Chapter 35: Neutral Love of God

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Nectar of Devotion

Actually the transcendental pleasure derived in association with the Supreme Person is far greater than the pleasure derived from impersonal Brahman realization, because of the direct meeting with the eternal form of the Lord. Impersonalists do not directly derive the transcendental pleasure of association with the Lord by hearing of His pastimes. As such, the impersonalists cannot derive any relishable transcendental pleasure from the topics of Bhagavad-gita, in which the Lord is personally talking with Arjuna. The basic principle of their impersonal attitude does not allow them the transcendental pleasure which is relished by a devotee whose basic principle of understanding is the Supreme Person. The impersonalistic commentary on Bhagavad-gita is therefore disastrous, because without understanding the transcendental pleasure of the Gita, the impersonalist wants to interpret it in his own way. If an impersonalist can, however, come in contact with a pure devotee, his transcendental position can be changed for greater elevation. Great sages are therefore recommended to worship the form of the Lord in order to achieve that highest transcendental pleasure.

Without worshiping the arca-vigraha, the form or Deity of the Lord, one cannot understand such literature as Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. For those great sages situated in the position of transcendental neutrality, the beginning should be to take shelter of Lord Visnu, the four-handed eternal form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The mystic yogis are therefore advised to meditate on the form of Lord Visnu, as recommended by Kapila Muni in the sankhya yoga system. Unfortunately, many mystic yogis try to meditate on something void, and as stated in the Gita, the result is that they simply undergo trouble and do not achieve any tangible result.

When some great saintly persons who had undergone penances and austerities saw the four-handed transcendental form of Visnu, they remarked, "This four-handed form of the Lord, manifested in a bluish color, is the reservoir of all pleasure and the center of our living force. Actually, when we see this eternal form of Visnu, we, along with many other paramahamsas, become immediately captivated by the beauty of the Lord." This appreciation of Lord Visnu by saintly persons is an instance of situation in santa-rasa, or the neutral stage of devotional service. In the beginning, those who are aspiring for salvation try to get out of the material entanglement by performing painful austerities and penances, and ultimately they come to the impersonal status of spiritual realization. At this brahma-bhuta stage of liberation from material entanglement, the symptoms, as explained in Bhagavad-gita, are that one becomes joyous beyond any hankering or lamentation and gains a universal vision. When the devotee is situated in the santa-rasa, or neutral stage of devotional service, he appreciates the Visnu form of the Lord.

Actually, all Vedic culture is aiming at understanding Lord Visnu. In the Rg Veda one mantra says that any advanced saintly person is always aspiring to be fixed in meditation upon the lotus feet of Visnu.

In Srimad-Bhagavatam it is said that the foolish do not know that Visnu is the ultimate goal of life. According to the conclusion of all authoritative Vedic scriptures, when a person comes to the stage of appreciating Visnu, he is at the beginning of devotional service. If one cultivates devotional service further and further, under proper guidance, other features of devotional service will gradually become manifest. At this stage of santa-rasa, one can see Lord Visnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the deliverer of even the demons. The Lord is appreciated by such would-be devotees as the eternal transcendental form, the chief of all self-realized souls, the Supersoul and the Supreme Brahman. He is also appreciated as being completely peaceful, completely controlled and pure, merciful to the devotees and untouched by any material condition. This appreciation of Lord Visnu in awe and veneration by the saintly is to be understood as the sign that they are situated in the santa-rasa, or the neutral stage of devotional service.

This stage of santa-rasa can be attained by the impersonalists only when they are in association with pure devotees. Otherwise it is not possible. After Brahman realization, when a liberated soul comes in contact with a pure devotee of Lord Krsna and submissively accepts the teachings of Lord Krsna without misinterpretation, he becomes situated in this neutral stage of devotional service. The best example of saintly persons situated in the santa-rasa are Sanaka, Sanatana, Sananda and Sanat-kumara, the Kumara brothers. These four saintly persons (known as Catuh-sana) are sons of Lord Brahma. After their birth, when they were ordered by their father to become householders and increase human society, they refused the order. They said that they had already decided not to become entangled with family life; they would rather live as saintly brahmacaris for their own perfection. So these great saints have been living for millions of years now, but still they appear to be just like boys of four or five years. Their complexions are very fair, there is an effulgence in their bodies, and they always travel naked. These four saintly persons almost always remain together.

