Book excerpts Sri Upadesamrta Verse 4: Association That Nourishes Bhakti

Verse 4: Association That Nourishes Bhakti

ददाति प्रतिगृह्णाति गुह्यमाख्याति पृच्छति ।
भुङ्क्ते भोजयते चैव षड़्विधं प्रीतिलक्षणम् ॥४॥

dadāti pratigṛhṇāti
guhyam ākhyāti pṛcchati
bhuṅkte bhojayate caiva
ṣaḍ-vidhaṁ prīti-lakṣaṇam

dadāti – offering pure devotees those objects that are in accordance with their requirements; pratigṛhṇāti – accepting remnant items given by pure devotees; guhyam ākhyāti – revealing to devotees one’s confidential realisations concerning bhajana; pṛcchati – inquiring from devotees about their confidential realisations; bhuṅkte – eating with great love the prasāda remnants given by devotees; ca – and; bhojayate – lovingly serving prasāda to devotees; ca – and; ṣaḍ-vidham eva – are specifically of these six kinds; prīti-lakṣaṇam – the symptoms of loving association with devotees.

Offering pure devotees items in accordance with their requirements, accepting prasādī or remnant items given by pure devotees, revealing to devotees one’s confidential realisations concerning bhajana, inquiring from them about their confidential realisations, eating with great love the prasāda remnants given by devotees and lovingly feeding them prasāda – these are the six symptoms of loving association with devotees.


In this fourth verse, the extrinsic symptoms of loving exchanges with pure devotees are described. As the meaning of this verse is perfectly clear, it does not require elaboration.


Bad association is unfavourable to bhakti; therefore it is imperative to abandon such association. Those who are intent on progressing in bhakti should associate with pure devotees, who possess the power to free one from the tendency to fall into bad association. A description of the loving exchanges shared between devotees, which nourish one’s bhakti, is found in this fourth verse. Lovingly giving another devotee that which he requires and lovingly accepting those items that are mercifully given by other devotees, revealing one’s confidential realisations to devotees and hearing descriptions of confidential tenets (tattva) from pure devotees, lovingly serving devotees prasāda and accepting prasāda offered by devotees – these six kinds of exchanges constitute association with saintly persons (sādhu-saṅga) in its pure form. These six activities are the symptoms of love. One should serve sādhus by the performance of these activities.


Bhakti appears by the association of Bhagavān’s devotees, but since one may not know how to associate with Vaiṣṇavas, this topic is explained in this verse. By the negative effect of maintaining affectionate relationships with the jñānīs, who desire liberation from material existence, with the karmīs, who desire to enjoy the fruits of their actions, and with gross sense enjoyers, one’s bhakti is harmed. One should not give these three types of persons any advice or any item. To do so would be offensive, because describing the glories of harināma to those devoid of faith is included within the category of nāma-aparādha. Also one should never accept any advice regarding the attainment of liberation or material enjoyment from such persons, because it will lead one to develop affectionate attachment for them. One should not instruct them on how to perform kṛṣṇa-bhajana. One should not hear from them anything concerning the confidential aspects of bhakti. One should also not accept food that has been touched by them. By eating food prepared by them, their predilection for either material enjoyment or liberation will be transmitted within one’s heart.

viṣayīra anna khāile malina haya mana
malina mana haile nahe kṛṣṇera smaraṇa

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā 6.279)

When one eats food offered by a materialist, one’s mind becomes contaminated. When the mind is contaminated, one is unable to remember Kṛṣṇa.

Also, one should not feed these three types of persons who possess an enjoying spirit. Eating food prepared by them or feeding them increases one’s affection for them. Exchanging love with devotees who are of the same aspiration as oneself and who are affectionate to oneself enhances one’s bhakti. Offering and accepting items, revealing confidential realisations to one another, and serving and accepting food are all activities that increase affection. One should not perform these activities with those of different aspirations in life than one’s own.

[CC-by-ND GVP]

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Once, Sanātana Gosvāmī came to meet with Rūpa Gosvāmī as he was writing about the swing pastimes of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. In his writings, he was explaining how Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, along with the sakhīs and mañjarīs, engage in swinging pastimes. He explained how, when Rādhārānī becomes frightened on the swing, she holds onto Kṛṣṇa tightly. He wrote several expositions, and Sanātana Gosvāmī relished this for many hours. Then he read a part where Rūpa Gosvāmī described Rādhārānī’s hair as being like a black snake coming up from Her waist, with hoods expanding over the top of Her head. Sanātana Gosvāmī said, “Oh, everything you have written is excellent, but Rādhārānī is very soft and sweet. Why have you said that Her hair is like a black snake? This seems improper.” Rūpa Gosvāmī humbly replied, “O brother, please correct this with an analogy you find appropriate.” “I will consider it and will write something tomorrow,” Sanātana Gosvāmī said. Sanātana Gosvāmī then left for his own bhajana-kuṭīra. On the way he saw many small kiśorīs playing and dancing. One of the girls was seated on a beautiful swing. “How wonderful,” he thought, “this reminds me of the sweet description I have just read.” He saw the little girls pushing their sakhī back and forth very happily. Suddenly he noticed a hooded snake rising above the swinging girl’s head, as if ready to strike. He ran forward and called, “O kiśorī, be careful! A snake is about to bite you! There are many snakes, all you girls are in danger!” But as he approached, the scene suddenly disappeared and he found himself alone. He then understood, “This was a vision of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī’s swing pastimes. Anything Rūpa says is absolutely true. There is no cause for doubting his descriptions.” Śrī Guru is eternal and his vāṇī is also eternal. Whatever Śrī Guru says is truthful. Therefore never doubt the conclusion of your Gurudeva. Sometimes Sanātana Gosvāmī and Rūpa Gosvāmī would meet at Ṭera-kadamba; they had many wonderful interactions there. Every day Śrīmatī comes from Yāvaṭa to Nandagrāma with Her sakhīs and mañjarīs and She cooks there with Her own hands. She is very young and delicate, and yet, She is svarūpa-śakti, the root source of all energy and She easily carries heavy clay pots full of honey, milk, yogurt, and other ingredients. When She has completed Her cooking pastimes, She returns to Yāvaṭa and goes to worship the sun. At that time Rūpa Mañjarī and the other mañjarīs decorate the pathway with rose and lotus petals. Ṭera-kadamba is between Nandagrāma and Yāvaṭa. Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhu performed bhajana there, continuously engaged in devotional service. Sanātana Gosvāmī stayed at Pāvana-sarovara and sometimes came to speak with Rūpa Gosvāmī. They would speak morning to evening, drinking the transcendental nectar of hari-kathā and would not even notice the day pass into evening, nor did they feel any hunger or thirst. As the rest of the world mulled around in mundane activities, they manifested the books that we continue to honor today. At around four o’clock one afternoon as Rūpa and Sanātana were rapt in hari-kathā, a young girl approached and said to them, “O Bābā, you did not do mādhukarī today, so my mother has sent me with this milk. Please drink it.” But they did not answer or even notice Her; such was their absorption. “Bābā,” the girl said, “shall I boil the milk for you?” Not receiving a reply, She said, “I will make some kṣīra, then you can offer bhoga and have some.” She collected some dry cow dung and leaves, in the same way that She arranges everything for Kṛṣṇa when He is in the forest, and then She started a fire and cooked kṣīra. Afterward She said, “O Bābā, I am finished cooking; offer this and then take some yourself. Now I must go.” In the evening Rūpa Gosvāmī asked Sanātana Gosvāmī, “You have not eaten all day. What can I give you? We have not done mādhukarī today.” Then Rūpa Gosvāmī saw the pot of hot kṣīra and, recalling the episode with the young girl earlier in the day, said, “Ah yes! A girl came today and made this kṣīra.” They had no clay pots or metal plates, so they brought lotus leaves, cooled the kṣīra down and offered bhoga. Rūpa Gosvāmī then gave some of the prasāda to Sanātana Gosvāmī, and they took it together. Upon tasting the exceedingly divine kṣīra their hearts melted in ecstasy. This is called rasamayī-sevā; if our hearts have no softness, and we do everything out of a sense of duty like an ordinary karmī, then how will the heart ever melt? Śrīmatī Rādhārānī cooked this kṣīra Herself and gave it to Rūpa and Sanātana. Why? From morning to evening they were engaged in hari-kathā and rasamayī-sevā. chāpanna daṇḍa rātri-dine jāne nā rādhā-govinda vine They knew nothing but Rādhā-Govinda throughout the day and night, always being absorbed in transcendental service and nothing else. Sanātana Gosvāmī understood that the kṣīra must have been cooked by their Svāminī and so he questioned Rūpa, “Did you pray for anything while we were speaking?” “Actually,” Rūpa admitted, “I was thinking that I had nothing to offer you as prasāda…” “Alas! Just see what you have done!” Sanātana said. “Because of your desire, our Svāminī Herself came and cooked for us.” Once there was a self-acclaimed sādhu living in Vṛndāvana named Khanja Kṛṣṇādāsa. We should know that wearing tilaka, shaving our head, keeping a śikhā, and dressing like a Bābājī does not make us sādhus. We must have the qualities of a sādhu, which are described elaborately in scripture. However much oil you rub on a dog’s tail will not straighten it. Khanja Kṛṣṇādāsa heard many other sādhus praising Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, so he went one day for his darśana, thinking, “I will go see this Rūpa Gosvāmī everyone is glorifying to be the best of sādhus.” Khanja Kṛṣṇādāsa was a cripple who walked in a crooked manner with the help of a stick. As he approached Rūpa Gosvāmī, he saw him laughing heartily, and thought he was laughing at him. He turned around angrily and returned to his hut. Although he went to see the sādhus and become purified, he only became more contaminated, because he could not understand the nature and position of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. Wherever a sweeper goes, he only collects refuse. He has relation only with that. Khanja Kṛṣṇādāsa went to see the pure devotee, but rather than his heart becoming cooled and filled with good qualities, he burned in anger, unable to forget the image of Rūpa Gosvāmī apparently laughing at him. He did not know that Rūpa Gosvāmī was absorbed in the pastimes of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. 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