Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Nectar of Devotion, Introduction
Invoking auspiciousness: Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the cause of all causes, the reservoir of all rasas, or relationships, which are called neutrality (passive adoration), servitorship, friendship, parenthood, conjugal love, comedy, compassion, fear, chivalry, ghastliness, wonder and devastation. He is the supreme attractive form, and by His universal and transcendental attractive features He has captivated all the gopīs, headed by Tārakā, Pālikā, Śyāmā, Lalitā, and ultimately Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Let His Lordship's grace be on us so that there may not be any hindrance in the execution of this duty of writing The Nectar of Devotion, impelled by His Divine Grace Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Prabhupāda.
Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhupāda and of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Prabhupāda, by whose inspiration I have been engaged in the matter of compiling this summary study of Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. This is the sublime science of devotional service as propounded by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who appeared five hundred years ago in West Bengal, India, to propagate the movement of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī begins his great book by offering his respectful obeisances unto Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī, who is his elder brother and spiritual master, and he prays that Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu may be very pleasing to him. He further prays that by residing in that ocean of nectar, Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī may always feel transcendental pleasure in the service of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.
Let us offer our respectful obeisances to all the great devotees and ācāryas (holy teachers), who are compared to sharks in the great ocean of nectar and who do not care for the various rivers of liberation. Impersonalists are very fond of merging into the Supreme, like rivers that come down and merge into the ocean. The ocean can be compared to liberation, and the rivers to all the different paths of liberation. The impersonalists are dwelling in the river water, which eventually comes to mix with the ocean. They have no information, however, that within the ocean, as within the river, there are innumerable aquatic living entities. The sharks who dwell in the ocean do not care for the rivers which are gliding down into it. The devotees eternally live in the ocean of devotional service, and they do not care for the rivers. In other words, those who are pure devotees always remain in the ocean of transcendental loving service to the Lord and have no business with the other processes, which are compared to the rivers that only gradually come to the ocean.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī prays to his spiritual master, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, for the protection of Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu — "The Ocean of the Pure Nectar of Devotional Service" — from the argumentative logicians who unnecessarily meddle in the science of service to the Lord. He compares their arguments and logic to volcanic eruptions in the midst of the ocean. In the midst of the ocean, volcanic eruptions can do very little harm, and similarly, those who are against devotional service to the Lord and who put forward many philosophical theses about the ultimate transcendental realization cannot disturb this great ocean of devotional service.
The author of Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, very humbly submits that he is just trying to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over the world, although he humbly thinks himself unfit for this work. That should be the attitude of all preachers of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, following in the footsteps of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. We should never think of ourselves as great preachers, but should always consider that we are simply instrumental to the previous ācāryas, and simply by following in their footsteps we may be able to do something for the benefit of suffering humanity.
Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu is divided into four parts, just as the ocean is sometimes divided into four parts, and there are different sections within each of these four divisions. Originally, in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, the ocean is divided like the watery ocean into east, south, west and north, while the subsections within these different divisions are called waves. As in the ocean there are always different waves, either on the eastern side, the southern side, the western side or the northern side, Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu similarly has different waves. In the first part there are four waves, the first being a general description of devotional service. The second concerns the regulative principles for executing devotional service, and the third wave, devotional service in ecstasy. In the fourth is the ultimate goal, love of God. These will be explicitly described along with their different symptoms.
The authorized descriptions of bhakti, or devotional service, following in the footsteps of previous ācāryas, can be summarized in the following statement by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī: "First-class devotional service is known by one's tendency to be fully engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, serving the Lord favorably." The purport is that one may also be in Kṛṣṇa consciousness unfavorably, but that cannot be counted as pure devotional service. Pure devotional service should be free from the desire for any material benefit or for sense gratification, as these desires are cultivated through fruitive activities and philosophical speculation. Generally, people are engaged in different activities to get some material profit, while most philosophers are engaged in proposing transcendental realization through volumes of word jugglery and speculation. Pure devotional service must always be free from such fruitive activities and philosophical speculations. One has to learn Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or pure devotional service, from the authorities by spontaneous loving service.
