Prākṛta-rasa Āraṇya Chedinī

Cutting the Jungle of Misconception

Chapter 18 – Hearing from a Rasikācārya

In this important chapter, “Hearing From a Rāsikācārya”, Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja explains how the previous ācāryas have warned immature sādhakas not to stray into ‘dangerous waters’ by gate-crashing into the higher līlās of Rādhā-Govinda. He also stresses the importance of anartha-nivṛtti and nāma-saṅkīrtana.

Devotee: Is it true that to make advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness one should hear from a rasikācārya (a spiritual master advanced in relishing mellows of pure devotion) on the level of Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura?

Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: One who has lived in either Vṛndāvana or Navadvīpa for some time knows that the sahajiyā section is quite fond of this sort of explanation. But such emphasis is not entirely fact.

ācāryera mata yei, sei mata sāra
tāṅra ājñā laṅghi’ cale, sei ta’ asāra

“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.” (Cc. Ādi 12.10)

Devotees who know the science of Kṛṣṇa 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 Kṛṣṇa consciousness, but if one displeases the spiritual master by neglecting his order, then one becomes asāra or useless.

Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravarti Ṭhākura in his commentary on Bhagavad-gītā 2.41, states that it is the duty of a disciple to strictly follow the orders of his spiritual master.

Śrī Viśvanātha writes as follows:

“The instructions that my gurudeva has given me about śravaṇam, kīrtanam, smaraṇam, pāda-sevanam, etc. of Śrī Bhagavān are my very sādhana, my very sādhya and my very life. I am unable to relinquish them in either the sādhana stage or in sādhya. 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.” (Bhagavad-gītā, published by Gauḍīya Vedānta 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 parā bhaktir yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hy-arthāḥ prakāśante mahātmanaḥ

“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.” (Svetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.23)

It appears that many devotees are now confused about the process of advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and think that simply by hearing rāsa-līlā from a ‘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 Kṛṣṇa consciousness should know that sooner or later such discussion of rāsa-līlā in an unqualified assembly certainly leads to sahajiyāism.

To support their claims of righteousness in hearing rāsa-līlā, the rasika-gurus of the sentiment-mongers like to quote the following Bhāgavatam verse in support of their speculation:

vikrīḍitaṁ vraja-vadhūbhir idaṁ ca viṣṇoḥ
śraddhānvito’nuśṛṇuyād atha varṇayed yaḥ
bhaktiṁ paraṁ bhagavati pratilabhya kāmaṁ
hṛd-rogam āśv-apahinoty acireṇa dhīraḥ

“A transcendentally sober person who, with faith and love continuously hears from a realized soul about the activities of Lord Kṛṣṇa in His rāsa-dance with the gopīs, 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.” (Bhāg. 10.33.42)

While commenting on this verse in his Anubhāṣya commentary of Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya 5.45, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura has mentioned that dhīraḥ means to come to the stage of controlling the six senses (ṣaḍ-vega-jayī). Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura also says that anuśṛṇuyāt means hearing continuously from the lips of Śrī guru without interruption and not being obstructed by the intervention of material conceptions. It is the opinion of our most revered Guardians that not being obstructed by intervention of material conceptions means that one has come to the stage of anartha-nivṛtti.

Similarly, according to our śīkṣā-guru, Śrīla B. R. Śrīdhara Mahārāja, Jīva Gosvāmī’s conception of dhīraḥ is the same as that of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura.

“In his writings, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has laid stress on the word dhīraḥ, meaning ‘self-controlled’. To hear these elevated subjects, one must enter into the culture of sense-control, otherwise he will be destroyed.” (The Hidden Treasure of the Sweet Absolute, commentary to verse 10.10)

In this same line of thought Śrīla B. P. Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja explains the teachings of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura as follows:

