A rāgānuga-sādhaka should contemplate his aspired svarūpa thinking, “I am a female companion of the maidservants of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. Under the guidance of the sakhīs I am devoted to rendering service to Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and my body is decorated with various ornaments mercifully given by the sakhīs.” (Text 11)
How can a person in this world achieve perfection and a spiritual form in the transcendental world? The path of spontaneous love and affection, rāga-mārga, is the means to achieve this svarūpa-siddhi as described in our Gauḍīya scriptures, such as Rāga-vartma-candrika. By following the guidance and example of rāgānugā–bhaktas, we can transcend this world and our material karma, saṁskāras and form, and take birth in transcendental Vraja. By the association of the eternally perfect associates of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa in Vraja, we will imbibe all the processes of loving service.
Many people think they have no qualification to follow the rāgānugā–bhaktas or to even hear their teachings. This is like a meat-eater saying he cannot give up flesh and become a vegetarian because he will not have any strength. Or it is like a drug addict saying he cannot give up his addiction because it will drive him mad. We should not be afraid of giving up a lower path for a higher one. Some initial difficulty may be there, but in time, we will feel hundreds of times better than we did under the grip of our vices. Before the awakening of divine love, we are all under the spell of māyā. We are intoxicated by the illusions of material life. To become free of this, we must follow the footsteps of the rāgānugā–bhaktas on the rāga-mārga path.
Svarūpa-śakti Śrīmatī Rādhārānī sends Her dear associates to this world. They appear and illumine their teachings on the path of spontaneous love and affection. They are the ācāryas in the Bhāgavata-paramparā. We cannot cross māyā and enter Vraja without their help, mercy, and guidance. By following them, first an affectionate familial feeling towards the ācāryas and their associates develops. As we gradually develop in our affection and faith, we will realize, “My home is in Vraja.” And we will pray, “When I will be amidst the Vrajavāsīs in my own spiritual form?”
People come to Śrī Guru from many countries, but over time, they begin to consider themselves as members of guru’s family, giving up their own self-identification with their material family and nationalities. As their love increases, they feel that the Vrajavāsīs are their own family and friends. They forget all the relations of this world.
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura prays (Prārthanā Song 12):
hari hari! āra ki emana daśā haba
kabe vṛṣabhānu-pūre āhīrī gopera ghare,
tanayā haiyā janamiba
yāvaṭe āmāra kabe e-pāṇi-grahaṇa habe,
vasati kariba kabe tāya
sakhīra parama śreṣṭha je tāhāra haya preṣṭha,
sevana kariba tāṅra pāya
teṅha kṛpāvān haiñā rātula caraṇe laiñā,
āmāre karibe samarpaṇa
saphala haibe daśā pūribe manera āśā,
sevi duṅhāra yugala-caraṇa
vṛndāvane dui-jana caturdike sakhī-gaṇa,
sevana kariba avaśeṣe
sakhī-gaṇa cāribhite nānā jantra laiñā hate.
dekhiba manera abhilāṣe
dūṅhu cāṅda-mukha dekhi’ juḍābe tāpita āṅkhi,
nayane bahibe aśru-dhāra
vṛndāra nideśa pāba doṅhāra nikaṭe jāba,
hena dina haibe āmāra
śrī-rūpa-mañjarī sakhī more anāthinī dekhi,
rākhibe rātula duṭī pāya
narottama dāsa bhaṇe priya-narma-sakhī-gaṇe,
kabe dāsī karibe āmāra
O Hari Hari! Will this ever happen to me that in Vṛṣabhanu-pura I will take birth as a daughter in the house of Ahirī Gopa? When will my hand be accepted in marriage at Yāvaṭa and when will I begin to reside there? I will serve the lotus feet of a parama–preṣṭha–sakhī for she is an intimate friend of Rādhā. Being merciful she will offer me into the service of Śrī Yugala’s lotus feet. My life will be successful, and all my aspirations will be fulfilled. In this way I will serve Their lotus-feet.
I will ultimately serve the Divine Couple surrounded by the sakhīs in Vṛndāvana. I will watch the Divine Couple to my heart’s content, surrounded by sakhīs with various instruments in their hands. Looking at the moonlike faces of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, my burning eyes will be cooled and tears will begin to flow. When will that day be mine when I receive Vṛṇda-devī’s order to approach Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa? Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī, seeing that I am alone without protection, will keep me at her reddish lotus feet. Narottama dāsa prays to the priya-narma-sakhīs, “When will you make me your maidservant?”
The sādhaka prays in this way, “When will that day come that I will be born in the town of Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja, in the home of the gopas. When will I be present in Yavata with Śrīmatī Rādhikā and Her sakhīs. When will they bestow upon me some small service? When will they shelter me and offer me at the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa?”
