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Discussions on the doctrines of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Please place practical questions under the Miscellaneous forum and set this aside for the more theoretical side of it.

Sadhaka-Asrayalambana - Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 2.1.276-279

Jagat - Wed, 21 Jul 2004 00:44:27 +0530
While going through Madhurya Kadambini, I came across a couple of Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu verses that prompted me to look at Nectar of Devotion and Dhanurdhara Maharaj’s Waves of Devotion again. This brief examination will show once again the limitations of these two books as a genuine study of the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu. I don’t want to minimize their value within these limitations, but I do wish to stress that once one passes chapter 20 of NOD, one should take little or nothing as necessarily related to Rupa Goswami's original intent.


|| 2.1.276 ||

utpanna-ratayaH samyaG
nairvighnyam anupAgatAH
kRSNa-sAkSAt-kRtau yogyAH
sAdhakAH parikIrtitAH

“These devotees who have attained rati, but are not completely free from obstacles, who are worthy of attaining a direct vision of the Lord are known as sAdhaka-[AzrayAlambanas].”

NOD. A person who has attained the stage of attraction for Krishna and who is not freed from the material impasse, but who has qualified himself to enter into the kingdom of God, is called sadhaka. Sadhaka means one who is cultivating devotion in Krishna consciousness.

Dhanurdhara Swami : “Sadhaka refers to an advanced devotee, not just to any practitioner. Only one who has ecstatic love can inspire that love to arise in others. Therefore, in this context, Srila Rupa Goswami has defined sadhaka as a devotee on the platform of rati, or one who feels attraction for Krishna. In other words, it refers to a bhava-bhakta.

Such a sadhaka is at the stage of bhava, he is qualified to periodically receive Krishna’s direct darshan. However, since he has not yet attained prema, he is not quite out of the material impasse. Bilvamangala Thakur (see verse 279), who began to manifest sattvika bhavas in the process of attaining perfection, is the example of this.
(Waves of Devotion, page 174)

Comment : Dhanurdhara Maharaj has correctly picked up on the idea of "inspiration" ("Only one who has ecstatic love can inspire that love to arise in others."), but I don't think that he has made sufficiently clear what Rupa Goswami is getting at.

In order to understand this section of four verses (276-279), we must understand the context. Sri Rupa Goswamipada is discussing the various ingredients of rasa. He has described the viSayAlambana, Krishna, and is now discussing the Azraya. The ashraya of Krishna bhakti is obviously Krishna’s devotee, who is either in the sAdhaka-deha or in the siddha-deha.

Now this passage is not meant to be a commentary on who or what is a sadhaka, but rather to explain the question of whether a practicing devotee (either in literature or reality) can function as an element in the process of creating rasa in you or me.

The significance of Bilvamangala as an example comes directly from his book, Krishna-karnamrita, which at least in part is about Bilvamangala the sadhaka, who is not relating to Krishna in his siddha-deha, or at least not all the time, but rather as one who is seeking a vision of Krishna.

Of course, the sadhaka's consciousness of his siddha-deha may also be part and parcel of his sadhaka personality. This is why you get the Gaudiya tradition of commentary on books like Krishna-karnamrita, Vilapa-kusumanjali and Radha-rasa-sudha-nidhi, where the hearers are asked to visualize the author (Bilvamangala, Raghunath Das or Prabodhananda) slipping in and out of his siddha identity.

And that is exactly the point that Rupa Goswami is making here. He is continuing the discussion that began in BRS 1.2.295. Raganuga bhakti is essentially about cultivating the rasa experience, which is one of the reasons Kunjabihari Dasji's Manjari-svarupa-nirupana is such a useful book.

This is something that I have also been pointing out in relation to guru-tattva, because for a Gaudiya Vaishnava, the guru is precisely this: a sAdhakAzrayAlambana. Even though we may consider the guru a siddha, he is in fact on the cusp of the material and spiritual worlds. The guru is a half-real, half-mythologized person. Thus we see in the guru the play of devotional bhavas in his sadhaka-deha; we believe that he is experiencing the siddha-deha, and this can indeed inspire the initial experience of rasa.

