atha bhajanasya catuḥ-ṣaṣṭir aṅgāni śrī-guru-pādāśrayaḥ, śrī-kṛṣṇa-dīkṣā-śikṣādi, śrī-guru-sevā, sādhu-mārgānusāraḥ, bhajana-rīti-praśnaḥ, śrī-kṛṣṇa-prītaye bhogādi-tyāgaḥ, tīrtha-vāsaḥ tīrtha-māhātmya-śravaṇaṁ ca, sva-bhakti-nirvāhānurūpa-bhojanādi-svīkāraṁ, ekādaśī-vratam, aśvattha-tulasī-dhātrī-go-brāhmaṇa-vaiṣṇava-sammānaṁ – pūrva-daśa-grahaṇam.
para-daśa-tyāgaḥ – asādhu-saṅga-tyāgaḥ, bahu-śiṣya-karaṇa-tyāgaḥ, bahu-ārambha-tyāgaḥ, bahu-śāstra-vyākhyā-vivādādi-tyāgaḥ, vyavahāre kārpaṇya-tyāgaḥ, śoka-krodhādi-tyāgaḥ, devatāntara-nindā-tyāgaḥ, prāṇimātre udvega-tyāgaḥ, sevāparādha-nāmāparādha-tyāgaḥ, guru-kṛṣṇa-bhakta-nindā-sahana-tyāgaḥ.
vaiṣṇava-cihna-dhāraṇaṁ, harināmākṣara-dhāraṇaṁ, nirmālya-dhāraṇaṁ, nṛtyaṁ, daṇḍavat-praṇāmaṁ, abhyutthānam, anuvrajyā, śrī-mūrti-sthāne gamanaṁ, parikramā, pūjā, paricaryā, gītaṁ, saṅkīrtanaṁ, japaḥ, stava-pāṭhaḥ, mahā-prasāda-sevā, vijñaptiḥ, caraṇāmṛta-pānaṁ, dhūpa-mālyādi-saurabha-grahaṇaṁ, śrī-mūrti-darśanaṁ, śrī-mūrti-sparśanaṁ, ārātrika-darśanaṁ, śravaṇaṁ, tat-kṛpāpekṣaṇaṁ, smaraṇaṁ, dhyānaṁ, dāsyaṁ, sakhyaṁ, ātma-nivedanaṁ, nija-priya-vastu-samarpaṇaṁ, kṛṣṇārthe samasta-karma-karaṇaṁ.
sarvathā śaraṇāpattiḥ, tulasī-sevā, vaiṣṇava-śāstra-sevā, mathurā-maṇḍale vāsaḥ, vaiṣṇava-sevā, yathā-śakti dolādi-mahotsava-karaṇaṁ, kārttika-vrataṁ, sarvadā harināma-grahaṇaṁ, janmāṣṭamī-yātrādikaṁ ca evaṁ ūnaṣaṣṭi bhakty aṅgāni; atha tatra pañca aṅgāni sarvataḥ śreṣṭhāni yathā – śrī-mūrti-sevā-kauśalaṁ, rasikaiḥ saha śrī-bhāgavatārthāsvādaḥ, sajātīya-snigdha-mahattara-sādhu-saṅgaḥ, nāma-saṅkīrtanaṁ, śrī-vṛndāvana-vāsaḥ evaṁ militvā catuḥ-ṣaṣṭy aṅgāni.
Taking shelter at the lotus feet of Śrī Guru
In all the scriptures that promote bhakti the unlimited glories of Śrī Guru have been described. Without taking shelter at the lotus feet of a sad-guru it is impossible to enter into the realm of bhagavad-bhajana. Therefore, out of all the limbs of bhakti, sad-guru-padāśraya has been cited first. It is the duty of all faithful persons who have a desire for bhagavad-bhakti to take shelter at the lotus feet of a spiritual master who is a genuine preceptor of the śāstras expounding the glories of Bhagavān and who is expert in understanding and explaining the mantras describing Bhagavān.
All anarthas are easily removed only by the mercy of such a genuine spiritual master and thus one also obtains the supreme favour of Bhagavān. By the mercy of Śrī Guru all anarthas are easily destroyed. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has demonstrated this in his Bhakti-sandarbha (Anuccheda 237) by citing the evidence of various śāstras. He has explained this by the statement of Brahmājī as well:
yo mantraḥ sa guruḥ sākṣāt yo
guruḥ sa hariḥ svayaṁ
gurur yasya bhavet tuṣṭas
tasya tuṣṭo hariḥ svayam
The mantra (which is given by the guru) is itself the guru, and the guru is directly the Supreme Lord Hari. He upon whom the spiritual master is pleased also obtains the pleasure of Śrī Hari Himself.
The guru’s internal, spiritual mood of service to Śrī Rādhikā and Kṛṣṇa is conveyed to the disciple through the medium of a mantra. Everything is given in seed form within the mantra. At first the disciple will not be able to understand, but by performing sādhana and bhajana under the guidance of Śrī Gurudeva and by meditating on the mantra given by him, gradually everything will be revealed. Therefore it is said here that the mantra is the direct representation of Śrī Gurudeva.
In Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (4.360) it is stated:
harau ruṣṭe gurus trātā
gurau ruṣṭe na kaścana
gurum eva prasādayet
Even if a person incurs the displeasure of the Lord, the spiritual master may still give him protection, but if the spiritual master is displeased, there is no one to give him protection. Therefore one should please Śrī Gurudeva by all endeavours of one’s body, mind and words.
The author Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura has also said: “yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasādo yasyāprasādān na gatiḥ kuto ’pi – for one who pleases the spiritual master the Supreme Lord is automatically pleased, but for one who displeases the spiritual master there is no means of obtaining success. I therefore meditate upon Śrī Gurudeva, offer prayers to him, and bow down before him three times a day.”
What is required to be a guru? This has been stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.3.21):
tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta
jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam
śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ
In Bhakti-sandarbha (Anuccheda 202) Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has defined the meaning of the words śābde pare ca niṣṇātam in the following statement: “śābde brahmaṇi vede tātparya vicāreṇa niṣṇātaṁ tathaiva niṣṭhāṁ prāptam, pare brahmaṇi-bhagavad-ādi-rūpāvirbhāves tu aparokṣānubhavena – one who is expert in explaining the purport of the Vedas, which are śabda-brahma, who has direct experience of Parabrahma (the Supreme Brahman, Śrī Kṛṣṇa), and who is devoid of all material expectations and requirements should be accepted as a genuine spiritual master. One should take shelter of such a guru through the process of hearing in order to know the truth regarding sādhana, the means, and sādhya, the goal.”
Similarly it has been stated in the Śrutis (Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 1.2.12): “tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet samit-pāṇiḥ śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham – in order to obtain direct realisation of the supreme absolute reality, or in other words knowledge concerning prema-bhakti, a person who is desirous of his own welfare should approach a sad-guru who knows the purport of the Vedas and who is learned in the truths regarding Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Taking an offering in one’s hands, one should submit oneself to such a sad-guru with body, mind and words.”
Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has here described that the instructors who disseminate knowledge of bhagavat-tattva are of two kinds: sarāga, with attachments, and nirāga, without attachments. Instructors who are greedy for wealth and who maintain desires for sensual enjoyment are known as speakers with material attachments, or sarāga-vaktās. The influence of such instructors is not enduring. An instructor who is a topmost devotee of the Lord, who is adept in relishing bhakti-rasa and evoking spiritual emotions in others (sarasa), and who is capable of extracting the essence of anything (sāragrāhī) is known as a speaker without attachments, or nirāga-vaktā. The verse cited on the previous page from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam refers exclusively to the instructor who is devoid of attachments (nirāga-vaktā).
In Bhakti-sandarbha Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, in examining guru-tattva, has cited three types of guru: śravaṇa-guru, śikṣā-guru and dīkṣā-guru.
The person from whom one hears knowledge of the bhaktas, bhakti and bhagavat-tattva is known as the śravaṇa-guru. In the conversation between Mahārāja Nimi and the Nava-Yogendras in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.3.22) it is said:
tatra bhāgavatān dharmān
tuṣyed ātmātma-do hariḥ
A sādhaka should adopt the practice of bhakti free from all hypocrisy. He should approach a guru who knows all the truths related to the Supreme Lord and who is very dear to the Lord. The sādhaka should receive instructions on bhāgavata-dharma from such a spiritual master. By carrying out those instructions, Bhagavān Śrī Hari personally gives Himself to the devotee.
Such a person who gives instructions on how to execute bhajana is called a śravaṇa-guru. There may be many śravaṇa-gurus; nonetheless the sādhaka should take shelter of one mahāpuruṣa among them who is suitable to his nature and receive instructions from him regarding how to perform bhajana.
Out of many such competent śravaṇa-gurus, one who gives instructions in bhajana which are just suitable to the bhāva of the sādhaka is called a śikṣā-guru. There may be many śikṣā-gurus also; however, it is advantageous to have one śikṣā-guru in particular who is conducive to one’s mood. The śravaṇa-guru and the śikṣā-guru are usually one and the same person, as stated in Bhakti-sandarbha (Anuccheda 206): “atha śravaṇa-guru-bhajana-śikṣā-gurvoḥ prāyakam ekatvam iti – the śravaṇa-guru and the bhajana-śikṣā-guru are usually the same person.” The verses already cited – “tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta”, “tad-vijñānārtham”, “tatra bhāgavatān dharmān śikṣet” and so on – should be understood in relation to both the śravaṇa-guru and the śikṣā-guru.
One who gives a mantra for worship according to the rules and regulations of scripture is called a dīkṣā-guru or mantra-guru. The dīkṣā-guru should possess all the symptoms already described of a mahāpuruṣa and those described in connection with the sad-guru. The dīkṣā-guru should be conversant in the conclusions of the Vedas, he should be adept in expounding those conclusions, he should have direct experience and realisation of Bhagavān, and he should be completely detached from material sense objects. If he is lacking in these characteristics, then the faith of the disciple will waiver.There is only one dīkṣā-guru. The śikṣā-guru should be in conformity with the dīkṣā-guru; otherwise impediments may arise in the practice of sādhana. Ordinarily the dīkṣā-guru carries out the function of śikṣā-guru. In his absence one should accept as one’s śikṣā-guru an advanced devotee possessing the characteristics already described.
There is no direction that permits one to renounce a sad-guru; however, a guru who has become inimical to Vaiṣṇavas, the śāstras and bhakti, who is engrossed in sense enjoyment, who is lacking discrimination as to what is duty and what is not duty, who is foolish, or who is following a path other than śuddha-bhakti should be given up. It is directed in various places in the śāstras that one should then take dīksā again from a Vaiṣṇava guru in accordance with the rules and regulations. This is the purport of the verses quoted below from Bhakti-sandarbha (Anuccheda 238):
guror apy avaliptasya
Mahābhārata (Udyoga-parva 178.48)
mantreṇa nirayaṁ vrajet
punaś ca vidhinā samyag
In other words one who accepts a mantra from a non-Vaiṣṇava guru goes to hell. Therefore one should again receive dīkṣā-mantra from a Vaiṣṇava guru in accordance with the rules and regulations.
Receiving initiation and spiritual instructions
It is essential to accept dīkṣā and śikṣā from a guru in order to gain entrance into bhagavad-bhajana. In Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (2.9) the following is said regarding dīkṣā:
divyaṁ jñānaṁ yato dadyāt
kuryāt pāpasya saṅkṣayam
tasmād-dīkṣeti sā proktā
That religious undertaking which bestows divya-jñāna (transcendental knowledge) and destroys pāpa (sin), pāpa-bīja (the seed of sin) and avidyā (ignorance) to the root is called dīkṣā by learned authorities in the absolute truth.
Therefore a faithful sādhaka will dedicate his entire self to the lotus feet of Śrī Gurudeva, offer praṇāma unto him and take dīkṣā from him by receiving a Vaiṣṇava mantra in accordance with the rules and regulations of the scriptures. The meaning of divya-jñāna referred to above is that the jīva is not a material phenomenon; the jīva is an atomic particle of spiritual consciousness belonging to the sac-cid-ānanda-svarūpa of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. By virtue of this the jīva is nothing other than the nitya-dāsa of Bhagavān. This is also stated in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 20.108): “jīvera svarūpa haya kṛṣṇera nitya-dāsa – the svarūpa or identity of the jīva is to be an eternal servant of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.”
Although the jīva is by nature an eternal servant of Bhagavān, because his face has been averted from the Lord from a time without beginning, he has been wandering in various species of life. He is thus being scorched by the threefold miseries of material existence.
By the causeless mercy of the ocean of mercy Śrī Bhagavān or His devotees, the jīva attains sādhu-saṅga. By the potency of that sādhu-saṅga, the jīva offers himself at the lotus feet of Śrī Gurudeva. By bestowing the kṛṣṇa-mantra, Śrī Gurudeva dispels the jīva’s aversion towards the Lord (bhagavad-vimukhatā) and directs his attention towards the performance of bhagavad-bhajana. He gives sambandha-jñāna concerning bhagavad-tattva, jīva-tattva and māyā-tattva, and awakens the dormant inclination of the jīva to serve the Lord (bhagavad-unmukhatā). As a consequence of this, the pāpa, pāpa-bīja and avidyā of the sādhaka are all destroyed to the root. This procedure of dīkṣā is not completed in one day; rather it is begun from the day of initiation.
In Bhakti-sandarbha (Anuccheda 283) Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has explained the meaning of divya-jñāna in the following words: “divyaṁ jñānaṁ hy atra mantre bhagavat-svarūpa-jñānam, tena bhagavatā sambandha-viśeṣa-jñānaṁ ca – divya-jñāna is transcendental knowledge contained within a mantra that reveals the form and identity of the Supreme Lord (bhagavat-svarūpa) as well as the knowledge of the sādhaka-jīva’s particular relationship with the Lord.”
