«The Search for Sri Krishna, Reality the Beautiful» (Chapter 13, part 1). Srila B. R. Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj

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The Search for Sri Krishna, Reality the Beautiful

by Srila B. R. Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj

Chapter 13
Reality the Beautiful
(part 1)

 

Ramananda Raya was a married man, but he was recognized by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as a master of his senses to the extreme degree. Once a brahmana priest named Pradyumna Misra came to Mahaprabhu and told Him, “I would like to hear about Krishna from Your lips.” Mahaprabhu said, “I do not know anything about Krishna, but Ramananda Raya knows. Go to him and hear about Krishna. Take My name, and perhaps he will talk with you.”

Pradyumna Misra was hesitant, but he went and observed Ramananda Raya for some time and then returned and reported to Mahaprabhu. Mahaprabhu asked him, “Have you heard about Krishna from Ramananda?” “No.” “Why?” “I saw him engaged in something objectionable. I watched for some time, and then returned here.” “What did you see?” Pradyumna Misra said, “I saw Ramananda Raya training some young dancing girls!”

Girls who are generally devoted to the service of the Jagannatha Deity from a young age are known as devadasis. They do not marry, and sometimes their character is not very good. Pradyumna Misra saw Ramananda Raya training devadasis in a very objectionable way. He was showing them how to go before the Jagannatha Deity and dance and sing. He showed them how their posture should be, how they should gesture, and how their looks should be enticing. And for such training he would sometimes even touch their private parts. So Pradyumna Misra told Mahaprabhu, “Seeing Ramananda doing all these things, I had no regard for him, so for some time I saw him busily engaged in that matter, and then I went away.”

 

Master of the Senses

Mahaprabhu told him, “Don’t underestimate Ramananda Raya. He is the master of his senses. There is not a tinge of craft in him. Even I feel trouble from sense disturbance within Me, but Ramananda has no such trouble. We have no direct experience that a stage can be attained where it is possible to be above mundane sense pleasure, but we have only heard through the scriptures that there is a stage when a man may transcend all these gross attachments.

This is mentioned in the Srimad Bhagavatam (10.33.39):

vikrīḍitaṁ vraja-vadhūbhir idam cha viṣṇoḥ̣
śraddhānvito ’nuśṛṇuyād atha varṇayed yaḥ
bhaktiṁ parām bhagavati pratilabhya kāmaṁ
hṛd-rogam āśv apahinoty achireṇa dhīraḥ

“One who hears with firm faith the supramundane amorous affairs of Lord Krishna and the gopis, as described by a pure devotee of the Lord, soon becomes freed from mundane lust and achieves divine love of Krishna.”

One may be engaged bodily in such activities, while his heart is elsewhere. And there is only one who is of that type: Ramananda Raya. There are not big numbers of Ramanandas; there is only one Ramananda, who has acquired such a stage because he is wellversed in the kind of sentiment and realization which is necessary for the service of Krishna and the gopis. His heart is completely dedicated to the cause of Krishna; He has no selfish interest. He is always in Krishna consciousness, and whatever he does is for Krishna’s satisfaction, so don’t think ill of him. Go there again.”

 

Mad for Krishna

Then Pradyumna Misra again went to see Ramananda Raya, and Ramananda began their conversation by saying “Oh, on that day I could not oblige you. But again you have come to hear about Krishna. How fortunate I am!” In the morning, Ramananda Raya began to speak, and when the afternoon came, still he was madly talking about Krishna. He completely forgot about eating, bathing, or anything else. He was mad, incessantly speaking of Krishna. Then, when it was late, his servants came twice, thrice, to ask him to take bath and eat his dinner, and finally, he had to leave the talk and go. Then Pradyumna Misra returned to Mahaprabhu and said, “Yes, I have heard from Ramananda Raya, and my heart is full from hearing about Krishna from him.”

Mahaprabhu Himself had heard from Ramananda Raya, and He said, “Ramananda knows what is Krishna. What I taught to Rupa and Sanatan, I heard from Ramananda.” It is mentioned that Mahaprabhu took diksha, initiation, from Isvara Puri; for preaching purposes He took sannyasa, the renounced order, from Kesava Bharati; and for entrance into the transcendental pastimes of Krishna in Vrindavan, He took raga marga initiation from Ramananda Raya. Of course, Isvara Puri, Kesava Bharati, and Ramananda Raya never thought of themselves as the guru of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. But it was seen that Mahaprabhu treated Ramananda with some respect. It is mentioned in the Chaitanya Charitamrita (Madhya: 8.204) that if one wants to enter into the spontaneous devotion of Krishna’s pastimes in Vraja, it is required that he take shelter of a confidential maidservant in conjugal mellow, madhurya rasa (sakhī vinā ei līlāya anyera nāhi gati).They are masters of that situation. The whole storehouse of this madhurya lila is in the hands of those maidservants. Only they can give it to others. In madhurya rasa, the guru is seen in the form and spirit of a sakhi, a maidservant of Radharani (guru rūpa sakhī). Ramananda Raya was Visakha-sakhi, the right-hand personal attendant of Srimati Radharani.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu gives us a hint of the necessity of approaching a confidential associate of Srimati Radharani when he says to Ramananda:

kibā vipra, kibā nyāsī śūdra kene naya
yei kṛṣṇa-tattva vettā sei ‘guru’ haya

“Why do you shrink away from instructing Me? I am learning so much from you. You are wellversed in the affairs of Krishna, so you are guru; therefore I am hearing from you. Whoever is the master of that storehouse of krishna-lila, and whoever can distribute it he is guru; of this, there is no doubt.”

