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Discussions specifically related with the various aspects of practice of bhakti-sadhana in Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

Entering Vraja - Qualification and methods -

Madhava - Tue, 16 Jul 2002 10:26:03 +0530
The question is often asked: “Can so-and-so from here-and-there go to the spiritual world in this life?” I believe we need to examine the issue in depth.

What is the process of entering into the spiritual world (Vraja in particular), and what are the qualifications and facilities required for attaining this goal?
Madhava - Thu, 18 Jul 2002 22:37:06 +0530
Unfortunately we lost a couple of recent posts with the hassle two days ago. Here is the contribution of Radhapada I had on record:

Not directly related to theme of attaining Vraja dhama, but nonetheless pertinent; Bharata Maharaja attained the stage of bhava in vaidi marga but did not attain the transcendental dhama of the Lord after death because of his attachment to a dear. Because of his meditation on the form of a deer he attained a birth as a deer (Srimad Bhagavata, Book 5, 7-8th chapter).

Two things can be understood from this episode. One is that unless one attains prema, he/she generally doesnt attain the eternal service of the Lord in the dhama. The second thing is that ones meditation determines ones next birth. Meditating on ones siddha deha, remembering Radha and Krsnas lila in Vraja dhama, serving in the siddha deha is the recommended process by the Goswamis for attaining Vraja dhama in raga marg.
Radhapada - Fri, 19 Jul 2002 02:14:35 +0530
Prabhodhananda writes in Vrindavana Mahimamrta:

O friend! Follow the maidservants of Sri Radhika, whose bodies are like clusters of foam emanating from the transcendental ocean of sweetmost love that is Her lotusfeet, who are adolescent girls filled with all cleverness, whose bodies are the vessels of astonishment, shining with the deep radiance of youthfulness and decorated with divine garments and ornaments.

Remember Radhika's maidservants, who are of adolescent age, have a radient golden complexion, whose forms are captivating, whose waists are very beautiful and slender, whose buttocks and breast are vast, whose noses are decorated with dangling nose pearls made of the best gold-studded gems, who have the best braids suspending from their heads ans who wear beautiful silken dresses.

This is an example of the wonderful storehouse of material for meditation for raganuga sadhakas. These verses were not just written for poetry sake, but to help devotees attain a transcendental form suitable to serve Radha and Krishna in the eternal pastimes. There is a text, 'nadevo devam arcayet' 'devo bhutva yajet' 'Unless a sadhaka is a god he cannot worship Godhead, and 'being himself a god, he can worship Godhead'. (taken from a commentary of Prema-bhakti-candrika of Ananta das Pandit) The purport is that if one wants to serve God he/she should think of oneself in a spiritual body that is appropriate for the Lord' service. Meditating on oneself as a GBC, book-distributer, life-membership recuiter, cook in a restaurant, pot-washer, or just a Sunday feast drop-in is far from manjari-bhava upasana. I have heard Swamis misguiding their audience in lectures by telling folks that there is no need to read rasika literature. They tell them that simply by engaging in the preaching mission and doing their vaidi sadhana that they will go back to Krishna in Vrindavan. In other words, the labor of the Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas who sat underneath trees writing with feather pens on palm leaves, hours of carefully collected thoughts, keeping in mind the grammatical details of their compositions--no computer programs to later edit what they have written--all that labor--for nothing--simply engaging in the institution's programs of varnasrama, recuiting new members--it will take one back to Krishna in Vrindavan. Is that fair to you, Sri Rupa Goswamipada? Does that seem okay to you Sri Raghunatha das Goswami? You who were crying on the banks of Syama Kunda, crying out your heart, not eating, not drinking, and still you had the time for compositions for our benefit.

Of course Sri Krishna is very merciful and he will reciprocate with us if we act sincerely. It should not be minimized however, the process of attaining Krishna in Vrindavan as described by the Goswami acaryas and the Puranas.
jiva - Fri, 19 Jul 2002 15:57:37 +0530
One of the main tasks undertaken by Rupa Gosvamin was to devise a method whereby the devotee could enter the ultimately meaningful world of the Krsna-lila.

The solution he came up with was presented in the "Bhaktirasamrtasindhu" as the Raganuga Bhakti Sadhana (RBS) .As we know,RBS is a process formulated in terms of aesthetic experience.In my humble opinion, the key to understanding this sadhana is an examination of the dramatic terminology first,used to
express it.

What you think?Is it necessary?

Radhapada - Sun, 21 Jul 2002 16:46:16 +0530
Within the Srimad Bhagavata, First book, 6th discourse of Suta Goswami, he describes how Sri Narada Deva speaks to Sri Vyasa about his previous birth. Sri Narada Muni in his previous birth was the son of maidservant. He had the fortune when a child to have the association of Vaisnavas, eating the prasadi leftovers from their plates and hearing their katha on Lord Krishna. After his mother expired he traveled about and sat in a forest uninhabited by men (nirjan bhajan) on the foot of a Peepal tree. There he performed smaranam of the Lord's form. His mind became overwhelmed with prema as tears rushed to eyes in eagerness to see the Lord. The Lord appeared in his heart and his hairs stood on end as his heart experienced an outburst of joy receiving the Lord's merciful darshan. He fell unconscious on the ground. The Lord spoke to him and said that Narada will attain the form of an associate at the end of his life. Afterwards he roamed the earth waiting for his end while chanting and remembering the Lord's names. Death came and Narada attained a parshada form.

The destination of a raganuga sadhaka who has attained siddhi in bhajan differs in the case of a siddha in vaidi sadhaka. The raganuga siddha after leaving behind his mortal coil attains the planet where Sri Krishna's prakata, or earthly pastimes are taking place in the material universe. The reasons why he/she doesn't go directly to the eternal pastimes is described by Visvanath Cakravarti in Raga Vartma Candrika. One reason is that the sadhaka body of raganuga devotee can not tolerate the stages above prema like sneha, mana, pranaya raga, anuraga and mahabhava; for this one requires the transcendental body of a parshada. The raganuga devotee who takes birth in the manifest earthly pastimes of Lord Krishna associates with the Lord's eternal associates like Sri Lalita, Sri Rupa Manjari and thereby through their strength the raganuga devotee's prema rises to higher levels till it attains mahabhava (in the case of gopi bhava) whereby the devotee can then attain the physical association of Sri Krishna. Another reason is that the raganuga devotee needs to familiarize oneself with the settings and atmosphere of Sri Radha and Krishna's Vraja pastimes. This was not possible in the world of the devotees previous birth. Yogamaya therefore transfers that soul to the Vraja pastimes of material universe and the soul thereby gets an opportuntiy to nourish his /her prema to it is fully blossomed. The eternal Vrindavana dhama where the eternal lilas take place is a siddha bhumi, a place of perfected souls. Within the Vrindavan dhamas expanded throughout the material universes the sadhakas and perfected souls both can enter. We see in the earthy Vrindavan, even materialist enter as in the case of demons. Therefore the Vrindavan dhamas expanded in the material universe are known as both, sadhaka bhumi and siddha bhumi.

In raganuga sadhana bhakti a qualified Guru gives the sadhaka the eleven items of his/her spiritual personality. The identification of these items with oneself are developed in meditation and through purifying ones heart in Radha-Krishna bhajan. When the devotee attains perfection and that identification becomes realized the devotee attains that very same form, name, complexion, service and so forth.

In the case of Narada and others in vaidi marg this world that we live in is sufficient to create a consciousness of awe and reverence towards Lord Krishna, or Vishnu. Awe and reverence is the mood of vaidi devotion to God, whereas sweetness and human-like features are the charecteristics of raga bhakti.
Madhava - Sun, 21 Jul 2002 20:39:33 +0530
There is one thought I'd like to develop further: the attainment of siddha-deha as a fusion of grace and cultivation.

Often there is confusion over the perfection to be aspired for, and moreover, over the process for it's attainment. The concept of going “Back to Godhead”, actually a slogan adopted from Christian missionaries, is about as vague an expression as it can get, and consequently it should be no wonder that there is confusion over the perfection to be aspired for. There must be a thorough understanding of the concept “Godhead”. “God” is very beautiful, and His “head”, or rather His beautiful smiling face, is the tenth canto of the Bhagavata and the pastimes of Vraja related therein. This is the God-head we desire to attain.

The attainment of “Godhead” is often seen as a gift of grace, which it certainly is, but in the sense of a “reward”, something you are given as a reward for a pious life of devotion, like the pious Muslims' or Christians' going to heaven on account of their good life and obedience to the Lord. In such a scenario, the attainment and the method of attainment (cultivation) do not have a direct causal connection, since the acts and thoughts in this world do not directly prepare one for serving the Lord in His abode.

To begin with, we must recognize the need of attaining siddha-deha, a form appropriate for rendering service in the eternal realm. Sri Rupa Gosvamipada defines the concepts of “sadhana” and “sadhya” (method of attainment, perfection) as follows in his Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu (1.2.2):
kRti-sAdhyA bhavet sAdhya-bhAvA sA sAdhanAbhidhA
nitya-siddhasya bhAvasya prAkaTyaM hRdi sAdhyatA

“That bhakti which is accomplished through the function of the senses and by which bhAva-bhakti is obtained is called sAdhana-bhakti. The manifesting of the nitya-siddha bhAva within the heart is called sAdhyatA, or the stage of attaining perfection.”
Thus sadhana means not only a pious and a dedicated life of devotion, but a life of yearning for a particular perfection, for the nitya-siddha-bhava present in the hearts of the eternal associates of the Lord, and particularly that of one among them of one's own preference (janam prestham nija-samihitam - BRS 1.2.294). Hence, though the attainment of siddhi is certainly a matter of grace descending upon us, there is a direct causal relationship between the method of cultivation and the consequent perfection to be attained. This fusion is presented in the following words (BRS 1.3.1):
zuddha-sattva-vizeSAtmA prema-sUryAMzu-sAmya-bhAk
rucibhiz citta-masRNya-kRd asau bhAva ucyate

“That, which is a special manifestation of suddha-sattva, a ray from the sun of prema, and which is experienced as different tastes, causing tenderness in the heart, is known as bhava.”
Thus this nitya-siddha bhava is simultaneously a gift of grace, a ray from the prema-sun of the illuminated hearts of the eternal associates of the Lord, as well as the object of our desire and cultivation. The grace descends greatly on account of our eagerness for its attainment and our endeavors for its cultivation. Cultivation here refers to various methods of meditation and absorption of relevant concepts as an expression of our desire. Upon gaining deeper and deeper insight into such truths, and upon the arising of insatiable desire for the attainment of nitya-siddha-bhava, the gift of grace -- a particular manifestation of suddha-sattva in the heart (composed of hladini and samvit) -- descends and illuminates our siddha-svarupa, blessing us with complete absorption in and identification with the siddha-deha, the concrete, realized form of the nitya-siddha-bhava we have been longing for, a combination of various feelings among which eleven are prominently known and contemplated upon (the ekadasa-bhava).

If we desire to evaluate whether following any given individual, group or movement will give us access to attaining to perfection (which is a good idea if we desire to attain perfection ourselves), we must carefully consider whether the science of attainment is properly understood among them. Do they practice a systematic method of cultivation? Are they aware of the goal of their practices and the relationship between any given practice and the result it is meant to yield? A sincere aspirant must carefully consider these questions if he desires to attain the farther shore of the ocean of devotion and relish the fruit of prema-bhakti in Vraja.
Radhapada - Tue, 23 Jul 2002 22:56:36 +0530
I remember a few years ago there was one lady who had some affiliation at that time with non-traditional Gaudiya Vaisnavism and would come to see Ananta Das Baba to ask questions. One time she asked if chanting Hare Krishna can give one prema. The point behind the question was if it is so, then why take siddha pranali if the holy name gives one everything? Baba replied that prema means love, and love is of four varieties i.e. dasya, sakhya, vatsalya and madhurya. He said, "Yes, chanting Nama gives one prema, but there must be some thinking behind the chanting." That thinking refers to thinking of oneself as the Lord's eternal associate, thinking of Radha-Krsna's lila and rendering service in that form.

In line with what Madhavananda was refering above, there are some devotees who think of the bhakti path as a type of means for attaining a sort of liberation, not as a process to attain loving eternal service with transcendental spiritual emotions. This I think is what he meant by the vague statement going back to Godhead used often.

salokya-sarsti-svarupya-samipyaikatvam apy uta
diyamanam na grhnanti vina mat-sevanam janah

My devotees do not accept in exchange for serving Me the five types of beatitude, viz. living on the same planet as Me, having powers like Mine, having a similar form as Mine, having direct association with Me, or absortion in My Being, even hen they are offered to him by Me.(Srimad Bhagavata 3.29.13)