Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu

by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī | 180,912 words

The Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu is an ontological analysis of the pastimes of Shri Krishna presented in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana), in terms of the internal structure and stages of development of uttama-bhakti, pure devotional service to the Lord. To the less intelligent, Shrimad-Bhagavatam is a book of religious stories; to those who are...


The importance of Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu

tad aśma-sāraṃ hṛdayaṃ batedaṃ
yad gṛhyamāṇair hari-nāma-dheyaiḥ
na vikriyetātha yadā vikāro
netre jalaṃ gātra-ruheṣu harṣaḥ

"Certainly that heart is steel-framed which, in spite of one's chanting the holy name of the Lord with concentration, does not change when ecstasy takes place, tears fill the eyes and the hairs stand on end." [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 2.3.24]

Sometimes devotees question why we have chosen to focus on the study of Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. After all, Śrīla Prabhupāda preached mostly from Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam; his classes on Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu are comparatively rare. The short answer is that without a deep understanding of Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, our knowledge of bhakti is insufficient to attain the higher stages of the path chalked out by Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.

Śrīla Prabhupāda gave great mercy to the fallen inhabitants of the West, bringing them to the authentic Vaiṣṇava path and revealing the confidential methods that lead to the highest attainments of bhakti. However, very few of his disciples have trod that path to its ultimate conclusion. Many of them have become attached to management and politics; too much dollars and not enough good sense. Thus many have fallen down, if not into sinful activities then into the misconception that Kṛṣṇa consciousness is just another mundane religion. Thus their spiritual lives remain incomplete.

If, however, Kṛṣṇa consciousness is understood properly as a transformation of consciousness and meaning from the mundane to the transcendental ontological platform, then anārthas (polluted desires in the heart), even subtle ones like pratiṣṭhā (attachment to religious honor and position) are easily vanquished and the stage of ecstatic devotional service described in the śloka above is easily reached. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is not just a collection of stories; it is an ontological literature designed to lift us from the mundane to the transcendental platform of consciousness.

"The human society, at the present moment, is not in the darkness of oblivion. It has made rapid progress in the field of material comforts of life, education and economic development of the entire world. But it suffers a pin-prick somewhere in the social body at large and therefore there is large scale quarrel even on less important issues. Therefore there is the want of the clue as to how they can become one in peace, friendship and prosperity by the common cause. Srimad Bhagwatam will fill up this gap by ontological aspect of human education. It is therefore a cultural presentation for re-spiritualisation of the entire human society." [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, original Delhi edition, Preface]

Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu is the ontological analysis of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī shows how all the categories of ecstatic spiritual consciousness are described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and backs up all of his points by extracting authoritative quotations from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and other Vedic literatures. His style of presentation, which he himself called "quiet conviction" is very powerful, and is also the manner of exposition followed in Śrīla Prabhupāda's books and our own writings.

Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu details all the steps from ordinary material consciousness through the highest perfection of prema-bhakti. Therefore every devotee who sincerely wants to attain the highest perfectional stage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness must study this great transcendental literature. My concern has always been that devotees do not give enough attention to Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. The fact is, it is very difficult to understand Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam properly without it. The fact that so few of my Godbrothers have attained the authentic transcendental consciousness is proof of this.

Hopefully, this detailed program of studying Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu will bring some balance to the devotional society. As usual, all the videos from this series will be posted on YouTube and anyone will be able to see them. But the members of this site will have the additional advantage of being able to post questions on this forum. Please take full advantage of this discussion group to clarify your understanding of uttama-bhakti, pure devotional service as described in Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. This will certainly provide a powerful impetus to make your life and consciousness perfect.


Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu

Generally devotees concentrate on Kṛṣṇa, chant the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa, think of Kṛṣṇa and consider Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But many devotees, especially in India, do not realize the importance of Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.

Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu reveals Kṛṣṇa to the aspiring devotee. In fact, were it not for Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu we would not even know the places of Kṛṣṇa's earthly pastimes in Vṛndāvana, because they had become covered over by the passage of time (over 4,000 years) since His appearance. Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu went to Vṛndāvana, remembered and rediscovered the locations of Kṛṣṇa's pastimes and instructed His disciples to renovate them. Thus today we are able to visit these places and experience the transcendental bliss of Vṛndāvana-dhāma.