The famous talks between Ramananda Raya and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took place on the banks of the Godavari river. The name Godavari is significant, for it indicates that place where the highest fulfillment of our spiritual senses was given. The fullest engagement of all our senses was announced there on the banks of the Godavari: “Your senses are not to be rejected. If you can give up the spirit of exploitation and renunciation, then your senses will have their fulfillment with Krishna. Those tendencies bar your approach to Krishna; to properly approach Krishna, you will have to utilize your senses to the fullest extent.” That was dealt with on the banks of the Godavari.

 

The Ultimate Goal of Life

There, in his famous conversations with Ramananda Raya, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu began the approach to pure devotional service in a general and comprehensive way. This is recorded in the Madhya-lila of Chaitanya Charitamrita (8.51–313). He asked Ramananda Raya,

prabhu kahe—‘paḍa śloka sādhyera nirnaya’

“What is the ultimate goal of life? I not only want to hear your statements, but also evidence from the scriptures.”

The answer came from Ramananda Raya:

rāya kahe—‘sva-dharmācharaṇ̣e viṣṇ̣u-bhakti haya’

“Discharge your own duty, without expecting anything in return.”

Sva dharma means varnashrama dharma, Vedic social stratification. “You are posted in your present position by your previous karma. According to your present position, you have to discharge your duties on one condition: you must do them without remuneration. If you go on with your duties in varnashrama dharma, without any mundane aim, you can achieve vishnu-bhakti, devotion to God. This is confirmed in the Vishnu Purana (3.8.9):

varṇ̣āśramāchāravatā, puruṣeṇa paraḥ pumān
viṣṇur ārādhyate panthā, nānyat tat-toṣa-kāraṇam

“The only way to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Vishnu, is to worship Him by properly executing one’s prescribed duties in the social system of varna and asrama.”

Here, Ramananda Raya says that vishnu-bhakti, adherence to the Lord who is permeating everything, is the object and ultimate destination of our life. This is the Vasudeva conception: everything is in Him, and He is everywhere. Ramananda explained that from our local interests, we must come to embrace the general interest, and that must reach the level of Vishnu consciousness: vishnu-bhakti. Our submission to Vishnu, the internal spirit who is everywhere, is the object of life. We must connect with Him and live accordingly; not a phenomenal life, but a spiritual life pertaining to a deeper, more subtle plane.

 

Devotion Mixed with Desires

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “This is superficial; go deeper.” Of course, it may be thought that actual theistic life begins from here, giving up the special, local purpose, and acting for a universal purpose, as already ordered and programmed in the Vedas and Upanishads. But Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “This is superficial; go deeper.”

Then, Ramananda Raya said, kṛṣṇ̣̣e karmārpaṇ̣a—sarva-sādhya-sāra: “To offer the results of one’s activities to Krishna is the essence of all perfection.” In varnashrama dharma, it is the fashion that people are generally engaged in external activities and do not care to give up the fruits of their action. Even if they do, they have no direct consciousness of Vishnu or Krishna. They worship the goddess Durga, perform the shraddha funeral ceremony and execute so many other religious practices. Indirectly, it is ultimately connected with Vishnu. They may or may not know how, but the link is there. That is the general conception of varnashrama, but here, Ramananda says that it will be better to have direct consciousness that Krishna is the authority. All the results of whatever we do within the varnashrama social system must be given to Krishna. If we perform all our physical, social, national and spiritual activities in Krishna consciousness, then we can approach the fulfillment of our goal in life.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “This is superficial; go deeper.” Then Ramananda Raya revealed new light, quoting the Bhagavad-Gita (18.66): sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja, “Give up all your duties, and just surrender to Me.” We must be particular with the object of life; not the external activities of varnashrama. Less importance should be given to the form of our activity: whether I am a king, a brahmana intellectual, or a worker does not matter. We may think, “I have this sort of duty, I have that sort of duty,” but that does not matter very much. We must have no attachment for that. The king may leave his kingdom and take to a brahmanic life of renunciation and austerity. A shudra may give up his labor, become a beggar, and chant the name of Krishna. A brahmana may give up his performance of sacrifice and become a mendicant. So, we are to be particular about the aim of life; not the form of our duty. We must exclusively devote ourselves to the cause of the Lord, ignoring our present paraphernalia and duty.

