Part One: Waking from the Dream
Part Two: The Path of the Heart
With eternal loving gratitude to His Divine Grace Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, grand ambassador of Lord Chaitanya and the Holy Name to the Western world, and our ‘Siksa-guru’.
Dedicated as an offering to Sri Acharyadev His Divine Grace Sri Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj through whom the disciples and followers of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat lineage continue to receive inspiration, strength, and nourishment in their aspiration towards the noble ideals shown by the great preceptor and founder of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, His Divine Grace Om Visnupad Sri Srimad B. R. Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj
kamasya nendriya-pritir labho jiveta yavata
jivasya tattva-jijnasa nartho yas cheha karmabhih
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 1.2.10)
“Life’s desires should never be directed toward sense gratification. One should desire only a healthy life, or self preservation, since a human being is meant for enquiry about the Absolute Truth. Nothing else should be the goal of one’s works.”
It is my great pleasure and fortune to be able to present this short talk by His Divine Grace Srila B. R. Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj in written form.
For the sincere student of the teachings of Krishna consciousness as delivered by the Supreme Lord Himself, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila B. R. Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj requires little introduction. Disciple of the great pioneer of the teachings of pure devotional theism in the present age, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad (1874-1937), Srila Sridhar Maharaj was named by his Gurudev as the ‘guardian of devotion’, and his life and teachings—his immense scriptural knowledge, oral and written contributions, and depth of realisation—have touched innumerable hearts of godbrothers and disciples alike.
Following the departure from the world of his beloved godbrother, Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad (1896-1977), the great ambassador of Krishna consciousness to the Western world, Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s very presence in the world brought new life, light, and hope to many of Srila Swami Prabhupad’s disciples. Though Srila Sridhar Maharaj himself disappeared from mortal vision in 1988, after having appointed his most beloved disciple Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj as his successor, that presence continues to shine brightly both in the hearts of his disciples, grand-disciples, and followers all over the world, and at his place of bhajan (worship), the beautiful Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math at Nabadwip.
Awakening to the Absolute is an extract from a talk which was delivered in 1982 during the first months of that year when devotees, seeking guidance and nourishment for their spiritual lives amidst turbulent times, were visiting Srila Sridhar Maharaj at Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. Actually, we had known about this wonderful gem for a long time and had intended to publish it much earlier but were unable to locate the tape recording. During a visit to Norway in 1997, a video film of Srila Sridhar Maharaj was being shown in one devotees’ home, and lo! We were blessed. Subsequently, we were given an audio copy of the same from which the present offering was transcribed.
Previously, two booklets also containing excerpts from Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s talks, entitled Home Comfort and Inner Fulfilment, were published. Although intended as introductions to the spiritual life of devotion and suitable for public distribution, these also contained conceptions of much greater depth and were in fact of great value and much loved by practising devotees all over the world.
Awakening to the Absolute may perhaps be seen as completing this trilogy of booklets. Herein is shown how the Absolute Truth in its fully revealed aspect is Krishna, and therefore Krishna consciousness is the summum bonum of all spiritual search. Taking the basic theme of those previous books—the search innate in every living being for fulfilment which can be finally realised in the human form—the development of this search in a progressively specified form, blessing the soul with greater and greater fulfilment in the life of divine service, is shown.
Though it is certainly true that sincere faith (sraddha) is the first and foremost qualification—or pre-qualification—and necessity for the spiritual aspirant, it is incorrect to assume that spiritual life is somehow haphazard or unscientific. By authentic spiritual practice under expert guidance and with the help of divine grace, the goal is realised by stages; awakenment of the soul is such. The Lord Himself (Bg: 10.32) says, “Of all kinds of wisdom, of all sciences, I am the spiritual science of the self—the knowledge of the soul.”
