The Ecstasy of the Lord and His Devotees
The symptoms of highly developed devotional service for Kṛṣṇa, which are exhibited by the pure devotees, are sometimes imitated by those who are not actually pure devotees. This is described in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. Without devotional service to Kṛṣṇa, such symptoms are artificial, not actual. Sometimes those who are not conversant with the science of devotional service are captivated by the exhibition of such symptoms, but learned devotees know that they are simply imitation.
According to the various divisions and gradations of devotees, permanent devotional attitudes can be divided into five categories: (1) peacefulness, (2) service to Kṛṣṇa, (3) friendship with Kṛṣṇa, (4) parental affection toward Kṛṣṇa and (5) conjugal love for Kṛṣṇa. Each division has its own taste and relish, and a devotee situated in a particular division is happy in that position. Characteristic symptoms exhibited by a pure devotee are generally laughing and crying; when emotions are favorable, a pure devotee laughs, and when emotions are not favorable, he cries.
Situated above these two emotions is permanent love, which is called sthāyi-bhāva. In other words, when one’s attachment to Kṛṣṇa is permanent, one is situated in sthāyi-bhāva. That permanent loving attitude is sometimes mixed with different kinds of taste, called vibhāva, anubhāva and vyabhicārī. Vibhāva is a particular taste or attachment for Kṛṣṇa, and it can be divided into two further categories – ālambana and uddīpana. In the Agni Purāṇa and other authoritative scriptures, that which increases one’s love for Kṛṣṇa is said to be vibhāva, and when Kṛṣṇa is the objective, vibhāva is described as ālambana. Uddīpanas include Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental qualities, His activities, His beautiful smiling face and the aroma of His body, the sounds of His flute, ankle bells, and conch shell, the marks on the soles of His feet, His dwelling place and His paraphernalia of devotional service (such as tulasī leaves, devotees, ceremonial performances and Ekādaśī). Anubhāva occurs when feelings and emotions within oneself are exhibited. In the attitude of anubhāva, one dances and sometimes falls down, sometimes sings loudly, shows convulsions, yawns and sometimes breathes very heavily – all without concern for circumstances.
The external features exhibited on the bodies of devotees are called udbhāsvara. The vyabhicārī symptoms are thirty-three in number, and they primarily involve words uttered by the devotee and various bodily features. Different bodily features – such as dancing, trembling and laughing – sometimes mix with the vyabhicārī symptoms, which are also called sañcārī. When bhāva, anubhāva and vyabhicārī symptoms are combined, they make the devotee dive into the ocean of immortality. That ocean is called the bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, the ocean of the pure nectar of devotional service, and one who is merged in that ocean is always rapt in transcendental pleasure on the waves and sounds of that ocean.
The particular rasas (flavors or tastes) of the devotees who merge into that ocean of bhakti-rasāmṛta are known as neutrality, servitorship, friendship, parenthood and conjugal love. Conjugal love is very prominent, and it is symptomized by the devotee’s decorating his body to attract Kṛṣṇa. The flavor of servitorship increases to include affection, anger, fraternity and attachment. The flavor of friendship increases to include affection, anger, fraternity, attachment and devotion, and in parenthood the attachment also increases to include affection, anger, fraternity, attachment and devotion. There are also special flavors experienced in friendship with the Supreme Lord, and these are manifested by friends such as Subala, whose devotion increases up to the point of bhāva. The different rasas are also divided into two kinds of ecstasy, called yoga and viyoga, or meeting and separation. In the rasas of friendship and parenthood, the feelings of meeting and separation are various.
The situations known as rūḍha (advanced) and adhirūḍha (highly advanced) are possible only in the rasa of conjugal love. Conjugal love exhibited by the queens at Dvārakā is called rūḍha, and conjugal love exhibited at Vṛndāvana by the damsels of Vraja is called adhirūḍha. The highest perfections of adhirūḍha affection in conjugal love involve meeting (mādana) and separation (mohana). In the ecstasy of mādana there is kissing, and in the ecstasy of mohana there are udghūrṇā (unsteadiness) and citra-jalpa (varieties of mad emotional talks). There are ten varieties of citra-jalpa, examples of which are given in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.47.12–21), in a portion known as the Bhramara-gītā. Udghūrṇā, a symptom of separation is also a symptom of transcendental insanity. In that transcendental insanity one thinks that he himself has become the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In such an ecstasy, he imitates the symptoms of Kṛṣṇa in different ways.
