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July 3, 1999   VNN4217  Comment on this story

Q&A: Sahajiya And Rasika Bhakta


EDITORIAL, Jul 3 (VNN) — (from Sanga wfd@efn.org)

"At present you appear to be suffering from an aversion to the very ideal of Gaudiya Vaisnava literature, while being concerned about how to practice Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Reading is not enough. You require guidance, and that of a rasika bhakta is preferable."

Our readers write. Replies by Swami B.V. Tripurari.

Q u e s t i o n. I would like to know how to distinguish between a sahajiya and a rasika bhakta?

A n s w e r. In the mind of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, a sahajiya is one who takes the esoteric lilas of Krsna cheaply, thinking that he can taste them while still grounded in material desire. Saraswati Thakura preached that one must pass through many stages before tasting rasa in Krsna lila. Caitanya Caritamrita states that the abode of Krsna is not constituted of material elements. It is 'sakala cinmaya'. Thus, if one is to go there and taste rasa, he or she must become cinmaya as well. Just as if one desires to live on the sun, one must become fire to do so. Similarly we must first become free from material contamination and become purely spiritual in order to actually taste rasa. One who can taste rasa is a rasika. Only such persons can fully relish Srimad Bhagavatam, 'muhur aho rasika bhuvi bhavukah'

Q u e s t i o n. I understood that knowledge of Krishna gives rise to love for Krishna. But while suffering from mundane urges, if one likes to read esoteric pasttimes of the Lord, how can he actually understand what it is all about if his vision is still perverted and his heart lusty?

A n s w e r. In the beginning one should not read the esoteric lilas of Radha Krsna. One should acquire knowledge of tattva, sambandha jnana.

However, practitioners must also be acquainted with Krsna lila to some extent in order to have the goal in mind. Above all, they must be philosophically acquainted with the concept of rasa. What are its constituents? How does it come about? What are its varieties?

These and other similar questions are in the interest of serious practitioners. Thus Srila Prabhupada wrote a summary of Krsna lila as it is related in Srimad Bhagavatam and gave this to his disciples as the Krsna Book, not only for their reading, but also for wide dissemination. In that book he wrote that anyone who reads it will become a devotee of Krsna. This was his benediction, as well as the truth regarding the potency of Krsna lila. Prabhupada also wrote his Nectar of Devotion, a summary study of Sri Rupa's Bhaktirasamrita-sindhu. Sri Rupa's seminal book, and accordingly, Prabhupada's summary study, deal extensively with the topic of rasa. They also strongly recommend 'bhagavata sravana', hearing Srimad Bhagavata, which Sri Jiva Goswami says means the 10th canto, wherein Krsna's pastimes in prakata lila are described.

After describing the rasa lila in the Bhagavata, Sukadeva Goswami explains that Krsna lila is so purifying that hearing of it with faith from a qaulified devotee causes bhakti to enter one's heart, after which lust is retired. We do not adopt another method for becoming free from lust. At the same time in order that we achieve the desired result we must hear from a proper source and be ourselves confident of the purifying power of hearing Krsna lila.

It is not practical for beginners to simply sit and hear Krsna lila day and night and do nothing else, for they do not have the interest to do so. Thus while this verse speaks of the efficacy of hearing Krsna lila, such hearing is to be approached under good guidance. A proper guide will understand how to administer the medicine of Krsna lila and a diet of service such that one develops love of God naturally, as if it were already within one's heart lying dormant.

Guides such as Bhaktivinoda therefore desired to establish daiva varnasrama, through which those eligible for bhakti (the path of the paramahamsas), who were not themselves great souls could make progress gradually on the path, rather than making a mockery of it by merely sitting and hearing Krsna lila in imitation of those qualified to do so.

So one has to have a proper balance, and what may be good for one may be bad for another, but the medicine/nectar of Krsna lila is good for all devotees when properly administered. Don't you find this so? Merely because one explains the lilas of Krsna does not make him a sahajiya, nor does it make him a rasika. However, there is good chance that it will make him a rasika in time.

Q u e s t i o n. Would it be a great offense at the lotus feet of the Lord if one tries to satisfy his sense demands by reading such pastimes?

A n s w e r. They are not for this purpose and this would not be proper.

However, we do not read such lilas for our sense pleasure, rather to become properly acquainted with them and their philosophical implications, and to become attracted to Krsna. Indeed, they are hardly racy stories in our times and would provide little stimulus for modern readers.

Recently "What is Enlightenment," a popular spiritual magazine, did an entire issue on sex and spirituality. When my publicist suggested a review of my current title, "Aesthetic Vedanta; The Sacred Path of Passionate Love," after looking over the book the editor replied that the issue was not about spiritual sex, rather mundane sex and its relationship to spiritual practice. She readily understood that the rasa lila was not about mixing physical sex into spiritual practice, much less an advocacy of mundane eroticism.

So do not be too harsh on yourself, thinking that any interest in reading about Krsna lila is only your desire for sense indulgence. We should have a healthy desire to hear about Radha Krsna and do so under the guidance of a qualified devotee.

Q u e s t i o n. Who is a rasika bhakta and why should he write books about rasa, for it may be misused even by devotees in the name of reading pastimes of the Lord?

A n s w e r. Rupa Goswami is a 'rasika bhakta', the foremost in our lineage. All of his books are about rasa and Krsna lila. If a good thing is abused, that does not mean we should do away with it. You require good guidance, for at present you appear to be suffering from an aversion to the very ideal of the Gaudiya Vaisnava literature, while being concerned about how to practice Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Reading is not enough. You require guidance, and that of a rasika bhakta is preferable.

Many thanks to the generous support of our Sanga reading congregation.

Their donations and pledges make this work possible. Those wishing to participate, please send your offerings, payable to 'Sanga', c/o Audarya Ashram, 325 River Road, Eugene, OR 97404, USA.

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