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Mādhurya Upāsanā: Love and Intimacy with God

[In Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, Srila Rupa Goswami has described three types of Bhakti: Vaidhi Bhakti, Rāgātmikā Bhakti and Rāgānugā Bhakti. In this satsanga, Baba has discussed these three types of Bhakti and especially elaborated on the topic of Rāgānugā Bhakti.]

All the Jivatmas in the infinite universes are part and parcels of God. Since they are deluded by God’s illusory energy, they must worship God according to the instructions of the scriptures. The instructions of the scriptures are called Vidhi or Vidhān. Therefore, the Bhakti path that follows the instructions of the scriptures is called Vaidhi Bhakti. The sadhak must follow the rules prescribed by the scriptures and engage in fasts, strict routines of sadhana, austerity, detachment, rules of purity, etc until he develops sentiments of loving devotion (Bhāva) for his Lord.

In the Mādhurya Upāsanā path, although the sadhak still follows the instructions of the scriptures which are beneficial to his Bhakti, the priority of his spiritual life becomes developing an intimate and loving relationship with Radha Krishna. In this path, the sadhak forgets about Krishna’s Bhagavatta but considers Him as his most intimate and dearest person. The sadhak interacts with Him like a family member. Just like a person never discriminates between himself and his beloved family members, no matter how accomplished they are in society, the sadhak never regards Radha and Krishna with awe and reverence. He always interacts with Them in a naturally loving and intimate way. Radha and Krishna also forget about Their own Bhagavatta and become engrossed in the loving devotion of Their devotee. This is the glory of the Mādhurya Upāsanā path. Here, the Lord of the infinite universes forgets that He is God and engages in loving pastimes with His devotees as if they are His most intimate people.

Rāgātmikā Bhakti means the divine love present naturally in the eternal Brajawasis of Goloka Dham. They have not attained this Bhakti through sadhana like the Jivatmas of the material abode. They are Pārshads (eternal devotee associates) who are eternally engaged in loving pastimes with Radha and Krishna. Yashoda, Nanda Baba, Lalita, Vishakha, etc are all eternal Pārshads. They have not attained their natural divine Prema for Krishna through sadhana. [Ordinary Jivatmas like us cannot attain such Prema and should not audaciously call themselves Lalita, Vishakha, etc. It is an Aparadha to do so.]

But we are not eternal Pārshads of Golok Dham. We are Jivatmas who have been wandering in the material abode through innumerable lifetimes according to the result of our actions. Now, due to the causeless mercy of Radha Krishna’s true devotees, we have developed the desire to attain a similar kind of divine love for Radha and Krishna as the eternal Gopis and Brajawasis of the Golok Dham. Therefore, we need to take shelter of the lotus feet of eternal Pārshads (Rāgātmikā devotees) to attain the divine Prema Bhakti. Hence, our Upāsanā path is called Rāgānugā Bhakti or Rāgānugā Upāsanā path. [Raga=natural divine love for Radha Krishna, Anuga=under the shelter of such eternal devotees].

“Aiśvarya-jñānete saba jagat miśrita,

aiśvarya-śithila-preme nāhi mora prīta.”

(Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi 3.16)

Meaning: Knowing My opulences, the whole world looks upon Me with awe and veneration. But devotion made feeble by such reverence does not attract Me.

Most of the sadhaks in the world worship God with Aishwarya or Gyāna Mishrā Bhakti. But such Bhakti cannot move the heart of Krishna.

“Āpanāke baa māne, āmāre sama-hīna,
Sei bhāve ha-i āmi tāhāra adhīna.”

(Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi 4.22)

Meaning: If a devotee regards himself as great and considers Me as his equal or inferior, I become subservient to such a devotee’s love.

If the devotee regards Krishna as God and himself as inferior to Him, such Bhakti can never control Krishna. Since the devotees of the Mādhurya Upāsanā path consider Krishna as their equal or inferior and love Him as their most intimate and dearest person, they interact with Him without any hesitation. They never think they might commit an Aparadha if they do or say something out of the line. This kind of hesitation is impossible towards the most intimate person. They interact with Krishna in a naturally intimate manner.