The two divisions of ecstasies experienced in the relationship of conjugal love are sambhoga (meeting) and vipralambha (separation). On the sambhoga platform the ecstasies are unlimited, and on the vipralambha platform they are four in number. The ecstasy exhibited before the lover and beloved meet, the ecstasy experienced between them after meeting, the state of mind experienced by not meeting, and the state of mind experienced after meeting but fearing separation are called vipralambha. That vipralambha serves as a nourishing element for future meetings. When the lover and beloved meet all of a sudden and embrace one another, they feel an ecstasy of happiness, and the state of mind they experience in that ecstasy is called sambhoga. According to the situation, sambhoga ecstasy is also known by four names: (1) saṅkṣipta, (2) saṅkīrṇa, (3) sampanna or (4) samṛddhimān. Such symptoms are also visible during dreams.
The mental state experienced before meeting is called pūrva-rāga. The obstacles that impede the meeting between the lover and beloved are called māna, or anger. When the lover and beloved are separated, the mental state experienced is called pravāsa. Feelings of separation which are present under certain conditions even when the lovers meet are called love anxieties (prema-vaicittya). Such love anxieties are exhibited in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.90.15) by Kṛṣṇa’s queens, who kept awake nights and watched Him sleep. Afraid of being separated from Kṛṣṇa, they talked among themselves about how they had been affected by His beautiful eyes and smile.
The supreme lover is Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana, and the supreme beloved is Rādhārāṇī. Kṛṣṇa has sixty-four main qualities, and His devotee takes transcendental pleasure in hearing of them. As explained in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, the characteristics are as follows: (1) His body is well constructed; (2) His body is full of auspicious symptoms; (3) His body is beautiful; (4) He is very glorious; (5) He is very strong; (6) He always looks like a boy of sixteen; (7) He is well versed in various languages; (8) He is truthful; (9) He is decorated with pleasing words; (10) He is expert in speaking; (11) He is very learned; (12) He is very intelligent; (13) He is influential; (14) He is joyful; (15) He is cunning; (16) He is expert; (17) He is grateful; (18) He is firmly convinced; (19) He knows how to deal with different circumstances; (20) He is always conversant with scriptural injunctions; (21) He is clean; (22) He is controlled by His devotees; (23) He is steady; (24) He is self-controlled; (25) He is forgiving; (26) He is grave; (27) He is self-satisfied; (28) He is fair in His dealings; (29) He is magnanimous; (30) He is religious; (31) He is a great hero; (32) He is merciful; (33) He is respectful; (34) He is competent; (35) He is gentle; (36) He is modest; (37) He is the protector of the souls surrendered unto Him; (38) He is the deliverer; (39) He is the friend of the devotees; (40) He is submissive to love; (41) He is all-auspicious; (42) He is most powerful; (43) He is famous; (44) He is devoted to all living entities; (45) He is worshipable by everyone; (46) He is very attractive to all women; (47) He is partial to His devotees; (48) He is full of all opulence; (49) He is the supreme controller; (50) He possesses all honor.
These fifty qualities are fragmentally present in every living entity. When a human being is completely spiritually free and situated in his original condition, all these qualities can be perceived in him in minute quantity. In Kṛṣṇa, however, they exist in totality. There are five other transcendental qualities (mentioned below), which can be seen in Viṣṇu, the Supreme Lord, and partially in Lord Śiva also, but they are not visible in ordinary living entities. These qualities are as follows: (1) He is always situated in His original condition; (2) He is omniscient; (3) He is evergreen or always fresh; (4) He is eternally blissful; (5) He is the master of all perfection. Besides these five transcendental characteristics, there are five others which can be seen in the spiritual sky, especially in the Vaikuṇṭha planets, where Nārāyaṇa is the predominating Deity. These are: (1) He has inconceivable potencies; (2) He is able to sustain innumerable universes; (3) He is the seed of all incarnations; (4) He grants the highest perfection to those enemies whom He kills; (5) He is attractive to self-realized persons.
