A gradual analysis of the nature of pure bhakti, the eligibility for it, its classifications, it divisions etc. as the sādhana–tattva of the jīva will be delineated here. The nature of pure bhakti is thus explained by Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Pūrva-vibhāga 1.11):
anyābhilaṣitā śūnyaṁ jñāna-karmādy anāvṛtam
anukulyena kṛṣṇānuśīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamam
(“Superior bhakti is that which is favourable to the cultivation of service to Kṛṣṇa, which is free from other desires and not obscured by jñāna, karma etc”)
And in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 19.168)
anya-vāñchā anya-pūjā chāḍi jñāna karma
ānukūlye sarvendriye kṛṣṇānuśīlana
(“One should abandon all other desires, all other types of worship, jñāna and karma, and favourably cultivate devotion to Kṛṣṇa with all of one’s senses.”)
Cultivating devotion to Kṛṣṇa with a favorable disposition and using all the senses is known as kṛṣṇa–bhakti. Being devoid of all desires except for the desire spiritual advancement, not worshiping any other Deva or another controlling personality, being exclusively devoted to Kṛṣṇa, rejecting jñāna and karma, and cultivating devotion to Kṛṣṇa with all the senses in a favourable mood, is pure bhakti. Having a favourable disposition towards Kṛṣṇa is called anukulya. It is possible to cultivate knowledge of Brahman or Paramātmā by following the paths of jñāna or yoga, however that is not bhakti. Jñāna in this context should be understood to refer to the knowledge of Saṅkhya and the search for undifferentiated Brahman. The jīva, matter and Bhagavān – it is extremely necessary to have tattva–jñāna (knowledge of the characteristics of these) and sambandha–jñāna (knowledge of the relationship between these) to understand one’s svarūpa–siddhi (perfected intrinsic nature). This is included within the cultivation of bhakti. The word karma denotes nitya (daily), naimittika (occasional) kāmya (rituals to appease selfish desires), prāyaścitta (rituals for atonement) etc, which draw one away from Bhagavān. Although service to Kṛṣṇa may almost seem to be karma, due to the characteristic of steady devotional service, It cannot be called karma. Rather, it is known as bhakti. That vairagya (renunciation) that appears prior to bhakti is also an attribute of karma. The unmotivated, uninterrupted, inherent inclination of the jīva to serve Śrī Kṛṣṇa is considered to be a characteristic of bhakti. At the stage of bhakti–sādhana there are four symptoms, and at the stage of sādhya (attainment) there are two symptoms.
1) The first characteristic of sādhana–bhakti is the elimination of all the impediments of avidyā in the form of pāpa–bīja (the seed of pāpa), pāpa–vāsanā (the desire for pāpa) and pāpa, as well as avidya in the form of puṇya–bīja (the seed of puṇya), puṇya–vāsanā (the desire for puṇya) and puṇya.
2) The second characteristic is acting for the benefit of the world, feeling affection for the world, and the achievement of all good qualities and pure happiness.
3) The third characteristic of sādhana–bhakti is to consider mokṣa to be insignificant.
4) The fourth characteristic of sādhana–bhakti is its extreme rarity. Even after engaging in all the divisions of bhakti for a long time, if one does not have acute attachment to the result, one can never attain prema.
A) It’s very nature is its intense bliss.
B) It has the ability to attract even Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
These two are the characteristics found at the stage of sādhya–bhakti.
kleśaghnī śubhadā mokṣa-laghutā-kṛt sudurlabhā
sāndrānanda-viśeṣātmā śrī-kṛṣṇākarṣiṇī ca sā
(Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Pūrva Vibhāga 1.17)
It is observed that four features precede the stage of sādhya-bhakti. The first stage of sādhya–bhakti is bhāva–bhakti; here, the first four characteristics manifest in full. The highest stage of sādhya–bhakti is prema. Thus, bhakti at the stage of sādhana is sādhana-bhakti, and at the stage of sādhyā it is bhāva–bhakti and prema–bhakti. Logic alone can never capture bhakti-tattva (the principle of bhakti). If logic becomes somewhat submissive towards attaining a taste for service, then bhakti-tattva can be understood.
Only sādhana-bhakti will be discussed in this section.
krti-sādhyā bhavet sādhya-bhāvā sā sādhanābhidhā
nitya-siddhasya bhāvasya prākaṭyaṁ hṛdi sādhyatā
(Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Pūrva Vibhāga 2.2)
The definition of sādhana–bhakti is this – when the senses are used to achieve the goal of bhāva in pure bhakti, it is called sādhana-bhakti. Bhāva is eternally perfect, yet that practice through which it manifests within the heart is called sādhana. The main point is that whichever way it is possible to favourably engage the mind in Kṛṣṇa, that process is known as sādhana–bhakti or upāya–bhakti. Such sādhana–bhakti is of two types – vaidhī and rāgānugā.
The characteristic of vaidhī-bhakti is this – when the jīva is inclined to be engaged in kṛṣṇa-bhakti, only according to the rules of the śāstra, and not by natural rāga (spontaneous love) and ruci (hankering) for Kṛṣṇa, that is called vaidhi-bhakti. The regulations of vaidhī–bhakti are followed by the brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiṣyas, śūdras and brahmacārīs, gṛhaṣṭhas, vānaprasthas and sannyāsīs – it has been glorified in the śāstra as always applicable for all. Therefore, the Nārada Pañcarātra (quoted in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Pūrva Vibhāga 2.8) states:
suraṛṣe vihitā śāstre harim uddiśya yā kriyā
saiva bhaktir iti proktā tayā bhaktiḥ parā bhavet
“O sage amongst the Devas! All activities prescribed in the śāstra for Śrī Hari are known as sādhana–bhakti or upāya–bhakti. Through this one will achieve parā–bhakti (supreme bhakti) which is also known as sādhya–bhakti or upeya-bhakti.”
There are three kinds of persons eligible for vaidha–bhakti:
śraddhāvān jana haya bhakti adhikārī
uttama madhyama kaniṣṭha śraddhā anusārī
(“A person endowed with śraddhā is eligible for bhakti. According to one’s śraddhā, one is either an uttama, madhyama or a kaniṣṭha.” – Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 22.64)
The meaning of the word śraddhā is this:
śraddhaḥ śabde viśvāsa kahe sudṛḍha niścaya
kṛṣṇe bhakti kaile sarva karma kṛta haya
(“The word śraddhā refers to firm belief in the words of the śāstra and that by kṛṣṇa-bhakti, all actions are accomplished.” – Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 22.62)
To consider that there is no other process for the jīva other than kṛṣṇa–bhakti, and that endeavours in karma and jñāna which are devoid of bhakti are futile – such firm determination and eagerness in the heart towards bhakti is called śraddhā. One whose śraddhā is firm and resolute is a bhakti–uttama-adhikārī. One whose śraddhā is somewhat strong is a bhakti-madhyama-adhikārī. When there is no strength, there is some faith, and there is fear of any opposing siddhānta, one who has such śraddhā is bhakti–kaniṣṭha-adhikārī. The kaniṣṭha-adhikārī is of two types, namely the karma-jñāna-adhikāra-miśra (the candidate who is mixed with desires for karma and jñāna), and the karma-jñāna-adhikāra-śūnya (the candidate who is devoid of the desires for karma and jñāna). Through sādhu–saṅga, the kaniṣṭḥa-adhikārī who is devoid of karma and jñāna can become an uttama. Those who are kaniṣṭḥa-adhikārīs mixed with karma and jñāna can only make advancement with great difficulty and by the powerful mercy of sādhus. In this regard, Śrī Rūpa has said in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu:
mṛdu śraddhasya kathitā svalpā karmādhikārītā
(“One who has fragile śraddhā has a slight tendency towards karma.” – Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Pūrva Vibhāga 2.186)
Such persons perform bhakti through varṇāśrama and by offering the results of their work. Their bhakti is not real bhakti, but bhaktyābhāsa (a semblance of bhakti). Their chanting of hari–nāma is chāyā-nāmābhāsa (a shadow of a semblance of the Name). If any other material desires remains, then it becomes pratibimba–nāmābhāsa (a reflection of a semblance of the Name), and they are known as karmīs or jñānīs but they are not called bhaktas. Those kaniṣṭha devotees who offer their knowledge or work, who are free from any other desires are vaiṣṇava-prāya (almost a Vaiṣṇava), in other words, vaiṣṇavābhāsa (a semblance of a Vaiṣṇava). In His meeting with Rāmānanda, when Rāmānanda explained sādhana, then Mahāprabhu gave the answer, eha bāhya āge kaha āra (“This is external, speak further!”). It should be understood that he was referring to those persons who naturally have fragile śraddhā. After, when the Lord said, eha haya, āge kaha āra (“That is fine, speak further!”) Rāmānanda had already begun to describe pure bhakti. Therefore, the symptoms of a candidate for bhakti who has strong śraddhā are as follows:
jñāne prayāsam udapāsya namanta eva
jīvanti sammukharitāṁ bhavadīya-vārtām
sthāne sthitaḥ śruti-gataṁ tanu-vāṅ manobhir
ye prāyaśo’ jita jito’py asi tais-trilokyām
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.14.3)
“O Bhagavān! Those persons who stay far away from the path of karma and abandon the search for Brahman through the endeavours of jñāna, remain fixed in executing that which is favourable to bhakti, and maintain their lives by hearing Your līlā-kathā from the mouths of the sādhus. O Ajita (unconquerable one), whatever position they hold in the three worlds, You are always present to, and conquered by them.”
(The meaning is that any attempt to understand that which is beyond the senses through knowledge gained by one’s material faculties is known as arohavāda (the doctrine of the ascending method) or asrauta–tarka-panthā (the path of logic, devoid of transcendental aural reception). O Kṛṣṇa, who cannot be subjugated by words or by the mind! Those who abandon the path of logic by experiencing external mundane sense-objects via the temporary senses, thoroughly research the essential spiritual Reality after hearing from the holy mouths of those sādhus who are devoid of the four faults of bhrama (illusion), pramāda (inattention), vipralipsā (deceit) and karaṇāpāṭava (limited senses). “Since I am eligible to hear, I will hear the Lord’s glories with śraddhā” – with this service-mentality and with mind, body and words, abandoning the false ego, they dedicate their lives to hearing and chanting Your instructions on bhakti–siddhānta which eliminate the contamination of the age of Kali. No matter what varṇa or āśrama they remain in throughout the three worlds, even though You are difficult to comprehend and unknowable, You know full well that they are capable of controlling You through their prema–bhakti.)
Due to the power of sukṛti, and bhakti-vāsanā (impressions of bhakti from previous lives), a jīva attains that śraddhā which is favourable for cultivating bhakti. With this is achieved, he only endeavours for mundane things in order to maintain his life, then true bhakti will appear. However, this is not renunciation.
bhukti-mukti-spṛhā yāvat piśācī hṛdi vartate
tāvad bhakti sukhasyātra katham abhyudayo bhavet
(Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Pūrva Vibhāga 2.16)
“While the witches of the desire for bhukti and mukti remain within the heart, pure bhakti can never appear.”
Amongst these, the desire for mukti is extremely antagonistic. Amongst sālokya (residing on the same planet as the Lord), sāmīpya (attaining the Lord’s association), sārūpya (attaining the same form as the Lord), sārṣṭi (having opulence like the Lord) and sāyujya (merging into the Lord’s existence), sāyujya-mukti is the most detrimental to bhakti. However, the devotees of Kṛṣṇa do not even desire the other kinds of mukti such as sālokya etc. Śrī Bhāgavata says:
salokya sārṣṭi sāmīpya sārupyaikatvam apy uta
diyamānaṁ na gṛhnanti vinā mat sevanam janāḥ
(“Those devotee does not accept sālokya, sārṣṭi, sāmīpya, sarūpya or ekatva, if it is without service to Me.” – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 3.29.13)
There is no specific qualification for sādhana–bhakti as there is in varṇāśrama-dharma. When śraddhā evolves within a person, they are eligible for bhakti. One who is qualified for bhakti has no need to become eligible for karma. One who is eligible for bhakti has no inclination to engage in vikarma. But if vikarma happens to take place, it is immediately destroyed by the effects of bhakti. There is no need to wait to perform prāyaścitta (rites of atonement). Śrī Bhāgavata says:
svapāda-mūlaṁ bhajataḥ priyasya tyaktānya bhāvasya hariḥ pareśaḥ
vikarma yac chotpatitaṁ kathañcid dhunoti sarvaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭaḥ
(“The Supreme Lord Hari, who resides in the hearts of those devotees who are most dear to Him, who have abandoned all other inclinations and only worship His feet, rectifies any vikarma they happen to commit.” – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.5.42)
Due consideration of one’s eligibility is the cause of all virtuous qualities, and activities unsuitable to one;s eligibility are the cause of all faults. Śrī Bhāgavata says:
sve sve’dhikāre yā niṣṭā sa guṇaḥ parikīrtitaḥ
viparyayas tu doṣaḥ syād ubhayor eṣa nirṇayaḥ
(“Steadiness in one’s own eligibility is stated to be a great quality. The opposite is a fault. This is how both are ascertained.” – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.21.2)
It is the instruction of the śāstra that vaidhī–bhakti should be performed with complete steadiness. Sādhana–bhakti has many limbs, however these may be condensed to sixty-four as follows (according to Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 22.112-126):
Taking shelter of a genuine guru, taking initiation in the kṛṣna–mantra and accepting instructions, serving the guru, following the path of the sādhus, inquiring about true dharma, rejecting sense enjoyment for Kṛṣṇa, residing in a devotional place, collecting only as much as is necessary to maintain one’s life, observing Ekādaśī, and showing respect to the dhātrī and aśvattha trees – these ten limbs are postive practices (anvaya) in the initial stages.
Rejecting unfavourable association, not making unqualified persons into disciples, abandoning huge endeavours, rejecting the reading of books devoid of bhakti as well as the irregular study of the bhakti-śāstra, or studying them for the same of debating, not being ungenerous in one’s dealings, not being effected by despair, rejecting any disrespect towards other Devas, not creating any problems to other jīvas by one’s activities, abandoning seva-aparādha and nāma–aparādha, avoiding hearing blasphemy of Kṛṣṇa and His devotees – these ten limbs are practices to avoid that are negative (vyaktireka) while engaged in sādhana. Taking shelter of a guru, taking initiation and accepting instructions and serving the guru – these three limbs are the most important amongst all of them.
Wearing the signs of a Vaiṣṇava, wearing the names of Hari, accepting the Lord’s remnants, dancing in front of Kṛṣṇa, offering obeisance, standing in respect when the Deity approaches, accompanying the procession of the Deity, going to the temple of Bhagavān, parikramā, arcana, service to the Deity, singing, saṅkīrtana, japa, vijñapti (petitioning the Lord), reciting stavas (prayers), relishing prasāda, relishing the Lord’s caraṇāmṛta, smelling incense or flowers offered to the Lord, touching the Deity, seeing the Deity, offering ārātrika, seeing festivals of the Lord, receiving the Lord’s merciful glance, offering those things that are dear to oneself, making all efforts for Kṛṣṇa, being surrendered in all circumstances, offering service to tulasī, the Bhāgavata, Mathurā and the Vaiṣṇavas, observing festivals with the community of devotees as much as possible, observing of Kārttika-vrata, observing the appearance days of the Lord and His devotees, serving the Deity, relishing the explanations of the Bhāgavata in the company of rasikas, associating with those who are like-minded, affectionate and more advanced than oneself, nāma-saṅkīrtana and residing in Mathurā. With even a slight connection with the last five, bhāva–bhakti will appear.
Amongst all these limbs, some are related to the body, some to the senses, and some are in relation to worship with the internal functions. The main principle is that vaidhī sādhana-bhakti may be said to be the process of engaging the body, and mind in kṛṣṇa-bhakti. Some attain perfection by engaging in one limb. Some perform sādhana of many limbs. The most negligible results of bhoga and mokṣa that are attained by following all these limbs that are written about in the śāstra, are only mentioned for tempting those persons who are generally averse. Actually, the primary result of all these limbs of sādhana–bhakti is one, namely nourishing spiritual attraction.
All these limbs are classified as sixty-four, although actually there are only nine limbs. As Śrī Bhāgavata says:
śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣnoḥ smaranaṁ pāda-sevanam
arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ sakhyam ātmā-nivedanam
iti puṁsārpita viṣṇau bhaktiś cen nava lakṣaṇā
kriyeta bhagavaty addhā tan manye’dhītam uttamam
(“Hearing, chanting, remembering Viṣṇu, serving His feet, worshipping His Deity, offering prayers, becoming His servant, considering Him to be one’s friend, and surrendering oneself unto Him – these nine items that are offered are accepted to be viṣṇu-bhakti. When these activities are offered directly to the Lord, they should be considered as the highest knowledge.” – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 7.5.23-24)
Also in Śrī Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 22.121:
śravaṇa kīrtana smaraṇa pūjana vandana
paricaryā dāsya sakhya ātma-nivedana
(Whoever has fully offered themselves unto Bhagavān Viṣṇu without any obstruction (jñāna, karma, yoga etc.), engaging in these nine limbs of bhakti, is best in his studies of the śāstra, in other words, his study of the śāstra is successful.)
Those persons who are knowledgeable of bhakti never say that karma is in any way a limb of bhakti. Until karma loses its result-oriented purpose and attains the nature of bhakti, it cannot be said to be counted as bhakti. Before the nature of karma is transformed, it must undergoe three stages, namely niṣkāma-karma (karma devoid of material desire), karmārpaṇa (offering the results of karma to the Lord) and karma-yoga (connecting karma to the service of the Supreme). When one goes beyond these three stages, the nature of karma transforms and takes on the form of service in bhakti. Thus Śrī Bhāgavata says:
tāvat karmāṇi kurvīta na nirvidyeta yāvatā
mat kathā śravanādau vā śraddhā yāvan na jāyate
(“While one is not satiated by executing karma and śraddhā has not arisen to hear and chant about My pastimes etc., one must perform his varṇāśrama duties.” – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.20.9)
When one becomes indifferent to karma, it’s nature transforms and it becomes jñāna. When śraddhā in kṛṣṇa–kathā appears, then the nature of karma transforms into the nature of bhakti. On the topic of niṣkāma–karma and karmārpaṇa, Śrī Nārada says:
naiṣkarmyam apy acyuta bhāva varjitaṁ
na śobhate jñānam alaṁ nirañjanam
kutaḥ punaḥ śaśvad abhadram īśvare
na cārpitaṁ karma yad apy akāraṇam
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.5.12)
“When Brahma–jñāna is devoid of karma, it does not look good when it is also devoid of bhakti to Acyuta. Then how can karma, which is inherently inauspicious, even if it becomes niṣkāma (unmotivated), become beautiful unless it is offered Īśvara?”
Śrī Nārada Gosvāmī explains in the Bhāgavata how karma offered to the Īśvara culminates in bhakti:
āmayo yaś ca bhūtānām jāyate yena suvrata
tad eva hy āmayaṁ dravyaṁ na punāti cikitṣitam
evaṁ nṛṇām kriyā yogāḥ sarve samsṛti-hetavaḥ
ta evātmā vināśāya kalpante kalpitāḥ pare
yad atra kriyate karma bhagavat-paritoṣaṇam
jñānaṁ yat tad adhīnaṁ hi bhakti-yoga-samanvitam
kurvāṇā yatra karmāṇi bhagavac-cikṣayā’ sakṛt
gṛnanti guṇa-nāmani kṛṣṇasyānusmaranti ca
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 184.108.40.206)
“If one attempts to cure a disease in a human by using that which the disease originates from, the disease will never be healed. Karma-kāṇḍa is the cause of the disease of saṁsara for all jīvas. Whether it is niṣkama, or offered to Īśvara, it still does not manifest the result of eliminating saṁsāra. By accepting karma only in order to maintain one’s life can it be considered to attain the nature of bhakti and lose its nature as karma. Only when that karma which is favourable for the pleasure of Bhagavān is accepted, and one accepts sambandha-jñāna concerning bhakti, does all karma become bhakti-yoga. By engaging all actions in bhakti–yoga, by taking refuge in the family of Kṛṣṇa, and accepting the teachings about Bhagavān, one should constantly remember and chant about the qualities and Names of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. This is the process described in all the śāstra.”
Although jñāna and vairāgya are slightly favourable for entering into bhakti, they are not limbs of bhakti. If they become prominent, they make the heart hard, and one cannot experience the bliss of bhakti, which is by nature extremely delicate, thus they are hinderances to sambandha–tattva (developing a true understanding of bhakti). Deep deliberation on bhakti is the only cause of bhakti. Detachment is favourably connected to Kṛṣṇa when all things are employed in yukta-vairāgya. Thus, we find in Bhakti-rasmāmṛta-sindhu:
anāsaktasya viṣayān yathārhaṁ upayuñjataḥ
nirbandhaḥ kṛṣṇa-sambandhe yuktaṁ vairagyam ucyate
(“When one is unattached to material objects, yet accepts them in relation to Kṛṣṇa, this is known as yukta-vairāgya.” – Bhakti-rasmāmṛta-sindhu, Pūrva Vibhāga 2.125)
This is the duty of a devotee who is a sādhaka. Karma, impersonal jñāna and false renunciation are never limbs of bhakti–tattva. They are all opposed to it. A display of bhakti in order to gain wealth, disciples etc, is the antithesis of pure bhakti and is far removed from it. Discrimination etc, are qualities that make one eligible for bhakti, yet they are not limbs of bhakti. Yama (rules), niyama (prohibitions), ahiṁsa (non-violence), sauca (cleanliness) etc. are aspects of a pure character and are beautiful when they take refuge within a devotee, yet they are also not limbs of bhakti.
jñāna vairagyādi bhaktira kabhu nahe aṅga
ahiṁsa yama niyamādi bule kṛṣṇa-bhakta saṅga
(“Jñāna and vairāgya are never limbs of bhakti. is not very essential for devotional service. Non-violence, rules, prohibitions etc. automatically accompany a devotee of Kṛṣṇa.” – Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 22.145)
So far, vaidhī-bhakti has been discussed. Now we shall discuss rāgānugā bhakti-sādhana.
iṣṭhe svārasikī rāgaḥ paramāviṣṭatā bhavet
tanmayī yā bhaved bhaktiḥ sātra rāgātmikoditā
(“When there is deep attachment and intense absorption in one’s worshippable Deity, such bhakti which possesses the same mood as that Deity is called rāgātmika.” – Bhakti-rasmāmṛta-sindhu, Pūrva Vibhāga 104)
Intense absorption according to one’s own rasa for one’s worshippable Deity is rāga. When that kṛṣṇa–bhakti consists of spontaneous attachment, it is rāgātmikā–bhakti. Following in the mood of rāgātmikā–bhakti is rāgānugā-bhakti. Just as that bhakti which follows the dictates of śāstra is called vaidhi, similarly, that bhakti which follows rāgatmikā–bhakti is called rāgānugā–bhakti. Neither of these are the goal of bhakti – both are sādhana–bhakti. There are two kinds of rāgatmikā–bhakti, namely kāmānuga and sambandhānuga. The rāgatmikā–bhakti of the residents of Vraja and Mathurā is renowned. Noticing their bhakti–bhāva, those who covert that are qualified for rāgānugā sādhana-bhakti. Just as the eligibility for vaidhī–bhakti is śāstrīya-śraddhā (faith in the śāstra), so also the eligibility for rāgānugā–bhakti is greed to attain the bhāva of the rāgatmikā devotees.
