Prākṛta-rasa Āraṇya Chedinī

Cutting the Jungle of Misconception

Chapter 20 – Vraja Bhāva

‘Vraja Bhāva’ was written by Swami B.G. Narasingha and answers a question concerning ‘vraja-bhāva’ and the bhajanas of Mīrābāi and explains how there’s much more to real vraja-bhāva than singing a few Hindi bhajanas…

Devotee: I was recently invited to a program where it was said that the program would be in the mood of vraja-bhāva, so I was wondering how special is vraja-bhāva and how does one actually attain it? When I went to the program there were various Hindi bhajanas that I had never heard before and also some bhajanas of Mīrabāi.

Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: What many western devotees call vraja-bhāva is available in any village kitchen in Uttar Pradesh, India. There are so many songs sung by the village people in and around Vṛndāvana, but those are not the standard songs of pure devotion, particularly the songs of Mīrabāi. The pure ācārya never recommends his disciples to sing such songs.

Mīrabāi has been rejected by the Gauḍīya sampradāya as a pseudo-vaiṣṇava. There are some people who say that Mīrabāi was a ‘half disciple’ of Śrīla Jiva Gosvāmī, but this is a concoction. Some also say that simply by placing her hands over the eyes of the Rāṇa of Mewar that he obtained Kṛṣṇa darśana. Also some devotees say that Mīrabāi merged into the Deity of Kṛṣṇa in Dvārakā and never came out again. But these are simply stories with no ontological backing, which are rejected by the śuddha-bhakti school.

Mīrabāi is not accepted as a śuddha-vaiṣṇava by the followers of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. Therefore the followers of Bhaktivinoda and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura never teach their disciples to sing the bhajanas of Mīrabāi. To teach one’s disciple to sing the bhajanas of Mīrabāi is tantamount to putting kerosene in the mouth of that disciple —only a bad taste of bhakti will be experienced

Our Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda sometimes said regarding Mīrabāi, “I have no objection to her songs.” However Mīrabāi’s songs were never established as standard bhajanas in his mission. As far as the common person is concerned he had no objection. If a common person sings the songs of Mīrabāi there may be some nāmābhāsa for that person. But for śuddha-bhakti he has never recommended the bhajanas of Mīrabāi. Mīrabāi is not in the śuddha-bhakti school, what to speak of the rāgānugā, rūpānugā, or the rasika school. Mīrabāi is rejected by the Gauḍīya sampradāya as a bahiraṅga-bhakta, an external devotee.

Śrīla B. R. Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja comments as follows:

“Our Guru Mahārāja announced, ‘We are śuddha-śakta.’ We are worshippers of the potency, not this mundane potency, but the potency wholesale dedicated to the possessor of the potency. Without retaining Her individual independence, cent-per-cent dependent —such potency very very rarely can be conceived. ‘Direct approaches to Me, that is not proper;’ but approaching through proper channel, through the devotees, that is proper approach. That is real approach; so Gauḍīya Maṭha eliminates Mīrabāi and so many other apparent devotees, to be real devotees, because they are mad in praise of Kṛṣṇa, but not so much for the devotees of Kṛṣṇa.” (Feb. 15, 1982, Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha, Navadvīpa-dhāma)

As regards real vraja-bhāva, Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā (18.66), sarva-dharmān parityaja mām ekaṁ śaraṇam vraja

“Give up all your duties and come to Me. And your present duties good or bad, whatever you can conceive from your present position —give up everything and come straight to Me. I’m everything to you.”

Here the word vraja is used by Kṛṣṇa to indicate Vṛndāvana, the Lord’s own abode. In Vṛndāvana all the inhabitants are absorbed in the sweet mellows of spontaneous love of God. In a word, they are absorbed in vraja-bhāva, the mellows of loving devotion, found only in Vṛndāvana. So the fundamental principle of vraja-bhāva is surrender. First surrender to Kṛṣṇa. There must be complete surrender to Kṛṣṇa, otherwise vraja-bhāva will not manifest. Surrender means that we have given up all our tendencies to consume (enjoy). The attempt to assert one’s self upon others must also be abandoned. This is real humility. In material life we want to assert ourselves over others and take everything for our own enjoyment. But vraja-bhāva is just the opposite.

Neophytes, who have no real understanding of vraja-bhāva, sometimes may advertise their program as being rasika or as being in the mood of vraja-bhāva. Yet these persons have little or no real understanding of the exalted nature of the love of the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana, nor do they have a clear conception of the path of attainment, even though they may claim to be following a rasikācārya.

In fact, we see that their vraja-bhāva is only exhibited on Sundays, while the rest of the week they are absorbed in ordinary mundane activities. Those devotees who are actually tasting vraja-bhāva cannot tolerate even for a second to engage in ordinary financial dealings simply for the purpose of extending their material facilities.

Those who actually relish real vraja-bhāva embrace a life of renunciation (sannyāsa) and reject those things that are unfavorable for devotional service (prātikūla). In this regard Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura has said:

‘aham-mama’ bhāva-sattve nāma kabhu haya nā
bhoga-buddhi nā chaḍile aprākṛta haya nā

“The Holy Name is never revealed to one who is situated in the bodily concept of life and thinks in terms of ‘I’ and ‘mine.’ If one doesn’t reject the enjoying mentality, the transcendental platform will never be attained.” (Prākṛta-rasa Śata-dūṣiṇī 4)

anarthake ‘artha’ boli’ ku-pathete laya nā

“One should never mistakenly call material obstacles ‘useful for devotional service,’ thereby following the wrong path.” (Prākṛta-rasa Śata-dūṣiṇī 35)

In his Anubhāṣya to verse 28 of the last chapter of Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha edition) Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvati Ṭhākura has also written as follows:

“Those who are barren of the treasure of prema, propelled by duplicity, declare to the whole world their false attainment of prema, although in reality, by an external display of prema or by announcing it to one and all, it is positively impossible for such hypocrite destitutes who are deprived of the wealth of kṛṣṇa-prema to ever attain it. To make their great fortune known to everybody, adepts of prākṛta-sahajiyāism often expose to each other insincere external symptoms of prema (such as shedding of tears). Rather than calling such hypocrite sahajiyās as premika, real śuddha-bhaktas go as far as to completely reject their association, knowing it to destroy bhakti. Śuddha-bhaktas never teach one to designate such persons as ‘bhaktas,’ thus equaling them with śuddha-bhaktas. At the rise of genuine prema, the jiva hides her own glory and strives for kṛṣṇa-bhajana.

