A few towering waves of gopi-prema can be seen from the Venu-gita portion of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Rasika bhaktas drown themselves in these waves and even lose all consciousness of their own bodies. Greed to be immersed in this nectarean ocean sprouts even in the hearts of the faithful devotees who are situated on the shore of this ocean
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the combined form of rasaraja and mahabhava, resplendent with the sentiment and bodily complexion of Sri Radha, relished the nectar of Venu-gita with Sri Svarupa Damodara and Sri Raya Ramananda in Sri Gambhira. Srila Sanatana Gosvami and Srila Jiva Gosvami collected a few drops of this nectar in their commentaries on Srimad-Bhagavatam entitled Brhad-vaisnava-tosani and Laghu-vaisnava-tosani respectively. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, through his commentary named Sarartha Darsini, has distributed to the whole world the same nectar in the form of the remnants of their mahaprasada
Some persons believe that unqualified sadhakas are ineligible to hear, chant or remember the topics of Sri Venu-gita, Sri Rasa-pancadhyaya, Yugala-gita, Brahmara-gita and so on, as described in the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. This consideration is fully legitimate. But according to their conception, only a sadhaka who has conquered the six urges (kama, krodha, etc.), who is free from all anarthas and fully purified from the heart disease of lust, is eligible to hear such topics, while all others have no right. We will now examine this topic in greater detail
Srila Rupa Gosvami, who established and fulfilled the inner heart's desire of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, composed Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Sri Ujjvala-nilamani and other sacred texts. Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami composed Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. While writing, they were deeply concerned that these confidential texts on rasa should not fall into the hands of unqualified persons. If this should occur, it may present a great disturbance to the world. A glimpse of this topic is found in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Cc. Adi 4.231), as stated by Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami:
e saba siddhanta gudha,-kahite na yuyaya"The esoteric and confidential conclusions regarding the amorous pastimes of rasaraja Sri Krsna together with the gopis, who are the embodiments of mahabhava, are not fit to be disclosed to the common ordinary man. But without revealing them, no one can enter into this topic. I shall, therefore, describe these topics in a concealed manner so that only rasika bhaktas will be able to understand, whereas ineligible fools will not
na kahile, keha ihara anta nahi paya
ataeva kahi kichu karina nigudha
bujhibe rasika bhakta, na bujhibe mudha
hrdaye dharaye ye caitanya-nityananda
e-saba siddhante sei paibe ananda
e saba siddhanta haya amrera pallava
bhakta-gana-kokilera sarvada vallabha
abhakta-ustrera ithe na haya pravesa
tabe citte haya mora ananda-visesa
ye lagi kahite bhaya, se yadi na jane
iha vai kiba sukha ache tribhuvane
ataeva bhakta-gane kari namaskara
nihsanke kahiye, tara hauk camatkara
"Anyone who has established Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Nityananda Prabhu in their hearts will attain transcendental bliss by hearing all these conclusions. This entire doctrine is as sweet as newly grown mango sprouts, which can be relished only by the devotees who are likened to cuckoo birds. For the camel-like non-devotees, there is no possibility of admittance into these topics. Therefore, there is special jubilation in my heart.
"If those whom I fear are themselves unable to comprehend these topics, then what could be a greater source of happiness in all the three worlds? Therefore, after offering obeisances to the devotees, I am revealing this subject without any hesitation.
By reading and hearing these topics, everyone can attain the highest benefit. Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami has clarified this topic by quoting the following verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.33.36):
anugrahaya bhaktanam manusam deham asthitah"In order to bestow mercy upon the devotees as well as the conditioned souls, Bhagavan Sri Krsna manifests His human-like form and performs such extraordinary pastimes (rasa-lila) that anyone who hears them becomes exclusively devoted unto Him. (quoted in Cc. Adi 4.34
bhajate tadrsih krida yah srutva tatparo bhavet
Here Krsnadasa Kaviraja points out that the verb bhavet in the above verse is in the imperative mood. This means it is compulsory for the jivas to hear such pastimes, as explained in the following sloka from Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 4.35):
`bhavet' kriya vidhilin, sei iha kaya kartavya avasya ei, anyatha pratyavaya"In the above verse bhavet is in the imperative mood. Therefore, this certainly must be done. To not do so would be a discrepancy.For the information of the reader, I am referring here to Srila Jiva Gosvami's Vaisnava Tosani commentary on the above quoted Srimad-Bhagavatam verse (10.33.36).