tat tad bhāvadi-mādhurya-śrute dhīr yad apekṣate
nātra śāstraṁ na yuktiṁ ca tal lobhotpatti lakṣaṇām
kṛṣṇaṁ smaran janaṁ cāsya preṣṭham nija- samīhitaṁ
tat tat kathā ratiś cāsau kuryād vāsaṁ vraje sadā
sevā sādhaka-rūpeṇa siddha-rūpeṇa cātra hi
tad bhāva lipsunā kāryā vraja-lokanusārataḥ
(Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Pūrva Vibhāga 118, 150-151)
Śāstra or logic are not the characteristics of the origins of spiritual greed. Only when the mind awaits to be immersed in hearing about mādhurya–bhāva is it called transcendental greed, and nothing else. Remembering Kṛṣṇa and choosing one of Kṛṣṇa’s dear associates and remembering them, as well as developing attachment for kṛṣṇa-kathā, always residing in Vraja, serving them with one’s sādhaka–rūpa (physical form as a practitioner) and siddha–rūpa (spiritual form), and hankering for the bhāva of ones chosen associate by rendering service similar to that of the residents of Vraja – this is the correct method of sādhana for a vraja-rāgānuga bhakta (a devotee who aspires for the mood of the residents of vraja–rāgānuga). Amongst all the limbs mentioned in vaidha–bhakti such as kīrtana etc, all those that are compatible for his service are accepted by the rāgānugā-sadhaka. Those with greed for dāsya–rasa follow Patraka etc; those with greed for sakhya–rasa follow Subala etc; those with greed for vātsalya–rasa follow Nanda-Yaśodā etc; those with greed for madhura–rasa follow the bhāva, activities and gestures of the gopīs of Vraja.
Kāmānugā and sambandhānuga are the two types of rāgatmikā–bhakti. Similarly, rāgānugā is also divided accordingly. Amongst them, kāmānuga is primary and more powerful. Again, kāmānuga has two divisions – sambhogecchāmayī (the direct desire to give pleasure to Kṛṣṇa) and tad–bhavecchāmayī (love for the mood and sentiments of the gopīs). In sambhogecchāmayī-bhakti, the aim is to give conjugal pleasure to Kṛṣṇa. In tad–bhavecchāmayī-bhakti, one only desires the bhāva and sweetness of the Goddesses of Vraja. Sambandhānuga is that bhakti wherein one identifies with those who have conventional relationships with Krsṇa such as His being a father etc. The path of bhāva followed by the queens (of Dvārakā) is madhura-rasa in sambandha. There is no madhura-rati in Vraja except for kāmānugā.
It should be understood that through these teachings given to the jīvas of this world by Śrī Gauracandra, such tendencies of the sādhaka suddenly appear through rāgānugā. He has approved of bhajana on the path of rāga. If a jīva, by gradual good fortune, attains the association of those who are the recipients of Gaurāṅga’s mercy, then he will certainly become greedy for the bhāva of the residents of Vraja. As long as they do not have this type of sādhu-saṅga, sādhakas should remain following vaidhī-bhakti. Simply by taking refuge in the feet of Gaura, one will gain entrance into the path of rāga. Those persons who have greed for the path of rāga first practice rāgānugā–bhakti. Through eligibility in rāgānugā–bhakti, one quickly advances. Upon attaining exclusive greed for the bhāva of the residents of Vraja, the taste for lower things cannot remain. On the appearance of such greed, the sadhaka is immediately freed from pāpa, puṇya, karma, akarma, vikarma, jñāna, vairāgya etc. Thus it is said:
adau śraddhā tataḥ sādhu-saṅgo’tha bhajana kriyā
tato’nartha nivṛttiḥ syāt tato niṣṭhā rucis tataḥ
athāsaktis tato bhāvas tataḥ premābhyudañcati
sādhakānāṁ ayaṁ premnaḥ prādurbhāve bhavet kramaḥ
(Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Pūrva Vibhāga, Prema-bhakti-lahirī 11)
Initially, on the path of vaidha, there is śraddhā, and after that, sādhu–guru–saṅga (associating with sādhus and Śrī Guru). Then there is bhajana, and anartha–nivṛtti (the elimination of anarthas). After that is niṣṭhā (fixed determination), ruci (taste or inclination) and gradually āsakti (attachment) and bhāva appear. That bhāva is then permanently established. However, when such spiritual greed arises, no other type of greed can remain and any anarthas are easily destroyed. Bhāva arises along with that greed. On the path of rāga, it is essential to drive away any imitation or deceit. If that is there, it will only result in extreme perversion and anarthas, and one will think his corrupted rāga is true rāga. Eventually, his association with matter becomes so overwhelming that the jīva descends into depravity.
