Sunday, February 1, 2009

F: Sadhaka and Siddha: Two classes of devotees

There are two classes of devotees, the sadhaka and the siddha. Those at the stage of sadhana are called sadhakas, and those at the stages of bhava and beyond are called siddhas. The stage of bhava is the stage of the awakening of the svarupa. Vishwanath Chakravartipada describes this blessed stage as follows:

buddhir apatantam evArtham avadhArayantI jAgrat-svapna-suSuptiSu tadIya-smRti-vartmany eva pAnthatvam adhyavasyet | ahantA ca prApsyamAne sevopayogini siddha-dehe pravizantIva sadhaka-zarIraM prAyo jahAtIva virAjeta | mamatA ca tac-caraNAravinda-makaranda eva madhukarIbhavitum upakrameteti | sa ca bhaktaH prAptaM mahA-ratnaM kRpaNa iva janebhyo bhAvaM gopayann api kSAnti-vairAgyAdInAm AspadIbhavan lasal-lalATam evAntardhanaM kathayatIti nyAyena tad-vijJa-sAdhu-goSThyAM vidito bhaved anyatra tu vikSipta ity unmatta iti sajjata iti durlakSyatAM gacchet || mk 7.3

The bhava bhakta’s intelligence then unfailingly has this single purpose. The Lord remains on the path of his memory whether he sleeps, dreams or is awake. Then his sense of identity (ahantA, “I”) enters a perfected body (siddha-deha) suitable for his desired service to the Lord; it is almost as if he has left the present sadhaka body. His sense of possessiveness (mamatA, “mine”) becomes like a bee ready to relish the nectar of the Lord’s lotus feet. In this stage the devotee tries to conceal his feeling of love like a miserly person hiding a precious jewel. There is a saying that a bright face tells of hidden wealth. Because the bhava bhakta has qualities such as patience and renunciation, he is recognized by the realized devotees, but the common people are baffled by his activities and think he just has a disturbed mind.

For the bhava-bhakta, there is no question of absence from the lila. He is always absorbed and present in his svarupa and the related services in the svarasiki-lila. Needless to say, such souls are extremely rare in this world, and tend to keep themselves hidden from the public view.

At the stages prior to the awakening of the svarupa where the svarupa is being cultivated and meditated on, the vision of the lila appears whenever the consciousness of the sadhaka enters into the svarupa. At this stage, the lila is yet to become a "concrete" reality, in contrast to the substantial attainment at the stage of bhava. While the visions of the lila he receives are certainly real, being the reciprocal revelation of the ista-deva, the sadhaka is yet to attain permanent, active presence in the nitya-lila. The reality of the lila appearing in his meditations is a subjective presence brought forth with the lord's grace with the aim of nourishing his greed for the desired attainment.

Q&A: Siddha-identity in everyday life: Harmonizing siddha-deha with ordinary activities

Q: I have been wondering how one harmonizes one's siddha-identity with "ordinary" activities like bathing, eating, going to the toilet etc. Or is that a kind of mental switch, like during bhajan I am X gopi (siddha-deha), then I turn into Y das (sadhaka-deha) and do my ordinary activities until its bhajan time again? How can I meditate upon myself as a perfected, spiritual entity while being sick, driving a car, using my mobile phone or arguing with the boss in the office etc.?

A:  In his Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, Sripad Rupa Goswamipad presents the famous two-fold division of seva to be undertaken by those who seek to follow the raga-marga:

sevA sAdhaka-rUpeNa siddha-rUpeNa cAtra hi |
tad-bhAva-lipsunA kAryA vraja-lokAnusArataH || brs 1.2.295

"Serving in the sadhaka-form, as well as in the siddha-form, engaged in activities while desiring the mood of the residents of Vraja, following in their wake."

The external sadhaka-life is to be undertaken while emulating the example of the Goswamis of Vrindavan, engaged in the varieties of devotional services led by sravana, kirtana, archana and so forth. These activities are classified as svAbhISTa-bhAva-sambandhi, or as having a direct relationship with one's desired feelings. These activities, even though undertaken in the external body, lead one to the identity within. Therefore, there is no essential conflict between the two realms in which service has been undertaken.

Such activities of devotional service are also known as svarUpa-siddha-bhakti, or acts that are inherently devotional by their nature. This classification has been presented in contrast to saGga-siddha-bhakti, or elements that attain the quality of devotion through contact with devotion, and aropa-siddha-bhakti, or activities over which the quality of devotion is superimposed, and that are therefore considered to be akin to bhakti.

The quality for kindling inner revelation that is inherent in activities of svarUpa-siddha-bhakti lacks in the two other categories. Activities such as maintaining one's livelihood through work in the society, and thereby maintaining one's facility for devotional services, are generally known as aropa-siddha-bhakti, or activities that become devotional through superimposition. The activities are not devotional in and of themselves, their quality is transformed after the event through the devotee's internal spirit of offering and surrender.

Though elements of aropa-siddha-bhakti are also helpful, and indeed a necessity at a certain stage, they must begin to withdraw as one enters into the world of siddha-rUpa-sevA. Lacking a direct connection with the transcendent realm in which the seva is to take place, they have a great potential for distracting the mind. Some elevated souls are able to transmutate even worldly activities into direct acts of devotion through the power of their smarana, remaining aloof from external influence. However, most sadhakas will find that such external activities will prove to be obstacles in the practice of smarana.

Some aspects of ordinary daily life have qualities that are parallel to the course of the lila. Therefore, someone conversant with the lila can easily attribute the self-conception of the svarupa and the flow of the lila over them and remain in the proper self-identity in the course of the said activities. One should, as far as possible, seek to organize his life in a manner that facilitiates absorption in the lila throughout the day.

The adoption of a specific transcendent identity and the subsequent gradual absorption in the nectarine services of Radha-Krishna possess a vast potential for attracting and containing the consciousness beyond and away from this world. Therefore, as one becomes more accomplished in such practices, he will find it harder and harder to dwell amidst a mundane environment, so much so that time spent in distraction will begin to be felt as painful, and indeed unbearable. The two worlds don't mix together all that well.

For success in smarana, it is vital that one protect the consciousness from outer influences, as smarana is dependent on the purity of the mind – smaraNaM tu zuddhAntaH-karaNatAm apekSate (BhS 276). The foremost among the purifiers of the heart is the chanting of the divine Name, which one should chant at least one lakh, or sixty-four rounds, daily. Before exposing the matter of raga-bhajana (verse 8) in his Upadeshamrita, Srila Rupa Goswamipad has laid emphasis on the worship of the Name as the healer of the polluted heart (verse 7). Chanting a lakh of Names or more, along with the other devotional duties that must be undertaken to support the inner worship, take a substantial amount of time.

All of this has led some mahatmas to conclude that one should renounce the world as a prerequisite for the practice of lila-smarana. While the formal acceptance of the life of a renunciate is not necessarily called for, a withdrawal from the world is instrumental in making the practice successful. Successful smarana calls for exclusivity, and it calls for the absolute rejection of mundane desire. A heart riddled by the mundane, devoid of suddha-bhakti, is not eligible for entrance into the kingdom of rasa.

One must remember that svarupa-meditation and lila-smarana are not a matter of mere techniques of visualization. The lila is self-manifest by nature and arises of grace, grace that is drawn towards one who forsakes all for the sake of a wholehearted devotional pursuit. The appearance of the lila in the chamber of the heart cannot be forced. It flows naturally in a pure and devoted heart, and is therefore aptly called svarasiki. The varieties of meditation, memorization and visualization that are undertaken, despite their being instrumental in supporting the attainment, do not possess the power for revealing the lila and bestowing saksat-seva.

One may also, disregarding all of the above, engage in a semblance of cultivation of svarupa-meditation and lila-smarana. While through that bhajana-siddhi will not be attained, often a favorable samskara is created, a samskara that will in due course of time lead the devotee to the shelter of realized bhajananandi-mahatmas who infuse him with the power to leave behind the mundane and embrace a life of bhajan. Prior to that, practices of smarana are reminiscent of a child's play with dolls. Feeding a doll and putting it to sleep gives a conception of what having a baby is like, and yet the experience is far removed from the labor a mother must bear in caring for a child.

Q&A: Making up for lapses in devotional practices: What to do if one has been unable to complete his daily vows?

Q: What should one do if for some reason he's been unable to complete the daily devotional vows concerning the chanting of harinama or diksha-mantras, or puja?

A: It should be understood that there is no wonder trick by the doing of which the neglect of a previous day's devotional activities could be complemented whilst hoping to attain an equal result. One's daily devotional activities are nitya-niyamas, perpetual vows. One should not seek for ways to occasionally avoid them for the sake of one's leisure and pleasure. raghunAther niyama, yena pASANer rekha! - "The vows of Raghunath were like streaks on a stone." One should strive to embrace such firmness of practice to attain success in his devotional pursuits.

It may be that on account of some unforeseen, insurmountable obstacle one's devotional practice is compromized. If that is the case, some remedial measures have been taught in the Vaishnava-smriti and heard from the mouths of the sadhus. Yet, one should not, on their strength, neglect one's devotional vows in a calculated manner, "If I don't fulfill my vows of bhajan today, then here's what I need to do tomorrow to make up for it. Let me therefore leave it for tomorrow." No! This will imbibe the flaw of nAmno balAd yasya hi pApa-buddhiH, to assume that one may misbehave on the strength of devotional worship.

One should think, "I must complete my daily nitya-niyamas. I must." Just as one wouldn't leave a child unfed and uncared for a day, one mustn't leave one's tender bhajan unnourished, and one mustn't keep his Thakur waiting. Utsaha and dhairya, enthusiasm and fortitude, are vital in the growth of bhakti (Upadeshamrita 3); without them, devotional progress is halted.

Should a lapse occur on account of excessive and unavoidable seva or some formidable obstruction, the general principle is that one should do more than the remaining balance as a matter of devotional atonement, with a sincere feeling of unworthiness as Thakur's servant. One must understand that the daily niyamas are a part of a living personal relationship with Thakur, not a matter of ritualistic, obligatory observance. They are our expression of longing, of our heart's budding love.

The 19th chapter of Hari-bhakti-vilasa (19.1038-1039) notes, in the context of worshiping the deity:

ekAha pUjAvihitau kuryAd dvi-guNam arcanam |
tri-rAtre tu mahA-pUjAM samprokSaNam ataH param ||
mAsAd Urdhvam anekAhaM pUjA yadi vihanyate |
pratiSThaiveSyate kaizcit kaizcit samprokSaNa-kramaH ||

"If worship has been forsaken for a day, one ought to worship twice. If three days have passed, one should perform great worship with the bathing ceremony. If the worship has been repeatedly neglected for the duration of a month, some hold that installation should be done anew, while others recommend the bathing ceremony and so forth."