In one of the prayers of the Kumara brothers, this declaration is made: "O Lord Mukunda [Krsna, the giver of liberation], only so long as one does not happen to see Your eternal form of bliss and knowledge, appearing just like a newly-grown tamala tree, with a bluish hue -- only for so long can the impersonal feature of the Absolute Truth, known as Brahman, be very pleasing to a saintly person."

The qualifications of a saintly person are described in the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu as follows. A saintly person is one who understands fully that simply by discharging devotional service he can become confident of liberation. He is always situated in the regulative principles of devotional life and at the same time aspires to be liberated from material entanglement.

A saintly person thinks like this: "When shall I be able to live alone in the caves of the mountains? When shall I be dressed simply with undergarments? When shall I be satisfied by eating simply a little fruit and vegetables? When will it be possible for me to think always of the lotus feet of Mukunda, who is the source of the Brahman effulgence? When, in such a spiritual condition of life, shall I fully understand my days and nights to be insignificant moments in eternal time?"

The devotees and self-realized persons who are engaged in preaching the glories of the Lord always maintain an ecstatic love for the Lord within their hearts. Thus they are benefited by the rays of the ecstatic moon, and they are called saintly persons.

The impulse of a saintly person is to be engaged in the study of the Vedas, especially the Upanisadic portions, to live always in a place where there is no disturbance from the common people, to think always of the eternal form of Krsna, to be ready to consider and understand the Absolute Truth, to be always prominent in exhibiting knowledge, to see the Supreme Lord in His universal form (visva-rupa), to associate always with learned devotees and to discuss the conclusion of the Vedas with similarly elevated persons. All of these qualifications of a saintly person serve to raise him to the status of santa-rasa.

In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu it is stated that all those who attended the pious meeting held by Lord Brahma for the study of Vedic literature like the Upanisads became overwhelmed with ecstatic love for Krsna, the chief of the Yadu dynasty. Actually, the result of studying the Upanisads is to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Negation of material existence is only one of the subjects of the Upanisads. The next subject concerns becoming situated in the impersonal realization. And then, after penetrating through the impersonal Brahman, when one comes to the platform of associating with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one reaches the ultimate goal in studying the Upanisads.

Those who are situated on the platform of santa-rasa get their impetus for advancement in devotional service by smelling the tulasi offered at the lotus feet of the Lord, by hearing the sound of His conchshell, by seeing a sanctified place in some mountain or hill, by observing a forest like the ones in Vrndavana, by going to a place of pilgrimage, by visiting the course of the Ganges River, by being victorious over the dictations of bodily demands (i.e., eating, sleeping, mating and defending), by understanding the devastation of eternal time and by constantly associating with devotees engaged in Krsna consciousness. All these different items are favorable in elevating saintly persons situated in santa-rasa to the advanced stage of devotional service.

In the Third Canto, Fifteenth Chapter, verse 43, of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, there is a statement by the four saintly persons known as Catuh-sana, headed by Sanaka-kumara. They went to visit the Lord of Vaikunthaloka in the spiritual sky, and when they bowed down before the Lord, the aroma of the tulasi, mixed with saffron, entered their nostrils and immediately attracted their minds. Although these four saintly persons were always absorbed in the thought of impersonal Brahman, from association with the Lord and from smelling the tulasi leaves the hairs on their bodies immediately stood up. This shows that even a person who is situated in Brahman realization, if he is put into association with devotees in pure devotional service, will immediately become attracted to the personal feature of the Lord.

There are certain symptoms of great sages who are situated in santa-rasa devotional service, and these symptoms are exhibited as follows. They concentrate their eyesight on the tip of the nose, and they behave just like an avadhuta. Avadhuta means a highly elevated mystic who does not care for any social, religious or Vedic conventions. Another symptom is that such persons are very careful to step forward when giving speeches. When they speak, they join together the forefinger and thumb. (This is called the jnana-mudra position.) They are not against the atheists, nor are they particularly inclined to the devotees. Such persons give stress to liberation and detachment from the materialistic way of life. They are always neutral and have no affection for nor misidentification with anything material. They are always grave, but fully absorbed in thoughts of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. These uncommon features develop in devotees who are situated in santa-rasa.

Regarding concentration of the eyesight on the tip of the nose, there is a statement in the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu by a devotee who observed this being performed by a yogi. He remarked, "This great sage is concentrating his eyesight on the tip of his nose, and from this it appears that he has already realized the eternal form of the Lord within himself."

