Jaiva Dharma - Bhaktivinoda ThakuraJaiva Dharma - Chapter Eighteen
Jaiva Dharma - Bhaktivinoda ThakuraJaiva Dharma - Chapter Twenty

Nitya-dharma: Sambandha, Abhidheya and Prayojana
Part Seven: An Analysis of Abhidheya, the Means of Attainment of Prema

 

by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura
(translated by Śrī Sarvabhāvana Prabhu)

When Vrajanātha lay down to rest after supper, the different aspects of the acintya-bhedābheda principle were running through his mind like waves in an ocean of thought. However, the rhythmic sequence of this ocean was occasionally disturbed by whirlpools of doubt. Could it be that the acintyabhedābheda principle was just another misinterpretation, another deviation from the Absolute Truth? Yet calm, cogent deliberations pacified these disconcerting thoughts, “Nowhere in the entire scriptures can evidence be found to defeat this principle. In fact, the scepticism fostered by any discordant doubts is quickly dissipated by the coherent and convincing statements of the śāstra. Besides, Śrī Gaurāṅga is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, how could there be any discrepancy in His profound deliberations? I hope that I shall never leave the shelter of His lotus feet!

“Now all these thoughts are very encouraging, but what have I tangibly accomplished, besides an awareness of the acintya-bhedābheda principle as the highest description of the Absolute Truth? What have I gained from this knowledge? Revered Bābājī Mahārāja has said that prema is the ultimate purpose of human life. The karmīs and jñānīs also are seeking after this divine gem called prema, but without actually knowing what the pure pristine state of prema actually is. In conclusion, my target must be to attain the pure state of prema. I have to ask Bābājī Mahārāja about this and try to grasp the scriptural conclusions upon this matter.”

It was late and gradually overcome by sleep Vrajanātha entered another dimension. Waking later than usual the next morning, he quickly finished his morning duties. Presently his maternal uncle, Vijaya-kumāra Bhaṭṭācārya, arrived to see him. Very pleased to meet his uncle after a long time, Vrajanātha offered him prostrate obeisances.

Vijaya-kumāra was very well versed in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. With great good fortune, he had received the direct grace of Śrīmatī Nārāyaṇī Devī, who had inspired within him the teachings of Śrī Caitanya. He was now extremely attracted to Śrī Caitanya and was at present an itinerant preacher of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.

Vijaya-kumāra’s recent travels had led him to Denuḍa-grāma, where he had received the instruction of Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura to visit the transcendental site of Śrī Caitanya’s appearance, the Yoga-pīṭha. Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura had predicted that very soon all the places connected with the pastimes of Śrī Caitanya would be lost and only rediscovered after almost four centuries. He further explained that the places of Śrī Caitanya’s pastimes are equal to Vraja-dhāma Vṛndāvana in every respect and that those elevated souls who are fortunate enough to see the transcendental sites at Māyāpura and other nearby holy places are indeed eligible to perceive the spiritual Vṛndāvana.

After having heard these things directly from Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura, the incarnation of Śrīla Vyāsadeva, Vijaya-kumāra had grown eager to see Māyāpura-dhāma. He had decided to pay a visit to Bilva Puṣkariṇī, where his sister and nephew happened to be living, and then visit the nearby Māyāpura-dhāma. In those days, Bilva Puṣkariṇī village was in the close neighbourhood of Brāhmaṇa Puṣkariṇī village, unlike now, when they are miles apart. The Yoga-pīṭha, the birth site of Śrī Gaurāṅga in Māyāpura, had previously been no more than a mile away from the original Bilva Puṣkariṇī village, which was now a sleepy and neglected site called Ṭoṭā and Tāraṇavāsa.

Vijaya-kumāra quickly embraced his nephew and said, “Son, I am on my way to visit Śrī Māyāpura-dhāma. Inform your mother that on my way back I will take lunch here.” Vrajanātha, growing curious, asked, “Uncle, why do you want to visit Māyāpura-dhāma?”

Vijaya-kumāra was unaware of the recent developments in Vrajanātha’s spiritual life. All he knew was that Vrajanātha had given up his studies of nyāya and had seriously taken up Vedānta. Therefore, he felt he had better not reveal his intimate spiritual affairs to Vrajanātha and replied only, “I have an appointment with someone in Māyāpura.”

Vrajanātha knew that his uncle was a devotee of Śrī Gaurāṅga and an exponent of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. Therefore, surmising that his uncle was going to meet someone on spiritual matters,

Vrajanātha said, “Uncle, since you are going to Māyāpura, please find the time to meet Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, an elevated and respected Vaiṣṇava.”

Mildly surprised, Vijaya-kumāra asked, “Son, I see you have developed some faith and respect for the Vaiṣṇavas. I heard that you had given up research in nyāya and turned to Vedānta. Since you have obviously entered upon the path of bhakti, I need no longer keep my culture of spirituality secret from you. Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura has instructed me to have darśana of the Yoga-pīṭha in Māyāpura-dhāma. So I have made up my mind to take a dip in the sacred Gaṅgā at Māyāpura first, then take darśana and circumambulate the Yoga-pīṭha. From there, I am going to Śrīvāsāṅgana to roll in the sacred dust from the lotus feet of the Vaiṣṇavas.”

Overwhelmed, Vrajanātha said, “Uncle, kindly allow me to accompany you. Let us first meet mother and then proceed to Māyāpura.”

Upon their arrival in Māyāpura, Vijaya and Vrajanātha took a refreshing dip in the Gaṅgā. Exhilarated by this and overcome by profound spiritual feelings, Vijaya-kumāra said, “How fortunate we are! For twenty-four years, Nimāi showered unrestrained blessings upon Gaṅgā Devī by sporting in her gentle waves. Today, we have sanctified our souls in these same waters and feel immense joy.”

The spiritual fervour of Vrajanātha had also ignited and his words gushed out joyfully, “Dear uncle, it is my great privilege to be here in your august company. I offer my respects at your feet.”

Upon finishing their bath, they went to Śrī Jagannātha Miśra’s house, the Yoga-pīṭha. Unable to withhold their swelling spiritual emotions, tears streamed down in little drops of pearls, adorning their heartfelt prayers to the Lord.

Vijaya-kumāra, “Anyone who has taken birth in Gauḍa and has not taken the holy dust of the divine Yoga-pīṭha upon his head should consider his birth futile. This is not an exaggeration. Look at this place; it seems ordinary, dotted with simple straw huts. Nevertheless, by the grace of Śrī Gaurāṅga, we now suddenly behold the actual divine opulence—imposing gem-studded mansions, surrounded by exquisite gardens full of fragrant flowers with ornamental archways as the entranceways. Look around, at these wonderful sights! There, there! See inside the house! Śrī Gaurāṅga and Śrīmatī Viṣṇupriyā Devī are standing beside each other. How beautiful they are, shining with sublime resplendence!”

Stunned and spellbound by their divine vision, uncle and nephew could not move and slowly crumbled to the ground as if unconscious. After a long time some devotees helped them up. Tears flowed freely as they slowly made their way to Śrīvāsāṅgana. Upon their arrival there, they rolled upon the ground, crying out, “O Śrīvāsa! O Advaita Prabhu! My Śrī Nityānanda! O beloved Gadādhara and Gaurāṅga! Kindly give us your mercy! Purge us of our false egos and arrogance, and deliver us to your lotus feet!”

The resident Vaiṣṇavas were amazed at such a display of spiritual emotion by the two brāhmaṇas and they responded by dancing ecstatically and loudly chanting, “All glories to Śrī Gaurāṅga! All glories to the moon of Māyāpura! All glories to Śrī Nityānanda!”

Vrajanātha went to the kuṭīra of his guru and prostrated himself. Taking Vrajanātha in his arms, Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī firmly embraced him and enquired mildly, “Why it’s you—at this time of day. Who is this distinguished-looking person along with you?” While Vrajanātha was explaining everything to his guru, the other Vaiṣṇavas arranged seats for everyone in the courtyard with

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī to sit under the bakula tree. They then came to the kuṭīra and invited everyone to sit outside in the courtyard.

Sitting close to Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī with his nephew, Vijaya-kumāra humbly asked, “Mahārāja, how may I attain prayojana?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “You are all very advanced devotees and have profound realizations. Yet, as you have kindly asked me, I will try to answer your question as well as I can. Pure bhakti, free from the adulterations of jñāna or karma is the both the prayojana and the abhidheya, the means to attain the prayojana. Abhidheya may be divided into two stages: sādhanabhakti, regulative devotional service, when the practitioner is at the stage of sādhana, practice; and premabhakti, devotional service imbued with divine love, at the elevated stage of perfect spiritual consciousness.”

Vijaya, “Revered Bābājī, what are the intrinsic symptoms of bhakti?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has written the great treatise the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu on the express orders of Śrī Caitanya. In verse 1.1.11 the bhakti-svarūpa-lakṣaṇa, intrinsic symptoms of bhakti, are elucidated:

anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṁ jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam
ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānu- śīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamā

“‘One should render transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, favourably and without desire for material profit or gain through karma, fruitive activities, or jñāna, philosophical speculation. That is śuddha-bhakti, pure devotional service.’

“This aphorism contains the svarūpa-lakṣaṇa, intrinsic symptoms, and the taṭasthā-lakṣaṇa, the marginal symptoms, of śuddhabhakti. The words bhaktir uttama are synonymous with śuddha-bhakti. Bhakti adulterated with jñāna and karma is not śuddha-bhakti. When adulterated with jñāna, bhakti aspires for mukti, and when adulterated with karma, bhakti strives after bhukti. Hence, bhakti free from the desires for bhukti and mukti is uttama bhakti, bestowing prema when correctly practised.

“What exactly is uttama-bhakti? Pure bhakti is to perform devotional service with body, mind and words with a sustained favourable loving attitude and the unreserved desire to please Śrī Kṛṣṇa. This is the svarūpalakṣaṇa of pure bhakti. The jīva is endowed with individual capabilities and desires. When the mercy of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and the blessings of the pure devotee reinforce the jīva’s own capabilities in executing bhakti, then the internal energy of the Supreme Lord, the svarūpa-śakti, embellishes the jīva with bhāva, transcendental sentiments. This bhāva enhances the ripening of the svarūpa-lakṣaṇa.

“The mind, words and body of the conditioned jīva are mundane, so when the jīva endeavours to apply them with his own power and level of consciousness, this only results in materialistic knowledge and dry false renunciation. The symptoms of śuddhabhakti are not evoked by such efforts. However, when the svarūpaśakti of the Supreme Lord descends and infuses the jīva with bhāva even slightly, then the symptoms of unalloyed śuddha-bhakti begin to manifest. Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the paramount Divinity; hence, the purest form of bhakti is devotion to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Worship of Brahman and worship of Paramātmā constitute the paths of jñāna and karma, not bhakti.

“Endeavour can be of two kinds: ānukūlya, favourable; and prātikūlya, unfavourable. Only favourable endeavours are included within the parameters of actual bhakti. The word ānukūlya alludes to the lofty and exhilarating feelings one develops for Śrī Kṛṣṇa in all the activities of bhakti. At the stage of sādhana-bhakti, these feelings are slightly tinged with mundane desire, but at the perfected stage of prema-bhakti the feelings are cleansed of all material contamination. In both stages, the symptoms of the bhakti are the same; hence, favourable devotional service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the svarūpa-lakṣaṇa of bhakti.

“The understanding of the svarūpa-lakṣaṇa of bhakti is however not complete without describing the taṭasthā-lakṣaṇa of bhakti. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī distinguishes two items of taṭasthā-lakṣaṇa: anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṁ, freedom from the desire for non-devotional activities; and jñāna-karmādyanāvṛtam, being unshackled by the bindings of jñāna and karma.

“The aspiration to advance in śuddha-bhakti should be the sole desire in the heart; any other desires are in forbidding conflict with the principles of pure bhakti. If the attachment for jñāna, karma, yoga, tyāga, etc., increases, the heart and consciousness are progressively covered and pure devotional fervour is driven away. Therefore, these two impediments, karma and jñāna, must be strictly avoided in the practice of bhakti. Only then can devotional service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa be executed favourably; this is śuddha-bhakti.”

Vijaya, “What are the specific characteristics of bhakti by which a seeker may recognize śuddhabhakti?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has enumerated six specific symptoms of śuddha-bhakti in the Bhakti-rasāmṛtā-sindhu, Pūrva, 1.12:

kleśa-ghnī śubha-dā mokṣa-laghutā-kṛt su-durlabhā
sāndrānanda-viśeṣātmā śrī-kṛṣṇākarṣiṇī ca sā

“‘Śuddha-bhakti extirpates kleśaghnī, distress; śubha, offers good fortune; mokṣa-laghutākṛt, exposes the inanity of liberation; su-durlabhā, makes herself very rarely attainable; sāndrānandaviśeṣātmā, fills the heart with inexplicable joy; and śrī-kṛṣṇākarṣiṇī, attracts Śrī Kṛṣṇa.’”

Vijaya, “How does bhakti extirpate distress?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Kleśa, distress, is of three types: pāpa, sin; pāpabījam, seeds of sin; and avidyā, nescience.

Pāpa has three categories: pātaka, sinful; mahāpātaka, very sinful; and atipātaka, extremely sinful. When śuddhabhakti dawns in the heart, one naturally avoids of all these degrees of sinful activity. The pāpabījam within the heart prompt one to sin; however, such harmful propensities are expelled from the heart pulsating with the feelings of śuddha-bhakti. The state when the jīva has forgotten his svarūpa is known as avidyā. The first stirrings of śuddha-bhakti enlighten the jīva with the realization that the jīva is an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa and thus evaporate svarūpa-bhrama, illusory misidentification of the self, which is the root of avidyā. Therefore, all three forms of distress—pāpa, pāpa-bījam, and avidyā—are dissipated. Hence, kleśaghnī is a characteristic of bhakti.”

Vijaya, “How is bhakti known as śubha, the bestower of good fortune?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “The word śubha, good fortune and auspiciousness, means to ascend to a position of attracting the love and respect of everyone, to have available all varieties of pleasures and comforts that bring joy, and to be adorned with all good qualities. When the heart is imbued with śuddha-bhakti, the four qualities of humility, compassion, pridelessness, and magnanimous respect decorate the character of the jīva. As a result, the jīva is loved and respected by everyone in the world. All the sad-guṇas, good qualities, automatically manifest in the personality of a devotee. Bhakti is competent to bestow upon the devotee all pleasures and comforts, even material ones, plus the pleasure of impersonal Brahman realization, plus all the yoga-siddhis, mystic perfections. The devotees, however, are not attracted to any of these, and so śuddha-bhakti rewards the pure devotee with the rarest and paramount bliss—eternal, unlimited ecstasy in the service of Bhagavān.”

Vijaya, “How does bhakti evoke mokṣa-laghutākṛt, a feeling of disregard for liberation?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Even a touch of the ecstasy of bhagavad-rati, spontaneous loving attachment for the Supreme Lord, makes the jīva disinterested in dharma, artha, kāma, and even mokṣa.”

Vijaya, “Why is bhakti described as su-durlabhā, a rarely attained goal?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “This particular point requires special attention. One may perform various sādhanas to the best of one’s ability for countless years, but one will never attain śuddha-bhakti unless one’s bhakti-bhajana becomes free of discrepancy. The Supreme Lord satisfies most practitioners of spiritual discipline by offering them either bhukti or mukti. He does not give śuddha-bhakti to a devotee unless the devotee is highly qualified.

“By cultivating impersonal brahma-jñāna one is sure to achieve mokṣa. Similarly, by performing sacrifices, charitable acts, and pious deeds, one certainly enjoys earthly and heavenly pleasures. These two allurements make śuddha-bhakti difficult to obtain. Renouncing these allurements, one must become adept in the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, because no other method can bring success.

Vijaya, “How may bhakti be called sāndrānanda-viśeṣātmā, the source of inexplicable ecstasy?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Bhakti is the fountainhead of transcendental ecstasy, hence it is an unlimited ocean of ānanda. Neither the sensual material pleasures nor the ānanda of impersonal Brahman realization multiplied a million times are equal to a mere drop of ecstasy from the unlimited ocean of bhakti. Gross material pleasure is dismally insignificant and the bliss of Brahman that one obtains by achieving mukti after negating such material pleasure is dry and insipid. Both of these so-called joys are diametrically opposed to the transcendental divine bliss of śuddha-bhakti—such antipodes should not be compared. The bliss of śuddha-bhakti is so intense and overpowering that any other types of happiness, including that of Brahman realization, seem empty and insignificant—as if a little puddle were to be compared to the vast bottomless ocean. The pure devotee relishing such ecstasy knows his joys, others can only speculate.”

Vijaya, “How does bhakti act to śrī-kṛṣṇākarṣiṇī, attract Śrī Kṛṣṇa?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “The devotee whose heart is infused with śuddha-bhakti attracts the attention of Kṛṣṇa—along with that of all His close associates—by the power of his love. Love is the only way to conquer Śrī Kṛṣṇa, no other means are viable.”

Vijaya, “Considering that bhakti is such an excellent and expedient method for spiritual success, why do not all the scholars pondering over the scriptures care to try it out?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “The truth is that the human intellect is limited. Any purely intellectual attempt to comprehend śuddha-bhakti and Kṛṣṇa consciousness—which belong to the realm of pure transcendence beyond the mundane intellect—will result in the opening up of an unbridgeable chasm. However, if a sincere seeker develops a slight faith and taste for bhakti because of his previous sukṛti, he will swiftly grasp the esoteric import of this transcendental science. The path of śuddha-bhakti is only accessible to the most fortunate pious and faithful souls, and no one else.”

Vijaya, “Why do logic, rhetoric, and intellect carry no weight in the endeavour to understand śuddhabhakti?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Intellect and logic are both out of their depth when trying to gauge the realm of śuddha-bhakti. Therefore, the Vedas warn us with these verses from the Kathā Upaniṣad, 1.2.9:

naiṣa tarkena matir āpaneyā
proktānyenaiva su-jñānāya preṣṭha

“‘Dear Naciketā, “This realization, my dear boy, cannot be acquired by logic. It must be spoken by an exceptionally qualified spiritual master to a knowledgeable disciple.’

“Furthermore, we find in the Vedānta-sūtra, 2.1.11:

tarkāpratiṣṭhānāt

“‘Transcendental topics cannot be understood by argument or logic. Therefore, rhetoric is ineffective in helping to understand spiritual subject matters.’

“These statements of the Vedas and Vedānta establish the insignificant position of logic and argument in revealing the Absolute Truth.”

Vrajanātha, “Is there a path of bhakti that runs between sādhana-bhakti and prema-bhakti?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Yes, there is bhāva-bhakti, which means that there are three stages of bhakti: sādhana-bhakti, bhāva-bhakti, and prema-bhakti.”

Vrajanātha, “What are the specific symptoms of sādhana-bhakti?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “In fact, bhakti is one. Premabhakti, which is saturated with the pure consciousness of loving devotional service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is the ultimate goal. However, as long as the conditioned jīva executes bhakti under the influence of the material mind and senses, his endeavour is known as sādhana-bhakti.”

Vrajanātha, “Yet, have you not said that prema-bhakti is a nitya-siddha-bhāva, eternally perfect mood, inherent in the spirit soul. Why then does the jīva need to perform sādhana in order to perfect it?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “This nitya-siddha-bhāva resides within the heart and is not to be gained from elsewhere—it is not a sādhya external to the very nature of the jīva. Sādhana is the name given to the method of evoking this nitya-siddha-bhāva from within the heart. Prema-bhakti does not appear in the heart of the jīva as long as he is in a conditioned state; thus, the nitya-siddha-bhāva is temporarily in a covered position from where it needs to be evoked. In truth, prema-bhakti is nityasiddha, eternally perfect and present within the heart.”

Vrajanātha, “Kindly elucidate this philosophical point in more detail.”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Prema-bhakti manifests by the special grace of the svarūpa-śakti of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, hence it is indeed nitya-siddha. Yet, without conscious effort prema-bhakti is not revealed from within the heart of the conditioned soul. The efforts and methods undertaken by the jīva to reveal the presence of prema-bhakti within his heart through the application of the mind, body, and words are called sādhana-bhakti. During the period of sādhana-bhakti, the nitya-siddha condition of premabhakti may appear to be subservient to the practice of the rules and regulations of sādhana-bhakti; yet, as soon as prema-bhakti graciously appears, its nitya-siddha status is clearly evident.”

Vrajanātha, “What are the characteristics of sādhana?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “The hallmark of sādhanabhakti is to repose the mind upon Śrī Kṛṣṇa by every conceivable means.”

Vrajanātha, “How many types of sādhana-bhakti are there?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “There are two types: vaidhī-bhakti and rāgānugabhakti.”

Vrajanātha, “Kindly elaborate upon vaidhī-bhakti.”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “The intrinsic propensity of the jīva for premabhakti is cultivated in two ways. One method of development is through vidhi, discipline, and is thus known as vaidhībhakti. By vidhi is meant adherence to the rules and regulations of śāstra. Hence, vidhi and śāstra are synonymous as the śāstra contains all the rules and regulations of the vidhi. Thus, when bhakti is inspired by śāstric stipulations, it is called vaidhībhakti.”

Vrajanātha, “Later I would request you to explain rāgānuga-bhakti, yet now kindly delve further into vaidhī-bhakti.”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Śāstric stipulations on compulsory observances are known as vidhi, and those activities forbidden in the śāstra are called niṣedha. To execute the vidhis and abstain from the niṣedhas is the vaidhī-dharma for the jīva.”

