Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, the younger brother of Sanātana Gosvāmī, went to Prayāga, the modern city of Allahabad, with his younger brother Vallabha. When the two brothers heard that Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was staying there, they both became very much pleased and went to see the Lord. At that time the Lord was on His way to visit the temple of Bindu Mādhava. On the way to the temple the Lord was chanting and dancing, and thousands of people were following Him. Some were crying and some were laughing, some were dancing and some were singing, and some were falling on the ground, offering obeisances to the Lord. And all of them were roaring the holy name: “Kṛṣṇa! Kṛṣṇa!” It is said that in spite of being at the confluence of the rivers Ganges and Yamunā, Prayāga was never flooded until the appearance of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, at which time the city was overflooded by love of Kṛṣṇa.
The two brothers, Rūpa Gosvāmī and Vallabha, stayed aloof in an uncrowded place and witnessed the great crowd and wonderful scene. When the Lord danced, He raised His arms and shouted, “Haribol! Haribol!” The people all about Him were astonished to see His activities. Indeed, the wonderful scene is difficult to describe.
After visiting the temple, the Lord accepted prasādam (food offered to the Deity) at the house of a Deccanist (southern) brāhmaṇa with whom He was acquainted. While sitting alone at the brāhmaṇa’s home, the Lord was visited by Rūpa Gosvāmī and Vallabha. From a distance the two brothers fell down on the ground to offer obeisances, and they chanted many Sanskrit verses from the scriptures. When the Lord saw Rūpa Gosvāmī offering obeisances before Him, He became very much pleased and said, “My dear Rūpa, please get up.” The Lord then informed Rūpa Gosvāmī of the causeless mercy of Kṛṣṇa upon him, for Kṛṣṇa had just delivered him from the materialistic way of life, which is based simply on pounds-shillings-pence.
The Lord accepted the two brothers as His devotees, and He cited a verse from the scriptures stating that the Lord will not accept a brāhmaṇa who has studied the four Vedas if he is not a devotee but He will accept someone from a very low family if he is a pure devotee. Then the Lord embraced the two brothers, and out of His causeless mercy He touched their heads with His lotus feet. Blessed in this way, the brothers offered prayers to the Lord in their own words. The prayers indicated that Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu was Kṛṣṇa Himself, that He had assumed a fair-complexioned form (gaurāṅga), and that He was the most munificent incarnation of Kṛṣṇa because He was distributing love of Kṛṣṇa. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī also recited a verse later found in the book Govinda-līlāmṛta (1.2):
- yo ’jñāna-mattaṁ bhuvanaṁ dayālur
- ullāghayann apy akarot pramattam
- śrī-kṛṣṇa-caitanyam amuṁ prapadye
“Let me surrender unto the lotus feet of Sri Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who is the greatest, most merciful Personality of Godhead. He delivers those who are merged in ignorance and offers them the highest gift, love of Kṛṣṇa, and thus makes them mad after Kṛṣṇa consciousness.”
After this incident, Vallabha Bhaṭṭa invited the Lord to go to the other side of the Ganges, and the Lord went. On this trip Rūpa Gosvāmī accompanied the Lord, and, indeed, wherever the Lord went Rūpa Gosvāmī would follow Him and stay with Him. Because the Lord felt inconvenienced in crowded places, He asked Rūpa Gosvāmī to accompany Him to a place on the banks of the Ganges known as Daśāśvamedha-ghāṭa. For ten days He instructed Rūpa Gosvāmī about the truth of Kṛṣṇa, the principles of devotional service, and the transcendental mellows (relationships with Kṛṣṇa). All of this was described in full detail so that in the future Rūpa Gosvāmī could distribute the science of Kṛṣṇa in his book Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī described this incident in the first verse of the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, in which he speaks of the causeless mercy of the Lord upon him.
The Supreme Lord is cognizant and all-powerful, and by His causeless mercy He empowers a living entity to receive His mercy. People in general, being under the spell of conditioned life, are averse to rendering devotional service and practicing Kṛṣṇa consciousness. They are unaware of the teachings of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, which reveal one's eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the process by which one can return to the spiritual world, and the ultimate goal of life, which is to return home, back to Godhead. Because these things are unknown to the conditioned soul, Lord Caitanya, out of His causeless mercy, instructed Rūpa Gosvāmī in the principles of devotional service. Later, Rūpa Gosvāmī distributed this science to the people in general.