The relationship between Bhagavān and the jīva is that of servant and served. Bhagavān is the served (sevya) and the jīva is the servant (sevaka) – this is only a general relationship. In the advanced stage, this same relationship manifests in one particular form out of the various moods of dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya or mādhurya. Śrī Gurudeva, knowing the svarūpagata-bhāva, or in other words the natural, inherent disposition of the sādhaka, gives nourishment to that particular mood within his heart in order to bring it clearly into view. In Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (2.12), quoting a statement from the Tattva-sāgara, it is said:
yathā kāñcanatāṁ yāti
dvijatvaṁ jāyate nṛṇām
Just as bell metal is turned to gold by a particular alchemical process, a man can attain to the state of being a dvija by the process of Vaiṣṇava dīkṣā.
By the word nṛṇām used in this verse, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī has indicated a person who has received initiation. In other words a person who receives dīkṣā becomes a dvija or twice-born. By the word dvijatvam he has indicated that one attains to the state of a brāhmaṇa, or one who knows the absolute truth Brahman. The word dvijatvam used here does not mean the state of being a dvija by initiation into the sacred thread like that of the kṣatriyas and vaiśyas. By the procedure of dīkṣā the disciple is born again. This is called birth by dīkṣā (daikṣa-janma).
There are three kinds of birth: (1) śaukra-janma – seminal birth; that is, birth by mother and father, (2) sāvitra-janma – a ceremony in which a boy is initiated into one of the three twice-born classes by being invested with the sacred thread and (3) daikṣa-janma – birth by the process of spiritual initiation (dīkṣā). Even a śūdra or an untouchable person who is born in the lowest family obtains the saṁskāras for being a dvija upon being initiated in accordance with the regulations of the Pañcarātra. This is the purport of the following statement from the Mahābhārata (Anuśāsana-parva 143.46):
etaiḥ karma-phalair devi
śūdro ’py āgama-sampanno
dvijo bhavati saṁskṛtaḥ
As a result of these activities, O Goddess, even a śūdra born in a low-caste family becomes twice-born and endowed with the āgama (the scripture).
In a conversation between Rukmāṅgada (a king) and Mohinī quoted from the Skanda Purāṇa it is said:
kṛtaṁ sarvaṁ nirarthakam
O Vāmoru (O woman with beautiful thighs), all the auspicious activities of men are worthless without accepting dīkṣā. A person who is bereft of dīkṣā obtains birth in the animal species of life.
In Bhakti-sandarbha Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has said that without undergoing the upanayana-saṁskāra even children appearing in twice-born families are unfit to study the śāstras and to perform yajñas. Similarly without dīkṣā one is unfit to worship the presiding deity of the mantra.
It is seen in the śāstras in connection with the glories of bhagavan-nāma that there is so much potency in the Lord’s name that even without undergoing dīkṣā, purificatory ceremonies (sat-kriyā) or preparatory rites (puraścaryā), harināma is competent to produce results as soon as it comes in contact with the tongue. This is expressed in the following statement of Śrī Lakṣmīdhara, cited from Padyāvalī (29):
ākṛṣṭiḥ kṛta-cetasāṁ sumahatām uccāṭanaṁ cāṁhasām
ācaṇḍālam amūka-loka-sulabho vaśyaś ca mokṣa-śriyaḥ
no dīkṣāṁ na ca dakṣiṇāṁ na ca puraścaryāṁ manāg īkṣate
mantro ’yaṁ rasanā-spṛg eva phalati śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmātmakaḥ
This mahā-mantra, composed of the names of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is so astonishingly powerful and accessible that it yields fruit as soon as it touches the tongue. Because it attracts even liberated souls who are purified at heart and whose desires are fully satiated, this mantra is supreme in its power of subjugation. It eradicates great sins which could not be destroyed by yajña, yoga, tapa, dāna and other means. Because it can be chanted anywhere at any time, it is so easily available that even caṇḍālas or anyone who is not mute can chant it. By its causeless mercy it submits itself to a person who merely desires to chant. The rare wealth of mokṣa runs behind to serve it. Unlike other mantras, the chanting of this mahā-mantra is not dependent on receiving dīkṣā from a guru, moral conduct or preparatory rites.
Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, in discussing this topic in Bhakti-sandarbha (Anuccheda 283), has said that in spite of the statements in the scriptures as to the autonomous potency of the holy name, the previous mahājanas such as Śrī Nārada first accepted dīkṣā from their gurus and then performed their sādhana and bhajana in worship of their iṣṭadeva (the beloved deity of the heart). Similarly those who desire to follow in the footsteps of those mahāpuruṣas must also accept dīkṣā into bhagavad-mantra from Śrī Gurudeva, because without accepting dīkṣā one’s relationship with Bhagavān in dāsya, sakhya and so on cannot be awakened. That relationship is established only by the lotus feet of Śrī Guru. The custom of dīkṣā was honoured by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and His followers, the Gosvāmīs. It is prevalent even today in their followers.
Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura has clearly said that those persons who have abandoned the pursuits of karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga, japa, tapa and other processes of sādhana, who have accepted Bhagavān as their iṣṭadeva and who are engaged in śravana, kīrtana and smaraṇa of bhagavan-nāma, but who have not accepted dīkṣā from a Vaiṣṇava guru according to the Vaiṣṇava regulations, cannot attain the Supreme Lord. They will merely be prevented from entering hell, or in their next birth, by the influence of the bhajana performed in the previous life, they will obtain sādhu-saṅga. By then taking shelter at the lotus feet of a guru, receiving dīkṣā from him and making advancement through the different stages of bhakti, they can attain the Supreme Lord.
In Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (5.450–1), quoting from the Skanda Purāṇa, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī has said:
evaṁ śrī-bhagavān sarvaiḥ
dvijaiḥ strībhiś ca śūdraiś ca
pūjyo bhagavataḥ paraiḥ
sac-chūdrāṇām athāpi vā
śālagrāme ’dhikāro ’sti
na cānyeṣāṁ kadācana
In the commentary on the above verses it is stated that upon receiving dīkṣā in accordance with the regulations of śāstra, everyone, whether they be a brāhmaṇa, vaiśya, kṣatriya, woman or śūdra, becomes qualified to worship Bhagavān in the form of śālagrāma-śilā. The word sat-śūdra from the verse means a śūdra who has received dīkṣā. After receiving dīkṣā, a śūdra no longer remains a śūdra. In the scriptures, statements are sometimes seen forbidding women and śūdras from the worship of śālagrāma-śilā. These statements, however, do not apply to persons who have taken dīkṣā – they are intended for those who have not received dīkṣā.
In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.98) the following verse is quoted from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.3.22):
tatra bhāgavatān dharmān
tuṣyed ātmātma-do hariḥ
One should know Śrī Gurudeva to be one’s supreme benefactor, friend and most worshipful deity – the direct personification of Hari. One should always follow him without duplicity and take instructions from him about bhāgavata-dharma. By this practice the Supreme Lord Hari becomes pleased and gives Himself to the disciple.
Serving Śrī Guru with love
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself has declared to Uddhava: “Know the ācārya to be My very own self and never disrespect him. Never find fault with him, considering him to be an ordinary man, for all the demigods reside within Śrī Gurudeva.” All those anarthas which cannot be removed even by very rigid practice of sādhana are easily destroyed by serving Śrī Gurudeva without duplicity. “Yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasādo yasyāprasādān na gatiḥ kuto ’pi – the mercy of Śrī Guru is itself the mercy of Bhagavān.” If a disciple has the mercy of Śrī Guru but somehow displeases Bhagavān, the spiritual master will take responsibility for the disciple’s action and ensure that Bhagavān is pleased. But if the spiritual master is displeased then Śrī Bhagavān will never forgive such an offender. Therefore, considering the spiritual master to be one’s supreme friend, one should serve him with great love.
Some persons who are not conversant with the conclusions of the scriptures serve only the spiritual master, thinking him to be Bhagavān. They think that there is no need to perform service to or bhajana of the Lord separately. Such persons go as far as offering tulasī and other articles at the feet of Śrī Gurudeva. This thinking is opposed to the scriptures. According to the scriptures, just as one possesses para-bhakti towards Śrī Bhagavān, one should similarly possess bhakti towards the lotus feet of Śrī Gurudeva; otherwise all one’s efforts in sādhana and bhajana will bear no result.
yasya deve parā bhaktir
yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ
Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (6.23)
For one who has para-bhakti towards the Supreme Lord and towards Śrī Gurudeva, all the conclusions mentioned in the śāstras regarding the supreme, ultimate reality, Śrī Bhagavān, become manifest in his heart. For those who have no bhakti towards the lotus feet of the spiritual master, the conclusions of the scriptures are not revealed.
Following the path of sādhus
The method by which the mind may be fixed at the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa can be called sādhana-bhakti. But one should pursue the very same path by which the previous mahājanas attained the Lord. The reason for this is that the path which has already been chalked out by the mahājanas is free from all distress and hardship, and it is the cause of all auspiciousness.
sa mṛgyaḥ śreyasāṁ hetuḥ
yena santaḥ pratasthire
from the Skanda Purāṇa
No path can be properly ascertained by any one individual. All the previous mahājanas following in consecutive succession, one after another, have made the path of bhakti-yoga neat and clean and free from obstruction. They have eliminated all the petty obstacles and disturbances along the path and made it very easy and free from fear. Therefore we must take support from the specific path which they have laid. Even though one may be engaged in aikāntikī-bhakti (exclusive devotion) towards Lord Hari, if one transgresses the regulations of the śāstras like the Śruti, Smṛti, Purāṇas or Pañcarātra, his bhakti can never produce a beneficial effect. Rather it will simply be the cause of calamity.
aikāntikī harer bhaktir
from the Brahma-yāmala
A question may be raised here as to how aikāntikī-bhakti towards Lord Hari could ever be the cause of calamity? In response to this it is said that the exclusive or one-pointed mood (aikāntika-bhāva) of śuddha-bhakti is obtained only by taking support of the path of the previous mahājanas. By abandoning the path of the previous mahājanas and erecting some other path, the mood of one-pointed devotion is not obtained. Therefore Dattātreya, Buddha and other more recent teachers, not being able to comprehend śuddha-bhakti, accepted in its place a mere reflection of śuddha-bhakti and thus propagated paths that were mixed with māyāvāda and atheism. Some aspect of aikāntikī-hari-bhakti is attributed to these paths, but in reality the paths introduced by those persons are not hari-bhakti – they are a disturbance (utpāta).
In the bhajana of those who pursue the rāga-mārga there is no dependence upon the regulations of the Śruti, Smṛti, Purāṇas and Pañcarātra. It is dependent simply upon the following of the Lord’s eternal associates of Vraja. But for those sādhakas who have qualification for the vidhi-mārga it is essential to take support only of the path of bhakti specified by Dhruva, Prahlāda, Nārada, Vyāsa, Śuka and other mahājanas. In particular, it is even more beneficial to follow the path shown by Śrī Rūpa, Sanātana, Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī and other associates of Śrī Śacīnandana Gaurahari, who is the saviour of the fallen conditioned souls of the age of Kali and who is decorated with the sentiment and complexion of Śrī Rādhā. One should also follow subsequent mahājanas following in their line. Therefore, for vaidha-bhaktas, there is no method other than following the path of sādhus.
Questions about the procedures of bhajana
Sad-dharma means true religion, or in other words the religion of true sādhus. In the association of saintly persons, sādhakas should inquire about those procedures which the sādhus have adopted to attain the Lord. To inquire with great persistence in order to understand those procedures is called inquiry about sad-dharma. This has been stated in the Nārada-pañcarātra:
acirād eva sarvārthaḥ
sidhyaty eṣām abhīpsitaḥ
yeṣāṁ nirbandhinī matiḥ
Those whose minds are exceedingly anxious to know all about sad- dharma, or the procedures of bhakti, very quickly attain all their cherished goals.
6. Kṛṣṇārthe akhila-bhoga-tyāga
Renunciation of all enjoyment for the sake of Kṛṣṇa
To enjoy material pleasure through activities such as eating, drinking, sleeping and mating is called bhoga (material enjoyment). This bhoga is principally opposed to bhajana. Bhajana becomes easily accessible by giving up such material enjoyments for the sake of kṛṣṇa-bhajana. A person attached to sense enjoyment is like a person addicted to intoxication. He becomes so engrossed in the enjoyment of material pleasure that he cannot perform pure bhajana. Therefore he should only accept bhagavat-prasāda in the mood of service. He should protect and maintain the body only to keep it fit for the service of the Lord. He should give up all types of material enjoyment, particularly on holy days such as Ekādaśī, Janmāṣṭamī, Rāma-navamī, Gaura-pūrṇīmā, Nṛsiṁha-caturdaśī and so on.
