People in general are misguided. They want to lord it over the environment by intentional or unintentional exploitation. Being themselves trapped in the snare of material illusion, they always try to lure the sincere servants of the Lord to indulge in their illusions and also sometimes create awkward situations for them. It thus becomes an urgent necessity for a devotee to become ‘irrevocably’ fixed in the service of his spiritual master and thus in the proper culture of Krsna Consciousnes.
Only through the causeless mercy of the Supreme Lord does a sincere soul receive the service of a sad-guru. And, only through saranagati, can one actually recognise that service. Tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya – saranagati to the spiritual master is a prerequisite for any devotee aspiring for spiritual progress. Srila Sridhara Maharaja says, “In my study I found that saranagati alone is sufficient to produce all sorts of development in bhakti.”
It is only the consciousnes of separate interest that has kept us from being fully Krsna Conscious. Bhaya dvitiyabhinivesatah syad – in the words of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, “I can thrive individually, to ignore the collective life and to try for separate interest. That fine point; that has been told to be responsible for all these disturbances. That fine point. I wanted to seek my own pleasure, separating myself from that of collective consideration.” But, for the one who has taken complete shelter of the Supreme Lord through His bona-fide representative (prapadyamanasya), devotion, perception of the Supreme Lord, and detachment from other things, develop simultaneously. Saranagati places the devotee on a subtle plane of dedication and harmony, protecting him from selfish exploitation and artificial renunciation.
Having taken refuge at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna, he escapes from the reactionary cycle of karma. Eagerly waiting for the mercy of the Lord (tat te ’nukampam su-samiksamano), he tolerates all the sufferings due to his past misdeeds with a repentant heart (bhunjana evatma-krta vipakam) all the while offering obeisances to Him with his heart, words and body. Our Parama-Gurudeva Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada writes in his purport,
"A sincere devotee earnestly desires to go back to the Lord’s abode. Therefore he willingly accepts the Lord’s merciful punishment and continues offering respects and obeisances to the Lord with his heart, words and body. Such a bona fide servant of the Lord, considering all hardship a small price to pay for gaining the personal association of the Lord, certainly becomes a legitimate son of God, as indicated here by the words daya-bhak. Just as one cannot approach the sun without becoming fire, one cannot approach the supreme pure, Lord Krsna, without undergoing a rigid purificatory process, which may appear like suffering but which is in fact a curative treatment administered by the personal hand of the Lord.” (Bhag. 10.14.8 Purport)
The Path of Saranagati
To save themselves from being termed as exploiters, sometimes the fruitive workers consider the devotees of the Lord to be leading an easy life by avoiding the so-called duty towards society and the necessity to work for themselves. But little do they know that the path of spiritual realisation and surrender, though seemingly poetic and unreal, is in actual fact the ultimate goal of life and is laid with thorns at every step.
ksurasya dhara nisita duratyaya
durga pathas tat kavayo vadanti
"The path of spiritual realization is very difficult. It is sharp like a razor’s edge. That is the opinion of learned transcendental scholars." (Katha Upanisad 1.3.14)
It should thus be noted that even though a strong caution has been posted at the gate of the path of spiritual realisation, the seeker of the Absolute Truth has the courage to walk this path, which is rare to be found amongst the general masses. The true devotees of the Lord naturally have an unflinching faith in the words of guru and Krsna and hence they take up the path of saranagati with enthusiasm, determination and patience (utsahan niscayad dhairyat). One of the six limbs of saranagati is a strong conviction that Krsna will give protection (raksisyatiti visvaso) and it is this conviction in the devotee that makes him fearless of all undesirable consequences. An example may be given of the devotee Citraketu, who although being cursed by Mother Parvati to take a low birth as a demon, remained peaceful and accepted the curse considering it to be the wish of the Supreme Lord.
narayana-parah sarve na kutascana bibhyati
svargapavarga-narakesv api tulyartha-darsinah
"Devotees solely engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, never fear any condition of life. For them the heavenly planets, liberation and the hellish planets are all the same, for such devotees are interested only in the service of the Lord." (Bhag. 6.17.28)
On the other hand, the devotees of the Lord are so attached to the Lord that they don’t mind the difficulties if, due to them, they obtain an opportunity to associate with Him. After the Mahabharata War when Sri Krsna was bound to leave for Dvaraka, Srimati Kunti-devi expressed her feelings to Him saying that till now she and her family were protected by Him from so many dangers like poisoned food, a huge fire, cannibals, the shameless assembly, the sufferings in the forest, the great war, and then the brahmastra. But now that His Lordship had decided to leave His devotees that they have no shelter other than His lotus feet (yesam na canyad bhavatah padambujat), she felt that those dangers should be always present so that they may always have His association.
vipadah santu tah sasvat tatra tatra jagad-guro
bhavato darsana yat syad apunar bhava-darsanam
"I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths." (Bhag. 1.8.25)
Saranagati: The Descending Process
Devotion to the Supreme Lord cannot be attained through academic endeavor. Bhakti is beyond jnana and karma. The scholars of this world can never succeed in understanding the science of devotion by analysing the scriptures with their finite intellect. Acintyah khalu ye bhava na tams tarkena yojayet – the inconceivable cannot be understood through mental speculation or mere logical arguments. But only to those who have thoroughly cast aside the process of ascending speculative knowledge (jnane prayasam udapasya), knowing their own finite nature compared to the infinite nature of the Supreme Lord, and have surrendered themselves (namanta eva) at the lotus feet of a pure devotee of the Lord with an earnest desire to know the Absolute Truth – the Lord grants them the proper understanding about the science of devotion. Srila Puri Maharaja writes in this connection: “No one is able to attract the mercy of the book Bhagavata without first being blessed by the grace of the devotee bhagavata. Without this we remain forever incapable of relishing the nectar of krsna-bhakti.”
Mere knowledge of the scriptures is one thing, but realising the true conclusion is another. Without a proper shelter the seeker may wander here and there without achieving the proper understanding and worse still, he might arrive at an improper understanding. We hear from our seniors that Devananda Pandita, though held in high esteem as the foremost among the scholars who lectured on the Bhagavatam, had improperly concluded liberation to be the final end result of the teachings of Srimad Bhagavatam. Being ignorant about the path of pure devotion, he committed Vaisnava aparadha at the feet of an exalted pure devotee of the Lord. Later, by the mercy of Sriman Mahaprabhu, he got the purifying association of Vakresvara Pandita. Srila Puri Maharaja writes in The Art of Sadhana:
Srila Vrndavana Dasa Thakura describes how the highly elevated Vaisnava Vakresvara Pandita came to Devananda’s hermitage. Devananda was struck with wonder seeing his wonderful appearance, and his ecstatic singing and dancing with deep emotion. The desire for liberation disappeared from his heart, and he fell at Vakresvara’s feet, smearing the dust all over his body. Reverence for Mahaprabhu blossomed within him, showing the wonderful result of serving a maha-bhagavata.
Saranagati in the Highest Sense
The only sharp demarcation between sadhana-bhakti and raga-bhakti is the type of surrender. In sadhana-bhakti there is self-sacrifice in the knowledge of the rules and regulations, and in raga-bhakti there is self-forgetfulnes to serve the Supreme Lord. One is calculated and the other is automatic and continuous. Srila Sridhara Maharaja says,
"Self-forgetfulness is higher than self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice is the beginning. And in the highest stage is self-forgetfulness. But that does not mean no sentient activity. In that plane also, fully conscious of their interest, one party, another party, competition, everything is there, but the background is such. And it is difficult to understand the background. Whatever we find here, everything is there; but this is of opposite type, and original is the ideal type. Keen competition is also there; in the plane... the foundation is self-forgetfulness. The peculiarity is that. Center consciousness, and here, this plurality... this selfishness of the plurality; that is the difference."
In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, the talk between Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Raya developed from varnasrama-dharma and vaidhi-bhakti, and finally culminated in unalloyed spontaneous love of God as found in the gopis of Vraja. As per the instructions of our Srila Gurudeva and previous acaryas, the knowledge of the path of unalloyed spontaneous devotion is the most confidential and that path, being worshipable, should always be held high above our head. That divine love of Godhead, which is transcendental (aprakrta), will only be misunderstood if brought down to the mundane arena. So, highest regard should be established throughout the world for this lofty conception.
But Mahaprabhu is so merciful that He has come to freely distribute this love of God. Only through the grace of Mahaprabhu will one be able to taste that divine love. So, it has been advised by our seniors that one should firmly adhere to Mahaprabhu, Who is none other than Radha and Krsna combined. In the words of Srila Sridhara Maharaja,
“Strictly stick to gaura-lila, Mahaprabhu, and you will automatically find within your heart that radha-rasa-sudha-nidhi is flowing. Don’t attempt directly to have it. It will come automatically, spontaneously.” (Follow The Angels)
yatha yatha gaura-padaravinde
vindeta bhakti krta-punya-rasih
tatha tathotsarpati hrdy-akasmad
"As devotion unto the lotus feet of Sri Gaurasundara is attained by a greatly pious person, inevitably the ocean of nectar which is the service of the lotus feet of Sri Radha is accordingly born within his heart. (Sri Caitanya-candramrta 88)
People in general coming from different walks of life, carry their own inhibitions and affinity based on age, gender, cultural background and upbringing. Each has their own set of ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ in the relative sense. But, by becoming devotees of the Supreme Lord Govinda, we should try to see in the light of the absolute interest and try to discard what is not beneficial towards that goal.
Lord Krsna concludes the Bhagavad-gita with these words to Arjuna:
sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah
"Dismiss all other engagements and prospects, and come to Me alone. Your inner hankering will be fulfilled beyond your expectations. You will find such dignity in Me that you will be beyond reaction and repentance." (Gita 18.66)
Srila Sridhara Maharaja further explains,
“If one comes to this conception, everything else will be seen as sin (aha tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah). Everything conceived of as duty or purity in this material world will be seen as sinful, and all conceptions of religiosity will be reduced to the level of sin. In the absolute plane, everything and everyone belongs wholesale to Krsna, and the slightest deviation from this ideal is no better than committing sin. Mere self-forgetfulness leads to impersonalism and culminates in deep slumber. But self-forgetfulness (sarva-dharman parityajya) in Krsna’s service (mam eka sarana vraja) is positive and living. It is the full, absolute plane of life.”
We are fortunate to be living when the greatest gift of divine love of God is still being freely distributed by the sincere servitors of Sriman Mahaprabhu. We are even more fortunate to have the shelter of Srila Guru Maharaja who is the embodiment of the mercy of Sri Nityananda Prabhu. It would only be foolish not to surrender and miss the chance of attaining the ultimate goal of life, which had never been offered before the advent of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
anarpita-cari cirat karunayavatirnah kalau
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasam sva-bhakti-sriyam
sada hrdaya-kandare sphuratu vah saci-nandanah
May the son of Srimati Saci-devi, Sri Gaurahari, forever manifest spontaneously within the innermost core of your heart. Adorned with the radiant splendor of molten gold, He has descended (avatirnah) in the Age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow upon the world that which has not been given for a long time – the beauty of His own brilliantly radiant ujjvala-prema-rasa bhakti, service in the highest mellow of amorous love.