tatra loke'dhisthatrtvena krsnakhya narakara parabrahmanah sri gopairThe words anugrahaya bhaktanam manusam deham asritah indicate that the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna appears in His original human-like form and performs various pastimes in order to bestow favor upon His devotees. Therefore, although Sri Krsna is satisfied in Himself (aptakama), His display of kindness toward the devotees is quite appropriate. This is the distinctive characteristic of visuddha-sattva (pure goodness). The Lord is always prepared to reward the devotees with a result consistent with their performance of bhajana. The favor shown toward King Rahugana by Sri Jada Bharata and the Lord's favor toward Sukadeva Gosvami illustrates this.
anubhutatvat evam bhaktanugrahartham tat kridety abhipretam.
aptakama tve'pi bhaktanugraho yujuate. visuddha sattvasya tatha
svabhavat. yad bhava bhavite canyatra drsyate 'sau. tatha rahugananugrahake
sri jada bharata carite, yatha va bhagavad anugrahake mayiti
ca. tatra bhakta sabdena braja devyo braja janas ca sarve kala-traya
sambandhino 'nye ca vaisnava grhitam-braja devinam purva-ragadibhir
braja jananam janmadibhir anyesan ca bhakta darsana sravanadibhir
apurvatva sphuranat. ataeva tadrsa bhakta prasangena tadrsih
sarva cittakarsinih krida bhajate, yah sadharanir api srutva
bhaktebho 'nyo 'pi janas tatparo bhavet. kimuta rasa lila rupam
imam srutvety arthah. vaksyate ca-vikriditam vraja-vadhubhir
idan ca visnoh (SB 10.33.39) ityadi. yad va, manusam deham asritah
sarvo 'pi jivas tatparo bhavet, martya loke sri bhagavad avatarat
tatha bhajane mukhyatvac ca manusyanam eva sukhena tac chravanadi
siddeh. bhutanam iti pathe nijavatara karana bhakta sambandhena
sarvesam eva jananam visayinam mumuksunam muktanan cety arthah.
iti parama karunyam eva karanam uktam. tathapi bhajana
sambandhenaiva sarvanugraho jneyah. anyattaih. tatra bahirmukhanapiti
tatparyantatvam vivaksitam, parama prema parakastha mayataya
sri sukasyapi tad varnanatisaya pravrtteh gopinam ity asyarthantare
tv evam vyakhyeyam.
In the verse under discussion, it is said that the Lord manifests His form and pastimes in order to bestow favor upon His devotees. The word bhakta used here refers to the Vraja-devis (the gopis), the Vrajavasis (residents of Vraja) and all other Vaisnavas-past, present and future. In order to bestow favor upon the vraja-devis, Svayam Bhagavan Sri Krsna lovingly executes such pastimes as purva-raga (the attachment in anticipation of meeting Krsna prior to their union). To bestow mercy upon all the residents of Vraja, He enacts His birth and other pastimes, and by all His activities, He bestows favor upon past, present and future devotees through the medium of hearing lila-katha
Sri Krsna manifests all these pastimes to benefit the devotees. By so doing, even ordinary persons (other than the devotees) who hear even the more common of the Lord's pastimes become fully intent upon the Lord.
Therefore, by hearing the supremely ambrosial rasa-lila, ordinary persons will certainly become exclusively devoted to the Lord-of this there can be no doubt. This fact will be elaborately discussed in subsequent verses such as vikriditam vraja-vadhubhir idam ca visnoh (SB 10.33.39)
The words manusam deham asthitah may also indicate that those jivas who have attained the human form of life are able to hear all these pastimes, and thus they become exclusively devoted to the Supreme Lord. This is so because the Lord incarnates exclusively on the earthly planets (martya-loka), and it is here only that worship of the Lord takes on its predominant form. Consequently, the human beings residing on the earthly planets may easily hear these narrations of the Lord's pastimes.
The word bhaktanam appears in this verse. But in some other editions, the word bhutanam is found in its place. In that case, the purport would be as follows: the Lord incarnates only for the sake of the devotees. As a result, the devotees are the root cause of the Lord's appearance. The Lord also appears in His original human-like form in order to bestow His favor upon the liberated souls (muktas), the aspirants for liberation (mumuksus), sense enjoyers (visayis), and all living entities in accordance with their relationship with the devotees. The Lord's compassion is therefore said to be the cause of His appearance.
Nevertheless, it must be understood that the Lord's favor toward other living entities is due only to their relationship with His devotees. In other words, the Lord bestows favor upon jivas only because of their connection with devotees
In his Bhagavatam commentary known as Bhavartha-dipika, Srila Sridhara Svami has written that, what to speak of the devotees, even materialistic persons are freed from their material absorption by hearing the Lord's pastimes, and thus they become exclusively fixed upon Him.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura explains this verse in his commentary known as Sarartha Darsini:
bhaktanam anugrahaya tadrsih kridah bhajate yah srutva manusam deham asritah"The Lord performs varieties of pastimes to show favor to His devotees. Having adopted the human form of life, living entities who hear these pastimes become exclusively devoted unto the Lord. In other words, they develop firm faith in hearing the narrations of the Lord's activities. What more shall I say about the importance of hearing lila-katha? And this rasa-lila, being fully imbued with madhurya-rasa, is eminently distinguished even from the Lord's other pastimes. Like a jewel, a mantra or a powerful medicine, this rasa-lila is endowed with such indisputable, astonishing potency that by hearing it, all persons in the human form become devoted to the Supreme Lord. Therefore, all varieties of devotees who hear the descriptions of these pastimes will become successful and obtain supreme pleasure. Can there be any question of doubt in this regard?
jivah tatparas tad visayakah sraddhavan bhaved iti kridantar
ato vailaksanyena madhura rasamayah asyah kridayas tadrsi mani-mantra-mahausadhanam
iva kacid atarkya saktir astity avagamyate
In this context, we may cite verse 10.33.30 from Srimad-Bhagavatam:
naitat samacarej jatu manasapi hy anisvarah vinasyaty acaran maudhyad yatharudro `bdhijam visam"In other words, those who are not isvara, the Supreme Lord, who are powerless and subjected to karma, should never imitate the Lord's pastimes even within their minds. If anyone foolishly imitates Lord Siva by drinking the poison generated from the ocean, he will certainly be destroyed.
The gist of Srila Jiva Gosvami's and Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura's commentaries on this verse is that living entities who are subservient to the material body and who are anisvara-bereft of the controlling potency of the Supreme Lord-should never behave in such a way even within their minds. What to speak of actually performing such activities, one should not even desire to do so. In other words, such acts performed by God in transgression of religious codes should not be contemplated even within the mind.
The word samacarana (behavior), when divided into its constituent parts (samyak and acarana), indicates complete behavior. Here it has been used to indicate total prohibition of such activity. Therefore, the purport is that such behavior should not be adopted even to the slightest extent. What to speak of performing such activities through speech or the senses, one should not even mentally conceive of such activities.
The word hi indicates that this certainly must not be done. If one were to behave in that way, he would be completely destroyed. The significance of the word maudhyad (stupidity) is that if anyone, being ignorant of the Lord's omnipotence and his own incompetence, foolishly adopts such behavior, he will be utterly ruined. Just as if anyone other than Lord Siva were to foolishly consume deadly poison, instantaneously he would be destroyed. But Lord Siva, in spite of drinking poison, is not destroyed; to the contrary, he attains even greater fame and splendor as Nila-kantha, he whose throat turned blue from drinking poison.
Here in this verse, imitation of such behavior has been prohibited, yet in the verse to come (SB 10.33.36)-yah srutva tat-paro bhavet-it is evident that not only devotees but even others who faithfully hear these pastimes will become fully devoted to the Supreme Lord. This has been further explained in the following verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.33.39):
vikriditam vraja-vadhubhir idam ca visnoh"A sober person who in the beginning faithfully and continuously hears from his guru the narrations of Lord Sri Krsna's unprecedented rasa dance with the young wives (gopis) of Vraja, and later describes those pastimes, very soon attains para-bhakti or prema-bhakti for the Supreme Lord, and thus becomes competent to quickly dispel the heart disease of lust.
sraddhanvito `nusrnuyad atha varnayed yah
bhaktim param bhagavati pratilabhya kamam
hrd-rogam asv apahinoty acirena dhirah
Here Srila Jiva Gosvami comments in Vaisnava Tosani:
sraddhaya visvasenanvita iti. tad viparitavajna-rupaparadha-nivrty arthanca nairantaryarthanca. tac ca phala vaisistyartham, ataeva yo 'nu nirantaram srnuyat, athanantaram svayam varnayec ca, upalaksanan caitat smarec ca, bhaktim prema-laksanam param sri gopika premanusaritvat sarvottama jatiyam; pratiksanam nutanatvena labdha; hrd-roga-rupam kamam iti bhagavad visayah kama viseso vyavacchinnah, tasya parama prema rupatvena tad vaiiparityat. kamam ity upalaksanam anyesam api hrd-roganam. anyatra sruyate (sri gita, 18.54)-"brahma bhutah prasannatma na socati na kanksati, samah sarvesu bhutesu mad bhaktim labhate param." iti atra ty hrd-rogapahanat purvam eva parama bhakti praptih tasmat parama balavadevedam sadhanam iti bhavah.Having concluded the narration of the rasa-lila, Sukadeva Gosvami became deeply immersed in spiritual ecstasy. In this verse, he describes the fruits of hearing and chanting the rasa-lila and thus benedicts all future listeners and reciters. Those who incessantly and faithfully hear Krsna's rasa-lila with the young wives of Vraja, and later recite those pastimes, quickly attain para-bhakti toward Bhagavan Sri Krsna and thus relinquish the heart disease of lust
Sraddhanvita means to hear with firm faith. This word has been used to prevent the offense which results from mistrust (avisvasa) or disregard (avajna) of the statements of sastra-in complete opposition to the principle of hearing with faith. It has also been used to promote constant hearing. By this word, the importance of hearing has been pointed out. The words atha varnayed indicate that after continuously hearing the rasa-lila along with other special pastimes, one will personally describe those pastimes. By Upalaksana, that is, indirect implication, it is further indicated that after hearing and reciting, one will also remember those pastimes and take great delight in them. In other words, hearing, chanting, remembering, experiencing delight, and so on are all implied by the words sraddhanvitah anusrnuyat atha varnayed (to hear repeatedly with faith and then describe).
Para-bhakti means bhakti which follows in the wake of the gopis of Vraja. Therefore, the bhakti referred to here is prema-bhakti of the highest category. The word pratilabhya (repeatedly obtained), together with the word para-bhakti, indicates that first para-bhakti (possessing the distinctive characteristics of prema) is obtained within the heart at every moment in every new variety. Thereafter one quickly gives up the heart disease of lust.
Here the difference between kama (material lust) as a disease of the heart and kama (spiritual love) in relationship to the Supreme Lord is pointed out. These two are distinct from each other. The word kama here indirectly implies that all diseases of the heart will quickly be dispelled.
In Bhagavad-gita (18.54) it is said: "One who is situated in the transcendental position beyond the contamination of the three modes of nature (brahma-bhuta), who is fully satisfied in the self, who neither laments nor hankers for anything, and who looks impartially upon all living beings, attains para-bhakti unto Me.
In this Gita verse it is said that one attains para-bhakti only after the disappearance of the diseases of the heart, but in the above verse it is said that one attains para-bhakti even before their departure. Consequently, it is understood that hearing and chanting of rasa-lila is one of the most powerful forms of sadhana.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura states as follows in his Sarartha Darsini commentary on the same verse (10.33.39):
anudinam va srnuyat. atha varnayet kirttayet. svakavitaya kavya-rupatvena nibadhniteti va. param prema laksanam prapyeti ktva pratyayena hrd-rogavaty apy adhikarini pratham ataeva premnah pravesas tatas tat prabhavenaivacirato hrd roga nasa iti premayam jnana yoga iva na durbalah paratantras ceti bhavah. hrd roga nasa iti premayam jnana yoga iva na durbalah paratantras ceti bhavah. hrd-roga-rupam kamam iti bhagavad visayakah kama viseso vyavacchinnah tasya premamrta rupatvena tad vaiparityat. dhirah pandita iti hrd roge satyapi katham prema bhaved ity anastikya laksanena murkhatvena rahita ity arthah. ataeva sraddhanvita iti sastravisvasinam namaparadhinam premapi nangikarotiti bhavah.The prefix anu (repeatedly or methodically) when applied to srnuyat (to hear) indicates constant hearing. By continuously hearing from the lips of the sravana-guru and Vaisnavas, and thereafter reciting, narrating, or describing (those pastimes) in poetry of one's own composition, one attains para-bhakti-or in other words bhakti which is of the nature of prema (prema-laksana-bhakti).
The suffix ktva has been used in the formation of the verb pratilabhya (obtained) as follows: prati + labh + ktva. According to the rules of Sanskrit grammar, when the suffix ktva is applied to a verbal root with a prefix, it is replaced by yap. Then the letter `p' is dropped and thus the final form of the word `pratilabhya' is obtained. The suffix ktva is applied to the first of two verbs performed by the same agent to show successive action (i.e., having attained prema, he relinquishes all lusty desires of the heart). In this case, the first action is pratilabhya (the attainment of prema) and the second action is apahinoti (renunciation of the lusty desires of the heart).
Therefore, the suffix ktva in the verb pratilabhya indicates that although lust and other evils still remain within the heart, prema-bhakti first enters the heart and by its extraordinary influence destroys all vices to the root. In other words, hearing and reciting rasa-lila possesses such astonishing power that the lust in the heart of the faithful sadhaka is destroyed and he attains prema. Though these two take place simultaneously, the influence of prema manifests first, and through its effect, all lusty desires of the heart are dissipated.
Thus, as a result of hearing and chanting the narrations of the Lord's pastimes, one first attains prema for the Lord's lotus feet and thereafter one's heart is liberated from lusty desires and all other contamination. In other words, he becomes perfectly pure because prema is not feeble like the processes of jnana and yoga. Bhakti is omnipotent and supremely independent.
The words hrd-roga-kama indicate the difference between lusty desires of the heart and the kama in relationship to the Supreme Lord. Kama which is in relationship to the Supreme Lord is of the very nature of the nectar of prema (premamrta svarupa), whereas the lusty desires of the heart are exactly the opposite. Therefore, these two attitudes are distinct from each other. This is substantiated by use of the words hrd-roga kama.
The word dhira means a pandita, or one who is learned in the sastra. One who refuses to accept the claim of this verse and thinks, "As long as the disease of lust remains in the heart, prema cannot be obtained, is said to possess an atheistic temperament. One who is free from such a foolish, atheistic demeanor is known as a pandita or sober person (dhira). Consequently, only those who have firm faith in the sastra are known as dhira. Those who have no faith in the statements of the sastras are atheistic and offenders to the holy name. Such persons can never attain prema.
Consequently, in the heart of the sadhakas who firmly believe in the statements of the sastra, faith arises by hearing rasa-lila and other narrations. Only in the hearts of such faithful devotees does prema manifest its influence as a result of hearing lila-katha. Thereafter, lust and all evils present within the heart of the devotees are destroyed to the root. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura's commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.47.59) is also relevant to this discussion. There it is stated that bhakti is the only cause of superior qualities being found in any individual. Austerities, learning, knowledge, and so on are not the cause of superior qualities. Although bhakti is itself of the highest excellence, it does not appear only in the most exceptional individuals endowed with all good qualities. On the contrary, it may manifest or remain even in the most condemned and vile persons. Furthermore, it causes thoroughly wretched and fallen persons to attain all good qualities, to become worthy of the respect of all, and to attain the highest and most rare association.
For this reason, the opinion that Bhakti-devi enters the heart only after all anarthas, aparadhas, lust, and other diseases of the heart have been eradicated, is not appropriate. On the contrary, by the mercy of the Supreme Lord or the devotees, or by faithfully executing sadhana and bhajana, this rare bhakti enters the heart first, and then all anarthas are automatically dissipated-this condition is thoroughly agreeable.
Therefore, only faithful sadhakas with firm belief in the statements of sastra, guru and Vaisnavas are eligible to hear the lila-katha of Srimad-Bhagavatam which are saturated with rasa. And conversely, those who believe that only sadhakas who are completely free from all anarthas are eligible to hear the above-mentioned pastimes, will neither become free from anarthas nor obtain eligibility to hear-even after millions of births.
Another point to consider is that if this argument is accepted, then we sadhakas who are still affected by anarthas, although possessing faith, could never read nor hear the sacred books of rasika Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas like Srila Sanatana Gosvami, Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Under such a circumstance, we would be forever deprived of the extremely confidential and elevated truths of bhakti expressed by these acaryas. There would be no possibility that the sprout of greed for raganuga-bhakti would ever be awakened in our hearts. Thus we would be forever cheated from that which was not previously given, the prema-rasa of the most munificent Sri Saci-nandana, the bestower of krsna-prema. What then would distinguish the Sri Gaudiya Vaisnavas who have taken shelter of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu from Vaisnavas of other sampradayas?
A third point to consider is this. In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 8.70) the following verse is quoted from Padyavali:
krsna-bhakti-rasa-bhavita matihHere, the words laulyam api mulyam ekalam (indeed the only price is greed) indicate that this supremely rare greed cannot be aroused even by pious activities accumulated over millions and millions of births. Then how can this greed be obtained? The words krsna-bhakti-rasa-bhavita matih indicate one whose intelligence or perception has been awakened toward krsna-bhakti-rasa. Here, the implication is that by faithfully hearing the narrations of Sri Krsna's pastimes saturated with rasa from the lips of rasika Vaisnavas in whom krsna-bhakti-rasa has arisen, or by faithfully and attentively studying the literatures related to the pastimes of Sri Krsna composed by them, this greed may be obtained. Besides this, there is no other means.
kriyatam yadi kuto'pi labhyate
tatra laulyam api mulyam ekalam
janma-koti-sukrtair na labhyate
Another argument, that at present there is no sadhaka who is completely free from anarthas and, therefore, no one is eligible, nor in the future will anyone be eligible, is completely illogical. Freedom from lust and all other anarthas in and of itself is not the qualification for entrance into raganuga-bhakti. On the contrary, greed awakened towards the Lord's madhurya (sweetness) is the sole qualification for entrance into raganuga-bhakti. Nor is there any certainty that, by routine observance of the limbs of vaidhi-bhakti alone, greed toward raganuga-bhakti will automatically awaken. There is no evidence of this anywhere. Therefore, our highest obligation is to follow the purport of the commentaries of the previous acaryas to the above-mentioned verses of Srimad-Bhagavatam.
It is by the inspiration of His Divine Grace Srila Guru-pada-padma nitya-lila-pravista om visnupada astottara-sata Sri Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja and the repeated solicitation of many bumblebee-like devotees that I am presenting Sri Venu-gita to the readers along with a purport to the commentaries of Srila Cakravarti Thakura and Srila Jiva Gosvami named Sarartha Darsini and Sri Vaisnava Tosani respectively. By reading this subject with full faith, the greed to enter into raganuga-bhakti will certainly sprout in the hearts of the faithful devotees. This itself is the very purpose of human life.