Next Lord Caitanya said to Sanātana Gosvāmī, “Thus far I have explained devotional service according to regulative principles. Now I shall explain devotional service to you in terms of transcendental attachment.”
The inhabitants of Vṛndāvana, Vrajabhūmi, are living examples of devotional service. Theirs is ideal devotional service with attachment, and such devotion cannot be found anywhere except Vṛndāvana. Developing devotional service and attachment by following in the footsteps of the Vrajavāsīs is called rāga-mārga-bhakti, or devotional service in pursuance of attachment to the Lord. According to the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.272), “The ecstatic attachment for the Lord experienced in the course of the devotional service that is natural for the devotee is called rāga, or transcendental attachment. The devotional service discharged with such deep attachment, and with consequent deep absorption in the object of love, is called rāgātmikā.” Examples of such devotional service can be seen in the activities of the residents of Vrajabhūmi. One who becomes attracted to Kṛṣṇa by hearing of such attachment is certainly very fortunate. When one becomes deeply affected by the devotion of the residents of Vrajabhūmi and tries to follow in their footsteps, he does not care for the restrictions or regulations of the revealed scriptures. This is characteristic of one discharging rāga-bhakti.
Devotional service with attachment is natural, and one who has been attracted by it does not care for any arguments against his conviction, even though such arguments may be presented according to scriptural injunctions. The natural inclination to devotional service with attachment is also based on scriptural injunction, and thus one who has attachment for such devotional service is not required to give it up simply on the strength of scriptural argument. In this connection, we should note that the class of so-called devotees known as prākṛta-sahajiyās follow their own concocted ideas and, representing themselves as Kṛṣṇa and Rādhā, indulge in debauchery. Such devotional service with attachment is false, and those so engaged are actually gliding down a hellish path. This is not the standard of rāgātmikā-bhakti, or devotional service with attachment. The prākṛta-sahajiyā community is actually cheated and very unfortunate.
Devotional service with attachment can be executed in two ways—externally and internally. Externally the devotee strictly follows the regulative principles, beginning with chanting and hearing, while internally he thinks of the attachment which attracts him to serve the Supreme Lord. Indeed, he always thinks of his special devotional service and attachment. Such a real devotee’s attachment does not violate the regulative principles of devotional service, and he adheres to them strictly, yet within his mind he always thinks of his particular attachment.
All the inhabitants of Vrajabhūmi are very dear to Kṛṣṇa. A devotee selects one of them and follows in his footsteps in order to be successful in his own devotional service. A pure devotee discharging devotional service with attachment always follows in the footsteps of a personality of Vrajabhūmi. It is advised in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.294) that such a pure devotee should always remember the activities of a particular inhabitant of Vraja, even though he is not able to live in Vraja. In this way he can always think of Vraja.
Such confidential devotees are divided into several categories: some of them are servants, some are friends, some are parents, and some are conjugal lovers. In devotional service with attachment, one has to follow a particular type of devotee of Vrajabhūmi. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.25.38) the Lord says:
- na karhicin mat-parāḥśānta-rūpe
- naṅkṣyanti no me ’nimiṣo leḍhi hetiḥ
- yeṣām ahaṁ priya ātmā sutaś ca
- sakhā guruḥ suhṛdo daivam iṣṭam
“The word mat-parā is used only to refer to persons who are satisfied with the idea of becoming My adherents alone. They consider that I am their soul, I am their friend, I am their son, I am their master, I am their well-wisher, I am their God, and I am their supreme goal. My dear mother, time does not act on such devotees.” In the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.308), Rūpa Gosvāmī offers his respectful obeisances to those who always think of Kṛṣṇa as son, well-wisher, brother, father, friend, and so on. Whoever adheres to the principles of devotional service with attachment, following in the footsteps of a particular devotee of Vrajabhūmi, certainly attains the highest perfection of love of Godhead in that spirit.
There are two characteristics by which the seeds of love of Godhead can develop, and these are known as rati, or attachment, and bhāva, the condition immediately preceding love of Godhead. It is by such attachment and bhāva that the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is conquered by His devotees. These two characteristics are present before any symptoms of love of Godhead are manifest. This was all explained to Sanātana Gosvāmī by Lord Caitanya. Lord Caitanya told him that since there is really no end to describing the system of devotional service with attachment, He is simply trying to offer a sampling.
Lord Caitanya then described the ultimate goal of devotional service, which is meant for one who wants to attain perfection. When one’s attachment to Kṛṣṇa becomes very deep, one has attained the condition called love of Godhead. The devotee who attains such a state of existence is said to be in his permanent situation. In this regard, Kavirāja Gosvāmīoffers his respectful obeisances to Lord Caitanya for His sublime teachings of love of Godhead. As stated in Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 23.1): “O Supreme Personality of Godhead, who but You has ever awarded such pure devotional service? O most magnanimous incarnation of the Personality of Godhead, I offer my respectful obeisances to this incarnation, known as Gaurakṛṣṇa.”
In the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.3.1), love of Godhead is compared to sunshine, and this shining makes the devotee’s heart more and more lovely. The heart of such a devotee is situated in a transcendental position, beyond even the material mode of goodness. As the devotee’s heart becomes increasingly sterilized by the sunshine of love, he attains a state called bhāva. This is the description of bhāva given by Rūpa Gosvāmī. Bhāva is the permanent characteristic of the living entity, and the crucial point of progress for bhāva is called the marginal state of love of Godhead. When the bhāva state becomes deeper and deeper, learned devotees call it love of Godhead. As stated in the Nārada-pañcarātra:
- ananya-mamatā viṣṇau mamatā prema-saṅgatā
- bhaktir ity ucyate bhīṣma- prahlādoddhava-nāradaiḥ
“When one is firmly convinced that Viṣṇu is the only object of love and worship and that there is no one else—not even a demigod—worthy of receiving devotional service, one is said to feel intimacy in his loving relationship with God. This is the conclusion of such personalities as Bhīṣma, Prahlāda, Uddhava and Nārada.”
If due to some righteous activities which provoke devotional service one acquires some faith, one takes shelter of the good association of pure devotees and is influenced by their service attitude. Then he develops attachment for hearing and chanting. By developing hearing and chanting, one can advance further and further in regulative devotional service to the Supreme Lord. As one so advances, his misgivings about devotional service and his attraction to the material world proportionately diminish. By advancing in hearing and chanting, a devotee becomes more firmly fixed in his faith. Gradually he develops a taste for devotional service, and that taste gradually develops into attachment for Kṛṣṇa. When that attachment becomes pure, it exhibits the two characteristics of bhāva (emotion) and rati (affection). When rati increases, it is called love of Godhead. Love of Godhead is the ultimate goal of human life.
This process is summarized by Rūpa Gosvāmī in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.4.15–16): “The first thing required is faith. Due to faith a person associates with pure devotees, and by such association he develops devotional service. As devotional service develops, his misgivings diminish. Then he is situated in firm conviction, and from that conviction he develops a taste for devotional service and advances to the stage of attachment for Kṛṣṇa, whereby he follows the regulative principles of devotional service spontaneously. After that point he makes still further progress and attains the state called bhāva, which is permanent. Such love of God becomes deeper and deeper, until it reaches the highest stage of love of Godhead.”
In Sanskrit this highest stage is called prema. Prema can be defined as love of God without any expectation of exchange or return. Actually the words prema and love are not synonymous, yet one can still say that prema is the highest stage of love. One who has attained prema is the most perfect human being. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.25.25) confirms this statement: Only by the association of pure devotees can one develop a taste for Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and when he tries to apply Kṛṣṇa consciousness in his life, he can achieve everything up to the stage of bhāva and prema.
Lord Caitanya next described the symptoms of a person who has developed from faith to the stage of bhāva. Such a person is never agitated, even if there are causes for agitation. Nor does he waste his time, not even a moment: he is always anxious to do something for Kṛṣṇa. Even if he has no engagement, he will find some work to do for Kṛṣṇa’s satisfaction. Nor does such a person like anything which is not connected with Kṛṣṇa. Although he is situated in the best position, he does not hanker after praise. He is confident in his work—he is never under the impression that he is not making progress toward the supreme goal of life, going back to Godhead. Since he is fully convinced of his progress, he is always very busy achieving the highest goal. He is very much attached to gratifying the Lord and in chanting or hearing about the Lord, and he is always attached to describing the transcendental qualities of the Lord. He also wants to live in holy places like Mathurā, Vṛndāvana or Dvārakā. All these characteristics are visible in one who has developed to the stage of bhāva.
King Parīkṣit affords a good example of bhāva. When sitting on the bank of the Ganges waiting to meet his death due to the curse of a brāhmaṇa boy, he said: “All the brāhmaṇas present here, as well as Mother Ganges, should know that I am a soul completely surrendered to Kṛṣṇa. I do not mind if I am immediately bitten by the snake sent by the brāhmaṇa boy. Let the snake bite me as it likes. I shall be pleased if all of you present here will go on chanting the message of Kṛṣṇa.” Such a devotee is always anxious to see that his time is not wasted in anything which is not connected with Kṛṣṇa. Consequently he does not like the benefits derived from fruitive activity, yogic meditation or the cultivation of knowledge. He is simply attached to words favorably related to Kṛṣṇa. Such pure devotees of the Supreme Lord always pray to Him with tears in their eyes, their minds always recollect His activities, and their bodies always offer Him obeisances. Thus they are satisfied. Any devotee who renders such devotional service dedicates his life and body for the purpose of the Lord.
King Bharata (after whom India is called Bhārata-varṣa) was also a pure devotee, and at an early age he left his household life, his beautiful devoted wife, his sons, friends and kingdom just as if they were stool. This is typical of a person who has developed bhāva in the course of his devotional service. Such a devotee always thinks of himself as the most wretched, and his only satisfaction is in thinking that some day or other Kṛṣṇa will be kind enough to favor him by engaging him in devotional service. In the Padma Purāṇa another instance of pure devotion is found. There it is recorded that King Bhagīratha, although the most elevated of human beings, was begging from door to door and was even praying to the caṇḍālas, the lowest members of human society.
Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī later composed this verse:
- na premāśravaṇādi-bhaktir api vā yogo ’thavā vaiṣṇavo
- jñānaṁ vāśubha-karma vā kiyad aho saj-jātir apy asti vā
- hīnārthādhika-sādhake tvayi tathāpy acchedya-mūlāsate
- he gopī-jana-vallabha vyathayate hā hā mad-āśaiva mām
“I am poor in love of Godhead, and I have no qualification for hearing about devotional service. Nor do I have any understanding of the science of devotional service, nor any cultivation of knowledge, nor any righteous activities to my credit. Nor am I born in a high family. Nonetheless, O darling of the damsels of Vraja, I still maintain a hope of achieving You, and this hope is always disturbing me.” A devotee who is touched deeply by such a strong desire always chants Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.
In this regard, the following verse by Bilvamaṅgala appears in the Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta (32):
- tvac chaiśavaṁ tri-bhuvanādbhutam ity avehi
- mac-cāpalaṁ ca tava vā mama vādhigamyam
- tat kiṁ karomi viralaṁ muralī-vilāsi
- mugdhaṁ mukhāmbujam udīkṣitum īkṣaṇābhyām
“O Kṛṣṇa, O flute-player, the beauty of Your boyhood activities is very wonderful in this world. You know the agitation of my mind, and I know what You are. No one knows how confidential our relationship is. Although my eyes are anxious to see Your face, I cannot see You. Please let me know what to do.” A similar passage appears in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.3.38) in which Rūpa Gosvāmī states:
- rodana-bindu-maranda-syandi-dṛg-indīvarādya Govinda
- tava madhura-svara-kaṇṭhī gāyati nāmāvalīṁ bālā
“O Govinda! This young girl with tears in Her eyes is crying in a sweet voice, chanting Your glories.” Such pure devotees are always anxious to describe the glories of Kṛṣṇa and to live in a place where He exhibited His pastimes. A similar verse appears, again, in the Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta (92): “The body of Kṛṣṇa is so nice, and His face is so beautiful. Everything about Him is simply sweet and fragrant.” And in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.156): “O lotus-eyed one, when will I be able to always chant Your holy name, and being inspired by that chanting, when will I be able to dance on the banks of the Yamunā?”
In this way Lord Caitanya described to Sanātana Gosvāmī the symptoms of the bhāva stage of devotional service.
Lord Caitanya next described the symptoms of actual love for Kṛṣṇa. He said that no one can understand the words, activities or symptoms of a person who has developed love of Kṛṣṇa. Even if one is very learned, it is very difficult to understand a pure devotee in the stage of love of God. This is confirmed in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu.
When a person engaged in devotional service in love of God sings the glories of the Supreme Lord, his heart melts. Because the Lord is very dear to him, when he glorifies the Lord’s name, fame and so on, he becomes almost like an insane man, and in that condition he sometimes laughs, sometimes cries and sometimes dances. He continues in this way without even considering his situation. By gradually developing his love of Godhead, he increases his affection, his emotion and his ecstasy. The culmination of such attachment is mahābhāva, the highest stage of devotional love. It may be likened to rock candy, which is the most concentrated form of sugar. As it is concentrated, sugar cane juice goes through different stages—molasses, sugar, sugar candy—but the final and most palatable state is rock candy. Similarly, love of Godhead can gradually develop in such a way that transcendental pleasure is increased to the highest stage for the real devotee.