7. Tīrtha-vāsaḥ tīrtha-māhātmya-śravaṇaṁ ca
To live in a sacred place
and to hear the greatness of such places
By living in close proximity to a holy river like the Gaṅgā or Yamunā that is connected to the Lord’s pastimes or by living in sacred places where the Lord appeared and enacted various pastimes, niṣṭhā is awakened. In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.105–7) the following has been said about residing at a holy place:
saṁvatsaraṁ vā ṣanmāsān
māsaṁ māsārddham eva vā
narā nāryaś caturbhujāḥ
By living in Dvārāka for one year, six months, one month or even for fifteen days, a man or woman becomes a four-armed denizen (of Vaikuṇṭha).
aho kṣetrasya māhātmyaṁ
diviṣṭhā yatra paśyanti
sarvān eva caturbhujān
The glories of Puruṣottama-dhāma (Jagannātha Purī) are extraordinary. The demigods from the celestial planets look upon all living beings spread within a radius of ten yojanas (approximately eighty miles) of this sacred place as four-handed denizens of Vaikuṇṭha.
yā vai lasac-chrī-tulasī-vimiśra-
punāti lokān ubhayatra seśān
kas tāṁ na seveta mariṣyamāṇaḥ
The śāstras have extensively proclaimed the glories of residing on the bank of sacred rivers like the Gaṅgā, Yamunā, Godāvarī and others. The above verse is taken from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.19.6). “The Bhagavatī (Gaṅgā), which carries the most sacred water mixed with the dust of the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and the beautiful, alluring tulasī, purifies everyone in this world as well as the world beyond, including Śiva. Therefore who is there on the verge of death who will not take up her service?” In other words everyone should engage in the service of the Gaṅgā.
In Jaiva-dharma Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has said that residence anywhere within the thirty-two mile radius of Śrī Navadvīpa, and in particular within Māyāpura, is identical to residence within Śrī Vṛndāvana. Of the seven holy places that yield liberation – namely Ayodhyā, Mathurā, Māyā, Kāśī, Kāñcī, Avantikā and Dvārakā – Māyāpura is the chief. The reason for this is that, in Māyāpura, Śrīman Mahāprabhu has manifested His eternal abode of Śvetadvīpa.
Four centuries after the appearance of Śrīman Mahāprabhu, this Śvetadvīpa has become the most important of all the holy tīrthas on the planet Earth. By living at this place all kinds of offences are destroyed and one obtains śuddha-bhakti. Śrīla Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī has described this dhāma as being non-different from Śrī Vṛndāvana, and in some places he has given even greater importance to Śrī Māyāpura.
Those who are incapable of living at the above-mentioned holy places can hear the glories of those places and, by doing so, a strong desire will arise to live there. When the time is ripe, they may then obtain the good fortune to reside at a holy place.
8. Sva-bhakti-nirvāhānurūpa- bhojanādi-svīkāram
Accepting only what is required for the sustenance of bhakti
In the Nāradīya Purāṇa it is said:
yāvatā syāt svanirvāhaḥ
ādhikye nyūnatāyāṁ ca
A wise person, or one who actually knows the value of wealth (arthavit), should accept only as much wealth and other things as is required in order to be steadfast in carrying out one’s obligations in the matter of bhakti. For if one accepts more or less than one’s actual requirement, he falls down from spiritual life and thus his real wealth (paramārtha) becomes spoilt.
Sādhakas who are fit for vaidhī-bhakti may earn wealth by honest means prescribed in accordance with varṇāśrama-dharma in order that they may sustain their existence. It is beneficial for them to accumulate wealth only in proportion to their needs. If one is anxious to seize more than he requires, attachment will arise, which will systematically destroy his bhajana. If one accepts less than he needs it will also be detrimental because, by doing so, one will be in scarcity and his bhajana will dwindle. Therefore, until one has earned the qualification to become completely desireless (nirapekṣa), he should practise śuddha-bhakti and accept wealth only in a proportion appropriate for the maintenance of his existence.
Observing the vow of Ekādaśī
The name of śuddhā Ekādaśī is Harivāsara, the day of Lord Hari. Śuddhā Ekādaśī means pure Ekādaśī. This refers to a circumstance in which there is no overlapping or mixture of tithis, lunar days. When the Ekādaśī tithi begins one aruṇodaya period, or at least ninety-six minutes before sunrise on a particular day, and continues until sunrise of the following day with no overlapping of tithis, this is known as śuddhā Ekādaśī or pūrṇā Ekādaśī.
If, however, the Daśamī tithi extends even one second within the aruṇodaya period before sunrise, the tithis are said to overlap and this is called pūrva-viddhā Ekādaśī. The term pūrva-viddhā Ekādaśī means that the overlapping takes place at the beginning of Ekādaśī, or in other words with the Daśamī tithi. One should not observe the ekādaśī-vrata on pūrva-viddhā Ekādaśī. In such a case the Dvādaśī tithi that follows will be known as Mahādvādaśī. The ekādaśī-vrata should then be observed on Mahādvādaśī instead of on the Ekādaśī tithi.
When, however, the overlapping occurs any time before sunrise of the following day, or in other words with the Dvādaśī tithi, this is known as para-viddhā Ekādaśī. The term para-viddhā Ekādaśī means that the overlapping occurs at the conclusion of Ekādaśī. This does not present any problem and the ekādaśī-vrata should still be observed on the Ekādaśī tithi.
To honour the day of Lord Hari properly one should observe celibacy the day before. Then on Harivāsara one should fast even from water and remain awake throughout the night, performing continuous bhajana. On the next day one should maintain celibacy and break the fast at the appropriate time. Fasting from water (nirambu-upavāsa) means that one must also refrain from taking any mahā-prasāda. Without doing so one cannot be said to be observing nirambu-upavāsa.
For those who are incapable of observing complete fasting throughout the day, an alternative arrangement has been given in Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (12.97), quoting from the Vāyu Purāṇa. There the statement naktaṁ haviṣyānnam is found. The word naktam means by night, and the word haviṣyānnam means sacrificial food that is suitable to be taken on certain religious festival days. By this statement it is understood that those who are incapable of observing complete fasting may accept suitable eatables such as fruits in the evening.
A similar statement has been given in Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (12.82), also quoted from the Vāyu Purāṇa, regarding the method of observing fasting by appointing a representative. This is stated in the following words:
upavāse tv aśaktasya
āhitāgner athāpi vā
putrān vā kārayed anyān
brāhmaṇān vāpi kārayet
If a brāhmaṇa who is maintaining a sacrificial fire is incapable of observing fasting, he may appoint a son or another brāhmaṇa to observe the fast in his place.
The complete statement of Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (12.97) regarding the method of fasting by accepting suitable eatables (haviṣyānna), as cited from the Vāyu Purāṇa, is as follows:
naktaṁ haviṣyānnam anodanaṁ vā
phalam tilāḥ kṣīram athāmbu cājyaṁ
yat pañca-gavyaṁ yadi vāpi vāyuḥ
praśastam atrottaram uttaraṁ ca
In other words one may accept suitable foods (haviṣyānna) at night. All types of grains are unacceptable. Foods that are considered suitable include fruits, sesame, milk, water, clarified butter, the five articles derived from the cow (namely milk, yoghurt, ghee, cow urine and cow dung) or simply air. Each of these is considered progressively better than the one preceding it. According to the Mahābhārata (Udyoga-parva) there are eight items by which one’s vow is not spoiled: water, roots, fruits, milk, ghee, the desires of a brāhmaṇa, the order of the spiritual master and medicine. The verse, cited in Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (12.100), is as follows:
āpo mūlaṁ phalaṁ payaḥ
havir brāhmaṇa-kāmyā ca
guror vacanam auṣadham
The word Harivāsara implies not only that one should observe Ekādaśī but other Vaiṣṇava holy days such as Janmāṣṭamī, Rāma-navamī, Nṛsiṁha-caturdaśī and Gaura-pūrṇimā. The prescription to follow Ekādaśī that is given in Hari-bhakti-vilāsa is meant for all men and women of all four varṇas and āśramas. All women, whether they be married or widowed, are meant to follow Ekādaśī. Eating grains on Ekādaśī is equated with the sin of eating cow flesh. One should observe methodically the two Ekādaśīs that occur every month (one during the dark phase and one during the light phase of the moon). In Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (12.47), quoting from the Viṣṇu-dharmottara, it is said:
saputraś ca sabhāryaś ca
pakṣayor ubhayor api
One should observe fasting on both Ekādaśīs of the month along with one’s wife, sons and other family members in a mood of great devotion.
In the above verse the word svabhārya means one’s own wife. This indicates that one should follow the vow with one’s wife. By this statement it has been prescribed that women who have husbands should also observe the vow of Ekādaśī. The ekādaśī-vrata is invariable. To neglect the vow of Ekādaśī is a great transgression. There are fasts originating from other desires which are forbidden for married women, but not the ekādaśī-vrata. In Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (12.3) it is stated:
avaśyaṁ tat samācaret
Because the ekādaśī- or dvādaśī-vrata is invariable, it must certainly be followed. By doing so all sins are eradicated, all purposes are fulfilled and Śrī Kṛṣṇa is pleased.
Offering respects to the aśvattha tree, tulasī, the myrobalan tree, the cows, brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas
The sins of men are destroyed by worshipping, meditating upon and offering obeisances to the aśvattha or banyan tree, tulasī, the myrobalan tree, cows, the brāhmaṇas and the Vaiṣṇavas. This is confirmed in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.110), quoting from the Skanda Purāṇa:
pūjitāḥ praṇatāḥ dhyātāḥ
kṣapayanti nṛṇām agham
Those who are eligible for the practice of vaidhī-bhakti, while residing in this material world, are obliged to various living entities for the maintenance of their livelihood. They are obliged to trees that provide shade like the banyan, to trees that provide fruits like the myrobalan, to trees that are worthy of worship like tulasī, to beneficial animals like the cow, to the brāhmaṇas who give instructions on religious principles and preserve the integrity of society, and to the Vaiṣṇavas, who are devotees of the Lord. They should worship, meditate upon and offer respect to all of these. By such activities they can protect their existence.
Aśvattha tree (the banyan tree)
In Bhagavad-gītā (10.26) Śrī Bhagavān has declared the banyan tree to be a manifestation of His splendour or opulence: “aśvatthaḥ sarva-vṛkṣāṇām – of trees, I am the banyan tree.”
Śrī Bhagavān does not accept grains, water or any other food items if they are not offered with tulasī leaves. Simply by offering a tulasī leaf and a palmful of water, the Lord becomes so pleased that He sells Himself unto the hands of the devotee. This is stated in Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (11.261), quoting from the Gautamīya-tantra:
jalasya culukena vā
vikrīṇīte svam ātmānaṁ
In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.204) there is the following quote from the Skanda Purāṇa regarding the service of śrī tulasī:
dṛṣṭā spṛṣṭā tathā dhyātā
kīrtitā namitā śrutā
ropitā sevitā nityaṁ
pūjitā tulasī śubhā
One should serve tulasī in nine ways: by seeing, touching, meditating, offering obeisances, performing kīrtana, hearing her glories, planting, watering and offering worship.
In Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (9.104) it is stated:
yā dṛṣṭā nikhilāgha-saṅgha-śamanī spṛṣṭā vapuḥ-pāvanī
rogāṇām abhivanditā nirasanī siktāntaka-trāsinī
pratyāsatti vidhāyinī bhagavataḥ kṛṣṇasya samropitā
nyastā tac-caraṇe vimukti-phaladā tasyai śrī tulasyai namaḥ
O Tulasī, I offer my respectful obeisances unto you. Simply by seeing you all sins are destroyed. Simply by touching you one’s body is purified. By offering obeisances unto you all diseases are driven away. By offering water unto you the fear of death is dispelled. By planting you one obtains proximity to the Lord. By offering you unto the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, one obtains a special type of mukti, the rare fruit of prema-bhakti.
In the scriptures various mantras have been given to bathe tulasī, to pick her leaves, to circumambulate her and to offer obeisances unto her.
(mantra for bathing tulasī)govinda-vallabhāṁ devīṁ
O Devī, beloved of Govinda, you awaken the consciousness towards the service of the Lord and bestow kṛṣṇa-bhakti. I bathe you, O Tulasī, who are the mother of the universe.
This mantra should be uttered while offering water to śrī tulasī.
(mantra for picking tulasī leaves)tulasy amṛta janmāsi
sadā tvaṁ keśava-priyā
varadā bhava śobhane
quoted from the Skanda Purāṇa
O Tulasī of effulgent beauty, you have been produced from nectar during the churning of the milk ocean. You are always dear to Lord Keśava. I pick your leaves only for the worship of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. May you bestow upon me the benediction that my worship of Kṛṣṇa will obtain success.
This mantra should be uttered while picking the leaves of śrī tulasī.
(mantra for circumambulating tulasī)yāni kāni ca papain
tat sarvaṁ vilayaṁ yāti
tulasi tvat pradakṣiṇāt
O Tulasī-devī, by circumambulating you all types of sins are driven away, including the killing of a brāhmaṇa.
One should recite this mantra while circumambulating tulasī four times.
(mantra for offering obeisances unto tulasī)vṛndāyai tulasī-devyai
priyāyai keśavasya ca
satyavatyai namo namaḥ
O Vṛndā-devī, O Tulasī-devī! You are very dear to Lord Keśava. O Devī Satyavatī, you bestow kṛṣṇa-bhakti. I offer repeated obeisances unto you.
The myrobalan tree
In Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (9.229), quoting from the Skanda Purāṇa, the glories of the myrobalan tree are described in the following statement of Śrī Brahmā to Śrī Nārada:
yo ’rcayec cakra-pāṇinam
puṣpe puṣpe ’śvamedhasya
phalaṁ prāpnoti mānavaḥ
One who worships Śrī Bhagavān, who bears the discus in His hand, beneath the shade of a myrobalan tree obtains the results of performing the aśvamedha-yajña with each flower offered to the Lord.
In the Gautamīya-tantra the following is said regarding the glories of the cow:
gavāṁ kaṇḍūyanaṁ kuryād
gogrāsaṁ gau pradakṣiṇam
goṣu nityaṁ prasannāsu
gopālo ’pi prasīdati
The worship of the cow is accomplished by gently scratching her limbs, by offering her a mouthful of green grass and by circumambulating her. By pleasing the cow Śrī Gopāla also becomes pleased.