The above-mentioned sixty qualities are visible in Nārāyaṇa. But Kṛṣṇa has four special qualities, which are: (1) He is able to manifest wonderful pastimes; (2) He is expert at transcendental flute-playing; (3) He is surrounded by loving devotees; (4) He possesses unparalleled personal beauty.
Thus Kṛṣṇa has sixty-four transcendental qualities. Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī has twenty-five transcendental qualities, with which She can control even Kṛṣṇa. Her transcendental qualities are as follows: (1) She is sweetness personified; (2) She is a fresh young girl; (3) Her eyes are always moving; (4) She is always brightly smiling; (5) She possesses all auspicious marks on Her body; (6) She can agitate Kṛṣṇa by the aroma of Her person; (7) She is expert in the art of singing; (8) She speaks very nicely and sweetly; (9) She is expert in presenting feminine attractions; (10) She is modest and gentle; (11) She is always very merciful; (12) She is transcendentally cunning; (13) She knows how to dress nicely; (14) She is always shy; (15) She is always respectful; (16) She is always patient; (17) She is very grave; (18) She is enjoyed by Kṛṣṇa; (19) She is always situated on the highest devotional platform; (20) She is the abode of love of the residents of Gokula; (21) She can give shelter to all kinds of devotees; (22) She is always affectionate to superiors and inferiors; (23) She is always obliged by the dealings of Her associates, (24) She is the greatest among Kṛṣṇa’s girlfriends; (25) She always keeps Kṛṣṇa under Her control.
Thus Kṛṣṇa and Rādhārāṇī are both transcendentally qualified, and They attract one another. But Rādhārāṇī’s transcendental attractiveness is greater than Kṛṣṇa’s, for Her attractiveness is the transcendental taste in conjugal love. Similarly, there are transcendental tastes in servitorship, friendship and other relationships with Kṛṣṇa. These can be described with reference to the context of the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu.
Persons who have been thoroughly cleansed by devotional service and are always joyful, being situated in elevated consciousness, who are very much attached to studying Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, who are always cheerful in the association of devotees, who have accepted the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa as the ultimate shelter of their lives, and who are pleased to perform all details of devotional service – such devotees have in their pure hearts the transcendental ecstasy of attachment, which has been developed through old and new reformatory practices. That ecstatic state of being, enriched with love of Kṛṣṇa and transcendental experience, gradually develops into the mature bliss of spiritual life. Tasting such spiritual bliss is not possible for those who are not situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and devotional service. This fact is further corroborated in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (2.5.131), where it is said: “It is very difficult for the nondevotee to understand the taste of devotional service. Only one who has completely taken shelter of the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa and whose life is merged in the ocean of devotional service can understand this transcendental pleasure.”
Lord Caitanya thus briefly explained the transcendental situation, the spiritual relish of life, which He called the fifth stage of perfection. The first stage of perfection is to become a religious man in the ordinary sense, as known in the material world; the second stage of perfection is to become materially rich; the third stage of perfection is the attainment of complete sense enjoyment; and the fourth stage of perfection is liberation. But above liberation are those in the fifth stage of perfection, those who are established in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or devotional service to the Lord. Already liberated, devotees who reach the highest perfection of devotional service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness experience the taste of the ecstasy of spiritual relish.
The Lord then told Sanātana Gosvāmī that He had previously taught his younger brother, Rūpa Gosvāmī, at Prayāga (Allahabad). The Lord assured Sanātana Gosvāmī that He had empowered Rūpa Gosvāmī to spread the knowledge He had given him. The Lord then similarly ordered Sanātana Gosvāmī to write books on the transcendental loving service of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and He authorized him to excavate the different sites of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes in the district of Mathurā. Sanātana Gosvāmī was also advised to construct temples in Vṛndāvana and to write books on the principles of Vaiṣṇavism, as authorized by Lord Caitanya Himself. Sanātana Gosvāmī executed all these desires of the Lord – he constructed the temple of Madana-mohana at Vṛndāvana, and he wrote books on the principles of devotional service, such as the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa.