Such worship should be done in the spirit of apology, calling out for the Lord, begging him to again receive our worship, with firm determination that such neglect will not occur again.

Manohara-bhajan-dipika, discussing what ought to be done in the event that the chanting of the names has been halted for a day, states that one must then, on the following day, perform four-fold the daily vow. For example, if one's vow has been for 50.000 names daily, one should then chant 200.000 names, discarding all unneeded activity to arrange for time for its performance. In the event that daily vow has not been neglected but has been compromised, then doing the vow two-fold is sufficient.

For those chanting the Names in excess of one lakh, the four-fold atonement is not practicable for obvious reasons. Rarely it is seen, though, that someone with a lakh's daily vow would halt his nama-bhajan altogether for a day! Regardless, if their nama-bhajan has been compromised, they should chant a substantially increased quantity in proportion to their daily vows on the following day to atone for the neglect of Nama Prabhu's daily worship.

The above also applies for the chanting of the diksha-mantras and other quantifiable practices. If the practices neglected are not of a nature that could be quantified, one should sincerely regret having neglected the said practice and thereby a precious opportunity for acts of devotional worship, praying for a new opportunity. With that, one should make arrangements to see that the situation leading to the neglect will not occur again.

Q&A: Maintaining inspiration in bhajan: Sometimes inspiration comes, and again it goes...

Q: It is often seen that people come to Vraja for pilgrimage, associate with sadhus and gain much inspiration in bhajan -- only to have it diminish and wither in a few months after returning to West! What is the reason for this, how to avoid it?

A:  There are several reasons for the diminishing of enthusiasm in bhajan. As a matter of general principle, it has to do with not exercising due caution in protecting one's bhajan. For a sadhaka, protecting one's bhajan is of the utmost essence. He should not neglect or squander his precious attainments.

In his Upadeshamrita, Srila Rupa Goswamipad has listed the following six items that cause the devastation of devotional pursuits:

atyAhAraH prayAsaz ca prajalpo niyamAgrahaH |
jana-saGgaz ca laulyaM ca SaDbhir bhaktir vinazyati || 2 ||

"Excessive eating or harnessing property, strenuous endeavors, idle talks, neglect of principles, the company of the worldly and fickleness; these six make the devotion perish."

If someone, after having spent time engrossed in bhajan, returns to his worldly life of harnessing so many items that are truly not of need for a life of bhajan, he is overwhelmed by a sense of possessive illusion that blocks the consciousness from entering the ways of bhajan. If one eats in excess or eats inappropriate food from inappropriate sources, sexual desire is provoked, the consciousness is tainted with evil and the mind becomes wicked. If one engages in idle talks, such as blasphemy, gossip or topics of sensuality, he cuts on the very root of devotion through blasphemy and gossip, cultivating taste for the mundane.

If someone neglects the execution of due devotional principles, one's daily religious vows of prayer, worship and meditation, the creeper of devotion withers in shortage of water. If one maintains mundane association either through cultivating relationships with worldly people or vicariously enjoying their ways through movies, novels and so forth, his taste for the worldly is nourished, and in proportion his interest in devotion vanishes. If the mind is fickle, running across the universe and taking interest in countless topics of sense enjoyment and intellectual interest, the focus of consciousness is scattered and led afar from bhajan.

Among the six items perfecting the practice of devotion, Rupa Goswami mentions sato vRtteH, which the commentator glosses as sadAcAra, or saintly conduct. Sadachar keeps one protected from varieties of aparAdhas and shields one from mundane influence, lack thereof leads one to unknowingly commit aparAdhas and leaves one vulnerable for the effects of the world. Therefore, one should learn and adopt appropriate sadachar, saintly conduct, to protect the tender creeper of devotion.

In his teachings to Sri Rupa, Sriman Mahaprabhu taught of the cultivation of the creeper of devotion and the need to exercise great caution (CC 2.19.154ff):

tabe yAya tad-upari goloka-vRndAvana |
kRSNa-caraNa-kalpa-vRkSe kare ArohaNa ||
tAhAG vistArita haJA phale prema-phala |
ihAG mAlI sece nitya zravaNAdi jala ||
yadi vaiSNava-aparAdha uThe hAtI mAtA |
upADe vA chiNDe, tAra zukhi’ yAya pAtA ||
tAte mAlI yatna kari’ kare AvaraNa |
aparAdha-hastIra yaiche nA haya udgama ||

"Then, it grows beyond and reaches Goloka Vrindavan, climbing to the desire tree of Sri Krishna's feet.
"Extending there, it produces the fruit of prema, as the gardener always sprinkles it with the water of hearing and the such.
"Should offence at the feet of a Vaishnava arise like a mad elephant, it'll uproot or break the creeper, making its leaves dry.
"Therefore the gardener, with great diligence, prepares a protective barrier to prevent the elephant of offence from awakening."

The observance of maryAda, or proper etiquette in dealings with Vaishnavas, coupled with due awareness of inadequacies in ingredients, places and manners of activity in worship, must therefore be assimilated and maintained if one is to maintain one's firmness in pursuing devotion.

Mahaprabhu described the undesired weeds that suck the life sap of the creeper of devotion in the following words:

niSiddhAcAra, kuTInATI, jIva-hiMsana |
lAbha, pUjA, pratiSThAdi yata upazAkhA-gaNa ||
seka-jala pAJA upazAkhA bADi yAya |
stabdha haJA mUla-zAkhA bADite nA pAya ||
prathamei upazAkhAra karaye chedana |
tabe mUla-zAkhA bADi’ yAya vRndAvana ||

"Forbidden acts, duplicity, hostility towards others, mundane gain, worship and distinction, these are the host of weeds.
"Drinking the water sprinkled, they are nourished while the growth of the main creeper becomes thwarted.
"The weeds must be discarded at the very moment of their appearance; Then, the main creeper will grow and reach Vrindavan."

One should therefore stay afar from forbidden acts such as sinful deeds or other acts deemed unbefitting in the Vaishnava scriptures, be transparent in his dealings and not lead a life of deceit, not cause undue grief and anguish to other living entities, and always beware the traps of mundane gain, worship and distinction that arise parallel with the growth of devotion.

Hence the famous words, sAdhu sAvadhAn! -- "Saints, beware!". Seek to protect your devotional accomplishments by carefully weeding out crippling elements, whilst always yearning for the company of affectionate and advanced sadachari-sadhus from whose hearts the nectar of devotion oozes in our direction, and who educate us in the ways of guarding our growth in devotion.

Padavali: I Heard the Saint Say (Narottama)

"When shall I become a resident of Vrindavana?"

– From Srila Narottama Das Thakur Mahasaya's Prarthana –


śuniẏāchi sādhu-mukhe bale sarva-jana /
śrī rūpa-kṛpāẏa mile yugala caraṇa //

“I’ve heard from the saints’ mouths, and so say all,
With Śrī Rūpa’s grace, the feet of Yugala are attained.”

hā hā prabhu sanātana gaura-parivāra /
sabe mili vāñcha pūrṇa karaha āmāra //

“Hā hā! Master Sanātana, the companions of Gaura!
All of you, make my desires fulfilled!”

śrī rūpera kṛpā yena āmā prati haẏa /
se pada āsraẏa yāra sei mahāśaẏa //

”Should Śrī Rūpa’s grace fall upon me...
Whose is the shelter of those feet, he is great indeed!”

prabhu lokanātha kabe saṅge laẏe yābe /
śrī rūpera pāda-padme more samarpibe //

“When will master Lokanātha go, keeping me with him,
And offer me at Śrī Rūpa’s lotus feet?”

heno ki haibe mora narma-sakhī-gaṇe /
anugata narottame karibe śāsane //

“Then, shall it happen to me that the dear sakhīs
Will scold Narottama, who has become their follower?”


Padavali: When shall I become a resident of Vrindavana (Narottama)

"When shall I become a resident of Vrindavana?"

– From Srila Narottama Das Thakur Mahasaya's Prarthana –


hari hari kabe habe vṛndāvana-vāsī /
nirakhiba naẏane yugala rūpa-rāśi //

“Hari, Hari! When will I become a resident of Vṛndāvana?
With my eyes, I shall see the charming forms of Śrī Yugala…”

tyājiba śaẏana sukha vicitra pālaṅka /
kabe vrajera dhūlāẏa dhūsara habe aṅga //

“Forsaking the joy of sleeping on a fancy bed,
When will my limbs be anointed with the dust of Vraja?”

ṣaḏa-rasa-bhojana dūre parihari /
kabe vraje māgiẏā khāiba mādhukarī //

“Casting afar the enjoyment of six food-flavors,
When shall I beg for mādhukarī in Vraja?”

parikramā kariẏā vrajera vane vane /
viśrāṁa kariba giẏā yamunā puline //

“Circumambulating Vraja from one forest to the next,
I’ll take rest, going to Yamunā’s bank.”

tāpa dūre kariba śītala vaṁśī-vaṭe /
kabe kuñje basiba giẏā vaiṣṇava nikaṭe //

“I’ll rid myself of burning heat at the cooling Vaṁśī-vaṭa;
When will I sit in the kuñja near the Vaiṣṇavas?”

narottama dāsa kahe kari parihāra /
kabe vā emana daśā haibe āmāra //

Narottama Dās says, “Forsaking all,
When will such a state be mine?”

Padavali: Madhavotsava-kamalakara - Springtime of Vrindavana in Gita-govinda (Lalita-lavanga-lata)

This song, Madhavotsava-kamalakara of Jayadeva's Gita Govinda, can be sung daily during the spring-season, starting with Vasanta-pancami.