“In Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura’s commentary to the above verse from the rāsa-līlā, (vikrīḍitaṁ vraja-vadhūbhir idaṁ ca viṣṇoḥ) it is written:

ata eva śraddhānvita iti śāstrāviśvasinaṁ
nāmāparādhimaṁ premāpi nāṅgīkarotīti bhāvah…
ayaṁ śrī-rāsaḥ śrīr api nāpa yam
śāstra-buddhi-vivekādyair api durgamam īkṣyate
gopīnāṁ rāsa-vartmedaṁ tāsām anugatīr vinā

The word śraddhānvitaḥ indicates that ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa does not come to those who do not believe the scriptures or who persist in committing offenses against the Holy Name. And even Lakṣmī cannot enter into this rāsa dance. Without exclusively following in the footsteps of the gopīs, even those who believe in the scriptures and the very intelligent cannot enter onto this most difficult path of sacred rapture chalked out by the gopīs. For this reason, our most revered Śrīla Prabhupāda never approved of open discussion by the unqualified of the divine rasa, which is beyond the attainment of even Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva, and always gave priority to the chanting of the Holy Name.

The unique characteristic of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s preaching was that even though he often spoke about the highest realms of devotional perfection, he always took care that none of his disciples got ahead of themselves and skipped necessary intermediate steps in the stage of practice to engage in anadhikāra-carcā (discussion of matters for which one is not qualified)… If one attempts the cultivation of rāga-mārga prior to gaining the proper qualifications for such a practice and at the same time pays less attention to the chanting of the Holy Names, he is like a person who tries to pick the fruit without climbing the tree. He will only get the damaged fruit that has fallen to the ground. Prabhupāda characterized those who engaged in such anadhikāra-carcā as prākṛta-sahajiyās and rebuked them for their entering into realms for which they were not qualified…” (Of Love and Separation, Chapter 3)

When Lord Kṛṣṇa kills a demon, that demon immediately attains liberation and whenever Kṛṣṇa performs His pastimes of love, the perverted form of love, namely lust in the heart of the living entity, is also vanquished. Yet hearing the rāsa-līlā of Kṛṣṇa and His intimate love affairs with the gopīs is not recommended as a method of practice (sādhana) for the neophyte devotees.

Kṛṣṇa killed many demons before He manifested His pastimes of love with the gopīs. According to Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, the demons killed by Kṛṣṇa represent various demoniac tendencies in the hearts of the living entities. Tṛnāvarta represented the personification of argument; Vatsāsura represented the form of boyhood offenses; Bakāsura represented the personification of cheating religion; Aghāsura represented the form of cruelty; Dhenukāsura represented the ass of blunt judgment; Kāliya represented the personification of malice and Pralambāsura represented the personification of impersonalism. All these demons were killed by Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, one should first rid one’s heart of those demoniac tendencies before attempting to hear the love affairs (rāsa-līlā) of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. This is only logical.

Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda has mentioned in his Bhāgavatam 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 Bhāgavatam. Śrīla Prabhupāda 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 Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, and there are many upstarts who at once try to begin with the Tenth Canto and especially with the five chapters that delineate the rāsa-līlā of the Lord. This is certainly improper. By such improper study or hearing of Bhāgavatam, the material opportunists have played havoc by indulgence in sex life in the name of Bhāgavatam. This vilification of Bhāgavatam 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 Bhāgavatam. Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura clearly defines the meaning of purification here as cessation from sex indulgence. He says, yathā yathā dhis ca sudhyati viṣaya-lampatyam tyajati, tathā tathā dharayed iti citta-śuddhi-taratamyenaiva dhyāna-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 Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 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 Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.”

It was also related to us by Śrīla B. P. Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, that his Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, was very strict about reading or hearing even the baby pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, what to speak of reading or hearing the amorous pastimes of the Lord with the gopīs. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura never recommended such as a method of practice. Therefore, we find that the disciples of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura 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 Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa were never taken to the public or to the ears of the neophyte devotees.

There is actually no difference between purely chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa and the pastimes of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa save and except that chanting the Holy Name is the safer position. Therefore it is advised that one should hear the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa. Śrīla B. P. Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja was also fond of saying, “Take full shelter of the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa 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 Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, 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 Śrīla B. R. Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja that when such an offense is committed against the līlā 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 kṛṣṇa-kīrtana, chanting the Holy Name and not smaraṇam, the process of remembrance of līlās.

The Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, our Guru Mahārāja and many other stalwarts have all given stress to kīrtana as the most effective process for this age.

kaler doṣa-nidhe rājan asti hy-eko mahān gunaḥ
kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ 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 Kṛṣṇa are liberated and reach the Supreme Lord.” (Bhāg. 12.3.51)

nāma-saṅkīrtanam yasya, sarva-pāpa-pranāśanam
praṇāmo duḥkha-samanas, tam nāmami hariṁ param

“Kṛṣṇa’s Holy Name can relieve us from all undesirable sinfulness, all filthy characteristics, and all miseries. Let us all bow down to Him.” (Bhāg. 12.13.23)

bhajanera madhye śreṣṭha nava-vidhā bhakti
kṛṣṇa-prema. ‘kṛṣṇa’ dite dhare mahā-śakti
tāra madhye sarva-śreṣṭha nāma-saṅkīrtana
niraparādhe nāma laile pāya prema-dhana

“Of all forms of divine service, nine forms are superior, which with great potency bestow upon devotees love of Kṛṣṇa, and their personal relationship with Him; and of the nine, the best is nāma-saṅkīrtana, 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 kīrtana recommended by śāstra (scripture), all other forms of devotional practice are subservient to kīrtana.

yadyāpy anya bhaktiḥ kalau karttavya
tadā kīrtana-akhya-bhakti-samyogenaiva

“In the Kali-yuga, of the nine basic forms of devotional practices, the forms other than kīrtana certainly should be practiced, but they must be conducted subserviently to kīrtana.” (Bhakti-sandarbha, saṅkhya 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. Nāmābhasa is the stage of chanting before śuddha-nāma (pure chanting) is reached. Continuous chanting during the stage of nāmābhasa gradually gives us promotion to śuddha-nāma.

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 Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa 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 Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are situated. In other words, coming in contact with the līlā of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa is not a thing of this world. One must cross many lower planes before coming to the transcendental platform.

upajiyā bāḍe latā ‘brahmāṇde’ bhedi’ yāya
‘virajā’ brahma-loka’ bhedi’ para-vyoma’ pāya
tabe yāya tad upari ‘goloka-vṛndāvana’
kṛṣṇa-caraṇa’-kalpa-vṛkṣe kare ārohaṇa

“The creeper of devotion is born, and grows to pierce the wall of the universe. It crosses the Virajā River and the Brahman plane, and reaches to the Vaikuṇṭha plane. Then it grows further up to Goloka Vṛndāvana, finally reaching to embrace the wish-yielding tree of Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet.” (Cc. Madhya 19.153,4)

This is the death-blow to the sentiment mongers. They want rāsa-līlā, 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 Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura such persons are known as pukūra-curiwāle, pond thieves.

We find that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu would sometimes become absorbed in thoughts of the līlā of Kṛṣṇa. 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.

Śrīla B. R. Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja 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, adhokṣaja. Any force of our mind or intelligence can never catch it. Avāṅ mānasa 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 Kṛṣṇa. That was the opinion of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. 

ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanaṁ bhava-mahā-dāvāgni-nirvāpaṇaṁ
śreyaḥ-kairava-candrikā-vitaraṇaṁ vidyā-vadhū-jīvanam
ānandāmbudhi-vardhanaṁ prati-padaṁ pūrṇāmṛtāsvādanaṁ
sarvātma-snapanaṁ paraṁ vijayate śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam

“Let there be all victory for the chanting of the Holy Name of Lord Kṛṣṇa, 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 Kṛṣṇa expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life. It gives a cooling effect to everyone and enables one to taste full nectar at every step.”

One gentleman has written in a recent publication that anyone who says that we should not listen to the narration of kṛṣṇa-līlā with the gopīs is certainly an atheist. But if we were to follow that line of thinking then even the mahājanas (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 līlās of Kṛṣṇa as much as they should concern themselves with the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa. 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 Kṛṣṇa consciousness.