The Authorized Sri Caitanya Saraswata Parampara
Part Two – The Practice of Pure Devotional Service Chapter 7 – Rasika or Sahajiya
“To determine who is actually a rasikā-bhakta is not always possible simply by observing external behavior…there are internal standards, however, and one who knows those standards of the rasikā-bhakta can never be misled.”
During my last visit to Śrīdhāma Māyāpura I had the great fortune of getting the darśana of Śrīla Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, age 100, an affectionate friend and godbrother of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja and Śrīla Prabhupāda. Śrīla Purī Mahārāja joined the mission of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura in 1922 and has been an active preacher of Lord Caitanya’s saṅkīrtana movement ever since. We discussed many transcendental topics with Śrīla Purī Mahārāja and we were very happy to see his mood of extreme reverence for Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja and Śrīla Prabhupāda, the holy name, the Vaiṣṇavas, and the teachings of Mahāprabhu. Most of all we were very touched at heart by his deep humility and gentle dealings.
One evening as we sat at Śrīla Purī Mahārāja’s lotus feet hearing about what it means to be a genuine Vaiṣṇava we were astounded when suddenly Śrīla Purī Mahārāja said, “There is a wave of sahajiyāism coming to the western world and you must preach against this misconception.”
What did he mean, “a wave of sahajiyāism is coming to the western world?” Sahajiyāism we know, means to imitate—imitate ecstasy, imitate the behaviour of exalted Vaiṣṇavas, to take things cheaply by not following the four regulative principles and the recommended process of devotional service, etc.—all these practices are sahajiyā. We have read about these things in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books and we are no doubt aware of the shortcomings of sahajiyā tendencies—or are we?
If a man comes to your temple or your house dressed in a sari, wearing a nose-ring, chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa and rolling on the ground with tears of ecstasy in his eyes, well—you will probably recognize his sahajiyā tendencies and reject his association. But beyond these gross manifestations of sahajiyāism—do we actually understand what a sahajiyā is and how to avoid sahajiyā tendencies? Apparently not or Śrīla Purī Mahārāja would not have mentioned it so strongly.
Further discussions with Śrīla Purī Mahārāja revealed what he meant when he exclaimed, “a wave of sahajiyāism is coming.” Not only will the Caste gosvāmīs, Gaurnāgarīs, Āula, Bāula, siddha-dehas, Siddha-praṇālīs, Sakhī-bhekīs, Daraveśas, Sāni, Smārtas, Ativāḍī, Cūḍādhārī, sahajiyā and many other worthless schools of imitation come to spread their nonsense in the west, he said, but members of your own community, persons from within our own sampradāya, are coming to demonstrate sahajiyāism. They are doing this in the name of rāgānuga-bhakti.
Rāgānugā-bhakti, the topic for the 90’s—what is it and how do you do it? Śrīla Purī Mahārāja stressed that if a devotee, a sannyāsī or a brahmacārī, thinks that he has become a rāgānuga–bhakta or a rasika and he wants to hear about the confidential līlā of Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs without first having the proper qualifications—then he runs the risk of becoming a woman with a mundane body in his next life! Unfortunately, there are many senior disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda and Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja who are trying to approach the higher subjective world of kṛṣṇa-līlā by practice and meditation with the mind. According to Śrīla Purī Mahārāja, however, none of them have the authorization of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura! Even if one has the necessary adhikāra, it is not the process which has been shown by Sarasvatī Ṭhākura or our previous acāryās and gurus such as Śrīla Prabhupāda or Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja.
To guide us in our approach to the upper world Śrīla Bhakti-siddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura has composed a nice verse which recommends that the highest aspirations in our bhajana life be kept overhead or within:
pūjāla rāgapaṭha gaurava baṅge
mattala sādhu jana viṣaya range
“The path of divine love is worshipable to us and should be held overhead as our highest aspiration”
And to protect us from the sahajiyā misconception Sarasvatī Ṭhākura has written a small book called Prakṛta-rasa Śata-dūṣiṇī, in which he mentions one hundred defects of the sahajiyā school. There are thousands of defects in the sahajiyās which disqualify them, but Sarasvatī Ṭhākura has only mentioned a few of their defects in his book.
