Hearing from A Rasika Acarya

Aug 2 2000 - Krishna Talk 3
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Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhar Dev Goswami
Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev Goswami

"Srila Viswanatha Cakravarti Thakura has mentioned that one should first come to the stage of anartha-nivrithi before attempting to hear the rasa-lila topics"

Question: Is it true that to make advancement in Krsna consciousness one should hear from a rasika-acarya (a spiritual master advanced in relishing mellows of pure devotion) on the level of Viswanatha Cakravarthi Thakura?

Answer: One who has lived in either Vrindavana or Navadwip for some time knows that the sahajiya section is quite fond of this sort of explanation. But such emphasis is not entirely fact.

acaryera mata yei, sei mata sara tanra ajna langhi' cale, sei ta' asara

"The order of the spiritual master is the active principle in spiritual life. Anyone who disobeys the order of the spiritual master immediately becomes useless." (Adi-lila, 12.10)

Devotees who know the science of Krsna consciousness have accepted the above verse as conclusive. This verse states the active principle in spiritual life, the key to spiritual advancement. If one pleases the spiritual master then one very quickly advances in Krsna consciousness, but if one displeases the spiritual master by neglecting his order then one becomes asara or useless.

Srila Viswanatha Cakravarti Thakura in his commentary on the Bhagavad-gita verse vyavasayatmika buddhir / ekeha kuru-nandana (2.41) states that it is the duty of a disciple to strictly follow the orders of his spiritual master.

Viswanatha writes as follows: "The instructions that my gurudeva has given me about sravanam, kirtanam, smaranam, pada-sevanam, etc. of Sri Bhagavan are my very sadhana, my very sadhya and my very life. I am unable to relinquish them in either the sadhana stage or in sadhya. My single desire and only engagement is to follow them. Besides this, I have no other desire or engagement, even in my dreams. There is no loss for me, whether by following these instructions I attain happiness or misery, or whether my material life is destroyed or not." (As published by Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti)

This is the open secret of success for advancement in spiritual life. One must have firm faith in the orders of the spiritual master and follow his orders wholeheartedly. The Vedas also confirm:

yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah prakasante mahatmanah

"To one who has staunch faith in the words of the spiritual master and the words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the secret of success in Vedic knowledge is revealed."

It appears that many devotees are now confused about the process of advancement in Krsna consciousness and think that simply by hearing rasa-lila from a so-called rasika-guru that all their troubles will vanish. Perhaps this is an attractive proposal for those who are merely sentiment mongers, but the serious candidate in Krsna consciousness should know that sooner or later such discussion of rasa-lila in an unqualified assembly certainly leads to full-fledged sahajiyaism.

To support their claims of righteousness in hearing rasa-lila, the so-called rasika-gurus of the sentiment mongers like to quote the following Bhagavatam verse in support of their speculation:

vikriditam vraja-vadhubhir idam ca visnoh
sraddhanvito'nusrnuyad atha varnayed yah
bhaktim param bhagavati pratilabhya kamam
hrd-rogam asv apahinoty acirena dhirah

"A transcendentally sober person who, with faith and love continuously hears from a realized soul about the activities of Lord Krsna in His rasa dance with the gopis, or one who describes such activities, can attain full transcendental devotional service at the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus lusty material desires, which are the heart disease of all materialistic persons, are for him quickly and completely vanquished."

The statement made here, sraddha anvitah is that one who has full faith will attain the Lord's pure devotional service by hearing and chanting the Lord's pastimes with the young gopis. While commenting on this verse Srila Viswanatha Cakravarti Thakura has mentioned that one should first come to the stage of anartha-nivrithi before attempting to hear the rasa-lila topics. It is sometimes taken that sraddha anvitah or full faith means anartha-nivrithi, the stage of being free from misconception and unwanted disturbances in the heart. In that stage one achieves bhaktim param bhagavati, pure devotional service and hrd-rogam the disease of the heart is vanquished forever.

When Krsna kills a demon, that demon gets liberation and whenever Krsna preforms His pastimes of love, the perverted form of love, namely lust in the heart of the living entity, is also vanquished. Yet hearing the rasa-lila of Krsna and His intimate love affairs with the gopis is never recommended as a method of practice (sadhana) by anyone who actually knows the science of Krsna.

