Question: What should be the highest aspiration of a Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava? Should one aspire after the position of a mañjarī who can enter the groves of Vṛndāvana to serve Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa? What should be our aspiration?
Answer: We are to conceive of the plane of divine līlā or pastimes of the Supreme Lord as infinitely greater than we are. In that subjective plane of reality all things animate and inanimate are superior to us. We are units of finite consciousness, yet we falsely think that we can demand a position in the highest plane of divinity. It is ludicrous. It is heresy to think such.
We want so many things of the higher plane, but we are not fit for that service. We are not ready to pay the price of the highest service, but we think that we are somehow or other qualified for that. We have heard that some position is there in the mañjarī section which is most desirable, but we think that leaving all else aside we can simply jump to that position or march through that world as a soldier and conquer our objective. But it is not like that.
First we must qualify: “first deserve, then desire.” We want not the position of the master but of the most negligible. First we must aspire for the most negligible position in the subjective plane of divinity, not for the highest position. What is that most negligible position? It is this:
ayi nanda-tanuja kiṅkaraṁ patitaṁ māṁ viṣame bhavāmbudhau
kṛpayā tava pāda-paṅkaja-sthita-dhūlī-sadṛśaṁ vicintaya
“O son of Nanda Mahārāja, I am your eternal servant, yet because of my own karma, I have fallen into this terrible ocean of birth and death. Please accept this fallen soul and consider me a particle of dust at your holy lotus feet.” (Śikṣāṣṭakam 5)
The most negligible position one can hold in the relativity of the Absolute Truth is that of a particle of dust in the infinite world of līlā. Such is to be the highest aspiration of any Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava in this world. We are not to aspire in the beginning for the service of others, we must first aspire to be accepted into that domain by the Lord and His personal associates.
If we say that we want the highest, it is paramount to sense gratification. ‘We want’ means sense gratification. “I want this, I want that”, it is sense gratification. It is not for His pleasure, this “I want, I want” mentality. It is better, for His (Kṛṣṇa’s) pleasure, to prepare oneself in this life to become a particle of dust or a blade of grass in that higher plane of infinite līlā. That is more desirable and such a noble desire will not go unnoticed by the residents of that plane.
āsām aho caraṇa-reṇu-juṣām ahaṁ syāṁ
vṛndāvane kim api gulma-latauṣadhīnām
yā dustyajaṁ sva-janam ārya-pathaṁ ca hitvā
bhejur mukunda-padavīṁ śrutibhir vimṛgyām
“The gopīs of Vṛndāvana gave up their husbands, children, and families who are very difficult to renounce, and sacrificed even their religious principles to take shelter of the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, which are sought after even by the Vedas themselves. O! Grant me the fortune to take birth as a blade of grass in Vṛndāvana, so that I may take the dust of the lotus feet of those great souls upon my head.” (Bhāg. 10.47.61)
To become a blade of grass in the plane of the infinite is no small achievement, what to speak of seeing or associating with Kṛṣṇa directly. It is no small thing. Such is shown to us by Uddhava, the intimate friend of Kṛṣṇa. And taking it one step further, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has shown us that the position held by a particle of dust at the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa is the most desirable.
To achieve the most negligible position in the infinite will require the highest qualifications possible in this present plane. The highest qualifications attainable here for the sādhaka (devotee) may earn him the most negligible position in the higher subjective world of līlā. It is not a cheap thing.
We must become a slave to His (Kṛṣṇa’s) will. Then it may be possible that we are taken there by the higher agents of that plane. Otherwise, it is heresy to think that I will get that higher position by my own endeavour. Our śikṣā-guru, Śrīla B.R. Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja used to call such a mentality, wild goose-chasing. In reality, any aspiration that has no basis in the concept of divine slavery has no practical application in the pastimes of the Supreme Lord. Smaraṇa, meditation on līlā, and so many other things of the sahajiyā school are not the qualifications to be admitted there. Only surrender is necessary, the surrender of a slave.
When the necessity arises in the divine līlās, then the qualified slave of divinity is admitted to that arena and no others. Without surrender, without the slave’s mentality, we are not qualified for the higher service. So that should be the aspiration of one who understands the nature of the transcendental world: let me become the slave of the Lord.
