Brahmo preceptor’s reply to Naren Bābu’s questions
One morning Naren Bābu was sitting under an āmalakī tree reading a long letter. Anand Bābu and Mallik Mahāśaya with a few other Vaiṣṇavas came there.
Anand Bābu asked, “Naren Bābu! Who has written that letter?”
With a somewhat dry face, Naren Bābu said, “Today I’ve received a reply from Brāhmācārya Mahāśaya.” On Anand Bābu’s request, Naren Bābu began reading the letter.
I became extremely unhappy by reading your letter. I don’t know whose false logic you have fallen victim of so that you’ve given up the hard-earned jewel of knowledge. Don’t you remember how much trouble I took to remove all your superstitions? Why are you again embracing those same superstitions? The head of the Brahmos, Yisu Prabhu (lit. Lord Jesus), has said that reformation of religion is the most difficult of all activities. People don’t give up superstitions soon, because human beings are always subject to make mistakes. Even a holy man like Jesus couldn’t give up his past beliefs. Therefore, however much you’ve been instructed, your misgivings haven’t been removed. Though the course of your thinking has changed, still it is my duty to try and bring you to the right path. I’m therefore giving the answers to your questions one by one—give special thought and try to understand.
The Brahmo’s opinion on the nature of bhakti
You have written that the natural loving propensity of humans is bhakti. You don’t accept that bhakti is a separate propensity. According to me, bhakti is an independent propensity. People are completely controlled by sense enjoyment, so the propensity for bhakti cannot be explained. When we call the Supreme Lord `Father,’ then a propensity to love the Father manifests externally. Internally, a symptom of one’s indescribable relationship with the all-pervading Lord is manifest. When we call the Lord `Friend,’ then the mood of common friendship arises, but within there remains a feeling of awe and reverence for the Supreme Lord. In conclusion, we are not familiar with the propensity for bhakti. We can recognize it if we are delivered.
The Brahmo philosophy does not accept the beauty of the Supreme Truth
You have written that the Brahmo’s often refer to the beauty of the Supreme Lord. But if He has no form, then where’s the question of beauty? What kind of argument is this, Naren? This is an excuse to have faith in the Deity of Kṛṣṇa. The beauty that we refer to is nothing but loving enchantment. One can see that beauty with eyes of love. Actually, how is it possible for the all-pervading Lord to have beauty?
The predominance of reason over loving feelings in impersonalism
You have written that reasoning should be given up in order to improve one’s loving propensity. This sort of statement is of no use. Human beings are superior to other animals due to the strength of reasoning. If they give up reasoning then they become equal with the insignificant animals. Let loving feelings increase as far as there is no contradiction with reason. Where there is contradiction with reason, loving feelings are distressful. When showing love, one always takes shelter of reason. It is not that the ultimate duty is to offer loving feelings to the Supreme Being. In worldly life when one produces children and performs his duty towards others, these activities are known as pleasing to the Lord. If one who is renounced takes shelter of loving feelings, he will definitely fall down. You should very carefully read the books of Theodore Parker.
In Brahmo philosophy, bhakti is formless monotheism
You said that Brahmo philosophy is Rationalism, but it is not so. You know that in England monotheism is of two kinds: `Deist’ and `Theist.’ The Deist is called a rationalist. They accept the existence of the Supreme Lord, but they don’t accept His worship. The Theist accepts the process of worship. The Brahmos call them brothers. The Moslem and Christian religions cannot be called monotheism. The Christians accept three Beings—God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit—as one. In that case how can their religion be pure monotheism? The Moslem religion may not have Jesus or the Holy Ghost, but they have Satan, who is equal to the Supreme Lord. They also accept Mohammed somewhat like a demigod. Actually they are not monotheists. Monotheists don’t make sects, they write books. It is only the worshipers of the one Supreme Brahman who have established a monotheist sect. So why have you entered the pit of idolatry leaving such a wonderful sect? I can’t say. If Brahmoism is called rationalism, then who is the devotionalist? Brahmoism accepts bhāva, or loving feelings, but unless bhāva is restricted it gradually contradicts reason.
Naren Bābu is enticed to take a job
Naren, give up the association of day dreamers and come quickly to Calcutta. There is a job opening here in the forest office. On my request, the boss has agreed to give you the post. But unless you come within a week, you will not get it.
Your brother at heart Śrī____________
The Brahmo preceptor’s letter was read four or five times. Anand Bābu and Naren Bābu carefully discussed the contents. Finally, they decided that whatever the Brāhmācārya wrote was useless.
Yogi Bābājī shows the mistakes ofthe Brahmo philosophy and everyone goes to Paṇḍita Bābājī’s maṇḍapa
On inquiry, Yogi Bābājī replied, “The living entity’s propensity to perform devotional service is not separate from the propensity to love God. The characteristic of the soul is rāga, or deep attachment. When that rāga is reposed in the Supreme Lord it is called bhakti, and when rāga is reposed on material objects it is called material attachment. Whatever you’ve read in Bhakti–rasāmṛta-sindhu is true—the propensities are not two. If you have some doubt, then you may ask Paṇḍita Bābājī to clear it.”
Naren Bābu had himself concluded that whatever the Brahmo preceptor had written was all simply sectarian opinion. That day, as evening approached, Naren Bābu, Anand Bābu, Mallik Mahāśaya, and Bābājī all went to see Paṇḍita Bābājī.
In Paṇḍita Bābājī’s maṇḍapa about fifty saintly Vaiṣṇavas were seated. Among them, Haridāsa and Premadāsa Bābājīs were sitting near Paṇḍita Bābājī. Seeing Yogi Bābājī with his associates, they all gave a jubilant welcome saying, “Please come.” Yogi Bābājī’s party appropriately offered obeisances and sat down there.
Premadāsa inquired, “Bābājī, I see your associates have changed their dress.”
Yogi Bābājī replied, “Yes, Kṛṣṇa has fully accepted them. You all please bless them so their love for Kṛṣṇa flourishes.”
All the Vaiṣṇavas together said, “Definitely it will. By your mercy, what is not possible?”
Paṇḍita Bābājī discusses rasa-tattva and instructs everyone to relish Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, the essence of all scriptures
After the party was comfortably seated, Yogi Bābājī humbly addressed Paṇḍita Bābājī, “Bābājī, they’ve abandoned all false arguments and become Kṛṣṇa’s devotees. Now I’m convinced they’re eligible for rasa-tattva. They’ve come to your feet today with a hope to receive detailed instructions on this subject.”
Hearing the name rasa-tattva, Paṇḍita Bābājī became full of ecstasy and took permission from the assembled Vaiṣṇavas. He then offered full obeisances at the lotus feet of Lord Gaurāṅga, and, placing a copy of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam before him, he began to speak on the Absolute Truth:
nigama-kalpa-taror galitaṁ phalaṁ
pibata bhāgavatam rasam ālayam
muhur aho rasikā bhuvi bhāvukāḥ
“The compiler of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam says, `O expert and thoughtful men, relish Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, the mature fruit of the desire tree of Vedic literatures. This Śrīmad Bhāgavatam has been brought into this world through the lips of Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī as a ripened fruit falls from a tree with the help of a parrot. The difference between this fruit and others is that other fruits have skin and seed while this one does not, because it is completely full of rasa. When one thinks about Brahman, which is beyond the material sky, he merges in spiritual existence. Dry meditation on Brahman simply ends in merging, but meditation on Kṛṣṇa, who is glorified in the Vedas as full of rasa, awakens ecstasy, the beginning of a bhavuka’s life. Therefore, O thoughtful persons, merge into the ecstasy of spiritual existence. Serve Kṛṣṇa, the source of rasa, and keep drinking the juice of this fruit in the form of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.’”
What is real rasa?
