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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Is bhakti ever selfless?

Kusum Sarovara at around 1855


This is a purely philosophical discussion which is not meant to influence devotional sentiments or attitudes - bhakti should of course be practised in a selfless mood.

Bhakta: Smt. Rādhārāṇī is described as niḥsīma hari mādhurya saundaryadyeka bhoginī - She enjoys unlimitedly the endless beauty and sweetness of Hari. Is it not the mood of Dwārkā to enjoy Kṛṣṇa?"

Advaitadas: The deeper the bhakti is the deeper the relish of Kṛṣṇa's sweetness and beauty. Much of chapter 4 of Adi Līlā of Caitanya Caritāmṛta explains this, for instance,verse 198: gopī preme kore kṛṣṇa mādhuryera puṣṭi - "The gopis' prema nourishes Kṛṣṇa's sweetness." The topmost devotion is ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānuśilanaṁ bhaktir uttamā - just acting favorably for Kṛṣṇa. It does not mean one should not desire happiness, because that desire is innate - everyone seeks ānanda (though most seek it in the wrong place). You cannot separate service from bliss, like you cannot separate your shadow from yourself. It is our adhikāra (right) to be happy. The ācāryas say there are three types of happiness - sensual happiness, happiness of brahman and happiness of prema, but everyone searches for happiness, it is unavoidable. Śrī Śukadeva explained to King Parīkṣit what is true selfishness in Śrīmad Bhāgavat (10.14.51-55):

"To all created beings, O protector of men, their own self alone is dear; others such as one's progeny and wealth are dear only because of being loved by oneself. Hence, O King, the same love as is seen in the heart of the embodied souls for their own self, they do not have for their sons, wealth, house etc, which are regarded as their own. Even in the eyes of those who speak of the body as the own self, those (persons and objects) that are connected with the body are not so dear to them as their own body. If even the body comes to be recognized as one's own, it would not then be loved like the self whereas the desire to survive was very strong even when the body was worn out. Thus one's own self is supremely dear to all embodied souls; this entire creation, mobile and immobile, is loved for the sake of the self alone. Know this Kṛṣṇa to be the Self of the selves......."

The love of Dwārkā is different because there is some reservation there in surrender - the Queens will love Kṛṣṇa conjugally too but on the condition that He preserves their reputation and marries them first. This is called samañjasa rati, second class love. The gopīs of Vraja have first class love, samartha rati - they give Kṛṣṇa everything without reservation and without demanding anything in return. That automatically leads to the supreme relish of Kṛṣṇa's sweetness too. Then there is also the factor of awe and reverence, of the devotees in Vaikuṇṭha, Dwārkā and Mathurā - this also contracts their relish of Kṛṣṇa's sweetness and causes Kṛṣṇa to appear to them in a less relishable form. Look at the very title of the Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu - 'The ocean of nectar of the taste of devotion" - he did not call it 'The ocean of poison'..... It is like a box of chocolates when you open it - nougat, nuts, caramel etc in the form of dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya etc - to preserve a devotional attitude one should not talk too much about relish though. Look at what Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta says on relishing rasa:

BB 2.2.152-

tathāpi brāhmya-kṛtyābdhi- bhanga-magno na pūrvavat
lebhe bhagavato bhakti- sukhaṁ cintāturāntaraḥ


"Even so, I was immersed in the waves of the ocean of Brahmā’s duties, and therefore unable to enjoy devotional service to the Lord as I had before. My mind was too disturbed by anxious concerns."

BB 2.2.203-

tad-bhakti-rasikānāṁ tu mahatāṁ tattva-vedinām
sādhyā taccaraṇāmbhoja- makarandātmikaiva sā


"And for those great souls who know the truth and are rasikas, that nectar of serving at Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet is itself the goal (sādhya)."

BB 2.3.127-

tathāpi tad-rasa-jnaiḥ sā bhaktir nava-vidhānjasā
sampādyate vicitraitad- rasa-mādhurya-labdhaye


"Yet devotees who understand the rasas of devotional service may practice all nine forms of bhakti to easily obtain the sweetness of its diverse tastes."