To exemplify this idea of keeping the highest ideals above our heads, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja told how Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura wanted to reside at Govardhana rather than at Rādhā-kuṇḍa. “I am not fit to live in Rādhā-kuṇḍa. So I shall live in a lower position, but my gurus—Gaura Kiśora Dāsa Bābājī, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, and others—are fit to serve there. So I shall go and serve them there in Rādhā-kuṇḍa, and then return to a little lower position, in Govardhana. There I shall stay.”
But what is our actual position? Shouldn’t we aspire for the highest knowledge, the highest truth? It is a tricky question. We must move in the direction of truth, we must have proper knowledge—yet at the same time we must exercise great caution, fools rush in where angels fear to tread. To want to know everything about kṛṣṇa-līlā is a defect and that will cause us to fall down. It is to our advantage to always seek a lower position. That is the proper tactic to maintain a subjective position in the subjective world.
As Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja once said, “Otherwise, if we think that we are in the highest quarter, that higher reality will vanish from us. Only from a little lower position shall we view that higher plane with respect.”
Once we have been given proper connection with the higher world by the guru we should worship that conception on the altar of our heart. We should show the highest respect for those who are a part of Kṛṣṇa’s intimate līlā and for those who have come here to represent that quarter.
Above all, the esoteric līlās of Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs are never to be discussed in an open assembly—among unqualified persons. Nor should paintings of intimate līlās nor other such displays such as rasa-līlā drama be shown to the public. The ordinary people will consider kṛṣṇa-līlā with the gopīs as mundane sex relations and the neophyte devotees will also not be able to understand these topics. Therefore, it is an offense to disclose such topics in their presence.
First deserve, then desire. To discuss confidential topics about kṛṣṇa–nāma and Kṛṣṇa’s rasa-līlā in the presence of persons who do not have the required adhikāra or qualification constitutes an aparādha, an offense:
aśraddadhāne vimukhe ‘py aśṛṇvati
Offenses of this type must certainly be avoided by one who wants to progress in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Of course the higher subject matters may be discussed—they are not forbidden altogether. But there must be a qualified speaker and a qualified listener. Actually these things are reserved for liberated souls and to hear about such things without qualification is itself sahajiyāism. In the lives of our acāryās, especially Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura—the founder of the preaching mission of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in this modern age, we find that he was extremely reserved in discussing esoteric topics. In this manner, both Śrīla Prabhupāda and Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja were also perfect examples of the standards he set.
I have observed throughout my career as a disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swāmī Prabhupāda that even though Śrīla Prabhupāda was internally relishing the confidential truths regarding Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism he was nevertheless very, very discrete about openly discussing such truths—even amongst his most qualified disciples. Although outwardly not discussing the esoteric pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, it is a fact that internally Śrīla Prabhupāda was fully conscious of the sublime mellows of love of God. Like his spiritual master Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura—outwardly Śrīla Prabhupāda worshipped the way of divine love with grandeur, awe, and reverence, but his object was actually that of the simple and beautiful, divine love of Vṛndāvana, and his temperament in establishing the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement in the world was just like that of a lion.
A devotee who internally relishes the transcendental pastimes of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa is called a rasika-bhakta, one who takes transcendental pleasure in remembering the mellow sweetness of love of Godhead. It is a fact that one will have to approach such higher devotees sooner or later, but at present we are posed with a problem—how to tell the difference between a rasika–acāryā and a sahajiyā?
I think it is safe to say without objection from my readers that Śrīla Prabhupāda was a rasika–acāryā. As such we can further learn about the proper approach to the higher subject matter by observing his mood of presentation. Although keeping everything within—not allowing his ecstasy to manifest on the external plane—the depth in which Śrīla Prabhupāda relished Kṛṣṇa consciousness would sometimes become revealed in something he did or said. For the most part, however, his internal mood was couched within his dress as a world acāryā, as jagad-guru, as that of a humble servant of his spiritual master and as a preacher of Bhagavad-gītā As It Is. In this way Śrīla Prabhupāda was constantly engaged in kīrtana and preaching for the benefit of the fallen conditioned souls. To understand the internal workings of a rasika devotee is not an easy matter—if at all possible. But we must try if we are to make progress.
