rāgera bhajana-patha kahi ebe abhimata
loka-veda-sāra ei vānī
sakhīra anūgā hañā vraje siddha-deha pāñā
ei bhāve jūḍābe parānī
Now I will describe the process of rāga-bhajana, the path of spontaneous attachment, which is the essence of all the Vedic teachings. You should remain under the guidance of the sakhīs in your siddha-deha, spiritual body, and in this way, your soul will be cooled and satisfied.
Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura now speaks of how rāgānuga-bhakti can be followed. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī describes rāgānuga-bhakti in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.270–3):
yā sā rāgānugocyate
That bhakti which is distinctly found in the Vrajavāsīs—including all the cows, deer, parrots, and other birds and animals—is called rāgātmikā-bhakti. Bhakti that follows in the wake of that rāgātmikā-bhakti is called rāgānuga-bhakti.
However, people have no intelligence; they don’t quote Rūpa Gosvāmī. What is the meaning of rāgānuga-bhakti? The Vrajavāsīs have rāgātmika-bhakti. The footstep followers of the rāgatmikā-bhaktas are called rāganugās. A person who is unaware of the symptoms of rāgātmika-bhakti will not be able to understand what that rāgātmika-bhakti is. ‘Anu’ means anuśīlana. It refers to the deep desire to continuously follow (rāgānugā) the rāgātmika associates of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. How can this mood be obtained?
iṣṭe svārasikī rāgaḥ
mayī yā bhaved bhaktiḥ
A quenchless loving thirst for the object of one’s love, Kṛṣṇa, that leads to natural and intense absorption in Him is called rāga. Such rāgamaya-bhakti, or activities such as stringing garlands with intense rāga, is called rāgātmikā-bhakti.
Is God alone? Is He alone vāstava-vastu? No. He is completely full when the Vrajavāsīs are with Him. The Vrajavāsīs and the Vraja-devīs are deeply attached to Kṛṣṇa. They are not disturbed or divided for even a moment. They can never be separated from Kṛṣṇa. When a devotee follows such eternal associates, his devotion will continuously run. He will have deep eagerness and desire. This is called anurāga, like the overpowering love of Yaśodā Mātā, which controls Kṛṣṇa. And Śrīmatī Rādhārānī controls Yaśodā Mātā by Her love. Yaśodā Mātā will not do anything without Śrīmatī Rādhārānī’s desire and mercy. The sakhās also do everything according to Śrīmatī’s desire. All the associates belonging to dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya, and mādhurya completely follow svarūpa-śakti Śrīmatī Rādhārānī.
This is called anurāga. There is a continuous flow. The anurāgi person has overpowering love. He is called a rāgātmika. And the followers of the rāgatmikas are called rāgānugas. Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura describes these moods in his kīrtana: rāgera bhajana-patha kahi ebe abhimata, loka-veda-sāra ei vānī.
What is the meaning of rāgānuga-bhajana? The Vedas, Upaniṣads, and all other śāstras contain a shadow of spiritual reality. In this world, everyone becomes attached to a mundane conception of love, which lacks any substance. The love of this world is destroyed when obstacles arise. Conversely, anurāga will always increase in the presence of more and more obstacles. It can never be destroyed. The recreational process of artificial attachment in this world is so-called love; this is nothing. This is lust; it is a conditional agreement for mutual pleasure. A couple will be greatly attached for some time, but then they divorse each other. But prema is unconditional.
The Vedas, Upaniṣads, and the other śāstras contain many rules and regulations. They specify many forms of etiquette, but Kṛṣṇa Himself explains how spontaneous love and affection transcends all forms of etiquette.
ājñāyaivaṁ guṇān doṣān
mayādiṣṭān api svakān
dharmān santyajya yaḥ sarvān
māṁ bhajeta sa tu sattamaḥ
Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 8.62
Prescribed duties are described in the scriptures. If one studies them, he can understand all their attributes and faults, and then renounce them completely to render loving service unto Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Such a person is considered the best.
āsām aho caraṇa-reṇu-juṣām ahaṁ syāṁ
vṛndāvane kim api gulma-latauṣadhīnām
yā dustyajaṁ sva-janam ārya-pathaṁ ca hitvā
bhejur mukuṇḍa-padavīṁ śrutibhir vimṛgyām
Aho ! The vraja-gopīs have abandoned all that is hard to give up, such as children, family, and the path of chastity, and they have surrendered with pure love to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, whose lotus feet are eternally searched for by the Vedas. My entreaty is that, in my future births, I will take birth among the bushes, creepers, and herbs of Vraja-maṇḍala, so that I may receive the dust of these gopīs’ lotus feet.
The Vraja-devīs don’t waste their time following rules and regulations. Their love is continuous and unbroken.
Uddhava came to Vraja to give some advice, but the Vraja-devīs told Uddhava, “You tell us to always think about Kṛṣṇa, but we have no more mind—we have lost our mind. Our mind and heart have left us. How can we think and chant any mantras now? It is impossible for us. We have lost everything.”Rāgera bhajana-patha kahi ebe abhimata, loka-veda-sāra ei vānī—the Vrajavāsīs don’t feel that there is a need to follow the instructions of the scriptures. Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī says, “I don’t know what is dharma or adharma. I don’t know anything. I don’t know what is right or wrong.” But does this mean that the Vraja-devīs are breaking all the rules and regulations? Never! Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura says, “I only follow in the footsteps of the Vraja-devīs. I hope to attain my siddha-deha in Vraja-bhūmi.”
The guidance of the sakhīs is called rāgānuga-bhakti. People think, “I will not take shelter in Vraja. I will also be a sakhī. I will also be a rāgatmika-jana.” But Ṭhākura Mahāśaya says, sakhīra anūgā hañā vraje siddha-deha pāñā, ei bhāve jūḍābe parānī—he hopes to be continuously under the guidance of the sakhīs and aspires to attain his siddha-deha in Vraja-bhūmi.
Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī says in Vilāpa-kuṣumāñjali (16):
pādābjayos tava vinā vara dāsyam eva
nānyat kadāpi samaye kila devī yāce
sākhyāya te mama namo ‘stu namo ‘stu nityaṁ
dāsyāya te mama raso ‘stu raso ‘stu satyam
He Devī Rādhike! I never wish anything but the topmost loving service unto Your lotus feet. If You want to make me a sakhī, then I offer my praṇāmas again and again to that position from far away, because I don’t actually want it. Making a vow, I am begging only to have continuous anurāga, loving attachment in Your service as a maidservant.
Mahāprabhu has also prayed like this:
maj-janmanaḥ phalam idaṁ madhu-kaiṭabhāre
mat prārthanīya mad-anugraha eṣa eva
bhṛtyasya-bhṛtyam iti māṁ smara lokanātha
O Lokanātha, slayer of the Madhu and Kaitabha demons ! Please be kind to me and fulfill my prayer that You may accepts me as a servant of Your servant’s servant, a servant of such a servant of Your servant’s servant, a servant of a servant of Your servant’s servant, and a servant of Your servant’s servant.
Mahāprabhu also gave this siddha-praṇālī in His Śikṣāṣṭaka:
ayi nanda-tanuja kiṅkaraṁ
patitaṁ māṁ viṣame bhavāmbudhau
kṛpayā tava pāda-paṅkaja-
Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura prays, “Sakhīra anūgā hañā vraje siddha-deha pāñā, ei bhāve jūḍābe parānī—I can attain my siddha-deha in Vraja by always being under the guidance of the sakhīs.”
A sādhaka can hope to have his aspirations fulfilled by taking shelter of the Vraja-devīs’ lotus feet. Otherwise, it is not possible. A sādhaka cannot attain his siddha-deha if he is not continuously under the guidance of the Vraja-devīs. He will not obtain his ‘passport and visa’ to Goloka Vṛndāvana. He will never attain entrance into Vraja. It will not be possible for him to realize his siddha-deha.
The Vrajavāsīs have natural desires. This is called rāga. Rāga has primary and secondary symptoms. The primary symptom is characterized by an intense thirst to attain the shelter of Kṛṣṇa and His Vraja-devīs. There will be a deep desire to follow the Vraja-devīs. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śukadeva Gosvāmī gave an example to Parīkṣit Mahārāja.
The dvija-patnīs (the wives of the brahmaṇas) used to reside in Mathurā. From early morning, they would constantly think of the Vraja-devīs’ services. They would bathe, cook, and clean while always thinking of Kṛṣṇa and His devotees.
They would wonder, “Kṛṣṇa always goes to the homes of the Vraja-devīs and steals butter. They cook the complete night, and also arrange for much butter. And then, Kṛṣṇa comes and steals everything away from their homes. They have such inconceivable love for Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa enters so many houses, just to taste their love for Him. How great the gopīs are! They hide everything for Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa completely tastes their love. He doesn’t share their love with anyone else.
The Vraja-devīs save their love only for Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa then discreetly enters their homes and avails Himself of their love. He steals butter and eats it to His heart’s delight. He then gives His remnants to the sakhās. How tasteful is the love of the gopīs!”
The Vraja-devīs only desire to please Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa gives His remnants and says, “How tasteful is the Vrajavāsīs’ prasādam!”
By honoring the Vrajavāsīs’ prasādam, you will develop anurāga effortlessly. On the other hand, you will lose everything by honoring the remnants of nonsense people. They will steal everything away from you. But your anurāga for Kṛṣṇa will always increase by honoring the prasāda of the Vraja-devīs. Your attraction, affection, and love will increase. The sakhīs became more near and dear to Kṛṣṇa after they honored the prasādam of the Vraja-devīs. Kṛṣṇa Himself distributes this prasādam to all the sakhās when they go house to house from early in the morning.
Why did they go early in the morning? The time of brāhma-muhūrta is very holy. This time is only reserved for the devotees. People are fast asleep during this time, but the Vraja-devīs are ready for Kṛṣṇa’s sevā from the time of brāhma-muhūrta. Kṛṣṇa distributes this love. Even the crows, squirrels, monkeys, mongooses, parrots, peacocks, and all the birds and animals of Vraja would run to relish this love.
The peacocks would call out, “Ke-ka! Ke-ka!”
Kṛṣṇa would reply, “I am here. I am distributing the love that all of you have been eagerly waiting for.”
So, the Dvija-patnīs in Mathurā were remembering these loving exchanges. They were weeping and praying to also attain this love. They cried out, “When will we take birth in Vraja and become the footstep followers of the Vraja-devīs? By smearing their foot dust all over our body, our life will become successful. By the mercy of the Vraja-devīs, Kṛṣṇa will accept us, and He will take our prasādam.”
By constantly thinking about the Vraja-devīs, the Dvija-patnīs made Kṛṣṇa come to them. Worship of Kṛṣṇa is observed by always thinking about the Vraja-devīs. How can you render service to Kṛṣṇa without anurāga? Your love is useless and dry if you are not under the guidance of the Vraja-devīs. Kṛṣṇa will not relish such love.
However, Kṛṣṇa will take everything that you have to offer if you follow in the footsteps of the Vraja-devīs. He will even take dry chickpeas. Sanātana Gosvāmī would offer dry rotīs to Madana-mohana.
Madana-mohana would say, “These rotīs are so dry! Will you not add even a little salt?”
Sanātana Gosvāmī replied, “No, this is not possible. Today, You are asking for salt. Tomorrow, You will ask for sabjī, sweets, halavā, rabaḍi, malpua, and butter. How can I fulfill Your desires?”
Kṛṣṇa would joyfully relish everything that Sanātana Gosvāmī had to offer. Why? He is none other than Lavaṅga Mañjarī herself. Anything he offered would be inconceivably tasteful and sweet. This is called sakhīra-anugata. You should not think that the Vraja-devīs are ordinary women. Kṛṣṇa is very greedy to taste the greatness of the Vraja-devīs’ love. Thus, He wanders all over Vraja-maṇḍala.
Before Kṛṣṇa’s birth, the Vrajavāsīs were never attackedby any demons. Nanda Bābā, Abhinanda, Sunanda, Upananda, Parjanya Ṛṣi, and the other elders of Vraja had no problems. But their ‘problems’ started three days after Kṛṣṇa’s birth. A demon lady (Pūtanā) and many other demons came to attack and acquire Vraja. The Vrajavāsīs were disturbed by great storms, forest fires, whirlwinds, and other disturbances. They became very unhappy by such occurrences. But they would forget everything when they had Kṛṣṇa’s darśana.
Kṛṣṇa thought, “The Vrajavāsīs will not feel happy and peaceful as long as I am present in Vraja-maṇḍala. They will only suffer. I will go away. Then the demons will come to wherever I am. I will kill all the demons amidst hills and oceans. Why do they disturb My sakhās and sakhīs?”
Śaṅkhacūḍa came and tried to steal the gopīs away. None of these demons would have come to Vraja, had Kṛṣṇa not been present there. The Vrajavāsīs would have had no problems.
The demons follow Kṛṣṇa wherever He goes. Why? No one wants Lord Nārāyaṇa—everyone only desires Lakṣmī-devī. All cry out, “Ha Lakṣmī ! Ha Lakṣmī !” but they don’t call out to Lord Nārāyaṇa. Just as Lakṣmī-devī always accompanies Lord Nārāyaṇa, the Vraja-devīs are always by the side of Kṛṣṇa. None of them would have appeared without Kṛṣṇa.
