Stages of bhakti, Kṛṣṇa’s Ānanda

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Question: If bhāva is the first ray of prema as per Bhakti-rasāmrita-sindhu, then what is the nature of the previous stages such as nisthā, ruci, āsakti? Is the devotion, devotional attitude and bliss of these stages, etc., coming from any part of prema at all? What is their ontological nature? Are they sub-portions of the light of prema?

Answer: Bhakti is bhakti always. But it is we who are covered and cannot have its experience. Like an iron filling thickly covered cannot be attracted to a magnet. As the covering is scaled off, it starts feeling the pull. This is sometimes explained as bhakti being in a seed form and then sprouting, and so on.

The sun gets covered by the earth when the earth revolves on its axis and we get no light. As it revolves and we come on the sun’s side, we start getting some light. Finally, we have the full light, which we call sunrise. The bhakti before the bhāva stage is called sādhana-bhakti. It means that bhāva has not become fully manifest. Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī compares bhāva to dawn and prema to the sunrise. Similarly, we can compare the pre-stages of bhāva with the stages before dawn in which there is progressively lesser light. 

Question: Ananta dāsa Bābāji’s tīkā on page 295, section 8.1 of Mādhurya Kādambini states: 

“Just as the alchemist cannot instantly transform sulphur and quicksilver into gold just by mixing them, but has to constantly rub them together, similarly even though the devotee whose rati has not yet developed, may bring bhakti into the conscious mind through activities like hearing and chanting, still a profound oneness with this bhakti does not permeate his psyche. By repeated performance of bhajana, however, the devotee passes through the stages of anartha-nivrtti, nisthā, ruci, and āsakti, until finally this merging of the inner being with devotion is achieved.”

From this I understand that ontologically these earlier stages may be of the same nature as bhāva and prema but due to anarthas and aparādhas, bhāva and prema do not become manifest. Is it possible that the happiness experienced in the stages of anartha-nivritti, bhajana-kriyā, nisthā, ruci, āsakti is coming from the same source as bhāva and prema, i.e., bestowed by hlādini śakti in some way?

Answer: Yes, if the bhakta is actually engaged in bhakti proper, then his happiness is coming from bhakti, whether you call it bhāva or prema. Otherwise, one may feel happy because one is relieved of material stress and anxiety by being engaged in a bhakti-like activity, or enjoying nice music in kīrtan. So, the answer to this question will vary from person to person. It is a very subjective experience.


Different Types of Kṛṣṇa’s Ānanda

Question: Recently I heard a senior Vaiṣṇava speak about how Kṛṣṇa finds bigger joy in connection with bhaktyānanda than the bliss He experiences in relation to Himself (svarupānanda). So my question would be regarding the difference between these two types of ānanda. I mainly ask for clarification regarding the following two ideas: 

Govinda Deity of Jiva Institute

If svarupānanda refers to the bliss that Kṛṣṇa finds in Him alone but without the intervention of His bhakti-śakti, this would be tantamount to Brahman instead of Bhagavān (the Absolute without interaction with His śaktis).

Answer: That is not true. Brahmānanda is different from Bhāgavat-svarūpānanda. Brahman is with unmanifest qualities and Bhagāvan is with manifest qualities. Svarupānanda does not mean that Kṛṣṇa is devoid of His bhakti-śakti. It simply means that He is not interacting with it. The difference can be understood from the following example: Brahmānanda is like a healthy person in deep sleep. Svarūpānanda is when he is awake while lying down without doing anything, and bhaktyānanda is like the person relishing some hobby, such as playing a tennis game or dancing. In the first case, the person is unable to do anything, in the second case, he is capable of acting but not acting and in the third, he is utilizing his energy to play. 

Question: If svarupānanda refers to the joy Kṛṣṇa experiences in relation to His own form, could we say that His form “comes” from sandhini-śakti, which is one of the three components of the svarūpa-śakti (and in that case I would see no difference between svarūpānanda and bhaktyānanda).

Question: If svarupānanda refers to the joy Kṛṣṇa experiences in relation to His own form, could we say that His form “comes” from sandhini-śakti, which is one of the three components of the svarūpa-śakti (and in that case I would see no difference between svarūpānanda and bhaktyānanda).

Answer: His form is not just sandhini-śakti. His form contains all three—sandhini, samvit, and hlādini śakti. The difference between His svarūpānanda and svarūpa-śaktyānanda is that in the former case He enjoys His śakti just by their presence, while in the latter, He enjoys His energies by utilizing them, especially the energy of hlādini. The first case is likea rich person feeling happy because he knows that he has wealth, while in the second case, he enjoys his wealth by utilizing it. Another example is that of a wrestler being happy just to possess his strength, as opposed to using the strength in play.

Brahmānanda is devoid of any manifest energy. So brahmānanda is really not a positive form of happiness. 

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