So, once again, the point of this verse is not to ascertain which sadhakas are eligible to be considered sAdhakAzrayalambana, but only that he is one of those Vaishnavas we are supposed to be following in our sadhaka-rupa: Rupa Goswami himself, Gopa Kumar, Narada--these are the sadhakas Rupa is talking about.

There is further significance to this in that this allows that rasa also exists in the context of sadhana. This is why Rupa specifies in the verse that this sAdhaka is not free from obstacles (nairvighnyam anupAgatAH): rasa cannot arise in a non-dramatic situation. There must be obstacles to overcome, which provides drama to his spiritual quest.

This is why reading about saints, like the devotees of Vrindavan or Bhaktivinoda Thakura or Bhaktivedanta Swami, is a source of joy to the devotee. Rasa is being experienced through hearing about the devotee, and sometimes even more so, than we do in hearing actual Krishna lila katha.

Finally, this is one of the reasons there is significant rasa in Gauranga-lila.


Postscriptum: There are three kinds of vibhAva: Azraya, viSaya and uddIpana. These may have interchangeable aspects. So a devotee may be any one of these in different circumstances. Recently I heard a discussion of the "reaction shot" in films. The speaker was making the point that the "reaction shot" (i.e., when in a film, you see someone reacting to an event -- e.g. the child with eyes popping out when Superman flies overhead; closeups of people in the crowd smiling as the baby is returned to its mother, etc.) is really a cue to the audience how to react.

Now these are really examples of AzrayAlambana. The two examples I gave parenthetically above are adbhuta and karuna rasas; the people in the reaction shot are the Azrayas of those sentiments, and they are providing the cue to the audience how to feel.

Now, bhakti-rasa is analogous to the rasas of ordinary entertainments, but endowed with specific significance because God is not limited and therefore genuinely present in the rasa. But in the case of the saints as ashrayalambanas, they give us the cue how to react. My point is that it is not exactly the same as "uddipana" or "inspiration" as Dhanurdhara Maharaj says in his Wave of Devotion comment above.
Jagat - Wed, 21 Jul 2004 02:01:47 +0530
QUOTE (Received in a PM)
The significance of Bilvamangala as an example comes directly from his book, Krishna-karnamrita, which at least in part is about Bilvamangala the sadhaka, who is not relating to Krishna in his siddha-deha, or at least not all the time, but rather as one who is seeking a vision of Krishna.

I totally disagree. Seems like the author has no spiritual realization, should beg for his forgiveness from the Siddha Mahapurusha whose zikSA guru was Lord Krishna Himself.

First of all, I would be careful when saying that Rupa Goswami has "no spiritual realization," because after all, it is he who is named Bilvamangala's being a sAdhaka-AzrayAlambana.

But your misunderstanding is quite typical. This is exactly why the passage has been consistently problematic for devotees who wonder, "Bilvamangala is siddha, how can he be a sadhaka?"

The point I am making, and sorry for not being clearer, is that he is sAdhaka-AzrayAlambana, not sAdhaka. He is "doing a lila" in the "sAdhaka-deha," if you like.

Of course, I have made the point elsewhere that since drama, or obstacles, are a part of the process of generating rasa, therefore it is more glorious to think of those obstacles as real, rather than illusory. (Of course, that is a shaky distinction: the only obstacle to attaining Krishna is his will to reveal himself.) So for me, to think of the guru as being genuinely human makes his quality as an AzrayAlambana that much more acute.