 

Knowledge and Devotion

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “This is also superficial; go ahead deeper.” Then, Ramananda Raya explained jnana-mishra bhakti, devotional service mixed with knowledge, by quoting from the Bhagavad-Gita (18.54) where Krishna says:

brahma-bhutaḥ̣ prasannātmā, na śochati na kāṅkṣati
samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu, mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parām

One who has come to the stage of identifying himself with spirit above matter has nothing to do with this mundane world. Any loss or gain in this mundane world is of no use to him. He is spirit; his prospect is in the world of soul, and he has nothing to do with this material world, whether it is laudable or blamable. He is already settled in the consciousness that he is soul proper and has nothing to do with matter, so within himself he feels satisfaction. He is atmarama: self-content; he neither mourns, nor aspires for anything. If something is lost, does he mourn? No. He thinks, “This is nothing; it is only matter.” And when something is gained, he is not overly cheerful, because it is only matter; it is unnecessary and unimportant. Now true devotional service can begin; his soul can begin living in the spiritual plane, with a pure serving attitude, unmixed with any mundane aspiration. When one attains the spiritual platform, he gets the opportunity to practice a higher type of service.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “This is also superficial. Such a person is only on the verge of devotional service; he has no substantial touch of devotion. He has not entered the domain of bhakti; he is just waiting in the marginal position, at the door. He may attain bhakti, but he has not yet achieved it. His negative forces are finished, but still, he is just at the door; he has not yet entered. He may enter; he may not enter. From there, if he gets anything, it will be pure, but he is still at the door.

 

Beyond Spirit “Go Deeper”

Ramananda Raya then said, jñañe prayāsam udapāsya namanta eva: “It is a very difficult thing to cross the charm of knowledge.” We think, “I want to understand everything first, and then I shall act.” Calculation and an underlying suspicion is there. Before we act, we want to know everything fully; only then will we risk our capital. The ego, the ‘I’ is very strong, and he wants to have an account of his loss and gain. He thinks, “I am the master. The key is in my hand, I want to test everything, I want to know it all. I know what is good for me.” So, we think ourselves masters, not servants, and from the position of a master we make our inquiry.

But this calculating mentality must be given up if we at all want to enter into the domain of the Lord, where everything is superior to us. No one there will care to come to us with an explanation, thinking that we are their master. They will not reassure us by saying, “Yes, there will be no loss; your gain will be big.” We may think, “I am an independent separate entity, so in my account there must be no loss. I must stand here with my head erect,” but that won’t do. We are to go there as slaves, not masters. That sort of mentality is necessary: we must bow down our heads. Not that with our heads erect we will march over everything, but everything there is superior in quality to us.

 

Divine Slavery

So, we have to enter into that transcendental land, where even the earth, water, air, and whatever we will find, is made of higher materials than we ourselves are made of. They are all guru, and we are disciples. They are all masters, and we are servants; we have to enter the land where everything is our master. We will have to submit; that will be our real qualification. What we will be ordered to do, we will have to do. We are not to exercise our brain so much there. The brain has no room there; they are all brainier than we. Our brain is unnecessary there; only our hands are necessary. Menial labor is necessary there. Brain there is enough. We are to enter that land if we like. It is a land of slavery for us. So, we are to hatefully dismiss our brains, and taking only out hearts, we must approach and enter that land.

We should think, “I am as insignificant as a mosquito,” just as Lord Brahma did when he went to Dwaraka to visit Lord Krishna. And it is not only for the time being; not that one will accept a humble attitude, finish his work and then come back. No. We will have to accept such an insignificant position eternally. Of course, we may expect to be educated about Krishna consciousness: how it is good, how it is great, how it is useful to us. We will be allowed pariprashna: honest inquiry. In the transcendental realm, everyone is our friend. They will come to help us, to make us understand that devotional service is beautiful, and that Krishna consciousness is the best form of life. Our aspiration and purity of purpose is to be valued; not our external position. The recruiters from that side will consider our purity of purpose, not so much our present position and capacity.

And although apparently it seems that we are going to be slaves, the result is just the opposite. If you can accept such an attitude of surrender and slavery, then He who can never be conquered will be conquered. Friends will come and help you, the sadhus will come and make you understand that we should become slaves, that Krishna likes His slaves very much. He is the master of slaves, and sometimes He wants to become the slave of His slaves (gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ). This is the key to success, and we can achieve the highest gain through this attitude.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu told Ramananda Raya, “Yes, this is true. The unconquerable is conquered by surrender. We can capture Him. I accept this as the beginning plane of divine love: by giving we can get as much as we risk. As much as we risk to give ourselves, so much we can demand from that unconquerable infinite.” Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “I accept this as the beginning of shuddha-bhakti, pure devotional service. But go farther.”

(to be continued)

 

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