Question: I heard you say that sāmānya-bhakti can be attained without dīkṣā and that it would grant one sālokya. How does sāmānya-bhakti manifest in this world and where does it bring the sādhaka who practices it? Is there any diversity in it?
Answer: The word sāmānya means general. The word meaning itself implies that it is not any specific type. “Specific” means any particular kind of relation with Bhagavān. Sāmānya also means common or basic. In that sense, it signifies the common or basic characteristic of bhakti, which is surrender.
Question: Can it also be dāsya or is it only śānta?
Answer: Sāmanya is not dāsya. Among the five types of primary bhakti, it can be only śānta.
Question: If sāmānya-bhakti can be attained without dīkṣā (which presupposes receiving a particular bhava from a guru), how can one become genuinely inspired to perform bhakti, to begin with?
Answer: Inspiration for bhakti primarily comes by the association of a devotee. Inspiration for sāmānya bhakti comes from the association with other sāmānya-bhaktas.
Question: This implies that there are various types of bhakti, yet they are grounded in the svarūpa-śakti of Kṛṣṇa. Is this correct?
Answer: Yes. All types of bhakti are the antaraṅgā-śakti of Bhagavān. Even when Bhagavān Kapilā describes bhakti as sāttvikī, rājasī or tāmasī, it is not that bhakti is sāttvikī, rājasī or tāmasī, but the intention of the person who executes it. Because the intention of the person is a product of sattva, rajas or tamas, the bhakti takes the corresponding appellation. Otherwise, bhakti by its very nature is beyond guṇas of prakṛti.
Question: Then, what is the adhikāra for this type of bhakti?
Answer: Śraddhā is the adhikāra for it.
Question: Is it correct to think that even for this type of bhakti, one should have śāstriya-śraddhā?
Answer: It is not necessary.
Question: Are there śānta-bhaktas in Vrindavana who attained perfection through sāmānya-bhakti? Or does it apply exclusively to Vaikuṇṭha?
Answer: Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī defines it in Bhakti-rasāmrta Sindhu and gives the example of young girls of three or four years of age. I do not know of any example who attained it by sādhana. However, it primarily applies to Vaikuṇṭha.
Question: How then does one attain śānta-rasa in Vrindavan?
Answer: By association with other śānta-bhaktas of Vrindavan and by practicing bhakti under their guidance.
Question: Are there examples in śāstra of those who attained Vaikuṇṭha through sāmānya-bhakti?
Answer: The Kumaras are given as examples of śānta bhaktas. I think examples of people such as Ajāmila in the sixth canto of the Bhāgavata will apply to sāmānya-bhakti. Many of the kings described in the Ninth Canto may also belong to this category.
Question: I have a question regarding bhakti-yoga and śaraṇāgati. In the Śrī-sampradāya, the bhakti-yoga and śaraṇāgati paths are separated. It is also said in Śrī-sampradāya that only brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, and vaiśyas, not śūdras, can perform bhakti-yoga. Śrī-sampradāya similarly says that women are ineligible to perform bhakti-yoga. Śaraṇāgati is the only path through which everyone can attain mokṣa, according to Śrī-sampradāya.
But in the Gauḍīya-sampradāya, it is said that bhakti-mārga or bhakti-yoga is open to all. I have also never seen Gauḍīyas separate bhakti from śaraṇāgati.
Answer: No, Gauḍīyas do not separate śaraṇāgati and bhakti. For us, śaraṇāgati is part of bhakti. We also do not discriminate on the basis of birth, gender, or social status. Everyone is eligible to execute bhakti. The essential qualification is śraddhā or trust in the meaning of śāstra. Anyone who has śraddhā can take to bhakti.
The reason for distinguishing bhakti from śaraṇāgati in the Śrī-sampradāya is that bhakti is only for those who are part of the varṇāśrama system. For them, it is not recommended to give up their varṇāśrama duties. Those who are not part of varṇāśrama can take to śaraṇāgati. From their point of view, bhakti practiced by Gauḍīyas is not bhakti-yoga but śaraṇāgati.
When people want to take revenge, this is something they get very much fixed on – they can wait three generations. When you ask them to fix their mind on Krishna then it is difficult. This is how the human mind works – if you want to fix it on something good, you have to work hard for that. If you want to fix it on destruction, then it is easy.
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