Approaching Bhāva

Insights from Śrī Caitanya-śikṣāmṛta by Śrīla Bhaktivinod Ṭhākur
Commentary by David Bruce Hughes (Gaurahari Dāsānudās Bābājī) — Published by —

Esoteric Teaching Seminars ISBN 978-0-557-89078-1

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Introduction ...................................................................................1 The Spiritualization of Work ..................................................5 Stages of Bhakti..........................................................................11 Niyamāgraha: Spiritual Indolence ...................................17 The Purpose of Vaidhī-bhakti.............................................21 Harmonizing Vidhi and Rāga .............................................29 A Change of Heart ....................................................................35 Devotion, Taste and Desire .................................................39 Other Books .................................................................................41 David Bruce Hughes ...............................................................44

I want to thank our Bhakti Master Class readers and subscribers for coming with us on this adventure into the higher stages of the Esoteric Teaching of bhakti. It’s not easy to understand this Esoteric Teaching; so from time to time we like to step back and take a look at the big picture, keeping in mind the practical application of these lessons in spiritual life. Many concepts in Approaching Bhāva are drawn from Śrī Caitanyaśikṣāmṛta by Bhaktivinod Ṭhākur. Caitanya-śikṣāmṛta is a wonderful compendium of Bhaktivinod’s personal experience of teaching and preaching Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. It is very illuminating and insightful, like a personal memoir of a lifetime of preaching experience, if you read between the lines. Śrīla Bhaktivinod Ṭhākur gives invaluable perspective from his experience, addressing certain difficult issues that a spiritual teacher encounters on his path—which is very different from the path of a student. A student always has the teacher to fall back on, and has a huge backlog of material that he hasn’t had time to study yet—that’s eternal. Especially in our lineage, there’s always more material than we can assimilate because of the huge body of literature left by the previous ācāryas—and I expect that’s going to be no different in our case. In the chapter titled ‘The Fourth Rainfall of Nectar,’ Bhaktivinod eloquently describes how, as consciousness develops, we advance in stages from the platform of ordinary moral and religious life to transcendental devotional service. Our interest in this subject comes from some hard but valuable lessons we learned in our preaching work. The only way to learn some things is by experience. We want to make sure that all our friends and students understand the value we got from our lessons.
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The main lesson we learned is that you cannot just take an arbitrary person, put him in a bhakti-āśrama environment and expect him to make the transition from the previous level of spiritual life to a new standard. Even in the best conditions, you can’t expect a person to automatically change gears from ordinary religion—or even Vedic religion—to esoteric transcendental pure devotional service. It’s not so direct or easy; there’s a step-by-step process you have to go through. In Śrī Caitanya-śikṣāmṛta Bhaktivinod discusses the levels of spiritual progress and how to get from one level to another. These valuable insights come from the eternal nectar of the instructions of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu. It’s a fascinating work, and if you have the time you should purchase it and read it. So let’s back up and look at the big picture. Let’s think about what we are trying to do as independent preachers of Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. The big picture is that we are trying to take people who are suffering in material consciousness and material existence, and somehow reinstate them in their original spiritual position. That’s the main goal we are trying to reach and a big problem we are trying to solve—and preaching bhakti is our method. The issue in preaching is that we can state the goal very easily, but the solution is a lot more complex. Just like if you want to take a long journey by car, you can’t just go directly to the destination; you have to go through so many intermediate places. Similarly in spiritual life, you can’t just go from material consciousness directly to pure devotional service. There are many stages in between and you have to go through each of them, performing the appropriate process for that stage. You can’t artificially jump from one stage to another; that will lead you to fall down.


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This often happens to neophyte devotees, which is exactly why they have to leave the āśrama and go back to doing their service independently. To continue our metaphor: if we are going to drive 3,000 miles from one coast to the other, it’s not good enough to just follow the signs on the highway. It’s such a long journey that we need a map to chart our progress, or we can get lost. In our path of spiritual life based on pure devotional service, uttama-bhakti, that map is given in Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛtasindhu. Śrīla Prabhupāda often said that Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī is the father of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. Rūpa Gosvāmī took the Esoteric Teaching of Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and structured it into a stepby-step process. That process is easily performed, and most importantly, easily passed from one generation to the next, from teacher to student. In that way it propagates within this world and gives great spiritual benefit to the people in general. But the key concept here is that different processes or practices are appropriate at different stages of this path. It is critical to our spiritual success to recognize the stage we are at and perform the appropriate process. In the Bhakti Master Class series we are carefully approaching the subject of bhāva. Because bhāva is a very elevated subject, we must approach it gradually and respectfully. Therefore we are trying to create the context for that discussion here, by discussing the different levels of religious practice in human society.

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The Spiritualization of Work
In the broadest view of the Vedic spiritual path, Kṛṣṇa has given us three bona fide methods to advance: karma, jñāna, and bhakti:
śrī-bhagavān uvāca yogās trayo mayā proktā nṛṇāṁ śreyo-vidhitsayā jñānaṁ karma ca bhaktiś ca nopāyo 'nyo 'sti kutracit nirviṇṇānāṁ jñāna-yogo nyāsinām iha karmasu teṣv anirviṇṇa-cittānāṁ karma-yogas tu kāminām yadṛcchayā mat-kathādau jāta-śraddhas tu yaḥ pumān na nirviṇṇo nāti-sakto bhakti-yogo 'sya siddhi-daḥ The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: “My dear Uddhava, because I desire that human beings may achieve perfection, I have presented three paths of advancement: the path of knowledge, the path of work and the path of devotion. Besides these three there is absolutely no other means of elevation. Among these three paths, jñāna-yoga, the path of philosophical speculation, is recommended for those who are disgusted with material life and are thus detached from ordinary, fruitive activities. Those who are not disgusted with material life, having many desires yet to fulfill, should seek perfection through the path of karma-yoga. If somehow or other by good fortune one develops faith in hearing and chanting My glories, such a person, being neither very disgusted with nor attached to material life, should achieve perfection through the path of loving devotion to Me.” [ŚrīmadBhāgavatam 11.20.6-8]

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Here Kṛṣṇa gives the paths in order of their ability to please Him. He presents bhakti as the topmost path. The jñānīs are not very pleasing to Kṛṣṇa because they tend to speculate and reach conclusions like “I am one with God,” or “I am the Supreme Brahman.” Of course, that’s not very nice. Although they do get some relief from suffering by situation on the brahma-bhūta platform, their method is not very pleasing to Kṛṣṇa. Karma-yoga is much more pleasing, because in karma-yoga one follows varṇāśrama-dharma. And varṇāśrama-dharma, although it does not give pure devotional service, can be a transition from ordinary material life and material consciousness to Vedic religious morality and then to devotional service. Although it’s mixed devotional service, it’s still better than the material conception of life. How does this work? Bhaktivinod explains:
“Intelligent and pious human beings follow the rules and regulations of external religion, such as the Vedic system of varṇāśrama-dharma. The purport of varṇāśrama-dharma is to maintain the body, develop the mind, perform good works for society and learn spiritual topics, all with the goal of developing pure bhakti.”

Notice that he divides varṇāśrama-dharma into:
• The body • The mind • Good works for society and • Learning spiritual topics

It’s not just working for the Lord or performing sacrifice: karma-yoga also means to maintain the body nicely. If you are not in good health, you can’t perform spiritual activities. Some people think, “Now I’m young, so let me enjoy; then when I get old I’ll have time for spiritual life.” No, it’s not going to work like that because when you are old, the body begins to break down; it becomes weak, diseased and very troublesome. In that
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stage one cannot think of spiritual life; there’s too much suffering. So one should perform spiritual activities throughout the prime of his life, beginning from youth. One should also develop the mind. Developing the mind means learning —especially learning how to learn. One should learn how to hear nicely, duplicate the instructions of the Vedas and the spiritual master, and also learn how to think: how to gather evidence, how to reason, how to reach conclusions, how to test those conclusions, and how to apply knowledge. One should also perform good works for society. In other words, one should perform some service activity. This will purify the heart of selfishness and greed. Actually we find that one can live a better existence simply by offering nice service to others. A very mundane example is a businessman who develops a nice product and sells it to people at a fair price. If he maintains honest business practices and delivers a quality product, he will become very wealthy— much more successful than if he was just working at a job to gain his own advantage. If you engage your intelligence, initiative and creativity to develop a new product and start a company to manufacture and sell it, you’re going to be much better off than if you just work a job to maintain yourself. But even if you work a job, you’re also doing service. So there is no way to escape the fact that to maintain our lives we have to do service to others. But of all the ways and means of service, devotional service is the best because the Supreme Lord is the root of all existence. When we serve the Lord we serve everyone. When we please Him, we actually please all living entities. This is a fact. The rewards of this service are also extremely profound and beneficial.
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Finally, Bhaktivinod says we should learn spiritual topics. That means we should study the Vedic scriptures, and ultimately we should approach a spiritual master, a self-realized soul who can give us the transcendental knowledge that allows us to develop pure bhakti. Here’s another nice quote from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam:
etat saṁsūcitaṁ brahmaṁs tāpa-traya-cikitsitam yad īśvare bhagavati karma brahmaṇi bhāvitam āmayo yaś ca bhūtānāṁ jāyate yena suvrata tad eva hy āmayaṁ dravyaṁ na punāti cikitsitam evaṁ nṛṇāṁ kriyā-yogāḥ sarve saṁsṛti-hetavaḥ ta evātma-vināśāya kalpante kalpitāḥ pare yad atra kriyate karma bhagavat-paritoṣaṇam jñānaṁ yat tad adhīnaṁ hi bhakti-yoga-samanvitam kurvāṇā yatra karmāṇi bhagavac-chikṣayāsakṛt gṛṇanti guṇa-nāmāni kṛṣṇasyānusmaranti ca “O brāhmaṇa Vyāsadeva, it is decided by the learned that the best remedial measure for removing all troubles and miseries is to dedicate one’s activities to the service of the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead. O good soul, does not a thing, applied therapeutically, cure a disease which was caused by that very same thing? Thus, when all a man’s activities are dedicated to the
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service of the Lord, those very activities that caused his perpetual bondage become the destroyer of the tree of work. Whatever work is done here in this life for the satisfaction of the mission of the Lord is called bhakti-yoga and what is called knowledge becomes a concomitant factor. While performing duties according to the order of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one constantly remembers Him, His names and His qualities.” [ŚrīmadBhāgavatam 1.5.32-36]

This is spoken by Nārada while instructing Vyāsadeva to write ŚrīmadBhāgavatam. The key idea here is that the very same substance that causes a problem can also be used to relieve it. Take milk for example: if you drink too much milk you’ll get a stomach ache. But then you can take another form of milk, such as buttermilk, and apply that therapeutically to relieve the symptoms. So the very thing that’s causing the diseased condition can be used to cure it when applied in a therapeutic way. Similarly, in this world we are performing so many material activities: earning a living, raising a family, going here and there, dressing, eating, bathing, all to maintain the body. If we perform those activities simply for material benefit, we’ll create karma that will keep us in material existence. But if we take the very same activities and offer them to Kṛṣṇa, in the beginning it’s karma-yoga. It’s karma-yoga because we don’t have a clear idea of the Supreme or our relationship with Him. But as we hear the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa, remember Him, think about His different attractive qualities—His beauty, knowledge, power and kindness—we gradually develop a devotional feeling for Him.

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Stages of Bhakti
Bhaktivinod explains in his Caitanya-śikṣāmṛta that the spiritual life of a human being takes the form of ascending steps.
• Those outside the varṇāśrama system are on the lowest step. ‘Outside the varṇāśrama system’ means the aboriginal or tribal people—animalistic humans. • Atheistic moralists are on the second step. They are involved in politics, democracy versus socialism, material science and welfare work—all that kind of nonsense. • Theistic moralists are on the third step. A theistic moralist would be, for example, a Christian or a Muslim, or an external varṇāśrama follower. • Vaidhī-bhaktas are on the fourth step. • Rāgānuga-bhaktas are on the fifth step of progressive spiritual advancement. • Finally, the bhāva-bhaktas and prema-bhaktas are in the topmost stage of spiritual advancement.

All human beings have a right to practice pure bhakti. In fact, all beings— even animals—can practice bhakti. There are many examples in the scriptures, such as Gajendra the elephant (in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam) and Jaṭāyu, the vulture (in Rāmāyaṇa) who informed Rāma of the course of Rāvaṇa. The monkeys and bears all helped in Lord Rāma’s pastimes; and of course, in Goloka Vṛndāvana there are many cows and other animals. Kṛṣṇa has very wonderful relationships with His animal devotees. Though all beings have a right to practice bhakti, according to Bhaktivinod those who follow the regulations of varṇāśrama have a much easier time. A pious, fortunate person begins from a preliminary understanding of religious practice, usually involving some aspects of sectarianism and mundane morality.

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When one first approaches devotional service, he will see it from an external point of view and inquire, “What should I do?” What you should do, of course, is follow the varṇāśrama system. By doing that you will accumulate so many pious activities, and by those pious activities you gradually become qualified for vaidhī-bhakti. However, according to Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, varṇāśrama is actually considered mundane. Those who follow varṇāśrama sometimes become attached to it and get stuck there; they don’t take to bhakti but remain on the mundane platform. We see many people like that. They go to temples, offer sacrifices and chant mantras; however, they do it for their own material benefit, not to please Kṛṣṇa. Bhaktivinod explains that when a person first comes to devotional service, their background often includes pious activities and materialistic religion. That means they are involved in some spiritual pursuit which is not fully transcendental, but only has a shadow or a patina of actual love of God. People are conditioned in this material world to act for their own benefit. But in bhakti one acts for the benefit or interest of the Lord, ignoring personal considerations. In pure devotional service there is no desire for personal gain. In the beginning we are not capable of pure love. We still have some personal interest. Hence, we usually come through karma-yoga, varṇāśrama-dharma, or some mundane religion—for example, many of us Westerners were Christians before becoming devotees. Devotional service is a whole new platform where things work differently. In the material world everything is measured by material qualifications. Strength, wealth, beauty, fame and knowledge are highly sought-after commodities in the material world because of the so-called material
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enjoyment associated with them. Actually there’s no nectar in material enjoyment at all. Caitanya-śikṣāmṛta says:
“When the consciousness of those situated in varṇāśrama matures into devotional sentiment, they take up the life of a devotee; but as long as they do not, they must be said to be practicing karma.”

In other words, religion belongs to the stage of karma-yoga—varṇāśrama in the Vedic system. As long as someone does not actually develop a taste for pure bhakti and give up his faith in all other processes—sarva-dharmān parityajya [Bhagavad-gītā 18.66]—he remains more or less stuck on that stage of karma-yoga, or mixed devotional service at best. We see this repeatedly with devotees. Neophyte devotees consider bhakti some kind of ritualistic religious procedure that can be quantified and explained in a list of rules: “Do this, don’t do that.” They think bhakti requires some external support in the form of karma. They don’t understand that bhakti is beyond all that. Bhakti is its own support; it nurtures itself. Reaching this realization may take many years—it may take a whole lifetime or even longer. If they develop real faith in bhakti they would immediately give up those tendencies toward karma. They would automatically become renounced and detached, because their source of enjoyment is within: the Lord in the heart. Bhaktivinod continues:
“It is the nature of the soul to ascend to the next higher step, but the ascension should not be premature or too quick. Only after being firmly established upon one step is it possible to ascend to the next

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step. That is why being qualified with steadiness on each level has been emphasized.”