śrī-jaẏadeva-viracitā gīta-govinda-kāvyam

sāmoda-dāmodara-nāmaka prathamaḥ sargaḥ,
mādhavotsava-kamalākāra-nāmaka tṛtīya prabandhaḥ |
vasanta-rāga-yati-tālābhyāṁ gīyate ||


lalita-lavaṅga.latā-pariśīlana-komala-malaẏa-samīre |
madhukara-nikara-karambita-kokila-kūjita-kuñja-kuṭīre ||

lalita – tender; lavaṅga.latā – clove creepers; pariśīlana – in touch with; komala – gentle; malaẏa-samīre – with breezes from Malaya-mountains; madhukara – honey bees; nikara – swarms of; karambita – intermingled; kokila – cuckoos; kūjita – cooing; kuñja-kuṭīre – in an arbour cottage;

"Tender clove creepers touching the gentle breeze from Malaya-mountains, swarms of honey-bees intermingled, cuckoos cooing in arbour cottages..."

viharati harir.iha sarasa-vasante |
nṛtyati yuvatī-janena samaṁ sakhi ! virahi-janasya durante || dhru ||

viharati – frolicks; harir – Hari; iha – here; sarasa-vasante – in the enamored spring; nṛtyati – dances ; yuvatī-janena – of youthful girls; samaṁ – even as then; sakhi – friend; virahi-janasya – of people in separation; durante – misery;

"Hari frolicks in the enamored spring! Even as the young ladies dance, O sakhi!, people in separation grieve."

unmada-madana-manoratha-pathika-vadhū.jana-janita-vilāpe |
ali.kula-saṅkula-kusuma-samūha-nirākula-bakula-kalāpe ||

unmada – intoxicated; madana-manoratha – on the cupid's chariot; pathika – travelers; vadhū.jana – of the young brides; janita – occurring; vilāpe – lamentations; ali.kula – swarm of honeybees; saṅkula – crowded together; kusuma-samūha – bunches of flowers; nirākula – full of; bakula-kalāpe – in the thickets of Bakula-tree;

"The intoxicated travelers on Cupid's chariot of mind, the young brides make their lamentations known... Swarms of honeybees are crowded amidst the flower-bunch laden thickets of the Bakula-trees."

mṛga.mada-saurabha-rabhasa-vaśaṁvada-nava.dala-māla-tamāle |
yuva.jana-hṛdaya-vidāraṇa manasija-nakha-ruci-kiṁśuka-jāle ||

mṛga.mada – musk; saurabha – fragrance; rabhasa – rapidly; vaśaṁvada – as if their own; nava.dala – new leaves; māla – garlanding; tamāle –Tamala-trees; yuva.jana – of the youngsters; hṛdaya – heart; vidāraṇa – rending; manasija – the mind-born cupid; nakha – nails; ruci – splendor; kiṁśuka – blood-red Kimsuka-flower; jāle – in bunches of;

"The new leaves garlanding the Tamala-tree rapidly spread their fragrance, as if they'd adopted the qualities of musk as their own. The splendor of bunches of blood-red Kimsuka-flowers are the nails of the mind-born Cupid, rending the hearts of youngsters."

madana-mahīpati-kanaka-daṇḍa-ruci-keśara-kusuma-vikāśe |
milita-śilī.mukha-pāṭali-paṭala-kṛta-smara-tūṇa-vilāse ||

madana – cupid; mahīpati – the sovereign; kanaka – golden; daṇḍa – sceptre; ruci – splendor; keśara-kusuma – Kesara-flowers; vikāśe – blooming; milita – joined; śilī.mukha – arrows, or bees; pāṭali-paṭala – cup-like Patali-flowers; kṛta – made as; smara – cupid; tūṇa – quiver; vilāse – appearing as;

"Blooming Kesara-flowers in their splendor are the sceptre of Cupid the sovereign. Bees and cup-like Patali-flowers together come forth as the Cupid's quiver."

vigalita-lajjita-jagad.avalokana-taruṇa-karuṇa-kṛta-hāse |
virahi-nikṛntana-kunta-mukhākṛti-ketaki-danturitāśe ||

vigalita – vanished; lajjita – being ashamed; jagad – of the world; avalokana – watching; taruṇa – tender, or youngsters; karuṇa – with pity, or Karuna-flower; kṛta – made to; hāse – laugh; virahi – those separated; nikṛntana – maiming; kunta-mukhākṛti – faces as if lances; ketaki – Ketaki-flowers; danturitāśe – filling all directions;

"Forsaking their shame in the watching eyes of the world, the youngsters are pitifully laughed at by Karuna-flowers. The faces of Ketaki-flowers, filling all directions, are the lances maiming those in separation."

mādhavika-parimala-lalite nava-mālika-jāti-sugandhau |
muni-manasām^api mohana-kārīṇi taruṇā.kāraṇa.bandhau ||

mādhavika – Madhavi-plants; parimala – fragrance; lalite – gently; nava – new; mālikaẏāti –Malika and jasmine flowers; sugandhau – fragrance; muni – of the sages; manasām – minds; api – even; mohana-kārīṇi – cause of bewilderment; taruṇā – youngsters; kāraṇa – cause; bandhau – of uniting, or bondage;

"The fragrance of Madhavi-vines and the sweet odors of new Malika-jasmines lead even the minds of the sages to bewilderment, a cause for the youngsters' union."

sphurad.atimukta.latā-parirambhana-pulakita-mukulita-cūte |
vṛndāvana-vipine parisara-parigata-yamunā.jala-pūte ||

sphurad – vibrant; atimukta.latā – Madhavi-creepers; parirambhana – embracing; pulakita – bristled; mukulita – full of blossoms; cūte – mango-trees; vṛndāvana – in Vrindavana, or vṛnda – group, avana satisfy; vipine – in the forest; parisara – flowing about; parigata – surrounding; yamunā – of Yamuna-river; jala – water; pūte – clear;

"The vibrant Madhavi-creepers embrace the mango-trees, full of blossom as their bristles. The fresh waters of Yamuna flow in Vrindavana's every direction."

śrī.jaẏadeva-bhaṇitam^idam^udaẏati hari-caraṇa-smṛti-sāram |
sarasa-vasanta.samaẏa-vana-varṇanam^anugata-madana-vikāram ||

śrī.jaẏadeva-bhaṇitam – spoken by Sri Jayadeva; idam – this; udaẏati – emerging; hari-caraṇa – the feet of Hari; smṛti-sāram – essence of meditation; sarasa – impassioned; vasanta – spring; samaẏa – season; vana – woods; varṇanam – description; anugata – following; madana-vikāram – cupid's agitations;

"This narration by Jayadeva gives rise to the essence of meditation, the feet of Hari. The Cupid's transformations follow in the wake of the description of the impassioned spring-time in the woods."

Padavali: Radha-janmotsava

bhAdra zuklASTamI tithi, vizAkhA nakSatra tithi,
zrImati janama sei-kAle |
madhya dina gata ravi, dekhiYA bAlikA chabi,
jaYa jaYa dei kutUhale ||
vRSabhAnupure, prati ghare ghare,
jaYa rAdhe zrI.rAdhe bole |
kanyAra cA&damukha dekhi, rAjA hailA mahAsukhI,
dAna dei brAhmaNa sakale ||
nAnA dravya haste kari, nagarera yata nArI,
AilA sabhe kIrtidA mandire |
aneka puNyera phale, daiva hailA anukUle,
e hena bAlikA mile tore ||
modera mane hena laYa, eho ta mAnuSa naYa,
kon chale kebA janamilA |
ghanazyAma dAsa kaYa, nA kariha saMzaYa,
kRSNapriYA sadaYa ha_ilA ||

On the eighth day of the bright half of Bhadra-month, on the day of the Visakha-constellation, Srimati's birth occured.
The sun, having traveled to mid-day and seeing the splendor of the baby girl, said "Jaya Jaya" in great delight.
In the town of Vrisabhanu, in each and every house, "Jaya Radhe, Sri Radhe" was said.
Seeing the moon-face of the daughter, the king became most happy and gave in charity to all brahmanas.
He gave different ingredients to the hands of all the ladies of the village, as they assembled at Kirtida's temple.
"As the fruit of so much piety, with the godspeed of destiny, such a baby girl has been given to you!
"We are thinking that she is not an ordinary human at all -- who has taken birth in this disguise?"
Ghanasyama Das says, "Have no doubt of it, she will always be dear to Krishna!"

Author: Ghanasyama Das
Source: Gita-ratnavali (GRA), p. 19 / 2
Theme: Radha-janma / Vraja
Language: Bengali
Raga: rAgiNI kalyANI
Tala: dazakusi

Padavali: Song before Bhagavat-katha (Gauracandrika)

jaYa jaYa nityAnandAdvaita gaurAGga |
nitAi gaurAGga nitAi gaurAGga |
jaYa jaYa nityAnanda zrI-Advaita gaurAGga ||
jaYa jaYa yazodA-nandana zacI-suta gauracandra |
jaYa jaYa rohiNI-nandana balarAma nityAnanda ||
jaYa jaYa mahA-viSNu avatAra zrI-advaita-candra |
jaYa jaYa gadAdhara zrIvAsAdi gaura-bhakta-vRnda ||

“Glory to Yashoda-nandana, the son of Sachi, Gaurachandra; Glory to the son of Rohini, Balarama, Nityananda. Glory to Sri Advaitachandra, Maha-Vishnu’s avatar; Glory to Gadadhar and the devotees of Gaura headed by Srivasa.”

jaYa jaYa svarUpa rUpa sanAtana rAYa rAmAnanda |
jaYa jaYa khaNDa-vAsi narahari murAri mukunda ||
jaYa jaYa paJca-pUtra saGge bhaje rAYa bhavAnanda |
jaYa jaYa tina-putra saGge nAce sena zivAnanda ||

“Glory to Svarupa, Rupa, Sanatana and Raya Ramananda; Glory to Narahari, Murari and Mukunda, residents of Khanda. Glory to Raya Bhavananda, who worships with his five sons; Glory to Sena Shivananda, who dances with his three sons.”

jaYa jaYa dvAdaza gopAla Adi cauSaTTi mahAnta |
jaYa jaYa chaYa cakravartI aSTa kavirAja-candra ||
jaYa jaYa haridAsa vakrezvara vasu rAmAnanda |
jaYa jaYa sArvabhauma pratAparudra gopInAthAcArya |

“Glory to the sixty-four mahantas headed by the twelve gopalas; Glory to the six chakravartis and the eight moon-like kavirajas. Glory to Haridas, Vakreshwar and Vasu Ramananda; Glory to Sarvabhauma, Prataparudra and Gopinath Acharya.”

jaYa jaYa zrInivAsa narottama prabhu zyAmAnanda |
jaYa jaYa uPiYA gauPIYA Adi yata bhakta-vRnda ||
tomarA sabe mili kara kRpA Ami ati manda |
sabe kRpA kari deha gaura-caraNAravinda ||

“Glory to Srinivasa, Narottama and Prabhu Shyamananda; Glory to all the devotees, headed by those from Orissa and Gauda. All of you, bestow your mercy on me, for I am so wretched; All of you, mercifully bestow to me Gaura’s lotus feet!”

Padavali: Haridas Thakur (Sucaka)

jaYa jaYa prabhu mora ThAkura haridAsa |
ye karilA hari.nAmera mahimA prakAza ||
gaura-bhakta.gaNa madhye sarva-agragaNya |
yA&ra guNa gAiYA kAnde Apane caitanya ||
advaita AcArya prabhura priYa prema.sImA |
te&ho se jAnena haridAsera mahimA ||
nityAnanda-cA&da yA&re prANa hena jAne |
caraNa paraze mahI deha dhanya mAne ||
hare.kRSNa hare.rAma ke zunAbe Ara |
haridAsa chePe gela prANa bA&cA bhAra ||
haridAsa Achila pRthivIra ziromaNi |
te&ho vinA ratna.zUnya haila medinI ||
jaYa haridAsa bali kara hari.dhvani |
eta bali mahAprabhu nAcaye Apani ||
sabe gAo jaYa jaYa jaYa haridAsa
nAmera mahimA ye&ho karilA prakAza ||

Praise, praise to my master, Thakur Haridas
Who brought forth the glory of Hari's name.
Among Gaura's devotees, he is the foremost of all,
Caitanya himself would weep, singing of his qualities.
Advaita Acarya is the summit of love for the dear lord;
He knows the glory of Haridas!
Nityananda-canda is known to be like his life;
With the touch of his feet, the Earth feels herself blessed!
"Hare Krishna, Hare Rama" -- who more shall hear?
As Haridas departed, life became a burden to bear.
Haridas was the crown-jewel of the Earth;
In his absence, the Earth has lost its gem.
"Say 'Jaya Haridas' and make the hari-dhvani!"
So said Mahaprabhu and danced himself.
Everyone sang, "Jaya Jaya, Jaya Haridas
Who brought forth the glory of the name!"

* * * * * * * * * *

Author: Ajnata
Source: Manohara-bhajana-dipika (MBD), pp. 785-786
Theme: Sucaka / Haridas Thakura
Language: Bengali
Notes: The last three couplets of the song are from Caitanya-caritamrita (3.11.97-99).

Padavali: Jhulanotsava (Gauracandrika)

suradhunI-tIre Aju gaurakizora |
jhulana-raGga-rase pahu~ bhela bhora ||
vividha kusume sabe raca_i hindora |
saba sahacaragaNa Anande vibhora ||
jhulaYe gaura punaH gadAdhara saGga |
tAhe kata upajaYe prema-taraGga ||
mukunda mAdhava vAsu haridAsa meli |
gAota pUrava rabhasa-rasa-keli ||
nadIYa nagare kata aiche vilAsa |
rAmAnanda dAsa karata soi Aza ||

On the banks of Suradhuni today, Gaurakisora
became filled with the relish of the swing pastimes.
The swing was wholly decorated with various flowers
and all the companions were enthralled in joy.
Gaura again swinged in Gadadhara's company
with that, how many waves of prema arose?
Mukunda, Madhava, Vasu and Haridasa joined
singing of the joys of these pastimes of rasa.
How many pastimes does the hero of Nadiya have?
Ramananda Das is longing for this.

* * * * * * * * * *

Author: Ramananda Das
Source: Manohara-bhajana-dipika (MBD), p. 747-748 / 3
Theme: Jhulana / Gauracandra
Language: Bengali

Raga: rAga sAraGga

Padavali: Great Ferry at Nadia's Dock

nadIyAra ghATe bhAi ki adbhuta tarI |
nitAi galuiyA tAte caitanya kANDArI ||

"Brother hey, an astonishing ferry's at Nadia's dock -
Nitai's at the fore there, and Chaitanya's at the helm!

dui raghunAtha zrI-jIva gopAla zrI-rUpa sanAtana |
pArera naukAya erA dANDi chaya jana ||

The two Raghunaths, Sri Jiva, Gopala, Sri Rupa and Sanatana -
These six folks are the oarsmen of the boat goin' afar..."

ke jAbi bhAi bhava-pAre nitAi DAke |
kheyAra kaDi vinA pAra kare jAke tAke ||

"Ho brothers! Who amongst you shall pass the world's ocean?" shouts Nitai,
"Without a dime you'll get to the farther shore!"

Atare kAtara vinA ke pAra kare bhAi |
kintu pAra kare sabe caitanya nitAi ||

Brothers! A passage free of cost, who wouldn't take?
Chaitanya and Nitai ferry all to the farther shore..."

kRSNa-dAsa bale bhAi bala hari hari |
nitAi caitanyera ghATe nAhi lAge kaDi ||

Krishnadas says, "Brothers hey, chant 'Hari Hari!'
At the dock of Nitai and Chaitanya, travel's free of cost!"

* * * * * * * * * *

ke jAbi ke jAbi bhAi bhava sindhu-pAra |
dhanya kali-yugera caitanya-avatAra ||

Who will go, O brother, who will go
across the ocean of worldly woe?
With the blessed Kali-yuga's Chaitanya-avatar!

AmAra gaurAGgera ghaTe adAna-kheya vaya |
jaDa, andha, Atura avadhi pAra haya ||

At the dock of my Gauranga, for you a ferry awaits -
Fools, blind and the sickly onboard - no limits in place!

harinAmera naukAkhAni zrI-guru khAndArI |
saGkIrtana kheroyAla dubAhu pasAri ||

Harinama's the boat, Sri Guru is the helmsman,
And sankirtan with upraised arms the oars!

saba jIva hoila pAra premera vAtAse |
paDiyA rohila locana ApanAra doSe ||

"Every soul may cross across as the wind of prema blows,"
Thus laments Locana, left behind for his flaws...

Padavali: Radha-janmotsava (Gauracandrika)

priYAra janama, divasa Aveze, Anande bharala tanu |
nadIYA nagare, vRSabhAnu-pure, udaYa karala janu ||
gadAdhara mukha, heri punaH punaH, nAce gorA naTarAYa |
bhAva anubhava, kari saGgI saba, mahA mahotsava gAYa ||
dadhira sahita, haladi milita, kalase kalase DhAli |
priYagaNa nAce, nAnA kAca kAce, ghana diYA hulAhuli ||
gaurAGga nAgara, rasera sAgara, bhAvera taraGga tAYa |
jagata bhAsila, e hena Ananda, e dAsa ballavI gAYa || 1 ||

Immersed in the birth day of the beloved Radha, his body was filled with joy;
The hero of Nadiya became immersed in thoughts of Vrisabhanu's village.
Beholding Gadadhara's face again and again, Gora, the king of dancers danced;
All the companions felt this bhava, and sung of the great festival.
There were pots and pots of yoghurt mixed with turmeric;
The dear companions danced, making deep hulahuli-sounds.
The clever Gauranga is an ocean of rasa, and there swell the waves of emotion;
The world became filled with such joy -- this is what Ballavi Das sings.

* * * * * * * * * *

Author: Ballavi Das
Source: Gita-ratnavali (GRA), p. 19 / 1
Theme: Radha-janma / Gauracandra
Language: Bengali
Raga: rAgiNI kalyANI
Tala: dazakusi

F: Raga-marga and Vidhi-marga in a Nutshell

The following are some reflections sent to a friend in clarifying the concepts of raga and vidhi.

1. There are two distinct paths. One is called vidhi-marga, and the other is called raga-marga. The difference between the two is not in the external practice: it is in the inner impetus for activity. On raga-marga, the impetus is in a great inner yearning called lobha, a burning desire that drives us onward with the aim of attaining emotions and services similar to Krishna's dear companions in Vraja. On vidhi-marga, the impetus for activity is born of a sense of duty or a fear of reprimand, drawing from the mandates of the scriptures. Only raga-marga leads us to Vraja-dhama and to the attainment of manjari-bhava. Vidhi-marga does not lead to attainments beyond relationships that are mixed with knowledge of god's majesty.

2. There are identical practices. Practices such as hearing, chanting, worship and so forth take on an almost identical appearance on the two paths. Then, unless one is sensitive and experienced, it will be hard to assess another's path by the mere observance of the outer form of the activity; the impetus determines the path. Raga-marga, aside the shared practices with vidhi-marga, features a whole unique internal world of practice; the inner cultivation of a specific loving emotion that gives rise to the revelation of the siddha-svarupa, or one's eternal companion-form that is suited for direct service for Radha and Krishna in the land of Vraja. It has been specifically noted (BRS 1.2.296) that "In the opinion of the wise, the practices of vidhi-marga are also to be employed on the raga-marga".

3. There are different stages on the path of raga. The journey is sometimes divided into two basic phases called ajata-ruci and jata-ruci. The first, ajata-ruci, literally "when taste is yet to awaken", is the stage where one has taken a keen interest in topics of raga-marga, but a mature, burning desire is yet to fructify in the core of one's heart. At this stage, one's raganuga-sadhana is practically a blend of raganuga and vaidhi in terms of one's impetus; one is not spontaneously and constantly pushed onward by the power of the mere desire. The second, jata-ruci, literally "when taste has awakened", is the stage we can justly call "actual raganuga", for in that a deep, overwhelming taste for both the practice and the goal has arisen, and in that there is truly following (anuga) of passion (raga).

All things considered, I am then personally shy to say thing such as "I am following raga-marga" or "I practice raganuga-bhakti", for I feel that, with all the mundane still upon my shoulders, it would be but a mockery of this beautiful and pristine path. The best I can say is, "I am trying to practice bhakti." Where are the tears in my eyes, where is the choking of my voice, and where are the bristling of my hair and the tremors of my body? And with that, where is my raganuga? If I had even a scent of divine emotion and a feeling that more lies ahead on the path, surely all of that would be a part of my reality as I reflected on my prospects.

Therefore, with folded hands and a straw between our teeth, we shall have to say, "I am not truly following much any path at all; with the wishes of guru and Vaisnavas, I am chanting a little bit and with their mercy I find some joy in that, hopeful that my heart would be purified in due course with the name's benevolent effect. I remain praying that one day I could also embark on the path of bhakti proper – as all real devotees have done, leaving behind the interests of the worldly world, offering their hearts at the service of their lord's feet."

F: My Precious Anartha-astakam

My Precious Anartha-astakam

– Svatantra-smriti, Artha-nirupanam –

Pure devotion, the mere notion, casts shivers up my spine;
Seriously, you're proposing, the whole world I'd decline?
I must be gradual, I must be casual, stir my concocted soup;
Anarthas, my precious, my precious, my precious!

Rules, fools, are for the pure, and they sure ain't my cure;
For to suppress and to oppress would be harmful for sure!
A higher taste you told to relish? I can't taste it, for I cherish
Anarthas, my precious, my precious, my precious!

Lord money, my honey, the precious aim of my life,
Kali's pal, yes I know it, but my life needs some strife!
Must work hard, must work hard, to make more than I need;
Anarthas, my precious, my precious, my precious!

Juicy gossip I so cherish, 'tis the elixir for the soul;
Thousand ears and thousand mouths I have grown for the foul!
To know the faults of all others is to feel good myself;
Anarthas, my precious, my precious, my precious!

Abstinence – alas, such a relic from the past!
The observance is abnormal, said Sri Freud's forecast;
And I agree, for I so love that tickling sensation;
Anarthas, my precious, my precious, my precious!

With gusto I devour every dish, I'm not afraid;
No matter who cooked, and no matter who paid!
I am what I eat, yes, and I therefore proclaim:
Anarthas, my precious, my precious, my precious!

