The following discourse was delivered by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja in Hong Kong, on July 2, 2006, published in The Hidden Path of Devotion
What is the true meaning of yoga? Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means ‘connecting two things,’ or ‘adding two things together.’ If you want to connect two bricks together, then cement, water and other substances are needed. Similarly, real yoga is the process of connecting two persons; one being the Supreme Lord and the other being each and every spirit soul.
Forgetting the Supreme Lord, we, the embodied souls, suffer greatly. We have passed through all the various species of life, as donkeys, asses, dogs, pigs, and sometimes as demigods. By His causeless mercy, the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa has now given us the opportunity of this human life. But this form is very temporary; we do not know when we will die. We grieve because we are under the illusion that we are this body, which is a bag of urine, stool, blood, and other unwanted things. We believe we are this body, and we endeavour only to please it. We do not try to satisfy our soul.
The easiest way to meet with Kṛṣṇa is through yoga. We are His parts and parcels, His eternal servants. There is no question of comparing Kṛṣṇa’s servants with worldly servants. However, as service to Kṛṣṇa is very loving and beautiful, like that of a friend, mother, father, or son, or like the service of a lover towards his most beloved, Kṛṣṇa’s eternal servants are all, by nature, very loving.
What is taught as yoga nowadays is merely the exercise of the body. By exercising throughout our life, or throughout our thousands of future lives, still we will not be happy. We will repeatedly grow old, and one day we will have to give up this body.
Here, we are discussing true yoga, the ultimate connection. By what process can we meet the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa? It is through the process of love and affection called bhakti-yoga. By giving our love to Kṛṣṇa, we can attain that perfectional stage in which we will be happy forever.
But what is that process? How can we attain the stage of prema, or pure love of God?
Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.1.11)
Uttama-bhakti, or pure devotional service, is the cultivation of activities that are meant exclusively for the pleasure of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, or in other words the uninterrupted flow of service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, performed through all endeavours of the body, mind, and speech, and through the expression of various spiritual sentiments (bhāvas), which is not covered by jñāna (knowledge aimed at impersonal liberation) and karma (reward-seeking activity), and which is devoid of all desires other than the aspiration to bring happiness to Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
This is the definition of uttama-bhakti, or pure devotion. By this love and affection for the Supreme Lord, we can meet with Him and serve Him. Scripture states: “Parānuraktir īśvare – deep and strong affection to Īśvara, the Supreme Controller Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is the only transcendental religion of the soul.”
sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhokṣaje
The supreme occupation (dharma) for all humanity is that by which mankind can attain loving devotional service unto the transcendental Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.
Spontaneous love and affection for Kṛṣṇa is the transcendental and eternal religion of the soul, called parama-dharma, meaning ‘the transcendental and eternal religion of the soul.’ The teachings of present-day religions are not truly dharma. If these religious teachings would indicate devotion to Kṛṣṇa (kṛṣṇa-bhakti) then they would be dharma, but most of the adherents of religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism don’t accept the transcendental form of the Supreme Lord. They say that no qualities reside in Him.
What would be the use of accepting God if He has no
mercy or attributes; if He is like zero? We do not wish to
accept such fallacious ideas. Without selfish motive, we desire that whatever we do, we do to please Kṛṣṇa. We are advised to consider, “What I am going to do — will it please Ƙṛṣṇa or not? Will it please my Gurudeva?” In bhakti-yoga, we consider, “Only if our endeavours please them will we perform those acts, we will strongly reject whatever is unfavourable for advancement in bhakti.” This is bhakti-yoga, and it begins from its smallest fraction, called śraddhā (faith).
ādau śraddhā tataḥ sādhusaṅgo
tato ’nartha-nivṛttiḥ syāt
tato niṣṭhā rucis tataḥ
athāsaktis tato bhāvas
sādhakanām ayaṁ premṇaḥ
prādurbhāve bhavet kramaḥ
Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.4.15–16)
In the beginning one must have a preliminary desire for self-realization. This will bring one to the stage of trying to associate with persons who are spiritually elevated. In the next stage one becomes initiated by an elevated spiritual master, and under his instruction the neophyte devotee begins the process of devotional service. By execution of devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master, one becomes free from all material attachment, attains steadiness in self-realization, and acquires a taste for hearing about the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. This taste leads one further forward to attachment for Kṛṣṇa consciousness, which is matured in bhāva, or the preliminary stage of transcendental love of God. Real love for God is called prema, the highest perfectional stage of life.
What is śraddhā? It is the strong faith that, “If I perform kṛṣṇa-bhakti, then the fulfilment of all other endeavours of my life will automatically be accomplished.” Śraddhā is the tendency to serve Kṛṣṇa, and its outer symptom is a very strong faith in the words of Kṛṣṇa, scriptures, and guru. How does śraddhā manifest? It comes only by sādhu-saṅga, by being in the association of a sādhu. But this refers to a real sādhu, not an imitation.
Sādhu-saṅga first creates a platform of faith in the words of Kṛṣṇa, guru, and Vaiṣṇavas. The sādhu will direct the candidate for bhakti-yoga to accept harināma and dīkṣā initiation. The student then selects a bona fide guru, and learns the process of performing bhakti.
Bhakti is of two kinds: vaidhī-bhakti and rāgānuga-bhakti. Vaidhī-bhakti-prema (the development of love of God attained by worshipping Kṛṣṇa in awe and reverence) yields Vaikuṇṭha-dhāma (the abode of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in His opulent feature as Lord Nārāyaṇa), and rāgānuga-bhakti* takes the practitioner to Kṛṣṇa-dhāma. You are most fortunate to be coming in the line of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Following in His line, one day you will be able to achieve rāgānuga-bhakti, by reading Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and the books of the Gosvāmīs.
Gurudeva teaches the sixty-four processes of bhakti. Of these, the first is to serve Gurudeva – to fulfil the desire of Gurudeva – and thus be able to follow the processes without deviation. Of the sixty-four processes of bhakti, nine are prominent:
śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ
arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ
Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia, and pastimes of Lord Viṣṇu, or Kṛṣṇa, remembering them, serving the Lord’s lotus feet, offering Him respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, offering Him prayers, becoming His servant, considering Him one’s best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with body, mind, and words). These nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service.
Of these nine processes, five are most prominent:
sādhu-saṅga, nāma-kīrtana, bhāgavata-śravana
mathurā-vāsa, śrī-mūrtira śraddhāya sevana
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 22.128)
One should associate with devotees, chant the holy name of the Lord, hear Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, reside at Mathurā-maṇḍala (which includes Vṛndāvana), and worship the Deity with faith and veneration.
And of these five, three are most prominent: śravaṇam (hearing), kīrtanam (chanting), and smaraṇam (remembering). And of these three, one is most prominent – kīrtana of Kṛṣṇa’s name. If you chant and remember Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s name, you will automatically attain all benedictions and success in life.
harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 17.21)
In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.
If you follow these processes, then all anarthas (habits and thoughts that are detrimental to bhakti) will disappear. What are these anarthas? The first is nāma-aparādha (offences to the holy name), of which there are ten kinds. Don’t criticize any Vaiṣṇava, and don’t be envious of them. Don’t disobey your Gurudeva. Try to totally follow and imbibe what he and other Vaiṣṇavas are teaching. At the time of chanting the holy name, don’t be distracted by sleep or laziness. Chant “Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare, Hare Rāma Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma Hare Hare.” Chant your Gurudeva’s dīkṣā-mantras daily, and understand their meanings.
Anarthas include nāma-aparādha, sevā-aparādha (offences in the execution of devotional practices) and so on. If you follow this regulative process, anarthas will diminish and gradually go away, and then niṣṭhā will come. Niṣṭhā means steadiness of mind. The devotee fixed in niṣṭhā will determine, “I can die, but I cannot give up chanting the holy name.” Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura was beaten in twenty-two market places. As they beat him, the miscreant Muslim government followers demanded, “You should chant Allah! Hoda! Don’t chant Hare Kṛṣṇa!” But he continued to chant, “Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare, Hare Rāma Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma Hare Hare.” At last he became almost like a skeleton – bloody and only some skin remaining – and finally they threw him in the Ganges.
Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura later came out of the Ganges as if nothing had happened, and he was still chanting, “Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa.” At that time his prosecutors fearfully begged pardon at his lotus feet. Haridāsa Ṭhākura personified niṣṭhā.
