Srila Rupa Gosvami Prabhu is the dear, intimate associate of Srimati Radharani, known as Sri Rupa Manjari. If you desire to enter Vraja and there serve Srimati Radhika, you must take shelter of Srila Rupa Gosvami. The divine nectar of love in Vraja was brought to this world through Srila Rupa Gosvami. By bathing in this flow of glorious nectar, the tendency to lovingly serve Sri Sri Radha-Krsna awakens, and one becomes qualified to enter Vraja. That flow of nectar can be found in the company of high-class Vaisnavas.
tasmin mahan-mukharitā madhubhic-caritra-
pīyūṣa-śeṣa-saritaḥ paritaḥ sravanti
tā ye pibanty avitṛṣo nṛpa gāḍha-karṇais
tān na spṛśanty aśana-tṛḍ-bhaya-śoka-mohāḥ
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, 4.29.40
O king, if one gets the chance to hear from elevated saints the topics of the qualities of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, which are like a flowing river of nectar, and drinks this nectar with single-minded absorption and faith, then hunger, thirst, fear, lamentation, illusion, and other such unwanted detriments will never be able to assail one.
In the Bhagavad-Gita, Sri Krsna says:
catur-vidhā bhajante māṁ
janāḥ sukṛtino ‘rjuna
ārto jijñāsur arthārthī
jñānī ca bharatarṣabha
– Bhagavad-Gita 7.16
O best of the Bhāratas, four kinds of pious men begin to perform devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.
Those who approach Krsna out of desire for wealth can be satisfied by the external displays of opulence surrounding worship of Krsna, such as wealthy temples, many followers, and the company of other materially motivated devotees. But those who have pious merits favorable to pure devotion are very eager for association of high-class saintly devotees. The company of devotees on a neophyte level will not satisfy those eager for the real nectar of devotion. These sadhakas will have respect for everyone, but will eagerly seek out the association of the saintly devotees.
kṛṣṇeti yasya giri taṁ manasādriyeta
dīkṣāsti cet praṇatibhiś ca bhajantam īśam
śuśrūṣayā bhajana-vijñam ananyam anya-
One should honor the devotee who chants the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa in one’s mind, one should offer humble obeisance to the devotee who has received spiritual initiation [dīkṣā] and is engaged in worshiping the Deity, and one should associate with and faithfully serve that pure devotee who is advanced in unbroken devotional service and whose heart is completely devoid of the tendency to criticize others.
One who has greed for pure love and service of Krsna will search for those who have and can give it.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu prayed:
kāhāṅ mora prāṇa-nātha muralī-vadana
kāhāṅ karoṅ kāhāṅ pāṅ vrajendra-nandana
Caitana-Caritamrta, Madhya 2.15
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu used to lament: “Where is the Lord of My life, who is playing His flute? What shall I do now? Where should I go to find the son of Mahārāja Nanda?
kāhāre kahiba, kebā jāne mora duḥkha
vrajendra-nandana vinu phāṭe mora buka
Caitana-Caritamrta, Madhya 2.16
“To whom should I speak? Who can understand My disappointment? Without the son of Nanda Mahārāja, My heart is broken.”
Mahaprabhu’s only solace was the company of His intimate associates like Sri Raya Ramananda and Svarupa Damodara. When they did not come to the Gambhira even for a day, Mahaprabhu would bitterly lament.
That person who has such greed for sadhu-sanga is truly fortunate. They will not desire anything else. When they meet with bhaktas, they will not speak about how their business will grow, how they will find a beautiful spouse, and they will not glorify themselves. Their only focus will be:
kathayantaś ca māṁ nityaṁ
tuṣyanti ca ramanti ca
The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me.
Where are we? If we have interest in so many things of this world, then where is our greed for Krsna? And if we have greed for Krsna, our ears will no longer hear things of this world. Our heart will tell us, “Why are you wasting your time absorbed in the futile matters of this world?”
As you begin to advance, taste for chanting harinama will develop. You will chant in a regulated manner, and will sincerely pray for Krsna’s mercy, while accepting your own wretched condition.