There was an old lady devotee called Karma Bai. She lived in Jagannatha Puri Dham. She considered Jagannatha as her own son. Therefore, Jagannatha also behaved like a small child with her. A child gets hungry early in the morning. A mother cannot wait to bathe her child, dress and decorate him, and then feed him while he is hungry and crying for food! She has to feed the hungry child crying for food as the first thing in the morning.

Likewise, Karma Bai would get up early in the morning and without bathing or changing clothes, she would light the fire of her earthen stove and begin cooking Khichadi (a one-pot meal consisting of rice, pulses and mixed vegetables). Then she would brush her teeth using a soft twig of neem tree and stir the simmering Khichadi with the other end of the same twig. As soon as the Khichadi would get ready, the child Jagannatha would come to her and plead with her to hurry and give Him Khichadi to eat. She lovingly fed her Jagannatha every day in this manner.

One day, a Pandā (a Brahmin who describes the glories of a pilgrimage place and performs rituals for the pilgrims) came by Karma Bai’s house and saw that Karma Bai was hurriedly preparing Khichadi early in the morning without even bathing or changing clothes. She even had the audacity to stir the Khichadi with the other end of her toothbrush! He did not approve of such a filthy way of cooking devoid of the rules of cleanliness mentioned in the scriptures. He asked, “Karma Bai, what are you doing? For whom are you cooking this Khichadi?” Karma Bai replied, “I am preparing this Khichadi for my child Jagannatha. He gets very hungry early in the morning. Therefore, I have to hurry so that I can give him hot Khichadi when he comes.” “O Karma Bai, have you gone mad?! You are cooking this Khichadi for Jagannatha, the Lord of the universe? Do you think He is an ordinary human? You have not bathed, washed or changed clothes. You have not even cleaned the kitchen or anything. And you are hurrying to cook Khichadi for Jagannatha in your unclean clothes that you wore while sleeping? You will die in Aparadha! This is not sewa! You are committing a very big Aparadha! You will go to hell!” said the Pandā, disapprovingly.

Karma Bai was a simple-hearted old lady. She had not accepted a Guru yet and so, she didn’t have any clear instructions from her Guru to follow. Her Bhakti and mood of motherly love for Jagannatha was natural since birth. She was disconcerted by the Pandā’s comments. “Please tell me what I should do, Pandā ji. I have to feed my hungry child, Jagannatha, in the morning,” said Karma Bai. “You must brush and clean your mouth. Then bathe and change into clean clothes. Next, you must sweep and purify the kitchen by applying a layer of paste of cow dung and clean soil. Then you must cook while following the rules of purity in all manner. Only then you can offer Bhoga to Jagannatha. Remember, He is the Lord of the universe. Don’t act like a mad woman! How can you cook and offer Bhoga to Jagannatha in such a filthy way?! You will die in Aparadha if you continue to do so!” said the Pandā and went away shaking his head.

The next day, Karma Bai woke up early, bathed and changed into clean clothes. Then she prepared a paste of cow dung and soil and applied it on the kitchen floor and around the earthen stove. By the time she finished purifying the kitchen and cooked Khichadi, it was already late morning (around 11 am). This continued for three days. On the third night, Jagannatha came to the Pandā’s dream in his sleep and said, “O wicked Brahmin! You will go to hell! What did you teach my mother Karma Bai? She used to give me hot Khichadi to eat early in the morning every day. Now, because of you, she gives me Khichadi in late morning! I get so hungry by that time! Wicked Brahmin! You will go to hell! Have you become a great Pandā?! How dare you teach my mother?!”

The Pandā woke up bewildered. ‘What did I see?’ he thought. ‘It is true that God gets pleased by the pure loving devotion of His devotees. Who knows which quality of a devotee moves His heart?’ He ran to Karma Bai’s hut and prostrated at her feet. “Maa, Maa, please forgive me, Maa! I am ignorant and a fool! God is hungry for love and not material things. He never minds the actions of a devotee but is pleased by the mood of love behind those actions. Bhāva (the mood of love) is everything He wants! Maa, please do not mind whatever I have said before. Please continue to love your child Jagannatha like before and give Him hot Khichadi early in the morning. Sri Jagannatha is most pleased by your sewa,” said the Pandā.

This is Rāgānugā Bhakti. This does not mean that followers of Rāgānugā Bhakti do not have to follow the instructions of the scriptures. The sadhak must follow the scriptures' instructions physically but contemplate the mood of his eternal Swarupa mentally. For example, the sadhaks of Manjari Bhāva contemplate on Yugal Kishore seated on a gem-studded gold throne amidst the Nikunja of Vrindavan forest. They also contemplate on their own Manjari Swarupa mercifully given by Radharani which is divine, eternal and the embodiment of Manjari Bhāva. That Swarupa is not made of flesh, blood, bones, etc. It is totally made of Prema, and in Manjari’s case, the mood of service and devotion to Radharani (Manjari Bhāva). The Manjari thinks that she belongs to Radharani and Radharani belongs to her. With this Manjari Bhāva, the sadhak serves Yugal Kishore according to her own taste. [Radharani never tells the Manjari what and how she should serve Her. Manjari serves Her according to her own taste because she has an internal connection with Radharani and knows Her needs and desires automatically. Also, Radharani relishes the love and caring of Manjaris submissively and begets infinite bliss out of their loving behaviour.]

The Manjari brings the food items according to her liking on a golden plate and feeds Yugal Kishore with her own hands. Then she offers Them cool water contained in a golden glass to drink. She wipes Their mouths with a soft cloth after They have finished accepting Bhoga. Then she offers Them Tāmbul (betel leaf snack containing some herbs and dried fruits, traditionally eaten post-meal as a digestion aid). This kind of personal service to God does not exist in the worship of any other form of God or any other mood of Bhakti. This service is not performed whilst regarding Radha and Krishna as God but as the nearest and dearest persons to the devotee.

The sadhak must serve Yugal Kishore mentally like this. This is the way to develop the Manjari Bhāva (or other Vraja Bhāvas) for Yugal Kishore in Rāgānugā Bhakti. The superiority of such mental contemplation is repeatedly described in the scriptures in many places.

But physically, the sadhak must follow the instructions of the scriptures about the rules of purity, procedures of pooja, rules of service to deities, etc because the sadhak has not yet developed the mood of love like that of Gopis or pure devotees like Karma Bai. The sadhak has not yet developed the mood of “nearest and dearest person to me” for Radha and Krishna. He cannot yet forego the idea of the Yugal Kishore being the Supreme controller of the infinite universes and love Them as his most beloved and intimate dear persons. Until he develops such intimacy and divine love for Yugal Kishore, the sadhak must follow scriptural instructions physically. Otherwise, he will commit an Aparadha. Therefore, the sadhak should physically practice Vidhi and mentally practice Raga.

In the mental contemplation of service to Yugal Kishore, there is no Vidhi. There, Manjaris don’t put a curtain, chant any mantras or ring bells while offering Bhoga. They simply bring the food items on a golden plate and feed the Yugal Kishore lovingly with their own hands. When the sadhak reaches such a stage of Bhakti where this mood of loving service becomes natural to him (or in other words, he is situated in his Manjari Bhāva instead of his material identity), he automatically forgets about scriptural Vidhi. At that time, he becomes so absorbed in his Manjari Bhāva that he forgets about tilak, kanthi, japa, pooja, etc. He becomes absorbed in the service of Yugal Kishore and forgets whether it is day or night. At that time, he has no awareness of his external body. Until such a stage of Bhakti, the sadhak must follow scriptural Vidhi. One should not try to imitate pure devotees like Karma Bai.


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