While chanting harināma, we should pray, “Lalitā, Viśākhā, Rūpa, Rati, and Lavaṅga mañjarīs, and all the Vraja-devīs. Please help me, otherwise I will drown in māyā. Without your shelter and mercy, I will certainly be lost.” Pray for service from your Gurudeva.
prātaḥ śrīman navadvīpe dvi-netraṁ dvi-bhujaṁ gurum
varābhaya-pradaṁ śāntaṁ smaret tan nāma-pūrvakam
Early in the morning, chant Śrī-Gurudeva’s name, while meditating on him being situated in Śrī Navadvīpa or Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma, and having two eyes and two arms. He bestows fearlessness and is peaceful.
tām ahaṁ satataṁ vande guru-rūpāṁ parāṁ sakhīm
Śrī Guru-rūpa sakhī-praṇāma
I always worship my guru in his form as an exalted sakhī who is always in the company of Śrī Rādhā and the other sakhīs.
tvaṁ gopikā vṛṣa-raves tanayāntike ‘si
sevādhikāriṇi guro nija-pāda-padme
dāsyaṁ pradāya kuru māṁ vraja-kānane śrī-
rādhāṅghri-sevana-rase sukhinīṁ sukhābdhau
O Gurudeva! You are the intimate gopīkā of Śrīmatī Rādhikā and can grant Her service. Kindly give the shelter of your lotus feet, and make me blissfully engaged within the ocean of the ecstatic mellows of service to Her lotus feet in the forests of Vraja.
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura prays like this. At the time of dīkṣā, Śrī Guru gives the seed of this mood. Śrī Guru in the rāga-mārga is always serving Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa in Vraja. Meditation on one’s own spiritual identity (ātma–dhyāna–mantra) is performed as follows:
tilakaṁ kaṇṭhaṁ sumālānvitaṁ
pūtaṁ sūkṣmaṁ navāmbaraṁ
vimalatāṁ nityaṁ vahantīṁ tanuṁ
nikaṭe sevotsukaṁ cātmanaḥ
I contemplate on myself as being surrendered at the lotus feet of Śrī Gurudeva and possessing a great desire to serve him. I meditate on myself wearing fresh tilaka, representing Śrī Hari-mandira, on my forehead. I am adorned with a beautiful set of tulasī neckbeads, and my chest is decorated with the auspicious names of the Lord and smeared with sandalwood pulp. I am wearing fine and pure cloth, and internally I am always absorbed in ever-fresh spiritual moods.
By Gurudeva’s mercy the sādhaka receives a spiritual body appropriate for service to Kṛṣṇa. This is described in the Śrī Sanatkumāra Saṁhitā. A sādhaka in mādhurya-rasa is always absorbed in his internally contemplated body in the following way:
ātmānaṁ cintayet tatra tāsāṁ madhye manoramām
rūpa-yauvana-sampannāṁ kiśorīṁ pramadākṛtim
prārthitām api kṛṣṇena, tato bhoga-parāṅmukhīm
rādhikānucarīṁ nityaṁ tat-sevana-parāyaṇām
kṛṣṇād apy adhikaṁ prema rādhikāyāṁ prakurvatīm
prīty anudivasaṁ yatnāt tayoḥ saṅgama-kāriṇīm
ity ātmānaṁ vicintyaiva tatra sevāṁ samācaret
brāhma-muhūrtam ārabhya yāvat tuṣyān mahāniśi
Śrī Sadāśiva said: O Nārada, meditate on your svarūpa being in the spiritual land of Vṛndāvana amongst Kṛṣṇa’s beloved gopīs, who see Him as their paramour in the following mood: “I am an unmarried beautiful young teenage girl, whose delightful adolscent form is filled with bliss. I am expert in many fine arts that give pleasure to Kṛṣṇa. I am forever a maidservant of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, who is Kṛṣṇa’s most dear beloved, and I am always happy to arrange for Her meeting with Him. Therefore, even if Kṛṣṇa begs for a meeting with me, I will do anything I can to avoid meeting with Him, because it would not be for the pleasure of His senses, but my own. I am always ready to render service and attend to Kṛṣṇa’s beloved Śrī Rādhā, and I have more love for Rādhā than I do for Kṛṣṇa. Everyday I am dedicated to lovingly and carefully arranging the union between Śrī Rādhā and Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Remaining immersed in the bliss of serving Them, I will increase Their happiness in that meeting.
kṛṣṇa smaraṇa janaṁ cāsya
kuryād vāsaṁ vraje sadā
The devotee who desires rāgānuga-bhakti should constantly remember Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana, along with His beloved associates who have the same mood one aspires for. He should remain absorbed in hearing and narrating their pastimes and always remain in Vraja. (Bhakti-rāsāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.294).