In the prologue to the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.1.2), Rūpa Gosvāmī describes Lord Caitanya as follows:
- hṛdi yasya preraṇayā pravartito ’haṁ varāka-rūpo ’pi
- tasya hareḥ pada-kamalaṁ vande caitanya-devasya
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of Lord Caitanyadeva, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, because He has inspired me with the desire in my heart to write something about devotional service. For this reason I am writing this book on the science of devotion, known as the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu.”
Beginning His ten days of continual instruction to Rūpa Gosvāmī, Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, “My dear Rūpa, the science of devotional service is just like a great ocean, and so it is not possible to show you its entire length and breadth. But I shall try to explain the nature of that ocean by taking just one drop out of it. In this way you can taste it and understand what that ocean of devotional service actually is.”
The Lord then explained that within this brahmāṇḍa, or universe, there are innumerable living entities who, according to their own fruitive activities, are transmigrating from one species of life to another and from one planet to another. In this way their encagement in material existence has continued since time immemorial. In actuality, these living entities are atomic parts and parcels of the Supreme Spirit. It is said in the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad that the length and breadth of the individual soul is 1/10,000th part of the tip of a hair. The atomic magnitude of the living entity is confirmed in the Eleventh Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.16.11). And in the Tenth Canto (10.87.30) Sanandana-kumāra, while performing a great sacrifice, quotes the following statement by the personified Vedas: “O Supreme Truth! If the living entities were not infinitesimal sparks of the Supreme Spirit, each minute spark would be all-pervading and could not be controlled by a superior power. But if the living entity is accepted as a minute part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, one can automatically understand how he is controlled by the supreme power. The latter is his actual constitutional position, and if he remains in this position he can attain full freedom. If one mistakenly considers his constitutional position equal to that of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he becomes contaminated by the doctrine of nonduality and his efforts in transcendental life are rendered ineffective.”
Lord Caitanya continued His teachings by pointing out that there are two kinds of living entities, the eternally liberated and the eternally conditioned. The eternally conditioned living entities can be divided into two types, the moving and the nonmoving. Those that remain in one place—trees, for example—are classified as sthāvara, or nonmoving entities, and those that move—such as birds and beasts—are called jaṅgama, or moving entities. The moving entities are further divided into three categories: those that fly in the sky, those that swim in the water, and those that walk on land. Out of the many millions and trillions of living entities on land, human beings are very few. Out of that small number of human beings, most are totally ignorant of the spiritual science, are unclean in their habits, and have no faith in the existence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In short, most human beings live like animals. Therefore these can be deducted from the number of human beings that constitute civilized human society.
We can hardly find any human beings who believe in the Vedic scriptures and the existence of God, or even in proper behavior. Those who do believe in these things, and in advancing in spiritual life, are known as Āryans. Out of those who believe in the scriptures and the advancement of human civilization, there are two classes—the righteous and the unrighteous. Those who are righteous generally execute fruitive activities to derive some good result for sense gratification. Out of many such persons who engage in righteous activities for sense gratification, only a few come to know about the Absolute Truth. These are called jñānīs, empiric philosophers in search of the Absolute Truth. Out of many hundreds and thousands of such empiric philosophers, only a handful actually attain liberation. When one is liberated, he theoretically understands that the living entity is not composed of material elements but is spirit soul, distinct from matter. Simply by understanding this doctrine, even theoretically, one qualifies as a mukta, or liberated soul. But the actual mukta is he who understands his constitutional position as part and parcel of the Lord and as His eternal servant. Such liberated souls engage with faith and devotion in the service of the Lord, and they are called kṛṣṇa-bhaktas, or Kṛṣṇa conscious persons.
Kṛṣṇa-bhaktas are free from all material desires. Although those who are theoretically liberated by knowing that the living entity is not material may be classified among liberated souls, they still have desires. Their main desire is to become one with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such persons are very much attached to performing Vedic rituals and righteous activities in order to enjoy material prosperity. Even when some of them transcend material enjoyment, they still try to enjoy in the spiritual world by merging into the existence of the Supreme Lord. Some of them also desire to attain mystic powers through the execution of yoga. As long as any of these desires are within a person’s heart, he cannot understand the nature of pure devotional service, and on account of constantly being agitated by such desires, he is not peaceful. Indeed, as long as there is any desire for material perfection at all, one cannot be at peace. Since the devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa do not desire anything material, they are the only peaceful persons within this material world. This is confirmed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (6.14.5):
- muktānām api siddhānāṁ nārāyaṇa-parāyaṇaḥ
- su-durlabhaḥ praśāntātmā koṭiṣv api mahāmune
“O great sage, out of many millions of liberated persons and persons who have achieved success in mystic yoga, it is very rare to find one who is completely devoted to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is therefore filled with peace.”