However, with this science, the results are not, cannot be, verifiable in the empirical sense because here the work—the experiment if you will—is performed not on, or with, any external apparatus, but on and with the experimenter himself. The results, therefore, are necessarily subjectively (in the subject, self) realised. That is why, to the uninitiated, religious experience always seems an impenetrable mystery. Indeed, Sri Krishna tells Arjuna (Bg: 2.69):
“While spiritual awareness is like night for the living beings enchanted by the material phenomena, the self-realised soul remains awake, directly relishing the divine ecstasy of his uninterrupted spiritual intelligence. On the contrary, the wakefulness of materialistic persons addicted to sense enjoyment—infatuated by fleeting mundane fancies devoid of spiritual joy—is night for the self-realised person who is completely indifferent to such pursuits.”
The serious enquirer, if it is his fortune to appreciate this truth, would naturally wish to seek out the living representative of such as advised by the Lord in the Bhagavad-gita to His dear disciple Arjuna:
tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam jnaninas tattva-darsinah
(Srimad Bhagavad-gita: 4.34)
“You will be able to attain all this knowledge by satisfying the enlightened spiritual master with prostrate obeisances, relevant enquiry, and sincere service. Great souls who are most expert in scriptural knowledge and endowed with direct realisation of the Supreme Absolute Truth will teach you that divine knowledge.”
Characteristically, in this talk His Divine Grace takes as his basis a verse from scripture and then explains it line by line and word by word, revealing the inner meaning in its beautiful, living form. Here, we have a scientific, clear, and impartial exposition of the development of consciousness from self-realisation—brahma-bhutah prasannatma (Bg: 18.54)—up to the soul’s location in eternal divine service—muktir hitvanyatha rupam svarupena-vyavastitih—the gradual awakening of the soul, in stages, to its acme: a “life of love with Krishna”—hence the book’s title.
In transcribing the text, we have tried to be faithful to the spirit, the mood, and flow of Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s delivery as it was originally given. We have made adjustments only where unavoidably necessary to show the meanings in the text as clearly and accurately as possible, (especially) for the reader unfamiliar with Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s particular spiritually-charged, charming, and poetic manner of speech.
At the end of the book, we have also included some verses on chanting the Holy Name, the yuga-dharma or recommended means for spiritual realisation in the present age. The subject matter of Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s talk is so essential, in fact, that we were surprised that the talk had not been brought out earlier in the original excellent publications explaining the Krishna conception, as produced by Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s disciples in the early 1980’s. But then, there is such a wealth of material available (it has been estimated that the recorded informal discourses over nearly nine years (1979-1988) would fill 80 books!), and of course, it is a great fortune that by that arrangement, our humble self might be given the chance to do this service.
Without further ado then, we happily present His Divine Grace’s talk. May the kind reader forgive us for any mistakes appearing in the present offering despite our every effort to eradicate them.
B. S. Tridandi Swami
Festival in remembrance
of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s sannyas-lila
15 January 1999
pramanais tat sad-acharais tad abhyasair nirantaram
bodhayan atmanatmanam bhaktim apy uttamam labhet
(Sri Brahma-samhita: 5.59)
“Supreme devotion is attained by gradually increasing perception of one’s intrinsic self through constant self-cultivation following authority, virtuous practices, and practising spiritual life.”
Waking from the Dream
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: We find this verse in Srimad Bhagavatam:
ksinoty abhadrani cha sam tanoti
sattvasya suddhim paramatma-bhaktim
jnanan cha vijnana-viraga-yuktam
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 12.12.55)
“For one who remembers the lotus feet of Krishna, all inauspiciousness soon disappears, and one’s good fortune expands. In other words, one becomes free from all material contamination, one attains liberation from repeated birth and death, and one’s real spiritual life begins. As one’s heart becomes gradually purified, one’s devotion for the Lord within the heart awakens, and one realises the Paramatma. Thus, one gradually develops knowledge (jnan), realisation (vijnan), and renunciation (vairagya).”
Krishna consciousness, remembrance of the divine feet of Krishna (Krsna-padaravindayoh), will dissipate, destroy, the abhadra, what is undesirable, what is not good, in us. That which is nasty, which is impure within us, will be destroyed by the continuance of Krishna consciousness. In any stage of its development, even in its lower stage, its slightest, ‘negligent’ connection can destroy our undesirable connection with the things of lower nature. And, it will promote goodness within us. Sattvasya suddhim: the substantial character of our existence will be improved; our soul-existence, that will be purified. Our standpoint, our understanding, our aspiration, everything will be purified. And, Paramatma-bhaktim: we shall attain devotion, attachment to the super-subjective realm, and our knowledge, our conception about that (jnanan cha)will improve. And that knowledge—the conception about Him—will develop to vijnan, a proper conception, and will effect in us viraga-yuktam: apathy to this mundane world.
At any cost, we are to maintain our Krishna consciousness. The advice is: try to maintain Krishna consciousness; it is the medicine. And there is no other medicine which can produce Krishna consciousness, which can cure our disease and discover Krishna consciousness within us.
Light from light
Krishna consciousness is the cause of Krishna consciousness! And we have to get help from the sadhus who have got Krishna consciousness within them just as from one candle another candle may be lit. A candle cannot produce light from within, but it is to be lit from another candle. It is something like that. We are to awaken our buried Krishna consciousness, which is covered by anyabhilas, karma, and jnan (fruit-seeking, selfish work, the result of the attempt to satisfy material desires, both fleeting and ‘organised’, and the search for philosophical/spiritual knowledge, devoid or independent of devotional service). So, that light, that association, will come to help the sleeping Krishna consciousness within us, and our consciousness will arise from its sleep and show itself as it is. So, the method is that: to take sadhu-sanga. Krsna-bhakti-janma-mula haya ‘sadhu-sanga’: association with the sadhu, devotee of Krishna, is the root cause of Krishna consciousness.
At the same time, it is told that Krishna consciousness is ahaituki, causeless. How are we to harmonise these truths? Krishna-bhakti, faith in Krishna, or devotion to Krishna, we can get from the sadhu; at the same time, it is told that it is causeless.
In this connection, Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur has explained the meaning of ahaituki in this verse from Srimad Bhagavatam (1.2.6):
sai vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje
ahaituky apratihata yayatma suprasidati
“The supreme occupation (dharma) for all humanity is that by which man can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be causeless and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.”
He explains that here Krishna-bhakti is described as ahaituki, causeless, and also apratihata, continuous, so when it is awakened in our heart, we can feel that our heart is getting wonderfully satisfied: yayatma suprasidati. The satisfaction is produced in our heart; we can feel it. Ahaituky apratihata: it has no cause, and it cannot be checked, cannot be opposed; opposition cannot have any effect there. It is such. Bhakti comes from bhakti. In this way, it is ahaituki just as the light is there and another candle is lit from it. From light, light is coming. In this way, we are to trace it out, to understand it. The original light, that is eternal, self-existent, and is extending itself, so it has no cause; it is causeless. The cause is there eternally, and it is extending itself.
Connection with the causal plane
And, bhakti is apratihata. Temporarily, it may seem to be opposed, or apparently checked, but, nehabhikrama-naso ’sti pratyavayo na vidyate (“Even a small beginning in this devotional service can never go in vain nor can any loss be suffered”). It won’t leave you! For the time being, it may be suppressed a little, but it cannot be finished. It is of eternal character. It has got connection with the eternal aspect of the universe. So, it is apratihata. We are to come near such sort of existence; we are to come in connection with that plane of life—a particular plane of plenary existence, acquaintance, or nature. It is there; only we are to have our connection with it.
So, in this verse from Srimad Bhagavatam:
ksinoty abhadrani cha sam tanoti
sattvasya suddhim paramatma-bhaktim
jnanan cha vijnana-viraga-yuktam
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 12.12.55)
We find here jnanan cha vijnana-viraga-yuktam. Jnan means direct knowledge of a thing, and vijnan, systematic knowledge. In Bhagavad-gita also, we find this vijnan:
jnanam te ’ham sa-vijnanam idam vaksyamy asesatah
yaj jnatva neha bhuyo ‘nyaj jnatavyam avasisyate
(Srimad Bhagavad-gita: 7.2)
“Now I shall fully describe to you, with the taste of the flavour of divine sweetness, this knowledge of My grand majestic splendour and opulences. After knowing all this, absolutely nothing will remain for you to know, being situated on this beautiful, joyful, and victorious path.”
Here, we find that jnan means a general knowledge of the whole, and vijnan means the knowledge of its constituent parts as a system, systematic knowledge. So, jnanan cha vijnana-viraga-yuktam: you will attain the knowledge of the Absolute as a system—of parts in gradation, a hierarchy.
Viraga has a twofold meaning: one negative, and the other positive. The negative meaning is: you will have no attraction for ‘non-God’, that is, you will have no mundane attachment, no attraction for mundane necessity. And positive: visisyate-raga, you will have excellent (visisyate) attachment (raga)—that kind of attachment which is accepted through the process of selection and elimination, attachment located in its proper place. Your attraction (to Him, to God) will not be through a raw or approximate estimation: “This is good; that is bad; this is a mixture”, but you will have progressively eliminative attraction, adjusted attraction. This is the meaning of viraga-yuktam. So, this knowledge is such, jnanan cha vijnana-viraga-yuktam: knowledge that is supported by (based on) attraction and also, by experience of the system, that knows how much attachment—more attachment or less—is necessary in any part of it. Discriminative attachment—attachment for the eye, attachment for the hand; they should not be equal, an adjusted attachment, in a particular system. The attachment should be well adjusted. Wherever and how much attention is necessary—the criterion is according to that. So, the head is more important, and the leg a little less. In this way, you will gradually acquire properly adjusted attachment for the systematic whole. First it is hazy, a mass of attraction, and then the attraction will be systematised. As much as you will come in connection with the other side—the object of your attachment—in a systematic way, so much you will be able to realise (Him).
ksinoty abhadrani cha sam tanoti
In a general way, the path of good advancement is given here. And, then, sattvasya suddhim: your understanding, in its progress, will have its undesirable portion eliminated. Your conception will become more clear—clearer and clearer. With that clarity, undesirable things from your conception will gradually vanish, and your progress will lead you to the perfect conception: sattvasya suddhim. In the beginning, that sattva (truth) is what you come to understand in an approximate way to be eternal or sat-chit-ananda (eternal truth, consciousness, and bliss), but there will be gradual development in your understanding; it will become more clear and more pure.
So, the development towards Krishna consciousness is such. First, a mass of light, then the figure, then the potency, then the lila (Pastimes) with the potency. In this way, your approach will be closer and closer, and many things, the closest and minutest things, will come to your view. The minutest part also, the most detailed things—the whole chit-vilas (the spiritual variegatedness of the conscious plane) will be very close to you. You will be led higher and higher, closer to the specified, differentiated view of that plane. In this way, there is progressive development—progress in bhakti, devotion.
The Path of the Heart
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Any question?
Disciple: In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says:
bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate
vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah
(Srimad Bhagavad-gita: 7.19)
“After many, many births, the jnani, person in knowledge (who happens to achieve the association of My pure devotee), finally comes to understand that the whole universe of moving and stationary beings is of the nature of Vasudev alone in as much all are subordinate to Vasudev (I, as Vasudev, am the source and substance of all that be). Having grasped this conception, he surrenders unto Me. Know such a great soul to be extremely rare.”
What exactly is the meaning here?
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: From Brahma conception, the different instalments follow. In Brahma realisation, there is a mass of consciousness: ‘all-consciousness’. Then, the next step will come: the consciousness is of individual character. With deeper vision, individuality is added to consciousness. There is consciousness plus individuality.
Consciousness and personality
In fact, no consciousness can exist without individuality, without personality. So, the consciousness is personal: personality and consciousness, they cannot be separated one from the other. What is differentiated from personality, that is only the halo of the personality—it is something like that. And that halo, that Brahma, is also the combination of minutest personality, of souls.
Substance is of two kinds: ksara or changing, perishable, and aksara, unchanging, eternal. In the Bhagavad-gita (15.16), Lord Krishna says, “Ksarah sarvani bhutani: whatever we see in the changing aspect of the world, that is called ksara. And what is unchangeable is called aksara.” Then, He says:
yasmat ksaram atito ‘ham aksarad api chottamah
ato ‘smi loke vede cha prathitah purusottamah
(Srimad Bhagavad-gita: 15.18)
“My existence transcends both of these two substances, ksara and aksara. So, I am Purusottama—My name is Purusottam. My glories are sung in the world and in the scriptures as Purusottam, the Supreme Person.”
Purusottam means Vasudev. So, bahunam janmanam ante: after many births, when the jnanis, those of the impersonal school, come to understand that the Prime Cause of the consciousness of their quest is a personal one, then they come to conceive of Vasudev.
Real devotion—most rare
But such jnanis are very rarely to be found. Mostly, jnanis cannot cross this line. They are lost there:
ye ’nye ’ravindaksa vimukta-maninas
tvayy asta-bhavad avisuddha-buddhayah
aruhya krchchhrena param padam tatah
patanty adho ’nadrta-yusmad anghrayah
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 10.2.32)
“O lotus-eyed Lord, although non-devotees who accept severe penances and austerities to achieve the highest position may think themselves liberated, their intelligence remains impure. They simply speculate in various ways and do not seek the means to take shelter of You. Because they have no regard for Your lotus feet, they simply fall down from their position of imagined superiority into material existence again.”
Generally, it is the fate of the jnanis to climb up to the highest position with great effort, and then, when they cannot grasp that consciousness means person—they cannot cross that understanding—they have to revert back. They have to come back, fall back. And those who can cross this line can understand that, “Yes, consciousness means person, a big personality. I am small.” Bhakti begins there. The relation of subordination of the lower to the higher, that comes into effect. And, sa mahatma sudurlabhah: such a person among the jnanis is very rarely to be found who can take the positive connection of the higher aspect of life. Mostly, they come back; they have to come back from there. After much penance, they climb up to that high mark, but they cannot accommodate that the higher entity must be dealt with with devotion, so they have to come back.
Personality with potency
But those who realise, Vasudevah sarvam iti, that Vasudev, Purusottam, is personal, they can cross the line and enter Vaikuntha, the service area proper.
And there, we are told, gradually, as their vision grows more and more, they can find potency on the side of the personal God. Then, they become the devotee of Laksmi-Narayan and enter completely into Vaikuntha-seva. And in that service, we find awe, reverence. There are sastric (scriptural) rules, and also examples of the higher realised souls to guide them.
The search for full engagement
And in that Vaikuntha-seva, if the soul does not find the whole of his innate nature having full engagement, there will be some sort of thirst, some inner tendency which cannot find any corresponding relation to satisfy itself. And when he feels this kind of urge from within, he has to search after another rasa (a soul’s specific service mood/relationship with the Lord and the ‘taste’ derived therefrom), for a purer, more friendly service than the filial service (dasya-rasa).
And ultimately the madhura-rasa service—the sweetheart’s service, in consorthood—urges him to go up. It urges him to go up and to go deeper. And gradually, by coming in contact with such (madhura-rasa) agents, he finds his own heart blossoming. And blossoming to its fullest extent, his heart takes him gradually towards Goloka Vrndavan (the supreme spiritual planet, abode of Lord Krishna).
The service of Reality the Beautiful
Then, he can see that what was (initially realised as) Brahma, then Paramatma or Vasudev, then Laksmi-Narayan—that has gradually come to him as Krishna consciousness, not Narayan consciousness. Superseding Narayan consciousness, he comes in contact with Krishna consciousness of the reality. He is awakened. He finds himself awakened in a plane where he sees the all-connecting, all-harmonising principle is no longer Narayan, but Krishna—He is showing Himself as Krishna. Then, he is fully awakened. His heart is fully awakened, and at the same time he sees that the environment and the object of his search is also fully equipped. This is full-fledged theism.
Full-fledged theism is where the theistic conviction receives its satisfaction in the fullest way. Just as with the opening of the eye,we can see the world, and according to the degree of our sight, we come to see the subtlest thing of the environment, so also by our inner awakenment of the fullest type, we come to a particular world, environment, and that is Vrndavan—Goloka Vrndavan, the land of love. And movement there is spontaneous, and all around we find the environment only friendly. It is so simple, so friendly, and the dealing of all who are there are filled with so much intimacy.
And in Vrndavan we will find that our thirst for any higher change of environment, of association, no longer needs to be quenched, but there is thirst, eternal thirst, for coming in closer relation with them, closer connection with them. There is no possibility of any higher change of environment—where he has reached is almost final—and now the only remaining thing is how to come into a more and more close connection with the environment. And that becomes the initiative of our movement there: more and more intimate connection with the environment. The environment is eternal, but in the intimacy of connection, the ‘competition’ (in loving service), the movement, is there. And the guidance is given according to that.
Merging in Krishna consciousness
In this way, there is progress, there is some sort of necessity by which the service is moving. And, there is repetition, a kind of repetition, but it is ever-fresh, ever-new! It is ever-new, and it is only a question of the time. For example, every day when I am hungry in the morning, food is tasteful to me, and not always. By the movement of the time, it is like that. In this way, everything is palatable, not stale. In that plane, there is movement of time, but it is eternal. It is managed by yogamaya (the internal potency of Lord Krishna, who arranges and conducts His lila) in such a way.
And finally, there we will attain the fullest satisfaction of all the inner parts of our system, the wholesale satisfaction of every atom of every constituent part of our spiritual body. Prati anga lage ka̐de prati anga mora: every part of my every limb cries for union with the corresponding part of every limb of the other side. Sambandha, relationship with the environment, may come to such a stage that every atom constituting my spiritual body and mind will aspire after union with every corresponding part of the environment. In this way, in such a friendly way, so many are moving there, and it is adjusted accordingly by yogamaya. And this is the highest conception.
Prati anga lage ka̐de prati anga mora: every atom of my existence is in loving aspiration with the environment, and that is Krishna. Krishna consciousness has surrounded me. ‘Surrounded me’ means from all sides it has embraced me. I am lost in the thought of Krishna consciousness, with its detailed, elaborate acquaintance. I am merged, merged in the deepest part of Krishna consciousness, where I shall find that Krishna has captured every atom of my existence. Every atom is feeling as if it is experiencing separate pleasure by His embracing.
This is possible only in the consorthood relationship, where every atom has been embraced, captured, by coming into the most intimate connection with Him. It is called adi-rasa or mukhya-rasa. The name of madhura-rasa is adi-rasa, that is, it is the most original. It is the source of all other rasas, and all other rasas are dependent on it. So, it is called adi-rasa. And, mukhya-rasa: the sum total of all rasas, their gist, their essence, is represented there. We are told like that.
And Mahaprabhu came with this gift—madhura-rasa. It is anarpita charim chirat: that which was never distributed before—that of which it is considered any distribution was not possible previously before Him.
In Bhakti Vinod Thakur’s book Jaiva-dharma, we find that one Vaisnava is asking his Gurudev, “Devotion, it is eternal, but why do you say that it came from Mahaprabhu?” Then, his Guru, Paramahamsa Babaji, is saying, “I visited Vrndavan and asked the eternal servitor of Sri Chaitanyadev, Sanatan Goswami: ‘This anarpita charim chirat—which has never been dealt with before—what is the meaning underlying it?’ Then, Sanatan Goswami replied, ‘Bhakti is eternal. In Narada-bhakti-sutra, Sandilya-sutra, all such scriptures, this has been given, but the type of devotion which Mahaprabhu came with, which we meet after the advent of Mahaprabhu Sri Chaitanyadev, that was not previously at any time open to the ordinary person. So, it is called anarpita charim. And what is that standard of devotion? It is this: complete surrender to Krishna in consorthood, where every atom of the jiva-soul gets welcomed and embraced by the corresponding atom of Krishna consciousness—madhura-rasa. That was not open to the public before. This is my finding, my faith. You may accept or not accept.’ Sanatan Goswami told like this to that Vaisnava: ‘This is my private conception—you may take it, or not.’” This was his reply.
The world of dedication
So, devotion has its beginning. The beginning of devotional life is here, where Krishna says, Vasudevah sarvam iti (Bg: 7.19): “I, Vasudev, am the source and substance of all that be.” Then, the beginning of bhakti, the primary admission into the devotional school above jnan, knowledge, and vairagya, renunciation, that is santa-rasa (passive relationship with the Lord). And from there the gradation: dasya-rasa (servitude), then sakhya-rasa (fraternity), then vatsalya-rasa (parenthood), then madhura-rasa (conjugal). All this is given in details in Ramananda-samvad.
In this way, bhakti is going up. Systematically, we are to understand and digest, digest what is bhakti. But, in the beginning, we are to have a broad conception of the positive world, the world of dedication.
This famous discussion (Ramananda-samvad) is recorded by Srila Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami in his sublime account of the life of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta (Madhya-lila, Chapter 8: “Talks between Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Ray”). It is mentioned in this talk only briefly by Srila Sridhar Maharaj, but we give its reference for the reader, because this Ramananda-samvad was most beloved to, and often quoted by, Srila Sridhar Maharaj. On the order of his Guru, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, Srila Sridhar Maharaj discovered the location where this historic discussion took place on the bank of the Godavari River (Andhra Pradesh, India) and established a Temple there. He many times pointed out that the entire theological basis of Gaudiya (Chaitanyite) Vaisnavism is contained therein.
The golden gift
sri-krsna-chaitanya prabhu nityananda
sri-advaita gadadhara srivasadi gaura-bhakta-vrnda
golokera prema dhana hari-nama-sankirtana
The golden gift brought to this world from the topmost planet of the spiritual sky, Goloka Dham, by the golden Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the Hare Krishna mahamantra (great chant for deliverance):
hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare
hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare
harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam
kaulau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha
“The Holy Name! The Holy Name! The Holy Name! Without chanting of the Holy Name in this Age of Kali, there is certainly no means of deliverance. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.”
kalim sabhajayanty arya gunajna sara-bhaginah
yatra sankirtanenaiva sarvah svartho ’bhilabhyate
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 11.5.36)
“Those who are actually advanced in knowledge are able to appreciate the essential value of this Age of Kali. Such enlightened persons worship Kali-yuga because in this fallen age, all perfection of life can easily be achieved by the performance of sankirtan, the congregational chanting of the Lord’s Holy Names.”
trnad api sunichena taror iva sahisnuna
amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih
“One who is humbler than a blade of grass, more forebearing than a tree, who gives due honour to others without desiring it for himself is qualified to always chant the Holy Name of Krishna.”
mahaprabhu sri-chaitanya radha-krsna nahe anya
rupanuga janera jivana
(Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur)
“Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is none other than Sri Sri Radha-Krishna, the life and soul of the true followers of Srila Rupa Goswami.”
“As much as you surrender to the lotus feet of Sri Gauranga, you’ll find yourself safely situated in the service of Sri Sri Radha-Govinda. Don’t try to approach Them directly. If you do, there may be some difficulty. But the lotus feet of Sri Gauranga will take you there safely.”
(Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami)
prabuddhe jnana-bhaktibhyam atmany ananda-chinmayi
udety anuttama bhaktir bhagavat-prema-laksana
(Sri Brahma-samhita: 5.58)
“When transcendental experience awakens by means of knowledge and devotion, the highest devotion symptomised by love for the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna, the beloved of the soul, awakens in the devotee’s heart.”