Sanātan Goswāmī's commentary: "Although devotees can attain Vaikuṇṭha by any one of the nine practices of bhakti, they often like to engage in all nine to enjoy the supreme, indescribably blissful taste of those transcendental activities. Each of the practices, beginning with śravaṇa and kīrtana, gives a sweet satisfaction of its own."

BB 2.3.133-

nijendriya-manaḥ-kāya ceṣṭā-rūpāṁ na viddhi tām
nitya-satya-ghanānanda rūpā sā hi guṇātigā


"You should not consider devotional service merely an activity of the body, senses, and mind. It is in fact the eternal absolute reality, manifesting itself as the most intense ecstasy, beyond the material modes." The word bhakti is mentioned in the previous verse and is the central topic here - it shows that 'devotional service', implying activities, is not an apt translation for the word 'bhakti'.

Bhakta: "Is service in separation higher?"

Advaitadas: "See my blog of March 2, 2009. Separation being a higher ecstasy than union does not mean one does not want to see Kṛṣṇa, and that one wants Kṛṣṇa to leave in order to experience a higher ecstasy. According to Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī (in his commentary on Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu 1.3.1), bhāva bhakti has three features: prāpty-abhilāṣa, sva-kartṛkānukūlyābhilāṣa and sauhārdābhilāṣa - desire to attain the deity, desire to act favorably for the deity and a desire to love the deity."

Bhakta: "Should'nt we act in such a way that Kṛṣṇa will want to see us instead of us wanting to see Him?"

Advaitadas: "That does not mean that you will not see Kṛṣṇa or that you don't want to see Him - He comes to see you instead, according to this philosophy. It is the same thing, either way. This saying is meant to enhance and stimulate a devotional attitude. The ācāryas clearly say that ecstatic love involves a desire to see Kṛṣṇa."

Bhakta: "The last verse of Śikṣāṣṭakam says "I just want to serve even if You don't show Yourself to me."

Advaitadas: "This is said to make sure to Kṛṣṇa that He can count on you, not that you don't want to see Him - that is already shown in the first paragraphs of my 2 march 2009 blog. The Gosvāmīs would not contradict Mahāprabhu, would they? Look at Raghunātha dās Gosvāmī's yearning to see Rādhārāṇī - in Stavāvali he says he would fly to Dwārkā at the speed of the mind just to be with Rādhikā, now matter how unfavorable the atmosphere there is. There is no mentioning of any higher or lower in prāpty-abhilāṣa, sva-kartṛkānukūlyābhilāṣa and sauhārdābhilāṣa. There is sambandha (relationship), abhidheya (practise to realize that relationship) and prayojana (the goal of prema), and the earlier stages have their scriptures like Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu and Haribhakti Vilāsa. Raghunātha Dās Gosvāmī was the prayojanācārya, the teacher of prema, and he craved for Rādhārāṇī's darśan more and more towards the end of Vilāpa Kusumāñjali. Look at verse 16 -

sakhyāya te mama namo'stu namo'stu nityaṁ 
dāsyāya te mama raso'stu raso'stu satyam - 

In one breath the desire for relish and the desire for service are mentioned - 'I offer my respects to Your friendship but truly, truly let me get the flavor of Your service instead'. It comes simultaneously, they are inseparable. The desire to enjoy material pleasures fades out in the course of our sādhana, but the desire to relish transcendental rasa never fades out. See my blog of November 26, 2009. In Vilāpa Kusumāñjali, verses 58 and 76, Tulasī Mañjarī just wants to relish Swāminījī's sight, she does not always pray for service. At the climax of the Six Goswāmī-aṣṭakam it is said: he rādhe braja devike ca lalite he nanda sūno kutaḥ - kutaḥ means "Where are you?", not : "I don't want to see You because I am so advanced!"

Bhakta: "What about serving in separation in a mission?"

Advaitadas: "If you say you don't want to see Kṛṣṇa but I want to serve in separation you do so because you know it will be an even higher ecstasy. It's not that there is no desire to make Kṛṣṇa happy, though. We go to the kīrtan knowing it will make us happy. The desire to be happy is merged with the desire to please Kṛṣṇa. It is like putting the left hand in the right hand, or salt or sugar merging with transparent water. prema is the fifth puruṣārtha, goal of life, above even mukti, but the goal of life is happiness still. Intelligent people know that sense pleasure leads to sorrow (ye hi saṁsparśaja bhoga duḥkha yonaya eva te, Bhagavad Gītā 5.22), so they renounce it and practise bhakti instead - that is also an attempt for happiness. These verses [Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu 2.1.6-10] show how to relish rasa -


prāktanyādhunikī cāsti yasya sad bhakti vāsanā
eṣa bhakti rasāsvādas tasyaiva hṛdi jāyate
bhakti-nirdhūta-doṣāṇāṁ prasannojjvala-cetasām
srī-bhāgavata-raktānāṁ rasikāsanga-rangiṇām
jīvanībhūta-govinda-pāda-bhakti-sukha-sriyām
premāntaranga-bhūtāni kṛtyāny evānutiṣṭhatām
bhaktānāṁ hṛdi rājantī samskāra-yugalojjvalā
ratir ānanda-rūpaiva nīyamānā tu rasyatām
kṛṣṇādibhir vibhāvādyair gatair anubhavādhvani
prauḍhānanda-camatkāra-kāṣṭhām āpadyate parām
kintu premā vibhāvādyaiḥ svalpair nīto'py anīyasīm
vibhāvanādy avasthāṁ tu sadya āsvādyatāṁ vrajet


"The taste for bhakti-rasa arises in the heart of a person who has experiences of pure bhakti in previous and present life. rati, which is the very form of ānanda, appears in the hearts of devotees who have been purified of all faults by bhakti, whose hearts have become joyful and bright, who have developed great relish for the Śrīmat Bhāgavat, who enjoy the blissful company of rasika saints, whose very life is the blissful wealth of devotion to Govinda's feet, who always discharge the confidential duties of love like hari nāma saṅkīrtana, associating with rasika saints, hearing transcendental topics from them and remembering these topics throughout the day are qualified to relish bhagavat-rasa (the flavour of God). This rati then attains a state of relish by realizing vibhāva, anubhāva, sāttvika bhāva and vyabhicārī bhāva (in relation to Kṛṣṇa)  and finally attains the highest, astonishing peak of profound bliss. However, prema, even becoming slightly pleasurable by a slight mixture of vibhāva and the other ingredients. quickly becomes fully tasteful."

Bhakta: "Then what about the Caitanya Caritāmṛta-verse: krsna bhakta niṣkāma - ataeva śānta; bhukti mukti siddhi kāmī sakalei aśānta? "The devotee of Kṛṣṇa is without desire therefore He is peaceful, while those who crave for sense enjoyment, liberation or mystic perfections are all bereft of peace."?

Advaitadas: "This is a philosophical statement. This verse is not about material śānti, it is spiritual or philosophical śānti - again, look at how Rāghunāth Dās Gosvāmī craved for Rādhārāṇī's darśana - it is not surface śānti. Look at all the evidence I quoted above, here....Once, on the roof of the ashram, Sādhu Bābā told me privately that even the gopīs have their own desires. Perhaps the above statements explain this."
Śrīman Mahāprabhu said during His topmost Gambhīrā-pastimes (CC Antya 20.37):


"prema-dhana vinā vyartha daridra jīvana
'dāsa' kori' vetana more deho prema-dhana"


"Without prema My life is useless. Therefore I pray that You accept Me as Your servant and give Me the salary of prema."

Happiness is always the pursuit, even in the highest realms of devotion.

Thanks to Acyutānanda for the photo of Kusumsarovar

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