“The hypocrite prākṛta-sahajiyā party in their greed for wealth, women and fame (kanaka-kāminī-pratiṣṭha) offend śuddha-bhaktas by labeling them as darśanik paṇḍita’ (great philosophers), tattva-vit (ontology experts), or sūkṣma-darśī (acute observers), and in turn they adorn themselves with the titles rasika, bhajanānanī, bhāgavatottama (uttama-bhāgavata), līlā-rasa-pānonmatta (intoxicated by drinking sweet mellows of līlā), rāgānugīya-sādhakāgragaṇya (the foremost aspirants on the path of rāgānugā-bhakti), rasajña (the knowers of rasa), rasika-cuḍāmaṇi (unsurpassed rasikas) etc.”

“Having contaminated bhajana-praṇālī with the waves of their own materialistic emotions, they become attached to abominable practices; what they actually adore in themselves is pseudo-vaiṣṇavism. These kinds of preachers go to describe aprākṛta-rasa, making their respective mundane emotions a part and parcel of kṛṣṇa-sevā. Unaware of aprākṛta vipralambha-rasa, they take prākṛta-sambhoga, which in essence is a perverted reflection of rasa (virasa), as actual rasa.”

Those who have prema never boast of their love for Kṛṣṇa because the nature of pure love for Kṛṣṇa is that one who has it feels that he doesn’t have even a drop of it. Those who say they have prema, who say they are rasika, and who claim to be the distributors of vraja-bhāva are basically cheaters. They have cheated themselves, and they are cheating others. They have deviated from the path of our ācāryas.

Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura in the introduction to the 4th verse of Śīkṣāṣṭaka in his Amṛta-pravāha-bhāṣya of Caitanya-caritāmṛta states:

premera svabhāva – yaha premera sambandha
sei mane – kṛṣṇe mora nahi bhakti-gandha

“The nature of prema is such that one who has got real connection with prema will think with dainya (humility). ‘I possess not even a trace of bhakti.’”

The so-called preachers of ‘vraja-bhāva’ are always outraged when we speak on such topics according to the standard of our ācārya Śrīla Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. The pseudo-vaiṣṇava says that the jungle (araṇya) is cut and now it is time to preach rasa-līlā throughout the world. But such foolish persons do not realize that they are actually living in the jungle and the weeds of misconception have overgrown their creeper of devotion.

When challenged about their false conceptions, the so-called preachers of ‘vraja-rasa’ become angry and say that their tears are the proof that they are absorbed in prema. Yet these so-called rasika and prema-bhaktas do not show us that they actually possess any of the other qualities of pure devotion, such as dainya (humility), etc. They only make a show of tears.

In this regard, the Guardian of Devotion, Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja, has explained,

“By practicing, one can acquire that mental condition of shedding tears, and one can show many feats as though he were a real devotee. Merely the display of some peculiar external characteristics does not prove the presence of pure devotion. Real devotion is ‘sudurlabha’ —a very, very rare achievement.”

Pure devotion is such a rare commodity that it can hardly be attained by one days devotion per week, especially when that devotion is adulterated with the enjoying spirit and other such gross anarthas.

Those who are bona-fide preachers of the religion of divine love, as inaugurated by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, do not engage in rasa-vicāra (discussion of rasa) in public. The bona-fide preacher always preaches nāma-pracāra, the glories of the Holy Name.

This was emphatically stated by His Divine Grace, Śrīla B. P. Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja:

“In your foreign countries there has appeared a party of prākṛta-sahajiyāism. And it is not a matter of inventing something —what they speak is there in 10th Canto, in the works of the Gosvāmīs, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura. But the very fact of their speaking such higher topics to unprepared audiences, ignoring the glories of the Holy Name, who is the only real path to this higher līlā, is nāma-aparādha. Mahāprabhu never did like this. He was relishing these topics with a few of His antaraṅga-bhaktas, and was inspiring masses to perform nāma-saṅkīrtana, and He Himself performed saṅkīrtana with great numbers of people. Pracāra should be nāma-pracāra.” (Feb. 7, 1996, Śrīdhāma Māyāpura, Gopinātha Gauḍīya Maṭha)

We must be very strict and very, very vigilant about these points. That was the standard of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and that has been followed by his most stalwart disciples, such as Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda, Śrīla B. R. Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrīla B. P. Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja. Śrīla B. D. Mādhava Mahārāja, Śrīla B. S. Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrīla B. P. Keśava Mahārāja, and all others.

In conclusion, vraja-bhāva requires complete surrender at the lotus feet of guru and Kṛṣṇa. It is not a cheap thing! It requires a life of dedication. When one comes in connection with vraja-bhāva he does not go out to conduct business as usual, carrying on life without change, engaging in so many ordinary mundane activities. Vraja-bhāva means ‘die to live,’ the absolute abnegation of all things mundane, and that is followed by full submission to guru and Kṛṣṇa — that is vraja-bhāva. Not simply singing Hindi bhajanas — that is only nāmābhāsa. It is not śuddha-nāma or pure devotion.