I am great, and I am good, and don't you tell me what to do;
For I know what's my best, and that again I shall chew;
I don't need your advice, for I cherish my every vice:
Anarthas, my precious, my precious, my precious!

The names of Sri Krishna I should chant? But oh why?
I don't like it, and I know it, I don't even care to try!
For I heard it might harm my attachments and my pride:
Anarthas, my precious, my precious, my precious!

Then chant this, O friends, for the mistress of your heart;
Queen Anartha the sovereign, lest she be jealous and depart!
Be obedient – for she's precious like a gem on the snake's part;
And please carry her everywhere with your soul-molded cart.

ES: Buddhi-yoga and and the wayward ways of the intellect - Conducive and degrading applications of buddhi

We are sometimes riddled by a buddhi, intellect or intelligence, that serves to merely confuse and detract us from the path of devotion proper. Introspection is, then, in place in identifying the unholy ways of this subtle covering of the self.

When the intelligence is unable to decipher anything clearly, it is overcome by tamas. When the intelligence is branching out in all directions, uncontrolled, it is overcome by rajas. When the intelligence is peaceful and illuminated, it is situated in sattva.

To be able to exercise discrimination and self-analysis over the status quo of the intelligence, one should be situated beyond: yo buddheH paratas tu saH. Buddhi is born of rajas; to ravel on the platform of the buddhi without rising to buddhi-yoga, one is in a precarious situation. When the buddhi is established in yoga, one becomes established in sattva.

The formula for the proper establishment of the buddhi in yoga, in connection with the supreme, is noted in Krishna's words in the Gita:

teSAM satata-yuktAnAM bhajatAM prIti-pUrvakam |
dadAmi buddhi-yogaM taM yena mAm upayAnti te || 10.10 ||

"Unto those, who are always engaged, who worship with love, I bestow the yoga of the intelligence by which they may approach me."

Note carefully the qualifiers that lead to a situation, in which buddhi-yoga proper is established: It is given for those, who are perpetually engaged, and who worship with love. The antaryami bestows knowledge and forgetfulness in accordance wiht the living entities' desires; when the desires are skewed, a skewed understanding shall arise, and the antaryami shall make that strong. Therefore, buddhi-yoga proper is only attained with the purification of the heart in the fire of well-entrenched practice.

This is also the theme in Visvanatha Cakravarti's Raga-vartma-candrika, as he explains the three-fold ways in which the aspirant comes to attain proper understanding:

udbhUte tAdRze lobhe zAstra-darziteSu tat-tad-bhAva-prApty-upAyeSu AcArya-caitya-vapuSA sva-gatiM vyanakti [bhA.pu. 11.29.6.] ity uddhavokteH keSucid guru-mukhAt keSucid abhijJa-mahodayAnurAgi-bhakta-mukhAt | abhijJAteSu keSucid bhakti-mRSTa-citta-vRttiSu svata eva sphuriteSu sollAsam evAtizayena pravRttiH syAt | yathA kAmArthinAM kAmopAyeSu || 1.9 ||

When such greed has arisen, as seen in the scripture, to give the means for attaining the corresponding bhava "you show their own paths as the acarya and the indwelling witness" (BhP 11.29.6); from Uddhava's statement it is known that some attain this from the mouth of a guru, and some from the mouth of an all-knowing, blessed anuragi-devotee. Some, whose course of consciousness has been polished with devotion, will have all this knowledge manifest of its own accord; at this time, they will be seen as very joyfully – and indeed eminently – progressing, as a person desiring fulfillment of sensual desires is engrossed in the means for attaining the desired."

The true and saintly jnana-vritti (course of knowledge) will only flow in one, whose heart is polished by devotion, and who has fully committed himself to acts of devotional pursuit; only then will the intellect truly function in the parameters of uttama-bhakti and bring about nothing but the devotional welfare of the devotee. That pending, one should maintain a fair amount of caution and introspection, question one's motivations and see the undue biases that arise in the understanding – biases that lead our intellect to act against devotion.

The sadhaka should not, then, mistake all application of the intellect as buddhi-yoga. Should the rogue intellect be engaged, for example, in minutely examining the shortcomings of others, or in an endless wrangle of scriptural arguments for the sake of establishing one's view as the supreme, or merely for showing the defects of another's views, it is to be known that the intellect has been terribly misapplied and can only serve to degrade the tarkika.

ADB: Smarana and Purity of Heart (Darshan transcript)

The following is a transcript of a discussion with Sri Ananta Das Babaji on the 23rd of March, 2005.

Smarana and Purity of Heart

23rd of March, 2005 – Radha-kunda

Babaji Maharaja: What?

Madhava: About meditation on our svarupa, and lila-smarana. The question is that, not my question but some devotees are asking, that it is quite hard to see yourself in your own svarupa, so perhaps what the acharyas have told, like the methods of meditation, is not sufficient for Western devotees, because Western devotee and Bengali devotee, Indian devotee, there are different mind. So whether...

Babaji Maharaja: Different mind not. Bhakti is for all universe. Not Bengali, not Orissan, not U.P. person, not any question for it. Bhakti is all universe. Then, Bengali and Western no matter. Jiva Goswamipada has written, that zuddhAntaH-karaNaz cet kIrtanAparityAgena smaraNaM kuryAt. If your heart clean, then you do this smarananga-bhajana, memory. And with memory, you of course chanting name, mala. zuddhantaH karanaz cet. Cet mane if. If your heart clean, then you - without avoiding harinama's chanting - do smarana. Astakaliya-lila-memory. It is Goswamipada advice. There is no Bengali-man, no Western man, there is no any difference. [laughs]

Madhava: For everyone.

Babaji Maharaja: By bhajan his heart clean, my heart clean, I, why, how I that understand? You understand when your, that, your astakaliya-lila want your mind. It is very nice, of course I will smarana it.

Madhava: Right.

Babaji Maharaja: And up to now, when that is very, your mind take very difficulty. No that easy it will come. And no that taste. Up to now you bring force of your sravana-kirtana, for bhajana, for raga bhajana. Then when will come that taste, and your mind also enter into pleasure, happiness for lila-smarana, that time you do lila-smarana, no problem.

Madhava: Their question is that sometimes, for example...

Babaji Maharaja: Western and here Indian, no matter...

Madhava: Right. For example, someone may say that chanting one lakha harinama is very troublesome, so maybe, because one time you told that if...

Babaji Maharaja: One time, one lakha harinama, or half lakha, or three lakhas, that is why your lila memory smarana take another time. And it is another thing. Name chanting, when your heart no clean, that time also you make chant three lakhas harinama, no problem. But which is memory of lila, smarana, for that need little pure heart.

Madhava: Right. Right.

Babaji Maharaja: So at first purify, you chant name, and puja, and sat-sanga and read your book, sravanam kirtanam, these all bhajana-bhakti path, and when your mind take pleasure, happiness and come taste...

Madhava: Then svarupa comes.

Babaji Maharaja: Before that, you can practice little little. How your mind gradually enters that lila.

Madhava: Right.

Babaji Maharaja: But by force and sixty-four hours I will do this bhajana that won't...

Madhava: Will not work.

Babaji Maharaja: Own power not possible, that will automatically will come.

Madhava: Right. So there is no short-cut. Some are thinking that because this bhajana-process is some slowly going, dhire dhire, but we want to go very fast, so we should find something different that will...

Babaji Maharaja: That is fast, but not your... like that, not can go to fast. You try, sadhaka, first, no heart not clean, then cannot that going fast, not possible. And if going fast, twenty-four hours taking this harinama, and that with your lila-smarana, then also that will be vidhi-bhakti, not raga-bhakti. Raga-bhakti, Jiva Goswamipada has written, raga-bhakti ruci. Ruci will come. Your no hunger, no appetite, and many kinds of your all good food, but no hunger...

Madhava: Right.

Babaji Maharaja: And when hunger, then come ruci. When you see that food, then greed and ruci. Like taste that lila-smarana, then will come ruci.

Madhava: Right.

Babaji Maharaja: Need, then very need. Jiva Goswamipada has written that raga-bhajana is ruci.

Madhava: So the method, the bhajana-marga and the methods that acharyas have given, they are already the fastest method.

Babaji Maharaja: Yes.

Madhava: The best method.

Babaji Maharaja: Gradually, dhire dhire dhire.

Q&A: Birth Tithis of the Gopis

Q: Is the celebration Lalita-sasthi related to Lalita Sakhi?

A: Lalita Sasti indeed is not very likely to be connected in any way to Lalita Sakhi. It is, rather, a festival dedicated to Lalita Devi the shakti, an aspect of goddess Durga.

The details given in Radha-Krishna-ganoddesa-dipika add up to Lalita Sakhi's birth tithi occuring on sravana sukla-ekadasi. The following are the dates for all the Asta-sakhis, month and lunar day.

Lalita: sravana sukla-ekadasi
Visakha: bhadra suklashtami
Citra: asvina sukla-trayodasi
Indurekha: bhadra sukla-pancami
Campakalata: bhadra sukla-saptami
Rangadevi: bhadra sukla-tritiya
Tungavidya: bhadra sukla-pratipad
Sudevi: bhadra sukla-tritiya

Q&A: Traditional Gaudiya Vaishnavism: What does the term mean, why is it used?

Q: I've seen the concept "traditional Gaudiya Vaishnavism" frequently used. What does it encompass, and why has such a term been introduced?

A: The concept "traditional Gaudiya Vaishnavism" refers to established traditions of Gaudiya Vaishnavism existing since the times of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, his companions and their direct followers. The word "tradition" indicates the handing down of doctrinal interpretations and methods of devotional practice over the generations; it speaks of the presence of a parampara, a disciplic succession, an established and well preserved heritage.

The term has been coined to distinguish the tradition we regard as orthodox from the numerous contemporary and historical movements founded by charismatic leaders, who have issued reforms, introduced novel approaches and founded movements clearly distinct from the existing heritage of the tradition.

The word "traditional" is not necessarily applicable in the sense of embracing traditional social values and so forth; of course, whenever faced with, they are treated with appropriate respect. The word emphasizes tradition in the sense of a spiritual heritage, as a heritage of teachings on the path of devotion.

Traditional Gaudiya lineages are traced back to the companions of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu via a succession of mantra diksha initiations, otherwise commonly known as the guru-pranali. It is expected that every initiated Gaudiya Vaishnava is able to present their diksha-pranali when called for.