āśliṣya vā pāda-ratāṁ pinaṣṭu mām
adarśanān marma-hatāṁ karotu vā
yathā tathā vā vidadhātu lampaṭo
mat-prāṇa-nāthas tu sa eva nāparaḥ
“Kṛṣṇa may embrace me in love or trample me under His feet. He may break my heart by hiding Himself from me. Let that debauchee do whatever he likes, but He will always be the only Lord of my life.” (Śikṣāṣṭakam 8)
This is the slave mentality “I am His slave – His slave in divine love. He is free to do anything and everything as He wishes, I am His slave.” But we are not ready to accept that position and that is why we are not qualified for participation in the highest līlās of the Lord.
There are many devotees and even sannyāsīs and bābājīs who go on with mañjarī-sevā meditations and other things of that section, when not even the slightest trace of the real qualifications are found in them. Such persons become mundane women in their next life. They are never promoted to the plane of divinity through the process of imitation.
Śrīla Gaura Kiśora Dāsa Bābājī, the guru of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, used to say, “Simply by entering the maternity room and imitating the sounds of labour one will not give birth to a child. Many events are necessary before that.”
The plane of infinite līlā is so charming that even the particle of dust there is worshipable for us. How then shall we approach that plane? Pūjala rāga-patha gaurava-bhaṅge – the plane of the highest rāga (līlā) must always be kept above our heads. With the plane of higher līlā above our heads we shall march on, tad dāsa-dāsa-dāsānāṁ dāsatvaṁ dehi me prabho. I am the servant of the servant, of the servant of the Lord’s servant. I want such a position and nothing else. That should be our approach.
This śloka, pūjala rāga-patha gaurava-bhaṅge was composed by Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, the guru of our Guru Mahārāja Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda, and it was his desire that this position be preached, not temporarily, but for all time, in all places, in all circumstances, and in every nook and corner of the universe. That was the mission of Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. He came to fight with all misconceptions about the Absolute Truth – he came to establish the path of divine love, divine slavery.
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura could not tolerate it when the higher subject matter was dealt with inappropriately. And what did he consider ‘inappropriate’? That the topic of līlā was taken to the public eye – this should not be done. Why? Sarasvatī Ṭhākura considered such as aparādha, an offence against the Lord of love. Invasion of privacy; to take the higher topic of līlā to the public is an offence. In the time of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura such was never the indulgence of any member of the Gauḍīya Maṭha, nor did any of his bona-fide disciples venture in that way after his disappearance.
We have heard many narrations from our Guardians (gurus) that exemplify how much regard Sarasvatī Ṭhākura had for the higher plane of divinity and how ever so carefully he dealt with that plane. From Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja we once heard that Sarasvatī Ṭhākura did not allow his disciples to read (study and discuss) such higher books as Govinda-līlāmṛtam, Stava-kusumañjalī, Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, and even certain portions of Caitanya-caritāmṛta wherein the līlā of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa is discussed. Whenever Sarasvatī Ṭhākura heard that someone was reading those books, he took it that an offence is being committed by interfering in the higher līlās. So if such a measure of caution is given by one who on one hand was the most dynamic and progressive preacher of Kṛṣṇa consciousness in the 20th century, and on the other hand so cautious in dealing with the higher līlās, then how much caution should we, the fallen souls, exercise when approaching such matters? It is only logical that we should follow his example and exercise extreme caution.
The most profound example of the mood in which Sarasvatī Ṭhākura approached divinity was related to us by Śrīla B.P. Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja as follows:
“At the close, before his entrance into his eternal pastimes, in the morning he requested Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Mahārāja to sing Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī-pada of Śrī Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura, and Navīna-Kṛṣṇa Prabhu to sing Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s tuṅhu dayā sāgara tārayite prāṇī. This was the commentary on Śikṣāṣṭaka. After giving this instruction to sing, Śrī Śrīla Prabhupāda began to repeat his famous counsel: Implicit obedience to the precepts laid down by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī through the medium of the spiritual master is the wealth of our devotions. In this instruction, he outlined the true method of our devotional practices as well as the real disciplic succession. Furthermore, in hearing the song of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura (tuyā dayā aichana parama udāra), Śrī Śrīla Prabhupāda clasped his hands to his forehead and profuse tears of humility rolled down his cheeks. These personal gestures reminded us of our lamentable plight in not having any attraction for the holy name.”
If you want the highest position, then take this example. Keep the lotus feet of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī (Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī) on your head as your supreme wealth and cultivate with every atom of your existence great humility and attachment for the holy name of Kṛṣṇa. This is the highest aspiration of a Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava.