Mahāprabhu bestowed causeless mercy on His devotees at the time of His mahā-abhiśeka. After bathing the Lord, the devotees dressed Him, worshiped Him with various types of paraphernalia, and offered bhoga. Mahāprabhu accepted everything that was offered to Him in the mood of the Supreme Lord and then engaged everyone in offering prayers to Him. He remained in this mood for 21 hours. This pastime is called sāt-prahariyā-bhāva.
Up until this point, Mahāprabhu thought, “I shall help the devotees, remaining in the mood of a devotee Myself.” But today, Mahāprabhu displayed His feature of being the Supreme Lord for twenty-one hours.
It is easy to instill faith in the conditioned souls, who are of meager intelligence, by mystic performances. The jīvas come onto the right path either by the discipline of a strong authority, or by becoming enchanted by opulence. Otherwise, they are not willing to put their faith in anything. Because of this, they are unable to cross beyond māyā.
In this material world, the average boy studies hard, beginning from kindergarten and progressing to college. By the time he finally graduates from university, he has become a man. He works and can soon afford a car, a house, and other pleasures. He thinks, “These are God’s gifts to me for my hard work.”
Everyone thinks that worldly comforts are the good things in life and have no idea or concern for what is beyond the temporal and mundane. They worship demigods, perform parikrama, and practice austerities—all for the satisfaction of their own mind and senses. Everyone wants pleasure, but no one wants to suffer.
People think that bodily happiness is happiness of the self, but they do not realize that the body will ultimately grow old and die. In old age the senses do not work properly. The mind becomes weak and it becomes impossible to tolerate even minor discomforts. This condition will come to everyone. How then, can we say that there is happiness in material life? Can it really be called enjoyment if the end result is inevitable suffering?
A truly intelligent person seeks a relationship beyond the realm of matter—a relationship with Bhagavān. In the cultivation of this relationship, one nourishes his svarūpa, the soul’s true identity. Instead of endeavoring to make the material body healthy and strong, such a person strengthens his eternal spiritual body. When he achieves realization of the soul, he loses attachment for the material body. At that point, even if he does not give the material body food or sleep, he will not be disturbed. As long as the soul is not being nourished, it will be unhappy. We think, “My body’s happiness is my happiness.” But true happiness is only felt when we realize our true, eternal identity.
A person who rents a house is always harassed for money by his landlord and is always anxious. If, however, he raises enough money to purchase a house of his own, his troubles dissipate. Similarly, we are presently residing in this material body and this is a temporary situation. If we can be established in realization of the soul, then our material body will not disturb us, even when it is old and ailing. When the soul is free of material bondage, we can serve God and relish true happiness.
na śocati na kāṅkṣati
samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu
mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parām
[One, thus transcendentally situated, at once realizes the Supreme Brahma and becomes completely joyful. He neither laments nor desires, and is equally disposed toward everyone. In that state, he attains pure bhakti for Me.]
The mundane bhūta, conditioned living being, is never pleased, but brahma-bhūta, a follower of God, has no worry and no worldly desires. He is aloof from all dualities, such as loss and gain and heat and cold. Mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parām—being possessed of pure bhakti to Kṛṣṇa, he will harbor no jealousy toward others. He will not disturb anyone or be disturbed by anyone because he is in his own permanent property.
A clever person will continuously engage himself in the advancement of his soul by following Janmāṣṭamī, Ekādaśī, Cāturmāsya, and other vratas; as well as by chanting the holy name, honoring mahā-prasāda, and rendering constant service to Hari, Guru, and Vaiṣṇavas. Foolish people busy themselves in service to the material body and mind—a path leading only to inauspiciousness.
What is the use of working hard for the sake of the material body? A famous poet by the name Malūka Dāsa is quoted as follows:
ajagara na karai chākari
pañchī karai na kāma
dāśa malūka kaha gaī
saba ke dātā rāma
[The python has no work, nor does the fowl uphold a trade. Maluk dāsa says, “Rāma provides for all.”]
The birds do not study in school or work in an office, yet Bhagavān arranges for their survival. The python does not even look for food; rather, his food comes to him by divine arrangement.
Mahāprabhu instructs us that we must follow the path of intelligence and strive for the benefit of the soul. How can we understand that our soul is being nourished by our actions? The answer is simple. We will notice that although we are exclusively engaged in spiritual activity and paying little heed to the body, the body remains undisturbed and the mind satisfied. When you work for the progress of the soul, all 330 million demigods will maintain your physical body. Under Bhagavān’s direction, they will arrange for your food, residence, and protection. Then, one day, you will cast off the physical body as a snake casts off his skin. You will leave the physical body and become fully situated in awareness of your spiritual body. The spiritual body is not old, young, or born from the womb of an ordinary mother. It sprouts and flourishes like a creeper and is nourished only by watering it with bhakti-rasa, through the method of śravaṇa and kīrtana.
mālī hañā kare sei bīja āropaṇa
śravaṇa-kīrtana-jale karaye secana
—Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 19.152
[Like an expert gardener, the sādhaka sows the seed of bhakti with the water of śravaṇa and kīrtana.]
If even a kaniṣṭha-bhakta takes up the process of śravaṇa and kīrtana with determination, Bhagavān will arrange for him to receive the association of a madhyam-bhakta. If he continues to do kīrtana respectfully in that association, Bhagavān will send an uttama-bhakta for that devotees benefit; otherwise, He will go Himself.
When the sādhaka first travels the path toward spiritual perfection, he is immediately faced by kleśa, or suffering brought about because of anarthas. This is likened to the wild animals of a forest coming out of their hiding places when a fire is started. All unwanted things that were hiding in the heart of the sādhaka are stirred up and gradually purified as he perseveres in his hearing and chanting.
The initial symptoms of bhakti are kleśa-ghnī and śubhadā, different kinds of suffering from anarthas and the dawning of auspiciousness. Śubhadā, however, is more dangerous than the stage in which the sādhaka is troubled by his many anarthas. At this stage, many people will be attracted to the sādhaka and offer him respect. They will bring him gifts, offer praṇāma to him, and want to serve him in many ways. So much of this ‘auspiciousness’ will come but this is in fact a very dangerous period of trial, in which the sādhaka must be extra careful not to waver in his practice of śravaṇa and kīrtana.
A sādhaka can stay safe by practicing śravaṇa and kīrtana, following Ekādaśī, praying to Śrī Guru, and crying for his mercy. Because pride can so easily claim the sādhaka at the stage of śubhadā, it is considered a critically dangerous period. If the sādhaka stays strong in his practice of śravaṇa and kīrtana, he will progress past this stage and the next symptom of bhakti will manifest. This symptom is called mokṣa-laghutā-kṛt. The taste the sādhaka now experiences makes him indifferent even to liberation itself. He then prays:
mānāsa, deho, geho, jo kichu mora
arpiló tuwā pade, nanda-kiśora!
sampade vipade, jīvane-maraṇe
dāy mama gelā, tuwā o-pada baraṇe
mārobi, rākhobi—jo icchā tohārā
nitya-dāsa prati tuwā adhikārā
[Mind, body, family—everything I possess—I offer to You, O Nanda-kiśora! In good fortune or bad, in life or death, I take shelter at Your lotus feet. All of my possessions I have given to You so now I no longer take any responsibility for them. Slay me or protect me as You wish. You have this right because I am Your eternal servant.]
Still adhering to śravaṇa and kīrtana, the sādhaka will continue to experience the symptoms of bhakti’s presence. He will reach a state of spiritual bliss. He will see only joy everywhere, as he practices the limbs of bhakti. Only if his śravaṇa and kīrtana stops will he become upset. If a day passes without kīrtana, hari-kathā, ārati, mahā-prasāda, and Vaiṣṇava sāṅga, he will lament, “Alas! I am wasting my life. How has such misfortune come to me today?”
Now, all the activities of the sādhaka will be for the soul. He spends all 24 hours of his day without contemplating the body and its pleasures. He becomes like Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, who never thought, “What will I eat? Where will I sleep?”
Once, Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī was sitting on the bank of Rādhā-kuṇḍa when a thirsty tiger came there for a drink. Sanātana Gosvāmī saw that Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī was completely unaware of the external world, and was sitting peacefully on the bank next to the tiger.
Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī cried day and night, without eating or drinking. He did not notice the conditions of day, night, rain, heat, and cold. If the soul is drinking bhakti-rasa, there is no need of anything for the material body. The body will not become restless.
The final symptom that becomes apparent with the presence of bhakti is called śrī-kṛṣṇa-ākarṣiṇī.
At this stage, Kṛṣṇa comes running to see the bhakta. “Just see his devotion,” Kṛṣṇa marvels. “How exalted his sentiments are!” The sādhaka will not even notice when he leaves this body and moves on to attain complete spiritual perfection.
No other religious society has this conception. They do not understand the truth of the soul and its eternal form and nature. The scientists are trying in so many ways to improve life, but they have no knowledge about the soul, its nature, how to nourish it, and why it is now trapped in a prison of matter.
