
The Path to Success
sudhäiba jane jane, vrajaväsé-gaëa-sthäne “One has to enquire about Çré Kåñëa’s pastimes in the same rasa towards which one is inclined. If I wishto learn about mädhurya-rasa, then I have to approach a Vrajaväsé established in mädhurya-rasa. If I approach someone who has not met Çré Lalitä and Çré Viçäkhä or not directly seen Çré Rüpa Maïjaré, then I shall only end up hearing from him about something else, like the history of Nala and Damayanté or the abduction of Sétä by Rävaëa.
“The gopés solicited news of Çré Kåñëa from each and every tree and creeper of Våndävana:
ye ’nye parärtha-bhavakä yamunopaküläù
çaàsantu kåñëa-padavéà rahitätmanäà naù
O cüta, O priyäla, O panasa, äsana and kovidära, O jambu, O arka, O bilva, bakula and ämra, O
kadamba and népa and all you other plants and trees living by the banks of the Yamunä who have dedicated your very lives to the welfare of others, we are suffering in separation from Çré Kåñëa, so please tell us where He has gone. In separation from Him, everything appears void.
“I have heard that panasa, the jackfruit tree, is no longer found in the land of Vraja. During His visit to Våndävana, Çré Gaurasundara, who was absorbed in His internal state, saw on the bank of Yamunä many of the trees from which the renowned Kabul dried fruits are made. This is explained in the Anubhäñya commentary on Çré Caitanya-caritämåta. Çré Jayadeva Gosvämé Prabhu has also mentioned this.
“Vrajaväsés in the mood of çänta-rasa are of five types: the cow (go), cane (vetra), horn (viñäëa), flute
(veëu) and shore of the Yamunä (yamunä-saikata).
“It is impossible for us to reside in Vraja without the mercy of the Vrajaväsés. But why would they even want to talk to us? How is it possible for us to attain their darçana with these material eyes? We are overcome with pride and envy, and therefore they turn a deaf ear to our prayers. Until we become tadanurägi, deeply attached to them and to the object of their affection, they will not speak to us. Why should the Vrajaväsés who have entered the eternal, transcendental pastimes of Çré Kåñëa want to communicate with us? They will first check to see whether we still seek material enjoyment or whether we have made Çré Kåñëa the object of our search.
“It is impossible to understand the topics of Vraja without first becoming subservient to Çré Rüpa Maïjaré and Çré Rati Maïjaré. I shall be able to understand the mercy of Çré Rüpa and Rati Maïjarés only from that day when Çré Nityänanda Prabhu bestows His mercy upon me. Until then, I shall remain bewildered in the manner described in Bhagavad-gétä (3.27):
guëaiù karmäëi sarvaçaù
kartäham iti manyate
The spirit soul deluded by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in fact
carried out by the three modes of material nature.
And, thus, I shall be unable to realise the verse sarvadharmän parityajya mäm ekaà çaraëaà vraja
(Bhagavad-gétä 18.66): ‘Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me.’
Give Up Hypocrisy and Speculation
“When aversion to the service of Çré Kåñëa appears in our hearts, it leads to calamities. And as a result of sinful activities from previous lives, we worship various demigods. Unless we take shelter of the feet of those who are engaged in Çré Kåñëa’s service with a favourable mood, our path will never be smooth. If while walking through a forest in Vraja, I happen to eat the fruits from its trees or smell its flowers, I will not have actually visited that forest. I will merely have committed offences by stepping on these sacred places.
“We are forbidden to step on Govardhana Hill. From this we should understand that we should not touch Çré Kåñëa’s body with our feet. Until supramundane sakhya-rasa awakens in the heart, placing one’s feet on Bhagavän’s shoulder is wholly inappropriate. One does not gain the right to climb
Bhagavän’s shoulder merely by imitating sakhya-rasa. It is impossible for us to enter the forests of Vraja as a ‘lucre-hunter’, with the intention of enjoying worldly pleasures.
“How many more days do I have left? And why should I spend these days otherwise engaged? Çréla Narottama däsa Öhäkura Mahäçaya has said:
haiyä mäyära däsa, kari nänä abhiläña,
tomära smaraëa gela düre
artha-läbha ei äçe, kapaöa-vaiñëava-veçe,
hramiyä bulaye ghare ghare
(Song 6: Hari Hari Kåpä Kari Räkha Nija-pade)
I have become a slave to illusion, and am filled with material desires. My memory of You has fled far
away. Disguised as a Vaiñëava, I wander from house to house, hoping to get some money.
“The symptoms of hypocrisy have been described in the first verses of Çrémad-Bhägavatam:
dharmaù projjhita-kaitavo ’tra
paramo nirmatsaräëäà satäà
vedyaà västavam atra vastu çivadaà
This Bhägavata Puräëa propounds the highest truth, completely rejecting all religious works that are
materially motivated. Only those devotees who are fully pure in heart can understand this highest truth,
which is reality distinguished from illusion for the welfare of all. Such knowledge uproots the three-fold
“Occupational duties (dharma), economic development (artha) and sense gratification (käma) are contemptible and should be rejected. Only material enjoyers strive for them. But the five schools of
philosophy apart from the doctrine of Vedänta all more or less present only these three goals. Vedänta as explained by the impersonalists is simply an invention of their speculative minds; it is merely the opposite extreme of the desire for sense gratification. It is reprehensible to reject the existence of transcendental variety and embrace the mundane variegatedness of this world. But it is equally or even more inauspicious to impose mundane variegatedness on transcendence. This is a case of the cow who, once caught in a fire, becomes fearful whenever he sees red clouds in the sky.6”
Some devotees noticed that many flies kept disturbing the divine body of Çréla Prabhupäda, who
was engaged in speaking hari-kathä, and they approached him with a palm-leaf stalk to drive the
Çréla Prabhupäda said, “These are all Vrajaväsés. They should not be troubled. Engage in speaking hari-kathä. Engage me in constantly hearing harikathä. Absorb yourself in that activity which will lead to your hari-bhajana becoming perfect. I had many relatives, but they have now become engrossed in other activities. Outwardly they pretend to be engaged in hari-bhajana, but internally they are busy with other things.
“By discussing scriptures that deal with logic, like Çankara-bhäñya, one can never understand the eternally liberated Vrajaväsés. One becomes a street sweeper by serving a dog, a stableman by grooming a horse, an ironsmith by beating iron, and a goldsmith by being absorbed in gold. It is essential to serve the eternally liberated Vrajaväsés to become a Vrajaväsé
.” Regarding selecting one’s place of bhajana, Çréla Prabhupäda said, “Charity begins at home.7”
6 According to this old adage, the cow traumatised by fire transposes the qualities of her experience onto the brilliant
sunset. Similarly, persons who have suffered the repeated disappointment of material existence may mistakenly
assign the defects of matter, like impermanence and limitation in space, to the transcendental reality.
7 In an article published in Çré Gauòéya Patrikä (Year 38, Issue 11), Çréla Bhaktivedänta Vämana Gosvämé Mahäräja
explains that the word “home” in the saying “Charity begins at home” refers to our hearts, where Çré Kåñëa
resides. In other words, if we can love Çré Kåñëa in our hearts, all else will follow naturally.
The Vision of a True Aspirant
Çréla Prabhupäda continued: “There is a class of people called the Bäulas, who consume semen, blood,
stool and urine. They glorify the concept of jïänamiçra, service mixed with empirical knowledge. There
are countless people of this class in many places of East Bengal like Yaçohara, Khulnä, Nadéyä and Dhäkä. People like the Bäulas, who belong to the thirteen type of apasampradäyas, or spurious schools of thought, can never understand the twelve kinds of transcendental rasa. If these twelve rasas are found only in Çré Kåñëa, why then do these people search for them elsewhere? This is my question to all those in the line of the präkåta-sahajiyäs 8
“In order to find Çré Kåñëa, first we must wander throughout the entire universe searching for a kärñëa, one who belongs to Kåñëa. The cause of all our troubles is our failure to take shelter of the lotus feet of a pure Vaiñëava and our tendency to consider a non- Vaiñëava to be a Vaiñëava. Some ignorant people will accept any imitator to be accomplished in bhajana –even a man who happens to clench his teeth while playing a ghini 9.
“To achieve the most worshipable object means to be completely absorbed in the mood of serving Çré
Kåñëa. He is not made of any gross substance, but exists beyond the limits of sense perception. Is it
possible to see Him with these paltry eyes engrossed in material enjoyment, which Çré Bilvamaìgala
Öhäkura pierced out? Some people think that Çré Kåñëa is the supplier of their sense gratification and that the objects of sense gratification are non-different from Him. Both the sense objects and one’s futile eyes, which are prone to being afflicted with cataracts in but a short while, hinder one from beholding one’s worshipable deity and the place of worship.
“Çré Rüpa Gosvämé has revealed the secret of bhajana in two verses:
yuktaà vairägyam ucyate
vairägyaà phalgu kathyate
Appropriate renunciation is to accept objects favourable to one’s devotional service while being
detached from what is unrelated to Çré Kåñëa and attached to what is related to Çré Kåñëa. A person who
rejects everything without knowledge of its relationship to Çré Kåñëa is imperfect in his renunciation.
“If I am afflicted with the evil-mindedness of a worldly perspective, seeing myself as either an
enjoyer or a renunciant, and this world as either to be enjoyed or to be renounced by me, then I am at once dismissed from qualifying as a practitioner in devotional service.”
8 These are so-called Vaiñëavas, like the Bäulas, who variously misinterpret the original teachings of Çréla Rüpa
Gosvämé. Some even indulge in debauchery in the name of bhakti, by trying to imitate the transcendental loving
affairs of Çré Rädhä and Çré Kåñëa.
9 Appears to be a musical intrument of some kind.