The stages the soul passes through en route to madhura-rasa.

By Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj

Devotion is its own cause. It is a positive thing. The negative, its cover or coating element, adulteration, will disappear. As much as devotion develops, the adulterating coating will be slackened and gradually disappear. The internal is captured, and the outward demands are eliminated. The dirt is cleared salilasya yatha sarat (SB: 2.8.5): [like lakes in autumn which are clean after the monsoon rains]. The aim, the object, becomes more and more acute, and freedom comes accordingly. A faithful officer of a king enjoys more freedom than an expert officer. Expert officers enjoy freedom, but faithful staff enjoy more freedom. So, according to the intensity of one’s faith, other demands are slackened.

nasta-prayesv abhadresu nityam bhagavata-sevaya
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 1.12.18)

That is sadhana-bhakti.

adau sraddha tatah sadhu-sango ’tha bhajana-kriya
tato ’nartha-nivrttih syat
(Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu: Purva-vibhaga, 4.15–16)

[“First faith arises, then association with sadhus, then engagement in service, and then the removal of impediments.”]

In this stage,

nasta-prayesv abhadresu nityam bhagavata-sevaya
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 1.12.18)

By service to both the scripture and the devotee, inspiration comes to a new soul and purifies them, prepares the ground for service to Krishna.

Question: What is the significance of praya here?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Praya means nearly, almost: almost all of the undesirable things disappear. Then we may say one has nistha, naisthiki-bhakti [firm devotion]. When one profusely shows one has some inclination towards devotion, that may not be reliable. One’s devotion is reliable when the major portion of one’s time and energy is devoted to service to Krishna, and only some small remnants remain which may be ignored.

Question: Why are all the detrimental things in the heart not completely eliminated by constant service to the devotee and the scripture (nityam bhagavata-sevaya)?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: In that stage, the present is being utilised almost fully, but one’s past deeds are there in store in a very subtle form. They must be cleaned also. Then wholesale conversion will occur.

aprarabdha-phalam papam kutam bijam phalonmukham
kramenaiva praliyeta visnu-bhakti-ratatmanam
(Padma-purana)

Karma is divided mainly into two divisions: prarabdha and aprarabdha. Prarabdha: karma that is attached to and to be finished in this body. Aprarabdha: karma that is reserved for a future life. Phalonmukha karma [prarabdha-karma] means karma that is sprouting, ripe. It will demand its satisfaction at the next chance. Bija-karma means seed-karma, karma that can be detected and is ready to act. Kuta means karma that is in an undistinguishable, undetectable state. Kutasthoksara uchyate, it is part of the aksara [unmanifest] in the samskar [formation] of prakrti [material nature]. Karmenaiva praliyante: gradually all these forms of karma will have to brushed aside. They will have to be finished gradually, however undetectable or subtle they may be. When devotion to Krishna captures one’s heart, it is sure that they will have to go out. Devotion will surely gain ground within the heart, later or early. “Kaunteya pratijanihi na Me bhaktah pranasyati (Bg: 9.31): whenever anyone once connects with Me, they are sure to be saved, guaranteed.”

nehabhikrama-naso ’sti pratyavayo na vidyate
svalpam apy asya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat
(Srimad Bhagavad-gita: 2.40)

[“On this path there can be no loss and no harm. The slightest practice of this dharma saves one from the greatest fear.”]

brahmananam sahasrebhyah satra-yaji visisyate
satra-yaji-sahasrebhyah sarva-vedanta-paragah
sarva-vedanta-vit-kotya visnu-bhakto visisyate
vaisnavanam sahasrebhya ekanty eko visisyate
(Garuda-purana)

[“Amongst thousands of brahmans, one is qualified to perform sacrifices. Amongst thousands of such brahmans, one is adept in all aspects of the Vedanta. Amongst thousands of such brahmans, one is a devotee of Visnu. Amongst thousands of such devotees, one is purely devoted.”]

sarva-vedanta-vit-kotya visnu-bhakto visisyate
(Garuda-purana)

Only the conception that ultimate reality is pure consciousness will not do. The enjoying right must be seen in Him. Then He is not Brahma; He is Parabrahma, Vasudev, Purusottam. The personal conception of the enjoyer: He is for Himself. The gist of life is to enjoy, and He is the finest body of enjoyment.

vaisnavanam sahasrebhya ekanty eko visisyate
(Garuda-purana)

Then jnan [calculation] is left out, and the Lord’s wholesale influence over the soul is approved, accepted, understood, and followed. Ekanty eko visisyate: that is Krishna consciousness. Devotees of Visnu in Vaikuntha have calculative devotion. Devotees of Krishna have automatic anuraga [love, attachment].

visaye ye priti ebe achhaye amara
sei mata priti ha-uk charane tomara
(Gitavali: Siksastakam, 4.6)

What has captured me in the world of enjoyment must have a touch of the original cause. I should be dealt with in that way in the association of the highest entity.

yuvatinam yatha yuni yunam cha yuvatau yatha
mano ’bhiramate tadvan mano ’bhiramatam tvayi
(Visnu-purana: 1.20.19)

[“As a young girl’s mind becomes attached to a young boy, and a young boy’s mind becomes attached to a young girl, let my mind be attached to You, O Lord.”]

We find the highest captivating force here is found in the conjugal life. So, to attain that all-comprehensive capturing of all possible services from us should be the highest ideal.

prati ange lagi kande prati anga mora
(Jnana Das)

“Every atom of my formation is crying for the corresponding atom of my Lord to serve.”

That is the highest conception of our ideal. In madhura-rasa, it is possible. Twenty-four hour wholesale engagement is only possible in madhura-rasa. It is given by Mahaprabhu and the Guru-parampara. The mantram also, all our mantrams, aim at that end: wholesale dedication.

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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