prabhu kahe,—“eho haya, āge kaha āra”
rāya kahe,—“prema-bhakti—sarva-sādhya-sāra”

Śrīman Mahāprabhu said, “O Rāmānanda, this may be called the sādhya, but please speak something more.” Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya said, “Prema-bhakti is the essence of all perfection.

Up until now, Śrīman Mahāprabhu had only responded to all proposals with “eho bāhya – this is external,” but now He says, “Eho haya –this may be.” When ānaśūnyābhakti was proposed, He said, “This is good,” because whatever Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya had explained before had not been conducive for the progressive understanding of the master-servant relationship. However, this ānaśūnyābhakti is favorable for its development.

Mahāprabhu’s request for him to speak further on this point reveals that Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya has now reached the correct path but should proceed further. From the verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.3) which Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya spoke to illuminate ānaśūnyābhakti, one may comprehend that practicing ānaśūnyābhakti and hearing harikathā is so powerful that Bhagavān becomes controlled by the sādhaka who does so. The Śruti also confirms that Bhagavān is controlled by bhakti (bhaktivaśa purusa), yet the degree to which He is controlled is also gradated. He is not controlled equally by all the bhaktas.

Sādhakas engage in devotional services according to their individual tastes and desires, and thus they control Bhagavān to the degree of their devotion. They may even be performing the same limb of bhakti as each other, but due to the sādhakas’ individual natures, there will be differences in their practice, so they will not control Bhagavān to the same degree. Essentially, this means that to the degree of intensity with which a devotee desires to perform service, Bhagavān is then accordingly inclined to manifest His quality of being controlled by him. It is for this reason that the devotees of śānta, dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya, and kānta-bhāva1 do not each control Bhagavān to the same extent.

There is another point to consider: Is Bhagavān controlled simply by hearing the hari-kathā that comes from the mouth of His devotees? Or is Bhagavān controlled by a listener who attains some special state on hearing hari-kathā? It is with the intention of clarifying this that Mahāprabhu asked Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya to speak a little further on the subject. The listener controls Bhagavān just by listening to the narrations of Bhagavān’s pastimes – this is fine, but this takes place only when the hearer of hari-kathā is situated in the stage of prema.

Prema-bhakti – devotion endowed with the characteristics of divine love. That proclivity to render such service that it gives excessive happiness to Śrī Kṛṣṇa is called prema. Through the performance of hearing and chanting performed in the stage of ānaśūnyābhakti, by the mercy of Bhagavān, the contamination of the heart is gradually dispelled. Thereafter, knowledge of the servant’s relationship with the Lord as well as the tendency to serve Śrī Kṛṣṇa, manifest in the heart. Then, by the mercy of the svarūpa-śakti, the essence of the hlādinī and savit-śaktis (Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental bliss and knowledge potencies) enters the heart of the sādhaka. The fully ripened, or mature, stage of śuddha-sattva is called prema. This devotional service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, which is filled with pure love, is known as prema-bhakti.

Bhagavat-kathā is both our sādhya and our sādhana; similarly, so is prema-bhakti. If there is prema within the heart of the sādhaka then he will perform all the limbs of bhakti with deep love, and Śrī Kṛṣṇa is pleased with him. Without prema, the sādhaka may perform bhakti but that bhakti will never satisfy Śrī Kṛṣṇa. For a person who is hungry, even dry bread seems most appealing, but if someone is neither hungry nor thirsty then he can easily ignore a delicious feast replete with the six types of tastes (salty, sweet, pungent, bitter, sour, and astringent).

Controlled by the prema of Vidura, Śrī Kṛṣṇa ate even banana skins, yet because Duryodhana had no prema, Śrī Kṛṣṇa abstained from a huge feast, composed of all six tastes, served by him. Śrī Kṛṣṇa ate the rice and yoghurt offered with prema by the wives of the brāhmaas, Śrī Rāmacandra ate the remnant fruits of Śabarī (a low-caste lady dwelling in the forest), and Śrīman Mahāprabhu consumed vegetables snatched from the devotee Śrīdhara. Bhagavān, hungry to eat whatever a premībhakta offers Him, very lovingly and enthusiastically accepts foodstuffs presented with prema.

Although Śrī Lakmī resides eternally on the chest of Śrīman Nārāyaa, she identifies as being the wife of a brāhmaa. Proud of this designation, her serving attitude was slackened and she was thus precluded from entering the pastimes of Vraja. When one has knowledge of the relationship between the master (sevya) and servant (sevaka), the tendency or desire to render service transforms into prema and the premībhakta chants the holy name, maintaining a vow to chant a fixed number of names daily. The devotee engages in sādhana-bhajana, absorbed in the moods expressed in these songs:

rādhā-kuṇḍa-taa-kuñja-kuīra, govardhana-parvata, yāmuna-tīra

A bower on the bank of Rādhā-kuda, as well as Govardhana Hill, and the banks of the Yamunā River – all these places are my life and soul.”

he rādhe vraja-devīke ca lalite he nanda-sūno kuta
śrī-govardhana-kalpa-pādapa-tale kālindī-vane kuta

O Rādhā, mistress of Vndāvana! O Lalitā! O son of Nanda Mahārāja! Where are all of you now? Are you seated beneath the kalpa-vka (desire trees) of Śrī Govardhana Hill? Or are you roaming in the forests along the soft sandy banks of the Yamunā?”

A devotee who performs sādhana-bhajana in this way very much pleases Bhagavān, who becomes restless to taste even his ordinary offerings. In order to taste prema, He will dance for just a cup of buttermilk.


nānopacāra-kta-pūjanam ārta-bandho
aiva bhakta-hdaya sukha-vidruta syāt
yāvat k
ud asti jahare jarahā pipāsā
tāvat sukhāya bhavato nanu bhak

Padyāvalī (13)

“ ‘As long as one feels acute hunger and thirst, one enjoys eating and drinking. In the same way, even if one worships ārttabandhu Bhagavān (the Lord who is the friend of the distressed) with many different types of paraphernalia, only when that pūjā is performed with prema will that devotee’s heart melt with happiness.’

The essential meaning is that if very strong hunger and thirst are not present, then even if one is offered very tasty, fragrant, and appetizing dishes, one will still not have a desire to eat. Likewise, if there is no prema, then even if one worships Śrī Kṛṣṇa with many, many different articles, still He is not pleased. And, on the other hand, if one has a raging hunger and thirst, then one will appreciate and be greatly satisfied by taking common rice and water. Similarly, if prema is present in a devotee’s heart, Śrī Kṛṣṇa receives great happiness by accepting even ordinary items the devotee gives Him.

Some people may doubt that the example and the idea being clarified actually correspond because, in the example it says that only if a person is hungry and thirsty can taking simple rice and water give him happiness. Yet in the idea being clarified, it says that Bhagavān indeed feels hungry upon being given anything with prema. Thus the doubt may come in the mind that, if the devotee is hungry to serve, then how does this makes Bhagavān hungry? Yet such a doubt is unfounded.2

We can thus see that since Bhagavān lovingly accepts a devotee’s service, according to the degree of strong love that he has for Bhagavān, that such a doubt has no basis. If prema is not present in the heart of the devotee, then the desire to accept service cannot possibly awaken in the heart of Bhagavān. Once prema awakens in the heart of the devotee and reaches the stage of extreme eagerness and longing to serve, then the desire to accept service awakens in the heart of bhaktavatsala Bhagavān (the Lord who is always affectionate to the devotee). That is why here, Bhagavān is called ārttabandhu (friend of the distressed). With regard to the object of sādhana, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī has said:

kti-sādhyā bhavet sādhya-
āvā sā sādhanābhidhā
nitya-siddhasya bh
ākaya hdi sādhyatā

Bhakti-rasāmta-sindhu (1.2.2)

Sādhana-bhakti is the engagement of the mind and senses in the limbs of bhakti for the purpose of attaining bhāva-bhakti. This bhāva is a potentiality which eternally exists in the heart of the jīva and is manifested in the heart purified by sādhana (through the mercy of a nitya-siddha, a living sad-guru).”