More than that, Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu also revealed the inner moods of Kṛṣṇa and His devotees to an unprecedented extent. Normally the transcendental pastimes of the Lord and His intimate devotees are very confidential. When Kṛṣṇa was present on this planet, not even the Yadu dynasty, Kṛṣṇa's family members, knew of them in detail. But Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu revealed these pastimes, explaining their deep meaning through His disciples like Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, thus opening these pastimes to all sincere devotees.

sei pañca-tattva mili’ pṛthivī āsiyā
pūrva-premabhāṇḍārera mudrā ughāḍiyā
pāṅce mili’ luṭe prema, kare āsvādana
yata yata piye, tṛṣṇā bāḍhe anukṣaṇa

"The characteristics of Kṛṣṇa are understood to be a storehouse of transcendental love. Although that storehouse of love certainly came with Kṛṣṇa when He was present, it was sealed. But when Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu came with His associates of the Pañca-tattva, they broke the seal and plundered the storehouse to taste transcendental love of Kṛṣṇa. The more they tasted it, the more their thirst for it grew." [Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 7.20-21]

Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself:

yad advaitaṃ brahmopaniṣadi tad apy asya tanu-bhā
ya ātmāntar-yāmī puruṣa iti so ’syāṃśa-vibhavaḥ
ṣaḍ-aiśvaryaiḥ pūrṇo ya iha bhagavān sa svayam ayaṃ
na caitanyāt krṣṇāj jagati para-tattvaṃ param iha

"What the Upaniṣads describe as the impersonal Brahman is but the effulgence of His body, and the Lord known as the Supersoul is but His localized plenary portion. Lord Caitanya is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa Himself, full with six opulences. He is the Absolute Truth, and no other truth is greater than or equal to Him." [Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 1.3]

Although Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is Kṛṣṇa Himself, He has appeared in the mood of His greatest devotee, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī:

rādhā kṛṣṇa-praṇaya-vikṛtir hlādinī śaktir asmād
ekātmānāv api bhuvi purā deha-bhedaṃ gatau tau
caitanyākhyaṃ prakaṭam adhunā tad-dvayaṃ caikyam āptaṃ
rādhā-bhāva-dyuti-suvalitaṃ naumi kṛṣṇa-svarūpam

"The loving affairs of Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are transcendental manifestations of the Lord’s internal pleasure-giving potency. Although Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are one in Their identity, They separated Themselves eternally. Now these two transcendental identities have again united, in the form of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya. I bow down to Him, who has manifested Himself with the sentiment and complexion of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī although He is Kṛṣṇa Himself." [Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 1.5]

Kṛṣṇa appears in the form of Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu to understand Himself from Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī's point of view:

śrī-rādhāyāḥ praṇaya-mahimā kīdṛśo vānayaivā-
svādyo yenādbhuta-madhurimā kīdṛśo vā madīyaḥ
saukhyaṃ cāsyā mad-anubhavataḥ kīdṛśaṃ veti lobhāt
tad-bhāvāḍhyaḥ samajani śacī-garbha-sindhau harīnduḥ

"Desiring to understand the glory of Rādhārāṇī’s love, the wonderful qualities in Him that She alone relishes through Her love, and the happiness She feels when She realizes the sweetness of His love, the Supreme Lord Hari, richly endowed with Her emotions, appeared from the womb of Śrīmatī Śacī-devī, as the moon appeared from the ocean." [Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 1.6]

All of these important concepts are explained in detail in the first few chapters of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta; I am only giving a summary here. But before beginning our detailed study of Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, we must understand the ontological significance of this book. For Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu is the ocean of immortal nectar itself, issuing from the lotus mouth of Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. He is giving the esoteric key to unlocking the mysteries of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and relishing the sweetness of rasa ourselves.

Therefore it is stated in the śloka quoted above, "…when Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu came with His associates of the Pañca-tattva, they broke the seal and plundered the storehouse to taste transcendental love of Kṛṣṇa." If we follow the process of pure devotional service (uttama-bhakti) with the understanding of rāsa-tattva given in Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, then we shall certainly be successful in reaching the highest spiritual perfection.