How to reside in Vraja? Always remember Kṛṣṇa. Complete smaraṇa, or remembrance, is on both sides. We always remember Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs, and they think about us. This is complete smaraṇa. We can achieve this by constant remembrance and prayer to the transcendental personalities. By doing so, Kṛṣṇa will bestow Vraja-vāsa upon us. In the Vrajavāsīs’ association, kṛṣṇa–smaraṇa will come naturally.
If we desire prema–sevā, divine loving service, we will make a firm vow to Śrīmatī Rādhikā and Her prominent sakhīs like Lalita-devi, Viśākhā, Rūpa Mañjarī, and so forth. We will pray, “I will not take shelter of any other. I only seek and wait for Your blessings and mercy. I will only associate with those who similarly seek Your shelter and who have vraja–niṣṭha. I will sternly avoid any other association.”
By hearing, remembering, and praying to the vraja-gopīs, a natural desire will develop in us for kṛṣṇa-sevā, and we will always chant kṛṣṇa-nāma. Śrī Kṛṣṇa is in the gopīs’ hearts. They can bestow His presence and service. Therefore, the rāga-bhakta will always be greedy for the gopīs’ association and mercy.
Why consider yourself unqualified to remember and pray to the gopīs? If you do not think about the gopīs and Kṛṣṇa, you will be bound to remember māyā. You cannot cleanse and empty your mind. You must replace material thoughts with spiritual thoughts. Your mind cannot become completely desireless. It should be filled with transcendental reflections. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.33.39) states:
vikrīḍitaṁ vraja-vadhūbhir idaṁ ca viṣṇoḥ
śraddhānvito ’nuśṛṇuyād atha varṇayed yaḥ
bhaktiṁ parāṁ bhagavatī pratilabhya kāmaṁ
hṛd-rogam āśv apahinoty acireṇa dhīraḥ
If a person has faith in his heart for the Vraja-devīs and, after hearing, describes the mahā-rāsa of the Vraja-devīs with Kṛṣṇa, then Kṛṣṇa becomes very happy. “Oh! They have no doubt about my mahā-rāsa and do not think it is an impure or useless activity.” Kṛṣṇa then bestows this parā-bhakti upon that person. At that time, the disease of the heart, lust, disappears.
By hearing the glories of the Vraja-devīs, their nature and qualities will come in our heart and we will cross over our material nature. The rāgānuga-bhakta will always reside in Vraja. If he cannot do so physically, he will always be in Vṛndāvana in his mind.
kuñje vāsa anurāgi-jana-dāsī haiyā
aṣṭa-kāla bhaji līlā majiyā majiyā
smari’ kṛṣṇa, nija-kṛṣṇa-preṣṭha-vraja-jana
kṛṣṇa-kathā-rata, vraja-vāsa anukṣaṇa
One should perform saṅkīrtana and in sequence engage the tongue and mind in remembrance of the name, form, qualities, and pastimes of Kṛṣṇa. Residing in a kuñja, become a maidservant of the eternal associates who possess anurāga, and totally immerse yourself in serving the eight-fold pastimes of the Śrī Yugala. Remember Kṛṣṇa and His near and dear Vraja associates and engage in kṛṣṇa-kathā while continuously residing in Vraja.
Living entities that reside in prakṛta Vraja will achieve spiritual forms in transcendental Vraja. By performing sādhana in Vraja under the guidance of rāgānugā–bhaktas, in time, one will gain a transcendental form in eternal Vraja. When we reside in Vṛndāvana, we should remember and pray to the Vrajavāsīs. To really be in Vraja is to remember and serve the Vrajavāsīs. Otherwise, if we are only externally staying in Vraja, while absorbed in sense enjoyment, we will soon lose taste for being in Vraja and will want to leave. Then what benefit will come?
Therefore, the sādhaka should remember Kṛṣṇa’s dear associates like Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī and other dear sakhīs. While living in Vraja Maṇḍala, the sādhaka should hear pastimes of those parikāras who are favorable for his bhāva and serve them; then their moods can be attained. Therefore, our ācārya-varya prays: “rādhā-kuṇḍa-taṭa-kuñja-kuṭīra, govardhana-parvata yāmuna-tīra—a small cottage within a kuñja on the bank of Rādhā-kuṇḍa, Govardhana Hill, the banks of the Yamunā.”
Srila Narottama das Thakur ki Jaya! (excerpted from “Sri Sri Prema-Bhakti Candrika”, available from: [email protected] )