Sometimes a devotee in santa-rasa yawns, stretches his limbs, instructs on devotional service, offers respectful obeisances unto the form of the Lord, offers nice prayers to the Lord and has a desire to give direct service with his body. These are some of the common symptoms of the devotee who is situated in neutrality. One devotee, after observing the yawning of another devotee, addressed him thus: "My dear mystic, I think that within your heart there is some ecstatic devotional love which is causing you to yawn." It is sometimes found that a devotee in the santa-rasa falls down on the ground, his hairs stand up on his body, and he trembles all over. In this way, different symptoms of ecstatic trance are exhibited automatically by such devotees.

In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu it is said that when Lord Krsna was blowing His conchshell known as Pancajanya, many great sages who were living in the caves of the mountains immediately reacted, being awakened from their trance of meditation. They immediately saw that the hairs of their bodies were standing. Sometimes devotees in santa-rasa become stunned, peaceful, jubilant, deliberate, reflective, anxious, dexterous and argumentative. These symptoms indicate continuous ecstasy, or established emotion.

Once a great realized sage was lamenting that the Supreme Lord Krsna was living in Dvaraka but that he was unable to take advantage of seeing Him. After thinking this, the sage immediately became stunned. He was thinking that he was simply wasting his time. In other words, the sage lamented because the Supreme Personality of Godhead was personally present but he still could not take advantage of this because of his meditation.

When a mystic is transcendental to all kinds of mental concoctions and is situated in Brahman, his state is called trance, beyond the influence of the material conception of life. In that stage, when one hears about the transcendental pastimes of the Lord, there may be shivering in the body.

When a Brahman-realized devotee who has come to the stage of steady trance comes into contact with the eternal form of Krsna, his transcendental pleasure increases millions of times. One great sage once inquired from another, "My dear friend, do you think that after I perfect the eightfold yoga performance I shall be able to see the eternal form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead?" This inquiry from the sage is an instance of inquisitiveness in a devotee situated in the neutral stage of devotional service.

When Lord Krsna, along with His elder brother Balarama and sister Subhadra, came to Kuruksetra in a chariot on the occasion of a solar eclipse, many mystic yogis also came. When these mystic yogis saw Lord Krsna and Balarama, they exclaimed that now that they had seen the excellent bodily effulgence of the Lord, they had almost forgotten the pleasure derived from impersonal Brahman realization. In this connection one of the mystics approached Krsna and said, "My dear Lord, You are always full with transcendental bliss, excelling all other spiritual positions. And so, simply by seeing You from a distant place, I have come to the conclusion that there is no need of my being situated in the transcendental bliss of impersonal Brahman."

When a great mystic was once awakened from his meditative trance by hearing the vibration of Krsna's Pancajanya conchshell, the mystic became overpowered -- so much so, in fact, that he began to bash his head on the ground, and with eyes full of tears of ecstatic love, he violated all the rules and regulations of his yoga performances. Thus he at once neglected the process of Brahman realization.

Bilvamangala Thakura, in his book Krsna-karnamrta, says, "Let the impersonalists be engaged in the process of transcendental realization by worshiping the impersonal Brahman. Although I was also initiated into that path of Brahman realization, I have now become misled by a naughty boy -- one who is very cunning, who is very much attached to the gopis and who has made me His maidservant. So I have now forgotten the process of Brahman realization."

Bilvamangala Thakura was first spiritually initiated for impersonal realization of the Absolute Truth, but later on, by his association with Krsna in Vrndavana, he became an experienced devotee. The same thing happened to Sukadeva Gosvami, who also reformed himself by the grace of the Lord and took to the path of devotional service, giving up the way of impersonal realization.

Sukadeva Gosvami and Bilvamangala Thakura, who gave up the impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth to take to devotional service, are the best examples of devotees situated in the neutral state. According to some authorities, this condition cannot be accepted as one of the transcendental humors, or rasas, but Srila Rupa Gosvami says that even if one does not accept it as a transcendental humor, one must still accept it as the beginning position of devotional service. However, if one is not further raised to the platform of actual service to the Lord, he is not considered to be on the platform of transcendental mellow. In this connection, in the Eleventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Lord Krsna personally instructs Uddhava like this: "The state of being established in My personal form is called santa-rasa, and without being situated in this position, no one can advance to actual pure devotional service." In other words, no one can be situated in the personal feature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead without being situated at least in santa-rasa.

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His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness