Guru-tattva: Different Rasas?

Question: When the guru is situated in a particular rasa and his or her disciples have affinity for another rasa, how is such a paradoxical situation dealt with, and how does the disciple receive specific guidance for his or her budding bhāva? 

Answer: When it comes to bhāva, prema, or rasa, there are two views in our sampradāya. According to one view, the bhāva, prema, or rasa is dormant in the ātmā. Every ātmā is already destined to attain a particular relation of love with Kṛṣṇa. The other view is that bhāva, prema, or rasa is not dormant, but one receives it by the grace of a devotee or guru. I believe your question is based on the first view because then only it is possible that a disciple can have affinity for a rasa different from one’s guru. The affinity for rasa cannot be material nor can it be a product of anything material. So, I would guess that according to this view, such an affinity for a particular rasa comes from one’s dormant rasa. If such a thing happens, then the only solution I can think of is that the guru should guide the disciple to another Vaiṣṇava teacher who has a similar bhāva as the disciple. The guru should not hold on to such a disciple because he would not be able to guide him or her on their journey. After all, the interest of the guru is to see his disciple reach the goal of prema, and if this can happen only by the guidance of another Vaiṣṇava, then he should allow it. 

In the other view, such a thing is not possible, because there is no dormant love. One gets the bhāva that one’s guru has. In this regard, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, while writing about the influence of association with a devotee, cites a verse from Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2 229): “Just as a crystal appears to capture the color of an object in its vicinity, similarly a person acquires the qualities of a person with whom one associates. Therefore, an intelligent person, for the prosperity of one’s family or group, should associate with people of a similar nature.” The extended meaning of this verse is that if one associates with a senior Vaiṣṇava or with one’s guru, then one will acquire the bhāva of that Vaiṣṇava or guru and not a different bhāva.  Prior to this, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī cites verse 1.18.13 (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.228), which glorifies even momentary association with a devotee as superior to heaven or liberation. While commenting on this verse, Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura gives the reason for this: “Because the seed of bhakti, which is most rare, manifests by the association with a devotee.” This is also the opinion of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī. In Bhakti Sandarbha (Anuccheda 202), while describing the process of the appearance of bhakti, he writes: 

“Thus by associating with devotees amongst the various types that have been described, one may be endowed with bhakti, which will manifest either quickly or after a delay and take a particular form according to the different degrees of these devotees’ spiritual power, their compassion, and individual character of their devotional mood towards Bhagavān. […]

“First of all, by association with specific devotees, one develops a corresponding type of faith in Bhagavān and a relish for hearing about Him as He is understood in their corresponding tradition. This enables one to turn one’s awareness to Him. By further association with specific devotees, one develops a relish for the particular form of Bhagavān who is worshiped by those devotees, as well as for the particular path of worship they follow. 

“After this, if the hunger to know more appears, one hears from one or more of those devotees, accepting them as spiritual teachers. Hearing means to understand the meaning of the scriptures through study of the six criteria that reveal their import. After this, one personally engages in reflection (manana) by deliberating on the meaning of what he has heard in order to dispel doubts (asambhāvanā, lit. impossibility) and misconceptions (viprīta-bhāvanā, lit. contrary view) about the knowledge received. 

“He then develops faith that the particular feature of Bhagavān towards which he is attracted is present, at all times, and in every place, within all other manifestations of Bhagavān. Then, along with the first attraction (ruci) that became manifest in him towards one specific form of Bhagavān, this same faith swells up with a renewed conviction that his very Bhagavān is supremely competent to bestow upon him the attainment for which he aspires. Although supreme power is possible only in one form of Bhagavān, not in all forms, yet, due to a lack of awareness of this special form, a person may develop this type of conviction in some other form of Bhagavān.

“The progression that has just been explained in regard to the development of faith in a particular form of Bhagavān applies equally towards the awakening of faith in a specific path of worship. Once one has acquired knowledge of the Absolute by thus deliberating on the import of scripture, it is necessary to realize the nature of the Absolute. This is done by carrying out the various practices of that particular path of worship, and each of these acts must be performed as a profound meditation on the nature of the Supreme Reality (nididhyāsana).

So, in the second view, the question that you have raised will not arise. According to this understanding, if one feels attraction for a different bhāva than that of one’s guru, then it is most likely a material sentiment and not a real devotional mood. One may argue that such a bhāva may be carried from one’s past life. If that was the case, then such a person would naturally be attracted to a guru with whom his bhāva matches. 

Question: What is the actual meaning of the term rūpānuga, and its conception and application? Nowadays, rūpānuga is taken to mean following Rūpa Gosvāmī as Rūpa Mañjarī in rādhā-dāsya, while emphasizing that this gift (rādhā-dāsya) represents the only dispensation Mahāprabhu came to give. Therefore, there is no place for any other rasa within the sampradāya, and if a sādhaka feels an inclination towards, for example, sakhya-bhāva, that person should not be considered a rūpānuga, according to this consideration. Any thoughts?

Answer: A word can have many meanings. The compound word rūpānuga is made from two words, rūpa and anuga. The first word refers to Rūpa Gosvāmī, and the second means “a follower or regulated by”. Thus, the compound word means “one who follows Rūpa Gosvāmī or who is under the guidance of Rūpa Gosvāmī”. This is a general sense of the word. How one applies it specifically may vary. One may take it to mean “following only the personal mood of Rūpa Gosvāmī”. The word may also be used in the broader sense: “following Rūpa Gosvāmī’s teachings as given in his writings”. It is not a technical word with a neatly defined and refined meaning. So, one may include other moods besides mañjarī-bhāva into the sense of the word and still consider oneself a Rūpānuga.

Question: Although mañjarī-bhāva is indeed the main current and highest reach of our sampradāya in terms of sweetness and the rasa experience, we find in Caitanya-caritāmṛta and throughout our Gaudiya history that there is a place for secondary currents in our lineage. I’m thinking specifically of sakhya-bhāva, due to the influence of Nityānānda Prabhu and his dvādaśa-gopālas´ preaching campaign in Bengal. In recent times, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada´s campaign and personal inner affinity for sakhya-bhāva (more info about this in www.cowdust.com), was clearly established through many of his statements and poetry, although some devotees do not accept that he -or whoever- may be interested in anything else than bhāvollāsa-rati. Is there a place for other rasas apart from madhurya in our line? Are there specific instances in Mahāprabhu and the Gosvāmīs´ times where this situation was expressed?

Answer: In the opening verse of Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, the ocean of immortal bhakti-rasa, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī calls Kṛṣṇa “Akhila-rasa-amṛta-mūrti”, the personification of all immortal rasas. That means He relishes all rasas and not just mādhurya rasa. Just as a good meal has all the tastes (rasa), similarly Kṛṣṇa has devotees in all rasas with whom He performs His divine līlā. Mahāprabhu is Kṛṣṇa Himself and thus He also has associates in all moods. All rasas find their perfection in Him. He also had devotees who were worshipers of Rāma and Narasiṁhadeva. All varieties are perfectly harmonized in Him. Therefore, all moods, whether sakhya or dāsya, are possible among the followers of Mahāprabhu.

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Comments ( 5 )
  1. Sandipa Krishna Dasa

    Thanks Babaji Maharaj, for writing and discussing on this subject so elaborately.

    The first view stated in this article is very confusing and makes one go in circles upon circles. I am not sure if in such a state anyone would ever reach their destination.

    The second view, being in line with the Sastras and our Goswami’s writings is crystal clear. Even a few baby steps on that path gives one profound progress towards one’s goal.

  2. Vidya Sundar

    Most of our prominent acharyas reviewed their svarup as Manjaris. All gurus in Nityananda vamsa and parivar, as well as Advaita parivar or vamsa practice manjari bhav sadhana. We know of several Mahaprabhu’s associates who have been in sakhya or dasya rasas. But majority shows in manjari bhav. Currently everywhere I look all Vaisnavas teach in the tradition of manjari bhav. It seems Mahaprabhu primery mood is as such, as written in adi 1.4.
    anarpita-carīṁ cirāt karuṇayāvatīrṇaḥ kalau
    samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasāṁ sva-bhakti-śriyam….

  3. Vraja Kishor

    Maybe people experiencing this type of thing have made SOME progress towards a particular bhava in previous lifetimes, and at the current time are getting confused in the process of trying to find the right guidance to proceed with that.

    For example, say a person made some bhajan following a sakhya guru in previous lifetimes. In this life his/her inclination will be to find a sakhya guru, but s/he did not make so much progress that they are very clear about this, so wander about a bit, encountering other moods of bhajan until they realize what they are after and seek guidance exactly in that.

    Does that sound acceptable?

  4. Anurag

    Thank you for answering my question Babaji :). You answered it even before I could ask you.

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