This devotional service is a sort of cultivation. It is not simply inaction for people who like to be inactive or devote their time to silent meditation. There are many different methods for people who want this, but cultivation of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is different. The particular word used by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in this connection is anuśīlana, or cultivation by following the predecessor teachers (ācāryas). As soon as we say "cultivation," we must refer to activity. Without activity, consciousness alone cannot help us. All activities may be divided into two classes: one class may be for achieving a certain goal, and the other may be for avoiding some unfavorable circumstance. In Sanskrit, these activities are called pravṛtti and nivṛtti — positive and negative action. There are many examples of negative action. For instance, a diseased person has to be cautious and take medicine in order to avoid some unfavorable illness.
Those who are cultivating spiritual life and executing devotional service are always engaged in activity. Such activity can be performed with the body or with the mind. Thinking, feeling and willing are all activities of the mind, and when we will to do something, the activity comes to be manifest by the gross bodily senses. Thus, in our mental activities we should always try to think of Kṛṣṇa and try to plan how to please Him, following in the footsteps of the great ācāryas and the personal spiritual master. There are activities of the body, activities of the mind and activities of speech. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person engages his words in preaching the glories of the Lord. This is called kīrtana. And by his mind a Kṛṣṇa conscious person always thinks of the activities of the Lord — as He is speaking on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra or engaging in His various pastimes in Vṛndāvana with His devotees. In this way one can always think of the activities and pastimes of the Lord. This is the mental culture of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Similarly, we can offer many services with our bodily activities. But all such activities must be in relationship with Kṛṣṇa. This relationship is established by connecting oneself with the bona fide spiritual master, who is the direct representative of Kṛṣṇa in disciplic succession. Therefore, the execution of Kṛṣṇa conscious activities with the body should be directed by the spiritual master and then performed with faith. The connection with the spiritual master is called initiation. From the date of initiation by the spiritual master, the connection between Kṛṣṇa and a person cultivating Kṛṣṇa consciousness is established. Without initiation by a bona fide spiritual master, the actual connection with Kṛṣṇa consciousness is never performed.
This cultivation of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not material. The Lord has three general energies — namely the external energy, the internal energy and the marginal energy. The living entities are called marginal energy, and the material cosmic manifestation is the action of the external, or material, energy. Then there is the spiritual world, which is a manifestation of the internal energy. The living entities, who are called marginal energy, perform material activities when acting under the inferior, external energy. And when they engage in activities under the internal, spiritual energy, their activities are called Kṛṣṇa conscious. This means that those who are great souls or great devotees do not act under the spell of material energy, but act instead under the protection of the spiritual energy. Any activities done in devotional service, or in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, are directly under the control of spiritual energy. In other words, energy is a sort of strength, and this strength can be spiritualized by the mercy of both the bona fide spiritual master and Kṛṣṇa.
In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, by Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, Lord Caitanya states that it is a fortunate person who comes in contact with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Kṛṣṇa. One who is serious about spiritual life is given by Kṛṣṇa the intelligence to come in contact with a bona fide spiritual master, and then by the grace of the spiritual master one becomes advanced in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. In this way the whole jurisdiction of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is directly under the spiritual energy — Kṛṣṇa and the spiritual master. This has nothing to do with the material world. When we speak of "Kṛṣṇa" we refer to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, along with His many expansions. He is expanded by His plenary parts and parcels, His differentiated parts and parcels and His different energies. "Kṛṣṇa," in other words, means everything and includes everything. Generally, however, we should understand "Kṛṣṇa" to mean Kṛṣṇa and His personal expansions. Kṛṣṇa expands Himself as Baladeva, Sańkarṣaṇa, Vāsudeva, Aniruddha, Pradyumna, Rāma, Nṛsiḿha and Varāha, as well as many other incarnations and innumerable Viṣṇu expansions. These are described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam to be as numerous as the uncountable waves. So Kṛṣṇa includes all such expansions, as well as His pure devotees. In the Brahma-saḿhitā it is stated that Kṛṣṇa's expansions are all complete in eternity, blissfulness and cognizance.