Lord Caitanya further taught Sanātana Gosvāmī how one can live in the material world while being in a complete relationship with Kṛṣṇa, and He also taught him that there is no necessity for dry renunciation. The purport of these instructions is that in the present age there are many persons who accept the renounced order of life (sannyāsa) but who are not spiritually advanced. Lord Caitanya did not approve of such sannyāsa, explaining that it is wrong to accept sannyāsa without having perfect knowledge of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Actually, we find that there are many so-called sannyāsīs whose actions are below those of ordinary men but who pass themselves off as being in the renounced order of life. Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu did not accept such hypocrisy, and He instructed Sanātana Gosvāmī to elaborate on this subject in his different books.
The perfectional stage of spiritual life, which one can experience even while being in the material world, is described by Lord Kṛṣṇa in the twelfth chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā. There it is said that one who is not envious of any living entity, who is friendly, merciful and detached from material possessions, who is situated in his pure identity, without any false conception of the body as the self, who is equipoised in both happiness and distress, who is forgiving, always satisfied, always engaged in devotional service, and always surrendered unto the Supreme Lord with his body and mind – such a devotee is very dear to Kṛṣṇa. A devotee who never gives trouble to any living entity, either by his body or his mind, who is never affected by material distress and happiness, and who is never angry or pleased with anything material is very dear to the Supreme Lord. He who is never dependent on anyone in this world, who is completely surrendered to the Supreme Lord, who is purified, expert, neutral, free of pain, and aloof from any material endeavor which requires too much attention – such a devotee is also very dear to Lord Kṛṣṇa. A person who is never subjected to material happiness or hatred, lamentation or ambition, who is aloof from all materially auspicious and inauspicious activities, and who is fully devoted in Kṛṣṇa consciousness – such a devotee is very dear to Lord Kṛṣṇa. A devotee who treats equally a so-called enemy and a so-called friend in the material world, who is not disturbed by heat or cold, who is without any attachment, who is equally situated when respected or insulted, who is always grave, satisfied in any condition of life, without any fixed residence, and fixed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness – such a devotee is very dear to Lord Kṛṣṇa. Even if one is not situated in the transcendental position, still, if he approves the transcendental life described here, he also becomes very dear to Kṛṣṇa.
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (2.2.5) there is a very nice verse stating that a devotee should always remain dependent on the mercy of the Supreme Lord and that as far as his material necessities are concerned, he should be satisfied with whatever is obtained without endeavor. In this regard, Śukadeva Gosvāmī advised that a devotee should never approach a materialistic person for any kind of help. As far as one’s bodily necessities are concerned, one can pick up torn clothing from the street, take fruits offered by trees, drink water from flowing rivers, and live in a mountain cave constructed by nature herself. Even if one is unable to do all these things, he should nonetheless completely depend on the Supreme Lord, understanding that since the Lord provides everyone with food and shelter, He will never fail to care for His devotees who are fully surrendered unto Him. In any case, the devotee is always protected, and therefore he should not be at all anxious for his maintenance.
Sanātana Gosvāmī thus inquired into all phases of devotional service, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and Lord Caitanya taught him most confidentially from authoritative scriptures like Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The Lord also referred to the Vedic literature known as Hari-vaṁśa, which gives information about the transcendental abode of Kṛṣṇa. This information was disclosed by Indra when he offered his prayers after being defeated upon challenging the potency of Kṛṣṇa. In the Hari-vaṁśa it is stated that although birds and airplanes can fly high in the sky above the earth, they cannot reach the higher planetary systems. The higher planetary systems extend upward from the sun planet, which is situated in the middle of the universe. Above the sun are planetary systems where persons who are elevated by great austerities and penances are situated. The whole material universe is called Devī-dhāma, and above it is Śiva-dhāma, where Lord Śiva and his wife Pārvatī eternally reside. Above that planetary system is the spiritual sky, where innumerable spiritual planets, known as Vaikuṇṭhas, are situated. And above these Vaikuṇṭha planets is Kṛṣṇa’s planet, known as Goloka Vṛndāvana. The word goloka means “planet of the cows.” Because Kṛṣṇa is very fond of cows, His abode is known as Goloka. Goloka Vṛndāvana is larger than all the material and spiritual planets put together.