Lord Caitanya next explained that of the many thousands and millions of living entities wandering in the material world, one who by the grace of Lord Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master gets the seed of devotional service is very rare and fortunate. A pious or religious man is generally inclined to worship deities in various temples, but if by chance, even without his knowledge, he offers his obeisances and worshipful respects to Lord Viṣṇu and receives the favor of a Vaiṣṇava, a devotee of the Lord, at that time he acquires the asset necessary to approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is plainly understood from the history of the great sage Nārada, which is related in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. By serving Vaiṣṇavas in his previous life, Nārada was favored by those devotees of the Lord and became the great sage Nārada Muni.
Vaiṣṇavas are generally very compassionate toward the conditioned souls. Without even being invited, a devotee will go from door to door to enlighten people, to bring them out of the darkness of nescience by imparting knowledge of the living entity’s constitutional position as a servant of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Such devotees are empowered by the Lord to distribute devotional consciousness, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, to the people in general. They are known as authorized spiritual masters, and it is by the mercy of such a spiritual master that a conditioned soul gets the seed of devotional service. The causeless mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is first appreciated when one comes in touch with a bona fide spiritual master, who can enlighten the conditioned soul and bring him to the highest position of devotional life. Therefore Lord Caitanya said that by the mercy of the spiritual master one can achieve the causeless mercy of the Lord and by the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead one can attain the mercy of the bona fide spiritual master.
Thus by the mercy of the spiritual master and Kṛṣṇa one receives the seed of devotional service. Then one has to sow the seed in the field of his heart, just as a gardener sows the seed of a valuable tree. After sowing this seed, one has to water it by chanting and hearing the holy name of the Supreme Lord and by taking part in discussions about the science of devotional service in a society of pure devotees. When the plant of devotional service sprouts up from the seed of devotion, it begins to grow freely. When it is fully grown, it surpasses the length and breadth of this universe and enters the transcendental atmosphere of the spiritual world, where everything is bathed in the effulgence of the brahma-jyoti. The plant penetrates even the brahma-jyoti and gradually enters the planet known as Goloka Vṛndāvana. There the plant takes shelter at the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa. That is the ultimate goal of devotional service. After attaining this position, the plant produces the fruit of love of Godhead. To taste this fruit, however, it is necessary for the devotee, or transcendental gardener, to water the plant daily by chanting and hearing. Unless one waters the plant by chanting and hearing, there is every chance that it will dry up.
Lord Caitanya pointed out to Rūpa Gosvāmī that there was another danger to be encountered while watering the root of the devotional plant. After a plant has grown somewhat, an animal may come and either eat it or destroy it. When the green leaves of a plant are eaten by some animal, the plant generally dies. Thus one has to take precautions so that the plant of devotional service is not disturbed by animals, which represent offenses. The most dangerous animal is a mad elephant, for if a mad elephant enters a garden, it causes tremendous damage to plants and trees. An offense to a pure devotee of the Lord is called vaiṣṇava-aparādha, the mad elephant offense. In the discharge of devotional service, an offense to the feet of a pure devotee creates havoc and stops one’s advancement. Thus one has to defend the plant of bhakti by fencing it off properly and taking care not to offend pure devotees. Then the plant of devotional service will be properly protected.
An offense to a pure devotee is one of the ten offenses against the holy name. The first offense is to blaspheme the great devotees who have tried to spread the glories of the holy name all over the world. The greatest offender at the feet of the holy name is the rascal who is envious of such devotees. The holy name of Kṛṣṇa is nondifferent from Kṛṣṇa, and Lord Kṛṣṇa cannot tolerate offenses against a pure devotee who, following the order of his spiritual master, is spreading the holy name all over the world. The second offense is to deny that Lord Viṣṇu is the Absolute Truth. Since there is no difference between the Lord and His name, qualities, form and pastimes, or activities, one who sees a difference is considered an offender. The Lord being supreme, no one is equal to or greater than Him. Consequently, one who thinks that the name of some demigod is equal to the Lord’s name is an offender. The Supreme Lord and the demigods should never be considered on the same level.