Pure Devotional Service

The most important śloka in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, which Śrīla Prabhupāda summarized in the Nectar of Devotion, gives the definition of uttama-bhakti: pure devotional service, which is the subject of the work.

ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānu-
śīlanaṃ bhaktir uttamā
"When first-class devotional service develops, one must be devoid of all material desires, knowledge obtained by monistic philosophy, and fruitive action. The devotee must constantly serve Kṛṣṇa favorably, as Kṛṣṇa desires." [Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.11]

Each word in this definition is significant in describing the characteristic of pure devotional service. The characteristics given in this śloka are divided into svarūpa-lakṣana, essential or primary characteristics, and tatastha-lakṣana, secondary characteristics.


There are three primary characteristics of pure devotional service:

  • Pure devotional service is for Kṛṣṇa.
  • Pure devotional service is an active engagement.
  • Pure devotional service is executed with positive intent.


There are two secondary characteristics of pure devotional service:

  • Pure devotional service is free from ulterior motive.
  • Pure devotional service is not covered by jñāna or yoga.


Kṛṣṇa—Pure devotional service is for Kṛṣṇa

The most essential of the attributes of pure devotional service is that it is performed only for the benefit of Kṛṣṇa, and no one else. In other words, only Kṛṣṇa and His direct expansions (viṣṇu-tattva) are appropriate objects of our devotional service. Other living entities may also be Kṛṣṇa’s expansions, but those expansions are indirect. His differentiated parts and parcels (jīva-tattvas) and various energies (śakti-tattva) are also servants of Kṛṣṇa and as such, not eligible to receive our devotional service. Pure devotional service can be offered only to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, because He is constitutionally the beneficiary of all kinds of sacrifices.

bhoktāraṃ yajña-tapasāṃ
suhṛdaṃ sarva-bhūtānāṃ
jñātvā māṃ śāntim ṛcchati
"The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries." [Bhagavad-gītā 5.29]

Anuśīlanaṃ—Pure devotional service is an active engagement

Anuśīlanaṃ means ‘cultivation by following the previous teachers.’ There are two aspects to this following: pravṛtti, or activities favorable to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and nivṛtti, avoidance of activities unfavorable to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Pure devotional service is possible only by the mercy of Kṛṣṇa and His pure devotees; thus in the śloka under discussion, the prefix anu (by following) links śīlanaṃ (activities) to Kṛṣṇa. Thus initiation by a bona fide spiritual master is an indispensable feature of the spiritual path.

All the activities in Kṛṣṇa’s service are directly under the control of His internal pleasure potency. Therefore the spiritual masters of the lineage descending from Kṛṣṇa are all servants of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. To reach success in attaining pure devotional service, we must connect ourselves with Her by accepting initiation into the guru-paramparā. In this way all our life energy can become spiritualized by connection with the original source.

Ānukūlyena—pure devotional service is executed with positive intent

Sometimes Kṛṣṇa derives pleasure from fighting with demons, but the activities of the demons is not considered devotional service because of their inimical intent. Therefore Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī qualifies his definition of pure devotional service with ānukūlyena, positive intent. It indicates that a favorable attitude toward Kṛṣṇa is an essential attribute of pure devotional service.

Whereas the demons’ activities sometimes please Kṛṣṇa, they are not accepted as devotional service because of lack of positive intent; yet sometimes Kṛṣṇa’s devotees perform activities that apparently displease Him, yet are accepted as devotional service because they are performed with love. For example, Mother Yaśodā sometimes chastises her son, but this is accepted as pure devotional service because it is done out of love for Him.

Anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṃ—pure devotional service is free from ulterior motive

Anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṃ means ‘devoid of any other desire.’ Any desire except for the devotional service of the Lord is material desire, even if it is apparently spiritual, such as the desire for liberation, because the motive of such desire is selfish benefit and not devotional love. Ordinary desires such as the instinct for self-preservation, to eat or take reasonable care of the body are not out of the range of devotional service, as long as they do not become the main motivational focus of our life. The body must be kept fit to engage in meaningful service to Kṛṣṇa. The point here is that the objective even of ordinary desires must ultimately be the pleasure of the Lord.

Jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam—pure devotional service is not covered by jñāna or yoga

It is not that we must completely abstain from all philosophical speculation or rational thought, as long as the aim of such reasoning is to confirm the conclusions of the śāstra and the instructions of the spiritual master and other great souls. Philosophical defeat of opposing systems of thought is also valuable in preaching, although not necessary for pleasing Kṛṣṇa Himself.

Similarly we can engage in ordinary social and religious activities (karma), as long as these engagements do not become more prominent than our direct engagements in bhakti. One should not be a full-time fruitive worker, philosopher or speculator and a part-time devotee, but a devotee who occasionally engages in karmic activity to maintain himself and his family responsibilities.

In conclusion, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī’s definition of uttama-bhakti is perfect. Each word is so precise and exact that once we understand it, we cannot mistake anything else for pure devotional service. His definition is neither overly exclusive nor overly inclusive, and it applies perfectly to all stages of devotion, from the neophyte stage of practice to the exalted stage of prema-bhakti. The entire content of Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu is based upon this scientific definition of pure devotional service. Every bona fide student of the Esoteric Teaching must be completely familiar with it and also be able to apply it in practice.


Qualities of Pure Devotional Service

In Chapter 1 of Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī explains that there are three categories of pure devotional service:

  • Sādhana-bhakti: devotional service in practice
  • Bhāva-bhakti: devotional service in ecstasy
  • Prema-bhakti: devotional service in pure love of Godhead

It is also described that pure devotional service displays six transcendental qualities:

  • Kleśaghnī: pure devotional service brings immediate relief from all kinds of material distress.
  • Śubhadā: pure devotional service is the beginning of all auspiciousness.
  • Sudurlabhā: pure devotional service is rarely achieved.
  • Mokṣa-laghutākṛta: Those in pure devotional service deride even the conception of liberation.
  • Śāndrānanda-viśeṣātmā: pure devotional service automatically puts one in transcendental pleasure.
  • Śrī kṛṣṇākarṣiṇī: pure devotional service is the only means to attract Kṛṣṇa.

Each category of devotional service displays two of these transcendental qualities. Sādhana-bhakti displays the qualities of kleśaghnī and śubhadā. Bhāva-bhakti displays the same qualities as sādhana-bhakti, plus sudurlabhā and mokṣa-laghutākṛta. Prema-bhakti displays all the previous qualities, with the addition of śāndrānanda-viśeṣātmā and śrī kṛṣṇākarṣiṇī. This explains the statement of Śrīla Prabhupādain Nectar of Devotion, "Generally it is understood that in the category of devotional service in practice there are two different qualities, devotional service in ecstasy has four qualities, and devotional service in pure love of Godhead has six qualities."

Earlier we introduced the definition of pure devotional service. Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.11 defines pure devotion, uttama-bhakti, thus:

ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānu-
śīlanaṃ bhaktir uttamā

"One should render transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa favorably and without desire for material profit or gain through fruitive activities or philosophical speculation. That is called pure devotional service."

The Lord fulfills the desires of everyone. Pure devotees are interested in achieving the transcendental service of the Lord, which is nondifferent in quality from Him. Therefore, the Lord is the only desire of the pure devotees, and devotional service is the only perfect spiritual process for achieving His favor. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.11 (quoted above) that pure devotional service is jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam: pure devotional service is without any tinge of speculative knowledge and fruitive activity. Such devotional service is able to award the pure devotee the highest result, namely direct association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Kṛṣṇa.

According to the Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad, after Brahmā's extensive tapasya, the Lord showed him one of the many thousands of petals of His lotus feet. It says:

brāhmaṇo'sāv anavarataṃ me
dhyātaḥ stutaḥ parārdhānte
so 'budhyata gopa-veśo me
purastāt āvirbabhūva

"After penetrating meditation for millions of years, Lord Brahmā could understand the original form of the Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa as a transcendental cowherd boy, and thus he recorded his experience in the famous prayer Brahma-saṃhitā, govindam ādi-puruṣaṃ tam ahaṃ bhajāmi."