The origins of several prominent traditions, or parivAras (lit. "family") as they are often called, are listed below.
  • Sri Nityananda Prabhu, Sri Jahnava Thakurani. Virabhadra Goswami, son of Nityananda and Vasudha, and the vast Nityananda-vamsha (family dynasty). Ramachandra Goswami, the adopted son of Nityananda.
  • Sri Advaita Prabhu, Sri Sita Thakurani. Their son Krishna Mishra Goswami and the Advaita-vamsha dynasty.
  • Sri Gadadhara Pandit. Numerous branches including that of Achyutananda, son of Advaita. Many early mahatmas of Vrindavan were disciples of Pandit Gosai.
  • Sri Gopal Bhatta Goswami and Sri Srinivas Acharya. The Gosains of Radha-ramana are among the prominent followers of Gopala Bhatta. Srinivasa's influence spread across the entire eastern India.
  • Sri Lokanath Goswami and Sri Narottama Das Thakur Mahashaya. Thakur Mahashaya preached far and wide across Gauda, the waves of his influence reached as far as Manipur and Assam.
  • Sri Shyamananda Pandit and Sri Rasikananda Prabhu; Shyamananda was particularly influential in Orissa.
  • Sri Vakreshvar Pandit and Sri Gopal Guru Goswami. Particularly influential in Orissa.
Aside the above, there are countless other lineages descending from the companions of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Nityananda Prabhu and others, often of geographically limited influence. Many such lineages have remained relatively isolated for centuries until the appearance of a prominent preacher, with whose efforts the lineage has reached across the continent.

Many of the abovementioned lineages feature so-called vaMza-paramparAs, or family dynasties, in which members of a particular branch of the family have acted in the capacity of gurus over the centuries in their respective locales. These vaMzas formed a great deal of the backbone of the early tradition in Bengal. A vaMza is not, however, a prerequisite for a paramparA as such.

There are two common usages of the word parivAra. Sometimes it is used in referring to a spiritual family traced through diksha-connections (and in the sense of "followers"), and at other times it is used as an equivalent of vaMza, or a family dynasty. The word zAkhA, a branch, is also commonly used in referring to a particular tradition. The description of the early Gaudiya tradition in the model of branches of the Chaitanya-tree is described in Chaitanya Caritamrita (Adi, ch. 10-12).

Sri Ananta Das Babaji Maharaj, when asked, would describe his lineage as "Nityananda-sakha, Dhananjaya Pandit parivar". (Dhananjaya Pandit was one of the dvAdaza-gopAlas, a disciple of Jahnava Thakurani.) Some others are in the habit of saying "Nityananda parivar" or "Jahnava parivar", though the convention appears to favor the use of "Nityananda parivar" only for lineages with a direct connection with the Nityananda-vamsha.

Most traditional Gaudiya lineages feature a distinct tilaka-svarUpa, of which they are recognized. To give a few examples, the followers of Nityananda wear a sharp, triangular neem-leaf in their tilak, the followers of Advaita a heart-shaped large banyan-leaf, and the followers of Narottama a tulasi-leaf with a small stem. The followers of Gadadhar wear a leafless tilak, and the followers of Shyamananda the imprint of Radha's anklebell with a dot in the middle.

The Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, lacking a central authority since its very inception on account of its dynamic spread, has come to encompass a large diversity of practices and insights within the foundational framework of the Goswamis' teachings. For the most part, the distinct traditions are coming along rather well despite the plural nature of approaches. On account of such mixing, it is not uncommon to see local influences weigh on the praxis of a group of devotees just as much as the heritage of their individual branch does.

In practice, this means that a Vaisnava of Nityananda-parivara from a Bengali village and a Vaisnava of Nityananda-parivara from Radha-kunda may be like day and night, while the former may be very similar to other Vaisnavas of different parivaras around rural Bengal, and while the Kunda-vasi Nityananda-parivara Vaisnava may be very similar in his ways to the Thakur Mahasaya parivara mahatma at Govardhana.

F: Traditional Gaudiya Vaishnavism in the West

The following are reflections on the status and growth of classical Gaudiya Vaishnavism in the West, extracted from my writings at Vilasa Kunja forums.

The entirety of what we understand as traditional Gaudiya Vaisnavism in the West (WTGV) is geographically very scattered, leading to the exact problems I have noted in my blog and brought up on a number of occasions. Let me start off with an expression of concern I find weighing on my heart whenever I reflect on the global scenario of traditional Gaudiya Vaisnavism in the West in the context of my gurubhais.

Sri Ananta Das Babaji Maharaja has over 100 initiated Western disciples since 1994. Where are they? I have now been in Vraja for a total of two years since 2002. I've seen Niyama-sevas, and I've seen Gaura-purnimas, the peak travel times. Of the 100 disciples, I've seen a handful. Looking at a list of devotees initiated before me, some 80 of them, aside those living in Vraja, I've seen four or five, and I've heard news of a few more. Less than ten total. Where are the rest, what are they up to? I've been trying to ask around, but nobody seems to have a clear idea.

This, to me, speaks of a grave concern. People are unshielded, out in the open. "Fire at will," said the commandress of the material world. Even many gurubhais of mine who have received diksa and pranali are fairly scattered – sharing a wide range of interests in the diverse topics of the mundane world, interests disconnected from bhajana. Granted, in the beginning we may be scattered and that's all right, but the path is about dovetailing, refining and purifying our interests – not about cultivating them further!

Then, communities are vital. Very few will survive without community support. Only exceptionally strong individuals with deep devotional samskaras and firm practice will make it through longer periods of deprivation from Vaisnava-sanga. To think one will make it through on one's own is to be proud, and pride comes before the fall. How many tales and real life examples are there of Vaisnavas gradually getting steered off the path with the powerful and subtle allurements of daivi-maya? Has not enough been said of the importance of sadhu-sanga? Hear Thakur Mahasaya's wisdom on uncontrolled desires:

anyathA svatantra kAma, anarthAdi yAra dhAma,
bhakti pathe sadA deya bhaGga |
kibA se korite pAre, kAma krodha sAdhakere,
yadi hoy sAdhu janAra saGga? || PBC 23 ||

"Otherwise, independend desires in the abode of anarthas and the rest –
They always twist and bend the path of bhakti!
What can they do, lust and anger to the sadhakas,
If there is the company of saintly people?"

Peer pressure and so forth only work for so long. In the long run, should one keep doing sadhana as a matter of duty without a self-nourishing taste, the support of peer pressure will become a source of deep frustration that both leads one to discard the practice or substantial amounts thereof, as well as to ill feelings towards the sources of pressure. I am not alone in sharing the experience. Depending on the form and nature of peer pressure, especially if imposed from the side of people with less than pristine hearts, it may bear very adverse effects on one's sadhana in the end. The real need is for company that can infuse one with positive inspiration and, most of all, substantial taste. In the company of whom one can see and witness the reality of the path we travel. From that follow confidence, determination and the other virtues that help us carry on.

Such company can only come to fulfillment when there are mutual endeavors for the attainment of uttama-bhakti, a sincere heart's endeavor to let go of the mundane and to reach for devotional attainment as the primary task of life. For such, there must be focus, for without focus there is no power. Power, as in the other-worldly infusion that carries you through and helps you find strength and fulfillment. As the sunrays focused through a magnifying glass have the power to create fire, so does the all-pervasive and ever-available mercy of Thakur and Vaisnavas create fire when the rays of their good will are brought into sharp focus.

Then, all of that in practice:

Will we all eventually move to Vrindavan? Perhaps we will, perhaps we won't. Perhaps we'll move tomorrow, perhaps after a decade or two as our children have grown up. In the meantime, we need to be doing something meaningful! Then,

Will their ever be a "Traditional" Temple in the USA? Oh yes, I have no doubt there will be one in due course of time. As for when, that I cannot see. But yes, I feel it is desirable in the global evolution of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. The details of making that a success or a failure are something outside the scope of this post.

Is there any idea among our Guru-Jana that we should go and preach to the wider world? The principle of sharing is deeply engrained in Gaudiya Vaisnavism from the very beginning, with Sri Caitanya's descent and his munificent gift, followed by the pioneer efforts of Srinivasa, Syamananda and Narottama.

In what way and how? In a grand diversity of ways, each according to his and her own capacity and inclinations. Reaching out should be the loving sharing of a precious gift in the spirit of friendship and equanimity, taking place naturally in the life context we find ourselves in. No imposing is there, yet there is unreserved sharing where there is the interest in receiving, where there are people with open hearts.

Most people are not cut out to be "preachers", in as much as it means going out among the masses for education and infusion of divine inspiration. For success in such a task, one needs a substantial storehouse of accumulated spiritual power channeled out through mind and intelligence that are apt in catering to the needs of diverse individuals. Therefore, even many great mahatmas have not come out in the capacity of acarya figures in any larger scale – though the waves of their influence have been felt in the sampradaya.

At what point do people pick up and move their family to be closer to other Vaishnavas? When there is the desire, and when it becomes practically possible (through committed endeavors).

Where would we go? And with this, you hit the core of the problem... It seems as if there are no concentrations of our blend of Vaisnavas anywhere. Wherever you would go at this moment, you would find another Vaisnava in a situation similar to yours. Of course two are more than one, but that does not a community make. However it is a start, and when we have nothing, we have to start somewhere! Every construction begins with the joining of the first two parts.

Practically, I cannot say to where or to whose proximity one could move to. Everyone will have to see for themselves where they find Vaisnavas in whose company they feel content, with whom they find some synergy and familiarity in spirit. I have been trying to create contacts and mediums of communication to pave way for this to become a reality, yet I feel the task is a long way from success.

Physical proximity aside, one of the steps we ought to be taking forward is upping the medium of communication from written to spoken – for speech carries more effect than written content, as speech carries attitudes and emotions with more depth and clarity.

We could schedule phone conference meetings. There are instant messenger applications with phone conferencing facility widely available, and atop that many can be used free of charge. This would be one step onward towards creating deeper relationships between Vaisnavas of our flavor. And those relationships, in turn, are the foundation on which more in the way of a community will be built.

Q&A: When someone preaches wrong conclusions, what is the proper course of action?

Q: How should one act when someone, even if a senior devotee, teaches and preaches ideas that are contrary to proper devotional conclusions? Can one correct them, should one keep their company?

A:  The proper course of action depends largely on the relationship between yourself and the person presenting the unfit instructions.

Keeping the company of someone advocating unbefitting doctrines, or persistent in his misconceptions, is a disturbance for a life of bhajan. In keeping such company, the mind will grow restless in constantly contemplating the contrary views it meets with. One should keep the company of the sadachari-sadhus who have embraced the scripture and the teachings of the purva-acharyas, who have no independent message to advocate, and who are always seeking to improve their insight and realization of siddhanta proper.

If someone is established in a relationship where he is respected in the capacity of a person of whom the contrary devotee would take advice, it is appropriate for him to attempt to rectify the situation by appealing to him with proper evidence of the correct conclusion, and with the appropriate devotional spirit of care and compassion.

If someone does not have such a relationship, he should not make unsolicited attempts to correct another. He should rather, if he truly feels that something must be done to rectify the situation, submit the matter to someone in an appropriate situation and with the power to remedy the situation. Unfit attempts to correct another are in breach of proper devotional conduct and will merely create agitation in everyone involved. If one in such a situation wishes to clarify the matter, he should present his views in the form of a question laced with proper evidences and call for a comment, rather than making a direct statement of the inappropriety of another's view.

If one is confronted with such a situation on a public arena and the matter is directly addressed to oneself, then one may, if he feels so inclined, and with due awareness of the entanglement it may create, respond in a befitting manner. Otherwise, in an assembly of Vaishnavas, if the matter is not directly addressed to oneself, or if one's response is otherwise not expected, he would do well to first allow his seniors to address the matter for the welfare of all concerned.

One should not disrespect another or delve on his faults. Contemplation on the shortcomings of others, as well as discussions featuring critique of the same, when not undertaken with a realistic and sincere spirit of offering aid for the confused party, are detrimental for devotional progress. They occupy the mind and scatter it all across the universe, they create inner tension with the medium of negative emotional responses. In the worst case scenario, if undertaken with feelings of pride, they cripple the creeper of devotion and make one revert to a situation nondifferent from the object of the critique; thus the Lord teaches us of our dependence on sadhu-kripa.

Given all the complications involved with such situations, one would do well to stay afar from contrary company and instead seek the company of those, who are endowed with a similar spirit to oneself, who are affectionate in extending their friendship, and who are farther ahead on the path of devotion. In such company, the mind will remain focused on bhajan.

Q&A: Raga-marga and family life - Do the two go together?

Q: Do raga-marga and family life go together? It seems to me that there is much emphasis on renunciation, and I can practically see, as a householder, that especially with children it is often hard to focus on wholesome sadhana.

A: This question may certainly awaken as one reflects on the long traditions of vairagi-mahatmas in Vraja, and as one then comes across sayings in the scriptures that emphasize renunciation and seem averse to family life.

In addressing this, let us first establish the foundation: The nature of bhakti. How many times has devotion been described as apratihata (unobstructed) and avyavahita (uninterrupted), and how many times has the supreme independence of devotion been glorified? Can devotion, then, be dependent on external circumstances? Has it not been said, jIvanti san-mukharitAM bhavadIya-vArtAm sthAne sthitAH (BhP 10.14.3): "Staying in your place, filling your life with narrations of the Lord heard from the saints' mouths..."

Devotion cannot, therefore, be in a subordinate position to one's external position in life: Rather, it will reign supreme in any situation of life.

One is shackled to this world by the family and the children only as long as love for Krishna has not awakened:

tAvad rAgAdayaH stenAs tAvat kArA-gRhaM gRham |
tAvan moho ’Gghri-nigaDo yAvat kRSNa na te janAH || bhp 10.14.36

"O Krishna! As long as people do not become your devotees, so long do attachments and so forth remain thieves, so long is one's home a prison cell, and so long is one shackled by illusion at the family's feet."

Visvanatha Cakravartipada offers an illuminating commentary on this verse, consisting of a lengthy response to the objection that some renunciates may present, suggesting that the residents of Vraja are but ordinary householders, bound by a network of attachment:

"Yes. That is true for most worldly householders. However, what to speak of the householders of Vraja, even your ordinary devotees in other places are superior to these renounced critics. . . .

"O Krishna! As long as people do not receive the mercy of your devotees and become your followers, they remain in this position. However, when they become your devotees, they develop attachment for bhakti and aversion to things obstructing bhakti, and then repose all their love in you. In this way, the thieves of material attraction, hatred and love become sanctified by becoming fixed in you, and then help the devotee by giving him spiritual bliss, knowledge and a host of advantages.

"In that way the same home, which was once a prison cell created by favorable and contrary karmic reactions, becomes for the devotee a place filled with service to you by hearing and chanting your glories, and by a host of other activities meant to please you. These activities carry one to your eternal abode."

Then, renouncing one's spouse and children is not a pre-requisite for following raga-marga! The stage of anisthita-bhajana (unsteady worship) at which such speculations arise is called vyUdha-vikalpA (parading possibilities) in Visvanatha Cakravarti's Madhurya-kadambini (3.10); in this section, the author goes on to present at some length the devotee's speculations on whether to renounce or to remain with the family. A very significant aspect of this section is the total absence of any conclusion on whether one ought to renounce or not – it does not seem to make any difference whatsoever to the author.

The path of bhakti is not one of acceptance and rejection; it is one of transformation. Let us remind ourselves of Rupa Gosvami's two famous verses on vairagya (BRS 1.2.255–256):

anAsaktasya viSayAn yathArham upayuJjataH |
nirbandhaH kRSNa-sambandhe yuktaM vairAgyam ucyate || 1.2.255

"Being detached from objects of enjoyment while using them in an appropriate way in relationship with Krishna is known as befitting renunciation."

The magic, then, is in forging a relationship between the world and a life of devotion, connecting the dots and making one's whole life with all it entails spiritually meaningful. On the other hand:

prApaJcikatayA buddhyA hari-sambandhi-vastunaH |
mumukSubhiH parityAgo vairAgyaM phalgu kathyate || 1.2.256

"The rejection of objects with a relationship to Hari by a seeker of mukti, who considers them worldly objects, is known as worthless renunciation."

Do not be led astray by immature renunciation, then! By doing so, you would only hamper your own devotional growth.

Narottama Das Thakur Mahasaya, a great renunciate himself, taught us the proper spirit:

gRhe vA vanete thAke, hA gaurAGga bole DAke,
narottama mAge tAra saGga ||

"Whether at home or in the forest, if one calls out, 'Ha Gauranga!' – Narottama longs for his company."

How could he have said anything less? After all, his dear companion, Srinivasa Acarya, was a father to six beautiful children: Vrindavan, Radha-Krishna, Gati-govinda, Hemalata, Krishnapriya and Kancana-latika. No less was Rasikananda, the foremost among Syamananda's disciples, who had three sons with Syamadasi – Radhananda, Krishna-Govinda and Radha-Krishna. There is no scarcity of householders with children among Mahaprabhu's companions and the following generations of illustrious Gaudiya saints and sadhakas.

In my own parampara, there is a a whole lineage of householders, and indeed over the first six generations it is specifically a vamsa, or a family lineage – and this is a trend that is present practically throughout the broad Gaudiya tradition. There is no lack of precedents in this regard.

"That's all fine in principle", says the skeptic – "But surely a householder with children can't allocate sufficient time for sadhana!"

No doubt, children will take much of one's precious time – and let us remember that time spent in raising children is also time preciously spent. One who has given his or her life to Krishna, when there is unreserved atma-samarpana – "Ha Thakur! I am yours, and yours alone!" – has effectively transformed all of life's duties from worldly to divine. This we know as Krishna's samsara – it is no longer ours.

Now, we do also need to allocate time for acts known as svarupa-siddha-bhakti, or acts that are a direct devotional engagement by their nature, such as sravana, kirtana and smarana. How do we find the time for that? We find the time by ridding ourselves of so many of our precious anarthas: Watching movies, reading worldly literature, wasting our time with countless trivial pursuits. Re-priorize your life. Whatever the quantity of time you are able to invest in direct sadhana-activities, make that time stand out. Rather than wasting three hours in half-attentive hovering about, spend half an hour or one hour in sadhana with deep focus, entirely undistracted, giving your heart and soul to it.

Visuddha-bhajana is possible anywhere, and anytime – for those willing. When amidst obstructions, our passion for bhajana grows greater and greater, and our inner force of determination is nourished; but do not think of your children as something undesired! Whatever duties Thakur has integrated into your life, take them as his gifts and tend to them as you would to your other devotional deeds.

In concluding, let us hear the apt words of Bhaktivinoda, an exemplary sadhaka and a father to ten children, from his Gitavali:

sampade vipade, bhAi, bolo hari bolo
gRhe thAko, vane thAko, bolo hari bolo
kRSNera saMsAre thAki’ bolo hari bolo

"In success and failure, O brother, chant Hari, chant!
Staying home, or staying in the forest, chant Hari, chant!
Staying in Krishna's samsara, chant Hari, chant!"

* * * * * * *

Q: Is the following verse relevant in this context?

antare niSThA kara, bAhye loka-vyavahAra |
acirAt kRSNa tomAya karibe uddhAra || CC 2.16.239

[Prabhu said:] "Maintain strong faith internally and behave
outwardly as ordinary mortals. Then very soon, Krishna will uplift you."

A: Mahaprabhu's words (CC 2.16.239), cited earlier, were spoken to Raghunatha Das in a particular situation and are out of context here. Prabhu spoke of the befitting behavior and inner attitude in a situation where the conditions are adverse. With my post, I had hoped to demonstrate that the life of a householder is not necessarily an adverse situation one must strive to be soon delivered of. The life of a householder, just as the life of a renunciate, is only as beneficial or contrary as you make it be. An escape from householder life is not an escape from worldly desires – how many times have we witnessed the temporary nature of renunciation born of adversity?

Householder life can be a great asset, if you so will. Hear Kasyapa's words to Diti from the third canto of the Bhagavata (3.14.18-21):

sarvAzramAn upAdAya svAzrameNa kalatravAn |
vyasanArNavam atyeti jala-yAnair yathArNavam || 18
yAm Ahur Atmano hy ardhaM zreyas-kAmasya mAnini |
yasyAM sva-dhuram adhyasya pumAMz carati vijvaraH || 19
yAm AzrityendriyArAtIn durjayAn itarAzramaiH |
vayaM jayema helAbhir dasyUn durga-patir yathA || 20
na vayaM prabhavas tAM tvAm anukartuM gRhezvari |
apy AyuSA vA kArtsnyena ye cAnye guNa-gRdhnavaH || 21

"With the help of all the asramas, one with a wife, in his own asrama, may cross over the perilous waves of existence just as the ocean is crossed with boats."
"O esteemed one, she is said to be a half of the man, sharing in all that is auspicious and desired; sharing his burdens, a man leads a life without distress."
"Taking shelter of her, we can easily conquer the enemies of the senses, unlike those in other asramas, just as a fort-commander drives away the invaders."
"We are unable to return the favor to you, O queen of the household, even in our entire lifetime; not even they, who appreciate such qualities, can."

Especially, if the wife and the husband are both serious sadhakas, they can do a great deal to facilitate each others' devotional lives. The burden a renunciate would have to bear alone, the two can share, taking burden off each others' shoulders and paving a smooth way for fulfilling devotional engagement.

Contrary to "classical" gender roles seen in Indian societies, the male sadhaka will never consider himself to be the master and the enjoyer of the wife's services. Rather, he is a servant just as she is. She is a maidservant of Krishna, a dasi of Radha's - and you are dasa-dasanu-das. What right do you - or I - have, then, to demand or to expect favors of others? Of course, in a naturally affectionate relationship both are seeking opportunities to help the other, to facilitate the other's immersion in bhajana - but nothing ought to be taken for granted, lest we fall into a dark well of false egoism that devours our spirit of devotion.

Now, for such a dynamic to unfold in a manner that is truly fruitful, desires for enjoying the other in a mundane way will have to be forsaken. Alas, would not the mere thought of subjecting a maidservant of Radha and Krishna to our gross, bodily desires, be audacious! With this, we shall also have to reflect on abstinence in married life. But worry not, desires can be conquered! Bhakti is a most powerful force, causing wonders in those willing to receive and embrace this divine current in their hearts!

There is no obstacle too great for the sovereign goddess of bhakti to be conquered, for she is only nourished, defeating and subjugating each and every adversary – and there is truly no rival for her power in the three worlds. Let us seek a connection that taps us to the source of this divine force, and let us be committed with sincerity in sustaining this precious link – for having attained that, the great and the inaccessible shall be within an arm's length, and no attainment in the spiritual domain shall be beyond our reach.

Q&A: Celibacy and married life: What do the acharyas teach of the need for celibacy?

Q: What are the teachings of the acharyas concerning celibacy and married life? What if one is unable to follow the highest standard, or the standard described in the scriptures?

A:  The accepted form of sexual indulgement that does runs in accordance with the principles of dharma, and hence with the practice of bhakti-sadhana, has been described as bodily union taking place for the sake of generating progeny with one's duly wedded partner. With these notes, we'll focus on reviewing the evidences in the writings of the acharyas on this often-debated matter. The practices for becoming free of sexual desire will be discussed in a separate entry.

In the first verse of his Upadeshamrita, we read Sri Rupa Goswami listing upastha-vega, or the urges of the genitals, as one of the urges that need to be conquered over. Commenting on the verse, Sri Radha-Raman Das Goswami notes, tena ca tat-tad-vega-sahanasya bhakti-pravezopayogitvam eva na tu sAdhanatvam - "By forbearing all these urges, mere entrance to bhakti is gained; it is not a sadhana-practice." Hence, in entering into the world of suddha-bhakti, the control of sexual desire is called for.

As one in his list of definitions of what a Vaishnava is, Sri Jiva Goswami cites Skanda Purana and the instructions of Markandeya to Bhagiratha:

yathA skAnde mArkaNDeya-bhagIratha-saMvAde -
dharmArthaM jIvitaM yeSAM santAnArthaM ca maithunam |
pacanaM vipramukhyArthaM jJeyAs te vaiSNavA narAH ||

atra zrI-viSNor AjJA-buddhyaiva tat tat kriyata iti vaiSNava-padena gamyate || bhs 202

"Those people for whom the purpose of life is religion, for whom the purpose of sexual intercourse are children, and for whom the purpose of cooking is to serve the brahmins, they are Vaishnavas."
Thus those, who act in awareness of the orders of Vishnu, are understood as Vaishnavas.

The essence of the thought here is that a Vaishnava would not do something that wouldn't be pleasing to Vishnu, and since sexual intercourse without a purpose beyond enjoyment isn't something that can be offered, a Vaishnava would not engage in it. Then, the Bhagavata repeats the concept in three locations, describing the suitable period for sexual union:

gRhasthasya Rtu-gAminaH || bhp 7.12.11

"The householder should have sexual intercourse only in the fertile season."

gRhasthasyApy Rtau gantuH || bhp 11.18.43

"However [though brahmacharya was described], the householder may approach his wife for intercourse in the fertile season."

evaM vyavAyaH prajayA na ratyA
imaM vizuddhaM na viduH sva-dharmam || bhp 11.5.13

"In the same way [as with other injunctions giving room for sensual indulgence], sexual intercourse should not be for the sake of lust, but for the sake of progeny. Regardless, people do not understand such pure sva-dharmas."

Thus the pure sva-dharma, or the religious duty of the householder, has been defined.

Is there a spiritual application for sexuality, can we not employ our sex desire in the service of Krishna? The famous verse of Bhagavad-gita (7.11) addresses the matter:

dharmAviruddho bhUteSu kAmo’smi bharatarSabha || bg 7.11

"I am that lust, O greatest of the Bharatas, that is not contrary to dharma."

On this passage, there are varieties of commentaries. We embrace the words of our own purva-acharyas as the ones we are to follow. The commentaries read as follows:

zrIdharaH -- dharmeNAviruddhaH sva-dAreSu putrotpAdana-mAtropayogI kAmo’ham iti ||
vizvanAthaH -- dharmAviruddhaH sva-bhAryAyAM putrotpatti-mAtropayogI ||
baladevaH -- dharmAviruddhaH svapatnyAM putrotpatti-mAtra-hetuH ||

Sridhara: "I am the lust that is not contrary to dharma and of which the sole purpose is the bestowal of progeny for one's wife."
Vishvanath: "Not contrary to dharma means in such a way that the birth of progeny from one's wife is the sole aim."
Baladeva: "Not contrary to dharma means for the sole cause of the birth of progeny from one's wife."

Hence, begetting children that are educated in the principles of good, religious life is the desired application of sex desire. Hari-bhakti-vilasa, citing Padma-purana (5.9.44-47), praises this as the equivalent of brahmacharya:

Rtu-kAlAbhigAmI yaH sva-dAra-nirataz ca yaH |
sarvadA brahmacArIha vijJeyaH sa gRhAzramI || 11.156
iti matvA sva-dAreSu Rtumatsu budho vrajet |
yathokta-doSa-hIneSu sakAmeSv anRtAv api || 11.173

"The householder who approaches his devoted wife for intercourse in the period suitable for fertilization is known to always be a brahmachari."
"Thus, the intelligent person will approach his wife in the fertile period. That is said to be free of faults even if done to satisfy one's desires."

Going beyond the realm of sva-dharma into the realm of sadhana, there are further considerations. In Sadhana-dipika of Radha-Krishna Das Goswami, an early mahatma of Vrindavan, specific characteristics for eligibility for rAgAnugA-bhakti are outlined:

vizeSato rAgAnugAdhikAri-lakSaNaM darzayati (brs 1.4.7) --

na patiM kAmayet kaJcid brahmacarya-sthitA sadA |
tam-eva mUrtiM dhyAyantI candrakantir-varAnanA ||

The specific characteristics of the one who is eligible for rAgAnugA are given as follows (BRS 1.4.7):

"The beautiful-faced Chandrakanti did not desire a husband and always remained fixed in celibacy, meditating on Krishna's form."

Some have objected to this passage, suggesting that the citation is out of place since it is taken from the fourth chapter of the first division of Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu discussing the topic of prema, and that therefore brahmacharya would be for those on the stage of prema, not on the stage of sAdhana. However, Rupa Goswami presents Chandrakanti as someone who attained prema originating from bhAva due to rAgAnugA-bhakti (rAgAnugIya-bhAvottho yathA...), and the fact that she remained celibate all the time must mean she practiced brahmacharya also during the stage of sAdhana.

Radha-Krishna Das Goswami continues under the same heading:

smaraNaM kIrtanaM keliH prekSaNaM guhya-bhASaNam |
saGkalpo’dhyavasAyaz ca kriyA-nirvRtir eva ca ||
etan-maithunam aSTAGgaM pravadanti manISiNaH |
viparItaM brahmacaryam etad evASTa-lakSaNam || ity Adi || (vairAgya-martAnda 12.144-145)

"Thinking of sex, praising sex, engaging in amorous acts, looking at sex, speaking of it in confidence, making a decision to do it, to pursue it and to engage in its activities -- these are the eight aspects of copulation determined by the wise. Those engaged in brahmacharya should abstain from these eight aspects."

This brings us back to reflect on the power of sexual indulgence in its varieties forms to condition the consciousness into the confines of a material identity. Pursuit for the other-worldly identity is at the core of rAgAnugA-bhakti-sAdhana, and a sincere sAdhaka should endeavor to leave behind activities contrary to such cultivation.

All the aforenoted evidences should leave little room for interpretation over the ideal standard for a bhakti-sAdhaka. "However," someone may ask, "did the acharyas really understand our situation in this material world?" Yes, they certainly did; moreover, they had great confidence in the power of devotional practice when properly applied. Brahmacharya and other such virtues of restraint arise naturally in one who has turned his attention towards Krishna:

kRSNonmukhaM svayaM yAnti yamAH zaucAdayas tathA || brs 1.2.261

"Various restraints [among which Jiva glosses brahmacharya], purity and so forth arise of their own accord in the one who has turned his attention towards Krishna."

Hence, the virtue of celibacy will undoubtedly arise of its own accord in the one who is sincerely engaged in the practice of bhakti-sAdhana, even without separate endeavors!

Should one have lapses in his observances of the desired standard of abstinence, the following words of consolation are offered in the Bhagavata:

jAta-zraddho mat-kathAsu nirviNNaH sarva-karmasu |
veda duHkhAtmakAn kAmAn parityAge ’py anIzvaraH ||
tato bhajeta mAM prItaH zraddhAlur dRDha-nizcayaH |
juSamANaz ca tAn kAmAn duHkhodarkAMz ca garhayan || bhp 11.20.27-28

"He, whose faith for narrations of me has awakened, and who is disgusted with all works,
knowing all varieties of kAma as imbued with grief, is still unable to renounce them;
He should worship me, engaged with love, with faith and with firm conviction,
Reproaching the desires that lead to misery."

With such a meek and resolute approach, the grace of Bhagavan and Vaishnavas is quickly invoked, the obstacles on the path of devotion are swept aside, and the worshipable form of the Lord is firmly situated within the inner chambers of his heart. However, the one who philosophizes on the myriads of possible so-called spiritual applications of sexuality with a keen inclination for indulgement, will not attain para-bhakti in a hundred births without renouncing the intellect binding him to the material world. We read in the Gita:

yaH zAstra-vidhim utsRjya vartate kAma-kArataH |
na sa siddhim avApnoti na sukhaM na parAM gatim || bg 16.23

"He, who discards the precepts of the scripture, led to acts by kAma,
He will not attain siddhi, nor joy, nor the supreme destination."

Baladeva notes, sa siddhiM pumarthopAya-bhUtAM hRd-vizuddhiM naivApnoti - "He will certainly not attain that siddhi, the attainment of the means for the aims of human life, the fresh purity of the heart." Let us therefore, in all earnestness and enthusiasm, seek to embrace the desired standard of abstinence, knowing it is instrumental in attaining successive stages of devotional progress.