The third offense is to consider the bona fide spiritual master to be a common man. The fourth offense is to blaspheme the Vedic literature—the Vedas and such corollaries as the Purāṇas. The fifth offense is to consider the glories of the holy name to be exaggerations. The sixth offense is to imagine a perverted meaning of the holy name. The seventh offense is to commit sinful activities on the strength of chanting the holy name. It is understood that by chanting the holy name one is freed from sinful reactions, but this does not mean that one should perversely act sinfully on the strength of chanting. That is the greatest offense. The eighth offense is to equate chanting the holy name with religious rituals, austerity, renunciation or sacrificial performances. Chanting the holy name is as good as associating with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whereas these pious activities are only means of approaching the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and they can also be performed for some material reason. It is an offense to equate them with chanting the holy name. The ninth offense is to preach the glories of the holy name of God to a faithless person. The tenth and last offense is to maintain material attachments even after hearing and chanting the holy name of God. The idea is that by chanting the holy name without offense one is elevated to the liberated platform, where one is freed from all material attachments. Thus if one chants the holy names and still has material attachments, he is committing an offense.
There are still other factors which can disturb the plant of devotional service. As this plant grows, the weeds of material desires may also grow. When a person advances in devotional service, it is natural that many persons will come to him requesting to become disciples and will offer him some material gains. If one is attracted by a large number of disciples offering material conveniences and forgets his duty as a bona fide spiritual master, the growth of the plant will be impeded. Simply by taking advantage of material conveniences one may become addicted to enjoying material comforts.
Other impediments are to desire liberation or material name and fame by discharging devotional service, or to neglect the prohibitions. These prohibitions are mentioned in the authorized scriptures: One should not indulge in illicit sex, intoxication, gambling or eating meat—indeed, one should not eat anything other than kṛṣṇa-prasādam, food offered to Kṛṣṇa. These are the restrictions for one who is attempting to advance in devotional service. If one does not follow these principles strictly, there will be a severe disturbance in the discharge of devotional service.
If one is not particularly careful, by watering the plant of devotional service one will instead nourish the weeds described above, which will then grow very luxuriantly and hamper one’s progress. The idea is that when one waters a garden, not only does the desired plant grow rapidly but the unwanted plants grow also. If the gardener does not see these weeds and cut them down, they will overcome and choke the plant of devotion. It is thus the duty of the neophyte devotee to cut down all the weeds that may grow by the watering process of devotional service. If one is careful to guard against the growth of these weeds, the plant of devotion will grow luxuriantly and reach the ultimate goal, Goloka Vṛndāvana. When the living entity engaged in devotional service relishes the fruit of love of Godhead, he forgets all religious rituals aimed at improving his economic condition. He no longer desires to satisfy his senses, and he no longer desires to become one with the Supreme Lord by merging into His effulgence.
There are many practices leading to spiritual knowledge and transcendental bliss, including the ritualistic sacrifices recommended in the Vedas, the execution of austerities and pious duties, and the practice of mystic yoga. These all award different results to their performers. But all these rewards appear to glitter only as long as one is not elevated to the transcendental loving service of the Lord. Love of God is dormant in everyone, and it can be awakened from its dormant position by the execution of pure devotional service, just as a person bitten by a serpent and fallen unconscious can be revived by smelling ammonia.
After speaking in this way about pure devotional service, Lord Caitanya began to describe that service and its symptoms to Rūpa Gosvāmī. He explained that in pure devotional service there can be no desire other than the desire to advance in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. In Kṛṣṇa consciousness there is no scope for worshiping any demigod or even any other form of Kṛṣṇa, nor is there room for indulgence in speculative empiric philosophy or fruitive activities. One should be free from all these contaminations. A devotee should accept only those things that are favorable for keeping his body and soul together and should reject those things that increase the demands of the body. Only the bare necessities for bodily maintenance should be accepted. By making one’s bodily necessities secondary, one can primarily devote his time to the cultivation of Kṛṣṇa consciousness through the chanting of the holy names of God. Pure devotional service means engaging all one’s senses in the service of the Lord. At the present moment our senses are all designated because the body is designated. So we think that our body belongs to a particular society or a particular country or a particular family. In this way the body is bound by so many designations. Similarly, the senses belong to the body, and when the body is subject to such designations, the senses are also. Thus one engages the senses on behalf of family, society, nation and so on. When the senses are so engaged, one cannot cultivate Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The senses must be purified, and this is possible when one purely understands that he belongs to Kṛṣṇa and that his life belongs to Kṛṣṇa—in other words, that his identity is to be an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa. In this way one can engage his senses in the service of the Lord, and such engagement is called pure devotional service.
A pure devotee accepts the transcendental loving service of the Lord but rejects all kinds of liberation for his personal sense gratification. This is stated by Lord Kapila in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.29.11-14), in His explanation of the nature of pure devotional service. As soon as a pure devotee hears the glories and transcendental qualities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is seated in everyone’s heart, his mind at once flows toward the Lord, just as the waters of the Ganges flow down toward the sea. Such spontaneous attraction of the devotee’s mind to the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead signifies pure devotional service.
Devotional service is pure when one engages in the service of the Supreme Lord without any selfish motive and without being hampered by any material impediment. The pure devotee does not desire to live on the same planet as the Supreme Lord, nor does he desire the same opulence as the Lord, nor does he desire to have the same form as the Lord, nor to live with Him side by side, nor to merge into His existence. Even if the Lord offers the pure devotee such rewards, he rejects them. The point is that a pure devotee is so much absorbed in the transcendental loving service of the Lord that he has no time to think of any benefit beyond his immediate engagement. Just as an ordinary materialistic businessman thinks of nothing else when he is absorbed in his business, a pure devotee, when engaged in the service of the Lord, does not think of anything beyond that engagement.
One who possesses the symptoms described above has been elevated to the topmost position of devotional service. And it is by such transcendental loving service alone that one can surpass the influence of māyā and relish pure love of Godhead. As long as one desires material benefit or liberation, which are called the two witches of allurement, one cannot relish the taste of transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord.
There are three stages of devotional service: The first is the beginning stage of cultivation, the second is the realization of service, and the third, the supreme stage, is the attainment of love of Godhead. There are nine different methods of cultivating devotional service—hearing, chanting, remembering, etc.—and all these processes are employed by the neophyte in the first stage. If one is engaged in chanting and hearing with devotion and faith, his material misgivings gradually become vanquished. As his faith in devotional service increases more and more, he becomes assured of a higher perfectional position. In this way one becomes firmly fixed in devotional service, increases his taste for it, becomes attached to it, and feels ecstasy, the preliminary stage of love of Godhead. Attainment of ecstasy is produced by executing this process of cultivating devotional service. When one continues the process of hearing and chanting, attachment to Kṛṣṇa gradually thickens and at last is called love of Godhead.
In the stage of transcendental love of God there are further developments, known as transcendental affection, emotion, ecstasy, and extreme and intense attachment. These are technically known by the terms rāga, anurāga, bhāva and mahābhāva. The progress from one stage to another is like the thickening of sugarcane juice. In the first stage sugarcane juice is a thin liquid. When, by evaporation, it becomes thicker and thicker, it turns into molasses. Then it turns into granules of sugar, then rock candy, and so on. Just as sugarcane juice progresses from one stage to another, similarly transcendental love for the Supreme Lord develops by stages.
When one actually becomes situated on the transcendental platform, he becomes steady. Unless one is so situated, his position is not steady and he may fall down. When one is actually situated transcendentally, there is no fear of falling down. This stage is technically called sthāyi-bhāva. There are further developments within this stage, known as vibhāva, anubhāva, sāttvika and vyabhicārī. When these four ingredients are added to the steadfast position of pure transcendental life, there is actually an exchange of rasa, or transcendental mellow, with the Supreme Lord. This exchange in loving reciprocation between the lover and the beloved is generally called kṛṣṇa-bhakti-rasa, the transcendental taste of exchanging loving sentiments between the devotee and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It should be noted, however, that the transcendental loving exchanges stand on the steadfast position of sthāyi-bhāva, as explained above. The basic principle of vibhāva is sthāyi-bhāva, and all other activities are auxiliary for the development of transcendental love.
The ecstasy of transcendental love has two components—the context and the cause of the excitement. The context is also divided into two parts—the subject and the object. The exchange of devotional service is the subject, and Kṛṣṇa is the object. His transcendental qualities are the causes of excitement. This means that a devotee who becomes enamored by the transcendental qualities of Kṛṣṇa becomes excited to serve Him. The impersonal (Māyāvādī) philosophers say that the Absolute Truth is nirguṇa, “without qualities,” but the Vaiṣṇava philosophers say that the Absolute Truth is described as nirguṇa because He has no material qualities. This is not to say that He has no spiritual qualities. Indeed, the Lord’s spiritual qualities are so great and so enchanting that even liberated persons become attracted to Him. This is explained in the ātmārāma verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.7.10), where it is said that those who are already situated on the platform of self-realization are attracted by the transcendental qualities of Kṛṣṇa. This means that Kṛṣṇa’s qualities are not material but are pure and transcendental.
The highest stage of ecstasy is characterized by the following thirteen transcendental activities: (1) dancing, (2) rolling on the floor, (3) singing, (4) clapping, (5) stretching the body, (6) thundering, (7) yawning, (8) breathing heavily, (9) forgetting social conventions, (10) drooling, (11) laughing, (12) shaking the head, and (13) hiccoughing. All these symptoms are not awakened simultaneously; they appear according to the exchange of transcendental mellows. Sometimes one symptom is prominent, and at another time another is prominent.
