The following is a question that addressed Babaji’s podcast interview with Namarasa.
Question: Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad Gītā, “O son of Pṛtha, those who take shelter in me, though they be of lower birth—women, vaiśyas, and śūdras—can attain the supreme destination” (Gītā 9.32).
These classes of people are generally not accustomed to study like a brāhmaṇa, so how can study be the only path to bhakti? This is why the supremely magnanimous Lord Caitanya distributed kṛṣṇa-prema through the Holy Names and not study, because Lord Caitanya, out of His mercy, wanted to make bhakti accessible to all, not only to studious brāhmaṇas.
Answer: In my interview, I said that bhakti, as propagated by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, is understood only by studying it from the works of Gosvāmīs. You will agree that Mahāprabhu propagated uttamā-bhakti and asked Śrī Rupa Gosvāmī and Sanātana Gosvāmī to write books. It is well known that the bhakti that He propagated was not known to people of this world. The anarpita-carīṁ cirāt verse is proof of this fact. From this, you can understand that uttamā-bhakti is not easy to understand, even for learned people, because it is not material. We do not have any experience of it. We theoretically understand something new based on our past experience. Alternatively, we can know by direct experience. In the case of uttamā-bhakti, we do not have past experience unless we are continuing it from our past life. We also have no means to experience it directly unless we are fortunate to get the grace of an uttamā-bhakta. Therefore, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī calls this bhakti “mahā-durbodha,” extremely difficult to understand (Bhakti Sandarbha, Anuccheda 165). Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī lists sudurlabha, “very difficult to achieve,” as one of the six qualities of bhakti (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.17).
You will agree that to follow any path, you need to understand the path properly. If we do not understand the path or the process properly, we cannot follow it properly. If we do not follow it properly, we do not get the desired result. This is my conviction and experience.
Your objection is based on the Gītā verse (9.32). On this, I want to say that this verse was spoken when the varṇāśrama system was functional. I do not understand the logic in citing this verse. In modern society, there is no restriction on education. When you say: “These classes of people are generally not accustomed to study like a brāhmaṇa, so how can study be the only path to bhakti?” What do you mean by the word brāhmaṇa? Where are the brāhmaṇas who are absorbed in studying śtra? The majority of my students who study śāstra are women and not brāhmaṇas. So, your objection is outdated and not based on practical experience.
If your objection is correct, i.e., we do not need to study śāstra to understand bhakti, then I would like to see this in practice. Show me people who have not done a proper study of bhakti-śāstra yet are clear about the process and the goal. Moreover, they are actually achieving the goal. It is certainly not my experience. Instead, I find devotees who have been practicing for decades and have no clear understanding of the basic definition of uttamā-bhakti. People are confused even about simple concepts such as nāma, nāma-abhāsa, and nāma-aparādha. And I am not speaking about just being able to recite some verses but being very clear about the process and goal.
Furthermore, by citing Bhagavad Gītā, you are contradicting yourself. Why? Because you are citing śāstra to prove that we do not need to study śāstra. This is called vadato vyāghāta—contradiction while speaking, as when someone says, “I do not have a tongue in my mouth!” Moreover, you are citing a verse to support the wrong cause. The intention of the speaker, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is not at all that one should not study śāstra. Rather, He intends to show the greatness of bhakti; this is clear from the context. We should not derive a meaning not intended by the speaker, especially if it goes against His intention. Śri Kṛṣṇa Himself has spoken on the importance of studying śāstra, both by affirmation (anvaya) and negation (vyatireka) (Gītā 16.23–24):
yaḥ śāstra-vidhim utsṛjya vartate kāma-kārataḥ
na sa siddhim avāpnoti na sukhaṁ na parāṁ gatim
tasmāc chāstraṁ pramāṇaṁ te kāryākārya-vyavasthitau
jñātvā śāstra-vidhānoktaṁ karma kartum ihārhasi
“Casting aside the ordinances of scriptures, one who acts under the impulse of one’s material desire attains neither perfection, happiness, nor the Supreme Goal.
Therefore, only scripture is your authority in ascertaining what should be done and what should be avoided. You should perform action in this world only after knowing the injunctions of the scriptures.”
It is a very clear injunction that one should first study śāstra and then engage in action; otherwise, one cannot attain the desired goal. I did not say anything different in my interview. In fact, I supported my statement with a śāstric reference. Therefore, if you disagree with me, you need to consider if you are disregarding śāstra, which would be a nāmaparādha—śruti-śāstra-nindanam.
Not only this, but in the very same book that you cite, Śrī Kṛṣṇa advises to approach a teacher to learn the meaning of śāstra (Gītā 4.34):
tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ
“Understand this knowledge by prostrating, by rendering service, and by in-depth inquiry from teachers. Those wise seers of Truth will instruct you in that knowledge.”
In the second part of your question, you refer to the magnanimity of Mahāprabhu in distributing Kṛṣṇa-prema by chanting the name and not restricting it to studious brāhmaṇas. I do not understand why you think that study is only for brāhmaṇas. Anyone can study the bhakti literature of our Gosvāmīs. Moreover, you need to explain why the magnanimous Mahāprabhu sent His most intimate followers to Vrindavan and asked them to compose bhakti literature. Was it meant to impress the nondevotees? Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī is said to have captured the heart of Mahāprabhu. Why did he write a book like Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu? He could have just written a few pages about nāma-japa and nāma-kirtana; that would have sufficed. However, all great acāryas have written books. Why do you think they wrote them? Were the books only for distribution to others? I think not. Most people in modern times have come to bhakti because of reading a book. Even if they came in contact with a devotee, they were probably convinced only after reading a book on bhakti.
I do not know any example of someone attaining the goal of bhakti without proper knowledge of bhakti. But I know examples of those who studied śāstra and attained the goal of bhakti! It is no surprise that Kṛṣṇa says: śreyo hi jñānam abhyāsād (Gītā 12.12), priyo hi jñānino atyartham ahaṁ sa ca mama priyaḥ (7.17), bahavaḥ jñāna-tapasā pūtā mad-bhāvam āgatāḥ ( 4.10), evaṁ yo vetti tattvatah (4.9), etc