Part of the confusion in the BRS section under discussion is 2.1.296, in which Sri Rupa gives the Bhagavatam 11.2.46 as the first example of a sadhaka. This is the description of the madhyama bhakta, and so it seems as though Rupa is saying that Bilvamangala is a madhyama bhakta. Not so. A madhyama bhakta is one who deals with the world in four distinct ways. Mukunda's commentary points out that this example is given specifically to show that such a bhakta still faces external obstacles (madhyamaH samyaG-nairvighnyAbhAvAt), but the verse states that he loves Krishna, as in the previous verse (2.1.295)--prema karotIti utpanna-ratitvam.

Please note that I inadvertently put sAdhaka-viSayAlambana. That has now been corrected.
Jagat - Wed, 21 Jul 2004 21:58:29 +0530
I am realizing how difficult this is for some people to understand. Rupa Goswami's rasa theory is obviously not comprehensible to even great devotees

It has nothing to do with whether Bilvamangala is a 'Sri-Radha-bhava-rasika saint.'
Whatever Bilvamangala has on the inside, on the outside he is a "saint."

Most people know the frame story for the Krishna Karnamrita that visualizes Bilvamangala as a blind man walking to Vrindavan while being led there by Krishna. This is the way that at least Gaudiya commentators like Krishnadas Kaviraja look at the story.

So when we say "siddha" or "sadhaka" in this context, we do not mean that Bilvamangala was an ordinary human being or anything like that, or that his inner bhava was not perfect, but that externally he is functioning as a sadhaka.

It is clear that people have absolutely no idea what is meant by ashraya. This is a psychological function that goes into the appreciation or tasting of rasa. Whenever reading a book, poem, watching a film or play, the audience (sahRdaya) undergoes a subtle or unconcsious process of identification (sAdhAraNIkaraNa) with the ashraya or seat of the particular mood that is being created.

Normally, the major rasa is sringara, but in this case we are talking bhakti-rasa. In other words we are the sadhakas who are cultivating or developing bhakti-rasa, and it is thus natural for us to identify with other sadhaka devotees who have also suffered in Krishna's absence, who search to encounter Krishna, and who have achieved success, etc. So Bilvamangala is ONE EXAMPLE. But we can also think of Narada in Bhagavatam 1.5-6, which is a super good example. Or Dhruva, or Prahlada, or Raghunath Das in Chaitanya lila.

Because these great devotees appear as a sadhakas, it makes it possible for other aspirants like you or me to identify with them. It is in fact easier to identify with a sadhaka and experience bhakti rasa through them because they, as ashrayas of the bhavas, are setting an example that is more akin to our own.

This is an important aspect of Mahaprabhu's "Apani Acari dharma jivere sikhaya."

This identification is extremely important on the bhakti path, but only Rupa has talked about it in this psychological way on the analogy of the aesthetic experience.

It would be stupid for anyone to think that this means that Rupa was minimizing Bilvamangala, Prahlada, Dhruva, Raghunath Das, or Mahaprabhu because they are acting like sadhakas. But if you can't see what is meant when it is said that externally they are in a sadhaka deha, then I have to throw up my hands and say that there is nothing more I can do to make you understand.
Jagat - Wed, 21 Jul 2004 22:28:05 +0530
And, as I intimated above, Rupa's rasa theory is intimately connected with his ideas about raganuga bhakti and manjari bhava. Why is Radha dasya more important than Radha bhava itself. The manjaris identify with Radha, but they certainly don't want to be Radha, because that would mean a diminishing of their bhava.

This is the purport of verses like these from Govinda-lilamrita.

sakhyaH zrI-rAdhikAyA vraja-kumuda-vidhor hlAdinI-nama-zakteH
sArAMza-prema-vallyAH kizalaya-dala- puSpAdi-tulyAH sva-tulyAH
siktAyAM kRSNa-lIlAmRta-rasa-nicayair ullasantyAm amuSyAM
jAtollAsAH sva-sekAc chata-guNam adhikaM santi yat tan na citram

Radha’s girlfriends are the twigs, branches, and fruits,
of the vine of the essence of love, Radha herself;
they are equal to even her--the pleasure-giving potency
of the Moon of the lilies of Vraja.

