Vijaya-kumāra and Vrajanātha felt that the instructions of Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja radiated a sublime calm, which soothed away any doubts from their minds. They therefore arrived at a joint decision to immediately take initiation from him. Vijaya-kumāra had received traditional initiation from his family priest and Vrajanātha had already received gāyatrī dīkṣā, initiation into the gāyatrī mantra, but no other mantra–dīkṣā. They had learned from Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī that if one receives and chants a mantra from a non-Vaiṣṇava, one is on the sure path to Hell, and that upon understanding this mistake one must immediately receive initiation from a Vaiṣṇava guru. Moreover, to attain swift perfection in one’s chanting, it is indispensable that the dīkṣā–guru be a transcendental self-realized soul.
So, early the next morning, they set off for Śrīvāsāṅgana, determined to take initiation from Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī that very morning. After sanctifying themselves in the holy waters of the Gaṅgā and decorating their bodies with tilaka upon the twelve places with the appropriate mantras, they arrived at Māyāpura Śrīvāsāṅgana, where they prostrated themselves before Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, a self-realized and liberated soul. Though he had intuited their intention, he nevertheless asked, “What brings you here, so early this morning?”
They replied, “O revered Gurudeva, we are helpless and spiritually destitute, please be so kind as to take us under your shelter!”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī then invited them to come into his hut, one after the other, where he initiated them with the eighteen-syllable kṛṣṇa–mantra. Upon beginning to chant this potent mantra, they became intoxicated and exultant, exclaiming aloud, “All glories to Śrī Gaurāṅga! All glories to Śrī Gaurāṅga!” Raising their arms, they began to dance with graceful postures. They looked sublime with tulasī beads around their necks, white sacred threads hanging loosely diametrically across the chest from the left shoulder, prominent tilaka marks shining on the twelve places of their bodies, and their bright faces flushed with spiritual emotion. The initial stirrings of ecstatic symptoms were obvious as unrestrained tears flowed from their eyes.
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī was much moved and embraced each of them, saying, “Today you have sanctified me.” Vrajanātha and Vijaya-kumāra fell at his feet and smeared their heads and bodies with the dust of his feet. Meanwhile, two servants of Vrajanātha arrived at Śrīvāsāṅgana loaded with foodstuffs. Before Vrajanātha had set off for Māyāpura that morning, he had arranged for a large amount of food supplies to be brought for offering to Śrī Mahāprabhu and the Vaiṣṇavas. Humbly approaching the other nearby Vaiṣṇavas with folded hands, Vrajanātha and Vijaya-kumāra humbly requested them to accept the bhoga for offering to the Lord. The head-priest of the Śrīvāsāṅgana temple received the bhoga graciously, sending it to the kitchen to be cooked and offered to the Pañca Tattva Deities upon the temple altar.
A while later, the bhoga-āratī ceremony was performed with conch-shells sounding and bells ringing aloud. The Vaiṣṇavas had assembled in the temple room in front of the Pañca Tattva Deities and now raised their voices in melodious harmony, singing the special song for the āratī, accompanied by mṛdaṅga drums and hand cymbals. A gradually increasing number of Vaiṣṇavas expressed their exhilaration in a sweet chorus of praise for Śrī Caitanya. Finally, the āratī worship ended in a jubilant crescendo.
As was usual for celebrations, the temple room was cleared to serve as a prasādam hall for the large gathering. The Vaiṣṇavas sat in rows, each with a simple loṭā vessel for water, whilst thanksgiving prayers for the prasādam were loudly chanted to the Lord. Vrajanātha and Vijaya because of their great respect at first refused to sit with the Vaiṣṇavas. However, upon seeing this the senior bābājīs had them practically carried to their seats in the assembly.
One of the elder bābājīs said, “You are householder Vaiṣṇavas, it will be our great fortune to offer daṇḍavats to you.”
However Vrajanātha and Vijaya-kumāra replied, “Respected Bābājī, you are a holy preceptor, renounced and advanced—we will consider it a blessing, if we are allowed to partake of your sacred remnants. To sit and eat with you would be a serious offence.”
Other elder Vaiṣṇavas replied, “When one assesses an advanced Vaiṣṇava, the social status of being either a gṛhastha–vaiṣṇava, or a tyāgī-vaiṣṇava is not the criterion. A Vaiṣṇava is judged by the depth of his devotion and accordingly he is respected.”
During this discussion, the preparations for serving had been completed and all had taken seats at their respective places. However, Vrajanātha and Vijaya-kumāra still would not take because they wanted to wait and then relish the remnants from the plate of their guru. Observing this, the elder Vaiṣṇavas requested Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, who was the most respected amongst them, to kindly offer a morsel from his plate to his two waiting disciples, otherwise they would not honour the prasādam. Thus, Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī dropped a handful of prasādam from his plate into their outstretched palms. Touching the prasādam to their foreheads in a gesture of reverence, they chanted, “Śrī-guruve namaḥ,” and then savoured the prasādam in the knowledge that it was purely transcendental foodstuff. They then joined the other Vaiṣṇavas in joyfully relishing the prasādam.
The Vaiṣṇavas honoured the prasādam in quiet meditation, the silence being interrupted at intervals by salutary words glorifying the prasādam. Śrīvāsāṅgana had once more become the location of a marvellous festival. Remembering a verse from Jagadānanda Paṇḍita’s book Prema–vivarta that aptly described their present experience, the devotees visualized Śrīmatī Śacī Devī, Śrīmatī Sītā Devī and Śrīmatī Mālinī Devī serving prasādam to Śrī Caitanya surrounded by His associates:
māyāpura nitya-līlā kare gaura-rāya
sukṛtira bale bhakta dekhibāre pāya
“Śrī Caitanya eternally enacts His transcendental pastimes in the holy dhāma of Māyāpura, but only those who—by dint of their innumerable pious deeds—have a pure heart are able to see them.”
Then, all at once, the Vaiṣṇavas stopped eating and sat in absolute silence, becoming spellbound as the Lord directly manifested this pastime before their eyes. The wonderstruck assembly saw Śrī Caitanya and His associates seated together whilst being served great varieties of prasādam by Śacī Devī, Sītā Devī and Mālinī Devī. Yet, the scene disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared, leaving the devotees looking at each other in complete astonishment. As the realization of what they had just witnessed dawned, tears of ecstasy brimmed in their eyes. The prasādam now tasted relishable beyond words. The Vaiṣṇavas softly said to one another that these two brāhmaṇa youths were definitely the recipients of Śrī Caitanya’s special mercy for the Supreme Lord, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, had manifested His eternal pastimes at this mahotsava arranged by them. Nonetheless, Vrajanātha and Vijaya-kumāra felt unfit to accept such praise. Tears were streaming from their eyes when they said, “We are wretched and indigent, ignorant about spiritual life. The wonderful scene we were allowed to witness was solely because of the mercy of our Gurudeva and the saintly Vaiṣṇavas present.” After finishing prasādam, Vrajanātha and Vijaya-kumāra begged permission from their guru and the Vaiṣṇavas to leave and return to their residence.
From that day on, Vrajanātha and Vijaya started a new daily routine. They took an early morning dip in the Gaṅgā, offered obeisances to the lotus feet of Śrīla Gurudeva, saw the Deities in the temple, circumambulated them, offered worship and water to Tulasī Devī, and so forth. They made an effort to learn and practice a new devotional observance every day to help them make swift spiritual progress.
A week later, they visited Śrīvāsāṅgana in the evening, after completing their daily brahminical duties of gāyatrī-mantra, japa, etc. After attending the evening āratī in the temple, they went to see their Gurudeva in his bhajana-kuṭīra. Offering obeisances, they sat down and asked, “Dear Gurujī, by your blessings, we have a clear concept of vaidhī-bhakti-sādhana. Although we are most degraded, our earnest desire is that you kindly explain to us the precepts of rāgānuga–bhakti.”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī was overjoyed at this request and said, “My sons, our beloved Lord, Śrī Caitanya, has endorsed your initiation, hence there is nothing that cannot be revealed to you. Listen very carefully as I explain the principles of rāgānuga–bhakti. I shall begin my dissertation by first offering repeated respects to the lotus feet of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī who was saved from the crippling association of the yavanas by our dear Lord, Śrī Caitanya, who then enlightened him with the wisdom of rasa–tattva, the truth about transcendental mellows. I also offer my deepest devotion to Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, who was also delivered by the most munificent personality, Śrī Caitanya. The Lord extricated him from the entanglement of temporal attachments and placed him under the safe spiritual protection of Śrīla Svarūpa Gosvāmī, thus rewarding him with entire perfection. As a preamble to the subject of rāgānuga–bhakti, I want to delineate the symptoms of rāgātmikā–bhakti, the spontaneous transcendental loving service of the nitya–siddhas, the eternal residents of the spiritual realm.”
Vrajanātha, “Gurudeva, before we proceed further, kindly explain to us the meaning of the word rāga.”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “In the course of daily interactions with the phenomenal world, the conditioned soul develops strong love and attraction for the material world; this sensual attraction is known as viṣaya-rāga. As the eyes restlessly pass from one beautiful material object to another, this external variegatedness keeps the viewer enthralled by its riotous hues; simultaneously, his inner heart feels the caress of mundane rāga, attraction. However, when rāga has made Śrī Kṛṣṇa the sole objective, this consciousness is called rāga–bhakti.”
“Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī defines rāga in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.272:
iṣṭe svārasikī rāgaḥ paramāviṣṭatā bhavet
tan-mayī yā bhaved bhaktiḥ sātra rāgātmikoditā
“‘Rāga is total absorption in one’s most worshipable object, tempered with emotions that are svā–rasikī, i.e., in accordance with one’s innate mood of transcendental love. When devotion to Śrī Kṛṣṇa is fully complemented by rāga, it is described as rāgātmikā–bhakti.’
