Found in Sanga, Sanga 1999.

Q. My understanding is that the Pandavas ate meat. In fact, several hunters were engaged full time in hunting for Bhima during the battle of Kuruksetra. It was they who discovered Duryodhana hiding in the lake. I understand that ksatriyas had license to eat meat, but still I am surprised that these great devotees ate meat. Can you explain this?

A. Devotion proper is above considerations of diet and other concerns of the body. When bhava enters the heart, all of these lower considerations are of little concern. Still, they are important to sadhakas, and those who are teaching sadhakas by their example. Bhima and others while teaching about the spirit of devotion are not teaching sadhana. We learn sadhana from the Goswamis.

Keep in mind that sadhana and sadhya are very different, while essentially the same. Both are bhakti, but they are as different as caterpillars and butterflies. We have to understand that what we think Krishna consciousness to be is quite different from what it is. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was prepared to serve meat to Westerners in order to facilitate their hearing about Krishna. When some of his disciples questioned this, he replied that we must have a spiritual mind to propagate Mahaprabhu’s precepts. Learn to think differently.

What we think of as meat eating and what appears to be a similar activity on the part of siddhas like the Pandavas is not the same thing. Nor were there any slaughterhouses in their time.

Q. Can one change forms within the spiritual world? That is to say go from one form to another, or is it only from one lila to another or perhaps both?

A. Generally it is not possible to change one’s rasa. However nothing is impossible for Krishna. If he should desire, or Sri Radha should for any reason desire that a sakha become a sakhi, such an inconceivable change can take place. We cannot rule this out. Sridhara Maharaja has spoken about this, and Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written about the inconceivable power of Godhead, perhaps in Tattva-viveka. Sridhara Maharaja suggested that it has been written somewhere that Radharani may propose to Subala, “I want to take your followers into my group,” and he will reply, “Yes, yes, I am very pleased.” Sanction is given and that it is well and good. Again, this is an extremely unlikely scenario, and it serves to illustrate more the inconceivable power of Godhead than the possibility of changing rasas. Otherwise there are so many lilas, and one can participate in many of them.

Q. It is said one cannot come to Krishna-prema by vaidhi-bhakti. So, then, how?

A. This is true, however, it would also be accurate to say that one cannot come to Krishna-prema (of Vraja) without vaidhi-bhakti. In the Gaudiya Saraswata sampradaya we teach that in the course of practicing vaidhi-bhakti with a view to attain eligibility for raganuga-sadhana, this adhikara manifests. At that time one can take up raganuga-sadhana. Bhaktivinoda Thakura sings in his song Krishna-nama dhare kata bal?

viddhi-marga-rata-jane
svadhinata-ratna-dane
raga-marge karana pravesa

“That person who is fixed in following vaidhi-bhakti attains the jewel of independence (through the grace of Krishna-nama), by which he is placed on the path of raganuga-bhakti.”

Although vaidhi-bhakti praticed as an end unto itself will not give one Vraja-prema, when it is practiced in conjunction with the desire for this prema, it gradually qualifies one for the practice of raganuga-sadhana. Cleanse the heart, become fixed, and when ruci arises you will know what to do. The ruci will guide you. Don’t be worried that something is missing in what you have been given. Real raganuga-bhakti involves the cultivation of this ruci. Without it, how will you practice raganuga-bhakti proper? This ruci will come from chanting Hari-nama and mantra-dhyana. These practices will reveal your svarupa in due course.

Once this happens, you are fit to practice raganuga-bhakti. Before that we can only aspire for eligibility for raganuga-bhakti, while strictly following vaidhi-bhakti. It is good to have this aspiration, but it is not good if in the name of doing so one gets distracted from vaidhi-bhakti, or starts thinking she is missing something. If you very seriously practice vaidhi-bhakti, you will know beyond a doubt that you are getting something, and gradually you will be eligible for raganuga-sadhana. At that time, elements of vaidhi-bhakti will also be kept in place, for they serve to lend support to the early stages of raganuga-sadhana. Rupa Goswami says:

sravanotkirtanadini vaidha-bhaktyuditani tu
yanyangani ca tanyatra vijneyani manisibhih

“The angas of vaidhi-bhakti, such as hearing and chanting, etc. previously described (in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu) are known by the wise to be useful in raganuga-bhakti as well.”

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