Considering this, it is not so strange
that when she is sprinkled with the nectar
of Krishna's embrace and soaked in that bliss,
her girlfriends are a hundred times more joyful
than had they themselves been watered

spRzati yadi mukundo rAdhikAM tat-sakhInAM
bhavati vapuSi kampa-sveda-romAJca-bASpam |
adhara-madhu mudAsyAz cet pibaty eSa yatnAd
bhavati bata tad AsAM attatA citram etat

If Krishna should touch Srimati Radharani,
then lo and behold! her sakhis start to tremble;
they sweat and their body hairs stand on end,
and tears well in their eyes.

And if Krishna should attentively sip
the spirituous liquor of Radha’s lips,
it is they who become intoxicated!
Is this not something truly wonderful?

What can I say? Rupa himself at one point used the word a-pUrva-rasika to describe those who could not understand.

vaJcito'smi vaJcito'smi vaJcito'smi na saMzayaH
vizvaM gaura-rase plutaM sparzo'pi mama nAbhavat!
Jagat - Wed, 21 Jul 2004 23:10:06 +0530
This does not mean that one cannot identify with siddha bhaktas as well, for the passage following the one refered to above, i.e., BRS 2.1.280ff., includes a variety of siddha bhaktas up to and including the nitya-siddha Vrajavasis. But even the sadhana-siddha and kripa-siddha devotees here are being listed in terms of their "literary" function, i.e. as AzrayAlambanas to be identified with. Thus their attainment of siddhi is a source of rasa that we mystically participate in through the magic of bhakti rasa.

Indeed, it may be said, that the complete bhakti rasa would include all aspects--from sadhana to siddhi. This is why Kapoor's book about Vraja bhaktas is such a delight. It is fun and inspiring to read about bhaktas who decide to sit down like Ramakrishna Pandit Baba and do a purascharan, saying "I ain't getting up until Srimati gives me her mercy." We take part in his success through identifying with him, even if we are incapable of chanting more than four rounds of japa a day, what to speak of sitting in one place for seventeen days without eating.

We identify with his sadhana, and we identify with his siddhi. And of course, the deeper our own sadhana, the more meaningful this rasa experience becomes. And, it must be said, that the diksha sambandha, the special relationship established through initiation, makes these identifications more real and personal. Ramakrishna Baba is our guy, and we are his. So his bhajan is especially meaningful to us and therefore a source of rasa.

This is one of the ways that bhaktas spread their mercy in the form of bhakti rasa. Just by their doing it, just by their experiencing it, they make it real for us all.
Jagat - Wed, 21 Jul 2004 23:29:37 +0530
And what is happening here is a universal religious principle. The various prophets establish different variants on the bhakti-rasa principle. So that when a Bhaktivedanta Swami or a Kripalu comes along with his own particular personal myth, it takes on meaning for their disciples that shapes their (the disciples') own specific spiritual character.

Having been in Iskcon for a long time, I also feel that certain elements of the Prabhupada myth infuse my spiritual life--the long wait in householder life, Krishna's powerful hand pulling him out of it--yasyAham anugRhNAmi hariSye tad-dhanaM zanaiH, thrusting him into residence in Radha Damodar and then out into the great exploit, the Hare Krishna explosion. A powerful myth that will keep Iskcon illuminated for centuries, no doubt.

Many Indians seem to prefer the avatar model--the nitya-siddha falling out of the sky, ready made. Personally, I find this a less rasika and more passive model for the sadhaka, but that's me.

These are all variants of the bhakta-AzrayAlambana. And inspired by them, we create our own personal myth, which ultimately follows the pattern of the rasa lila, from the call of the flute (Adau zraddhA), to finding Radha (guru) in the woods, and so on to the great circle dance. We participate mystically, and when our own lives truly become realized myth, that is when we become guru.

And that could happen today, with Radharani's mercy.