“O rasika Vaiṣṇavas! Rasa is the supreme goal. What materialistic people in this world call rasa is not called rasa by us. Scholars of rhetoric don’t call the rasa of a tree rasa, because they explain a mental rasa which is superior to the rasa of an ordinary tree. In the same way we also don’t call the rasa of the material body and mind rasa. But the rasa which is naturally inherent in the soul is called rasa by us. In contrast, we sometimes refer to rasa as date or sugarcane juice, or the by-products like guḍa, sugar, and rock candy; and we sometimes refer to rasa as the relationship between hero and heroine; but actually we know that real rasa is the relationship between our souls and the soul of all souls, Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
“On the transcendental platform, human beings are by constitution pure spirit. On that platform there is no material body or mind. One who is searching for liberation, searches for attaining that platform, there is no doubt. Being situated in that state, the living entities live with the Supreme Brahman in the dhāma beyond material nature called Vaikuṇṭha. When the living entity is situated in that constitutional position, transcendental to matter, that is called the pure spiritual platform. The unmixed feeling of happiness which the living entities experience in that state, living with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is genuine rasa.”
The taste for sense gratification is a perverted reflection of bhakti-rasa, although not different
“Although conditioned by material nature, the living entity is not cut off from his spiritual identity. Due to his association with the contaminated material atmosphere, the conditioned living entity’s spiritual identity is transformed as the mind. Still, one is not separated from his constitutional nature. Now the soul has faith, hope, and happiness in the material condition. In this state, however, the rasa of one’s constitutional nature is perverted into sense gratification in the form of happiness and distress. What is vikāra, or perversion? When pure characteristics are deformed—that is vikāra. Therefore even in the state of vikāra, pure characteristics remain perceivable. The rasa experienced in activities of sense enjoyment is deformed spiritual rasa. That inherent spiritual rasa can be minutely perceived by self-confidence. Although perverted rasa can be easily differentiated from that rasa by simple intelligence, still, while chanting the holy name the inherent spiritual rasa is referred to as bhakti-rasa in order to differentiate it. The nature of bhakti and the nature of material love are not independent from one another. The latter is only the reflected state of the former. The rationalists experience the spiritual rasa to some extent, and by mistake they think the nature of bhakti and the nature of material love are different subjects. Those who are a little familiar with bhakti-rasa and have discussed the nature of both don’t have such beliefs.”
The difference between bhāva and rasa—rasa is the aggregate of all bhāvas
“The rasa of the Supreme Brahman is undivided, yet, by inconceivable potencies, full of variety. The difference in bhāva and rasa is that many bhāvas unitedly give rise to rasa. Likewise, you should know the words bhavuka and rasika have different meanings. Bhāva is like a painting, and rasa is like a canvass with many paintings. Unless the few bhāvas that conjointly give rise to rasa are described, the word rasa cannot be explained.
Rasata is attained when all bhāvas combine together. Amongst all bhāvas, the bhāva which is prominent is called sthāyī-bhāva. Amongst the other three bhāvas, one is named vibhāva, one is named anubhāva, and one is named sañcārī-bhāva. Sthāyī-bhāva with the support of the other three becomes relishable and is transformed into rasa.
“The science of rasa is like an ocean. I couldn’t relish even a portion of a drop of that ocean. I’m an extremely insignificant person. I don’t have the capacity to teach you the topic of rasa. Whatever Lord Gaurāṅga has taught, I am repeating the same like a parrot.”