One example of Śrīla Prabhupāda keeping the mood of esoteric topics within and not disclosing them openly or publicly can be cited in relation to the verse dehi pada pallavam udāram from Gītā Govinda by Jayadeva Gosvāmī. This verse is regarded by the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas as being amongst the highest and most revered verses ever spoken. Yet Śrīla Prabhupāda is only known to have raised this verse in preaching twice after his coming to the western world. It is a most relishable subject for the pure devotees but they do not like to discuss such things amongst the conditioned souls. Only the followers of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, by His grace, can understand anything of the substance of this verse. It contains within it the highest aspiration of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava, rādhā-dāsyam.
Dehi pada pallavam udāram. This verse was spoken by Lord Kṛṣṇa to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī in the course of their intimate conversations. Here, Kṛṣṇa has expressed Himself openly—with great urgency and necessity, He begs for the pardon of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, “Please forgive Me and place Your lotus feet on My head.” This is a most high and esoteric concept—that Kṛṣṇa Himself is declaring the exalted position of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī as the supermost worshipable object. This kind of thinking is not possible for beginners—the neophytes cannot conceive of such an exalted position. How is it possible? The whole world is searching after Kṛṣṇa; all the yogīs, munis, and sages; even Brahmā, Śiva and Viṣṇu desire the darśana of Kṛṣṇa, but Kṛṣṇa is begging for the mercy of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Just see how great She is!
Śrīla Prabhupāda only once discussed this intimate matter before his western disciples and that was while instructing one of the BBT artists, Śrīmatī Jadurānī Devī Dāsī, sometime in 1967.
Śrīla Prabhupāda narrated the incident to his disciple that while writing the Gītā Govinda and describing the love affairs between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa these words came to the mind of Jayadeva, dehi pada pallavam udāram. When this happened Jayadeva was astonished, “What is this! How has such a thought entered my mind? I cannot write such a thing. How is it possible?”
Jayadeva could not conceive of such a thing. How could Kṛṣṇa the Supreme Lord ask for the feet of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī to be placed on his head? Jayadeva had great devotion and love for Kṛṣṇa as the topmost Supreme Entity, therefore it was not appropriate for Kṛṣṇa to utter such words. Jayadeva could not bring himself to write such a verse. He began to tremble and the pen fell from his hand.
Feeling somewhat disturbed Jayadeva decided to go to the Ganges for bath. He informed his wife. “Oh good wife, I shall go to the Ganges for bath. Please prepare my prasādam and have it ready when I return.” To which his good wife replied, “Yes, my respected husband, everything shall be done as you have requested.”
Jayadeva then left the house and started for the Ganges. A short time later, Jayadeva returned to the house and requested his wife to immediately serve prasādam, as he was very hungry. Jayadeva’s wife then served her husband, after which Jayadeva returned to his study and began writing.
As is the custom in India, Jayadeva’s wife then sat down after her husband had eaten and began to take her prasādam. Suddenly Jayadeva appeared at the doorway of his house and began to call for his wife requesting her to serve prasādam, as he was very hungry. Astonished to hear such a thing, Jayadeva’s wife informed her husband, “My most respected husband, upon returning from the Ganges you have already taken your meal and in turn after you, I have already taken my prasādam. After that you went to your study and continued your writing. I have seen you do all this, so why do you now say that you are very hungry and that you want to take prasādam?”
Hearing this, Jayadeva was bewildered and he could not understand the strange behaviour of his wife. Upon entering his study Jayadeva became even more astonished when he saw that the verse that he had hesitated to write, was now written in his own handwriting on the paper he had left. Kṛṣṇa Himself had come to complete the verse. Kṛṣṇa had wanted Jayadeva to disclose this most inconceivable truth but he hesitated—so Kṛṣṇa did it Himself.
smara-garala-khaṇḍanaṁ mama śirasi maṇḍanaṁ
dehi pada-pallavam udāram
jvalati mayi däruëo madana-kadanānalo
“O Śrī Rādhe, Your holy lotus feet are very kind and generous. The burning poison of Kāmadeva, which is always pressing Me, will be finished if You place Your lotus feet on My head. Only You can save Me.”