Krsna killed many demons before He manifested His pastimes of love with the gopis. According to Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura, the demons killed by Krsna represented various demoniac tendencies in the hearts of the living entities. Trnavarta represented the personification of argument; Vatasura represented the form of boyhood offenses; Bakasura represented the personification of cheating religion; Aghasura represented the form of cruelty; Dhenukasura represented the ass of blunt judgement; Kaliya represented the personification of malice and Pralambasura represented the personification of impersonalism. All these demons were killed by Krsna. Therefore, one should first rid one's heart of those demoniac tendencies before attempting to hear the love affairs (rasa-lila) of Radha and Krsna. It is only logical.

Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has mentioned in his Bhagavatam commentary (2.2.12) that unless one is freed from material sex desire, one should not read or hear topics past the second canto of Bhagavatam. Srila Prabhupada writes as follows:

"So purification means getting free gradually from sex desire, and this is attained by meditation on the person of the Lord as described herein, beginning from the feet. One should not try to go upwards artificially without seeing for himself how much he has been released from the sex desire. The smiling face of the Lord is the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, and there are many upstarts who at once try to begin with the Tenth Canto and especially with the five chapters that delineate the rasa-lila of the Lord. This is certainly improper. By such improper study or hearing of Bhagavatam, the material opportunists have played havoc by indulgence in sex life in the name of Bhagavatam. This vilification of Bhagavatam is rendered by the acts of the so-called devotees; one should be free from all kinds of sex desire before he tries to make a show of recital of Bhagavatam. Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura clearly defines the import of purification as cessation from sex indulgence. He says, yatha yatha dhis ca sudhyati visaya-lampatyam tyajati, tatha tatha dharayed iti citta-suddhi-taratamyenaiva dhyana-taratamyam uktam."

"And as one gets free from the intoxication of sex indulgence by purification of intelligence, one should step forward for the next meditation, or in other words, the progress of meditation on the different limbs of the transcendental body of the Lord should be enhanced in proportion to the progress of purification of the heart. The conclusion is that those who are still entrapped by sex indulgence should never progress to meditation above the feet of the Lord; therefore recital of Srimad-Bhagavatam by them should be restricted to the First and Second Cantos of the great literature. One must complete the purification process by assimilating the contents of the first nine cantos. Then one should be admitted into the realm of the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam."

It was also told to us by Srila B.P. Puri Goswami Maharaja that his Guru Maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, was very strict about reading or hearing even the baby pastimes of Krsna, what to speak of reading or hearing the amorous pastimes of the Lord with the gopis. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura as a method of practice never recommended such. Therefore, we find that the disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura never indulged in such matters in the course of their preaching activities. Higher topics were always reserved for the most qualified devotees of the Lord. The pastimes of Radha Krsna were never taken to the public or to the ears of the neophyte devotees.

There is actually no difference between purely chanting Hare Krsna and the pastimes of Radha Krsna save and except that chanting the holy name is the safer position. Therefore it is advised that one should hear the holy name of Krsna. Srila B.P. Puri Goswami Maharaja was also fond of saying, "Take full shelter of the holy name of Krsna and there will be less commotion and more promotion."

Just consider. If while still subject to sex desire one tries to hear the pastimes of Radha and Krsna but fails to control the mind and at that point allows some unwholesome thought to enter, then a great offense will be committed. We have heard from Srila B.R. Sridhara Deva Goswami Maharaja that when such an offense is committed against the lila of the Supreme Lord, the guardians of that plane will take note and the offender may be barred from entering there forever. Certainly this should be taken very seriously. To save us from such an unfortunate end, the recommended process to achieve purification is Krsna-Kirtan (chanting the holy name) and not smaranam (the process of remembrance of lilas).

Srimad Bhagavatam, Srila Jiva Goswami, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, our Prabhupada and many other stalwarts have all given stress to kirtan as the most effective process for this age.

kaler dosa-nidhe rajann asti hy eko mahan gunah
kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet

"The age of Kali, the repository of all evils, has but one glorious characteristic; in this age, those who simply chant the holy name of Krsna are liberated and reach the Supreme Lord." (Bhag. 12.3.51)

nama-sankirtanam yasya, sarva-papa-pranasanam
pranamo duhka-samanas, tam namami harim param

"Krishna's holy name can relieve us from all undesirable sinfulness, all filthy characteristics, and all miseries. Let us all bow down to Him." (Bhag. 12.13.23)

bhajanera madhye srestha nava-vidha bhakti
krsna-prema. 'krsna' dite dhare maha-sakti
tara madhye sarva-srestha nama-sankirttana
niraparadhe nama laile paya prema-dhana