Devotional service means to prosecute Kṛṣṇa conscious activities which are favorable to the transcendental pleasure of the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa, and any activities which are not favorable to the transcendental favor of the Lord cannot be accepted as devotional service. For example, great demons like Rāvaṇa, Kaḿsa and Hiraṇyakaśipu were always thinking of Kṛṣṇa, but they were thinking of Him as their enemy. This sort of thinking cannot be accepted as bhakti, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
The impersonalists sometimes misunderstand devotional service in such a way that they divide Kṛṣṇa from His paraphernalia and pastimes. For example, the Bhagavad-gītā is spoken on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra, and the impersonalists say that although Kṛṣṇa is of interest, the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra isn't. The devotees, however, also know that the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra by itself has nothing to do with their business, but in addition they know that "Kṛṣṇa" does not mean just Kṛṣṇa alone. He is always with His associates and paraphernalia. For instance, if someone says, "Give something to eat to the man with the weapons," the eating process is done by the man and not by the weapons. Similarly, in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, a devotee may be interested in the paraphernalia and locations — such as the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra — which are associated with Kṛṣṇa, but he is not concerned with simply any battlefield. He is concerned with Kṛṣṇa — His speech, His instructions, etc. It is because Kṛṣṇa is there that the battlefield is so important.
This is the summary understanding of what Kṛṣṇa consciousness is. Without this understanding one is sure to misunderstand why the devotees are interested in the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra. One who is interested in Kṛṣṇa becomes interested in His different pastimes and activities.
The definition of a pure devotee, as given by Rūpa Gosvāmī in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, can be summarized thus: his service is favorable and is always in relation to Kṛṣṇa. In order to keep the purity of such Kṛṣṇa conscious activities, one must be freed from all material desires and philosophical speculation. Any desire except for the service of the Lord is called material desire. And "philosophical speculation" refers to the sort of speculation which ultimately arrives at a conclusion of voidism or impersonalism. This conclusion is useless for a Kṛṣṇa conscious person. Only rarely by philosophical speculation can one reach the conclusion of worshiping Vāsudeva, Kṛṣṇa. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā itself. The ultimate end of philosophical speculation, then, must be Kṛṣṇa, with the understanding that Kṛṣṇa is everything, the cause of all causes, and that one should therefore surrender unto Him. If this ultimate goal is reached, then philosophical advancement is favorable, but if the conclusion of philosophical speculation is voidism or impersonalism, that is not bhakti.
Karma, or fruitive activities, are sometimes understood to be ritualistic activities. There are many persons who are very much attracted by the ritualistic activities described in the Vedas. But if one becomes attracted simply to ritualistic activities without understanding Kṛṣṇa, his activities are unfavorable to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Actually, Kṛṣṇa consciousness can be based simply on hearing, chanting, remembering, etc. Described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam are nine different processes, besides which everything done is unfavorable to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Thus, one should always be guarding against falldowns.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has also mentioned in this definition of bhakti the word jñāna-karmādi. This karmādi (fruitive work) consists of activities which are unable to help one attain to pure devotional service. Many forms of so-called renunciation are also not favorable to Kṛṣṇa conscious devotional service.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has also quoted a definition from the Nārada-pañcarātra, as follows: "One should be free from all material designations and, by Kṛṣṇa consciousness, must be cleansed of all material contamination. He should be restored to his pure identity, in which he engages his senses in the service of the proprietor of the senses." So when our senses are engaged for the actual proprietor of the senses, that is called devotional service. In our conditional state, our senses are engaged in serving these bodily demands. When the same senses are engaged in executing the order of Kṛṣṇa, our activities are called bhakti.
As long as one identifies himself as belonging to a certain family, a certain society or a certain person, he is said to be covered with designations. When one is fully aware that he does not belong to any family, society or country, but is eternally related to Kṛṣṇa, he then realizes that his energy should be employed not in the interests of so-called family, society or country, but in the interests of Kṛṣṇa. This is purity of purpose and the platform of pure devotional service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
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His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, Founder Ācārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness