The meaning of sadhana-bhakti.

By Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj



Manodharma [the mental plane] is always changing. Buddhiloka, the plane of judiciousness, is more real and stable. Atmaloka [the plane of the soul] is above that, and then Paramatmaloka [the plane of the Supersoul]. According to our progress, we reach higher planes, and it is possible for us to live in them for a long time.

Srila Sanatan Goswami has shown in a gradation how the sadhaka [practitioner] is taken to a particular place, lives there for some time, finds dissatisfaction, is again given some connection, and then taken to an upper layer. There, after some time, they again feel dissatisfaction, some arrangement is made, some higher connection reaches them, and they are taken to a higher plane. In this way, they are gradually taken up to Vrndavan, through different positions: Vaikuntha, Ayodhya, and Dvaraka, and then Vrndavan. They progress through Satyaloka, Sivaloka, and Vaikunthaloka. The life of Gopa Kumar begins in a lower plane and gradually goes up to show the importance of the different planes.

Student: I have a question about this. Gopa Kumar seems to display the same inner nature all throughout his journey. Even though he is going through different planes, he doesn’t seem to change. He searches until he finds the plane in which he actually finds full satisfaction; his identity doesn’t seem to be changing as he goes through the different planes. Gopa Kumar goes through the different places, but his inner nature is not affected. He always remains in his constitutional position as a Vraja-vasi.

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Yes. Our inner self is located there. If our inner self, by construction, is meant for Vraja, then our progress will be like that. Until we reach that realisation, we cannot feel any satisfaction anywhere. Gopa Kumar cannot fully identify himself with the activities of any other plane. If one has one’s innate nature in Vaikuntha, then one’s journey will terminate in Vaikuntha. One will remain there satisfied.

The name Gopa Kumar hints at his innermost tendency. Sanatan Goswami gave him the name Gopa Kumar to indicate that his innate nature is that of a gopa [cowherd boy of Vraja]. If one’s innate nature is that of a Vaikuntha-vasi, a servant of Narayan, then one will go to Vaikuntha and remain satisfied there forever. There are things that we cannot see with our eyes, but can see with an x-ray. With subtle vision, the soul’s inner nature can be seen. Is he a unit of Goloka? And a unit also of what group? In Goloka, but in sakhya-rasa? Madhura-rasa? Where? Seeing his innate nature with “x-ray vision”, Sanatan Goswami has given him the name Gopa Kumar.

The line of sadhana for one who is in one’s self-determined stage and has the name Gopa Kumar will be like this. He won’t be satisfied anywhere in any plane. Gradually, he will go there, and there his sadhana will be finished. The means to the end. The means will be finished there, and he will be satisfied there because he has come to his own plane, his own home. Gopa Kumar means, “He whose innate home is  with the gopas.”

If one’s nature is that of a servitor in Vaikuntha, then one will stop in Vaikuntha. Hanuman, the monkey servitor of Rama, will stop in Ayodhya. His inner diagnosis is there. But one whose innate nature is that of gopa won’t be satisfied. Though he may be offered many things on the way, he won’t be satisfied as long as he cannot reach Vrndavan. It is all tasteless. Sometimes, for the time being, he tries to adjust with the environment, but he can’t. He fails and feels dissatisfied. Again, a new thing is given to him, he tries his best to accommodate it given the circumstances and paraphernalia, but he can’t. His inner tendency doesn’t allow him to settle there permanently. He feels uneasiness and dissatisfaction. Then, a higher plane, then the next higher plane, and then the next higher one. In this way, he won’t be free or feel satisfied in any environment until and unless he reaches his own plane.

Student: How is it that one develops this innate nature? Is it developed?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: It is not developed; it is discovered.

krti-sadhya bhavet sadhya-bhava sa sadhanabhidha
nitya-siddhasya bhavasya prakatyam hrdi sadhyata
(Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu: Purva-vibhaga, 2.2)

Sadhana means to remove the covering, to discover what is already within. The innate nature is already within in a very germinal form. It is covered and inactive. Remove the cover, and it will assert itself.

Student: So, that means that souls in the brahma-jyoti have an innate position?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: A thousand times that has been answered by me: adaptability is there for both sides. How can a soul enter this mundane world from the brahma-jyoti? We have to consider the possibility, the adaptability there: an undetectable state of soul. Only with the influence of the lower can the soul come to the lower region, and only with the help of the higher can the soul go to the higher region. There is adaptability in the seed. You are to think out what it can be.

Adaptability is there in the buffer state, an undetectable, subtle thing, and that adaptability is for both sides: the higher and the lower. If it is possible that the soul can come to the lower region, then there is possibility that the soul can go to the higher one. By very minute observation, one can detect the higher possibility within the soul. Then it is caught that the soul’s higher adaptability, prospect, is life in Vraja or Vaikuntha. In Vraja also, there are different rasas, and one may be present in a very subtle form, in an undetectable way, within the soul. That is the svarup [self].

Without the svarup, how we can come down here from the undetectable position, that is, brahma, aksara.

ksarah sarvani bhutani kutastho ’ksara uchyate
(Srimad Bhagavad-gita: 15.16)

Aksara means kutastha, undetectable. Something like an unknowable position, so subtle, but with possibility. Tatastha means the margin. There, the soul is not actively participating on any side but has the possibility for participation on both sides. Such is the wonderful position from where the soul, the tatastha jiva, comes.

This question is a very impertinent one. It cannot be solved or conceived of very easily. But we are to adjust with it.

krsnera ‘tatastha-sakti’ ‘bhedabheda-prakasa’
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Madhya-lila, 20.108)

[“The soul is the marginal energy of Krishna, a manifestation different and nondifferent from Him.”]

By conclusion, it comes like this. The soul is created with adaptability that is undetectable. So, it is there.


Spoken on 19 January 1982.


krti-sadhya bhavet sadhya-bhava sa sadhanabhidha
nitya-siddhasya bhavasya prakatyam hrdi sadhyata
(Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu: 1.2.2)

“Devotion performed by the senses that leads to bhava is known as sadhana-bhakti. It is known as sadhana because it uncovers the eternal, perfect nature (bhava) of the soul within the heart (not because actions of the material senses can produce bhava, which is spiritual and self-manifest).

The following explanation of this verse is given in Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj’s edition of Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu in Bengali:

“Devotion that is seen to be performed by the actions of the material senses—hearing, seeing, and so on—is known as sadhana-bhakti. Through such sadhana-bhakti, bhava-bhakti and prema-bhakti are attained. With regard to the above statement, do not think that devotion is produced as a result of any mechanical operation of the senses. The reason for this is that devotion is the eternal, perfect nature of the pure soul. Helping that eternal, perfect nature to arise in the heart is known as sadhana. Such sadhana-bhakti, when mature, manifests progressively as bhava-bhakti and prema-bhakti.”

Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj is the foremost modern exponent of the conception of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the school of Srila Rupa Goswami. Subtle and profound yet vivid and practical, his representation of both the broadest and deepest spiritual truths has and continues to fortify and nurture the faith of spiritual aspirants the world over. For more information on Srila Sridhar Maharaj, please visit his biography page.

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