Vrajanātha, “From your instructions, I have gathered that all śāstras advise humanity to abide by vaidhī-dharma. However, the problem of the jīva, particularly in Kali-yuga because of his diminished longevity, is that he does not even have the time to browse through the śāstric mountains of vidhi and niṣedha. Is there a śāstric maxim that succinctly summarises the essential vidhis and niṣedhas?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “The Padma Purāṇa, Uttara, 42.103, and the Nārada Pañcarātra, 4.2.23, both advise:

smartavyaḥ satataṁ viṣṇur vismartavyo na jātucit
sarve vidhi-niṣedhāḥ syur etayor eva kiṅkarāḥ

“‘To always remember the Supreme Lord, Śrī Viṣṇu, is the vidhi, observance, and to never forget Him, is the niṣedha, prohibition. All the other vidhi and niṣedha mentioned in the scriptures must be considered as subordinate instructions to these two.’

“The esoteric purport is that remembering the Supreme Lord is the fountainhead of all vidhi. The elaborate and intricate varṇāśrama system, a socio-religious society strongly recommended in the scriptures, is subservient to this principal vidhi. Similarly, forgetfulness of Śrī Viṣṇu is the principal niṣedha. Instructions against committing sin, restraining the outward projection of consciousness, and the performance of appropriate penances to counteract sinful reactions are corollaries to the main vidhi and niṣedha, which is remembrance and non-forgetfulness of Śrī Viṣṇu. Hence, it is to be understood that amongst all the vidhis, including those governing the varṇāśrama social system, remembrance of the Supreme Lord is the eternal vidhi. This is confirmed in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, 11.5.2-3:

śrī-camasa uvāca
mukha-bāhūru-pādebhyaḥ puruṣasyāśramaiḥ saha
catvāro jajñire varṇā guṇair viprādayaḥ pṛthak
ya eṣāṁ puruṣaṁ sākṣād ātma-prabhavam īśvaram
na bhajanty avajānanti sthānād bhraṣṭāḥ patanty adhaḥ

“‘Śrī Camasa said, “Of the four varṇas, social orders, the brāhmaṇas have emanated from the mouth of the Universal Form of the Supreme Śrī Viṣṇu, the kṣatriyas from His arms, the vaiśyas from His thighs, and the śūdras from His legs and feet. Each varṇa has appeared with specific attributes and āśramas. When, therefore, within this varṇāśrama system the jīva fails to worship the Supreme Lord and instead becomes puffed up with imagined pride of his mundane status and begins to disregard the Lord, he is demoted from the human position and cast down into the depths of depravity.’”

Vrajanātha, “Why would the followers of the varṇāśrama social system not render devotional service to Kṛṣṇa?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says that out of those who become disciplined by following the scriptural injunctions of varṇāśrama, those who actually develop faith in bhakti are the only ones that have gained eligibility for entering and practicing the path of śuddhabhakti. Such persons are neither overtly attached to the śāstric stipulations of vaidhī-dharma, nor are they extremely renounced—followers of dry asceticism. In the journey of life, they observe social etiquette and moral standards to maintain the integrity of the body and soul, yet, most importantly, they apply themselves to bhaktisādhana and accept and reject the objects of this world in light of this pursuit of śuddhabhakti. Such eligibility in bhakti is obtained after many lifetimes of accumulating bhaktisukṛti living within vaidhīdharma. Those faithful persons eligible for bhakti are of three categories: uttamaadhikārī, madhyama-adhikārī, and kanisthaadhikārī.”

Vrajanātha, “According to the Bhagavad-gītā, four types of pious persons are said to be eligible for practising bhakti: ārtaḥ, the distressed; jijñāsū, the inquisitive; arthārthī, those desiring material gain; and jñānī, those situated in knowledge of the Absolute. For which level of bhakti practice are they qualified?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “When these four types of men advance along the spiritual path by sādhusaṅga, they develop śraddhā in pure bhakti. At this juncture of sādhusaṅga, they gain the adhikāra to execute bhakti. In the scriptures, there are outstanding examples of devotees who progressively rose to the highest levels of bhakti: Gajendra, Śaunaka Ṛṣi, Dhruva, the four Kumāras, and so on.”

Vrajanātha, “Do devotees achieve mukti?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “There are five kinds of mukti: sālokya, attaining the planet of Śrī Nārāyaṇa; sārṣṭi, attaining the same opulence as Śrī Nārāyaṇa; sāmīpya, attaining the association of Śri Nārāyaṇa; sārūpya, attaining the same form as Śrī Nārāyaṇa; and sāyujya, merging into the Brahman effulgence of Śri Nārāyaṇa.

Sāyujya-mukti, however, is irreconcilably contrary to the precepts of bhakti, so the devotees Śrī Kṛṣṇa do not accept it. Although the other four types of mukti are not strongly opposed to the precepts of śuddha-bhakti, yet to a certain extent they possess traits that are counter-productive to the practice of śuddha-bhakti. Therefore, staunch Kṛṣṇa devotees never aspire for any of these categories of mukti that fix their ultimate destination only up to Vaikuṇṭha, the abode of Śrī Nārāyaṇa.

“Endeavour for the attainment of these four types of mukti is sometimes dominated by a mood of seeking one’s own satisfaction, plus desire for sukhāiśvarya, opulent worship in awe and reverence of the Lord. However, at other times the endeavour may be infused with premasevā, a loving devotional mood. The sukhāiśvarya mood, what to speak of mukti, is vehemently rejected by the devotees of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Single-mindedly attracted to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the devotees are not at all interested in receiving the prasādam of Śrī Nārāyaṇa. Why so? Although in principle Śrī Nārāyaṇa and Śrī Kṛṣṇa are on an equal platform, yet Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the embodiment of the higher spiritual bhāva and rasa.”

Vrajanātha, “Are only āryas, those born within the varṇāśrama system, eligible to take up the path of bhakti?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Every human being is a fit candidate to take up the path of bhakti.”

Vrajanātha, “It appears that persons following the varṇāśrama system have to follow two religious duties: to adhere to the rules and regulations of varṇāśramadharma; and to practice śuddhabhakti. Whereas, on the other hand, those jīvas who do not follow the varṇāśrama-dharma, being outside that system, need only practice the duties of śuddha-bhakti. This arrangement appears odd, because the followers of the varṇāśrama system have to execute karmakāṇḍa activities, as well as the bhaktikāṇḍa activities, making life seemingly more difficult for them. What is the proper understanding of all this?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Those who have attained eligibility for practicing bhakti and are yet within the varṇāśrama system, need only execute the bhaktikāṇḍa activities, because bhakti automatically includes the karmayoga activities of varṇāśramadharma. In those cases where the karma-kāṇḍa activities are contrary to the bhakti-kāṇḍa activities, the karma-kāṇḍa activities are to be rejected without fear of any adverse repercussions. Generally, the practitioner of bhakti naturally has no desire to perpetrate vikarma, immoral sinful activities, or akarma, the disregard of his material duties. If by a caprice of fate he executes prohibited activities, he is not required to perform penances to exonerate his misdemeanours. Once bhakti is established within the heart, sudden or accidental sinful activities cannot take root there; they are automatically and easily destroyed. Therefore, devotees are not required to perform the prāyaścitta, penances, of karma-kāṇḍa.”

Vrajanātha, “How then do bhakti-adhikārīs, the eligible practitioners of bhakti, repay their debts to the Devas and so on?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “My son, just consider the import of this verse from the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, 11.5.41:

devarṣi-bhūtāpta-nṛṇāṁ pitèṇāṁ
na kiṅkaro nāyam ṛṇī ca rājan
sarvātmanā yaḥ śaraṇaṁ śaraṇyaṁ
gato mukundaṁ parihṛtya kartam

“‘O King, one who has given up all material duties and has taken full shelter of the lotus feet of Mukunda, who offers shelter to all, is not indebted to the Devas, great sages, ordinary living beings, relatives, friends, general mankind, or even one’s forefathers who have passed away. Since all such classes of living entities are part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, one who has surrendered to the Lord’s service has no need to serve such persons separately.’

“The most important teaching of the Bhagavad-gītā is to be found in sixty-sixth verse of the eighteenth chapter:

sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ

“‘Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.’

“One should simply surrender to the Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who will absolve the surrendered soul from all sinful reactions. The essence of the Bhagavad-gītā is that a person who has become worthy of executing śuddha-bhakti need no longer conform to the rules and regulations of jñāna-śāstra and karma-śāstra. He attains complete perfection simply by adhering to the path of śuddha-bhakti. Therefore, the proclamation of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā, 9.31, must be recognized as paramount:

…na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati…

“‘My devotees are never destroyed.’

“The devotee should hold this promise of Śrī Kṛṣṇa as infallible.”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī fell into silent contemplation at this point of the conversation. Quietly speaking with each other, Vrajanātha and Vijaya came to the firm conviction that jñāna and karma were very insignificant. All doubts regarding bhakti were cleared in their minds. They understood that the only true benediction for humanity was the mercy of Bhakti Devī, the goddess of śuddhabhakti. There was no other alternative.

Vrajanātha then asked Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī very gently, “Dear Gurujī, please tell us something about the different aṅgas, limbs, of śuddha-bhakti.”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “My dear Vrajanātha, you have heard the explanations of the Daśa-mūla-śikṣā up to the eight śloka. Take the time to go over them with your respected uncle. I am truly happy to see him. I will now proceed to the ninth Dāsamūla teaching. Please listen carefully:

śrutiḥ kṛṣṇākhyānaṁ smaraṇa-nati-pūjāvidhi-gaṇas
tathā dāsyaṁ sākhyaṁ paricaraṇam apy ātma-dadanam
navāṅgāny etanīha vidhi-gata-bhakter anudinaṁ
bhajan śraddhā-yuktaḥ suvimala-ratiṁ vai sa labhate

“‘One attains pure love and attachment for the Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, by daily and faithfully executing the process of regulative devotional service, which consists of the following nine limbs: hearing the glories of the Lord, chanting the glories of the Lord, remembering the Lord, serving His lotus feet, worshiping the Lord, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming a servitor of the Lord, considering the Lord one’s friend, and surrendering oneself completely to the Lord.’

“Applying the ear to the narrations of the name, beauty, qualities and pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is called śravaṇam, hearing. Śravaṇam goes through two stages. At the first stage, the person may hear incidentally the descriptions of name, form, qualities and pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa from the sādhus without any real degree of śraddhā. However, such hearing, if pursued, gradually evokes śraddhā in the heart of the hearer and thereby generates a craving to hear more and more about Śrī Kṛṣṇa. At the second stage, the faithful soul develops a deep thirst to hear only about Śrī Kṛṣṇa from the Vaiṣṇava gurus and sādhus. This constant hearing with deepening faith matures into the perfection of the realized state. Śravaṇam is the first limb of śuddhabhakti.

“To utilize the tongue in the glorification of the name, beauty, qualities and pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the simplest definition of kīrtana, chanting. Some of the different forms of kīrtana are discussing topics of Kṛṣṇa-consciousness; chanting kṛṣṇa-nāma; reading aloud the scriptures to others; singing devotional songs; speaking to attract the mind of the people to Śrī Kṛṣṇa; speaking with humility to the Lord; vijñapti, revealing one’s mind to the Lord; chanting bhajanas in glorification of the Lord; and offering prayers to the Lord. Kīrtana has been described as the most important of the nine limbs of bhakti. This is especially true in Kali-yuga. There are repeated references in the scriptures stating that kīrtana brings the greatest benefit to humanity. In the Padma Purāṇa, Uttara-khaṇḍa, 42.25, we find:

dhyāyan kṛte yajan yajñais tretāyāṁ dvāpare ’rcayan
yad āpnoti tad āpnoti kalau saṅkīrtya keśavam

“‘In Satya-yuga the supreme goal of human life was achieved through meditation, in Tretā-yuga through the offering of sacrifices, and in Dvāpara-yuga through elaborate Deity worship in the temples. In Kali-yuga, the supreme goal is achieved only through the pure chanting of kṛṣṇanāma.’

“The most effective method to purify the heart and consciousness is the chanting of kṛṣṇanāma. No other process is as effective. The word saṅkīrtana means, ‘the congregational chanting of kṛṣṇanāma.’

“Repeated meditation upon the name, form, qualities and pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is called smaraṇam, remembering. It is of five kinds: smaraṇam, short, intermittent recollection; dhāraṇa, purposely withdrawing the mind from other thoughts and thinking about a specific subject, but in general terms; dhyāna, applying the mind at length to contemplate particular forms, or qualities of Śrī Kṛṣṇa; dhruvānusmṛti, continuous dhyāna like the smooth flowing of nectar; and samādhi, being absorbed for an extended period with nothing else remaining within the heart.

Śravaṇam, kīrtanam, and smaraṇam constitute the backbone of bhakti; all the other limbs of bhakti are included within these three. Amongst the three processes, kīrtanam is the most efficacious because śravaṇam and smaraṇam can be practised as parts of kīrtanam.

“According to the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, 7.5.23:

śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ smaraṇaṁ pāda-sevanam
arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ sakhyam ātma-nivedanam

“‘Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and pastimes of Śrī Viṣṇu, remembering these aspects of the Lord, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one’s best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind and words)—these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service.’

Pādasevanam, rendering menial service, is the fourth limb of bhakti. It has to be executed with the assistance of śravaṇam, kīrtanam, and smaraṇam. It is imperative to realize that one is hopelessly lacking and unworthy to serve. At the same time, one has to be aware of the fact that the supreme object of service is the full embodiment of eternity, absolute knowledge and unlimited bliss. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī described this topic in detail when he enunciated the sixty-four limbs of bhakti in his treatise upon bhakti named the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. Pādasevanam includes darśana, seeing the transcendental form of the Lord; touching the body of the Deity; circumambulation of the Deity, the temple and the dhāma, etc; daily performance of one’s devotional duties; and visiting the temple of the Lord, the holy rivers such as the Gaṅgā and the sacred pilgrimage places like Purī, Dvārakā, Mathurā and Navadvīpa. The worship of Tulasī Devī and the service of the sādhus also belong to pādasevanam as well.

“The fifth of the nine limbs of bhakti is arcana, Deity worship. There are many considerations concerning the procedures and the eligibility for this limb of bhakti. If a devotee who has already practised śravaṇam, kīrtanam and smaraṇam develops strong faith in the Deity form of the Lord and thereby an urge to perform arcana, then he should approach his guru for instruction and the necessary mantra initiation. Thereafter, he may be engaged in arcana.”

Vrajanātha, “Mahārāja, what is the difference between nāma, the holy names, and mantra, incantation?”

Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Nāma is the life and soul of a mantra. The great sages have attached suffixes and prefixes such as namaḥ to the transcendental names. Thus, the sages have given us mantras that evoke specific powers of hari-nāma and establish particular relationships with the Supreme Lord.

“Truly, harināma is entirely transcendental and impartial; thus, He may be chanted by anyone. However, the jīva is entrapped in māyā by his false identification with the body and matter. To help release the consciousness of the jīva from the grips of matter and put the consciousness upon the spiritual path, the process of Deity worship with the chanting of specific potent mantras has been laid out in the śāstra and by the sages. Hence, mantra-dīkṣā is necessary for materialistic men who desire to be engaged in arcana.

“Initiation into kṛṣṇamantra is the most auspicious blessing for all humanity; out of all the mantras that exist, kṛṣṇamantra is the most potent and effective. To chant kṛṣṇamantra there is no need to accept the various purificatory processes known as siddha, sādhya, susiddha, and ari. When the jīva receives initiation into kṛṣṇa-mantra from a bona fide elevated guru, he immediately becomes the recipient of the divine potency of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The inquisitive initiate then receives instructions about the procedures of arcana from his guru. At this point in our discussions, not all the details of arcana need be described. In brief, it may be said that the observance of Śrī Kṛṣṇa-janmāṣṭamī, Kārttika-vrata, Ekādaśī-vrata, Māgha-snāna, and other vows are incorporated within arcana. Along with serving and worshiping Śrī Kṛṣṇa, one thing is indispensable: His pure devotee must also be served and worshiped.