You will pray like Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura taught in his kirtanas.
aparādha-phale mama, citta bhelo vajra-sama,
tuwā nāme nā labhe vikār
hatāś hoiye, hari, tava nām ucca kori’,
boro duḥkhe ḍāki bār bār
1) O Lord Hari, as a result of my offenses incurred in previous lifetimes, my heart has become hard as a thunderbolt, and feels no change upon chanting Your holy name. Now in utter hopelessness, O Lord Hari, I loudly sing Your name, and in great distress I call out to You again and again.
dīna doyāmoy karunā-nidān
bhāva-bindhu dei rākhoha parān
2) O Lord who is compassionate towards the fallen souls! O origin of all mercy! Please give to me a drop of divine ecstasy and thereby save my life!
kabe tuwā nāma-uccaraṇe mor
nayane jharabo dara dara lor
3) When will an incessant stream of tears flow dripping and dripping from my eyes at the chanting of Your holy name?
gad-gada-swara kanṭhe upajabo
mukhe bola ādha ādha bāhirābo
4) When will a faltering voice choked with emotion arise in my throat, and when will words garbled due to ecstasy come from my mouth?
pulake bharabo śarīra hāmāra
sweda-kampa-stambha habe bāra bāra
5) When will my body be filled with ecstatic rapture, and when will there be perspiration, trembling, and a stunned sensation again and again?
vivarna-śarīre hārāobuṅ jñāna
nāma-samāśraye dharobuṅ parān
6) When, out of divine ecstasy, will all consciousness be los
t in my pale and discolored body? And when will I hold onto my very life under the shelter of Your holy name?
milabo hāmāra kiye aiche din
ro-owe bhaktivinoda mati hīn
7) This weeping Bhaktivinoda, who is devoid of all good intelligence, sobs, “O Lord, how will such a day ever be mine?”
Chanting harinama day and night, you will pray to the associates of Mahaprabhu, with the mood:
kabe habe bolo se dina amara
aparadha guche sudha name ruchi
“When will all my aparadhas all be washed away? When will that day come?”
ha gaura-nitai, tora du’ti bhai,
adhama patita, ami he durjana,
hao more krpa sindhu
“Oh Gaura-Nitai! You two Brothers are the only true friends of all the fallen souls! I am the lowest of the low, most fallen and wicked-minded, so kindly bestow Your ocean of mercy upon me!”
āmāra jīvana sadā pāpe rata
nāhiko puṇyera leṣa
“My life has been full of sin. I don’t have the slightest amount of goodness.”
gopinatha mama nivedana suno
visaye durjana sada kame rata kichu nahi mora guna
“O Gopinatha, please hear my prayers. I am always absorbed in lusty activities in the company of wicked men. I do not have any good qualities. Please help me.”
The pure devotees chant the pure name. Most devotees chant nama-aparadha, and some fortunate few chant nama-abhasa. Even more rare is suddha-nama. What does nama-aparadha result in? Material gain, adoration, prestige. Utkantha is a deep eagerness to chant the pure name, and to directly serve Sri Krsna. To come to this platform, we must pray to the Vaisnavas.
egao egao mora vaisnava gosai
karuna jala sinca tabe raksha pai
“Please, O Vaisnava Gosai, protect me, and shower me with the nectar of your mercy.”
To attain the platform of the pure name, you must pray to the dust from the feet of the Vaisnavas—suddha bhakata carana renu bhajana anukula.
When utkantha is there, you will pray to the Vaisnavas from the core of your heart. There will be nothing for show. Truly, you will weep, while you think, “What am I doing? Why am I engaged in business through harinama? Why am I cheating others and myself?” You will pray to the beloved servants of harinama. This is lobhamayi-sadhana, spiritual practice performed with greed. When we chant harinama properly, we will pray to those who are dear to Nama, to the suddha-Vaisnavas who chant the pure name. We will offer obeisance to the Vaisnavas one by one, recalling all their names in a regulated manner, like Raghunatha Das Gosvami. We will perform parikrama of the holy places and there pray for mercy.
“Why do we have no taste in harinama?” We go all around the world in our minds. Day and night we are wasting time, running behind our minds, collecting foul things. And still, we are not praying. When our prayerful mood develops, then from that time we will begin to advance.