Mahāprabhu and our Guru-varga instruct us to give up absorption in the physical realm and instead learn to absorb ourselves in eternal spiritual service. Mahāprabhu said, “While this is not possible for everyone, kīrtana is the simple process in which all beings can engage in.”
kīrtana prabhāve smaraṇa haibe
sei kāle nirjana bhajana sambhava
If you do kīrtana, smaraṇa, or remembrance, automatically occurs. Then you can do bhajana; or in other words, you will be able to realize and perform your eternal service. You can understand that the soul is flourishing when you develop a taste for mānasī-sevā. As your soul-realization blossoms, you will become aloof from your external surroundings. You will not notice who is respecting you and who is trying to harm you. All you will know is your sevā. Then, automatically, līlā-śakti’s power will take effect and Kṛṣṇa will appear, dancing in front of you.
If you perform mānasī-sevā, service in the external realm will run automatically and smoothly. You will be engaged from the early morning in activities such as making snacks, sweets, drinks, garlands, and other offerings for Kṛṣṇa. You will be inspired to serve according to His desires.
Śrī Guru is the spiritual father. He sends us to Sevā-kuñja, to train under Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī and Rati Mañjarī. This is called siddha-praṇālī. We can never reach this perfection if we do not seriously take up the process of following Śrī Guru’s instructions and practicing śravaṇa and kīrtana. Failing to do this will keep us forever enslaved by māyā and too weak to cross over into what lies beyond the mind and senses.
A person possessed of anurāga, loving attachment, for Kṛṣṇa and the Vrajavāsīs, and who is fixed in soul-realization, will automatically renounce mundane attachments. If you are attached to Hari, Guru, and Vaiṣṇavas, you can easily leave your home. If you renounce your home but have no higher attachment, then you surely run back to family life. And while you are away from your family, you will only think of them.
Mahāprabhu is the giver of anurāga-mayī-sevā—the desire to render eternal, spiritual service. In this pastime of having His devotees worship Him, He reveals the process in which the soul can be related to the Supreme Soul.
In the winter the sun is a source of comfort and warmth. In the hot summer it is a source of discomfort. If however we come in the rays of the prema-sūrya, the sun of pure love, then we will be unaffected by heat, cold, wind, rain or anything external.
kṛd asau bhāva ucyate
— Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 2.3.2:
[Bhāva-bhakti is a special manifestation of śuddha-sattva. The constitutional characteristic of bhāva-bhakti is that it is a phenomenon entirely constituted of pure existence. It is like a ray of the sun of prema and it softens the heart by various tastes.]
The prema-sūrya soothes the soul. Very soon, a person graced by the rays of the prema-sūrya shall receive the love that is contained in the hearts of the śuddha-sattva Vrajavāsīs. The soul’s spiritual form develops when the potency of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī and the mañjarīs is transferred into the sādhaka’s heart.
Śuddha-sattva comes from Baladeva Prabhu. He helps one come close to the Vrajavāsīs and engage in nāma-saṅkīrtana under the guidance of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī. The soul is not given a form. Rather, it has an eternally existing form. The seed of the banyan tree contains the potentiality of a huge tree. However, that seed needs to be planted in proper soil, watered, and given sunlight. If all this is given to the seed it will grow into a great banyan tree. Similarly, ones’ svarūpa will flourish and ultimately fully manifest when it is given the water of proper śravaṇa and kīrtana. In other sampradāyas, they say that according to one’s association, one’s svarūpa will be determined. But this is not the truth. A mango tree will grow from a mango seed, as a grape vine will grow from a grape seed. In a similar way, the soul’s identity and nature is fixed, and needs to be realized. There is no need to dress up like a gopī by wearing a sari, nose ring, and makeup.
There are countless jīvas created by God, and each one is unique. Their moods and desires are different. This is a reflection of their eternal, pure nature. After attaining svarūpa-siddhi, one’s eternal identity will become apparent.
Mahāprabhu revealed the process of giving life and growth to the dormant siddha-svarūpa. He came to this world with the conclusion of all Vaiṣṇava-siddhānta—acintya-bhedābheda-tattva and the process of siddha-praṇālī. Other sampradāyas have no idea about siddha-praṇālī. Their philosophy generally pertains only to varṇāśrama-dharma and liberation.
Our welfare begins when we become serious, and accept that guru-sevā and vaisnava-sevā are the wealth of our life. By carefully taking up the step-by-step process given by Mahāprabhu and preached by the Guru-varga, starting with mantra-mayī-upāsanā and naturally progressing to svārasikī-upāsanā, we can attain svarūpa-siddhi. If we do not start from the beginning and adhere to the preliminary rules of sādhana, then we cannot hope to become eligible for mānasī-sevā.
We must have the mood of ‘do or die’ and carry out our sevā to Guru and Vaiṣṇavas with this determination. Seeing that we have strong faith and desire for service, Hari, Guru, and Vaiṣṇavas will shower us with blessings. They are waiting to see our faith and desire. If we can please them and cause their hearts to melt, then what is attained by millions of lives of sādhana can be achieved in a moment.