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Stages of Bhakti, Doubts and Offenses
Questions & Answers

Stages of Bhakti, Doubts and Offenses

Question: It seems that anyone who has doubts cannot completely “believe” in the words of śāstra. In SB 1.2.21 it is said that doubts are destroyed upon seeing Paramātmā at the jivan-mukta stage. It follows that there must be doubts at the anartha nivrtti stage. How should I understand this?

Answer:  A doubt can be of various types.  You have assumed that doubt is only about śāstra being true or false. The doubt may be about one’s own capability. One may have doubts such as, “Am I capable of realizing the goal?”  “Is the process I follow proper or am I missing something?” “Is Kṛṣṇa really the way He is described (such as having a yellow dress, blackish color, etc.)?” In other words, it is not that the sādhaka is harboring doubts about the validity of śāstra, but rather doubts about oneself, one’s practice and one’s own understanding.  Moreover, it is not certain that everyone will have such doubts. The doubt may not be about whether something is right or wrong. One may simply not be very clear about a concept although one accepts it to be true. Please read the very definition of śraddhā in Bhakti-rasāmṛta sindhu, Eastern Division, second chapter (Sādhana-bhakti).

Question: You had mentioned in a lecture that there is no possibility of offense at the stage described in SB 1.2.21:

bhidyate hṛdaya-granthiś chidyante sarva-saṁśayāḥ
kṣīyante cāsya karmāṇi dṛṣṭa evātmanīśvare

“Precisely coinciding with the immediate perception of Īśvara within the core of being of such a realized person, the knot of ego in the heart is pierced, all doubts are cut asunder, and the reaction to all karma is nullified.  Any suffering is an arrangement of Kṛṣṇa.”

Am I correct in assuming that this is a description of the bhāva stage? If yes, how to reconcile this with Bhakti-rasāmṛta Sindhu, where Śrī Rupa Gosvāmī mentions that one can descend from the bhāva stage if one commits offenses? 

Answer: This is the prema stage, and at this stage, there is no possibility of offense. Even otherwise when Śrī Rupa Gosvāmī says that one can descend from bhāva stage, it is not a common thing. Rather I would say that such a thing will also happen by the special will of Kṛṣṇa—either to teach others something or to make the bhāva of the devotee very intense. Otherwise, at the bhāva platform, offense is almost impossible. 

Question: Śrī Visvanātha suggests that Bharat Mahāraja fell from the bhāva platform on account of the deer only because of Kṛṣṇa’s will. Could Dvivida be considered as an example where someone fell from the bhāva platform due to their own offenses?

Answer: As I said above such a thing is almost an impossibility. Dvivida is given as an example, but I would say even his situation was only by the Lord’s will. 

Question: The bhakti lata bīja is explained as nirguṇa śraddhā in bhaktiśāstra. Śrī Visvanātha in his writings likens the bīja to a raw mango, and prema to a ripe mango. It would seem that the bhakti lata bīja is made of the antaraṅga śakti. If yes, it seems that when one has the raw mango in the mind (i.e. prema in an unripe or immature stage), one can be covered by māyā (as a sādhaka is susceptible to offenses) but when one possesses the ripe mango of prema, one can never be overcome by māyā. Is it that when one has nirguṇa śraddhā, that śraddhā will never ‘actually’ leave that person in any future lifetime owing to any offense or māyic action, and that is proof that the bhakti lata bīja also is beyond the effect of māyā?

Answer: Yes, it can be covered but generally speaking it will not be lost, unless one commits some very heinous offense. Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī says that by great offense one can lose bhāva or one’s bhāva can be downgraded (see BRS Chapter 1.3.54).

Question: The concept of dormant prema is clearly unsupported by śāstra. Prema has to be given, and it is given at the bhāva stage as a ‘ray’ of the sun of prema. How to understand then that after one gets bhāva—the sudurlabha ray of prema—one’s bhāva can become bhāvaābhāsa of different types according to the severity of offenses as mentioned in BRS. Is the person losing the bhāva after having obtained it? Would that go against the principle that the antaraṅga śakti is independent of māyā?

Answer: No, it would not go against the antaraṅga śakti being independent of māyā, but rather it proves that it is independent. When we think of antaraṅga śakti, we tend to think of it as some impersonal energy, because we equate śakti to energy. But śakti is also a person and can make decisions. Therefore, when one is offensive, then the antaraṅga śakti leaves that person. After all, what is an offense? It is acting in a manner that is not commensurate with one’s bhāva. If such is the case, then why should one continue to have that bhāva?


  • caitanya krsna dasa June 5, 2019

    pranams, many times I have heard that the uttama bhakta to be able to teach has to descend in a certain way to the level of madhyama. Is this true? if so, I do not understand in what way someone situated in the higher stages of bhakti can do it and why it is not possible for him to teach while maintaining the consciousness and characteristics of an uttama bhakta

    • Babaji June 5, 2019

      First of all, whether it is true or not true, you should not worry about it because it is not your problem. It does not concern you, and understanding it would make no difference to your life. I am sure you have many more things to worry and sort out.
      Mahaprabhu was in most the elevated mood, crying and moaning in love. But He was not always like that. He also dealt with the people around Him and instructed them. He also trained Sri Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami. This would not have been possible if He were in the most elevated mood. In that mood, He would be absorbed in thoughts of Krsna and not thinking of giving instructions. Try to deliberate on these two moods. They are very different. An uttama bhakta sees everyone as a devotee. So how would the thought enter to teach anyone?

  • Caitanya krsna das June 6, 2019

    Pranams, thank you Babaji Maharaja for your answer

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