We can progress through krsna-kirtana with a prayerful mood.
kṛṣṇaṁ smaran janaṁ cāsya
kuryād vāsaṁ vraje sadā
“Always thinking of Kṛṣṇa, choose a very dear associate of Kṛṣṇa in Vraja. Constantly engaged in topics about that associate and his or her loving relationship with Kṛṣṇa, one should live in Vraja. If one is physically unable to stay in Vraja, he should mentally reside there.”
Good association is essential, externally and internally. We may externally be in the company of Vaisnavas, but if internally, we are always thinking of mundane affairs, we cannot advance. By such bad association, the tendency to chant harinama will flee from our hearts. We should therefore always stay, externally and internally, with those whose hearts are always in Vraja, who are serving there. By staying with them, our hearts will become like them. This is guaranteed.
Sthane sthita—be fixed in that place. Where? Bhavadiya vartam. Where the nectar topics of Vraja are always being discussed. Wherever this bhavadiya-vartam is present, that is Vraja. Become fixed in that place. Do not go to that place where this is not present. Rupa Gosvami Prabhu said, “Tisthan vraje samihitam. Stay in Vraja, in the company of those who have taste, attraction, and pure love, where at all times hari-katha, hari-kirtana, hari-seva, and hari-darsana is present. By staying in that place where pure devotion and service is present, you can achieve that divine anuraga. Therefore become fixed in that place.
Krsna is ajit, unconquerable, yet still He is conquered by that Vrajavasi Vaisnava. So take shelter of the Vrajavasis. Where there is no bhavadiya-varta, that is not Vraja. That day when such a tendency comes for suddha-bhakti, in suddha-bhakta-sanga, in suddha-vraja, then Nama Prabhu will give you His full mercy.
Then what will happen? Your heart will melt with divine love and you will start to experience the moods of the Vraja-devis’ separation from Krsna.
yugāyitaṁ nimeṣeṇa cakṣuṣā prāvṛṣāyitam
śūnyāyitaṁ jagat sarvaṁ govinda-viraheṇa me
“O Govinda! In separation from You, tears flow from my eyes, and a moment lasts an age. The entire world appears to be void in Your absence.”
Our hearts are like rocks. Why? Because we are showing others that we are great Vaisnavas, when actually we are quite fallen. We are showing ourselves to be great only to cheat others. But our hearts are like rocks. We may make an affectation of devotion only to impress others, in an effort to gain followers and position. Therefore, Bhaktivinoda Thakura said: “Nake tilaka gala mala, ei to ek kalira chela. Look at that deceitful follower of Kali, dressed as a Vaisnava with tilaka and neckbeads!”
When we are honest with ourselves, we should lament at our misfortune, that despite the unparalleled wealth of harinama that has been given us, we still have no taste for chanting.
tad aśma-sāraṁ hṛdayaṁ batedaṁ
yad gṛhyamāṇair hari-nāma-dheyaiḥ
na vikriyetātha yadā vikāro
netre jalaṁ gātra-ruheṣu harṣaḥ
Certainly that heart is steel-framed which, in spite of one’s chanting the holy name of the Lord with concentration, does not change even when signs of transformation take place such as tears in the eyes and ecstatic standing of the hairs on end.
By the influence of association with anuragi-bhaktas, we can understand our true position. Our glory is the glory of our associates. We may be fallen, but if we are in exalted company, they will make as exalted. Therefore, we can understand a person by his associates. One may have a huge group, but if there is no sat-Vaisnava there, everything is futile.
What is the nature of the sadhus? And where can we find them? The sadhu will not speak words pleasing to the minds of materialists. Rather, the sadhu’s words will be cutting, like a sword through all your false ego, misconceptions, and ulterior desires.
tato duḥsaṅgam utsṛjya
satsu sajjeta buddhimān
santa evāsya chindanti
An intelligent person will reject all wicked company and instead take up the association of saintly devotees, whose words cut through the excessive attachments of the mind.
What is the symptom of such a sadhu, who can cut through our anarthas? He will be constantly engaged in devotional activities, without a scent of materialism. Day and night will be engaged in hari-katha, hari-kirtana, hari-seva, and hari-smarana—hearing, chanting, serving, and remembering. Internally, he is 24 hours a day engaged in remembering and serving the Divine Couple.
If you have the fortune of finding such an anuragi Vaisnava, always pray to stay in his association. This is the proper greed. Where can I find that person who has krsna-bhakti-rasa-bhavita-matih? Have this one-pointed greed.
But always staying in their association is not so easy. If you always stay, you will have to tolerate being placed in the purificatory fire to cleanse the anarthas in your heart. The sadhus will cut deep into your heart with their words. Thus only can you be freed of the shackles of false ego. The sadhus have a sharp sword that is their words. Therefore some people say, all their lives the acaryas only cut jungles. But if you don’t constantly cut out the weeds that crop up to strangle the creeper of devotion, than all your spiritual efforts will be misplaced and misused. Even a gold vessel must regularly be cleaned.
So to steadily advance, high-class sadhu-sanga is required. And you must tolerate their chastisement and efforts to clean out the jungle of your heart, to make it a beautiful garden for the Divine Couple. By always keeping a place for the bhaktas in your heart, then Radha-Krsna and Their associates will also become present there, because They are never far from Their beloved devotees.
Therefore, what is the best sadhana? Remember the Guru-varga. Make a place for them in your heart. Remember the Guru-varga throughout the day and night. Keep a place for them in your heart and worship them there. Offer them flowers, pray to them, speak with them, and serve under their guidance. Only the Guru-varga has the power to bring you to real Vrndavan. By always remembering them, they will surely take you to Vraja.
However, your mother will not sit on the same seat as a prostitute. If you have many prostitutes, demons, and cheaters in your heart, the Guru-varga and Radha-Krsna will not stay there. So you must understand the need to sacrifice all those you might cherish who are still not favorable to devotion. You may even have to give up your blood family, close friends, or idols. This is not easy. You must be very strong.
Prahlada Maharaja called his father the greatest of demons and said that his teachers were blind, and always absorbed in sense enjoyment, like a bull and a monkey. He was strong like this. It does not mean he was cruel. He had the greatest compassion. But he understood what is required to advance. He knew that no amount of folding your hands in supplication to demons will help. They will never be satisfied. Therefore he was not weak. He was dauntless. The Vraja-parikaras are very strong like this. If you truly want to follow them, they will make you pagala. People will think you have become a madman. And you will embrace it happily. The whole world may be lost to you if your real self is gained.
If you are strong like this, with fixed determination, then you can advance in bhakti. You must become like the loyal dog of Guru and Vaisnavas, with the mood as expressed by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura:
sarvasva tomara, charane sapiya,
padechhi tomara ghare
tumi ta’ thakura, tomara kukkura,
baliya janaha more
I have offered everything at Your feet and taken shelter in Your home. You are my Master; please consider me Your dog.
When you have this attitude, the sadhus will protect, nurture, and maintain you. They will not let you become lost in material gain, worship, and prestige. And if you always stay with them, anuraga is not far away. But you must not desire wealth and opulence. That will keep you far from Vraja. Therefore be careful. There is no need to become absorbed in sense gratification. Give as much time as possible for kirtana, hari-katha, serving, studying granthas, chanting harinama, and remembering the anuragi-vaisnavas and Vrajavasis. May not a single day pass that we don’t remember the Guru-varga.
Srila Gurudeva would say that you must become like a beggar at the door of the Guru-varga. Daily go to them, bow down before them in your heart, and pray for their mercy. Even if a dog daily begs at the door of a family, certainly they will one day give it a scrap to eat. The Guru-varga are unlimitedly merciful, but you must be eager to receive their mercy and go to them. They will not force anything on you. You must make some endeavor. And what is that? Remember them. Go to them and pray for their mercy. People will work so hard, day after day, year after year, for a little fleeting wealth, so why not endeavor for transcendental wealth? If you can make such an endeavor, your effort will not be lost. Rather, your small effort can grant everlasting bliss in Sri Vraja-dhama. Don’t be hopeless. Vraja is not far away. Simply remember the Vrajavasis.
[CC-by-NDNC Bhakta Bandhav]