Vandana is the sixth of the nine limbs of bhakti. Although it may be included within the other limbs, such as within kīrtanam or pādasevanam, it has also been given a separate status. Vandana means to offer namaskāra, obeisances with heartfelt prayers. There are of two kinds of namaskāra: ekaṇganamaskāra, offering obeisances with folded hands—that is with one part of the body whilst standing before the Lord; and aṣtanganamaskāra, offering prostrate obeisances—that is with all eight parts of the body.

“However, there are also offences to be avoided while offering namaskāra, such as one-handed salutations; prostrated obeisances with covered upper torso; prostrating in front and in line with the Lord’s vision, that is head-on; prostrating from behind the Lord; prostrating with the Deities to one’s right side; and prostrating inside the temple Deity room.

Dāsyam, considering oneself to be a servitor of the Lord, is the seventh limb of bhakti. The ideal way to meditate and worship is to be imbued with feelings of eternal servitude towards Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Offering prayers, obeisances, and the fruits of all one’s labours; menial service; proper devotional conduct; remembering the Lord; hearing about his pastimes and glories; and other such activities in the mood of eternal servitude to the Lord are the items of dāsyam.

Sākhyam, making friendship with the Lord, is the eight limb of bhakti. As a friend of the Lord, the devotee is always attentive to take care of the Lord’s needs. Sākhyam is divided into two categories: vaidhaṇga-sākhyam, friendship regulated by discipline and reverence; and rāgāṇga-sākhyam, spontaneous, friendly affection and regard. Here, sākhyam refers only to vaidhaṇga-sākhyam, comprising the attachment and friendship a devotee develops towards the Lord whilst worshiping the Deity.

Ātmā-nivedana is the ninth limb of bhakti. It is the complete surrender of the pure mind, body and words to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The hallmark of this limb is that the devotee gives up all types of endeavours for himself and applies himself solely for the sake of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Just as a cow that may be freely bought and sold in the market place remains dependent upon the will of her master in the matters of activity and maintenance, similarly, the surrendered devotee remains fully dependent upon the will of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and simply desires whatever Kṛṣṇa desires. This theme is echoed in the words of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, 9.4.19-20:

sa vai manaḥ kṛṣṇa-padāravindayor
vacāṁsi vaikuṇṭha-guṇānuvarṇane
karau harer mandira-mārjanādiṣu
śrutiṁ cakārācyuta-sat-kathodaye
mukunda-liṅgālaya-darśane dṛśau
tad-bhṛtya-gātra-sparśe ’ṅga-saṅgamam
ghrāṇaṁ ca tat-pāda-saroja-saurabhe
śrīmat-tulasyā rasanāṁ tad-arpite
pādau hareḥ kṣetra-padānusarpaṇe
śiro hṛṣīkeśa-padābhivandane
kāmaṁ ca dāsye na tu kāma-kāmyayā
yathottamaśloka-janāśrayā ratiḥ

“‘Mahārāja Ambarīṣa always engaged his mind in taking shelter at the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa; his words in describing the spiritual world and the Supreme Personality of Godhead; his hands in cleansing and washing the Lord’s temple; his ears in hearing topics about the Supreme Lord; his eyes in seeing the Deity of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the temple; his body in touching the lotus feet of Vaiṣṇavas and embracing them; his nostrils in smelling the aroma of tulasī leaves offered to Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet; his tongue in tasting prasādam, food offered to Kṛṣṇa; his legs in going to places of pilgrimage like Vṛndāvana and Mathurā or the Lord’s temple; and his head in touching the lotus feet of the Lord and in offering Him prayers. Thus, Mahārāja Ambarīṣa desired only to serve the Lord faithfully. In this way, he engaged his senses and his transcendental loving propensity completely in the Lord’s service.’”

Vrajanātha and Vijaya-kumāra were exhilarated by the explanations of Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī and fell prostrate before him in awed affection.

Vrajanātha said, “Gurudeva, truly you are a bhāgavata-pārṣada, an eternal and intimate associate of the Lord. We have received immense good fortune from your nectarean instructions. All this time we have wasted our lives in futile academic pursuits and in wallowing in the false prestige of a noble birth. Surely on the strength of piety accumulated over many life-times, we have been given the shelter of your lotus feet.”

Vijaya-kumāra said, “O Gurudeva, you are a stalwart amongst the pure devotees of the Lord. Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura personally instructed me to come to Śrī Dhāma Māyāpura and see the sacred birthplace of the Lord. His blessings have enabled me to see the Lord’s transcendental abode and associate with His eternal companion. With your kind permission, Mahārāja, we would like to visit you again tomorrow evening.”

The elderly Bābājī prostrated himself with amazing alacrity when the name of Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura was mentioned. Slowly returning to his sitting position, he said, “Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura is the revered author of the biography of my beloved Lord and a direct incarnation of Śrīla Vyāsadeva for this purpose. I offer him my repeated obeisances.”

Both uncle and nephew had forgotten the time. They suddenly noticed that it was late noon—the hours had flown by. After begging leave of Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, Vrajanātha and Vijaya-kumāra returned to the home of Vrajanātha.

Thus ends the nineteenth chapter of Jaiva-dharma, entitled:
Nitya-dharma: Sambandha, Abhidheya and Prayojana, Part Seven: An Analysis of Abhidheya, the Means of Attainment of Prema

Jaiva Dharma - Bhaktivinoda ThakuraJaiva Dharma - Chapter Eighteen
Jaiva Dharma - Bhaktivinoda ThakuraJaiva Dharma - Chapter Twenty

Share this chapter!

Read More Books by Bhaktivinoda Thakur