Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Yesterday (evening) we explained two questions.
Śrīpāda Bhāgavata Mahārāja: Yes, the questions that were answered by Kavi and Havi.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: What was the first question?
Śrīpāda Bhāgavata Mahārāja: The first question was, “What is the ultimate good, the ultimate benefit?”
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: [To Śrautī Mahārāja] Can you answer?
Śrīpāda Śrautī Mahārāja: “What is”… Mmm…
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: It takes you so much time to answer?
Śrīpāda Tridaṇḍi Mahārāja: “What is the process to achieve…?”
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: That was not the real question.
Śrīpāda Dāmodara Mahārāja: “What is the easiest way for someone to become free from the cycle of birth and death?”
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: The question was: “What is bhāgavata-dharma?”
By engaging in the process of bhāgavata-dharma, all problems will very easily disappear, the pain of endless births will cease, and kṛṣṇa-prema will manifest.
This was the question. What was the answer?
Śrīpāda Bhāgavata Mahārāja: One must associate with sādhus. By the association of a sādhu and the holy name…
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja:

ye vai bhagavatā proktā
upāyā hy ātma-labdhaye
añjaḥ puṁsām aviduṣāṁ
viddhi bhāgavatān hi tān

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.2.34)

[Even ignorant living entities can very easily come to know the Supreme Lord if they adopt those means prescribed by the Supreme Lord Himself. The process recommended by the Lord is known as bhāgavata-dharma, or devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.]

Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: This is the same teaching given by Kṛṣṇa Himself, regarding how He can be easily attained; how we can very easily attain His love and affection. By śravaṇam (hearing about Him), kīrtanam (chanting His names and glories), and smaraṇam (remembering Him), all the pain born from all problems will easily disappear.
After this, Kavi explained: You have forgotten Śrī Kṛṣṇa. So, first go to guru, accept him, and serve him. In this way you will be able to serve Kṛṣṇa.

bhayaṁ dvitīyābhiniveśataḥ syād
īśād apetasya viparyayo ’smṛtiḥ
tan-māyayāto budha ābhajet taṁ
bhaktyaikayeśaṁ guru-devatātmā

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.2.37)

[Fear arises when a living entity misidentifies himself with the material body because of absorption in the external, illusory energy of the Lord. When the living entity thus turns away from the Supreme Lord, he also forgets his own constitutional position as a servant of the Lord. This bewildering, fearful condition is affected by the potency for illusion, called māyā. Therefore, an intelligent person should engage unflinchingly in the unalloyed devotional service of the Lord, under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master whom he should accept as his worshipful deity and as his very life and soul.]

Kavi also explained:

yān āsthāya naro rājan
na pramādyeta karhicit
dhāvan nimīlya vā netre
na skhalen na pated iha

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.2.35)

[O King, one who accepts this process of devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead will never blunder on his path in this world. Even while running with eyes closed, he will never trip or fall.]

If one follows this path, even if he runs with his eyes closed, he will not fall down. What is the meaning of this verse?
Śrīpāda Bhāgavata Mahārāja: For those who are on this path, which has been given by Śrī Kṛṣṇa, practicing śravaṇam, kīrtanam, and smaraṇam under the guidance and shelter of sad-guru (a self-realized guru), it does not matter how difficult that path is. Still…
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: No.
Śrīpāda Sajjana Mahārāja: Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura comments that running with one’s eyes closed means that even if someone is not conversant with all the śāstras, but he performs navavidhā-bhakti, the nine-fold processes of bhakti, he will be assured of success. Am I understanding this correctly?
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: No. [To Śrīpāda Padmanābha Mahārāja] What is the meaning?
Śrīpāda Padmanābha Mahārāja: This path of bhāgavata-dharma is directly given by Śrī Kṛṣṇa. All the difficulties and pitfalls that are in the paths of karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga, and aṣṭāṅga-yoga have no effect on the devotee, because bhāgavata-dharma is the nature of the soul. The soul’s natural position is to serve Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, if the soul submits to the process of pure bhakti, he is protected. In fact, even if he is not perfect in following, he will still be supported.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: [To Śrīpāda Tridaṇḍī Mahārāja] Can you tell something more about this?
Śrīpāda Tridaṇḍī Mahārāja: You have to have courage and faith to keep on moving.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: [To Dhīra-kṛṣṇa dāsa] Can you explain this?
Dhīra-kṛṣṇa dāsa: It has already been emphasized that we should serve gurudeva as our own ātmā (soul). In that type of…
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: You cannot explain it. Better to listen to my explanation.
Speaking the words of Kavi, Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī says that if one who is on this path closes his eyes and runs very quickly, he cannot fall down or be derailed. What is the meaning? Vaidhī-bhakti is a slow development. The devotee practicing vaidhī-bhakti carefully opens his eyes, but his progress is very slow.
On the other hand, those who follow rāgānuga-bhakti are ‘closing their eyes.’ This means that even though they may neglect some limbs of bhakti, like dvārakā-dhyāna (meditation on Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes in Dvārakā), or arcana, they are successful. They always weep:

evaṁ-vrataḥ sva-priya-nāma-kīrtyā
jātānurāgo druta-citta uccaiḥ
hasaty atho roditi rauti gāyaty
unmāda-van nṛtyati loka-bāhyaḥ

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.2.40)

[In the heart of one who adopts such a transcendental vow, attachment for chanting the name of his most dear Lord arises and melts his heart. Now he rises above the condition of the general mass of people, and he is beyond caring for their opinions and views. In a natural way – not out of pretence – he acts as if mad. Sometimes he bursts out laughing and sometimes he sheds floods of tears. Sometimes, in a loud voice, he calls out to Bhagavān and sometimes, with a sweet voice, he sings Bhagavān’s glories. At other times, when he perceives his beloved standing before his eyes, he even starts dancing in order to please Him.]

The devotional activities described in this verse are not about vaidhī-bhakti. The devotee described here is always weeping and laughing, devoid of any shame. This is the meaning.
When one follows rāgānuga-bhakti, there is no harm if he neglects the few limbs of vaidhī-bhakti which are not favourable for the cultivation of rāgānuga.** By the process of rāgānuga-bhakti alone, even if he neglects other processes, he will attain all success. This is the hidden meaning of ‘running with one’s eyes closed.’
Śrīpāda Padmanābha Mahārāja: Can we say, then, that the entire first answer of Kavi refers to rāgānuga-bhakti?
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: He begins his reply from vaidhī-bhakti, which includes the verse beginning bhayaṁ dvitīyābhiniveśataḥ, and then he reaches rāgānuga-bhakti.
Vṛndāvana dāsa: In regard to what you were saying about the devotee on this path being able to reach perfection while running with his eyes closed, does this support the statement that bhakti is not dependent on anything? Is that the understanding?
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: I explained the meaning that in vaidhī-bhakti you follow certain rules and regulations, with very slow progress. You must go very carefully, with open eyes, respecting all and following all regulations of the bhakti line. Then, after a long time – or even after many births – rāgānuga-bhakti will manifest. ‘Closing one’s eyes and running very fast’ refers to the true rāgānuga sādhaka’s neglect of some of the limbs of bhakti. There will be no chance of falling down for him; he will continue to perfection.* Here, in this verse [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.2.40], there is no mention of the limbs of bhakti. Actually, the devotee described in this particular verse is a mahā-mahā-bhāgavata [playing the role of a rāgānuga-bhakta]. He is doing nothing here, nothing, except calling out, “Ha (alas) Kṛṣṇa! Ha Kṛṣṇa!” Sometimes laughing, sometimes weeping, seeing Kṛṣṇa in his heart, and sometimes becoming silent (mauni). He will not fall down, even if he neglects any limb of bhakti, and he will rapidly increase in his love.
Padmanābha dāsa: Gurudeva, does ‘closing his eyes and running’ mean that the sādhaka is not following at least the basic principles of…
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: You have not understood, and therefore you cannot ask a proper question. Try to understand what I have just explained.
Padmanābha dāsa: I understood a little bit, Gurudeva.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: You cannot understand. You will have to become like them (the sannyāsīs and brahmacārīs present), being without wife and without possessions; always hearing and thinking about bhakti subjects, and serving them. Then you will be able to easily understand.
Indupati dāsa: We see many devotees who go to Vṛndāvana and absorb themselves in chanting. They ignore many limbs of bhakti and simply chant in Vṛndāvana, but after some time they leave the process entirely.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Such persons are not following rāgānuga. Rāgānuga-bhakti is very rare, very rare. Whether in Vṛndāvana or anywhere else, such ordinary devotees are prone to commit offenses.
What I explained is for rāgānuga-bhaktas like Raya Rāmānanda. He was taking care of young and very beautiful naked ladies without being at all affected. Can you do so?
Indupati dāsa: No, Śrīla Gurudeva.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: One who tries to do so without having Śrīla Rāya Rāmānanda’s qualification, thus neglecting the regulative principles, is simply lusty. Only persons like Śrīla Svarūpa Dāmodara and Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī can do such things. They are qualified, and the attainment of their qualification is our life’s aim and object.
Śrīpāda Padmanābha Mahārāja: Some devotees say, “Śrīla Gurudeva, Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja, is preaching rāgānuga-bhakti. We should therefore only hear rasa-kathā, and in that way we can enter into rāgānuga-bhakti.”
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: What am I explaining here? Rāgānuga-bhakti? Or what?
Śrīpāda Padmanābha Mahārāja: You are explaining vaidhī-bhakti also.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: I am discussing mostly vaidhī-bhakti. I am not discussing anything at all about rāsa-līlā. They are speaking falsely.
Śrīpāda Sajjana Mahārāja: It is sometimes said that this path of bhakti is like a sharp razor’s edge. Is this only in relation to navavidhā-bhakti, the nine-fold process of vaidhī-bhakti?
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: It is this world that is like the sharp edge of a razor (kṣurasya dhārā), not bhakti. Bhakti is very soft. You do not understand? This world, which is made of ignorance, is kṣurasya dhārā; there are problems everywhere. Give up this ignorance and come to bhakti. This is the meaning of the verse you refer to.

* Excerpts from Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s lecture in Germany, July 8, 2007:

Nowadays, especially in European countries and in Russia, devotees think they are very ‘rasika’. They want rasa (the taste of spiritual mellows). They want to go up to the top of the tree of prema at once. They only want mādanākhya-bhāva (the highest ecstatic devotional love, situated only in Śrīmatī Rādhikā). They do not want to follow vaidhī-bhakti. They don’t like vaidhī-bhakti.
This idea is very dangerous, so be very careful about this. Those who have these ideas are nonsense sahajiyā-vaiṣṇavas.
… When one has no rāga (attachment to Kṛṣṇa and absorption in His service), one may read from the scriptures that he should engage in bhakti to Kṛṣṇa, and if he does not do this, he must go to hell. If one thus engages his mind in bhakti by this fear, his activity is called vaidhī-bhakti.
What is rāga? What is the meaning of rāga? Rāga refers to the love for Kṛṣṇa that is present in the residents of Goloka Vṛndāvana – in Subala and Śrīdāmā, in Nanda Bābā and Yaśodā Maiyā, and especially in Lalitā, Viśākhā, and Śrīmatī Rādhikā. Rāga means ‘spontaneous attachment to Śrī Kṛṣṇa.’ It is the love by which the Vrajavāsīs serve Kṛṣṇa and control Him. This is rāga, and the person who has this rāga is called rāgātmikā.
One may develop greed to follow these rāgātmikā associates of Śrī Kṛṣṇa by hearing Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam from a bona fide guru or Vaiṣṇava, and then desiring to serve Kṛṣṇa like Subala, Śrīdāmā, and Madhumaṅgala, or like Mother Yaśodā. … We should know all these truths.

śāstroktayā prabalayā tat-tan-maryādayānvitā
vaidhī bhaktir iyaṁ kaiścin maryādā-mārga ucyate

Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.269)

[Devotional service governed by the rules and regulations of the scriptures is also called maryāda-mārga, or the reverential path of devotion, the path of serving the Lord in opulence, by different scholars (such as Vallabhācārya).]

Śrīla Vallabhācārya has explained about devotional etiquette and regulations (maryāda). Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam gives us this instruction: śravaṇam (hearing), kīrtanam (chanting), smaraṇam (remembering), pāda-sevanam (serving the lotus feet), arcanam (worshiping), vandanam (praying), dāsyam (becoming a servant), sakhyam (becoming a friend), ātma-nivedanam (surrendering everything), constitute the nine limbs of vaidhī-bhakti.
There are also five limbs of bhakti that are most important: sādhu-saṅga (association with devotees), bhāgavata-śravaṇa (hearing Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam), mathurā-vāsa (living in Mathurā), nāma-kīrtana (chanting the holy name), and śrī-mūrtira śraddhāya sevana (worshiping the deity with faith and veneration).
If we follow these without offense, we will attain prema-bhakti (pure transcendental love of Śrī Kṛṣṇa) very soon.
… Simply telling others, “I have greed,” will not do. If one says, “I don’t want to do any vaidhī-bhakti. There is no need to follow vaidhī-bhakti,” this is against śāstra.

pañcarātra-vidhiṁ vinā
aikāntikī harer bhaktir
utpātāyaiva kalpate

Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.101)

[Devotional service of the Lord that ignores the authorized Vedic literatures like the Upaniṣads, Purāṇas, Nārada-pañcarātra, etc., is simply an unnecessary disturbance in society.]

Those who don’t follow the rules and regulations of bhakti are completely independent and whimsical. They don’t want to follow. They don’t want to accept any inconveniences or suffering in the execution of vaidhī-bhakti. They want to jump at once to the top of the tree of bhakti. They want only rādhā-dāsyam and mañjarī-bhāva (direct, personal service to Śrīmatī Rādhikā in the secluded grove).
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has stated (from the Śrutis and Smṛti Śāstras) that there are sixty-four limbs of bhakti, and the first ten limbs are especially important. First comes guru-padāśraya. One must first accept harināma initiation, and then dīkṣā-mantra initiation. One must learn how to do bhakti, and learn what is bhakti, what is not bhakti, what is sakāma-bhakti (the performance of bhakti for the purpose of satisfying material desires), niṣkāma-bhakti (the performance of bhakti without desires for material results), nirguṇa-bhakti (devotion that is unaffected by the qualities of material nature), uttama-bhakti (pure devotional service), āropa-siddha-bhakti (activities which are not pure bhakti, but are designated as bhakti due to their being offered to the Supreme Lord), saṅga-siddha-bhakti (endeavors that are associated with, or favourable to the development of bhakti but are not of themselves purely composed of bhakti), svarūpa-siddha-bhakti (endeavours that are purely constituted of devotional service).
Aspiring devotees should know all these truths; otherwise they will perform bhakti which is actually not bhakti. Those who don’t want to follow these principles are stupid and nonsense. Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja used these words; I am simply repeating his words. So be very careful.
… Always be careful in this regard. The people who deny the importance of observing the principles of vaidhī-bhakti do not want to follow, but you must first follow vaidhī-bhakti. If you read Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta under the guidance of a rasika Vaiṣṇava, your vaidhī-bhakti will automatically turn into rāgānuga-bhakti. This is the process.

** Excerpts from The Hidden Path of Devotion, Chapter 3:

Which limbs are practiced in rāgānuga-bhakti? Which are essential and which are disregarded? To answer this, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura has described five categories of devotional practices for a person with genuine greed:

(1) Abhīṣṭa-bhāva-mayī: absorption in one’s siddha-bhāva – the mood of a manjarī.
(2) Abhīṣṭa-bhāva-sambandhī: those practices related to one’s cherished mood. Such practices surely deliver the desired goal.
(3) Abhīṣṭa-bhāva-anukūla: those practices which are favourable to one’s cherished mood.
(4) Abhīṣṭa-bhāva-aviruddha: those practices which are neutral, neither favourable nor opposed to one’s desired mood.
(5) Abhīṣṭa-bhāva-viruddha: those practices which are detrimental to the attainment of one’s desired mood.

… First is abhīṣṭa-bhāva-mayī, and then bhāva-sambandhī. The practices of bhāva-sambandhī are superior to those of nimitta-kāraṇa, which are bhāva-anukūla. The bhāva-sambandhī practices are the mūla-kāraṇa, the main cause, in the development of abhīṣṭa-bhāva-mayī. Ekādaśī, Janmāṣṭamī etc. are secondary.
The injunction that Ekādaśī is secondary is for a person who gives stress to Ekādaśī, Janmāṣṭamī, and Rāma-navamī, but who is not hearing hari-kathā, chanting, and remembering Kṛṣṇa.
What is the harm in neglecting Ekādaśī? For one who has greed and is so engaged in bhāva-mayī or bhāva-sambandhī that he is unaware of his external surroundings, there is no harm. Vaṁśīdāsa Bābājī Mahārāja is an example of this. He was observing Ekādaśī for three or four days, on Aṣṭamī (the eighth lunar day) and Navamī (the ninth lunar day). Then, on Ekādaśī, the eleventh lunar day, he was completely unaware of the day due to being absorbed in internal consciousness. Similarly, Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī would be internally absorbed in remembering his services in the pastimes of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa for many days, and Ekādaśī would pass by at that time. Because these two mahā-bhāgavatas (topmost selfrealized devotees) were performing rāgānuga-bhajana, there was no harm in their missing Ekādaśī. However, if one misses Ekādaśī when one is externally conscious, this would be very harmful for his bhakti.
… First I explained abhīṣṭa-bhāva-mayī, which may be in a ripe or unripe stage. In the stage of sādhana it is the absorption in one’s internal identity as a gopī while still having a material body, and in the siddha stage one actually becomes a gopī. In both cases, it is abhīṣṭa-bhāva-mayī. Next is bhāva-sambandhī upādāna-kāraṇa. These are activities that must be performed, like hearing and remembering. These practices must not be neglected for any reason. Regarding nimitta-kāraṇa practices, if we cannot follow them under certain circumstances, it is not harmful. Therefore, they are considered secondary.
Observing the vow of Kārtika may fall in the category of either upādāna-kāraṇa or nimitta-kāraṇa. When it is followed simply in accordance with the rules of renunciation such as avoiding certain foods and activities, then it is in the category of nimitta-kāraṇa. When it is followed in accordance with the principles of hearing and chanting the names and glories of Śrīmatī Rādhikā and Śrī Kṛṣṇa, then it is in the category of upādāna-kāraṇa and is bhava-sambandhī. If austerities are observed during the month of Kārtika, that is good, but śravaṇam and kīrtanam during Kārtika must not be neglected.
… Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Applying gopī-candana tilaka and nāma-mudrā (stamping the names of Kṛṣṇa on one’s body), which are nimitta-kāraṇa, are in the category of bhāva-anukūla, which is the third of the five limbs of rāgānuga-bhakti. First is bhāva-mayī, second is bhāva-sambandhī, and third is bhāva-anukūla. Anukūla means ‘favourable.’ Practices in the category of bhāva-anukūla begin with worship of Tulasī-devī by offering her obeisances, watering her, and doing parikramā (circumambulating her). These practices are favourable, and should therefore be performed. Other practices include the worship of cows, Dhātrī (Myrobalan) trees, Aśvattha (Banyan) trees, and offering respect to brāhmaṇas.
Do you understand? These are among the sixty-four varieties of bhakti listed in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu and are somewhat favourable and beneficial. We follow the instructions of Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī in his Śrī Manaḥ-śikṣā: “Sujane bhūsura-gaṇe – honouring even brāhmaṇas who are not single-pointed in worship of Kṛṣṇa, and who may be engaged in demigod worship.” At the same time, if a rāgānuga Vaiṣṇava has no time for these practices there is no harm, because they are nimitta-kāraṇa. So, all of these are bhava-anukūla; they are favourable. Do you understand?
Tamāla-kṛṣṇa Mahārāja: Favourable, but not essential.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Yes, not essential.
Next is bhāva-aviruddha – not unfavourable and not favourable.
… Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura has said that for the rāgānuga-bhakta, although śravaṇam, kīrtanam, and smaraṇam are superior, the management needed for arranging the kīrtana is not less important.
… Tamāla-kṛṣṇa Mahārāja: Does management come in the category of bhāva-aviruddha?
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: To understand, let us take this example. You are preaching, managing, and holding meetings; you are going here and there in order to promote nāma-saṅkīrtana. There is no alternative – you must perform these duties. At the same time, it is essential to internally maintain a certain mood while engaging in these activities. When that mood is present, there is no harm in executing these activities, as they are favourable for rāgānuga-bhakti.
The fifth category for rāgānuga-sādhakas is bhāva-viruddha. The activities to be rejected are: Ahaṅgrahopāsanā (considering oneself to be non-different from the object of worship); karanyāsa (assigning the syllables of the mantra to the fingers); mudrās (various procedures of intertwining the fingers during worship); and dvārakā- and mahiṣī-dhyāna (meditation on Kṛṣṇa’s Dvārakā pastimes and worship of His queens). The previously mentioned practices, those in the category of bhāva-aviruddha, may be helpful, but these are directly harmful and should be rejected.
… One should respect all the limbs of bhakti, beginning with śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇu-smaraṇaṁ, but among all the limbs, smaraṇam, meditation on Kṛṣṇa, is the goal. Āsakti (attachment) is of two kinds: āsakti for the limbs of sādhana (devotional practices leading to the goal), and āsakti for Kṛṣṇa and His associates. Both are good, but in later development, āsakti in śravaṇam, kīrtanam, and all such practices of sādhana-bhakti will transform into āsakti for remembering Kṛṣṇa and His associates. In this way, āsakti begins as bhāva-anukūla (activities that are favourable for rāgānuga-bhakti) and later on becomes bhāva-mayī (complete absorption in one’s cherished mood).

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