The pleasure of Śrī Gopāla is the one and only aim of the devotee. Therefore to raise cows, to offer obeisances to them and to always honour them are considered as a limb of bhakti. Millions and millions of demigods reside in the limbs of a cow. Even Śrī Kṛṣṇa and His friends always render service to cows. By Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes of herding cows it is proved how much the cow is worshipable for the devotees. Cows provide nourishment and sustenance to all by offering their milk, from which ghee and other products are derived. Because of this great service that they render, cows are considered to be the mother of human society.
Brāhmaṇas are very dear to Śrī Bhagavān. Those who know the truth regarding Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the form of the supreme absolute (parabrahma-svarūpa), and who always wander in the realm of that absolute (by contemplating Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s nāma, rūpa, guṇa and līlā) are called brāhmaṇas. Those who are unacquainted with this brahma-tattva, although taking birth in a brāhmaṇa family, are not brāhmaṇas. Only Vaiṣṇavas are brāhmaṇas in the true sense of the word. Śrī Bhagavān appears specifically for the protection and upliftment of such brāhmaṇas and cows. Such brāhmaṇas are also known as bhūsura, gods of this Earth planet. Therefore it is the duty of sādhakas to offer respect to the brāhmaṇas who are possessed of such qualities.
The glories of the Vaiṣṇavas are profusely described in all the śāstras. Without the association of bhagavad-bhaktas, bhakti cannot be obtained, and without bhakti Bhagavān cannot be obtained. In spite of the presence of bhakti, if one does not hear and chant in the association of devotees, then bhakti cannot mature and blossom into the state of bhāva or prema. Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī has described three things that are possessed of great potency for sādhakas: the dust from the lotus feet of the devotees, the water that washes their feet and the remnants of their prasāda (which also refers to the words flowing from their mouths). By honouring these three, bhakti very easily makes its appearance in the heart of the sādhaka.
bhakta-pada-dhūli āra bhakta-pada-jala
bhakta-bhukta-avaśeṣa tina mahābala
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā 16.60)
In his book Prārthanā, in the prayer known as Svaniṣṭhā, Śrīla Narottama Ṭhākura has expressed deep faith in the association of Vaiṣṇavas in the following words:
vaiṣṇavera pada-dhūli tāhe mora snāna keli
tarpaṇa mora vaiṣṇavera nāma
vaiṣṇavera ucchiṣṭa tāhe mora manoniṣṭha
vaiṣṇavera nāmete ullāsa
To consecrate my body with the dust of the lotus feet of Vaiṣṇavas is a bath of ecstatic delight. By chanting their names my offering of oblations to the forefathers is automatically accomplished. The remnants of their prasāda is my all-in-all, and by hearing and chanting their names indescribable bliss radiates within my heart.
In Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (10.312), quoting from the Skanda Purāṇa, it is said:
hanti nindati vai dveṣṭi
krudhyate yāti no harṣaṁ
darśane patanāni ṣaṭ
To kill a Vaiṣṇava, to slander him, to bear malice against him, to fail to welcome him or please him, to display anger towards him and to not feel pleasure upon seeing him – these six are the causes of fall-down.
Thus far ten limbs of bhakti have been described beginning from śrī-guru-padāśraya, taking shelter of the lotus feet of a spiritual master, up to the present point. All these ten limbs are to be followed. The next ten limbs described are in the form of prohibitions and are to be avoided by sādhakas. Only by refraining from these can bhakti obtain nourishment.
Giving up the association of non-devotees
On the manifestation of bhāva, bhakti becomes concentrated. Until bhāva makes its appearance it is essential to renounce association that is opposed to bhakti. The word saṅga, meaning “association”, implies attachment. Therefore proximity to others or conversation with them is not called saṅga. Saṅga occurs when attachment arises in others’ proximity or in conversation with them.
The association of persons who are diverted from the service of the Lord is strictly forbidden. When bhāva arises there is no longer any inclination towards the association of persons whose attention is drawn towards the illusory material world. But those who are eligible for the practice of vaidhī-bhakti should always consciously avoid such association. As trees and plants perish due to excessive heat and contaminated air, the bhakti-latā also dries up due to the association of persons averse to Kṛṣṇa.
There are four kinds of persons who are diverted from the service of Kṛṣṇa: (1) sensualistic persons who are devoid of kṛṣṇa-bhakti and attached to material enjoyment; (2) strī-saṅgī, those who are attached to the association of women; (3) those whose hearts are infected with the faults of atheism and māyāvāda; and (4) those who are entrenched in karma. One should keep a safe distance from the association of these four kinds of persons.
Renouncing the desire to recruit many disciples
To make many disciples in order to accumulate wealth and increase one’s pride and prestige is one of the principal obstacles on the path of bhakti. In his commentary on Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.113) Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has written that one should not accept many unqualified persons as disciples, even for the purpose of expanding the sampradāya: sva sva sampradāya vṛddyartham anadhikāriṇo ’pi na saṅgṛhṇīyāt. To make many disciples one will have to accept many unqualified persons whose hearts are devoid of śraddhā. To make disciples of faithless persons is an offence, which presents obstacles in the practice of one’s bhajana, and ultimately one will have to fall down into hell.
Renouncing excessive undertakings
Pompous and showy enterprises or enormous festivals are called excessive undertakings (bahu-ārambha). They should be avoided under all circumstances. The purport of this is that while accepting whatever little is necessary to maintain one’s existence one should engage in bhagavad-bhajana. By taking up grandiose enterprises one becomes so attached to them that one cannot fix the mind in bhajana. Therefore the prescription has been given to renounce excessive undertakings.
Renouncing the study of many scriptures in order to make novel explanations and arguments
The śāstras are like an ocean. In taking instructions on some particular subject it is best to study the śāstras related to that subject from beginning to end and by thorough examination. By reading only a little of many different śāstras, one does not obtain full knowledge of any subject. Especially in regard to the bhakti-śāstras, if one does not apply the mind and study with careful consideration, then one’s intelligence will not become impregnated with sambandha-tattva-jñāna.
Bear in mind that only the direct meaning of the śāstras should be taken. By presenting many varied explanations of the scriptures contrary conclusions ensue. By too much argument and disputation the mind becomes perplexed and cannot become fixed in bhajana. In Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 22.118) Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has given the following direction to Sanātana Gosvāmī:
One should not partially study many scriptures just to present new explanations.
Also, in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is said: “na vyākhyām upayuñjīta – one should not make a profession of explaining the scriptures or reciting the Bhāgavatam in order to maintain one’s existence.” By doing so Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and other scriptures simply become a medium for business exchange, which is thoroughly opposed to bhakti-sādhana. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.13.8) all these practices have been clearly prohibited:
na śiṣyān anubadhnīta
granthān naivābhyased bahūn
na vyākhyām upayuñjīta
nārambhān ārabhet kvacit
Bhakti-sādhakas should not make many disciples. In other words they should not be moved by greed to make disciples of unqualified persons who are lacking in faith. They should not study many scriptures. They should not make a business of explaining the śāstras in order to accumulate wealth, nor should they undertake ostentatious enterprises.
15. Vyavahāre kārpaṇya-tyāgaḥ
Giving up miserly behaviour
For the maintenance of one’s existence in this material world it is necessary to acquire suitable items for one’s food and clothing. If one does not obtain such items, difficulty will arise. Even if such items are obtained one experiences difficulty when they are destroyed. Thus, even in the presence of miseries, devotees should not become disturbed; rather they should always remember Bhagavān within their minds. If endowed with sufficient competence and capability, one should not be miserly in regard to the service of the Lord, the service of the Vaiṣṇavas, festivals commemorating the appearance day of the Lord and other such activities. One should be satisfied with whatever one obtains and carry on with one’s activities of service to the Lord.
Giving up lamentation, anger, etc.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa does not appear in the heart that is filled with lamentation, fear, anger, greed and envy. Lamentation and illusion may arise due to separation from friends and relatives, and due to obstacles arising in the fulfilment of one’s desires. However, one should not fall under the sway of such lamentation and illusion. One certainly feels lamentation on being separated from one’s children but one should dispel such lamentation by remembering Lord Hari. Therefore one should practise fixing the mind on the lotus feet of Bhagavān.
Giving up blasphemy and disrespect of demigods
It is essential to have exclusive and undivided devotion towards Śrī Kṛṣṇa (ananya-bhakti). Śrī Kṛṣna is the mūla-devatā or original God of all gods. No one should consider the demigods as independent from Śrī Kṛṣṇa and thus offer separate worship to them. But one should not disrespect the demigods upon seeing other persons worshipping them. One should know all the demigods as servants of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and thus offer respect to them. However, one should incessantly meditate upon and remember only Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
As long as the heart of the jīva is not free from the influence of the three modes of nature, ananya-bhakti will not arise there. Those whose hearts are covered by the three modes – sattva, rajas and tamas – engage in the worship of the demigods who are the controlling deities of those modes. In accordance with the modes that are prominent within their hearts, they worship the corresponding demigods in charge of such modes. Their faith is exactly in accordance with their eligibility. Therefore one should not display any attitude of animosity or disrespect towards the worshipful demigods of such persons. By the mercy of the demigods such worshippers can make gradual progress and their hearts may at some time become free from the influence of the modes.
18. Prāṇī-mātre udvega-tyāgaḥ
Giving up harassment of other living entities
Śrī Kṛṣṇa becomes very quickly satisfied with those who maintain an attitude of compassion towards other living entities and do not create any kind of anxiety for them either by body, mind or words. Mercy is the fundamental dharma of the Vaiṣṇavas.
Giving up all offences
in regard to sevā and nāma
Devotees should be very attentive to avoid committing sevāparādha in relation to the worship of the deity (arcana) and nāmāparādha in relation to bhakti in general. There are thirty-two kinds of sevāparādha such as entering the temple of the Lord on a palanquin or wearing shoes. There are ten kinds of nāmāparādha such as blasphemy of devotees or disrespect of the spiritual master. Offences of both these kinds should certainly be avoided. As these offences are elaborately described further ahead, they are only briefly mentioned here.
One should not tolerate blasphemy of
Śrī Guru, Śrī Kṛṣṇa or the devotees
To blaspheme Śrī Gurudeva, Śrī Bhagavān or the devotees is an offence. Similarly to hear blasphemy of them is also a great offence. If one is capable he should give suitable punishment to such offenders. If one is unable, he should cover his ears, leave that place and take bath with his clothes on. By hearing blasphemy the active principle (vṛtti) of bhakti becomes withered. Those who blaspheme Kṛṣṇa or the Vaiṣṇavas are offenders who are averse to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.74.40) it is said:
nindāṁ bhagavataḥ śṛṇvaṁs
tat-parasya janasya vā
tato nāpaiti yaḥ so ’pi
yāty adhaḥ sukṛtāc cyutaḥ
Those who hear blasphemy of Bhagavān or His devotees and do not leave that place are deprived of their auspicious activities and fall down to a degraded position.
Śrī Gurudeva is here included within the classification of the devotees. Therefore one should never tolerate blasphemy of Śrī Gurudeva, Śrī Kṛṣṇa or the devotees.
The forty-four limbs of bhakti which follow after this are included within the twenty limbs already mentioned. They have been described as separate limbs in order to understand the subject matter elaborately. The thirty limbs from the twenty-first item, adopting the outward signs of a Vaiṣṇava, to the fiftieth item, offering of one’s dear objects to Kṛṣṇa, are included within arcana-mārga, the path of regulated worship.
Adopting the outward signs of a Vaiṣṇava
To wear three strings of tulasī beads around the neck, to adorn the body in twelve places with tilaka and so on is called vaiṣṇava-cihna-dhāraṇa, to adopt the outward signs of a Vaiṣṇava. A sādhaka must certainly adopt these Vaiṣṇava markings. The injunction to wear three strands of tulasī beads around the neck has been given in Hari-bhakti-vilāsa. Without wearing a tulasī-mālā, all auspicious religious performances such as bhagavad-arcana and bhagavad-upāsanā are rendered fruitless.
The śāstras prescribe wearing necklaces made of lotus seeds, rudrākṣa beads, beads made from the myrobalan tree, tulasī beads and so on. For the Vaiṣṇavas, however, the wearing of a tulasī-mālā is the best of all. Tulasī is supremely pure and very dear to Bhagavān. Therefore by wearing a tulasī-mālā the body, mind, words and soul become pure, and the inclination towards bhakti begins to manifest spontaneously.
The śāstras prescribe wearing two kinds of tilaka: ūrdhva-puṇḍra, vertical markings worn on the forehead by Vaiṣṇavas, and tri-puṇḍra, three horizontal lines worn across the forehead by Śaivites and māyāvādīs. Vaiṣṇavas and faithful brāhmaṇas should wear ūrdhva-puṇḍra tilaka. Ūrdhva-puṇḍra tilaka is known as a temple of Lord Hari, for Śrī Bhagavān resides in it. Only after first applying ūrdhva-puṇḍra tilaka in twelve places should one carry out his daily religious performances, worship and other various services. According to the Padma Purāṇa one should not see the body of a human being that is devoid of ūrdhva-puṇḍra tilaka. The body of such a person is compared to a crematorium.