Do you know about Śrī Prahlāda Mahārāja? His father tortured him in various ways and ordered, “Don’t speak the name of Viṣṇu, my enemy!” But Prahlāda never followed that order. He was always chanting, “Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa.” Oh, be like that – very strong. Kṛṣṇa’s mercy will then come to you.
After niṣṭhā, then ruci, or spiritual taste, will come; taste in chanting, taste in reading scriptures, in cooking for Kṛṣṇa, and in all other devotional practices. There are two kinds of ruci: vastu-vaisista-apeksani and vastu-vaisista-anapeksani.
If kīrtana is melodious, with excellent instruments and sweet voices, the devotee inspired in vastu-vaisista-apeksani ruci will listen with relish, whereas even if a singer has great love and affection but is not singing in a melodious tune, that devotee will not appreciate it. If the Deity is decorated with gold ornaments and cloth, that devotee will offer obeisances, but if the same Deity is devoid of decoration, he will not do so.
When there is no need for such external considerations, when it does not make any difference whether or not the singer has a sweet voice, and only Kṛṣṇa Himself is important, that type of ruci is called vastu-vaisista-anapeksani. Even if the singer’s voice is not tuneful but the singer has śraddhā, niṣṭhā, and ruci, the devotee so imbued will want to hear him. On the other hand, where there is a sweet tune (rāga-ragina) but no bhakti, he is without desire to hear.
The second type of ruci leads to the next stage of bhakti, called āsakti, which means ‘strong attachment to the process of bhakti and to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. When one is situated in āsakti, he thinks, “Without chanting the holy name, I would not be able to remain alive for a moment.” Attachment first comes for bhajana, and later manifests for bhajanīya, meaning the object of bhajana, Kṛṣṇa and His associates. When this āsakti becomes perfect, then rati (a transcendental mood) appears.
Rati is very difficult for conditioned souls to comprehend.
asau bhāva ucyate
When devotional service is situated on the transcendental platform of pure goodness, it is like a ray of the sunlight of love for Kṛṣṇa. At such a time, devotional service causes the heart to be softened by various tastes, and it is called bhāva, or spiritual emotion.
Rati, or bhāva, is situated on the platform of śuddha-sattva, which is above the modes of material nature and therefore also very difficult to understand. If one is performing bhajana having renounced all attachments – his wife, children, home, wealth, reputation, and all other possessions – and yet rati (śuddha-sattva) has not come, that person’s stage is very critical; there is still a chance that he will fall down. I will explain, in an easy way, the meaning of śuddha-sattva.
There are two kinds of associates of Śrī Kṛṣṇa: rāgātmikā and rāgānuga. Mother Yaśodā, Nanda Bābā, Subala, Śrīdāmā, and the gopīs are rāgātmikā, eternal associates in Goloka Vṛndāvana-dhāma, and those who follow them are rāgānuga. When a rāgānuga-bhakta sādhaka (a practitioner of rāgānuga-bhakti) is deeply absorbed in the associates of Kṛṣṇa, like Mother Yaśodā, Nanda Bābā, a cowherd friend (sakhā), or Kṛṣṇa’s most beloved gopīs, that sādhaka’s mood is called rāgānuga and his stage in bhakti is called śuddha-sattva. This is a very high stage; pure bhakti is not ordinary.
After rati, prema appears in the heart. In that regard I will tell a story, in brief.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord. He is quite independent. He is not dependent; He can do whatever He wants. Still, Mother Yaśodā bound that powerful Kṛṣṇa with a rope and He began to weep. Although He is the Supreme Lord, when Mother Yaśodā told Him, “I will punish You,” He wept. Was His weeping imitation? Not at all. He feels that if Mother Yaśodā will not love and serve Him, He will not be able to remain alive for a second. At first she threatened to beat Him, but instead she somehow bound Him and tied Him to a grinding mortar. Actually she bound Him by her love and affection.
This is called prema, or pure love. If you want a full connection with Kṛṣṇa, then first develop spontaneous love for Him.
* Rāgānuga-bhakti is bhakti that follows in the wake of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s eternal
associates in Vraja, the rāgātmikā associates, whose hearts are permeated
with rāga, the unquenchable loving thirst for Kṛṣṇa which gives rise to
spontaneous and intense absorption.
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