One kind of error is to try to advance artificially to the next step before one has acquired the adhikāra, the qualification for that step. Each of the steps given in scripture has its own adhikāra; and until one acquires that qualification, he should remain in his current stage. In bhakti the main qualification is desire. As soon as we desire to have a direct relationship with the Lord, we become qualified to enter into bhakti. When we realize that we really want to develop pure love for the Lord, then we become qualified for bhāva—not before. Until then we should remain at our present stage. We cannot jump up artificially to the platform of pure devotional service. To purify our attachment to our existing activities we have to dedicate them the Lord’s service. It’s not that we should suddenly give up our present life, fly halfway across the world, join a bhakti-āśrama and expect that to solve all our problems. That’s not practical; we’re just going to bring our problems along with us because of our misconceptions of spiritual life. If someone thinks he can become a pure devotee merely by going from one location or situation to another, or just by changing his activities on an external superficial level, he will be disappointed. It’s not possible. The real transformation from religion to bhakti is completely internal. As long as one’s motivation is tainted by desires for material fame, prestige, honor, power, money and so on, he cannot advance to the stage of pure bhakti. In fact, he can’t even understand the stage of pure bhakti. To him the exalted qualities of pure bhakti look like weakness: the softness of heart, the lack of desire for material advancement, the lack of attachment to these external qualities—they look like weakness because
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the person on the lower stage cannot appreciate the higher stage until they’re qualified. But once someone actually becomes qualified, love for Kṛṣṇa develops spontaneously in his heart and he automatically becomes detached from all these external things. And we usually find that he will then leave the association of neophyte devotees and either go off on his own; or if he’s very fortunate, find other advanced devotees to associate with. In our case, for example, we had to leave ISKCON and start our own society of devotees, and train them up from the very beginning to the stage of bhāva. We found that with proper training and instruction directly from Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, they could attain bhāva in only two or three years. The vaidhī-bhakti stage is only preliminary; it’s transitional. So when we see various devotional organizations stressing only vaidhī-bhakti, it’s apparent that they haven’t studies Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu; it’s apparent that they don’t understand that actual bhakti means bhāva. Big religious organizations actually have an interest in suppressing knowledge of the complete path of devotional service, because bhāva, being an internal state within the devotee’s heart, cannot be controlled by any external organization. This suppression of knowledge of the complete path of bhakti is the actual cause of the problems in devotional society today. The solution is deep study and practice of the truths of rasa-tattva in Śrī Bhaktirasāmṛta-sindhu.

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Niyamāgraha: Spiritual Indolence
Mistaking the neophyte stage of vaidhī-bhakti, mixed devotional service, for the whole path occurs when someone is qualified to ascend to the next step, but they remain attached to the old step. Bhaktivinod says:
“The tendency to cling to the old stage is called niyamāgraha: clinging to outmoded rules. As a result of this clinging, the outcastes have no respect for the atheistic moralists; the atheistic moralists have no respect for the pseudo-theistic moralists; the pseudo-theists have no respect for the theistic moralists; the theistic moralists have no respect for the vaidha-bhaktas; and the vaidha-bhaktas have no respect for the rāgātmikā-bhaktas. Thus, owing to the clinging habit, the followers of varṇāśrama often do not respect the vaidha-bhaktas.”

In India we often see people go to temples just to get some material benefit from their religious practices. They think the pure devotees are crazy: “Why are you giving up family life with all the enjoyment and all those wonderful attachments?” They do not understand that all the needs and desires that one seeks to satisfy in family life are easily satisfied in bhakti; once one realizes this, he easily gives up material attachments. In fact, our emotional needs are better satisfied by bhakti, by the internal relationship with the Lord. Practicing bhakti while still in family life is also a bona fide stage of practice. But we generally see that people on the lower stage don’t understand and don’t appreciate people on a higher stage of spiritual practice. Why is this? Because they are attached to the particular sets of rules that they find appropriate for themselves. More than that, they remain stuck on those levels even when they know there is a higher level. We see this all the time in our preaching work: someone will approach bhakti, read the bhakti

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scriptures, hear from the devotees and see how happy we are—and they still don’t give up their nonsense attachments. Their attachment doesn’t affect us or hurt us; it doesn’t hurt bhakti, and it certainly doesn’t hurt the Lord—but it’s a misfortune for them. They are regarded as unfortunate because they remain attached to a lower step even though they have information on how to elevate themselves to a higher step. This is because they don’t have any real interest in their own advancement. This is a fact. If someone has their own real interest at heart, then as soon as some means of elevation becomes available, he’s going to jump at the chance; he’s going to be very enthusiastic: “Oh yes, let me take up this higher stage.” Of course then the other possibility comes into play, that if one tries to jump up artificially then he may fall down. But assuming that he does have the required qualifications, he can advance to the next step. If he still doesn’t take up these higher methods it is because of attachment, niyamāgraha—that’s the only possible explanation. Bhaktivinod goes on to say:
“Those at a higher stage naturally have compassion for those at a lower stage, but until the lower-situated people are fortunate, they cannot give up their stage and develop a taste for the higher stage.”

This means that as long as someone doesn’t develop a taste for bhakti, they have to remain in the stage of theistic morality: religion. We also see our Godbrothers and many of their followers in ISKCON practicing a little bhakti but remaining attached to material things like fame, money, power, politics, prestige and influence. They want to be viewed as great devotees. But a really great devotee doesn’t care whether anybody thinks he’s a great devotee or not; he knows, Kṛṣṇa knows and that’s enough.
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So when we see the example of our Godbrothers—who have been chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, taking prasādam, worshiping the Deities, doing kīrtan for decades—who still remain attached to this stage of vaidhī-bhakti, we have to wonder why they haven’t advanced. It’s because of this niyamāgraha: attachment to the rules of the previous stage. Niyamāgraha is the principal obstacle to advancement in spiritual life. It has to be given up or overcome by study of the bhakti scriptures such as Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu and by good quality practice. If you practice the rules of vaidhī-bhakti perfectly, you will very quickly develop a desire to attain love for the Lord—and that is the actual goal of vaidhī-bhakti.

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The Purpose of Vaidhī-bhakti
Kṛṣṇa consciousness is a process of gradual purification. So many past impressions in the mind have to be overcome, and new ones established according to the Vedic teachings. That takes time because we have been in the material world for millions of years, and collected millions of lifetimes of impressions of material existence. To develop love for the Supreme Lord we have to overcome all that conditioning. In fact, a tremendous inner transformation has to take place to even desire pure transcendental love. Because of the step-by-step advancement of the devotee from ordinary religion—varṇāśrama-dharma, external rules and morality—to the stage of bhakti, in the beginning of devotional service he has to go through the transitional phase of vaidhī-bhakti. Vaidhī-bhakti is based on the external rules of religion. For example, the manual of vaidhī-bhakti in our line is Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, and if you read it you will be astonished at the number of rules. There are pages and pages of rules extracted from śāstra: “Do this, do that, do this this way, do that that way, with this mantra, with this mudra.” There are so many rules and regulations, if you tried to follow all of them you would go crazy! But then, at the end of the section, it says, “But if the spiritual master instructs you, do it any way that he likes.” For example, after many ślokas describing elaborate rules and regulation for determining the proper time for the initiation ceremony, Hari-bhaktivilāsa instructs:
grāme vā yadi vāraṇye kṣetre vā divase niśi āgachhati gurur daivād yadā dīkṣā tadajñayā
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“It does not matter whether one is in a village, in a forest or in a nice field, or whether it is day or night; the best time for initiation is the time recommended by the spiritual master.” [Hari-bhakti-