Pure devotion is the ever-present, eternal constitutional position of the jīva. The living being is a tiny particle of blissful consciousness, likened to a spark of sunshine (cit-kaa) of the all-blissful spiritual sun (cit-sūrya) Śrī Kṛṣṇa. This naturally occuring happiness is known as nityasiddhabhāva (eternally present love for Kṛṣṇa) and it is awakened in the heart of the jīva by the practice of sādhanabhakti. In this stage, the eternally perfect object, namely, the potency of pure love for Godhead, reaches its perfection. When the bound jīvas, endeavoring by their senses, strive to attain bhāva, their practice is called sādhanabhakti. The goal of sādhanabhakti is to awaken bhāvabhakti.

At the time of initiation, or dīkā, the holy master instructs the sādhaka on his relationship with Śrī Bhagavān. Fixed in this relationship, the devotee performs sādhana with firm determination, and thus he achieves bhāvabhakti. When this bhāvabhakti reaches a completely ripened condition it is known as premabhakti. The sādhakabhakta becomes extremely blessed when śrī guru bestows realization of his position as a maidservant of Śrī Rādhā. Only by the devotion of His devotees does Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s love swell. The term sādhanabhakti includes all of the progressive stages of bhaktiśraddhā (faith), sādhu-saga (association with pure devotees), bhajana-anuṣṭhāna (performance of devotional service to Kṛṣṇa), anartha-nivtti (the diminishing of all unwanted habits), niṣṭhā (firm faith), ruci (taste), and āsakti (attachment).


kṛṣṇa-bhakti-rasa-bhāvitā mati
yadi kuto ’pi labhyate
tatra laulyam api mūlyam ekala

i-suktair na labhyate

Padyāvalī (14)

“ ‘O men of virtue, if consciousness that is saturated and perfumed with the nectar of kṛṣṇa-bhakti is available anywhere, then purchase it at once without delay. The only price to get it is greed to obtain vraja-rasa (the moods of Vraja). Without this divine greed, then even heaps of spiritual credits (sukti) accumulated over millions of lives will not be enough to procure that bhakti for Śrī Kṛṣṇa.’

Śrīla Bhaktivinoda hākura says that this type of devotion, where the heart is soaked in kṛṣṇa-bhakti-rasa (the nectar of loving service to Kṛṣṇa), has only one price and that price is greed. Bhakti is of two types: the first is śāstraavadhāraā-mayī vaidhībhakti, the path of bhakti inspired by the governing principles of the scriptures, and the second is lobha-mūlaka rāgānugabhakti, devotion impelled by greed to follow the loving sentiments of the eternally perfected residents of Vraja. Here Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya is alluding solely to this second type of devotion, namely lobha-mūlaka rāgānugabhakti. Śrīla Cakravartī hākura tells us that the only method to give happiness to Śrī Kṛṣṇa is kṛṣṇabhakti-bhavitā mati, to have a consciousness infused with the flavors of loving service to Him. A fortunate person may enter this rāgānugabhakti, spontaneous devotion.

In this case “Śrī Kṛṣṇa” means “Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the son of the king of Vraja,” and bhakti signifies bhāvabhakti, the initial stage of perfection in devotion, which matures into premabhakti. The phrase premabhaktirasabhāvitā mati refers to that person whose every pore is utterly saturated with śrī-kṛṣṇa-bhakti-rasa, and whose intelligence has become one with that bhaktirasa3. This mood may only be attained by the mercy of Bhagavān. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it has been said:

satā prasagān mama vīrya-savido
bhavanti h
t-kara-rasāyanā kathā
aād āśv apavarga-vartmani
śraddhā ratir bhaktir anukramiyati

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.25.25)

In the assembly of pure devotees, powerful discussions illuminating My heroic deeds become a rejuvenating tonic for both the ears and the heart. By hearing these narrations, one quickly advances on the path of emancipation from ignorance. First he develops śraddhā, then rati, and finally prema-bhakti.”

This bhaktibhāva is received by two methods – by the mercy of the devotee (bhaktaprasādaja) and by the mercy of Bhagavān (bhagavatprasādaja). The mercy of Bhagavān strictly follows the mercy of the devotee. This is the very reason why Svayam Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa descended in the form of the topmost devotee, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and poured His mercy everywhere.

Śrīla Narottama hākura has prayed to Śrī Lokanātha Gosvāmī:

kabe lokanātha more sage laiyā jābe
śrī rūpera pāda-padme more samarpibe

O Gurudeva! When will you bestow upon me your mercy and offer me to the feet of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī?”

In the same manner we see Śrī Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja praying at the end of almost every chapter of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmta:

śrī-rūpa-raghunātha-pade yāra āśa
āmta kahe kṛṣṇa dāsa

Always praying at the lotus feet of Śrī Rūpa and Śrī Raghunātha for their mercy, I, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja, recite this Śrī Caitanya-caritāmta.”

Bhagavān can give bhakti but not a mood of service to Him. Along with bhakti, the devotee can also give his own bhāva and his own personal realizations. By accepting these bhāvas, or moods, it no longer remains difficult for one to attain bhakti. In the same way that sugar syrup permeates every atom of a rasagullā, similarly every pore of the body of a vraja-rasarasika guru or Vaiṣṇava is completely saturated with premabhakti-rasa. At every moment, the rasika Vaiṣṇava continuously distributes the most purifying sweet discussions of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. His mind, intelligence, affection, and character are all completely filled with Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s rasamayībhakti (ambrosial devotion).

By associating with these rasika devotees, greed is awakened to serve Śrī Kṛṣṇa with prema. If due to that greed, one has to give up his very life, Bhagavān will indeed become dearer to him than his own existence. We all possess this premarasa in our hearts, but now it is dormant. It is by hearing discussions saturated with bhaktirasa that this prema will be awakened. The devotee hears bhaktiśāstras (devotional scriptures) and cultivates his Kṛṣṇa consciousness by following the instructions given in them; thus he becomes immersed in this bhaktibhāva.


1Kānta-bhāva – another name for mādhurya-bhāva.

2Here in this verse Rāya Rāmānanda is explaining, that when the devotee has prema and yearns for Kṛṣṇa to accept his offering, then the love in the devotee causes a hunger and thirst in Kṛṣṇa. The devotee’s affection creates in Kṛṣṇa a hunger and thirst to accept the offering. The offering itself may consist of ordinary items, but still Kṛṣṇa comes, and with great relish He tastes what the devotee has offered. Why? It is because the prema in the heart of the devotee has created a great hunger in Him.

3Bhakti-rasa – attachment to Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the mood and manner of those eternally perfected devotees, particularly the Vrajavāsīs.

[CC-by-ND GVP]

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Śrīla Gurudeva did not give dīkṣā initiations for more than two decades after Acarya Kesarī’s disappearance. Nonetheless, he was widely revered as a spiritual master during this me. Many accepted Śrīla Gurudeva as a parakīya-guru and in turn he accepted them as parakīya disciples. Devotees from ISKCON, other Gauḍīya Maṭhas, local brāhmaṇas and priests, and village people from different castes all respected and accepted Śrīla Gurudeva as their beloved teacher and guardian. Examples of parakīya-guru and disciples can also be seen in the lives of the Six Gosvāmīs and previous ācāryas. In some cases, the indirect disciple is superior to the direct disciple. If someone has offered everything to the lotus feet of a Vaiṣṇava, and the Vaiṣṇava has accepted one as his own, then mantra and dīkṣā are a formality. Our lineage is the bhāgavata-parampara—in which prominence is given to śikṣā, spiritual instruction. 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Śrīla Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja would instruct them, “Go stay under the guidance of Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja and learn from him. If you disrespect or disobey the Vaiṣṇavas, and they dismiss you, then I will also not give you any shelter.” Whenever Pūjyapāda Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja would come to Mathurā, he would bring many gifts like brooms, Bengali vegetables—banana flowers, jafru, parmal—cloth for the Deities and the Vaiṣṇavas, and sundries; he never came empty-handed. Śrīla Gurudeva would occassionaly invite Śrīla Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja to Mathurā to give dīkṣā initiations to Mathurāvāsīs or brahmacārīs who were prepared. When these pure Vaiṣṇavas met, they offered praṇāma to each other and then spent many hours sitting side by side, engaged in conversation. Śrīla Gurudeva would give all the donations he had received to Śrīla Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja, who would in turn give everything he had collected to Śrīla Gurudeva. 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Śrīla Gurudeva encouraged everyone to follow the appearance and disappearance days of all Vaiṣṇava-ācāryas; indeed, Śrīla Gurudeva himself respected and followed their āvirbhāva and tirobhava festivals. Śrīla Gurudeva always taught how to properly follow Vaiṣṇava etiquette by his own example. Śrīla Gurudeva instructed the brahmacārīs, “Never think that other Vaiṣṇavas besides your guru should not be respected. Śrī Caitanya

Annakuta and Pujyapada Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Gosvami Maharaja

When I came to Mathura to stay with Gurudeva, I was alone. I left one family, and came to stay in the family of Vaisnavas. We were lucky to have Pujyapada Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Gosvami Maharaja visit us in Mathura; he would often speak harikatha in the evening. Gurudeva would give him the vyasasana and request him to speak. Pujyapada Bhakti Bhudeva Srauti Maharaja, Pujyapada Bhakti Jivana Janardhana Maharaja, Pujyapada Hrisikesa Maharaja, Pujyapada Paramahamsa, Maharaja, Pujyapada Sara Maharaja, and many other Acaryas would come to Mathura. They shared a sweet relationship with Gurudeva. Gurudeva would respect them, and he would tell me to serve them. In this way, I would be able to understand them.He said, “Unless one respects and serves the family members of God, one can never realize anything.” Therefore, he requested us to serve them. We didn’t serve as a matter of duty. People who serve by force have no love. Guru and Vaisnavas are transcendental power houses. They are the expansions of Svarupa sakti. If you serve them, you will be connected to their power. By their power, you will understand who the Vaisnavas are.Millions of people came to Mahaprabhu. Mahaprabhu would place them under the guidance of His different associates like Sri Svarupa Damodara, Raghunatha das Gosvami, Vakresvara Pandit, Gopala Guru, and Gadadhara Pandit. No one could understand Mahaprabhu’s mood without taking shelter of His associates.I never thought that Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Maharaja was not my Gurudeva. He taught me many things. I was a servant in his temple for many months. I would only work and work. Maharaja would call me a karmi, or worker. He would say, “You are running up and down the stairs a thousand times a day. Then, you run to Holi gate, and then to Janma bhumi, like a horse.” I was always working. Therefore, when Maharaja came to see me, he would call me a maha-karmi. But, he had so much love for me. Once, he pulled me to Rajamundry and to Kovur. He also took me to the Caitanya Candrodaya temple in Balesvara. Why? He had unlimited love. I will never be able to define or explain this love. Before, I was with Maharaja. For me, he was my relative, my family. But, I could not understand his nature as a Mahabhagavat, and I would argue with him. I never thought that this could be Vaisnava aparadha, or that this could make a Vaisnava angry.Sometimes, Maharaja or Pujyapada Janardhana Maharaja or Pujyapada Srauti Maharaja would come and stay for fifteen days or a month in Mathura. Vrndavana only had Caitanya Gaudiya Matha, and Mathura only had our temple. Srila Puri Maharaja would come and give class. His classes were infused with much spiritual power. It was like power coming from the powerhouse. This would purify one, and like the words of the Acaryas, his words would completely transform the heart. Maharaja would close his eyes when he was speaking. He would speak for half an hour, or one hour, without opening his eyes. Sometimes, he would cry, and sometimes he would smile. Sometimes, he spoke without stopping for a long time.At that time, we didn’t understand the meaning of bhava. When one crosses all anarthas, and comes near the stage of rati, he develops a special mood. Ordinary people do not know who a Vaisnava is. Vaisnavas mercifully make a platform. They clean the heart, and they help someone to understand who a Vaisnava really is. Only Vaisnavas can understand Vaisnavas. But, ordinary people have no intelligence. They cannot understand this.By the causeless mercy of Pujyapada Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Gosvami Maharaja, he accepted me, and because of this, I never distanced myself from Vaisnavas in my life. He would tell me, “Apart from the Vaisnavas, nothing in this world has any value. They are the family members of God. They are the expansions of God’s body.”

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