In his prayers in the Hari-vaṁśa, Indra admitted that he could not understand the situation of Goloka, even by asking Brahmā. Devotees of the Nārāyaṇa expansion of Kṛṣṇa attain the Vaikuṇṭha planets, but it is very difficult to reach the Goloka planet. Indeed, that planet can be reached only by devotees of Lord Caitanya or Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Indra then said to Lord Kṛṣṇa: “You have descended from that Goloka planet in the spiritual world, and the disturbance I created was all due to my foolishness.” Therefore Indra begged Lord Kṛṣṇa to excuse him.
The last phase of the pastimes of Lord Kṛṣṇa is described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as mauṣala-līlā. This series of pastimes includes Kṛṣṇa’s mysterious disappearance from the material world. In that pastime the Lord played the part of being killed by a hunter. There are many improper explanations of scriptural passages describing the last portion of Lord Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes (such as the explanation of descriptions of Kṛṣṇa as the incarnation of a hair), but Lord Caitanya properly explained these passages and gave them the right interpretation. As far as Kṛṣṇa being the incarnation of a hair is concerned, this is mentioned in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the Viṣṇu Purāṇa and the Mahābhārata. In the Mahābhārata it is stated that Lord Viṣṇu snatched a gray hair and a black hair from His head and that these two hairs entered into the wombs of two queens of the Yadu dynasty, namely, Rohiṇī and Devakī. It is also stated there that Lord Kṛṣṇa descends to the material world in order to vanquish all the demons. Some say that Kṛṣṇa is the incarnation of Viṣṇu who lies in the ocean of milk within this universe. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, in his Laghu-bhāgavatāmṛta, along with his commentator, Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, have discussed these points fully and have established the exact truth. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī also discusses these points in the Kṛṣṇa-sandarbha.
When Lord Caitanya finished His instructions to Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī, Sanātana, being empowered and enlightened, was so transcendentally pleased that he at once fell at the feet of Lord Caitanya and said, “I was born in a very low family, and I have always associated with lowly people; therefore I am the lowest of sinners. Yet You are so kind that You have taught me lessons which are not even understood by Lord Brahmā, the greatest being in this universe. By Your grace I have appreciated the conclusions which You have taught me, but I am so low that I cannot even touch a drop of the ocean of Your instructions. Thus if You want me, who am nothing but a lame man, to dance, then please give me Your benediction by placing Your feet on my head.”
Thus Sanātana Gosvāmī prayed for the Lord’s confirmation that His teachings would actually evolve in his heart by His grace. Otherwise Sanātana knew that there was no possibility of his being able to describe the Lord’s teachings. The purport of this is that the ācāryas (spiritual masters) are authorized by higher authorities. Instruction alone cannot make one an expert. Unless one is blessed by the spiritual master, or ācārya, such teachings cannot become fully manifested. Therefore one should seek the mercy of the spiritual master so that his instructions can develop within oneself. After receiving the prayers of Sanātana Gosvāmī, Lord Caitanya placed His feet on Sanātana’s head and gave him the benediction that all the Lord’s instructions would fully develop within him.
Thus the Lord described the ultimate stage of love of Godhead. Lord Caitanya said that such a description cannot be given very elaborately but that He had informed Sanātana as far as possible. The author of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta concludes this chapter by writing that anyone who attentively hears these instructions of Lord Caitanya to Sanātana Gosvāmī very soon becomes situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and engages in pure devotional service to the Lord.