vilāsa 1.2.32] After following the scriptural rules and regulations to the best of our ability and according to time and circumstance establishes us on the platform of bhakti, we directly experience the independent, self-sustaining, self-nourishing nature of bhakti. Then we’re in a position to let these external things go and simply depend on the bhakti process, our relationship with the spiritual master and Kṛṣṇa. This is the higher stage of bhakti. This bhāva-bhakti will give us all the rewards of all the other processes without any other effort, plus it gives us bhakti itself—and bhakti is the most wonderful thing because it leads to complete satisfaction of the heart. Jñāna [knowledge], vairāgya [renunciation] and external morality may help in the very beginning of bhakti, but real bhakti is bhāva. Real bhakti begins once the devotee has attained anartha-nivṛtti—the removal of all gross and subtle material desires—and simply depends on love for the Lord as the whole impetus of life. The point here—and Bhaktivinod explains this very nicely in Caitanyaśikṣāmṛta—is that not only karma, but also jñāna [knowledge] and even vairāgya [renunciation] are not integral parts of bhakti because they make the heart hard, which is against the principle of bhakti. Yet, in the preliminary stage before a person takes up pure bhakti, jñāna and vairāgya may sometimes be helpful in their preparatory practice. Once you know real nectar, you lose your taste for material enjoyment because it’s just a pale imitation; it’s just a reflection of actual rasa, actual
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enjoyment, actual pleasure. The pale reflection of actual rasa is called rasābhāsa, defined as an inharmonious combination of emotional tastes. Rasābhāsa can never satisfy Kṛṣṇa; therefore mixed devotional service cannot bestow prema. This conclusion is given in the very first chapter of Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu:
sādhanaughair anāsangair alabhyā sucirād api hariṇā cāśvadeyeti dvidhā sā syāt sudurlabhā tatra ādyā, yathā tāntre — jñānataḥ sulabhā muktir bhuktir yajñādi-puṇyataḥ seyaṁ sādhana-sāhasrair hari-bhaktiḥ sudurlabhā “[Pure] bhakti is rarely attained. Bhakti is difficult to attain in two ways: if undertaken in great quantity but without attachment [āsakti], bhakti cannot be attained even after a long time; and even if practiced with attachment, Kṛṣṇa does not give bhakti to the practitioner immediately. The first type of rarity is illustrated in one of the Tantras: ‘Liberation is easily attained by jñāna and material enjoyment is easily attained by puṇyas such as sacrifice, after attaining dedication to those goals by thousands of attempts. But bhāva-bhakti to the Lord cannot be attained if one practices thousands of different sādhanas [because āsakti will not appear]’.” [Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.35-36]

In other words, no amount of mixed devotional service can give the result of pure devotional service. Prema is not bestowed by vaidhī-bhakti, but only by āsakti [attachment], which is part of bhāva-bhakti; and bhāva-bhakti is attained only after anartha-nivṛtti, complete cessation of material desire. Not only that, but the exalted and astonishing benefits of pure bhakti cannot be attained through mixed devotional service. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī writes in his commentary on Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.10:

Approaching Bhāva


“In the First Wave of the Eastern Division, first the characteristics of uttama-bhakti, pure bhakti will be discussed. The whole of bhakti will not be discussed, to describe clearly the superior position of bhakti. When bhakti is covered by desires for karma and jñāna, its strength is limited. The extraordinary characteristics of bhakti appear only partially in such impure bhakti. Thus mixed bhakti cannot be used to show the supreme nature of bhakti.”

Bhaktivinod goes on to discuss how rasābhāsa can be purified and turned into pure rasa; how mixed devotional service is turned into pure devotional service. He gives so many great secrets in Caitanya-śikṣāmṛta, and one of them is that the beginning devotee cannot help but be attracted to, attached to and addicted to all kinds of subtle and gross material conceptions. In a person of good background, this will manifest as attachment to the mode of goodness—religion, pious activities, knowledge and renunciation (trying to remain aloof, independent or neutral). These sāttvik moods, or bhāvas, manifest in the early stages of devotion as symptoms of neutrality, śānta-rasa or detachment from the material world and situation in the spiritual energy. So in the beginning our conception of the spiritual is contaminated by material ideas like dharma [religion], artha [economic development], kāma [sense gratification], yoga, jñāna or some ritualistic form of religious observance which is not purely transcendental. Bhaktivinod says—and his insight here is key—that the purpose of vaidhībhakti is purifying the heart of these material attachments. That’s all. And the methods of vaidhī-bhakti—the 64 aṅgas of bhakti—are given only for this purpose. They cannot and do not grant pure devotional service, but they purify the heart of the living entity. But then when he forms the desire, “Let me develop pure love for Kṛṣṇa like the residents of Vraja,” at that moment bhāva, rasa and pure devotional service begin.
24 Bhakti Master Class

Kṛṣṇa calls this vyavasāyātmikā-buddhi, steady intelligence, in Bhagavadgītā. Dhīra, a sober man, has steady intelligence and fixed determination to attain the goal of pure devotional service. That is āsakti, or attachment to Kṛṣṇa. Vyavasāyātmikā-buddhi means fixed intelligence, fixed determination that does not waver from the goal. So we should be very aware of the goal—and, of course, the goal is rasa. The goal is pure devotional service, and to reach it we must go beyond vaidhī-bhakti. Thus the goal of vaidhī-bhakti is bhāva-bhakti, which we will be studying in this Bhakti Master Class series. Bhaktivinod describes how this stage of vaidhī transforms into the stage of bhāva:
“In the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, many aṅgas of vaidhī-bhakti are discussed. In the Bhakti-sandarbha, all the aṅgas are classified nicely into nine types of bhakti (hearing, chanting and so on). In the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, sixty-four aṅgas of vaidhī-bhakti are mentioned.”

And of course in other scriptures, many more aṅgas are given. The subject of vaidhī-bhakti is practically unlimited.
“Among those, five aṅgas are considered as chief: attachment to serving the Deity; relishing the meaning of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam with devotees; affection for devotees of the same level and association with those devotees of higher calibre by hearing from and serving their instructions; chanting harināma; and residing in Vraja. Devotees should particularly perform that aṅga for which they have a stronger taste, but they should be careful that this does not lead to distaste for other aṅgas. The essence of these aṅgas of bhakti is twofold: always remember the Lord and never forget Him.”

There are many methods which really boil down to the nine practices given by Prahlāda Mahārāja such as hearing, chanting, remembering, serving the lotus feet, etc. But the main goal is that one should become
Approaching Bhāva 25

detached from the preliminary, external stage of bhakti and advance to the higher stage of bhāva, of internal devotional service on the spontaneous platform. Hearing Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu is the best way to relish the meaning of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, since it is on the level of the confidential discussions among the Six Gosavāmīs of Vṛndāvana. We discuss this subject in great detail in the Bhakti Master Class series. Devotees should try to remember that the actual goal of all these rules, regulations and different practices is simply to always remember the Lord and never forget Him. Here’s a great hint: If you’re in love with someone, you automatically remember them; you don’t ever forget them. Everything you see, everything you do, everywhere you go, you think of the beloved, and everything reminds you of the beloved. So when you’re in love with Kṛṣṇa there’s no chance of forgetting Him; it’s very easy to remember Him. This love is bhāva. Bhāva means transcendental emotion. So this bhakti path is actually a cultivation of transcendental emotion, and when we’re successful these ecstatic transcendental emotions manifest spontaneously within the heart and mind. Although these emotions are independent of external practice, the bhāvabhakta—the rāgānugā-bhakta who is spontaneously following the moods of the Vraja devotees—doesn’t think of it that way. He doesn’t think “I have to do this, I have to do that for Kṛṣṇa.” No, he thinks “I love Kṛṣṇa! I want to do this service for Him; I want to please Kṛṣṇa.” And in that way he’s always thinking of the Lord with great affection, automatically remembering Him. There’s no question of forgetting Him in those circumstances.