“To put it briefly, rāgātmikā–bhakti is the insatiable thirst to love Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Those devotees who have not yet experienced spiritual emotions in this realm of rāgamayī–bhakti, devotion imbued with rāga, must seek the dictates of the scriptures to enhance their devotion, thus following vaidhī-sādhana-bhakti. Awe, reverence and faith are the active principles of vaidhī-bhakti, whilst an ever-increasing spiritual greed to relish the pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the hallmark of rāgātmikā-bhakti.”
Vrajanātha, “Who can be considered a fit candidate for rāgamayī–bhakti?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “It is said that vaidhī–śraddhā, implicit faith in scriptural injunctions, creates eligibility for the practice of vaidhī-bhakti. Similarly, lobhamayi–śraddhā—implicit faith in Śrī Kṛṣṇa, driven by lobha, intense spiritual greed—gives one the eligibility to enter the realm of rāgamayī–bhakti. The Vraja-vāsīs, eternal residents of the highest spiritual realm, are immersed in various spiritual mellows that are full of rāga. The devotees who are keen to obtain the bhāva, ecstatic emotion, that the Vraja-vāsīs possess for Śrī Kṛṣṇa, are eligible to enter into rāgānuga–bhakti, i.e. bhakti that takes shelter of and follows the rāga and bhāva of the eternal residents of the spiritual realm.”
Vrajanātha, “In this context what are the defining symptoms of lobha?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “When one hears about the loving devotional sentiments and the intimate dealings of the Vraja-vāsīs with their beloved Śrī Kṛṣṇa and this awakens the desire to fully participate in those pastimes, this is called lobha. When the vaidhī–bhakti practitioner listens to the pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, he looks for guidance from the fundamental scriptural instructions and uses a rationalistic approach to comprehend these pastimes, but in rāgānuga–bhakti the intellect does not need scriptures or logic, for it is fully surcharged with lobha to possess the bhāva of the Vraja-vāsīs.”
Vrajanātha, “What is the process of rāgānuga–bhakti?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “The sādhaka, devotee in the stage of sādhana, must always remember and follow in the footsteps of an eternal associate of the Lord, a Vraja-vāsī, in whose eternal service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa he finds a deep attraction. Thus, the sādhaka has developed lobha to attain a position of service similar to that of his chosen Vraja-vāsī. The sādhaka will reside in Vraja, either in person, or in spirit, and contemplate upon the loving exchanges and conversations of that Vraja-vāsī with the beloved Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Developing an increasing, intense greed to acquire a similar bhāva, he assiduously emulates the Vraja-vāsī of his choice and renders two varieties of devotional service under his or her constant guidance. Externally, he serves the Lord as a sādhaka, and internally, he assumes his spiritual form—the siddha–deha which will permanently manifest one day—and serves the Lord in that capacity.”
Vrajanātha, “What are the parallels between rāgānuga–bhakti and the limbs of vaidhī–bhakti?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “All the vaidhī–bhakti limbs like śravaṇaṁ, kīrtanaṁ, etc., are very much present in the devotional activities of a rāgānuga–sādhaka. While the sādhaka is savouring the eternal service of Śrī Kṛṣṇa within himself under the guidance of his chosen Vraja-vāsī, externally the limbs of vaidhī-bhakti-sādhana are being simultaneously performed.”
Vrajanātha, “What is the superiority of bhakti based upon rāga to bhakti based upon vaidhī?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Practice of vaidhī-bhakti for a long time, even with the utmost sincerity, is hardly able to produce the results that are gained with far less endeavour by rāgānuga–bhakti. Vaidhī–bhakti is hedged in by a great number of śāstric prohibitions and prescriptions that make it weak, whereas rāgānuga-bhakti is independent and based upon natural attraction, making it firm and sturdy. The rāgānuga–sādhaka, an aspiring servant of a Vraja-vāsī, stimulates increasing rāga by internally following in the footsteps of his chosen Vraja-vāsī and by his simultaneous application of the nine processes of śravaṇaṁ, kīrtanaṁ, etc., and all the other suitable limbs of bhakti with his external body.
“When the consciousness has been cleansed of the contamination of the material modes—goodness, passion, and ignorance—one naturally feels an increasing inspiration to follow a particular eternal associate of the Lord. Thus, the lobha and ruci for rāgānuga–bhakti actually inspire one to follow the path of one’s true nitya-dharma. Rāgānuga-bhakti and rāgātmikā-bhakti have the same number of divisions.”
Vrajanātha, “How many divisions of rāgātmikā-bhakti are there?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “There are two kinds of rāgātmikā–bhakti: kāma–rūpa, devotion born from desire, and sambandha–rūpa, devotion born of kinship.”