Explanation of the three types of rasa—worldly, heavenly, and spiritual
“I’ll try to teach you rasa-tattva with another kind of explanation. Rasa is of three varieties—vaikuṇṭha-rasa, or spiritual rasa; svargīya-rasa, or heavenly rasa; and pārthiva-rasa, or worldly rasa. There are six kinds of material rasa such as sweet, which is available in things like sugarcane and dates. Heavenly rasa is observed in emotional feelings. As a result, hero and heroineship is established between living entities and rasa is generated. Spiritual rasa is only observed in the soul. Although that rasa may awaken in a conditioned soul, it does not exist anywhere except in the soul. When there is an abundance of this rasa in the soul, its wave may touch the mind. That wave crosses over the mind and pervades the body of the sādhaka. Then reciprocation of rasas is introduced. In spiritual rasa, Śrī Kṛṣṇacandra is the only hero. The one spiritual rasa is transformed and reflected into heavenly mental rasa. Then again it is further reflected as worldly rasa. That is why the rules, the process, and nature of the three rasas are one kind. Spiritual rasa is the life of the Vaiṣṇavas. The other two rasas are extremely detestable and irrelevant if they are not meant to bring one to the platform of spiritual rasa. People who are influenced by base, low propensities are enchanted by heavenly and worldly rasas. Vaiṣṇavas carefully give up heavenly and worldly rasas and desire only spiritual rasa.”
When referring to rasa, four types of bhāvas are observed—sthāyī-bhāva, vibhāva, anubhāva, and sañcārī-bhāva. Let us see the examples of pārthiva-rasa. A few bhāvas exist during the appearance of sweet rasa. First the rati, or attachment, to sweet rasa is called sthāyī-bhāva. The object of that rati is vibhāva. There are two types of objects—āśraya, or shelter, and viṣaya, or subject. That which has attachment for the sweet—the human tongue—is the āśraya, or shelter. That towards which the attachment rushes—the guḍa—is the viṣaya, or subject. All the qualities of temptation which exist in the viṣaya are called uddīpana. When attachment is awakened for the sweet, then whatever symptoms are manifest are called anubhāva. In order to nourish that attachment, feelings such as joy are called sañcārī-bhāva. When attachment for sweets becomes palatable by support of these bhāvas, that is sweet rasa.
Svargīya-rasa and its inferiority to vaikuṇṭha-rasa
“Let us see the example of svargīya-rasa. Svargīya-rasa is broader and more magnanimous than pārthiva-rasa because its subject is more subtle than matter. See the attachment between hero and heroine, father and son, or master and servant. Or see the attachment between friends. In all attachments, sthāyī-bhāva with the help of the other three bhāvas becomes rasa.
“As svargīya-rasa is broader and more magnanimous than pārthiva-rasa, in the same way vaikuṇṭha-rasa is unlimitedly broader and more magnanimous than svargīya-rasa. In pārthiva–rasa there is only one relationship—the relationship between the enjoyer and what is enjoyed. In svargīya-rasa there are four relationships—dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya, and mādhurya. But in svargīya-rasa the object of rasa is improper and unworthy. That is why svargīya-rasa cannot be eternal. In vaikuṇṭha-rasa there are five types of relationships—śānta, dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya, and mādhurya. Both rasas are related with matter and spirit. That is why the feelings of relationship are the same in both rasas. The only difference is that in vaikuṇṭha-rasa the ingredients are all eternal and saturated with the undivided supreme spirit. Therefore the eternal situation of that rasa is observed. Svargīya-rasa is imperfect because the ingredients are all temporary. Therefore it is short-lived and the source of embarrassment and insignificant fruits.”
Vaikuṇṭha-rasa is not dependent on reasoning
“We have shown the relationship between the three different rasas. Now I will describe whatever I can about vaikuṇṭha-rasa.
“From time to time we hear from the rationalists that vaikuṇṭha-rasa is not a reality, but just imagination. There’s no reason for this, because reasoning has no place in spiritual topics. One who has not tasted vaikuṇṭha-rasa can never understand this subject. Therefore those who have become fortunate don’t give importance to reasoning on this subject. You should realize rasa-tattva by tasting it in the association of sādhus.
“It is now late in the night. Tomorrow I will again discuss this topic according to my ability. You are all Vaiṣṇavas, so you know all about this subject. Since you have given me permission I am speaking.”
Bābājī became silent and the meeting came to an end. Naren Bābu and Anand Bābu were wonderstruck and discussed the subject matter as they departed.