"Of all forms of divine service, nine forms are superior, which with great potency bestow upon devotees love of Krsna, and their personal relationship with Him; and of the nine, the best is nama-sankirtan, the congregational chanting of the holy name. By offencelessly taking the holy name, the treasure of love for the Lord is attained." (CC. Antya 4.70,71)

Not only is the process of kirtan recommended by sastra (scripture), all other forms of devotional practice are subservient to kirtan.

yadyapy anya bhaktih kalau karttavya, tada kirtan-akhya-bhakti-samyogenaiva

"In the Kali-yuga, of the nine basic forms of devotional practices, the forms other than kirtan certainly should be practiced, but they must be conducted subserviently to kirtan." (Bhakti-sandarbha, sankhya 273)

It may be argued that unless the holy name is chanted purely it will not have any effect whereas the pastimes of the Lord are immediately relishable and purifying. But this is a faulty argument. Even before the holy name is chanted purely it has a purifying effect. Nama-bhasa is the stage of chanting before suddha-nama (pure chanting) is reached. Continuous chanting during the stage of nama-bhasa gradually gives us promotion to suddha-nama.

The pastimes of the Supreme Lord are supra mundane and cannot be understood or relished by the mundane mind and senses which are covered with lust. Thinking of Radha and Krsna when one is still a conditioned soul, what to speak of when one is suffering from sex desire, is more or less a dreamy thing. That is to say that such so-called neophyte meditation has no actual touch with the plane of reality in which Radha and Krsna are situated. In other words, coming in contact with the lila of Radha and Krsna is not a thing of this world. One must cross many lower planes before coming to the transcendental platform.

upajiya bade lata 'brahmande' bhedi' yaya
'viraja' brahmaloka' bhedi' paravyoma' paya
tabe yaya tad upari 'goloka-vrndavana'
krsna-carana'-kalpavrkse kare arohana

"The creeper of devotion is born, and grows to pierce the wall of the universe. It crosses the Viraja River and the Brahman plane, and reaches to the Vaikuntha plane. Then it grows further up to Goloka Vrndavana, finally reaching to embrace the wish-yielding tree of Krsna's lotus feet." (CC Madhya 19.153,4)

This is the death-blow to the sentiment mongers. They want rasa-lila which is situated in the highest plane of divinity, but they want that experience through intellectual adjustment, not by paying the actual price. In the language of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura such persons are known as pukura-curiwale, pond thieves.

We find that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would sometimes become absorbed in thoughts of the lila of Krsna. When the Lord came in contact with that plane of consciousness He manifested ecstatic symptoms such as trembling, faltering of the voice, and becoming unconscious. He would sometimes sweat blood, and His limbs would sometimes contract within His body. The Lord manifested these symptoms as a result of coming in connection with the transcendental plane.

Srila B.R. Sridhar Deva Goswami Maharaja used to say; "Only we are to conjecture the ideal. But if we think that we have got that, it is finished. We have got something else. It is such a thing, adhoksaja. Any force of our mind or intelligence can never catch it. Avan manasa gocara. It exists transcending our mental speculation and also the consideration of our judiciousness. But still it exists."

Purification of the mind and senses is required if we want to progress to the transcendental plane and that purification is most substantially achieved by taking shelter of the holy name of Krsna. That was the opinion of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

ceto-darpana-marjanam bhava-mahadavagni-nirvapanam
sreyah-kairava-candrika-vitaranam vidya-vadhu-jivanam
anandambudhi-vardhanam prati-padam purnamrtasvadanam
sarvatma-snapanam param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam

"Let there be all victory for the chanting of the holy name of Lord Krsna, which can cleanse the mirror of the heart and stop the miseries of the blazing fire of material existence. That chanting is the waxing moon that spreads the white lotus of good fortune for all living beings. It is the life and soul of all education. The chanting of the holy name of Krsna expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life. It gives a cooling effect to everyone and enables one to taste full nectar at every step."

Some gentleman has written in a recent publication that anyone who says that we should not listen to the narration of Krsna-lila with the gopis is certainly an atheist. But if we were to follow that line of thinking then even the Mahajanas (great devotees) would have to be considered atheistic. The fact is that those with high regard for Divinity always deal with Divinity with the greatest caution, such that offense should not be committed. The neophytes should therefore not concern themselves with the narration of the lilas of Krsna as much as they should concern themselves with the holy name of Krsna. One should first surrender to the holy name. And if one is a disciple of a bona fide spiritual master he should first concern himself/herself with the instructions of that spiritual master. That is the way of advancement in Krsna consciousness.