When Śrīla Prabhupāda uttered this verse he himself began to feel great ecstatic emotions within, but he checked himself for the benefit of his disciple. Śrīla Prabhupāda never again uttered this verse during the remaining ten years of his preaching mission until 1977 when he spoke the same verse dehi pada pallavam udarām in the course of chastising a film producer who came to get Śrīla Prabhupāda’s blessing for producing a film on kṛṣṇa-līlā. Śrīla Prabhupāda was outspoken and firm—he had no intention of ever blessing such a project. And his reasons were obvious—“who will understand your film production?”
To determine who is actually a rasika-bhakta is not always possible simply by observing external behaviour. Externally a rasika-bhakta may even appear not to be relishing rasa. Externally he may even have a common appearance. There are internal standards, however, and one who knows those standards of the rasika-bhakta can never be misled.
One very important standard of a rasika-bhakta is that he cannot tolerate rasābhāsa (inconsistency or opposing mellows in rasa) or the fact that unqualified persons try to enter into confidential subject matters. Śrīla Prabhupāda often showed this example of being totally intolerant toward such topics. In all cases Śrīla Prabhupāda never failed to heavily stress that the confidential rāsa-līlās of Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs were “only for liberated souls” and it was not at all possible for conditioned souls or neophyte devotees to understand these topics.
Śrīla Prabhupāda was unrelenting on this point. He would often become angry when unqualified persons raised such confidential topics and he would chastise them, “My point is that for ordinary discussion, ordinary show these things are not meant for ordinary persons. These things are for liberated souls! That is my point.”
As for outward displays of ecstasy by a rasikā-bhakta one can refer to Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi of caitanya-līlā. Whenever Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi happened to hear the topics of kṛṣṇa-līlā he would become overwhelmed with ecstasy and exhibit all the bodily transformations of love of God—trembling, faltering of the voice, shedding tears, fainting, rolling on the ground, and speaking like a madman, etc. Only by seeing these extraordinary bodily manifestations of love of God could one actually understand the exalted position of Śrīla Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi. Outwardly he appeared very ordinary, but inwardly he was a devotee of the highest calibre. Of the highest calibre—to say the least—he was the incarnation of King Vṛṣabhānu, the father of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.
Actually both of these examples which I have given, one of Śrīla Prabhupāda and the other of Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi, are factual characteristics of a rasika–bhakta, however, of the two examples we are to concern ourselves more with the example of Śrīla Prabhupāda, rather than that of Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi. Why? Because cheaters often imitate the behaviour of devotees like Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi but they almost never imitate the preachers like Śrīla Prabhupāda. For example, in Vṛndāvana there is a certain māyāvādī sannyāsī, who, upon hearing the name of Rādhārāṇī falls into “trance” and sheds tears of “ecstasy.” But when I asked him so many questions regarding Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s philosophy he had nothing to say. He had no philosophy and therefore he was exposed.
The actual rasika-bhaktas are masters of rasa-tattva or the philosophy of rasa. This rasa-tattva is not simply a matter of book learning but it is the intrinsic truth about transcendental love affairs between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa manifest in the hearts of pure devotees. It is the superior truth about transcendental love affairs, acquired due to their full surrender and deep attachment to the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa. Because rasa-tattva is intrinsic in the hearts of pure devotees, it cannot so easily be imitated by the pseudo swamis, yogis and gurus.
Our conclusion is that we should make the goal of our life the pleasure of Kṛṣṇa’s dearest servants. That will automatically qualify us for the higher plane but if we become intruders of kṛṣṇa-līlā, if we try to jump ahead without proper qualification, then we will certainly be cast down.
It is the duty of all the disciples and especially the sannyāsīs of Śrīla Prabhupāda and Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja to preach against the advances of sahajiyāism in the Vaiṣṇava community here in the western world. That will be a great service to Śrī Caitanya Mahā-prabhu’s movement. The standards for preaching and bhajana have already been established for this movement by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and as Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja has recently requested—we should take inspiration from Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and do the needful.