Devotees whose objective is to associate personally with the Lord have no desire to accept the activities of karma-kāṇḍa or jñāna-kāṇḍa, for pure devotional service is above both. Anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṃ jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam [Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.11]. In pure devotional service there is not even a pinch of jñāna or karma. The devotees accept only the upasana-kāṇḍa process of pure devotional service.

iti bhāgavatān dharmān
śikṣan bhaktyā tad-utthayā
nārāyaṇa-paro māyām
añjas tarati dustarām

"Thus learning the science of devotional service and practically engaging in the devotional service of the Lord, the devotee comes to the stage of love of Godhead. And by complete devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa, the devotee easily crosses over the illusory energy, Māyā, which is extremely difficult to cross." [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.3.33]

Simply executing the duties of the regulative principles of the scriptures, all the varṇas and āśramas of external religious duty, is not as good as offering all the results of one’s activities to the Lord. When one gives up all fruitive activity and fully surrenders to the Lord, he attains sva-dharma-tyāga, wherein he abandons the social order and takes to the renounced order. That is certainly better. However, better than the renounced order is cultivation of knowledge mixed with devotional service. Yet all these activities are external to the activities of the spiritual world. There is no touch of pure devotional service in them.

Pure devotional service is the highest transcendental platform. It cannot be attained by empiric philosophy, nor can perfection be attained simply by good association. Devotional service by self-realization is a different subject matter. It is untouched by fruitive activity, for one surrenders the results of activities to the Lord, abandons prescribed duties and accepts the renounced order of life. Such devotional service is situated on a higher platform than that of empiric philosophical speculation with a mixture of bhakti.

Without coming to the stage of prema-bhakti, pure love of Godhead, the whole process is a failure. Therefore the path of devotional service must not be reduced to an external religious process based on the rules and regulations of the scriptures; although it may begin from regulated vaidhī-bhakti, it must help the aspiring devotee advance to rāgānugā-bhakti, spontaneous loving service, and ultimately reach the perfectional stages of bhāva and prema. Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu gives this progressive path, beginning from the regulative principles of scriptural injunction up to the highest platform of pure devotional service. Therefore it is unique, even among the Vedic literature, for it educates the devotee in the highest and most esoteric science of rāsa-tattva, or how to satisfy Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa.


The importance of Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu

In Jaiva-Dharma by Śrīla Bhaktivinod Ṭhākur, Chapter 31, it is stated:

Now I can truly realize the importance of these wonderful words composed by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in the Southern Division, Fifth Wave, Verses 78-79, of the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu:
sarva thaiva durūho ‘yam abhaktair-bhagavad-rasaḥ
tat pādāmbuja-sarvasvair bhaktair evānurasyate
vyatītya bhāvanā-vartma yaś camatkāra-bhāra-bhuḥ
hṛdi sattvojjvale bāḍhaṃ svadate sa raso mataḥ

"Those who are convinced that the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa are the summum bonum of life are the purest of devotees, and they alone are capable of relishing bhakti-rasa. Those whose hearts are bereft of bhakti and rampant with mundane emotion are generally contaminated by impure habits and are fond of logic and argumentation. They can never perceive this transcendental rasa. The person who has transcended the noumenal plane and whose consciousness and heart have been enlightened by the brilliance of pure goodness that ushers the dawn of magnificent transcendental bhāva is alone able to experience rasa."

True rasa is not available upon the material plane; it is of the spiritual world. As the jīva is cit-kaṇa, a spark of spiritual energy, rasa manifests within his consciousness. Rasa appears only in deep bhakti-samādhi, devotional meditation. Those who have received the grace of Śrī Gurudeva and have realized the distinction between śuddha-sattva, pure goodness, and miśra-sattva, mixed goodness, are free from all doubts.

There is a profound difference between the ordinary goodness in the material world and the pure goodness of the transcendental plane of consciousness. The root of this difference has to do with our intentions. When the root of our intention is to benefit ourselves, we are capable of action in the mode of goodness, but such action is still contaminated with the conception of selfishness. Pure goodness, on the other hand, is bereft of all sense of self-benefit, and seeks only to benefit the beloved or object of service, namely Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself.

We cannot understand this subtle distinction, nor purify ourselves from the desire for self-benefit, by any other process than pure bhakti. Karma, jñāna and yoga are all predicated on the assumption of activity for the purpose of benefiting oneself. Only pure bhakti is the platform of actions performed in pure loving service without any desire for oneself. One only desires more and more service for the beloved, and Śrī Kṛṣṇa reciprocates this service by arranging more and more facility for the devotee to engage in His transcendental loving service.

This process of pure devotional service is the subject of Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. Although it is mentioned in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, it is not explained in detail there. But Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu discusses uttma-bhakti, pure devotional service, more elaborately than any other Vedic literature.

Vaidhi-bhakti is devotion inspired by following scriptural rules, whereas rāgānugā-bhakti is devotion inspired by lobha, or greed. While there is ample explanation of vaidhī-bhakti (regulated devotional service) in other works, spontaneous devotion (rāgānugā-bhakti) and the higher stages of devotional service such as bhāva-bhakti and prema-bhakti are discussed in detail only in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu.

To be inspired towards bhakti means to be single-minded in executing all the different processes of bhakti. Therefore the two ways to foster bhakti are first by strictly following scriptural rules, and second, through developing intense greed (lobha) to serve the Lord. Of these two methods, Śrīla Rūpa Goswami gives more importance to lobha, as he expresses in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu:

tat tat-bhava-ādi-mādhurye śrute dhīr-yad-apekṣate
nātra śāstraṃ na yuktiṃ-ca tallobhotpatti-lakṣaṇam

"After the devotee has heard the detailed descriptions of the sweetness of Lord Kṛṣṇa's loving spiritual sentiments (bhava-mādhurya) with His associates, he is spontaneously drawn towards those sentiments of Kṛṣṇa's beloved associates. Such a devotee, desiring to possess those feelings, shakes free the shackles of logic and scriptural bindings. Liberating himself from these bonds is the devotee's first symptom of lobha."
When a devotee becomes greedy for Kṛṣṇa while hearing about the different ecstatic emotions displayed by a parikāra (confidante) participating in Kṛṣṇa's Vraja pastimes, the devotee thinks, "Let this spiritual emotion also bloom in my heart." Such meditations are never interrupted by a need to seek consent from either the scriptures or logic. If by chance a devotee feels any uncertainty, then his desire to possess the spiritual emotions of a Parikāra cannot be called lobha. No one can ever develop lobha from following scriptural injunctions, nor can one obtain the desired spiritual object if the mind is endlessly analyzing whether or not one is eligible. Real lobha appears spontaneously when one sees or hears about Kṛṣṇa.

Lobha has two divisions according to the two sources from which it may develop: the pure devotee's mercy and the Supreme Lord's mercy. The first division of lobha, that which is owing to the devotee's mercy, is of two kinds: ancient and modern. Ancient lobha appears by the mercy of pure devotees steeped in the same sweet, eternal devotional mellows the constant associates of Lord Kṛṣṇa relish. When lobha originates from the grace of pure devotees in the present time it is known as contemporary, or modern. When lobha starts from the previous birth and begins to bloom in the present life then the devotee must take shelter of a guru who is a rāgānugā pure devotee. The second kind of lobha, or modeni-lobha, is developed only after the devotee takes shelter of his spiritual master. Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu confirms:

kṛṣṇa tat-bhakta kāruṇya-mātra lobhaika hetukā
puṣṭi-mārga-tayā kaiścid iyam rāgānugocyate

"Lobha is produced solely by the mercy of Kṛṣṇa and His pure devotees. Devotion initiated by such lobha is defined as rāgānugā-bhakti; sometimes it is termed puṣṭi-mārga-bhakti."

When both kinds of devotees, the one yearning for ancient lobha, the other for modern lobha, hear how to acquire the devotional mellows possessed by Kṛṣṇa's eternal associates, or nitya-parikāra, they seek guidance from the proper scriptures. This is because the authorized method for attaining bhāva is delineated in scriptural injunctions and purports; no other sources for receiving this information are indicated anywhere.