Bhakti Master Class

The point here is that the stage of vaidhī-bhakti is simply the residual attachment to the stage of varṇāśrama or external religious morality. Even varṇāśrama-dharma is considered external. As this attachment gradually wears off and one becomes situated in actual love of Kṛṣṇa, one begins to discover what bhakti is really all about. This higher internal stage of bhakti is the focus of the Bhakti Master Class series.

Approaching Bhāva


Harmonizing Vidhi and Rāga
There are two ways of serving the Lord:
• By following vidhi [rules] and • By rāga [spontaneous attraction].

Thus sādhana-bhakti is divided into vaidhī-bhakti and rāgānuga-bhakti. It is very important to understand the differences between them. Otherwise due to niyamāgraha one may fail to recognize rāgānuga-bhakti as a valid form of bhakti-sādhana, leading to offenses toward more advanced devotees and ultimately, losing one’s taste and falling down. Vidhi means rules and regulations performed through a sense of duty; thus the system of worshiping the Lord based on a sense of duty is called vaidhībhakti. But higher than vaidhī-bhakti is the tendency to adore the object of love through a natural taste, rāga. Rāga means to be completely and spontaneously absorbed in the object of love.
iṣṭe svārasikī rāgaḥ paramāviṣṭatā bhavet tan-mayī yā bhaved bhaktiḥ sātra rāgātmikoditā “Rāga is defined as spontaneous, deep thirst for the object of love. Bhakti that is impelled exclusively by such a thirst is called rāgātmikā-bhakti.” [Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.272]

The object of love pursued by rāga is called the desired object. Deliberating upon what should be done or what should not be done is unnecessary in rāga, for rāga is a natural quality of consciousness. Thus in rāgānuga-bhakti the need for the framework of vidhi (scriptural rules and regulations) diminishes. Material rāga, the desire for material objects and designations exhibited by the soul in the materially conditioned state, is a perversion caused by false
Approaching Bhāva 29

bodily identification; thus the perverted rāga of the conditioned soul accepts material things as its objects. Directing this material rāga toward flowers, food, drink, intoxicants, clothing, shelter, family, country or a lover, the living entity ends up bewildered in a world of illusion. For this reason, the conditioned souls are far away from pure rāga naturally directed toward the Lord. Since bhakti instigated by rāga is therefore very rare, in the beginning of devotional service it is necessary to consider carefully what is beneficial and detrimental based on the indications of śāstra. From this consideration arises the rules and regulations of bhakti, or vidhi. Vidhi is not in opposition to rāga; it is a type of vibhāva that nourishes the state of rāga in the neophyte stage. Vidhi may be called ritual and rāga may be called spontaneous attachment. Though they are very different, seemingly opposing conceptions, in the final analysis they are one in purpose. Vidhi in its pure state is an assistant to rāga. Pure rāga automatically follows vidhi, the will of the Lord. The apparent opposition of rāga and vidhi seen in the material world is due to the unhealthy perverted condition of material rāga. When rāga recuperates by being directed toward the Lord, vidhi retreats, having fulfilled its purpose. Therefore in the spiritually healthy state, rāga predominates. As much as rāga for material things leads to degradation, so rāga for the Lord becomes the highest state of consciousness. The relationship of vidhi to rāga is like the relationship of medicine to the body. Rāga has many functions, but the function of vidhi is to protect and nourish rāga. Once rāga is thoroughly nourished, it does not need to depend on vidhi anymore.


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Pure rāga for the Lord takes shelter only of pure souls who are liberated from material contamination. That pure rāga is called rāgātmikā-bhakti. Only the purest souls, who desire to participate in the Lord’s Vraja pastimes, are qualified for rāgātmikā-bhakti. An example would be the sages of Daṇḍakāraṇya who approached Lord Rāmacandra for the benediction of serving Him in conjugal love. They later appeared in Gokula in Kṛṣṇa-līlā as gopīs, becoming eternal associates of the Lord. Rāgānuga-bhakti develops when neophyte devotees practicing vaidhī-bhakti hear scriptural descriptions of the inhabitants of Vraja’s ecstatic rāgātmikābhakti for Kṛṣṇa, and develop a desire to follow in their footsteps.
tatra adhikārī ― rāgātmikāika-niṣṭhā ye vraja-vāsi-janādayaḥ teṣāṁ bhāvāptaye lubdho bhaved atrādhikāravān “The qualification for rāgānuga-bhakti is as follows: That person who is greedy for attaining a bhāva similar to that of the inhabitants of Vraja―who are fixed solely in rāgātmikā-bhakti―is qualified for rāgānuga-bhakti.” [Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.291]

The inspiration for this level of bhakti is not vidhi, duty or scriptural injunction, but intense greed for its object:
tat-tad-bhāvādi-mādhurye śrute dhīr yad apekṣate nātra śāstraṁ na yuktiṁ ca tal-lobhotpatti-lakṣaṇaṁ “The appearance of that greed is indicated when, after realizing to some degree the sweetness of the love of the Vraja-vāsīs through the process of hearing from the scriptures, the intelligence no longer depends on rules of scripture and logic.” [Śrī Bhaktirasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.292]

Vidhi attempts to stimulate the jīva to realize his innate love for the Lord. However, when spiritual greed becomes the impetus for following vidhi,
Approaching Bhāva 31

the devotional practice is no longer called vaidhī-bhakti-sādhana, but rāgānuga-bhakti-sādhana. Thus, there are two types of sadhana-bhakti: vaidhī and rāgānuga. In the śloka quoted above, Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu instructs that a person who becomes greedy to attain the pure love of the rāgātmikā devotees is qualified for rāgānuga-bhakti. Rāgānuga-bhakti includes all the same aṅgas as vaidhī-bhakti, but the devotee of rāgānuga-bhakti performs those activities in a spontaneous mood, rather than by following the firm guidelines of vidhi.
vaidha-bhakty-adhikārī tu bhāvāvirbhavanāvadhi atra śāstraṁ tathā tarkam anukūlam apekṣate kṛṣṇaṁ smaran janaṁ cāsya preṣṭhaṁ nija-samīhitam tat-tat-kathā-rataś cāsau kuryād vāsaṁ vraje sadā sevā sādhaka-rūpeṇa siddha-rūpeṇa cātra hi tad-bhāva-lipsunā kāryā vraja-lokānusārataḥ śravaṇotkīrtanādīni vaidha-bhakty-uditāni tu yāny aṅgāni ca tāny atra vijñeyāni manīṣibhiḥ “Those qualified for vaidhī-bhakti are dependent on the rules of scripture and favorable use of logic until the appearance of bhāvabhakti. One should always live in Vraja, remembering the Vṛndāvana form of Kṛṣṇa and His dear associates who have inclinations for service similar to one’s own, absorbing oneself in hearing topics related to them. One should perform service in one’s physical body and in one’s siddha body, with a desire for a particular bhāva, following after the inhabitants of Vraja. The discriminating practitioners should accept the aṅgas that were mentioned in vaidhī-bhakti, such as hearing and chanting, as aṅgas of rāgānuga-bhakti.” [Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.293-296]


Bhakti Master Class

The conditioned soul living in the material world must carry out physical, mental and social activities to maintain his body. Those vidhi mentioned in the discussion of vaidhī-bhakti serve to keep the devotee on the path of bhakti and prevent him from becoming materially contaminated. They must also be followed by the practitioners of rāgānuga-bhakti. If the practice of rāgānuga is internal, what external practices should the devotee follow? If devotees do not accept all the necessary aṅgas of vaidhībhakti that make them fit for internal practice, they may reduce their propensity for rāga and revert to the external conception of bhakti.
śruti-smṛti-purāṇādipañcarātra-vidhiṁ vinā aikāntikī harer bhaktir utpātāyaiva kalpate “Devotional service of the Lord that ignores the authorized Vedic literatures like the Upaniṣads, Purāṇas and Nārada-pañcarātra is simply an unnecessary disturbance in society.” [Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛtasindhu 1.2.101]

If the manner of cultivating bhakti given in the śāstra is not accepted in full, internal practice cannot be maintained or increased. Interest in rāgānuga may grow, but the aṅgas of bhakti such as hearing and chanting should not be given up. Nevertheless, just as in vaidhī-bhakti the rules of naitika-dharma mature and change shape as the devotee advances, in rāgānuga-bhakti-sādhana the rules of vaidhī-bhakti change in emotional content and display some independent qualities. In some circumstances the rules change slightly, and in other circumstances they transform entirely. This becomes apparent by observing the conduct of the devotee in rāgānuga-bhaktisādhana. These changes do not arise from scripture but according to
Approaching Bhāva 33

individual ruci [taste], and thus specific examples are hard to give. One devotee may find entrance to the exalted realm of bhāva through chanting, and another through Deity worship. Yet another may attain bhāva through intense scriptural study, and someone else simply through remembering the Lord with great affection. Vaidhī-bhakti-sādhana is discussed extensively in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books, and is well known. It forms the basis of sādhana for the mixed devotees. Rāgānuga-bhakti-sādhana is also fully presented in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books, but due to a lack of understanding it has been neglected by the devotees. Now in this Bhakti Master Class series we will emphasize rāgānuga-bhakti-sādhana, for our purpose is to approach bhāva, pure devotional service based on ecstatic love for the Lord. 1

This section is adapted from Bhaktivinod Ṭhākur’s Caitanya-śikṣāmṛta, Fourth Shower of Nectar.


Bhakti Master Class

A Change of Heart
As soon as the devotee attains bhāva, the Lord fully supports him. Kṛṣṇa certainly doesn’t neglect the devotees who have attained states of internal love for Him. He gives all required facility for their continued advancement. Not only that, He encourages them from within by reciprocating their love in a most astonishing way. This is something you have to experience for yourself; it can’t be explained. Here’s a nice quote from Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu:
jñāna-vairāgyayor bhakti-praveśāyopayogitā īṣat prathamam eveti nāṅgatvam ucitaṁ tayoḥ yad ubhe citta-kāṭhinya-hetū prāyaḥ satāṁ mate sukumāra-svabhāveyaṁ bhaktis tad-dhetur īritā yathā tatraiva (11.20.31) — tasmān mad-bhakti-yuktasya yogino vai mad-ātmanaḥ na jñānaṁ na ca vairāgyaṁ prāyaḥ śreyo bhaved iha kintu jñāna-virakty-ādi-sādhyaṁ bhaktyaiva sidhyati yathā tatraiva (11.20.32-33) — yat karmabhir yat tapasā jñāna-vairāgya taś ca yat yogena dāna dharmeṇa śreyobhir itarair api sarvaṁ mad-bhakti-yogena mad-bhakto labhate’njasā svargāpavargaṁ mad-dhāma kathañcid yadi vāñchati

“Jñāna and vairāgya are suitable for entering bhakti, being
somewhat useful in the beginning of bhakti, but they are not considered aṅgas of bhakti. Because jñāna and vairāgya generally make the heart harsh, the authoritative devotees have concluded that bhakti alone, whose nature is very tender, is the cause of entering into bhakti. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [11.20.31], it is also said:
Approaching Bhāva 35

‘Therefore, for a devotee engaged in My loving service,
with mind fixed on Me, the cultivation of knowledge and renunciation is generally not the means of achieving the highest perfection within this world.’ However, the goals of jñāna, vairāgya and other processes are indeed achieved by bhakti alone. Thus, it is said in the ŚrīmadBhāgavatam [11.20.32-33]:

‘Everything that can be achieved by fruitive activities,
penance, knowledge, detachment, mystic yoga, charity, religious duties and all other means of perfecting life is easily achieved by My devotee through loving service unto Me. If somehow or other My devotee desires promotion to heaven, liberation, or residence in My abode, he easily achieves such benedictions.’” [Śrī Bhaktirasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.248-253]

Here Kṛṣṇa Himself says, “You don’t need these religious qualities. What you need is a very soft heart.” A soft heart full of love for Kṛṣṇa. Once the heart becomes soft, one can perceive Kṛṣṇa within the heart, and he very easily develops his relationship with the Lord by the spontaneous exchange of love, affection and service. This process of bhakti is independent. The cause of bhakti is bhakti, and the result of bhakti is also bhakti. It doesn’t depend on any other process or external condition. In material consciousness we want to be the object of love. But in spiritual life we become the shelter of love, and offer our love to the Supreme Lord. The emotional labor of devotional service is what actually brings us out of material suffering. It is not enough to simply perform some traditional ritual or follow some programmed list of instructions. What is needed is an actual change of heart: a change in our desire from wanting


Bhakti Master Class

to serve ourselves to wanting to serve the Supreme Lord. Bhaktivinod writes:
“Just as atheistic moral dharma progresses to merge into the theistic moral life of varṇāśrama-dharma, similarly, varṇāśrama-dharma transforms itself and becomes devoid of its previous faults in the life of a devotee fully immersed in bhakti. In varṇāśrama-dharma, the worship of the Lord is only one among many rules and duties. However, when these rules are incorporated into a devotional life, the rule concerning worship of the Lord becomes primary and all the other varṇāśrama rules become subordinate. Although at first sight this change may seem very slight, when faith in bhakti becomes strong the whole practice of the devotee becomes transformed and excellent. Thus, the lives of a varṇāśrama follower and a progressing devotee are completely different.”

Why? Because the motivation is different; the desire is different. Even in varṇāśrama I still have the desire to serve myself, to please myself, to solve my problems, to elevate myself. ‘I, me and mine’ is the center of all activities. Even though I may go to the temple, worship the Lord, make so many offerings, say so many prayers, chant so many mantras, my focus is still on solving my problem. That’s not love; that’s selfishness. But at least it’s selfishness on the platform of religious morality. If it’s in the Vedic context, we have varṇāśrama-dharma. In other contexts we have different religions; but they all have one thing in common, which is that they are about solving our problems, not about loving Kṛṣṇa. But in pure devotional service we become so satisfied by transcendental bliss that we forget all about our problems. We are so satisfied by Kṛṣṇa’s dealings, His affectionate nature, His beautiful qualities and His exciting, wonderful pastimes, that this astonishing transcendental bliss becomes so rooted and so established in the heart that we no longer consider material
Approaching Bhāva 37

enjoyment significant. And of course, that also applies to material suffering. If you are in an airplane cruising at 30,000 feet and you fly over a city, the good neighborhoods and bad neighborhoods look the same. All you see is some insignificant buildings or lights on the ground. Similarly, when we are advanced in bhakti, when we reach the stage of bhāva and prema, material existence becomes so insignificant, so meaningless, so far away that it doesn’t really matter. Our enjoyment or suffering according to external calculation is irrelevant because we have a strong, reliable, eternal source of bliss in our personal relationship with the Lord. That bliss is unconditionally accessible at all times through pure devotional service. At this stage we don’t care about our material condition of life. Whether we are in the material world, the spiritual world, the heavenly planets or the hellish planets, we just want more and more of this wonderful nectar of love of Godhead. It’s so beautiful and gives us so much happiness that we don’t care about the external material condition. This is actual liberation from material existence.


Bhakti Master Class

Devotion, Taste and Desire
We don’t really live in these senses, in this mind, in this material body. We really live in spirit—in the sky of the heart, as described in Vedānta-sūtra 1.3.5. The living entity lives in the sky of the heart, and in that sky the whole material world and the whole spiritual world is present. How is this possible? Because simply by changing our consciousness we can travel to any of the worlds, any of the lokas, material or spiritual. Simply by approaching the Lord with a devotional attitude we can get any benediction, mystic power or devotional position according to our taste. Our disease in the present condition is that we don’t have transcendental taste. Instead, we have a taste for pale, bland, superficial, temporary material things and because of that we’re suffering. So we have to change our taste; we have to change our desire. If we go into an ice cream store, the clerk will ask, “What flavor do you want?” In other words, what do you desire? And we can have anything: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, rocky road, whatever we want. Similarly in spiritual life, Kṛṣṇa says: ye yathā māṁ prapadyante [Bhagavadgītā 4.11] “I respond according to the desire of the worshiper.” In other words, Kṛṣṇa is giving us our preference. He is saying, “What flavor of transcendental love would you like?” We can have it simply by desiring. Our disease is that we don’t desire that transcendental love. We are confused and don’t know how to respond to Kṛṣṇa; we don’t know how to pick our favorite flavor of spiritual love. That’s why we have to study Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu; that’s why we have to understand rasa-tattva; that’s why we have to study bhāva, the intricate science of transcendental emotions: so that we understand what’s on the menu.
Approaching Bhāva 39

In the ice cream store they have a list of all the flavors on the wall, and you can even try a little spoonful of each one. Similarly when we read Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, we find many stories of devotees who successfully approached the Lord in different ways and reached perfection. Which one of those would we like to follow? Which one of those moods are we attracted to? Which one of those flavors of spiritual love would we like to have? It’s up to us. We have to choose to advance further in devotional service, so we have to know how to read the menu. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the menu of love of Godhead and simply by studying Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, meditating over it, realizing it in our lives, we get the topmost fruit of the Vedic literatures, which is love of Godhead. That is so pleasing and wonderful that we forget all about our material miseries and obtain the actual goal of human existence: pure love of Godhead. But to read and understand Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam correctly, we have to master the science of rasa-tattva, which is explained systematically only in Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛtasindhu. This deep study of Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu is the purpose of Bhakti Master Class.


Bhakti Master Class

Other Books
by David Bruce Hughes (Gaurahari Dāsānudās Bābājī)
Published by Esoteric Teaching Seminars

! ere Be Wisdom 108 aphorisms demonstrating how God reciprocates our H sincere prayers, and glorifying His compassion for the enlightenment of all. PDF • Paperback • Multimedia iBook • iOS App coming soon! More…

Approaching Bhāva


! earch for the Absolute Truth We all have an urge within us to find the S Absolute Truth. This beautifully illustrated book tells the true story of a courageous boy’s search. PDF • Paperback • Multimedia iBook • iOS App coming soon! More… ! he Book of Gethsemane Most people have heard the story of Jesus and T his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. What really happened while the disciples were asleep? PDF • Paperback • Multimedia iBook • iOS App coming soon! More… ! ransontology is a new technology of consciousness enhancement based on T the ancient Esoteric Teaching of the Sanskrit Vedas. PDF • Paperback • Multimedia iBook • iOS App coming soon! More… ! ecrets of the Soul Everyone has heard about the soul, but they don't have S a deep understanding of it. What and who is the soul? Where is his real home? PDF • Paperback • Multimedia iBook • iOS App coming soon! More… ! rī Īśopaniṣad is the first (īśa) of the 108 Upaniṣads, is a great place to start Ś your exploration of the authentic Vedic texts. PDF • Paperback • Multimedia iBook • iOS App coming soon! More… ! rī Viṣṇusahasranāma The Thousand Holy Names of Lord Viṣṇu for Ś devotees who want to chant this powerful prayer as a daily spiritual practice. PDF • Paperback • Multimedia iBook • iOS App coming soon! More… ! rī Bhagavat-sandarbha (also known as Ṣaṭ-sandarbha) is a collection of six Ś works on the exalted philosophy and ontological position of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. PDF • Paperback • Multimedia iBook • iOS App coming soon! More…

( rī Vedānta-sūtra is the ultimate knowledge of the Vedas. Culturing Ś
transcendental consciousness is the only source of unconditional happiness. PDF • Paperback • Multimedia iBook • iOS App coming soon! More… ! rī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu provides the complete science of pure bhakti, Ś the never-ending, ever-fresh experience of ecstatic spiritual love. PDF • Paperback • Multimedia iBook • iOS App coming soon! More…


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Approaching Bhāva


David Bruce Hughes

Bhakti-sarvabhauma Śrī Gaurahari Dāsānudās Bābājī (aka David Bruce Hughes) is one of the greatest exponents of the Esoteric Teaching, the science of higher consciousness, in the world today. Bābājī is a prolific, deeply thoughtful and provocative author, a Vedic astrologer, and an evocative spiritual musician, composer and recording artist, with many books and CDs on themes of devotion and spiritual life. He spent over 30 years at the feet of his exalted guru, studying the esoteric Vedic wisdom in the most sacred places of pilgrimage in India. He is also a profound spiritual Master Teacher and an engaging presenter who has held audiences all over the world spellbound with his fascinating talks. He combines an inclusive, broad-minded analytical approach to
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spirituality with the transcendent faith and passionate devotion of the Vedic line. He says, "The direction of my life was set at age three, when I sincerely prayed to the Lord to send me a teacher on the level of Jesus Christ so I could learn how to have a direct personal relationship with Him." Bābājī is very sensitive to the quality of consciousness in the people he works with. He says, “Faith is prerequisite to spiritual advancement. But to develop faith, people need certainty. Many people have lost faith because sectarian religion cannot answer their natural questions about life, love and how to attain real happiness. Before faith can take root, we need deep clarity on spiritual life. This can only come from understanding of the Esoteric Teaching. This transcendental knowledge gives us the certainty we need to recover our faith and make tangible progress toward spiritual enlightenment.” Bābājī was born in Florida and grew up near New York City. His family members were dedicated Episcopalians, very active in the local church ministry. He showed a strong attraction to both spiritual life and music at an early age. He began working with electronics and computers in high school, where he taught himself digital logic and won several science fairs with his innovative projects. After he received perfect 800 scores in 3 of his SAT examinations, MIT offered him a scholarship in Nuclear Physics, but Bābājī turned it down to pursue his first love: music. A talented and largely self-taught musician, Bābājī won First-Chair Flute in the All-American High School Band competition in his senior year, and toured the US and Canada with the group. Bābājī went on to earn a BA in Musical Composition from Montclair Conservatory, working his way through school by playing jazz gigs and repairing early computers. While at Montclair, Bābājī won the gold medal of the prestigious NYU
Approaching Bhāva 45

Young Composers' Contest for three years running. This exposure led to a job with New York's Ames Agency as a television commercial and film composer. At Ames, Bābājī wrote and produced the award-winning score for Armstrong Tire's 'Tiger Paws' spots, one of the longest-running advertising campaigns in television history. Not satisfied with commercial success, Bābājī moved to New Mexico, where he worked with early digital computers and test systems in research programs at Sandia, Los Alamos National Laboratories and White Sands/ Alamogordo Proving Grounds. With the help and advice of senior Los Alamos scientists, he performed a series of groundbreaking laboratory experiments in the silence of the desert, exploring the effects of music and sound on living beings. The results of this work inspired him to study Vedic music and rasa-tattva (the art of transcendental emotions) with Indian maestro Ali Akbar Khan in San Rafael, California. He quickly became expert in Indian raga composition and improvisation, using voice, flute, esrāj, sārāṅgī, mṛdāṅga and other exotic instruments. At this time Bābājī made a broad survey of Eastern philosophical and spiritual teachings. Besides reading very widely in the Indian spiritual traditions, he met and studied Vedic teachings with many svamis and yogis teaching on the West Coast. By great good fortune he met his spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedānta Svāmī (Śrīla Prabhupāda), a fully self-realized pure devotee and renunciant, prolific author, profound devotional musician and philosopher in the BrahmaMadhva-Gaudiya Vaiṣṇava lineage of Bengal, and was inspired to study bhakti-yoga, the profound wisdom path of the Esoteric Teaching of the Vedas, with him. Bābājī became a Vedic monk, accepting formal hari-nāma initiation as Dāsānudās Brahmacārī from Śrīla Prabhupāda in New Orleans in 1974,
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and ordination as a Vedic brāhmaṇa (priest) in Vrndavana, India in 1977. He lived and studied in traditional Vaiṣṇava and Tantric communities in India and various other parts of the world for over 20 years. He learned Sanskrit, deeply studied Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, performed traditional temple music and dance, and led fire sacrifices and other Vedic ceremonies all over India. As a philosopher, he specialized in Vedic ontology and the epistemology of Vedānta-sūtra, and became a major interpreter of the esoteric devotional scripture Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, assisting his guru by editing the first English translation of the work. He also studied different forms of yoga including haṭha-yoga, rāja-yoga, tantra-yoga, mantra-yoga and many more. Traveling four times around the world on teaching tours, he received many advanced initiations in esoteric philosophy and practices from important Vedic spiritual teachers. After Bābājī completed preliminary studies in yoga, Sanskrit, Sankhya philosophy, temple worship, devotional music and dance, and Vedic mantras, his guru formally ordained Bābājī as a brāhmaṇa or Vedic priest. Bābājī is one of few Westerners ever to be awarded this eminent Vedic distinction. Because of this uncommon initiation, acknowledging his penetrating knowledge of Vedic spiritual wisdom—unparalleled qualifications for a Westerner—and the personal recommendation of his guru, Bābājī was invited to study at a Tantric esoteric school in Nainital, India, in 1979. This school, situated near the source of the Ganges , is not only a fully-functional traditional Tantric community; it also safeguards a comprehensive repository of the Vedic and Tantric literatures. Bābājī was thus privileged to study both the complete theory and the esoteric practices of Yoga and Tantra at their source. His attainment in Tantra was

Approaching Bhāva


recognized by formal initiation into Madhyamika, the most esoteric of all Tibetan Tantric mysteries, under the direction of the Dalai Lama in 1983. A powerful presenter, during the 70s and 80s Bābājī led classes and workshops on Tantra and the Vaiṣṇava way of wisdom in Santa Cruz and Harbin Hot Springs, California; led a week-long Tantra retreat in Waimea, Maui; presented a 3-day workshop on sacred chants in Soho, London; taught Puranic wisdom and Sanskrit in Paris, France; toured and lectured in places as diverse as Alexandria, Greece; Constantinople, Turkey; Hamburg, Germany; Bern, Austria; Belgrade, Yugoslavia; Tehran, Iran and Kabul, Afghanistan; and spoke on bhakti-yoga to substantial audiences all over India, from Mumbai to Kalakata and from Badrinath to Shivarandram. In 1984-5 Bābājī hosted a radio show on transcendental music, Sacred Sounds, on the American Radio Network in Los Angeles. From 1985-1988 He was Co-Chairman of the Music Department at the Māyāpura Chandrodaya Gurukula, a traditional Vedic academy in West Bengal, India. He also presented a 10-day international seminar in sacred Vedic music there in 1988. Over the years he appeared on numerous radio and television programs explaining bhakti-yoga, devotional meditation practices and Vedic spiritual philosophy. In 1985 he wrote Sapta Svarah, his thesis for his Bhakti-vaibhava degree (the Vaiṣṇava equivalent of a Doctor of Divinity) on the correspondence between the esoteric Vedic musical system and the mathematical laws of Quantum Mechanics. He was also instrumental in creating the Usenet forum alt.religion.vaisnava, the first international Internet conference for Vedic bhakti-yogis.


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From 1989-1991 Bābājī was based on Guam, exploring the roots of traditional South Pacific island cultures such as the Chamorros and Micronesians. He visited traditional native communities in Yap, Palau, Ponape, Majuro and the Solomon Islands, studying these ancient cultures and artifacts to research their forgotten links to the Vedic civilization. In 1988, during prolonged deep meditation in a Himalayan cave, Bābājī received a mystical transmission of the Esoteric Teaching, the confidential meta-knowledge behind all genuine spiritual paths. This revelation, recounted in his book Search for the Absolute Truth, completed his education in the transcendental mysteries of spiritual life, opening to him the secret pathway to complete self-realization. Over the next decade, Bābājī implemented the secret practices of the Esoteric Teaching, completing the process of self-realization begun by his first initiation in 1971. This resulted in a confidential spiritual experience of the highest attainment on Kaua’i in January 2002 during a six-month solitary meditation retreat, successfully completing the quest for the highest degree of self-realization that he had begun more than fifty years before. Bābājī maintained a keen interest in aviation, science, computers and technology throughout his monastic life, keeping up with new developments and finding unique ways to apply technology in spiritual life. In Mumbai, he used computers to pioneer direct-mail fundraising for food relief for the poor, raising over 16 million rupees in less than a year. One of his direct-mail campaigns netted a 42% response! He uses computer technology extensively in his spiritual teaching work, maintaining contact and relationships with a worldwide network of students.

Approaching Bhāva


Returning to the US Mainland in 1992, Bābājī used his technological expertise to establish a career as a senior technical writer and illustrator, writing and publishing books on advanced computer and software technologies for companies like Apple Computer, Digital Research, Westinghouse, and Hughes Technologies. An early adopter of the Internet, he built Web sites for clients such as Weyerhauser, GeorgiaPacific, Solutia, Equifax, First Data Corporation and many more. At this time he also became aware of the exciting spiritual potential of computers and nanotechnology, and helped found the first Internet forum for discussions on advanced Vedic spiritual topics. Since returning to the US, Bābājī published several books on traditional Vedic philosophy: Śrī Viṣṇusahasranāma and Śrī Nṛsiṁsahasranāma. He also wrote and published original works such as Here Be Wisdom: 108 Aphorisms on Advanced Topics in Spiritual Life, and Search for the Absolute Truth. He issued several solo CDs of Vedic music and chanting: Friend of the Heart, Vipralambha, RagaJazz, Hare Kṛṣṇa Kirtan and companion CDs to Śrī Viṣṇusahasranāma and Śrī Nṛsiṁsahasranāma. Bābājī's publishing company, Esoteric Teaching Seminars, publishes and distributes his books and CDs online. Bābājī is working on several upcoming book and video projects. He currently lives in a rural retreat center in India with his close disciples.


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