Found in Sanga, Sanga 2006.

Santa-Rasa in Vraja

April 2nd, 2006 | No Comments

Q. We read that Caitanya Mahaprabhu placed his feet on the head of Rupa Goswami and then he could understand his teachings, and in Brhad-bhagavatamrta, it says that Gopa Kumara placed his hand on the Mathura brahmana’s head and awakened him to the treasure of pure love (prema). So my question is what is the inner meaning of direct contact in the transmission of spiritual knowledge, and on which plane of existence does it take place?

A. The example of Sri Rupa Goswami and that of the Mathura brahmana both seek to teach us the same principle, yet they differ in that Rupa Goswami was a learned scholar and the Mathura brahmana was not. Regardless of whether one is scripturally learned or not, to realize the absolute truth one must be blessed. Revelation is transrational. The act of devotion and the divine sympathy that it draws transcends logic. Giving does not logically mandate that one will receive, but our experience is that it does.

Both of the examples you have cited also tell us that sadhu-sanga is mandatory for spiritual advancement. In fact, just a moment of sadhu-sanga can change a person’s life forever. This sadhu-sanga manifests on the physical, mental, and intellectual planes and ultimately affects our soul. Indeed, it has its origin in the plane of the soul, or the pure heart of a Vaisnava. As Srila Sridhara Maharaja so eloquently put it, “The will of the Vaisnava is the heart of the affair.”

Great souls represent Sri Krishna, so if they become sympathetic to our plight and attracted to our sincerity, so too does Bhagavan. In this way his blessing is bestowed and one advances in spiritual life. Indeed, even if a brahmana blesses someone, Bhagavan sees to it that his or her blessing will be fruitful, what to speak of the blessing of the Vaisnava. Thus anyone who approaches a Vaisnava with sincerity, be they otherwise qualified or not, will over time come to know Krishna.

However, one should also be very wary of anyone who claims that they can give people prema simply by physical contact. Such claims are often post-dated checks that come with terms and conditions that ultimately render them null and void. If someone says, “Simply by my touch I can give your you prema, but you must do this and that before I will do so,” such a person is suspect. While there may be devotees capable of giving prema simply by touch, as Sri Caitanya did, they do not attach such an extraordinary benediction to any particular standard of sincerity, surrender, or spiritual practice. Nor did they advertise themselves as one who has attained prema. Indeed, Sri Caitanya said just the opposite, “Not a scent of prema can be found in me.”

Q. You wrote that the verse beginning with srutam apy aupanisadam dure hari-kathamrtat was spoken by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, but in Padyavali is it attributed to Bhagavan Vyasa. Any comment?

A. What you say is true, however, Sri Jiva Goswami writes in Bhakti-sandarbha:

ataeva gitam kali-yuga-pavanavatarena sri-bhagavata-srutam apy aupanisadam
dure hari-kathamrtam yan na santi dravac-citta-kampasru-pulakadayam

“Therefore, Kali-yuga pavana (Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu) said, ‘The Upanisads are far from the nectar talks of Hari, and thus they do not make the heart melt, the body tremble, the body’s hairs stand erect, and eyes become filled with tears.’ ” In other words, he attributed this verse to Sri Caitanya.
Perhaps the two notions of the origin of this verse can be harmonized by Sanatana Goswami’s statement to Mahaprabhu, tumi vakta bhagavatera, “You are the original speaker (Vyasa) of the Bhagavatam.”

Q. In Caitanya-caritamrta and Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, there are descriptions about devotees from Krishna lila that appeared with Sri Caitanya to assist in his divine pastimes, but there is no mention of Krishna’s dear friend Madhumangala. Who did Madhumangala appear as in Sri Caitanya’s pastimes?

A. To the well-informed, Madhumangala reveals himself to be Srivasa Thakura in the following verse from Caitanya-caritamrta, suni’ premavese nrtya kare srinivasa kaksa-tali bajaya, kare atta-atta hasa: “Srivasa Thakura then began to dance in ecstatic love. He vibrated sounds by slapping his armpits with the palms of his hands, and he laughed very loudly.” (Madhya 14.230) Srivasa did this while discussing the mellows of Sri Krishna’s Vraja-lila. Although he is often identified with Narada Muni, Narada is identifed with Madhumangala in the literature of the Vrindavana Goswamis.

Q. The soul’s rasa with Krishna is said to be eternal, but what about the possibility of being attracted to a different relationship and changing one’s eternal rasa with Krishna?

A. The nature of rasa is that it is so fulfilling that each devotee feels his or her rasa is the best. This is a devotee’s subjective reality. Sri Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami explains it like this, nija nija bhava sabe srestha kari’ mane nija-bhave kare krishna-sukha asvadane: “Each kind of devotee feels that his sentiment is the best, and thus in that sentiment he relishes great happiness with Krishna.” It should also be noted that dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, and madhurya are the four prominent rasas of Vraja that Mahaprabhu came to distribute. None can function without the others, and thus they are interrelated and serve to bring out the best in one another.

It is only when we examine these sentiments from a neutral position (tatastha vicara) that we can conclude that one is more excellent than another. Because the nature of one’s rasa is such that it fully satisfies the soul and causes one to think that one’s particular loving sentiment is best, there is no question of changing it on one’s own part, nor on the part of Krishna.

However, one’s primary sentiment can at times recede to the background while a secondary sentiment that is competent to rise to the level of rasa takes precedence. In this way perfected devotees taste different rasas. For example, one in sakhya rasa, which is a primary rasa, may also taste hasya (comic) rasa or vira (heroic) rasa, both of which are secondary rasas. Furthermore, while some devotees are fixed exclusively in one sentiment, other devotees’ love for Krishna is constituted of combined sentiments, such as sakhya and madhurya, sakhya and vatsakya, or sakhya and dasya.

Q. In your Sanga “The Perfect Commentary on Vedanta-sutra,” you touched on the issue of apparently contradictory statements from Gaudiya acaryas regarding the existence of santa rasa in Krishna’s Vraja-lila. In some circles this is quite a controversial subject, so can you address this further?

A. Sri Krishna is known as Rasaraja. This name implies that he tastes all rasas, and it refers to him in his Vraja-lila. From this it should be clear that he does taste santa-rasa in Vraja. This is also confirmed in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 4.3.85. There Sri Rupa writes that Krishna tasted santa-rasa along with all other expressions of sacred aesthetic rapture while lifting Govardhana Hill. In this example Sri Krishna tastes santa-rasa from the vantage point of the shelter (asraya alambana) of santa-rasa. Later in Mathura he tasted santa-rasa from the vantage point of the object (visaya alambana) of love when he was wrestling in Kamsa’s arena (SB 10.43.17). Therein it is clearly stated that the sages present experienced santa-rasa in relation to Sri Krishna. Such sages may very well include persons like Durvasa, who also resides in Vraja proper. So santa-rasa is expressed in his Vraja-lila within Mathura mandala.

At the same time, Krishna’s Vraja-lila is primarily characterized by love that is devoid of reverence, and thus it is often said to begin with sakhya-rasa. Brahmaji described all of Vrindavana as being permeated by sakhya-rasa when he told Sri Krishna, aho bhagyam, aho bhagyam nanda gopa vrajaukasam yan mitram paramanandam purna brahma sanatanam: “Oh, how fortunate, Oh, how fortunate, are the Vrajavasis of Nanda gopa, for the supreme bliss and complete, eternal Brahman is their friend.” Thus everything and everyone in Vraja is touched by friendship. Everything and everyone is also touched by the influence of romantic love that Krishna’s Vraja-lila is centered on.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura acknowledges that santa-rati is present to some extent in the Vraja-lila when he writes in Jaiva Dharma, “At first I thought that there was no santa-rati in the devotees of Vraja, but now I see that it is present in them to a limited extent. ” In the same book, however, he also writes, “Santa-rasa is absent in Vraja.” Perhaps Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura sought to clarify Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s statements when in his commentaries to Upadesamrta and Caitanya-caritamrta he attributed santa-rati to the nonhuman species and apparently inanimate objects of Vraja, such as cows, rivers, hills, and Krishna’s flute. However, Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has attributed sahkya-rasa to the hills of Vraja and vatsalya-rati to Sri Krishna’s cows. So there are different opinions among acaryas, and human reasoning renders any of these opinions problematic.

For example, while there is reason to believe that Vraja’s cows are in vatsalya-rasa, their relationship with Sri Krishna is also one of being protected by Gopala. Anyone who raises cows knows that they are as much children in need of protection and constant care as they are mothers, and at least in Dvaraka, Krishna’s children are considered to be in dasya-rasa. Krishna’s cows are also his istadevata and thus worshipable by him. Furthermore, why do we find that Radha and Govinda are not inhibited in front of Vraja’s bovines as they are before human elders relishing vatsalya-rati? After all, vatsayla and madhurya-rasa are not compatible. Neither are santa and madhurya-rasas compatible for that matter. Mahadeva and Brahma are said to have taken birth in Varsana and Nandagrama as hills; are they in sakhya-rasa? Sakhya-rasa is exchanged between equals. The gopis attribute a male gender to Krishna’s flute at one time and a female gender at another time. Is it male, female, neither of these, or both? Sometimes the creepers of Vraja are thought to be tasting madhurya-rati, but what is the nature of this madhurya-rati and how can it compare to that of the gopis themselves?

Great devotees view the world through the lens of their bhava, and this may afford them different angles of vision at different times. Furthermore, some of Sri Krishna’s devotees experience the suddha-rati known as svaccha (transparent), in which they taste the rati of those with whom they associate, moving between santa, dasya, sakhya, and madhurya. Therefore, on issues that lie beyond our present realization, it is best to respect the opinions of great souls, even when we cannot fully understand them.

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