The śāstras prescribe wearing ūrdhva-puṇḍra tilaka made either from gopī-candana, a type of white clay produced in Dvārakā, or from the dust of Śrī Vṛndāvana, the dust of Rādhā-kuṇḍa, the dust from places where tulasī is grown and so on. Nonetheless in all the śāstras the greatest importance is given to wearing ūrdhva-puṇḍra tilaka made from gopī-candana. By wearing this tilaka all of one’s śubha-karma produce imperishable results. By this simple act Bhagavān becomes pleased and one obtains bhagavad-bhakti. The following statement regarding the wearing of ūrdhva-puṇḍra tilaka is found in Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (4.232–3), cited from the Garuḍa Purāṇa:
yo mṛttikāṁ dvāravatī-samudbhavāṁ
kare samādāya lalāṭa-paṭṭake
karoti nityaṁ tv atha cordhva-puṇḍraṁ
kriyā-phalaṁ koṭi-guṇaṁ sadā bhavet
kriyā-vihīnaṁ yadi mantra-hīnaṁ
śraddhā-vihīnaṁ yadi kāla-varjitam
kṛtvā lalāṭe yadi gopī-candanaṁ
prāpnoti tat-karma-phalaṁ sadākṣayam
Those who take gopī-candana produced in Dvārakā and apply it to their foreheads daily as ūrdhva-puṇḍra tilaka find the results of all their activities multiplied millions of times. Even if such activities are performed without the proper purificatory rites, without the chanting of mantras, without faith or at a prohibited time, they produce imperishable results simply by the wearing of gopī-candana on the forehead.
To wear the letters of the Lord’s holy name
To stamp the principal limbs of the body with candana forming the letters of the Lord’s holy names such as the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, the Pañca-tattva mantra or other such names, is known as wearing the letters of the Lord’s holy name.
To accept the remnants of articles used by the deity
To accept articles offered to the deity of the Lord such as clothes, garlands, sandalpaste, scents, ornaments and other similar items is known as nirmālya-dhāraṇa, wearing the remnants of the deity. By doing so one easily conquers over māyā and enters into bhagavad-bhakti. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.6.46) Uddhava, addressing Lord Śrī Kṛṣna, has said:
tava māyāṁ jayema hi
O Bhagavān, we decorate ourselves with the garlands, sandalwood, clothes and ornaments worn by You. We are Your servants who subsist on the remnants of food left by You. Therefore we shall certainly conquer over Your illusory energy.
From this statement it is clear that by wearing the remnants of articles offered to the deity, the fear of māyā cannot remain. Therefore it is the duty of sādhakas to wear the remnants of articles offered to Bhagavān.
24. Nṛtyam Dancing before the Lord
Sādhakas should dance before the deity of the Lord with a devotional attitude. In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.127), quoting from the Dvārakā-māhātmya, it is said:
yo nṛtyati prahṛṣṭātmā
sa nirdahati papain
Those who dance before the Lord with exuberant hearts and overwhelming devotional feelings completely destroy all their sins performed in hundreds of manvantara.
One should offer daṇḍavat-praṇāma to the deity of Bhagavān, keeping one’s left side to the Lord. One should offer daṇḍavat-praṇāma to Śrī Gurudeva directly facing him. One should offer sāṣṭāṅga-daṇḍavat-praṇāma (obeisances with eight limbs) by extending both arms forward and falling on the ground like a stick (daṇḍa). The eight limbs referred to in this type of praṇāma are the hands, the feet, the knees, the chest, the forehead, the mind, vision and speech. There is also an injunction to offer praṇāma with five limbs, pañcāṅga-praṇāma – the knees, the arms, the forehead, the intelligence and speech. In the Nāradīya Purāṇa the glories of bhagavat-praṇāma have been described as follows (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.129)):
eko ’pi kṛṣṇāya kṛtaḥ praṇāmo
daśāśvamedhāvabhṛthair na tulyaḥ
daśāśvamedhī punar eti janma
kṛṣṇa-praṇāmī na punar bhavāya
The effect of offering praṇāma to Śrī Kṛṣṇa once only is so great that even the performance of ten aśvamedha-yajñas cannot be compared with it. This is so because the performer of ten aśvamedha-yajñas has to take birth again, whereas one who once offers praṇāma to Kṛṣṇa does not take birth again.
Rising from one’s seat in honour of the Lord
When one comes before Śrī Bhagavān for darśana at the time of the Lord’s touring the city in a ratha or palanquin, or when one sees Śrī Gurudeva or the Vaiṣṇavas approaching, one should stand courteously and offer respectful salutation. This is called abhyutthāna, rising from one’s seat in honour of the Lord. By doing so Bhagavān is pleased and bhakti flourishes. In the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa it is said:
yānārūḍhaṁ puraḥ prekṣya
abhyutthānaṁ naraḥ kurvan
Those who see Bhagavān Śrī Janārdana mounted on His cart or palanquin and rise from their seats to offer Him respectful salutations have all their sins destroyed.
To follow behind the deity of the Lord
To faithfully follow behind, beside or in front of the ratha-yātrā procession of Śrī Bhagavān at the time of His touring the city is known as anuvrajyā, to follow behind the deity of the Lord. One should also follow Śrī Gurudeva and the Vaiṣṇavas at the time of their arrival or departure. In the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa there is the following statement about anuvrajyā (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.131)):
rathena saha gacchanti
pārśvataḥ pṛṣṭhato ’grataḥ
viṣṇunaiva samāḥ sarve
If even a caṇḍāla follows behind, at the side of or in front of the ratha cart of Śrī Bhagavān, he becomes as worshipable as Viṣṇu Himself.
28. Śrī-mūrti-sthāne gamanam
To visit the place where the deity is established
One should visit the temple and pastime places of Śrī Bhagavān and offer respectful salutation by taking darśana, offering praṇāma and reciting prayers. In the Purāṇas it is said:
ślāghyau tāv eva caraṇau
yau hares tīrtha-gāminau
The two feet that journey to the holy tīrthas of Śrī Hari are praiseworthy because by doing so they enable one to cross over the desert of this material existence.
One should perform parikramā of the mandira of Śrī Bhagavān, the places associated with His pastimes (līlā-sthalīs), tulasī, Śrī Girirāja-Govardhana and so on, keeping one’s right side to them. In general one should circumambulate four times. In Śrī Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya it is said:
yas tatrāvartate punaḥ
tad evāvartanaṁ tasya
punar nāvartate bhave
Those who perform parikramā of Śrī Viṣṇu again and again while keeping their right side to the Lord (pradakṣiṇā) carry out their final rotation, for they will not have to rotate again in the cycle of repeated birth and death.
30. Pūjā or Arcana Worship of the deity
To worship the deity with various kinds of articles (upacāra) is called pūjana or arcana. Worship of the Lord with five articles is called pañcopacāra-pūjana. The five items employed in such worship are as follows: (1) sweet scents (gandha), (2) flowers (puṣpa), (3) incense (dhūpa), (4) a lamp (dīpa) and (5) offering of eatables (naivedya).
Worship of Śrī Bhagavān with sixteen articles is called ṣoḍaśopacāra-pūjana. The sixteen items are as follows: (1) a sitting place (āsana), (2) welcoming or inviting the deity (svāgata), (3) sipping water for purification (ācamana), (4) water for washing the feet of the deity (pādya), (5) water for washing the deity’s mouth (arghya), (6) an oblation of honey, ghee, milk, yoghurt and sugar all mixed together (madhuparka), (7) sipping water for purification again (ācamanīya), (8) bathing the deity (snāna), (9) clothes (vasana), (10) ornaments (ābharaṇa), (11) sweet scents (gandha), (12) flowers (puṣpa), (13) lamp (dīpa), (14) incense (dhūpa), (15) eatables (naivedya) and (16) sandalwood (candana). In the Viṣṇu-rahasya it is stated:
śrī-viṣṇor arcanam ye tu
prakurvanti narā bhuvi
te yānti śāśvataṁ viṣṇor
ānandaṁ paramaṁ padam
Those who worship Bhagavān Śrī Viṣṇu attain to the supreme abode of Viṣṇu, which is eternal and full of transcendental bliss.
Service or attendance upon the Lord
In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.140) it is stated:
paricaryā tu sevopa-
To serve Kṛṣṇa like a king is called paricaryā (attendance upon the Lord). This service is of two kinds: (1) cleansing and purifying the articles to be offered in the worship of the Lord and (2) to render service to Śrī Vigraha by waving the cāmara, holding the umbrella over the deity, playing musical instruments and other such services.
The bhakti-sādhakas should sing the songs of the mahājanas in front of the deity of Bhagavān. Such songs are steeped in prayer expressing the moods of surrender to the Lord (śaraṇāgati), yearning for the personal service of the Lord (lālasāmayī) and other such sentiments.
Congregational chanting of the Lord’s holy name
When many faithful devotees following under the guidance of mahāpuruṣas assemble together and loudly chant the holy name of the Lord for the pleasure of Śrī Bhagavān, it is called saṅkīrtana. This has been expressed in the following words of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī from the Krama-sandarbha – saṅkīrtanaṁ bahubhir militvā tad-gāna-sukhaṁ śrī-kṛṣṇa-gānam. In Śri Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā 4.70–1) nāma-saṅkīrtana has been declared to be the foremost among the sixty-four limbs of bhakti or among the nine limbs of bhakti:
bhajanera madhye śreṣṭha nava-vidhā bhakti
kṛṣṇa-prema kṛṣṇa dite dhare mahā-śakti
tāra madhye sarva-śreṣṭha nāma-saṅkīrtana
niraparādhe nāma laile pāya prema-dhana
Of the various processes of sādhana, nine types of bhakti (śravaṇa, kīrtana, smaraṇa and so on) are the best, for they have such great potency to bestow kṛṣṇa-prema and Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Out of these nine practices, bhagavan-nāma-saṅkīrtana is the most excellent. If one performs nāma-saṅkīrtana free from offences he will certainly attain the most valuable wealth of kṛṣṇa-prema.
Especially in Kali-yuga nāma-saṅkīrtana is the one and only super-excellent process of religion. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has said that in Kali-yuga, even if one performs the other limbs of bhakti, they must certainly be accompanied by śrī nāma-saṅkīrtana (ataeva yady anyāpi bhaktiḥ kalau kartavyā, tadā tat-saṁyoge naivety uktam).
Utterance of the holy name and mantras
To utter bhagavan-nāma or mantras is called japa. This utterance (uccāraṇa) is of three kinds: (1) verbal (vācika), (2) in a whisper (upāṁśu) and (3) within the mind (mānasika). To perform japa with clear, audible enunciation of the mantra is called vācika-japa. When japa is performed with very soft pronunciation, with only a slight movement of the lips, and can only be heard by one’s own ears, it is called upāṁśu-japa. To meditate on nāma or a mantra within one’s mind is called mānasika-japa.
In his commentary on Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (11.247) Sanātana Gosvāmipāda has said: “vācikasya kīrtanāntargatvāt mānasi-kasya smaraṇātmatvāt – vācika-japa is included within the limb of kīrtana, and mānasika-japa is included within the limb of smaraṇa.” In Bhakti-sandarbha (Anuccheda 276) Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī has said:
tatra nāma-smaraṇaṁ – harer nāma paraṁ japyaṁ dhyeyaṁ geyaṁ nirantaram. kīrtanīyaṁ ca bahudhā nirvṛttīr bahudhecchatā. iti jāvāli-samhitādy-anusāreṇa jñeyam. nāma-smaraṇaṁ tu śuddhāntaḥ-karaṇatām apekṣate. tat saṅkīrtanāc-cāvaram iti mūle tu nodāharaṇa spaṣṭatā.
In the Jāvāli-saṁhitā the process of nāma-smaraṇa has been described in the following way. Those who are desirous of obtaining unlimited varieties of spiritual bliss should always perform japa, meditation (dhyāna), singing (gāna) and kīrtana of the topmost names of Śrī Hari. But in the practice of nāma-smaraṇa one cannot obtain spiritual bliss as long as the heart remains impure, whereas the practice of nāma-saṅkīrtana does not depend on purification of the heart. Therefore nāma-smaraṇa is less effective than nāma-saṅkīrtana, and nāma-saṅkīrtana has greater importance.
Recitation of songs or hymns in praise of the Lord
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and other scriptures, and in the books composed by the Six Gosvāmīs, there are many useful stavas and stotras, hymns of praise that are saturated with the mood of prayer offered to Śrī Guru, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Nityānanda Prabhu, Śrīmatī Rādhikā, Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma, Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma, Śrī Girirāja-Govardhana, Yamunā, Rādhā-kuṇḍa, Śyāma-kuṇḍa and so on. The sādhaka should recite these with great love and devotion.
Honouring the remnants of food offered to the deity
Food items and beverages offered to the Lord are called mahā-prasāda. It is the duty of the devotees to honour mahā-prasāda. By honouring mahā-prasāda, anarthas are easily destroyed and bhagavad-bhakti is augmented. Bhagavad-bhaktas accept only mahā-prasāda, therefore the remnants of their prasāda is called mahā-mahā-prasāda, which is a greatly powerful medicine for effecting the growth of bhakti within the heart.
Submissive prayer or entreaty
To make known one’s prayer at the lotus feet of Śrī Bhagavān is what is meant by vijñapti. To describe one’s miserable condition, deceitfulness, attachment to material existence, helplessness and so on, and to pray in a despairing voice for deliverance as well as attainment of the service of the Lord’s lotus feet is called vijñapti. Vijñapti is of three kinds: samprārthanātmikā, dainyabodhikā and lālasāmayī. Examples of each of these are found in the following verses from Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu.
Prayer with wholehearted submission of mind, body and everything to the Lordyuvatīnāṁ yathā yūni
yūnāṁ ca yuvatau yathā
mano ’bhiramate tadvan
mano ’bhiramatāṁ tvayi
O my Lord, as the minds of young boys and girls remain attached to one another, please let my mind be attached to You.
Making known one’s insignificance and worthlessnessmat-tulyo nāsti pāpātmā
nāparādhī ca kaścana
parihāre ’pi lajjā me
kiṁ bruve puruṣottama
O Puruṣottama, in this world there is no sinner and offender like me. Even though You are an ocean of causeless mercy, I am ashamed even to request You to forgive my offences. What more shall I say?
Yearning for the personal service of the Lordkadāhaṁ yamunā-tīre
nāmāni tava kīrtayan
O Puṇḍarīkākṣa (lotus-eyed Lord), when, upon the banks of the Yamunā, with eyes brimming with tears of ecstasy and voice choked up with divine spiritual emotion, will I chant Your holy names and dance like a madman?
The above text (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.156) is an example of a prayer made by a jāta-rati bhakta; that is, a devotee in whom bhāva-bhakti has already been aroused. This is the characteristic of lālasāmayī-vijñapti. Lālasāmayī-vijñapti is a prayer for some particular kind of direct service to the Lord made by a devotee in whom rati is already manifest. Samprārthanātmikā-vijñapti, however, is a prayer by a devotee in whom rati is not yet awakened. It is a prayer for the awakening of rati. In such a prayer lālasā or longing is also present but there is an absence of bhāva. According to the commentary of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī, the example of lālasāmayī-vijñapti should actually come under the heading of rāgānuga-bhakti.
Drinking the nectar used to wash the lotus feet of the Lord
After the deity of the Lord has been bathed with various substances, the nectar is collected from the Lord’s feet and is thus called śrī caraṇāmṛta. Sādhakas should regularly and with great faith drink that caraṇāmṛta and reverentially bear it on their heads. By doing so their bhakti is developed.
As the following limbs numbered 39–42 are completely clear, no elaborate explanation has been given of them.
Smelling the fragrance of incense and flower garlands offered to the Lord is the thirty-ninth limb of vaidhī-sādhana-bhakti.
Sādhakas should take darśana daily of the deity of Bhagavān, either in the temple or in one’s own home. By doing so devotees directly taste the sweetness of the Lord.
Touching the deity of Bhagavān is also counted as a limb of bhakti.
The sādhaka should take darśana of the ārati offered to the deity of Bhagavān at the three junctions of the day: morning, noon and night.
43. Śravaṇam Hearing
To hear descriptions of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s nāma, rūpa, guṇa and līlā is called śravaṇa. Such descriptions are non-different from Him; all the potencies of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself have been invested in them. Śrī Bhagavān enters the heart of the listener through the medium of hearing līlā-kathā, destroys all anarthas situated in the heart, and transmits prema-bhakti there.
śṛṇvatāṁ sva-kathāḥ kṛṣṇaḥ
hṛdy antaḥ-stho hy abhadrāṇi
vidhunoti suhṛt satām
By hearing the līlā-kathā of Śrī Bhagavān, all misfortunes of the jīvas are dispelled. Those who possess an ardent desire to obtain unalloyed prema-bhakti at the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa must certainly hear His līlā-kathā repeatedly and incessantly.
Anticipating the mercy of the Lord
Without the mercy of Bhagavān one cannot obtain bhakti, nor is the performance of sādhana and bhajana possible. The sādhaka of bhakti is always dependent on the mercy of the Lord. He should perceive the mercy of Kṛṣṇa everywhere. This is expressed in the following verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.8):
tat te ’nukampāṁ susamīkṣamāṇo
bhuñjāna evātma-kṛtaṁ vipākam
hrd-vāg-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te
jīveta yo mukti-pade sa dāya-bhāk
Those who clearly perceive Your mercy at every moment with great enthusiasm are able to endure with unperturbed minds the happiness and distress that comes to them in accordance with their prārabdha-karma, considering it to be the mercy of the Lord. With hearts filled with love, voices choked with emotion and the hairs of their bodies standing on end, they offer themselves at Your lotus feet. Just as a son is eligible for the wealth of the father, they become eligible for the supreme spiritual status, or in other words, bhagavat-prema.
To contemplate Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s nāma, rūpa, guṇa and līlā with the mind is called smaraṇa.
46. Dhyānam Meditation
Very thorough meditation upon the rūpa, guṇa, līlā and sevā of Bhagavān is called dhyāna. The meaning of sevā-dhyāna is worship or service that is performed within the mind.
The pure constitutional disposition (śuddha-svarūpa) of the jīva is to be a servant of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Because the jīva’s vision is diverted from Śrī Kṛṣṇa his pure constitutional nature becomes covered by māyā. By virtue of some great fortune, the jīva may come to learn of his true identity by the association of saintly devotees. The sādhaka should then always think, “I am a servant of Lord Kṛṣṇa”. This attitude is called dāsya. There are two kinds of dāsya: (1) in its beginning form, dāsya means to offer all one’s activities to the Lord and (2) to render all kinds of services to the Lord with the feeling that, “I am a servant of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and He is my master”. This attitude is called kaiṅkarya. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has said the following about the śuddha-svarūpa of the jīva (Padyāvalī (74)):
nāhaṁ vipro na ca nara-patir nāpi vaiśyo na śūdro
nāhaṁ varṇī na ca gṛha-patir no vanastho yatir vā
kintu prodyan nikhila-paramānanda-pūrnāmṛtābdher
gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ
I am not a brāhmaṇa, a kṣatriya, a vaiśya or a śūdra. Nor am I a brahmacārī, a gṛhastha, a vānaprastha or a sannyāsī. I am a servant of the servant of the servants of the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa who is the dearmost beloved of the gopīs and an ocean of nectar laden with undivided spiritual bliss.
Sādhakas should always maintain this conception.
Sakhya is of two kinds: (1) that which is based on faith (viśvāsa) and (2) that which is based on an attitude of friendship (maitrī). Draupadī expressed her faith in Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the following words: “Śrī Kṛṣṇa will certainly protect me.” This is an example of sakhya-bhāva that is based on faith. Draupadī is an eternally liberated associate of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Therefore her attitude of sakhya-bhāva, predominated by a very deep sense of faith, is not a subject matter of sādhana-bhakti for ordinary sādhakas. Nonetheless, because of the prevalence of faith in the sakhya-bhāva demonstrated in the statement of Draupadī, it is relevant to be used as an example of sādhana-bhakti. The example of Draupadī has been given in order to incite a similar attitude of sakhya-bhāva predominated by viśvāsa in faithful sādhakas.
In order to see Śrī Bhagavān in His human-like form (out of a sense of affection) and in order to behave with Him just like an intimate friend, certain sādhakas, engaged in all kinds of personal services, lie down in the temple. This disposition is called mitra-vṛtti. Sakhya of this type is not for sādhakas of the vidhi-mārga. It is suitable only for devotees situated in rāgānugā, which is based on intense greed (lobha). Nevertheless it is sometimes possible for sādhakas of the vidhi-mārga. Therefore this limb has been described here in the context of vaidhī-sādhana-bhakti.
Dedication of the self
The word ātmā refers to ahaṁtā (egoism), or in other words the sense of “I” pertaining to the body, as well as mamatā (possessiveness), or the sense of “mine” that is related to the body. To offer both of these to Kṛṣṇa is called ātma-nivedana.
The living entity who is within the body is known as dehī, one who possesses the body, and aham, the ego, egoism or the self. When the living entity takes support of these two conceptions (i.e. the sense of possessing a body (dehī) and the sense of ego or self (aham)), it gives rise to the sense of “I”. The possessiveness or attachment that rests upon this sense of “I” is called dehī-niṣṭha-mamatā, or attachment grounded in the egoism of possessing a body.
The sense of “mine” in relation to the body is called deha-niṣṭha-mamatā, or possessiveness related to the body itself. One should offer both the sense of “I” and the sense of “mine” to Kṛṣṇa. One should give up the conceptions of “I” and “mine” and adopt the conception that, “I am a servant of Kṛṣṇa, I accept only the remnants of Kṛṣṇa’s prasāda and this body is an instrument suitable for the service of Kṛṣṇa”. To maintain the body exclusively with this mentality is called ātma-nivedana.
Offering one’s own dear objects
The things in this world that one likes best should be accepted and offered to Kṛṣṇa, considering them to be related to Him. This is what is meant by offering one’s dear objects to Kṛṣṇa. One should offer to Kṛṣṇa those things which are dear to other persons and which are also dear to Kṛṣṇa. Those items which are dear to others, dear to Kṛṣṇa and dear to the sādhakas also are especially fit to be offered to Kṛṣṇa. Those objects give the most pleasure to Kṛṣṇa. Those items which are dear to people in general but are not dear to Kṛṣṇa, or those things which are dear to Kṛṣṇa but are not dear to people in general, should not be offered to Kṛṣṇa.
51. Kṛṣṇārthe samasta-karma-karaṇam
Performing all activities for the sake of Kṛṣṇa
To make all activities, whether they be worldly duties or those directly related to vaidhī-sādhana-bhakti, favourable for the service of Lord Hari is to perform all activities for the sake of Kṛṣna.
52. Sarvathā śaraṇāpattiḥ
Self-surrender (śaraṇāgati or śaraṇāpatti) is accomplished in six ways as stated in Bhakti-sandarbha (Anuccheda 236), quoting a statement from the Vaiṣṇava-tantra:
goptṛtve varaṇaṁ tathā
There are six symptoms of self-surrender: (1) Ānukūlyasya saṅkalpa – fully surrendered sādhakas should accept only those things which are favourable for prema-bhakti. (2) Prātikūlya-vivarjana – they should completely reject those things which are unfavourable to prema-bhakti. (3) Rakṣiṣyatīti viśvāsa – they have firm faith that Kṛṣṇa is their only protector, that there is no protector other than Kṛṣṇa and that one cannot obtain protection by any other activity. (4) Goptṛtve varaṇa – surrendered devotees have absolutely no doubt that Kṛṣṇa is their only guardian and maintainer. (5) Ātma-nikṣepa – offering the self to the Lord is expressed in this attitude: “I am incapable of doing anything independently. Unless Kṛṣṇa desires, no one can do anything.” Devotees who are without any other resort have this kind of faith. (6) Kārpaṇya – humility is expressed as follows: “I am very fallen and insignificant.” Unalloyed devotees are possessed of this very firm and simple faith. To possess all these attitudes is called śaraṇāpatti.
The service of tulasī has already been described within the tenth limb of bhakti – offering respect to banyan trees, tulasī, myrobalan trees, cows, brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas.
Serving Vaiṣṇava scriptures
Only those śāstras which cause bhagavad-bhakti to be obtained are vaiṣṇava-śāstras. One should faithfully and regularly study such scriptures, hear them from the mouths of pure devotees, and read and recite them with a worshipful attitude. One should know the object to be obtained by such scriptures, that being bhagavad-bhakti, and having full faith in that one should mould one’s life in accordance with its principles. The restoration of, careful keeping of, publishing and propagation of vaiṣṇava-śāstras are all included within śāstra-sevā (service to Vaiṣṇava scriptures). In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.207–8), quoting from the Skanda Purāṇa, it is said:
vaiṣṇavāni tu śāstrāṇi
ye śṛṇvanti paṭhanti ca
dhanyāste mānavā loke
teṣāṁ kṛṣṇaḥ prasīdati
vaiṣṇavāni tu śāstrāṇi
ye ’rcayanti gṛhe narāḥ
The vaiṣṇava-śāstras like Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Bhagavad-gītā and so on propound ananya-bhakti, exclusive devotion unto Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Those who keep such scriptures in their home and worship them with great respect are freed from all sins. Even the demigods offer prayers to such persons. Those who hear the vaiṣṇava-śāstras from the mouths of pure devotees and who regularly study them on their own are truly blessed in this world. Śrī Kṛṣṇa becomes pleased with them.
Therefore it is imperative for the sādhakas to serve the vaiṣṇava-śāstras. Of all the vaiṣṇava-śāstras, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the most excellent because it is the essence of the entire Vedānta. Those who taste the nectarean rasa of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam have no taste for any other scripture. This is the purport of the following verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (12.13.15):
nānyatra syād ratiḥ kvacit
55. Mathurā-maṇḍale vāsaḥ
Residing within the district of Mathurā
One should hear about, glorify and remember the glories of Mathurā. By desiring to go to Mathurā, by seeing Mathurā, by touching the land of Mathurā, by living there and by serving Mathurā, the aspiration for bhakti is fulfilled. The term mathurā-vāsa refers to Śrī Vṛndāvana, Gokula, Nandagāoṅ (Nanda-grāma), Varṣāṇā, Rādhā-kuṇḍa, Śyāma-kuṇḍa and other places within Mathurā-maṇḍala. It also refers to Śrī Māyāpura.
Service of Vaiṣṇavas
Vaiṣṇavas are very dear to the Lord. By rendering service to the Vaiṣṇavas one obtains bhakti towards Bhagavān. In the scriptures it is said that the worship of Viṣṇu is superior to the worship of all the demigods. But the worship of His servants, the Vaiṣṇavas, is even better than the worship of Viṣṇu. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.19.33) it is said:
yeṣāṁ saṁsmaraṇāt puṁsāṁ
sadyaḥ śuddhyanti vai gṛhāḥ
kim punar darśana-sparśa-
What wonder is there that men become purified by seeing, touching, washing the feet of, offering a sitting place to, and serving those Vaiṣṇavas, the mere remembrance of whom sanctifies one’s household?
In the Ādi Purāṇa Śrī Kṛṣṇa says to Arjuna:
ye me bhakta-janāḥ pārtha
na me bhaktāś ca te janāḥ
mad-bhaktānāṁ ca ye bhaktā
mama bhaktās tu te narāḥ
O Pārtha, those who claim to be My devotees are not My actual devotees. But those who are devotees of My devotees, are My true devotees.
57. Yathā-śakti dolādi-mahotsava-karaṇam
Celebration of festivals related to the Lord in accordance with one’s ability
To collect articles in accordance with one’s ability and celebrate festivals in the temple of the Lord such as the Lord’s birth ceremony, ratha-yātra and hiṇḍola (the swing festival), and to serve the pure Vaiṣṇavas after first offering service to the Lord is called a mahotsava. In this world there is no festival greater than this.
Observing the vow of Kārttika
Kārttika-vrata is also called dāmodara-vrata. The month of Kārttika is also known by the name ūrjā. The word ūrjā literally means power, strength, energy or vigour. Śrīmatī Rādhikā is the energy of Lord Kṛṣṇa and therefore ūrjā refers to Her. To worship Śrī Rādhā-Dāmodara by observing the limbs of bhakti in a regulated manner in this month of Kārttika is called ūrjādara, or in other words, giving respect (ādara) to Ūrjā (Śrīmatī Rādhikā). Ūrjā is also called śakti. The goddess who presides over this month is known as Ūrjeśvarī. Ūrjeśvarī is another name of Śrīmatī Rādhikā.
In the Padma Purāṇa it is said (cited in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.221)):
yathā dāmodaro bhakta-
vatsalo vidito janaiḥ
tasyāyaṁ tādṛśo māsaḥ
svalpam apy upakārakaḥ
As the Supreme Lord Śrī Dāmodara is famous in this world for being very affectionate to His devotees (bhakta-vatsala), this month of Dāmodara, which is dear to Him, considers even very little spiritual practice to be very great and bestows tremendous results.
In his commentary to this verse Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has given a nice analogy. When a magnanimous person takes compassion upon one who has a heavy debt, he considers a small payment to be substantial and thus liberates the debtor from his liability. Similarly the month of Dāmodara considers a very small practice of bhajana performed with a respectful attitude to be very great and bestows the invaluable wealth of bhakti towards Bhagavān Śrī Dāmodara.
To observe vows related to bhakti for the pleasure of the Lord in the month of Kārttika is called niyama-sevā. The unique glory of observing niyama-sevā in the month of Kārttika in Vraja-maṇḍala has been described in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.222–3), quoting from the Padma Purāṇa:
bhuktiṁ muktiṁ harir dadyāt
arcito ’nyatra sevinām
bhaktis tu na dadāty eva
yato vaśyakarī hareḥ
sā tv añjasā harer bhaktir
labhyate kārttike naraiḥ
mathurāyāṁ sakṛd api
To persons who perform sādhana in places outside of Vraja-maṇḍala and without strong attachment to Kṛṣṇa, Bhagavān certainly awards bhukti and mukti but He does not award bhakti, for by bhakti the Lord becomes bound to His devotee. But if a person who is otherwise devoid of sādhana worships Śrī Dāmodara even once in Vraja-maṇḍala in the month of Kārttika, he very easily obtains the most rare hari-bhakti.
59. Sarvadā harināma-grahaṇam/ janmāṣṭamī-yātrādikaṁ ca
To chant the holy name at all times/
to celebrate Janmāṣṭamī and other festivals
To always utter the holy name in all circumstances is known as śrī harināma-grahaṇa (to take harināma). One can chant śrī harināma in any condition, whether eating or drinking, sleeping or rising, moving about, pure or impure. This is stated in Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā 20.18):
khāite śuite yathā tathā nāma laya
kāla-deśa-niyama nāhi sarva siddhi haya
Regardless of time or place, one who chants the holy name, even while eating or sleeping, attains all perfection.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has also said in the third verse of Śikṣāṣṭaka: “kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ – always chant the holy name of Hari.” To chant the holy name is accepted as the topmost of all the limbs of bhakti. The holy name may be chanted with or without keeping count, within the mind, softly or loudly – in all ways. Nonetheless it is seen that Śrīman Mahāprabhu, His follower Śrī Haridāsa Ṭhākura and Śrī Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ācāryas coming in paramparā up to today have adopted the system of chanting harināma while keeping count of their rounds. After completing one’s fixed number of rounds one may continue to chant without counting.
When one chants the holy name with great feeling and dances accompanied by mṛdaṅga and karatālas, one cannot keep track of the number of names chanted. To do so is not opposed to śāstra. In recent times it is observed that some persons do not pronounce audibly the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra or perform kīrtana loudly, and they forbid others to do so. However, this idea is completely opposed to śāstra. This is clear from the life history of Śrīman Mahāprabhu, Haridāsa Ṭhākura and others.
Celebration of Kṛṣṇāṣṭamī, the appearance day of Lord Kṛṣṇa on the eighth day of the month of Bhādrapada (August–September), and Gaura-pūrṇimā, the full moon day of the month of Phālguna (February–March), is known as śrī janma-yātrā (celebration of the birth festival of the Lord). Surrendered sādhakas should certainly observe these festivals.
The five most excellent limbs of bhakti will now be described.
Serving the deity with faith
In the service and worship of the deity it is essential to have enthusiasm saturated with love. Unto those who worship and serve the deity with great enthusiasm, Śrī Kṛṣṇa gives not only the insignificant fruit of mukti but the supreme fruit of bhakti.
61. Rasikaiḥ saha śrī-bhāgavatārthāsvādaḥ
Tasting the meaning of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in the association of rasika Vaiṣṇavas
The delightfully sweet essence (rasa) of the wish-fulfilling tree of Vedic literature is Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. In the association of persons who are estranged from that rasa there can be no tasting of the rasa of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam; rather there can be only aparādha. One should taste the rasa of the verses of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in the association of pure devotees who are thoroughly versed in understanding the rasa of the Bhāgavatam and who are possessed of deep yearning to taste the rasa of kṛṣṇa-līlā. Śuddha-bhakti does not arise by hearing or reciting Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in an assembly of ordinary persons.
Association of like-minded, affectionate, advanced devotees
There can be no progress of bhakti by associating with non-devotees who have merely adopted the designation of “sat-saṅga”. The devotees’ only aspiration is to obtain the service of the aprākṛta-līlā of Śrī Kṛṣna. Those who have such a desire can be called bhaktas. The development and growth of bhakti takes place in such devotees by associating with devotees who are more advanced than themselves. By failing to do so, the advancement of bhakti is checked and one’s disposition or nature will be of the exact same level as those devotees whose association one keeps. In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.229), quoting from Śrī Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya (8.51), the following is said in connection with association:
yasya yat-saṅgatiḥ puṁso
maṇivat syāt sa tad gunaḥ
sva-kularddhyai tato dhīmān
svayūthyān eva saṁśrayet
As a crystal reflects the colour of those objects which are brought into its proximity, a person’s nature will be exactly in accordance with the association he keeps. Therefore, by associating with pure devotees, one becomes pure. Sādhu-saṅga (sat-saṅga) is beneficial in every way. The actual purport of the instruction given in the scriptures to live devoid of association (niḥsaṅga) is that one should live in the company of sādhus (sādhu-saṅga).
To associate with saintly devotees who are more advanced than oneself, who are of the same disposition (sajātīya), who taste the meaning of rasa (rasika) and who are affectionate (snigdha), is what is signified by this limb of bhakti. Sādhu-saṅga is the root cause of kṛṣṇa-bhakti. This has already been stated previously. But what kind of sādhu-saṅga should a sādhaka take? A specific description of this is given here.
A sādhaka should take association of those devotees who are of the same spiritual disposition (sajātīya). In other words one should associate with those devotees who worship the same particular form of the Lord and who possess the same internal spiritual mood as oneself. Those who are sādhakas in the mood of dāsya-bhāva should associate with devotees in dāsya-bhāva, and those who are sādhakas in the mood of sakhya-bhāva should associate with devotees in sakhya-bhāva. Similarly those who are sādhakas in the moods of vātsalya- and mādhurya-bhāva should associate with devotees situated in moods that are favourable to their own respective bhāvas.
In the same way, sādhakas who worship Kṛṣṇa should associate with devotees of Kṛṣṇa, and sādhakas who worship other incarnations of the Lord should associate with devotees who worship the same forms of the Lord.
Although a sādhu may be of the same spiritual disposition, one should associate with those sādhus who are affectionately disposed to oneself (snigdha). The word snigdha refers to those who are affectionate, well-wishing and rasika – not those who are harsh, unsympathetic or indifferent. The esoteric mysteries of bhajana and genuine instruction regarding the method of performing bhajana cannot be obtained from sādhus who are indifferently disposed or who are not affectionate. Therefore to associate with saintly devotees who are soft-hearted and affectionate is of the greatest utility.
Even though a devotee may be sajātīya and snigdha, one should associate with those devotees who are more advanced in terms of steadiness in bhajana, direct experience and realisation of the Lord, and in knowing the confidential mysteries of the śāstras – in other words who are superior to oneself in all respects. By associating with devotees possessing all the above-mentioned qualities a sādhaka can make steady and gradual advancement on his path.
Loud congregational chanting of the holy name
The holy name of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is supramundane and fully sentient rasa, aprākṛta-caitanya-rasa. There is no trace of anything material in it. When the sādhaka-jīva engages himself in a devout manner in the service of the Lord, Śrī Nāma automatically manifests Himself on the tongue and other senses that have been purified by bhakti. The holy name cannot be grasped by the material senses. Therefore one should always perform nāma-saṅkīrtana by oneself and in the company of others.
When the jīva, who is a particle of pure spirit (cit-kaṇa), becomes fully purified, he is eligible to utter harināma with his spiritual body (cinmaya-śarīra). But when he is bound by māyā, he cannot chant the pure name with the material senses. On obtaining the mercy of the hlādinī-śakti, the activity of his own inner spiritual form begins and at that time the appearance of nāma takes place for him. As soon as nāma arises, śuddha-nāma mercifully manifests within the faculty of the mind and then dances upon the tongue of the devotee purified by bhakti. The holy name is not in the shape of letters. Only at the time of dancing on the material tongue does the holy name manifest in the form of letters. This is the mystery of nāma.
Harināma is of two types: mukhya, principal names, and gauṇa, secondary names. The secondary names include Brahma, Paramātmā, Niyantā (the controller), Pātā (the protector), Sraṣṭā (the creator) and Mahendra (the supreme monarch). The principal names include Viṣṇu, Nārāyaṇa, Ananta, Rāma, Hari, Kṛṣṇa, Gopāla, Gopīnātha, Rādhā-ramaṇa and so on. In the Śrī Rāmāṣṭottara-śata-nāma-stotra of the Padma Purāṇa (cited in Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (11.380)) it is said:
viṣṇor ekaikaṁ nāmāpi
Each and every name of Viṣṇu is more beneficial than reciting all the Vedas. Nevertheless a thousand such names of Viṣṇu taken together are equal to just one name of Rāma.
Further, in the Śrī Kṛṣṇāṣṭottara-śata-nāma-māhātmya of the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa (cited in Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (11.488)) it is said:
trir āvṛtyā tu yat phalam
ekāvṛtyā tu kṛṣṇasya
nāmaikaṁ tat prayacchati
The same result that is obtained by uttering a thousand names of Viṣṇu three times is accomplished simply by once pronouncing the name of Kṛṣṇa.
In the Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad, the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, the Kṛṣṇa-yāmala and other places it is mentioned:
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
This mantra consisting of sixteen words is called the mahā-mantra. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu always instructed the jīvas to perform saṅkīrtana by chanting this same mahā-mantra. Śrī Gopāla-guru, Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and other ācāryas who have tasted the essence of the holy name have described the astonishing and ambrosial meaning of each name of this mahā-mantra. Rāgānuga-sādhakas should consult the sacred book Harināma-cintāmaṇi composed by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura in order to understand this subject in detail.
The glories of bhagavan-nāma-saṅkīrtana have been described in the Śruti, Smṛti, Purāṇas and all other śāstras. Out of the sixty-four limbs of bhakti, nine types of bhakti – śravaṇa, kīrtana and so on – are considered the best. Out of these nine types of bhakti, nāma-saṅkīrtana has been proclaimed to be the topmost. This is stated in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā 4.70–1):
bhajanera madhye śreṣṭha nava-vidhā bhakti
kṛṣṇa prema kṛṣṇe dite dhare mahā-śakti
tāra madhye sarva-śreṣṭha nāma-saṅkīrtana
niraparādhe nāma laile pāya prema-dhana
Of the various processes of sādhana, nine types of bhakti are the best, for they have such great potency to bestow kṛṣṇa-prema and Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Out of these nine practices bhagavan-nāma-saṅkīrtana is the most excellent. If one performs nāma-saṅkīrtana free from offences he will certainly attain the most valuable wealth of kṛṣṇa-prema.
In the Padma Purāṇa the identity of kṛṣṇa-nāma has been explained (cited in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.233)):
pūrṇaḥ śuddho nitya-mukto
Nāma, the holy name, and nāmī, Śrī Kṛṣṇa or He who possesses the name, are a mutually non-differentiated reality (abheda-tattva). Therefore all the divine qualities of nāmī Kṛṣṇa are also present in His name. Nāma is always a fully accomplished truth (pūrṇa-tattva). There is no touch of anything material in harināma. Nāma is eternally liberated because it is never bound by the illusory modes of nature. Nāma is Kṛṣṇa Himself; therefore it is the concentrated form of all sentient rasa. Nāma is cintāmaṇi; it is competent to deliver all that is requested of it.
