The Highest Ideal

Jan 8 2011 - Krishna Talk 119

There is no exact equivalent in the English vocabulary to explain the Sanskrit term ‘rasa’ as used in the context of transcendental relationships. The closest English word for rasa used by our acaryas in rendering English translations of Sanskrit literatures is ‘mellow’. Certainly, enough thought has been given before stopping at the word, ‘mellow’ for rasa. The origin of this word in English stems from the sense of ‘ripe’, ‘sweet’, and ‘juicy’ and is used to define something that is tempered by maturity or experience.

The taste and experience of a ripened mango can never be traced in a raw mango, no matter how much it is artificially processed. In a similar way, the experience of divine exchange of rasa between the Lord and His devotees cannot be held within a heart tainted with perverted material crookedness. Most of the spiritual experience is waiting on the other side of this temporary world – after the death of this body. As long as we are embodied within this sheath of flesh and bones, we are subjected to various material miseries that by nature come without asking. The best thing we can do while in this world is to develop strong faith in the words of the guru and the sastra, in the Holy Name and become wise by cultivating detachment.

As per the instructions of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, in our present condition the tendency to improve spiritually is laudable, but we should scrupulously cultivate only those qualities that are beneficial for our spiritual health. Srila Rupa Gosvami has given the most quintessential instructions for a sadhaka in the eleven verses of Sri Upadesamrta. These verses, beginning with the verse, vaco vegam manasah krodha vegam, should be the subject matter of our introspection. Regularly pondering over these instructions we should calibrate our sadhana and our ideal. The desire for reclusive smarana of Krsna’s pastimes in a conditioned state is injurious, and will only produce lust. Srila Sarasvati Thakura writes in his song, Vaisnava Ke:

kirtana prabhave smarana haibe
sei kale bhajana nirjana sambhava

Internal remembrance can occur by the power of kirtana, and only then is solitary service possible. (Vaisnava Ke 19)

In the Gaudiya sampradaya more importance has been laid on congregational kirtana of the Holy Names of the Lord than internal remembrance (smarana) of His pastimes. The sankirtana-lila of Mahaprabhu has been compared directly to the rasa-lila of Krsna in Vrndavana. But categorically, the sankirtana-lila of Mahaprabhu is placed higher than the rasa-lila of Krsna in the sense that the sankirtana-lila is both sweet (madhurya) and magnanimous (audarya), whereas krsna-lila is sweet but limited to the internal (antaranga) devotees of the Lord. The Lord taught this by His own example:

bahiranga sange kare nama-sankirtana
antaranga-sange kare rasa-asvadana

Amongst the ordinary devotees the Lord engaged in nama-sankirtana, and with His intimate associates He relished rasa.

Mahaprabhu’s sankirtana-lila can accommodate anyone, no matter how degraded they may be. There is no consideration of qualification; the only price is sincere faith. In this age it is impossible to gain entrance into krsna-lila without accepting Sriman Mahaprabhu, His associates and His teachings. Mahaprabhu never recommended internal remembrance of Krsna’s confidential pastimes for those in a conditioned state. On the other hand, He relished the reading of Prahlada’s and Dhruva’s pastimes hundreds and hundreds of times to set an example for everyone not to jump directly to the rasa-lila.

prahlada-caritra ara dhruvera-caritra
sata-vrtti kariya sunena savahita

The Lord attentively heard the pastimes of Prahlada and Dhruva hundreds of times. (Cb. Antya 10.34)

The current of the ocean of material existence is certainly very difficult to cross over, but for one engaged in kirtana under a bona-fide spiritual master, the waves subside as if giving way. How can it be otherwise when the sankirtana movement is the Lord’s own lila and the Maya potency is but His servant? When the Kurma brahmana asked Mahaprabhu while He was leaving to take him along, Mahaprabhu gave him two important instructions to help him cross this ocean of nescience and simultaneously attain the association of the Lord Himself:

yare dekha, tare kaha’krsna’-upadesa
amara ajaya guru hana tara’ ei desa

Instruct everyone you see to follow the orders of Lord Sri Krsna. Vecome a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land. (Cc. Madhya 7.128)

kabhu na badhibe tomara visaya-taranga
punarapi ei thani pabe mora sanga

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu further advised the brahmana Kurma, “If you follow this instruction, your materialistic life at home will not obstruct your spiritual advancement. Indeed, if you follow these regulative principles, we will again meet here, or, rather, you will never lose My company.” (Cc. Madhya 7.120)

Every living and non-living entity in this universe has emanated from the Lord Himself and is meant only for His satisfaction. Knowing this it is the most intelligent and beneficial act to use everything here including ourselves as an offering to the Lord’s service and to also encourage others to take up this practice. As per Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s reading of the sastra, intrinsically, above anything else, the duty (paro-dharma) of every soul is devotion to the adhoksaja (Krsna) while anything done for selfish ends (dvitiyabhinivesah) is unnecessary and dangerous (bhayavah). The true dignity of the soul does not lie in earning wealth, prestige, and the goodwill of those who have the same material disposition as ourselves. Only by realizing one’s constitutional position as the servant of the Supreme Lord and acting accordingly, is our true spiritual dignity reinstated.

Sri Sri Radha-Krsna hold the most glorious position in the transcendental world of Goloka-Vrndavana and are eternally engaged in sweet pastimes, untouched by material perverseness. Mahaprabhu, who is non-different than Radha-Krsna, appeared in this world out of His overflowing compassion along with four principle associates and hundreds of other associates just to establish the superexcellent position of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna, Their Holy Names, Their pastimes and Their devotees all over the world. From Him the illustrious line of the Rupanugas, or the followers of Sri Rupa Gosvami, has manifested just to uphold this great ideal. Rupanuga-cudamani Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura revitalized this ideal in the deteriorated Vaisnava world and started a new era of Krsna Consciousness. May we mature spiritually holding on to the ideal enshrined in the following verse by Srila Sarasvati Thakura:

matala hari-jana visaya-range
pujala raga-patha gaurava-bhange

The servants of Hari are engaged in lavish affairs, handling material wealth and engaging all manner of things in the Lord’s service. They worship the path of spontaneous devotion with gaurava-bhange (in a mood of awe and reverence) and to show that the raga-patha is above all (above our heads), they remain as servants, being a little distant and below, praying for that of a servant’s duty, not for that of a confidential nature — not to bring that highest divine love down here, but to hold that upon their heads.