Assignment 20

Babhru Das - March 10, 2007 4:58 am

In the hope that someone will feel inspired to contribute further to the discussion of Assignment 19, I'll go ahead and post Assignment 20.

Exploring the Ocean of The Nectar of Devotion

Assignment 20

Read Chapter 18 of The Nectar of Devotion, “Character of One in Ecstatic Love.” The chapter covers verses 25-61 of the third wave of Bhaktirasamrita-sindhu’s Eastern Division, continuing the discussion of bhava-bhakti, or devotional service on the platform of ecstasy. Whereas Chapter 17 defines bhava-bhakti and discusses its attainment, this chapter examines more closely the character of those who have attained bhava. Careful study of this chapter may help us discern between devotees genuinely situated in bhava and those who are not.


Here are the two verses (1.3.25-26) that this chapter discusses:

ksantir avyartha-kalatvam viraktir mana-sunyata

asa-bandhah samutkantha nama-gane sada rucih

asaktis tad-gunakhyane pritis tad-vasati-sthale

ity-adayo ‘nubhavah syur jata-bhavankure jane

ksantih—forgiveness; avyartha-kalatvam—being free from wasting time; viraktih—detachment; mana-sunyata—absence of false prestige; asa-bandhah—hope; samutkantha—eagerness; nama-gane—in chanting the holy names; sada—always; rucih—taste; asaktih—attachment; tat—of Lord Krishna; guna-akhyane—in describing the transcendental qualities; pritih—affection; tat—His; vasati-sthale—for places of residence (the temple or holy places); iti—thus; adayah—and so on; anubhavah—the signs; syuh—are; jata—developed; bhava-ankure—whose seed of ecstatic emotion; jane—in a person.

“When the seed of ecstatic emotion for Krishna fructifies, the following nine symptoms manifest in one’s behavior: forgiveness, concern that time should not be wasted, detachment, absence of false prestige, hope, eagerness, a taste for chanting the holy name of the Lord, attachment to descriptions of the transcendental qualities of the Lord, and affection for those places where the Lord resides—that is, a temple or a holy place like Vrindavana. These are all called anubhava, subordinate signs of ecstatic emotion. They are visible in a person in whose heart the seed of love of God has begun to fructify.”

We also find these verses in Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila, Ch. 23, in which Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu explains to Sanatana Gosvami the gradual development of love for Krishna.


This chapter also discusses the manifestation of symptoms of bhava in neophytes or non-devotees. When we see symptoms resembling those described in this chapter in neophytes or non-devotees, how should we understand that? Srila Rupa Gosvami call such displays ratyabhasa, a reflection of rati (bhava). He classifies this as (1) prati-bimba (“reflective”) ratyabhasa, and (2) chaya (“shadow”) ratyabhasa. Someone who engages in devotional activities motivated by a desire for some sort of fruitive benefit or liberation may experience symptoms of ecstasy when performing these activities in the company of advanced devotees. In such cases the bhava of the advanced devotees is reflected on the mirror of the less-advanced practitioner’s heart. Although the practitioner’s motive may be impure, the practice, and also the symptoms, may be rather intense.


On the other hand, someone who takes up devotional practices out curiosity or in pursuance of social convention may also experience some of these symptoms. Whereas such practice may not be as corrupt in its motivation as in the above case, the symptoms may not be as intense. Srila Prabhupada describes shadow attachment (chaya ratyabhasa) as transcendental because the motive is less dishonest.

A relevant question for those of us who have not attained real bhava may be, How can the semblance of bhava be transformed to genuine bhava? Srila Rupa Gosvami’s answer is the blessings of pure devotees. As Srila Prabhupada writes, “such attachment for Krishna cannot be invoked in a person without his being blessed by the association of pure devotees.” However, as we see in this chapter, we must take care to avoid offenses against those devotees because such offenses can cause our attachment to Krishna to fade.


This chapter ends by admonishing devotees to disregard faults that may be apparent in those who have attained bhava. Srila Rupa Gosvami explains that, even though it has arisen in the devotee’s heart, bhava may not have completely destroyed all sinful reactions, and that the devotee who has attained bhava will soon become perfect by the force of his or her devotion. We may also recall Lord Krishna’s instruction to Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita:

api cet su-duracaro bhajate mam ananya-bhak

sadhur eva sa mantavyah samyag vyavasito hi sah

“Even if one commits the most abominable action, if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination” (9.30).



It’s often easier to see faults than ornaments in others’ characters. See if you can think of a living devotee (or recently living devotee) who exemplifies each of the qualities listed in this chapter. Write down his or her name, as well as behavior you’ve observed or heard about from reliable observers that demonstrates that particular symptom. You may also find it useful to identify how Srila Prabhupada, or your spiritual master, demonstrates these symptoms. For either exercise, be specific about the behaviors you use as evidence, recalling particular incidents to support your appreciation.

Babhru Das - March 17, 2007 4:07 am

To clarify this assignment, I'd like to say that I intended that participants try to find devotees in whom we can see one of the characteristics of bhava each. I don't mean that you need to make a case that someone you know shows all of them. I think that makes it more feasible. Don't forget to get as specific as you possibly can about the evidence you see. I think it's also a really good idea to think about how our own gurus exemplify these traits. Since this is a private board, I think it's safe to be open about our faith here.

Babhru Das - March 31, 2007 5:57 am

I thought it might facilitate discussion if I posted a numbered list of the symptoms:


—being free from wasting time


—absence of false prestige



nama-gane sada rucih
—a taste for always chanting the holy names of the Lord

asaktih tad-guna-akhyane
—attachment for hearing and describing the Lord’s transcendental qualities

pritih tad-vasati-sthale
—affection for places where the Lord resides

Babhru Das - March 31, 2007 11:11 pm

Here are some of the signs of these symptoms of bhava we saw in Srila Prabhupada:


Ksantih—forgiveness: Our Swami often reminds us how quick Srila Prabhupada was to forgive his disciples’ shortcomings. On a couple of occasions, when devotees complained that this leader or that didn’t regularly chant 16 rounds of japa, Srila Prabhupada responded by saying, “Perhaps he’s very busy with his service.”


Avyartha-kalatvam—being free from wasting time: Examples of this quality are legion, but I have a favorite. In May of 1976, my wife and I went from the Big Island to spend a week and a half in Honolulu to hear from Srila Prabhupada. After a couple of days we ran into some other devotees from the Big Island. When they arrived at the ISKCON center in Honolulu, they asked if they could camp in the temple’s yard that night. The temple leaders agreed, so they spent the night under the big guava tree in front of the temple, watching Srila Prabhupada’s window. The light was on all night. Sometimes they could hear him dictating translations and purports, and he stopped a couple of times to sing some bhajans (I wish I knew which ones!), accompanying himself on the harmonium. When I edited one of Hari Sauri’s Diary volumes, I saw that Prabhupada’s attendants noticed that the volume of his work at night was much greater than it had been previously, as they could see from the counter on his Dictaphone.


Mana-sunyata—absence of false prestige: Despite his unprecedented success, Srila Prabhupada consistently attributed it to his dedication to the instructions of his spiritual master. And he sometimes told us how he saw his disciples as having been sent by his Guru Maharaja to help him—and sometimes he said he saw us as representatives of his Guru Maharaja.


Asa-bandhah—hope: We’ve all probably heard the story of Srila Prabhupada, practically homeless in New York, told a man that he had many books published and many temples established, with only time separating them.


Samutkantha—eagerness: Although he was no longer young and had suffered heart attacks and strokes, Srila Prabhupada was always eager to hear about his disciples accomplishments, even of their attempts. And he was eager to find ways to get Mahaprabhu’s movement to new places in the world. When I was planning to go to South America to introduce Krishna consciousness to Peru, Srila Prabhupada wrote me, “I have also noted that you are going to spread this mission of Lord Chaitanya to South America and factually this is our last unconquered continent and I think there is great potential there. I am very much encouraged to know that it will now be developed under qualified disciples as yourself. So my request is that you work very hard there to give all the opportunity for this perfection, and I am sure Krsna will bestow His causeless mercy upon you.”


Nama-gane sada rucih—a taste for always chanting the holy names of the Lord: My friend Gopavrindapal has made an observation I really like: Srila Prabhupada seemed to have a unique faith in the Hare Krishna mahamantra. His kirtans focused on the mahamantra, and his disciples became known as the Hare Krishna movement. He was assiduous in chanting his rounds, as we’ve heard, and asked his disciples to commit to chanting a minimum of 16 rounds throughout their lives.

Asaktih tad-guna-akhyane—attachment for hearing and describing the Lord’s transcendental qualities: Sometimes Srila Prabhupada would ask devotees to read Krishna book to him, and he was always looking for an audience for his preaching about Lord Krishna and Lord Chaitanya.


Pritih tad-vasati-sthale—affection for places where the Lord resides: We’ve heard many times, in many ways, how much regard he had for Vrindavan-dhama and Mayapura-dhama, which he considered his home and his place of worship. And anyone who has ever seen any of the footage of him taking his disciples around Vrindavan in the early ‘70s can see his delight in telling the stories associated with the places they visited. We can see in his early letters from America how much he missed his simple life in Vrindavan.

Margaret Dale - April 2, 2007 7:12 am

I'm going to be brave here and make an attempt to contribute.

Avyarta kalatvam - not wasting time - I see this fulfilled in all of the devotees at Audarya. When I visited, they were all engaged in cooking, puja, gardening, sanga, or simply providing excellent hospitality. Especially now with the massive temple project, they are engaged 24/7 - I think that sleeping to have energy to do construction counts as a service!

Mana - sunyata - abscence of false prestige. I see this very clearly in GM and in Vrndaranya. When GM speaks, he puts forth profound truths and intimate secrets of Gaura Nitai and Radha Krsna. In one way his demeanor reminds me of a friend talking with you about some great foreign movie you've seen - you would never think to congratulate your friend for the success of the movie, because he is only talking about the accomplishment of someone else. He is quiet and careful in his interpretation of the movie because the movie is so dense and difficult that he doesn't want you to think that what he is telling you is everything there is. Despite that, you sit there in awe that your friend got so much out of the movie while you really couldn't even follow the plot. Vrdnaranya is so quiet. I get the feeling she is trying to hide the service she is doing and not let us catch on to the fact that she is a very advanced devotee. I aspire to her level of maturity and humility.

Asa - bhadhah - hope - Well, I think GM again is a shining example of this. He was shunned by his godbrothers and dismissed from the institution his guru put together, yet he continued to follow his guru's orders and now he has the respect of a lot of people. He managed to build Audarya from the ground up, and now he is working on a center in NC. I have a feeling Finland is going to be next. And all of this just out of faith!

Asaktih tad-guna-akhyane - attachment for hearing and describing the Lord’s transcendental qualities - If you have listened to GM's lectures, you've probably noticed that it is a little difficult for him to focus exclusively on the text being discussed. But this is an ornament. GM can't help but start talking about Krsna's pastimes in Vrndavan and Mahaprabhu's pastimes whenever they are mentioned or even alluded to sideways in the text.

Ksantih - Again, I'm going to have to pick GM as my example. I'm a terrible and inconsistent devotee, and yet GM always keeps my best interests in mind and does not chastise me, but rather encourages me when I make a move in the right direction.

Babhru Das - April 2, 2007 6:48 pm

Thanks, Margaret, for sticking your neck out. This is just the kind of thing I hope to see here, and I hope it can get further discussion going. Maybe Swami can share some evidence of these charateristics he observed in Srila Prabhupada and in Srila Sridhar Maharaja. Others who have spent time with Swami may be encouraged by your boldness to chime in with their observations of Swami, Citta Hari, Vrindaranya, Guru-nistha, their own guru, or other devotees they have known and served with. The idea is to think about how we may see symptoms of bhava manifest in others and consider the glories of bhakti and those who have come under the influence of the svarupa-shakti, even if not completely.


And I certainly concur in your observations. The Audarya-vasis were all fully engaged in service during my short stay. If I wanted to spend any time with them, I had to do some service with them. (That's a good thing.) Swami kindly set aside some time to spend with me, but I'd assume that was also service, as his includes nudging me along on the path of surrender.


I like your movie-critic analogy for Maharaja. It's a fact that he shares his enthusiasm for Krishna consciousness in a perfectly natural way; it sort of just overflows, and anyone near enough gets some splashed on them. There's just nothing pretentious in his presentation. I also agree about Vrindaranya, but I worry that too much glorification of her may drive her even further in the background (which may easily get her front and center, if she backs up far enough).

Nitai Joseph - April 3, 2007 3:22 am

Well I thought maybe I'd throw in a few sweet stories about Srila Prabhupada. When I was becoming more serious about spiritual life(hopefully I still am), and stopping watching television, everyday afer reading and listening to lectures I would watch Prabhupada memory videos. This is hundreds of different disciples telling stories that they experienced first hand. I know that Bhabru is on one, I think I'm going to watch it again next time I visit home. So despite being born over ten years after Srila Prabhupada departed, I've heard some nice stories.


The absence of false prestige: Bhagavat Das tells a story that there was some controversy amongst the devotees wether Prabhupada could see what was going on in all of his temples and in his disciples hearts, some thought that was diminishing his real position. So someone wrote a letter and asked. Srila Prabhupada said for a pure devotee this is simple accomplishment. So the secretary said," so I'll write them back and say that you are able to do this". Prabhupada said , "I did'nt say that, I said for the pure devotee this is possible, I'm not even a devotee, I am just trying to become a devotee"


Forgiveness: This story kind of shows compassion more then forgiveness but compassion is the root of forgiveness.

One time Prabhupada overhead two devotees in Vrindavan discussing all the principle-breaking that was going on in the Dhama. So the next day Prabhupada said in class, "If you are having illicit sex in the Dham then you will take birth as monkey in the Dhama, in your next life. This is Krsna's mercy, but let us stop this monkey business."


the absence of wasting time: One time Prabhupada was taking rest, I believe in Mayapur, and one disciple was in the room(the person who tells the story) and he was thinking, "I thought that scripture says the spiritual master never sleeps" and right then, without moving or opening his eyes, Prabhupada asked, "What time is it". Of course as Margaret said, when you always serving in waking, sleeping is service too.


Hope: Prabhupada seemed like the embodiment of hope, giving the highest thing to people with quite a low method of and having faith that it could flourish


A taste for always chanting the Holy Names of the lord: I heard one story where there was a coca-cola sign and Prabupada spoke for a whole how they should write to coca-cola and tell them to change the name to Hare Krsna so the Name would be evrywhere. I also feel compelled to mention Sridhar Maharaja here, as anyone who's watched some of his videos knows, so spontaneously, in between sentences, or in the middle of sentences, He would just star going, "Gaur Haribol, Gaur Haribol, Gaur Haribol" I've always found this so sweet. As if He was charging up for the next dispensation of nectar that was about to follow.


Detachment: In "Our Affectionate Gaurdians", I read that a disciple who was with Srila PRabhupada when the government papers came that certified ISKCON says that He then said,"we have formed this institution for preaching purposes, if it becomes a hindrance, we will dissolve it and go on chanting Hare Krsna"


All of these stories are paraphrased, hopefully not to the point of fiction :)

Margaret Dale - April 3, 2007 9:09 am
Detachment: In "Our Affectionate Gaurdians", I read that a disciple who was with Srila PRabhupada when the government papers came that certified ISKCON says that He then said,"we have formed this institution for preaching purposes, if it becomes a hindrance, we will dissolve it and go on chanting Hare Krsna"



Whoa, I hadn't heard that before. I just spent 2 hours reading the thread about Dhanudhara Swami, so it seems quite appropriate.

Nice katha Nitai, thanks for sharing.

Babhru Das - April 11, 2007 4:21 am

Well, it's been more than a week since the last post. Anyone else? Is it time to move on?