The following analogy illustrates this point: A person becomes greedy for milk and its products, but first he must want to know how to procure milk. He then has to seek advice from a trustworthy person conversant with the subject who will tell him how to purchase a cow and how to take care of her properly. In other words, knowledge on a subject cannot be simply invented—proper guidance is necessary. As Lord Brahma explains in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 8.6.12:

yathāgnim edhasy amṛtaṃ ca goṣu
bhuvy annam ambūdyamane ca vṛttim
yogair manuṣyā adhiyanti hi tvāṃ
guṇeṣu buddhyā kavayo vadanti

"As one can derive fire from wood, milk from the milk-bag of the cow, food grains and water from the land, and prosperity in one's livelihood from industrial enterprises, so by practice of bhakti-yoga, even within this material world, one can achieve Your favor or intelligently approach You. Those who are pious all affirm this."

For a rāga-bhakta (the devotee who is following the path of rāgānugā-bhakti) this intense eagerness for hearing and chanting about the all-purifying qualities and activities of Kṛṣṇa begins with the rāga-bhakta's surrender to the lotus feet of his guru, and continues to flourish until he attains his spiritual goals. The more a devotee is purified by hearing and chanting, the more spiritual realizations he will have; just as medicine applied correctly to diseased eyes cures them, so hearing and chanting cures the devotee of material ignorance.

The formula for this concentrated medicine is found in Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, and nowhere else. It is described very nicely in the five Waves of the Southern Ocean as a combination of five bhāvas: vibhāva, anubhāva, sāttvika-bhāva, vyabhicārī-bhāva and sthāyi-bhāva. This transcendental prescription coming from the original physician, Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, is powerful enough to cure all our material diseases and restore us to full spiritual health.


Stages of Devotional Service in Terms of Consciousness

It is interesting to contemplate the correlation between the nine stages of progressive devotional service given in Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu and their relation to the six stages of evolution of consciousness, so I made a diagram:

Nine stages of Devotional Service

A person identified with the material body, life energy or mind is in material consciousness, under the three modes of nature: ignorance, passion or goodness respectively. Once one enters the path of devotional service, he is in spiritual consciousness and on the transcendental platform. Then he becomes authorized (adhikāra) to cultivate progressively higher stages of devotional service as described in the "ādau śraddha" śloka:

ādau śraddhā tataḥ sādhu-
saṅgo 'tha bhajana-kriyā
tato 'nartha-nivṛttiḥ syāt
tato niṣṭhā rucis tataḥ
athāsaktis tato bhāvas
tataḥ premābhyudañcati
sādhakānām ayaṃ premṇaḥ
prādurbhāve bhavet kramaḥ

"In the beginning one must have a preliminary desire for self- realization. This will bring one to the stage of trying to associate with persons who are spiritually elevated. In the next stage one becomes initiated by an elevated spiritual master, and under his instruction the neophyte devotee begins the process of devotional service. By execution of devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master, one becomes free from all material attachment, attains steadiness in self-realization, and acquires a taste for hearing about the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. This taste leads one further forward to attachment for Kṛṣṇa consciousness, which is matured in bhāva, or the preliminary stage of transcendental love of God. Real love for God is called prema, the highest perfectional stage of life." [Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.4.15-16]

We hope you find this edition of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta- sindhu useful and enlightening.



Structure of Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu compared with Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Nectar of Devotion

This table compares the chapter structure of Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu with Śrīla Prabhupāda’s summary study, Nectar of Devotion, first published in 1967. This is to assist devotees who are familiar with Nectar of Devotion to find the corresponding sections in Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu.





NOD Chap.

Eastern Ocean



Varieties of Devotional Service




Overview of Devotional Service




Devotional Service in Practice




Devotional Service in Ecstasy




Devotional service in Love of God


Southern Ocean



General Symptoms of Transcendental Mellow




Ecstatic Excitants




Ecstatic Expressions




Involuntary Ecstatic Expressions




Transient Ecstatic Disturbances




Permanent Ecstatic Mood


Western Ocean



Primary Loving Relationships




Neutral Love of God




Affection and Service




Fraternal Devotion








Conjugal Love


Northern Ocean



Indirect Loving Relationships




Laughing Ecstasy




























Compatible & Incompatible Mixing of Mellows




Incomplete Expression of Mellows


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