There are five transcendental rasas, or mellows. The initial stage is called śānta-rati, wherein one who is liberated from material contamination appreciates the greatness of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One who attains this stage does not exactly engage in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, for this is the neutral stage.
In the second stage, which is called dāsya-rati, a person appreciates his position as being everlastingly subordinate to the Supreme Lord, and he understands that he is eternally dependent on the causeless mercy of the Supreme Person. At that time there is an awakening of natural affection, such as is felt by a son who grows up and begins to appreciate his father’s benedictions. At this stage the living entity wants to serve the Supreme Lord instead of serving māyā, illusion.
The third stage in the development of transcendental love is called sakhya-rati. In this stage one associates with the Supreme as a friend on an equal level, with love and respect. As this stage is further developed, there is joking and such relaxed exchanges as laughing. On this level there are fraternal exchanges with the Personality of Godhead, and one is free from all bondage. One forgets his inferior position as a living entity, but at the same time he has the greatest respect for the Supreme Person.
In the fourth stage, called vātsalya-rati, the fraternal affection of the preceding stage develops into parental affection. At this time the living entity acts as the parent of God. Instead of worshiping the Lord, the living entity, as a parent of the Supreme Person, becomes an object of worship for Him. At this stage the Lord depends on the mercy of His pure devotee and puts Himself under the control of the devotee to be raised nicely. Such a devotee can embrace the Supreme Lord and even kiss His head.
In the fifth stage, called madhura-rati, there is a transcendental exchange of conjugal love between the lover and the beloved. It is at this stage that Kṛṣṇa and the damsels of Vraja glanced lovingly at one another, for on this platform there is an exchange of glances, movements of the eyebrows, pleasant words, attractive smiles, etc.
Besides these five primary rasas there are seven secondary rasas, which consist of laughing, wonder, chivalry, pity, anger, ghastliness and devastation. For example, Bhīṣma related to Kṛṣṇa as a warrior in the chivalrous rasa. Hiraṇyakaśipu, however, experienced an exchange of the ghastly and devastating rasas. The five primary rasas constantly remain within the heart of the pure devotee, and the seven secondary rasas sometimes appear and disappear to enrich the flavors and tastes of the primary ones. After enriching the primary rasas, they disappear.
Examples of śānta-bhaktas, or devotees in the neutral stage, are the sages known as the nine Yogendras, namely Kavi, Havi, Antarīkṣa, Prabuddha, Pippalāyana, Avirhotra, Draviḍa (Drumila), Camasa and Karabhājana. The four Kumāras (Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanat-kumāra and Sanātana) are also examples of this stage. Examples of devotees in the second stage, servitorship, are Raktaka, Citraka and Patraka. These are all servants of Kṛṣṇa in Gokula. In Dvārakā there is Dāruka, and in the Vaikuṇṭha planets there are Hanumān and others. Devotees in the third stage, friendship, include Śrīdāmā in Vṛndāvana and Bhīma and Arjuna in Dvārakā or on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra. As for those relating to Kṛṣṇa in parental love, they include His mother, father, uncle and similar relatives. In conjugal love there are the damsels of Vraja (Vṛndāvana), the queens in Dvārakā, and the goddesses of fortune in Vaikuṇṭha. No one can count the vast number of devotees in this rasa.
In general, attachment to Kṛṣṇa is of two kinds. The first kind is attachment with awe and veneration. Characterized by a lack of freedom, such attachment is exhibited in Mathurā and on the Vaikuṇṭha planets. In these abodes of the Lord, the flavor of transcendental loving service is restricted. But in Gokula (Vṛndāvana) love is freely exchanged, and although the cowherd boys and damsels of Vṛndāvana know that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they do not show awe and veneration, because of the great intimacy of their relationship with Him through thick and thin. In the five principal transcendental relationships, awe and veneration are sometimes impediments to one’s service to the Lord. When there is friendship, parental affection or conjugal love, such awe and veneration are impediments. For example, when Kṛṣṇa appeared as the son of Vasudeva and Devakī, they prayed to the Lord with awe and veneration because they understood that the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa or Viṣṇu had appeared before them as their little child. This is confirmed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.44.51): “Devakī and Vasudeva, knowing their son to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead, began to pray to Him although He was present before them as their child.” Similarly, when Arjuna saw the universal form of the Lord, he was so afraid that he begged pardon for his dealings with Kṛṣṇa as an intimate friend. As a friend, Arjuna often behaved unceremoniously with the Lord, and upon seeing the awesome universal form, Arjuna said:
- sakheti matvā prasabhaṁ yad uktaṁ
- he kṛṣṇa he yādava he sakheti
- ajānatā mahimānaṁ tavedaṁ
- mayā pramādāt praṇayena vāpi
“My dear Kṛṣṇa, sometimes I insulted You by calling You ‘my dear friend Kṛṣṇa’ without knowing the greatness of your inconceivable power. Please forgive me. I was mad to address You like a common friend or a common man.” (Bhagavad-gītā 11.41)
Similarly, when Kṛṣṇa was playing jokes on Rukmiṇī, she feared that He might leave her and became so perturbed that she dropped the fan with which she was fanning Him and fainted, falling unconscious to the floor as her hair scattered. She resembled a plantain tree blown down by a blast of wind.