Kṛṣṇa thought, “What can I do? The love and affection of the Vrajavāsīs is very sweet. Although I am Parabrahma, I came to Vraja-maṇḍala to taste the love and affection of the Vrajavāsīs.”
Everything will be natural in a place where the anurāgi-bhaktas are present, but many demons and enjoyers try to disturb the residents of that place. They will create many problems. Thus, Kṛṣṇa was thinking how He could protect everyone from such demoniac influences.
A rāgānuga-bhakta is characterized by primary and secondary symptoms. He is always engaged in kṛṣṇa-sevā. He always follows the rāgātmika associates of Vraja—meaning, he always follows the anurāga of the nitya-siddha Vrajavāsīs.
In his Bhakti-sandarbha, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī stated how the pure heart of a sādhaka will be enlightened by the mercy of the rāgātmika associates. By listening to the śāstras’ glorification of rāgātmika-bhakti, the sādhaka will try to practice devotion with spontaneous love and affection. He will do everything in a mood of prema-sevā. The sādhaka will then become realized in the process of rāgātmika-bhakti. His heart will always be peaceful and happy. He will never be tired and hopeless. But ordinary people cannot understand this.
When Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura was dismissed by Cintāmaṇi, he took shelter of his guru, Somagiri. Sensing Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura’s strong attraction towards Vraja and Vrajendra-nandana Śyāmasundara, Somagiri told Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura, “You should stay with us in the āśrama. You can go to Vraja- maṇḍala when you become strong and qualified. You should not go now.” Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura prayed:
cintāmaṇir jayati somagirir gurur me
śikṣā-guruś ca bhagavān śikhi-pincha-mauliḥ
līlā-svayaṁvara-rasaṁ labhate jayaśrīḥ
All glories to my patha-pradarśaka-guru, Cintāmaṇi, and to my dīkṣā-guru, Somagiri. All glories to my śikṣā-guru, Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who wears a peacock feather on His head. Under the shelter of His lotus feet, which are like desire trees, Rādhikā Jayaśrī enjoys the rasa-filled pastimes of being His eternal consort.
His Gurudeva taught him that anurāga will never come without the mercy of the Vraja-devīs. He told the Ṭhākura, “Without this anurāga, you will be attracted to sense enjoyment, and then you will lose your life. Jaḍa-anurāga will steal you away due to the absence of cid-anurāga. You should carefully stay here. By being in sādhu-saṅga, you will be able to follow the footsteps of the Vraja-devīs. You can go to Vraja-maṇḍala after attaining anurāga.”
But Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura didn’t pay heed to his Gurudeva’s words. After traveling for a while, he came across a lady drawing water from a well. He approached the lady, asking for some water. As he drank the water, he also drank the lady’s beauty. He became restless and followed her. When the lady went inside her house, he stood outside.
Her husband asked him, “What do you want Bābā? Some mādhukarī?”
“Can you call the lady who has gone inside her house?”
When the lady came, Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura asked her, “Can you give me your hairpins?”
The unassuming lady gave him the hairpins. Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura then pierced his two eyes with her hairpins. Everyone cried out in horror.
Although a sādhaka desires anurāga, his senses may still be drawn towards sense enjoyment if he hasn’t taken shelter of the lotus feet of the Vraja-devīs.
After piercing his eyes, Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura ran towards Vraja-maṇḍala to attain the shelter of the Vraja-devīs. Kṛṣṇa couldn’t tolerate Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura’s pain. He thought, “He gave such pain to his senses for My sake. Now I will definitely take care of him.”
But my Guru-varga says that there is no need for such strong, hard austerity. They tell us to follow in the footsteps of the rāgātmika Vrajavāsīs to attain rāgāmayī-bhakti. By being the footstep followers of the Vrajavāsīs, you will be a rāgānugā.
The primary symptom of a rāgānuga-bhakta is characterized by his intense longing to make Kṛṣṇa happy. He is always engaged in kṛṣṇa-sevā. He will not have any relationship with those who don’t have anurāga. And, he will not go to a place that is devoid of anurāga. He will never stay in a place where there is no svajātīya-aśāya-snigdha-saṅga. Only those who have anurāga are helpful. A rāgānugā-bhakta always strives to advance by continuously engaging his body, mind, and senses in kṛṣṇa-sevā. Everything will be attained by practicing premamayī-sevā under the guidance of Śrī Guru.
Excerpted from the Bhakta Bandhav “Prema-Bhakti-Candrika”, Chapter 5
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