That sādhaka who has taken shelter of the feet of Śrī Caitanya, after having developed pure greed, follows rāgānugā-bhakti. Amongst the rules found in vaidha–sādhana, he takes shelter in a genuine guru, serves the Deity, studies the bhakti-śāstra in the association of Vaiṣṇavas, resides in a place of Bhagavān’s līlā, and cultivates the chanting of Bhagavān’s name along with serving Kṛṣṇa on the path of bhāva in his siddha–deha (spiritual body), following the bhāva of the residents of Vraja. Amongst them, that person who is most fortunate will take refuge in that which is considered to be the best type of bhakti – chanting hari–nāma and engaging in service to the Bhāgavatam in the association of sādhus. In taking shelter of the Name, dīkṣā and the ritual of puraścaryā (activities performed before accepting initiation) are not required. By shunning nāmābhāsa and nāmāparādha, a person will eventually be able to continuously chant kṛṣṇa-nāma. By continuously chanting, and with the merciful glance of the Deity, he will constantly realise the name and form of Kṛṣṇa. Gradually, he will realise the form, name and qualities of the Deity simultaneously. After that, established in his svarūpa–gata (knowing his intrinsic spiritual nature), he will meditate upon the līlā along with the qualities, form and name. Through līlā, rasa manifests. Rasa is the ultimate attainment. Only when there is intense hankering for rasa at the time of cultivating the Name will rasa arise in a very short time.
There are ten offences against the Name. The Padma Purāṇa states:
(1) satāṁ ninda-namnaḥ param aparādham vitanute yataḥ khyātiṁ yātaṁ katham u sahate tad vigarhām
(2) śivasya śrī visnor ya iha guṇa nāmādi sakalam dhiyā bhinnaṁ paśyet sa khalu hari-nāmāhita karaḥ
(3) guror avajñā
(6) hari-nāmni kalpanam
(7) nāmno balād yasya hi pāpa-buddhi na vidyate yasya yamair hi śuddhiḥ
(8) dharma-vrata-tyaga-hutādi-sarva-subha-kriyā sāmyam api pramādaḥ
(9) aśraddadhāne vimukhe’py aśṛṇvati yas copadeṣaḥ śiva-nāmāparādhaḥ
(10) śrute’pi nāma-māhātmye yah prīti rahito naraḥ ahaṁ mamādi paramo nāmni so’py aparādha-kṛt
(1) To be envious towards or to criticize a pure devotee.
(2) To consider other Devatās to be separate īśvaras who are are equal to Kṛṣṇa.
(3) Disrespecting the sādhu-guru.
(4) Neglecting the bhakti–śāstra.
(5) Considering the glories of hari–nāma to be simply praise
(6) Giving imaginary meaning to hari-nāma.
(7) To engage in pāpa on the strength of the Name.
(8) Considering the Name to be equal to other auspicious activities.
(9) To give hari-nāma to unqualified persons.
(10) To have no faith and no taste for the Name even after hearing it’s glories, and to refuse to abandon a mentality based upon mundane false-ego after accepting the Name.
There are two kinds of nāmābhāsa, namely chāyā–nāmābhāsa (a semblance of a shadow of the Name) and pratibimba–nāmābhāsa (a semblance of a reflection of the Name). Being devoid of svarūpa–jñāna (the knowledge of one’s intrinsic position) and chanting the Name without offence is called chāyā–nāmābhāsa. Through sādhu–saṅga, one quickly attains svarūpa–jñāna and it becomes śuddha–nāma. When the Name is covered over by other mundane desires, jñāna, karma, yoga and vairāgya, it is said to be pratibimba-nāmābhāsa. Sometimes it is almost chāyā-nāmābhāsa and sometimes it becomes nāmāparādha. To eliminate nāmāparādha one must constantly cultivate the Name in the association of sādhus – there is no other way.
Those Vaiṣṇavas who chant śuddha-nāma are known as ‘śrī-caitanya-caraṇānugata’ Vaiṣṇavas (those Vaiṣṇavas that are surrendered at the feet of Śrī Caitanya). Those who chant the Name occasionally are called ‘Vaiṣṇavas.’ Those who constantly cultivate the Name are called ‘vaiṣṇavatra’ (superior Vaiṣṇavas). Those whose mere presence makes others chant śuddha-nāma are known as ‘vaiṣṇavatama’ (the best of Vaiṣṇavas). Thus, it is said in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta:
ataeva yāṅra mukhe eka kṛṣṇa nāma
sei ta vaiṣṇava, kariha tāṅhāra sammāna
(“Thus, one whose mouth is chanting kṛṣṇa-nāma is understood to be a Vaiṣṇava and he should be shown respect.”– Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 15.111)
kṛṣṇa nāma nirantara yāhāra vadane
sei vaiṣṇava śreṣṭha, bhaja tānhāra caraṇe
(“One who continuously chants kṛṣṇa-nāma is the best of Vaiṣṇavas, and you should worship his feet.” – Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 16.72)
yānhāra darśane mukhe āise kṛṣṇa nāma
tānhare jāniha tumi vaisnava pradhāna
(“By seeing him, the mouths of others will chant kṛṣṇa-nāma, so you should consider such a person as the best of Vaiṣṇavas.” – Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 16.75)
krama kari kahe prabhu vaiṣṇava lakṣaṇā
vaiṣṇava vaiṣṇavatara āra vaiṣṇavatama
(“Thus the Lord spoke about the distinctions amongst Vaiṣṇavas – the Vaiṣṇava, vaiṣṇavatara and vaiṣṇavatama.” – Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 16.75)
It is one’s duty to take the association of all these sādhus. One should respect the Vaiṣṇava. One should take shelter at the feet of the vaiṣṇavatara and vaiṣṇavatama. A gṛhastha Vaiṣṇava should celebrate festivals with these Vaiṣṇavas. Whether the Vaiṣṇava is a gṛhastha or a mendicant, one should respect him according to their level. Whoever desires association of Vaiṣṇavas will seek out superior Vaiṣṇavas accordingly.
śrīmad bhāgavatārthānām āsvado rasikaiḥ saha
sajātīyāśaye snigdhe sādhau saṅgaḥ svato vare
(“One should relish the explanation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam in the company of rasikas, and one should associate with those sadhus who are superior to oneself that possess the same mood and are affectionate.” – Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Pūrva Vibhāga 2.40)
One should never find fault in a Vaīṣṇava’s previous pāpa, that pāpa which is about to be destroyed, or sudden accidental pāpa.
na prākṛtatvam iha bhakta-janasya paśyet
(“Devotees in this world should not be seen from a material perspective.” – Upadeśāmrta 6)
One should not discuss the pāpa of any person unless one has proper intent. One should show appropriate mercy to all jīvas. Considering oneself fallen, appropriate respect should be given to all, without expecting any for oneself. Without attachment, the gṛhastha Vaiṣṇava should combine everything in relation to Kṛṣṇa and thus purify it, and only accepting those things that are necessary, he should engage in the sādhana of chanting hari–nāma. When a taste for Kṛṣṇa manifests and the taste for mundane things completely disappears, then a natural mood of vairāgya will appear due to a lack of materialism. Yet this will not happen simply by one’s own endeavours.
For both kinds of sādhana–bhakti, a sad-guru (genuine guru) is required. For those who enquire about vaidhī, the sad-guru engages them according to their particular ruci (inclination), gives teachings about observing the rules and guides them on the path of anartha-nivṛtti. For those who enquire about rāgānugā-bhakti, he will show the way to that rasa which is suitable for their natural ruci. There are two types of ruci or lobha – kṣaṇika (temporary) and naisargika (inherent). Many hear about the personality of Śrī Nanda, Subala etc, and achieve a particular bliss and sometimes display a similar bhāva, yet this bliss and bhāva are short-lived. In such a situation, this bhāva is said to be kṣaṇika-lobha. Nothing is can be achieved by such a display. It should be examined and seen if there is naisargika-lobha for the four rasas of dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya and madhura. Understanding his naisargika-bhāva, the sad-guru will make the disciple follow that bhāva. Otherwise, if the candidate is unqualified due to various faults, the bhāva that he has been instructed in will not be permanent. Not all aspirants are qualified for madhura–rasa. A guru who is incapable of determining the disciple’s rasa will simply admit his inability and tell him to go to another more qualified guru. There is no other alternative for the disciple if he cannot take shelter of the feet of a sad-guru.
Fearing that this book will become to voluminous, I have made this brief deliberation on sādhana-bhakti. Those who desire to know more about this specific topic can study the Pūrva Vibhāga of Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu and the Bhakti Sandarbha. If you study these properly, you will know everything.