But as far as Yaśodā, Kṛṣṇa’s mother in Vṛndāvana, is concerned, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.8.45 states:
- trayyā copaniṣadbhiś ca sāṅkhya-yogaiś ca sātvataiḥ
- upagīyamāna-māhātmyaṁ hariṁ sāmanyatātmajam
“Mother Yaśodā thought that the Personality of Godhead, who is worshiped by all the Vedas and Upaniṣads, as well as by the sāṅkhya system of philosophy and all authorized scriptures, had been born from her womb.” It is also stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.9.14) that Mother Yaśodā bound the child Kṛṣṇa with a rope as if He were an ordinary son born of her body. Another description of Kṛṣṇa’s being treated as an ordinary person appears in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.18.24. There it is stated that when Kṛṣṇa was defeated in games with His friends, the cowherd boys, He had to carry Śrīdāmā on His shoulders.
Regarding the gopīs’ dealings with Śrī Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.30.36–38 describes how when Śrī Kṛṣṇa took Śrīmatī Rādhikā alone from the rāsa dance, She proudly thought, “My dear Lord Kṛṣṇa has left the other gopīs, although they are as beautiful as I am, and He is satisfied with Me alone.” In the forest She told Kṛṣṇa, “My dear Kṛṣṇa, I am unable to move anymore. Now if You like You can take Me wherever You desire.” Kṛṣṇa replied, “You can climb on My shoulder,” but as soon as He said this He disappeared, whereupon Śrīmatī Rādhikā repented very much.
When Kṛṣṇa disappeared from the scene of the rāsa dance, all the gopīs began to repent, saying, “Dear Kṛṣṇa! We have come here and left aside our husbands, sons, relatives, brothers and friends! Neglecting their advice, we have come to You, and You know very well the reason for our coming here. You know that we have come because we are captivated by the sweet sound of Your flute. But You are so cunning that in the dead of night You have left girls and women like us! This is not very good of You.”
The word śama means controlling the mind and keeping it from being diverted in various ways while fixing it on the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In other words, one whose mind is fixed on the Supreme Lord is situated on the śama platform. On that platform the devotee understands that Kṛṣṇa is the basic principle of everything within our experience. This is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.19): “After many, many births of cultivating knowledge, one who has attained real knowledge surrenders unto Vāsudeva [Kṛṣṇa] because he can understand that Kṛṣṇa is present in everything, that He is distributed all over the cosmic manifestation.” Although everything is under the control of the Supreme Lord and is situated in His energy, everything is nonetheless different from Kṛṣṇa in His personal form. It is stated in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu that the platform of śama, on which one understands that Kṛṣṇa is the basic principle of everything, is the same as śānta-rati. Unless one is elevated to the platform of śānta-rati, one cannot be fixed in knowledge of the greatness of Kṛṣṇa or of the diffusion of His different energies, which are the cause of all manifestations. This same point is explained in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.19.36):
- śamo man-niṣṭhatā buddher dama indriya-saṁyamaḥ
- titikṣā duḥkha-sammarṣo jihvopastha-jayo dhṛtiḥ
“Śama, equilibrium of mind, is achieved by one who has concluded that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the original source of everything. And when one can control his senses, that is called dama. When one is ready to tolerate all kinds of sufferings to control the senses and keep the mind steady, that is called titikṣā, or tolerance. And when one can control the urges of the tongue and genitals, that is called dhṛti.” One who has attained dhṛti is a dhīra, a pacified person. A pacified person is never disturbed by the urges of the tongue and genitals.