Harināma-saṅkīrtana is the best method of sādhana for the sādhakas, the perfected souls (siddha-mahāpuruṣas), those who are desirous of enjoying the fruits of their worship (sakāma-sādhakas), and those who are free from the desire to enjoy the fruits of their worship (niṣkāma-sādhakas). This is stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (2.1.11):
yogināṁ nṛpa nirṇītaṁ
O Mahārāja (Parīkṣit), it has been concluded that śrī bhagavan-nāma-saṅkīrtana is the only fearless method of sādhana and sādhya for those who are desirous of obtaining the heavenly planets and liberation (the karmīs and jñānīs), for the self-satisfied yogīs, and for the devotees who are completely devoid of material desires.
This verse is quoted in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.230). In his commentary on this verse Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura explains that the term nirvidyamānānām means devoid of all desires, including liberation. This term refers to those who possess one-pointed devotion (ekānta-bhaktas). The word icchatām means desirous of the attainment of the heavenly planets and liberation. This refers to the jñānīs and karmīs. The word yoginām refers to those who take pleasure in the self (ātmārāmas).
The word akuto-bhayam means that there is absolutely no doubt about the efficacy of nāma-kīrtana. It does not depend on time, place, person, articles of worship, purity or impurity. Even if the holy name comes in contact with a mleccha who is intolerant of the service of the Lord, the holy name will act. The word nāmānukīrtanam means either constant chanting or chanting to an extent that is appropriate for one’s practice of bhakti. This practice is suitable both in the stage of sādhana, practice, and sādhya, perfection. The purport of the word nirṇītam (meaning “it has been decided”) is that this fact has been decided by the common consent of previous ṛṣis and maharṣis who became devoid of all doubt after direct experience and realisation.
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.2.40) it is also said:
jātānurāgo druta-citta uccaiḥ
hasaty atho roditi rauti gāyaty
unmāda-van nṛtyati loka-bāhyaḥ
In the hearts of those who adopt such a pure vow, the sprout of prema (bhāva) blossoms into anurāga, which softens the heart and fills one with a deep sense of attachment (mamatā) for the Lord. This occurs by chanting the holy name of one’s most dearly beloved Lord. At such a time one rises above the condition of the general mass of people. One becomes indifferent to public opinion and doesn’t seek approval for his activities. By his natural disposition (of prema), the devotee sometimes bursts out into laughter just like an intoxicated person, sometimes he begins to weep bitterly, sometimes he begins to call the name of the Lord in a loud voice, sometimes he begins to sing of the Lord’s attributes in a sweet and melodious voice, and sometimes, when he witnesses his dearly beloved directly before his eyes, he begins to dance in a most captivating manner in order to charm the Lord.
This verse is cited in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.4.6) as an example of prema arising from bhāva attained through vaidhī-sādhana. The purport of the verse is that by performing śravaṇa and kīrtana of the Lord’s holy name in the stages of ruci and āsakti, bhāva manifests within the heart. By continued performance of harināma with deep attachment in the stage of bhāva, the heart becomes melted and one becomes overwhelmed with a deep sense of possessiveness (mamatā) in relation to the Lord. This matured state of bhāva then transforms into prema. The various symptoms mentioned in this verse are anubhāvas, or outward manifestations of prema.
In citing the following verses in Bhakti-sandarbha (Anuccheda 270–1) Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has pointed out that loud performance of saṅkīrtana is the foremost method to please the Lord in Kali-yuga:
kṛte yad dhyāyato viṣṇuṁ
tretāyāṁ yajato makhaiḥ
kalau tad dhari-kīrtanāt
Whatever results are acquired in Satya-yuga by meditation on Lord Viṣṇu, in Tretā-yuga by the performance of sacrifice and in Dvāpara-yuga by service rendered to the deity form of the Lord, are obtained in Kali-yuga simply by śrī hari-kīrtana.
dhyāyan kṛte yajan yajñais
tretāyāṁ dvāpare ’rccayan
yad āpnoti tad āpnoti
kalau saṅkīrtya keśavam
Viṣṇu Purāṇa (6.2.17)
By chanting the holy name of Śrī Keśava in Kali-yuga, a sādhaka obtains all the results that are gained in Satya-yuga by meditation, in Tretā-yuga by performance of sacrifice and in Dvāpara-yuga by worship of the deity.
kaliṁ sabhājayanty āryā
O King, in Kali-yuga simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord one can obtain all the desired goals of life available in all the yugas. Knowing this, Āryans, those highly esteemed in terms of culture and religion and who know the actual merit of all things, praise Kali-yuga.
In Bhakti-sandarbha (Anuccheda 273), quoting from the book Śrī Vaiṣṇava-cintāmaṇi, nāma-saṅkīrtana is said to be superior to the process of smaraṇa, remembrance:
aghacchit smaraṇaṁ viṣṇor
kīrtanaṁ tu tato varam
Remembrance of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who destroys all sins, is accomplished with great endeavour, for it is very difficult to withdraw the mind from the unlimited varieties of worldly sense objects and concentrate it upon Viṣṇu. But śrī kīrtana is easily accomplished simply by vibrating the lips. Therefore it is superior to and more effective than the process of smaraṇa.
The Nāradīya Purāṇa, describing bhagavan-nāma-kīrtana as supremely glorious, has declared it to be the sole means of rectification for the jīvas of Kali-yuga.
harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
In Bhakti-sandarbha Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, while describing the unending glories of the holy name, has told one reason why harināma-saṅkīrtana is so extensively praised in Kali-yuga. He has said that although in other yugas the Supreme Lord personally instructed the system of religion for those particular ages (dhyāna, yajña and so on) by practising it Himself, He did not teach the process of nāma-kīrtana by His personal behaviour. However, in Kali-yuga, Śrī Bhagavān, seeing the predicament of the jīvas, personally taught them the method of nāma-kīrtana by practising it Himself in the form of Śrī Gaurāṅga, as described in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 4.40): “nāma-prema-mālā gāṅthi’ parāila saṁsāre – the Lord wove a wreath of the holy name and prema with which He garlanded the entire material world.”
Therefore in Kali-yuga the glories of nāma-kīrtana are highly praised. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has consequently said (Bhakti-sandarbha (Anuccheda 273)):
ataeva yady anyāpi bhaktiḥ kalau kartavyā
tadā tat-saṁyoge naivety uktam
In Kali-yuga if another limb of bhakti is performed, it must be accompanied by harināma-saṅkīrtana.
Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī has also said that harināma-saṅkīrtana is the foremost among all the limbs of bhakti, such as smaraṇa and so on.
manyāmahe kīrtanam eva sattamaṁ
lolātmakaika svahṛdi sphurat smṛteḥ
vāci svayukte manasi śrutau tathā
dīvyat parān apy upakurvad ātmavat
[The Lord’s associates in Vaikuṇṭha said:] In our opinion kīrtana is superior to smaraṇa because remembrance manifests only within the mind, which is by nature unsteady. Kīrtana, however, manifests on the tongue and vocal organs, and automatically creates an impression upon the mind. In the end the sound of kīrtana not only satisfies the sense of hearing but it pleases all those who hear it, just as it pleases one’s self.
In smaraṇa there is no such power, therefore kīrtana alone is capable of controlling the mind, which is ever more flickering than the wind. Besides, the mind cannot perform smaraṇa without kīrtana. Other than kīrtana there is no other method by which the mind can be made steady – this is the deep and confidential meaning of this verse of Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī.
Out of many different types of śrī kṛṣṇa-kīrtana, chanting of the holy name of Kṛṣṇa (nāma-saṅkīrtana) is the best and the most suitable to be taken up. By śrī kṛṣṇa-nāma-saṅkīrtana the wealth of kṛṣṇa-prema very quickly makes its appearance in the heart of the sādhaka. Śrī nāma-saṅkīrtana is itself competent to generate the wealth of prema without reliance upon any other method. Therefore śrī nāma-saṅkīrtana is pre-eminent among all the limbs of bhakti. Śrī nāma-saṅkīrtana is both the means of attainment, sādhana, as well as the object to be attained, sādhya – this is the conclusion of Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī and all Vaiṣṇava ācāryas possessed of prema.
tan-nāma-saṅkīrtanam eva mukhyam
tat-prema-sampajjanane svayaṁ drāk
śaktaṁ tataḥ śreṣṭhatamam mataṁ tat
yat sevyate jihvikayā ’virāmaṁ
tasyā ’tulaṁ jalpatu ko mahatvam
Although there are many varieties of kṛṣṇa-kīrtana, nāma-saṅkīrtana is the foremost. This is because nāma-saṅkīrtana has the power to easily manifest the wealth of prema. Therefore, in the opinion of all, kīrtana is the best process. The happiness that is obtained by the tongue which incessantly tastes the nectar of śrī kṛṣṇa-nāma with heartfelt love is beyond comparison. Who can describe its greatness?
To loudly chant the holy name, form, qualities and pastimes of the Supreme Lord under the direction of pure Vaiṣṇavas is called kīrtana. In Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī’s Bhāgavatam commentary known as Krama-sandarbha, he has written the following in connection with saṅkīrtana:
saṅkīrtanaṁ bahubhir militvā tad-gāna-sukhaṁ śrī-kṛṣṇa-gānam
When many persons chant the name of the Lord in a loud voice, with faith and for the pleasure of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, it is called saṅkīrtana.
One other point to bear in mind is that, according to the scriptures, the glories of śrī harināma-kīrtana have been exalted hundreds of times over the process of harināma-japa. This is because one who performs japa purifies only himself, whereas one who performs loud nāma-saṅkīrtana purifies himself as well as all who hear the chanting.
This is indicated in the Nāradīya Purāṇa in a statement by Prahlāda Mahārāja:
ātmānaṁ ca putāty uccair
japan śrotṛn punāti ca
Chanting the holy name of Lord Hari loudly is a hundred times more powerful than chanting softly. A person who chants loudly purifies himself as well as those who hear him chanting.
Some people think that the mahā-mantra – hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare, hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare – is to be recited only as japa. They prohibit the loud chanting of this mahā-mantra. But Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who personally practised and propagated bhagavan-nāma-saṅkīrtana, has declared this mantra to be the mahā-mantra of Kali-yuga. He personally practised japa of this mahā-mantra, recording the number of names He chanted. In addition He performed saṅkīrtana in which there was no recording of the number of names chanted while deeply overwhelmed in spiritual emotion, with arms upraised, either alone or collectively. Much evidence of this is available in Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata and in the sacred books of Śrī Kavi Karṇapūra and other gosvāmīs. Therefore sādhakas can perform japa of this mahā-mantra like nāmācārya Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura, and they can also perform kīrtana by singing the holy name in a loud voice.
Residing in Śrī Vṛndāvana
Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma is super-excellently glorified because it is the eternal abode of the divine and charming pastimes of Svayam Bhagavān Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is the embodiment of rasa and the complete personification of majesty and sweetness. Śrī Vṛndāvana is anointed with the sublime pastimes of Mahābhāva-mayī Śrīmatī Rādhikā and Rasarāja Śrī Kṛṣṇa. By residing there and performing sādhana and bhajana, sādhakas may easily obtain manifestation of these transcendental pastimes within their hearts. The resolute determination to reside in Vraja displayed by the most highly esteemed Six Gosvāmīs is without precedent. Śrīla Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī has said in his Śrī Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta (Śataka 12.78):
śrī-vṛndāvana mama pāvanaṁ tvam eva
śrī-vṛndāvana mama jīvanaṁ tvam eva
śrī-vṛndāvana mama bhūṣanaṁ tvam eva
śrī-vṛndāvana mama sad-yaśas tvam eva
O Vṛndāvana, you are my purifier! O Vṛndāvana, you are my life! O Vṛndāvana, you are my ornament! O Vṛndāvana, you are my virtuous fame!
In Stavāvalī (Sva-niyama daśakam (2)) Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī has said:
na cānyatra kṣetre hari-tanu-sanāthe ’pi sujanād
rasāsvādaṁ premṇā dadhad api vasāmi kṣaṇam api
samaṁ tv etad grāmyāvalibhir abhitanvann api kathāṁ
vidhāsye saṁvāsaṁ vraja-bhuvana eva pratibhavam
In this verse Dāsa Gosvāmī has, with great affection, displayed deep faith towards Vraja-dhāma. Adopting unflinching resolve for residence in Vraja, he says, “Even if in some other dhāma the Śrī Vigraha of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is present and there is opportunity there to relish with great love hari-kathā flowing from the mouths of elevated devotees, I have no desire to live in such a place, even for a moment. But even if I must live in the company of vulgar persons who converse only about mundane topics, I will live in Vraja-bhūmi life after life.”
Out of the above-mentioned sixty-four limbs of bhakti, the last five are the most excellent. Even by slight contact with these items undertaken without offence, bhāva-bhakti makes its appearance due to their extraordinary power. By obtaining niṣṭhā in the performance either of one or of several of these principal limbs, one is sure to obtain perfection.
 The word dvija in common usage can refer to a man of any one of the first three classes – brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya or vaiśya – who has been reborn by being invested with the sacred thread. Here, however, the word dvija is being used specifically to refer to the state of a brāhmaṇa, or one who knows Brahman.
 Upanayana-saṁskāra is a ceremony in which a guru initiates a boy into one of the three twice-born classes and by which the boy is invested with the sacred thread, thus becoming qualified to study the Vedas.
 The term bhagavad-arcana refers specifically to the worship of the deity, whereas the term bhagavad-upāsanā is a broader designation that refers to worship of the Lord through any of the different limbs of bhakti such as śravaṇa, kīrtana, viṣṇu-smaraṇa and arcana also. The word upāsanā literally means upa-āsanā – to sit near by means of the heart. Thus bhagavad-upāsanā refers to all those activities by which one approaches the Lord through the heart in order to offer worship.
 One manvantara is equal to seventy-one cycles of the four yugas: Satya, Tretā, Dvāpara and Kali. The four yugas are equivalent to 4,320,000 years.