The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Vraja-dhama

BY: SUN STAFF - 1.5 2020

The Damsels of Vraja

A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 168.

In one particular chapter of Jaiva Dharma there is a lengthy narrative offering instruction on the nature of Vraja-dhama and the pinnacle of bhakti demonstrated by those who attain it. In chapter twenty-one, this conversation unfolds between the disciple Vrajanatha and his spiritual master, Prema-dasa Babaji:

"Vrajanatha: Who is qualified to perform raga-bhakti?

Babaji: A person whose faith rests in the rules of the scriptures is qualified to engage in vaidhi-bhakti. A person whose faith rests in an intense desire to attain Lord Krsna is qualified to engage in ragatmika-bhakti. Manifested according to their different rasas (relationships with Lord Krsna), Lord Krsna's personal associates in the spiritual world of Vraja with strong faith engage in ragatmika-bhakti. A person who has a strong desire to love Lord Krsna as the residents of Vraja in the spiritual world do, is qualified to engage in raganuga bhakti.

Vrajanatha: What are the qualities of this strong desire?

Babaji: One quality is that when one hears about the sweetness of the love and other emotions manifested by the residents of Vraja in the spiritual world, one yearns to go there. When a person qualified to engage in vaidhi-bhakti hears the descriptions of Lord Krsna, he calmly things about these descriptions, using his intelligence, logic, and the evidence of scripture. However, when a person following the path of raganuga-bhakti hears these descriptions, he does not carefully consider them in terms of intelligence, logic and scripture. Instead he is overcome with the desire to love Krsna as the residents of Vraja do.

Vrajanatha: What are the activities of raganuga-bhakti?

Babaji: The devotee engaged in raganuga-bhakti yearns to become one of the residents of Vraja in the spiritual world and there serve Lord Krsna directly. He always thinks of that desire. He likes to talk with other devotees about the pastimes of his beloved Krsna. He resides in Vraja, either with his external body, or within his thoughts. Yearning to attain the spiritual love that they possess, he becomes a follower of the people of Vraja. He always serves the Lord in two ways. Externally he performs sadhana-bhakti. Internally he thinks of his original spiritual form and in that form he serves the Lord.

Vrajanatha: What is the connection between raganuga-bhakti and the different limbs of vaidhi-bhakti?

Babaji: A person engaged in raganuga-bhakti also performs the different activities of sadhana-bhakti, such as hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord. However, within his heart he is a follower of the people of Vraja. In this way he tastes the nectar of always serving the Lord. At the same time he serves in this way within his heart, he engages in the activities of sadhana-bhakti with his external body.

Vrajanatha: How is raganuga-bhakti glorious?

Babaji: By engaging in raganuga-bhakti one quickly attains what takes a long time to attain by performing sadhana-bhakti. Vaidhi-bhakti is weak, but raganuga-bhakti is both independent and very powerful. By following in the footsteps of the people of Vraja, one attains raga. That raga naturally pushes one to engage in the devotional activities of hearing, chanting and remembering the Lord's glories, serving His lotus feet, bowing down before Him, and surrendering everything to Him. When the heart is free of the three material modes, one naturally desires to follow in the footsteps of the people of Vraja. Therefore the attraction to raganuga-bhakti, or the intense desire to attain raganuga-bhakti is the inspiration that pushes one to true spiritual life. As there are many different kinds of ragatmika-bhakti, so there are also many different kinds of raganuga-bhakti."

After an exchange about the different kinds of ragatmika-bhakti, the discourse continues in answer to Vrajanatha's question about the nature of devotional service with lusty desires:

"Babaji: The word 'lust' means 'the thirst to enjoy'. When it is manifested in ragatmika-bhakti, that thirst to enjoy becomes causeless love for Lord Krsna. Thus it becomes the thirst to enjoy the association of Lord Krsna. In this situation the devotee acts only to please Lord Krsna. The devotee does not act for his own happiness. The devotee accepts his own happiness only if it leads to Krsna's happiness. This very wonderful unprecedented love is perfectly manifested in the gopis of Vraja. because it possesses the qualities of wonderful sweetness and playfulness, panditas use the word "lusty desires" (kama) to describe the gopis love (prema). However, the truth is that the gopis 'lusty desires' are spiritual and free from the slightest scent of any fault. On the other hand, the lusty desires felt by the souls in Maya's prison are wretched, lowly and filled with faults. When they saw it, Uddhava and other dear devotees of the Lord yearned to attain the 'lusty desires' felt by the gopis of Vraja. The gopis' lusty desire cannot be compared to anything else. It can be compared only to itself. These 'lusty desires' in ragatmika bhakti exist only in Vraja and not in any other place. The 'lusty desires' that Kubja manifested in Mathura are called 'kama-praya' (resembling lusty desires). Although they bear some resemblance to the gopis' lusty desires, they are different.

Vrajanatha: What is the nature of raga-bhakti with familial relationships?

Babaji: Raga-bhakti in the rasa of familial relationships is manifested when one identifies himself as Krsna's parent or other relative. When one thinks, "I am Krsna's father", or "I am Krsna's mother", or when one thinks of oneself as another kind of relative of Krsna, that is called devotional service in the mood of familial relationships. In the Vrsni dynasty there are also devotees who identify as Krsna's father and mother. Still, devotional service in familial relationships is first manifested in Vraja: in Nanda, in Yasoda, and in others also. Pure love for Krsna is manifested in these kinds of 'lusty desires' and 'familial relationships'. That is why the eternally liberated souls take shelter of them. In raganuga-bhakti these two sentiments are mentioned only briefly. In the practice of devotional service, these two sentiments take two forms: 1. kamanuga (following lusty desires), and 2. sambandhanuga (following familial relationships).

Vrajanatha: What are the qualities of kamanuga-bhakti in the practice of raganuga-bhakti?

Babaji: When a devotee thirsts to follow the path of kama devotional service, that is called 'kamanuga'. Kamanuga-bhakti is of two kinds: 1. sambhogecchamayi (yearning to enjoy), and 2. tat-tad-bhavecchamayi (yearning to love).

Vrajanatha: What is the nature of sambhogecchamayi?

Babaji: Sambhogecchamayi means 'the desire to participate in Lord Krsna's pastimes (keli) with the gopis".

Vrajanatha: What is the nature of tat-tad-bhavecchamayi?

Babaji: Tat-tad-bhavecchamayi means 'the desire to attain the sweetness of love that the Vraja-gopis felt for Lord Krsna."

Vrajanatha: How are these two sentiments manifested in the practice of raganuga-bhakti?

Babaji: By seeing the sweetness of Lord Krsna's Deity form and by hearing the descriptions of Lord Krsna's pastimes, one develops a desire to fall in love with Krsna. Devotees who have that desire practice raganuga-bhakti that is either kamanuga or sambandhanuga.

Vrajanatha: Lord Krsna is male, and the Vraja-gopis are all female. Therefore I can see that only women are qualified to practice this kind of raganuga-bhakti. How can men be qualified to attain it?

Babaji: Each individual soul residing in the material world has an original spiritual form that manifests one of the five rasas (relationships with Lord Krsna). Four of these rasas, namely, dasya (servitorship), sakhya (friendship), vatsalya (parental love) and madhura (conjugal love) are present among the people of Vraja. In Vraja, males participate in the rasas of dasya (servitorship), sakhya (friendship) and the fatherhood portion of vatsalya (parental love). In these three rasas males engage in direct service to Lord Krsna. However, it is only females who serve the Lord in madhura (conjugal love) and in the motherhood portion of vatsalya. Among both liberated souls and beginners engaged in sadhana bhakti, many souls with external male material bodies have original spiritual forms that are female.

Vrajanatha: How do souls with male external material bodies follow in the footsteps of the Vraja-gopis?

Babaji: In different ways, as they are qualified, they become attracted to the rasa of conjugal love (srngara-rasa). Even though their external material form is male, their original spiritual form, which is female, is always present. According to one's inclination and one's original spiritual form, one is qualified to become the follower of a particular Vraja-gopi. By following that gopi, one's original spiritual form is again openly manifested and in that original form one serves Lord Krsna directly. In the Padma Purana an example is given of souls who, although their external material bodies were male, eventually became gopis. There it is said that when they saw the handsomeness of Lord Ramacandra, the sages of Dandakaranya forest yearned to attain Him as their husband. When Lord Krsna manifested His Gokula pastimes, these same sages were born as women. In those forms they served Lord Krsna in the rasa of conjugal love."

As we'll see in the segment to follow, a great of deal of Jaiva Dharma's illumination of Vraja-dhama focuses on the rasas enjoyed by the gopis. But here in the continuing discussion of how lusty desires may be expressed in devotional service, we get the conclusion that it is the Vraja-gopis alone who practices this kind of devotional service mixed with lust:

"Vrajanatha: Which gopis were eternally liberated and which became liberated by engaging in devotional service?

Babaji: Srimati Radhika is Lord Krsna's internal potency (svarupa-sakti). She expands into the forms of Her eight close friends (asta-sakhi) and they expand into the forms of other gopis (sakhis). These gopis are all eternally liberated (nitya-siddha). These gopis are not manifested by the jiva-sakti. Rather, they are manifested by the Lord's internal potency (svarupa sakti). In addition to these gopis, there are other gopis (also sakhis) who attained liberation by engaging in devotional service (sadhana-siddha), and were thus allowed to join Srimati Radhika's entourage. These gopis are individual souls (jiva) who attained liberation by engaging in devotional service (sadhana-siddha). By the power of the Lord's hladini-sakti they attained salokya liberation and were allowed to associate with Sri Radha, the queen of Vraja. Devotees who follow the path of raganuga-bhakti and aspire for srngara-rasa eventually attain liberation as a result of their devotional service. Thus they are able to join the company of gopis (sakhis). Devotees who follow the path of vidhi-bhakti and desire to enjoy (riramsa) Krsna, which means they desire that Lord Krsna will become their husband, become the Lord's queens at Dvaraka. Devotees who follow the path of vidhi-bhakti do not become followers of Sri Radha, the goddess of Vraja. Only devotees who follow the path of vidhi-bhakti externally and the path of raganuga-bhakti internally attain devotional service in the land of Vraja.

Vrajanatha: How does one become purified of the desire to enjoy (riramsa) Krsna, which means the desire that Lord Krsna will become one's husband?

Babaji: These devotees who have accepted the role of Lord Krsna's queens should renounce all pride and humbly serve Lord Krsna as a wife serves her husband. However, even if they do this, these devotees may not attain the desire to become one of the gopis of Vraja.

Vrajanatha: Please explain more clearly.

Babaji: Devotees who aspire to attain Lord Krsna as their husband (svakiya) become the Lord's queens (mahisi-bhava). These devotees cannot taste the rasa where Krsna is one's paramour (parakiya), a rasa relished by the Vraja-gopis. For this reason these devotees cannot follow in the footsteps of the gopis. Only by following the path of raganuga-bhakti and cherishing the idea that Lord Krsna is one's paramour (parakiya) can one attain the rasa of a gopi in Vraja.

Vrajanatha: By your mercy, I have understood all this. Now please kindly explain one thing: What is the difference between 'lust' (kama) and 'love' (prema)? If there is no difference, why did you use the word 'prema-rupa' (the nature of love)? When I hear it, the word 'lust' (kama) brings pain to my ears.

Babaji: There is a difference between lust and love. When we say 'love' we mean an emotion like what is felt in raga-bhakti when the devotee considers Krsna a relative in his family (sambandha). In that devotional service as a family member, there is no idea of trying to exploit Krsna for one's own enjoyment. In devotional service where one relates to Lord Krsna as a family member, there is no scope for an amorous relationship. Still, that relationship is undoubtedly based on love (prema). However, when this love for Krsna is gracefully mixed with the desire to enjoy Krsna, the result is devotional service (bhakti) performed in the spirit of lust (kama). In the other rasas lust and devotional service are not mixed together in this way. This combination is present only in the rasa of conjugal love. Aside from the Vraja-gopis, no one practices this kind of devotional service mixed with lust. In this material world the word 'lust' means to desire material sense pleasures. However, the 'lust' felt by the gopis is very different from material lust. The lust felt by the gopis is completely pure and faultless. Material lust is a perverted reflection of the gopis' lust. Though it was directed Lord Krsna, the lust felt by Kubja cannot be said to be like the gopis lust (saksat-kama). Lust to enjoy with the material senses is an emotion that is worthless, wretched, and degraded. On the other hand, lust that is a feature of pure love for Krsna is exalted and full of bliss. Because material lust is wretched and degraded, what shall stop you from using the word 'spiritual lust' (aprakrta-kama) to describe the emotion felt by the gopis?

Vrajanatha: Now please explain the aspect of raganuga-bhakti where one thinks of Krsna as one's family member?

Babaji: Devotional service where one has a family or other kind of relationship with Krsna is called 'sambandhanuga-bhakti'. This kind of relationship is present in three rasas: dasya (servitorship), sakhya (friendship) and vatsalya (parenthood). In this relationship one thinks, "I am a servant. Krsna is my master", or one thinks, "I am Krsna's friend", or one thinks, "I am Krsna's father", or one thinks "I am Krsna's mother". These are the thoughts of one in sambandha. This sambandhanuga-bhakti is manifested in its pure form among the residents of Vraja."