Vrajanātha, “Kindly explain the distinctions between these two forms of devotion?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “The Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, 7.1.30-31, states:
kāmād dveṣād bhayāt snehād yathā bhaktyeśvare manaḥ
āveśya tad-aghaṁ hitvā bahavas tad-gatiṁ gatāḥ
“‘Many, many persons have attained liberation simply by thinking of Kṛṣṇa with great attention and giving up sinful activities. This great attention may be because of lusty desires, inimical feelings, fear, affection, or devotional service. I shall now explain how one receives Kṛṣṇa’s mercy simply by concentrating one’s mind upon Him.’
gopyaḥ kāmād bhayāt kaṁso dveṣāc caidyādayo nṛpāḥ=
sambandhād vṛṣṇayaḥ snehād yūyaṁ bhaktyā vayaṁ vibho
“‘My dear King Yudhiṣṭhira, the gopīs by their lusty desires, Kaṁsa by his fear, Śiśupāla and other kings by envy, the Yadus by their familial relationship with Kṛṣṇa, you Pāṇḍavas by your great affection for Kṛṣṇa, and we, the general devotees, by our devotional service, have obtained the mercy of Kṛṣṇa.’
“In this śloka, six relationships with Śrī Kṛṣṇa are mentioned: kāma, lust; bhaya, fear; dveṣa, envy; sambandha, family ties; sneha, affection; and bhakti, devotion. Amongst these, bhaya and dveṣa, being unfavourable feelings of the mind, are unsuitable for prema–bhakti; therefore, they are rejected by devotees of the Lord and have no part in rāgamayī-bhakti.
“The sneha mentioned in the above śloka indicates the favourable feeling of friendly affection towards the Lord. Accordingly, it is to be placed within vaidhī-sādhana-bhakti and is also not part of rāgamayī–bhakti. In other purely transcendental relationships, the word sneha indicates affection laced with the loving sentiments of prema-bhāva and is therefore not a part of rāgānugā-sādhana-bhakti, for that level of spiritual love belongs to accomplished prema-bhakti.
“Further, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī explains in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Pūrva 2.135, that vaidhī-bhakti is indicated by the words of the above śloka …bhaktyā vayaṁ vibhu…‘We through bhakti have attained the supreme goal.’ Thus, this śloka explains that the general devotees have attained the supreme goal of devotional service to the Supreme Lord by vaidhī-bhakti. Therefore, the category of bhakti indicated by the above words …bhaktyā vayaṁ vibhu… is also not rāgamayī-bhakti.
“In other situations, the word bhakti mentioned in the above śloka may be interpreted to indicate jñāna–miśra-bhakti, i.e. bhakti mixed with jñāna, thus indicating a strong affinity for scriptural knowledge and a tendency for monistic liberation on the part of the sādhaka. Hence, this also cannot be taken as part of rāgamayī-bhakti. The jñānīs, following their monistic bent of mind, will interpret the words …tad–gatiṁ gatāḥ… ‘We have attained the supreme goal,’ as meaning that one has merged oneself into the brahma-jyotir and thereby equalised oneself with Brahman, the bodily effulgence of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. They use the argument that the sun and its rays are the same. Yet, they should note that the enemies of Śrī Kṛṣṇa also merge into the brahma-jyotir. Amongst these souls liberated by merging into the effulgence of the Lord, some may attain sārūpya-ābhāsa-mukti, i.e. having a semblance of the same form as the Lord, whereas, other souls may become steeped in the monistic bliss of Brahman. According to the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, they have been elevated to Siddha-loka, which is situated on the periphery of the māyā-jagat, the illusory world.
“In principle, there is no difference between Śrī Kṛṣṇa and His physical lustre, the Brahman, just as the sun and its rays are the same. Therefore, in the above śloka the word tad-gatiṁ means to attain Kṛṣṇa—whether it be the jñānīs and Asuras being elevated to sāyujya liberation, or alternatively the blessed devotees finding eternal engagement in the service of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet.
“Therefore, from this analysis, we see that four moods—bhaya, fear; dveṣa, envy; sneha, affection; and bhakti, indicating either vaidhī-bhakti or jñāna-miśra-bhakti—are to be subtracted from the six moods mentioned in the above śloka; thereby, leaving only two—kāma, spiritual lust, and sambandha, kinship, as self-assertive, transcendentally independent of scriptural regulation and applicable to rāga–mārga, the path of loving transcendental attraction. Thus, kāma and sambandha are the two types of rāgamayī–bhakti.”
Vrajanātha, “What is the nature of kāma-rūpa bhakti?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “The word kāma may imply the thirst to enjoy selfishly and materially. However, when this mood manifests in rāgātmikā-bhakti, it is actually causeless, transcendental love for Kṛṣṇa, completely free from the material pollution of selfishness. Transcendental kāma is selfless love, wherein every single endeavour of the lover, the devotee, is directed to satisfy the beloved, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. All activities for self-aggrandizement and self-gratification are absent. Even if there are elements of desire for personal happiness, these are ultimately employed for Kṛṣṇa’s pleasure.
“This super-excellent love is perfectly portrayed in the gopīs of Vraja, the cowherd girl friends of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The sublime love of the vraja-gopīs takes on a magnificent sweetness that initiates befitting pastimes. The saintly preceptors have defined this love by the word kāma. Nevertheless, the love of the vraja-gopīs is truly transcendental, pristine and untouched by mundane contamination. It can never be compared with the lust of the embodied materially conditioned living entities, which is self-centred, motivated and gross. This brilliant love of the vraja–gopīs is so lofty that it inspires the purest and most spiritually evolved devotees of Kṛṣṇa—like Uddhava—to aspire after it. The kāma of the vraja-gopīs has no parallels anywhere. It is the superlative and absolute pinnacle of divine love.
“Kāma-rūpa bhakti thrives only in Vraja and not elsewhere. The desire exhibited by Kubjā in Mathurā towards Kṛṣṇa is indeed love, but not the pure kāma of transcendence. At best, it is almost kāma, known as kāma–prāya, and is distinct from the kāma of the nitya-siddha gopīs as just described.”
Vrajanātha, “What are the characteristics of sambandha-rūpa bhakti?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Sambandha-rūpa bhakti springs from the mood, ‘I am Kṛṣṇa’s father’, or ‘I am Kṛṣṇa’s mother’, or another familial relationship with Kṛṣṇa. In the Vṛṣṇi dynasty, Kṛṣṇa’s parents—Devakī and Vasudeva, and others—display this familial sentiment. However, the original manifestation of this mood is in Vraja, as exhibited by Yaśodā and Nanda and others of that mellow in Vraja.
“One should understand that rāgātmikā-bhakti is the exclusive domain of the nitya-siddhas of Vraja and that their unalloyed transcendental love finds its natural expression in kāma-rūpa bhakti and sambandha-rūpa bhakti. When talking about rāgātmikā-bhakti, it is essential to understand these two varieties. Now let us turn to kāmānuga-bhakti and sambandhānuga-bhakti, the two types of rāgānuga sādhana-bhakti that follow in the footsteps of these two varieties of rāgātmikā–bhakti.”
Vrajanātha, “Mahārāja, kindly elaborate on these two forms of rāgānuga sādhana-bhakti.”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Kāmānuga is a form of spiritual aspiration that follows in the footsteps of kāma-rūpa rāgātmikā-bhakti and is also of two varieties: sambhogecchāmayī and tat-tad bhavecchā-mayī.”
Vrajanātha, “What is sambhogecchāmayī?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Sambhogecchāmayī is the desire to enter the transcendental amorous pastimes of the vraja–gopīs with Kṛṣṇa and satisfy Kṛṣṇa therein. These pastimes are supramundane and are defined as sambhoga, pleasure. The desire to enter such pleasurable dealings is sambhogecchāmayī.”
Vrajanātha, “What is tat-tad bhavecchā-mayī?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Tat-tad bhavecchā-mayī is the desire to develop profound transcendental love, full of sweetness and amorous feelings for Śrī Kṛṣṇa, in emulation of the vraja–yūtheśvārīs, the different female group-leaders of the innumerable vraja–gopīs.”
Vrajanātha, “How are these two types of rāgānuga-sādhana bhakti, i.e. kāmānuga and sambandhānuga, ignited within the heart?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “By seeing the beautiful Deity form of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and by hearing of His glorious pastimes, a devotee experiences the desire to experience the bhāvas intrinsic to these pastimes. With great good fortune, he then embarks upon practising either kāmānuga rāgānuga-bhakti or sambandhānuga rāgānuga-bhakti.”
Vrajanātha, “Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the puruṣa, the male entity, and the vraja–gopīs are all prakṛti, female entities. Therefore, it seems that only women are eligible to participate in this mood of kāmānuga rāgānuga-bhakti. How can males develop such bhāva?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Though residing now in this material world, the living entities have five different spiritual mellows according to their tendency. Amongst these, four—dāsya, servitorship; sakhya, friendship; vātsalya, parental love; and mādhurya, conjugal love—are found in the Vraja-vāsīs. Of this four, there are three mellows wherein devotees serve Kṛṣṇa in a male form—dāsya, sakhya, and vātsalya—each according to individual taste, whereas those of female form serve Kṛṣṇa as mothers in vātsalya-bhāva, or as gopīs in mādhurya-bhāva, according to their own taste.
“Since the nitya–siddhas are either male or female, the sādhakas take on a mood and gender corresponding to the particular nitya–siddha of whom they take shelter.”
Vrajanātha, “How may those devotees, who in this world possess a male body, serve Śrī Kṛṣṇa with the mood of the vraja-gopīs?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Those pure devotees who have entered rāgānuga sādhana-bhakti in mādhurya-rasa, the conjugal mellow, may have a male external body here upon earth, however, internally they possess a spiritual female form in the transcendental realm. They take shelter of a particular vraja–gopī of their choice and according to their individual predisposition follow and serve Śrī Kṛṣṇa in their innate spiritual identity as female attendants. The Padma Purāṇa narrates an incident in corroboration of this concept. Attracted by His exquisite beauty, the great sages of the Daṇḍakāraṇya Forest desired to have Śrī Rāma as their husband and took this aspiration as their internal meditation. Later, when Śrī Kṛṣṇa manifested His pastimes in Gokula, these sages were born in female bodies and entered the pastimes as gopīs, steeped in mādhurya-bhāva, conjugal mood.”
Vrajanātha, “The scriptures tell us that the gopīs of Gokula in the spiritual sky are nitya–siddha manifesting in Vraja-dhāma upon earth to enhance the transcendental pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. In this be so, how may the statement of the Padma Purāṇa regarding the Daṇḍakāraṇya sages be harmonised with this description of the gopīs of Gokula?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “The nitya-siddha gopīs manifest in the material world to participate in the rāsa-līlā dance of Śrī Kṛṣṇa at Gokula. However, in addition to them, there is another category of gopīs, who are sādhana–siddhas. Having attained perfection through kāmarūpa-sādhana bhakti, they are elevated to the pastimes in Gokula. According to the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, 10.29.8, where it is said …tā vāryamāṇāḥ patibhiḥ… ‘By serving Śrī Kṛṣṇa in meditation, when hindered by their mothers, fathers, husbands and brothers from meeting Govinda, they [the sādhana-siddha gopīs] abandoned their external material bodies and regained their original purely spiritual forms, and in these forms they attained the association of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in His rāsa–līlā pastime.’ Many of these sādhana-siddha gopīs were previously the Daṇḍakāraṇya sages who had performed rāgānuga sādhana-bhakti with the conjugal mood in their hearts towards Kṛṣṇa. Thus, later, they acquired transcendental forms as gopīs in Vraja.”
Vrajanātha, “Bābājī, who are the nitya–siddhas, and who are the sādhana–siddhas?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “The complete embodiment of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s svarūpa-śakti is Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Her immediate personal expansions are the aṣṭa–sakhīs, the eight principal gopīs, who further expand as the nitya-siddha gopīs, who are thus the kāya-vyūha, bodily expansions, of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇi. They are all nitya–siddha, eternally perfect, and not in the category of jīva–śakti; they are an exclusive class of their own, being the expansions of the svarūpa–śakti of Kṛṣṇa, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.
“The general sakhīs of Vraja had attained perfection through their intense engagement in rāgānuga sādhana-bhakti and were later elevated to associate with the nitya–siddha expansions of Śrīmatī Rādhikā; they are perfect examples of sādhana-siddha jīvas. By being imbued with the hlādinī-śakti by the mercy of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, they have attained sālokya to serve with the nitya-siddha vraja-gopīs.
“Those devotees who are engaged in rāgānuga-bhakti in mādhurya-rasa are elevated as sakhīs, i.e. gopī friends of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, when they attain perfection. Other sādhakas may endeavour solely upon the path of vaidhī–bhakti—putting aside the internal practices of rāgānuga–bhakti—to satisfy the riraṁsa, amorous desires, of Śrī Kṛṣṇa with deference to śāstric import. Later, when leaving their bodies these practitioners of exclusive vaidhī–bhakti may serve Kṛṣṇa in Dvārakā as His married queens. The practice of taking shelter of Śrī Rādhā, the Goddess of Vraja, and Her vraja–gopīs is outside the curriculum of vaidhī-bhakti-mārga, the path of regulative devotion. Thus, only those who nurture rāgānuga-bhakti internally and practice the vaidhī-bhakti discipline externally will obtain the perfection of service in Vraja.”
Vrajanātha, “How are one’s transcendental riraṁsa, amorous desires, satisfied in the conjugal mellow?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “The sādhakas who are attracted to Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the mood of the queens of Dvārakā do not adopt the wiles and caprices of the vraja–gopīs. Unable to take on the temperament of the vraja-gopīs, they cultivate instead mahiṣī–bhāva, the service attitude of dedicated wives for their husbands.”
Vrajanātha, “Please further clarify this subject.”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “The mood of the Dvārakā queens is described as svakīyā, the bond of love between a legally wedded wife and her husband. The mood of service of the vraja-gopīs to Kṛṣṇa, on the contrary, is called parakīya, that of a paramour for her secret lover. The Dvārakā queens cannot realize the ever-expanding parakīya–rasa of the vraja-gopīs. Thus, the only way to relish this most intimate vraja-rasa is to practise rāgānuga-bhakti following the parakīya–bhāva of the vraja–gopīs.”
Vrajanātha, “Gurujī, by your mercy and lucid explanations I have understood all that you have said so far. However, is there any difference between kāma and prema? If they are the same, is not the use of the word prema sufficient? The word kāma adds a slightly jarring note.”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Yes, there are differences. The word prema is relevant to sambandha-rūpa rāgātmikā-bhakti, which has no involvement with kāma, because in the mellow of sambandha-rūpa rāgātmikā-bhakti the relationship between Kṛṣṇa and the devotee is that of fellow family members. This mellow of familial relationship with Kṛṣṇa is bereft of sambhoga-icchā, the desire for amorous self-satisfaction, so to use kāma in this context would be a gross mistake. Sambandha-rūpa rāga-bhakti is certainly prema, but without the aspect of keli, amorous overtures and passion. When the element of sambhoga-icchā is mixed with simple prema, the two emotions amalgamate to create kāma-rūpa rāga-bhakti, which is only present in mādhurya-rasa, not in the other mellows. The vraja-gopīs are the sole inheritors and possessors of this kāma-rūpa-bhakti.
“On the material level, mundane kāma is concerned with the satisfaction of the material body and senses and is thus entirely distinct from spiritual kāma. Material lust is the perverted form of spiritual love. The lust, which Kubjā felt for Kṛṣṇa in Mathurā, though directed towards Kṛṣṇa, cannot be described as transcendental kāma. Material lust is selfishly directed to gratify one’s own senses; hence, it is low and despicable. Whereas, kāma, when it is an aspect of prema is transcendentally blissful, divine and selfless. Therefore, we should not hesitate to use the term aprākṛta kāma, transcendental lust.”
Vrajanātha, “Kindly explain sambandha-rūpa rāgānuga-bhakti?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “To internally meditate upon and adopt the spiritual mellow of being Kṛṣṇa’s father, mother, or another familial relationship is known as sambandha-rāgānuga-bhakti. In this mood of bhakti, there are three rasas: dāsya, sakhya, and vātsalya. The Vraja-vāsīs embody the pristine mood of such relationships by asserting, ‘I am Kṛṣṇa’s servitor,’ ‘I am Kṛṣṇa’s friend,’ ‘I am Kṛṣṇa’s father or mother,’ and so forth.”
Vrajanātha, “How does a devotee execute rāgānuga-bhakti within the mellows of dāsya, sakhya, and vātsalya rasas?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Those devotees who relish dāsya-rasa internally emulate the sublime service mood of prominent servitors like Raktaka, Patraka and other nitya-siddhas of that mellow. Those in sakhya-rasa internally follow the bhāva-ceṣṭita-mudrā—mood, aspirations, and specific activities—of Subala, Śrīdāmā, and other nitya-siddhas of this mellow. Similarly, in vātsalya rasa devotees internally follow the bhāva-ceṣṭita-mudrā of Nanda Mahārāja, Mother Yaśodā and others of that mellow in their service to Kṛṣṇa.”
Vrajanātha, “What does to follow the bhāva-ceṣṭita-mudrā mean?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Intrinsic to the permanent bhāva of a nitya–siddha, there are ceṣṭita, specific aspirations, which thereby manifest certain activities of devotional service known as mudrā and vyavahāra. Seeing these activities, the sādhaka aspires to perform the same activities in his service to Kṛṣṇa. For instance, a devotee following Nanda Mahārāja in vātsalya rasa, overcome with bhāva, aspires to perform the same activities as those of Nanda Mahārāja in his service to Kṛṣṇa. However, the devotee must never take himself to be Nanda Mahārāja, Subala, or Raktaka, but must remain subservient to the nitya-siddha whom he is emulating and meditate upon and thus inculcate that bhāva in his own service to Kṛṣṇa. The aspiring devotee commits a serious offence, if he imagines himself to be the nitya-siddha whom he is emulating.”
Vrajanātha, “Which type of rāgānuga-bhakti are we eligible to practice?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “My son, you must analyse your own partiality. Your spiritual temperament will mirror your ruci and that ruci will guide you to your favoured transcendental rasa. Surrender to the nitya-siddha stalwart of a particular rasa of your own choice, try to imbibe his or her bhāva, and thus practice rāgānuga-bhakti. If you have developed a relish for rāga-bhakti, follow it with activities that are appropriate and supportive. If you have not yet developed firm and steady attachment for rāga–bhakti, sincerely pursue the regulated path of vaidhī-bhakti with full confidence in its eventual fruition.”
Vijaya, “Gurudeva, I have been studying the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam for a long time and I am always eager for an opportunity to hear about the pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Whenever I meditate upon the wonderful deeds and frolics of the Lord, certain emotions are stirred up within me. I strongly feel the desire to serve the Divine Couple in the mood of Śrī Lalitā Devī.”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Yes, I understand your mood; you are a mañjarī under the guidance of Lalitā Devī. To what type of service do you aspire?”
Vijaya, “I feel that Śrī Lalitā Devī wants me to string flower garlands. I would like to pick beautiful flowers, string garlands, and lay them in the divine hands of Lalitā Devī. Upon receiving them, she will flash me a brilliant and merciful smile and gently slip them around the exquisitely beautiful faces of Śrīmatī Rādhikā and Śrī Kṛṣṇa.”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “I bless you my boy! Let your endeavours for such devotional service be consummated in spiritual perfection.”
Having been showered with such a blessing, Vijaya-kumāra was overwhelmed and fell at the feet of
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, weeping profusely. Very pleased with the sincere mood of devotion of Vijaya-kumāra, Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī said to him, “My son, continue your practice of rāgānuga-bhakti in this manner: Always execute the vaidhī–bhakti limbs externally, but cultivate intense rāga–bhakti within.”
Vrajanātha was inspired upon seeing the good fortune of Vijaya-kumāra and Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī’s demonstration of compassion, so he said to Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “Mahārāja, whenever I meditate upon the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, an urge to serve Kṛṣṇa under the guidance of Subala strongly compels me.”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “What devotional service attracts you most?”
Vrajanātha, “Together with Subala, I imagine myself to be running after the straying calves of Kṛṣṇa’s herd and bringing them back to the fold. Kṛṣṇa sits there playing his flute, and Subala, next to Him, then asks me to take the calves for feed and water and afterwards bring them back to Kṛṣṇa.”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, “I bless you to serve Kṛṣṇa under the direction of Subala. You are eligible for sakhya-rasa.”
Then a miracle happened, from that moment on Vijaya’s heart throbbed with anticipation, waiting for the slightest indication to perform any service for Lalitā Devī. He saw Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī with a new understanding—as a manifestation of Lalitā Devī, in person.”
Vijaya asked, “Are there any further instructions regarding rāgānuga bhajana?”
Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī replied, “You have received most of the information. Nevertheless, there are other details you must know pertaining to your spiritual identity—your name, form, dress, etc. Come to me alone and I will reveal them to you.” Vijaya-kumāra then prostrated himself before his guru in deep gratitude.
On the other hand, Vrajanātha saw his guru, Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī, from that moment on as a manifestation of Subala. Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī also asked him to come alone later, so that he could be given the details of his spiritual identity—his name, form, dress, etc. Similarly, Vrajanātha prostrated himself before his guru and offered heartfelt prayers at his lotus feet.
That evening, fully absorbed in rāgānuga–bhakti consciousness, Vrajanātha and Vijaya-kumāra felt indescribably elated. Externally, as they continued their life as usual, no visible changes could be seen. In their hearts, however, Vijaya-kumāra developed the transcendental female sentiments of a vraja–gopī and Vrajanātha nurtured the spiritual temperament of a vraja–gopa, young cowherd boy of Vraja. Like a miracle, all these internal adjustments took place just within moments of receiving a pure devotee’s mystical touch. It is, of course, true that everything had already been there in a latent form.
Late that night, Vijaya-kumāra and Vrajanātha begged leave from Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja and walked slowly towards the Bilva Puṣkariṇī Lake chanting the mahā-mantra upon their tulasī beads:
Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare
Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare
Moonlight flooded the countryside, revealing purple shadows in the landscape. The air was still and welcoming. Upon approaching the Lakṣmaṇa Tila mound, they sought the silent shadow of an āmalakī tree and sat down. Vijaya-kumāra inquired softly, “Well, Vrajanātha, our wishes have been fulfilled. You will surely receive the mercy of Śrī Kṛṣṇa by the grace of such a pure Vaiṣṇava. Here and now, it is best to decide upon your future course of action. Tell me honestly, what do you want, marriage or life as a mendicant? I do not wish to influence your decision in anyway; I merely want to know so that I may explain the facts to your mother.”
Vrajanātha, “Uncle, I respect and love you, moreover you are a scholar and a Vaiṣṇava. In the absence of my father, you are my guardian; I am ready to accept anything you say. The reason I want to avoid marriage is because I fear I may become materially attached and forget the spiritual goal. What is your opinion?”
Vijaya, “You must consider all aspects and come to a conclusion, but without my interference.”
Vrajanātha, “I strongly feel that I must discuss this matter with Śrī Gurudeva and then act.”
Vijaya, “That is the best idea. We will find out the instruction of Śrī Gurudeva on this tomorrow.”
Vrajanātha, “Uncle, what have you decided? Are you planning to remain in your household, or go travelling?”
Vijaya, “Son, I am also faced with this dilemma. Sometimes, I think I must emancipate myself from the flames of household life and go on an endless pilgrimage, but the next moment, I think that this might steel my heart. Bhakti-rasa does not blossom in an arid heart, and I do not want to be deprived of this rasa. Therefore, I also have made up my mind to find out the truth from our Gurudeva tomorrow and then follow his orders.”
With this firm decision, they stood up and murmuring softly the mahā–mantra walked slowly back to the house, where they honoured prasādam and lay down for a night of rest.
Thus ends the twenty-first chapter of Jaiva-dharma, entitled:
Nitya-dharma: Sambandha, Abhidheya and Prayojana, Part Nine: Abhidheya: Rāgānuga-sādhana-bhakti, the Practice of Spontaneous Devotional Service