One who can fix his mind on Kṛṣṇa without deviation attains śānta-rasa, the steadfast position in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. One in śānta-rasa exhibits two main qualities: unflinching faith in Kṛṣṇa, and the cessation of all material desires. These specific characteristics of śānta-rasa—unflinching faith in Kṛṣṇa and cessation of all desires not connected with Kṛṣṇa—are common to all other rasas as well, just as sound is present not only in sky, where it is produced, but also in all the other elements—air, fire, water and earth. So these two characteristics of śānta-rasa are also present in dāsya-rasa (servitorship), sakhya-rasa (fraternity), vātsalya-rasa (parental affection) and madhura-rasa (conjugal love).
When we speak of desires not connected with Kṛṣṇa, or “non-Kṛṣṇa,” this does not mean that anything exists without Kṛṣṇa. Actually there cannot be anything non-Kṛṣṇa because everything is a product of the energy of Kṛṣṇa. Since Kṛṣṇa and His energies are identical, everything is Kṛṣṇa indirectly. For example, consciousness is common to every living entity, but when consciousness is centered solely on Kṛṣṇa (Kṛṣṇa consciousness) it is pure, and when consciousness is centered on something other than Kṛṣṇa, or when it is directed to sense gratification, it may be called non-Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Thus it is in the polluted state that the conception of non-Kṛṣṇa comes. In the pure state, however, there is nothing but Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Active interest in Kṛṣṇa—the understanding that Kṛṣṇa is mine and that I am Kṛṣṇa’s and that my business is therefore to satisfy the senses of Kṛṣṇa—is typical of a higher stage than the neutrality of śānta-rasa. Simply by understanding the greatness of Kṛṣṇa, one achieves the status of śānta-rasa, in which the worshipable object may be the impersonal Brahman or Paramātmā. Worship of the impersonal Brahman and the Paramātmā is conducted by those engaged in empiric philosophical speculation and mystic yoga. But when one develops even further in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or spiritual understanding, he can appreciate that the Paramātmā, the Supersoul, is his eternal worshipable object and master, and he surrenders unto Him. Bahūnāṁ janmanām ante jñānavān māṁ prapadyate (Bg. 7.19): “After many, many births of worshiping Brahman and Paramātmā, when one surrenders unto Vāsudeva as the supreme master and accepts himself as the eternal servant of Vāsudeva, he becomes a great transcendentally realized soul.” At that time, due to his intimate relationship with the Supreme Absolute Truth, the devotee begins to render some sort of transcendental loving service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus the neutral relationship known as śānta-rasa is transformed into dāsya-rasa, servitorship.
On the platform of dāsya-rasa one exhibits the greatest quantity of awe and veneration for the Supreme Lord. That is, in dāsya-rasa one appreciates the greatness of the Supreme Lord. It should be noted here that on the platform of śānta-rasa there is no spiritual activity but on the platform of dāsya-rasa service begins. Thus in dāsya-rasa the quality of śānta-rasa is exhibited, and, in addition, there is consciousness of the transcendental taste of service.
In sakhya-rasa, fraternity, the transcendental qualities of śānta-rasa and dāsya-rasa are certainly present, but beyond these there is another quality, confidential attachment, which is pure transcendental love. This confidential attachment for the Supreme Personality is technically known as viśrambha. On the platform of viśrambha there is no sense of awe or veneration toward the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus in the transcendental fraternal relationship, sakhya-rasa, there are three transcendental characteristics: the sense of greatness, the sense of service, and the sense of intimacy without awe or veneration. Thus sakhya-rasa adds one transcendental quality to the qualities of śānta- and dāsya-rasa.
Similarly, on the platform of parental affection (vātsalya-rasa) there are four qualities. In addition to the three qualities already mentioned, there is the sense that the Supreme Lord is dependent on the mercy of the devotee. As a parent of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the devotee sometimes chastises the Lord and considers himself the Lord’s maintainer. This transcendental sense of being the maintainer of the supreme maintainer is very pleasing to both the devotee and the Supreme Lord.
The Lord instructed Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī to write the transcendental literature named Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, the science of devotional service, and indicate therein the substance of the five transcendental relationships with the Lord—śānta-, dāsya-, sakhya-, vātsalya- and madhura-rasa. It is explained in that great literature how the transcendental relationship of śānta-rasa, taking the shape of unflinching faith in Kṛṣṇa, is further developed into dāsya-rasa with the spirit of service, and then to sakhya-rasa, or undeterred fraternity, and further to the transcendental platform of parental love, wherein one feels himself to be maintaining the Lord. All these transcendental relationships culminate on the highest platform, conjugal love (madhura-rasa), wherein they all exist simultaneously.