Question: What should be the highest aspiration of a Gaudiya Vaishnava? Should one aspire after the position of a manjari who can enter the groves of Vrindavana to serve Radha and Krishna? What should be our aspiration?
Answer: We are to conceive of the plane of divine lila or pastimes of the Supreme Lord as infinitely greater than we are. In that subjective plane of reality all things animate and inanimate are superior to us. We are units of finite consciousness, yet we falsely think that we can demand a position in the highest plane of divinity. It is ludicrous. It is heresy to think such.
We want so many things of the higher plane, but we are not fit for that service. We are not ready to pay the price of the highest service, but we think that we are somehow or other qualified for that. We have heard that some position is there in the manjari section which is most desirable, but we think that leaving all else aside we can simply jump to that position or march through that world as a soldier and conquer our objective. But it is not like that.
First we must qualify: “first deserve, then desire.” We want not the position of the master but of the most negligible. First we must aspire for the most negligible position in the subjective plane of divinity, not for the highest position. What is that most negligible position? It is this:
ayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram
patitam mam vishame bhavam budhau
kripaya tava pada-pankaja
O son of Nanda Maharaja, I am your eternal servant, yet because of my own karma, I have fallen into this terrible ocean of birth and death. Please accept this fallen soul and consider me a particle of dust at your holy lotus feet. (Siksastakam 5)
The most negligible position one can hold in the relativity of the Absolute Truth is that of a particle of dust in the infinite world of lila. Such is to be the highest aspiration of any Gaudiya Vaishnava in this world. We are not to aspire in the beginning for the service of others, we must first aspire to be accepted into that domain by the Lord and His personal associates.
If we say that we want the highest, it is paramount to sense gratification. “We want” means sense gratification. “I want this, I want that”, it is sense gratification. It is not for His pleasure, this “I want, I want” mentality. It is better, for His (Krishna’s) pleasure, to prepare oneself in this life to become a particle of dust or a blade of grass in that higher plane of infinite lila. That is more desirable and such a noble desire will not go unnoticed by the residents of that plane.
asam aho charana-renu-jusham aham syam
vrindavane kim ape gulma-lataushadhinam
ya dushtyajam svajanam arya-patham cha hitva
bhejur mukunda-padavim shrutibhir vimrigyam
The gopis of Vrindavana gave up their husbands, children, and families who are very difficult to renounce, and sacrificed even their religious principles to take shelter of the lotus feet of Krishna, which are sought after even by the Vedas themselves. O! Grant me the fortune to take birth as a blade of grass in Vrindavana, so that I may take the dust of the lotus feet of those great souls upon my head. (Bhag. 10.47.61)
To become a blade of grass in the plane of the infinite is no small achievement, what to speak of seeing or associating with Krishna directly. It is no small thing. Such is shown to us by Uddhava, the intimate friend of Krishna. And taking it one step further, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has shown us that the position held by a particle of dust at the lotus feet of Krishna is the most desirable.
To achieve the most negligible position in the infinite will require the highest qualifications possible in this present plane. The highest qualifications attainable here for the sadhaka (devotee) may earn him the most negligible position in the higher subjective world of lila. It is not a cheap thing.
We must become a slave to His (Krishna’s) will. Then it may be possible that we are taken there by the higher agents of that plane. Otherwise, it is heresy to think that I will get that higher position by my own endeavor. Our siksa-guru, Srila B.R. Sridhara Deva Goswami Maharaja used to call such a mentality, ‘wild goose chasing.’ In reality any aspiration that has no basis in the concept of divine slavery has no practical application in the pastimes of the Supreme Lord. Smarana, meditation on lila, and so many other things of the Sahajiya school are not the qualifications to be admitted there. Only surrender is necessary, the surrender of a slave.
When the necessity arises in the divine lilas, then the qualified slave of divinity is admitted to that arena and no others. Without surrender, without the slave’s mentality, we are not qualified for the higher service. So that should be the aspiration of one who understands the nature of the transcendental world: let me become the slave of the Lord.
aslishya va pada-ratam pinastu mam
adarshanam marma-hatam karotu va
yatha tatha va vidadhatu lampato
mat-prana-nathas tu sa eva naparah
Krishna may embrace me in love or trample me under His feet. He may break my heart by hiding Himself from me. Let that debauchee do whatever he likes, but He will always be the only Lord of my life. (Siksastakam 8)
This is the slave mentality “I am His slave – His slave in divine love. He is free to do anything and everything as He wishes, I am His slave.” But we are not ready to accept that position and that is why we are not qualified for participation in the highest lilas of the Lord.
There are many devotees and even sannyasis and babajis who go on with manjari-seva meditations and other things of that section, when not even the slightest trace of the real qualifications are found in them. Such persons become mundane women in their next life. They are never promoted to the plane of divinity through the process of imitation.
Srila Gaura Kishora Dasa Babaji, the guru of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, used to say, “Simply by entering the maternity room and imitating the sounds of labor one will not give birth to a child. Many events are necessary before that.”
The plane of infinite lila is so charming that even the particle of dust there is worshipable for us. How then shall we approach that plane? Pujala raga-patha gaurava-bhange – the plane of the highest raga (lila) must always be kept above our heads. With the plane of higher lila above our heads we shall march on – tad dasa-dasa-dasanam dasatvam dehi me prabhu. I am the servant of the servant, of the servant of the Lord’s servant. I want such a position and nothing else. That should be our approach.
This shloka, pujala raga-patha gaurava-bhange was composed by Srila Saraswati Thakura, the guru of our Guru Maharaja Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and it was his desire that this position be preached, not temporarily, but for all time, in all places, in all circumstances, and in every nook and corner of the universe. That was the mission of Srila Saraswati Thakura. He came to fight with all misconceptions about the Absolute Truth – he came to establish the path of divine love, divine slavery.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura could not tolerate it when the higher subject matter was dealt with inappropriately. And what did he consider ‘inappropriate’? That the topic of lila was taken to the public eye – this should not be done. Why? Saraswati Thakura considered such as aparadha, an offense against the Lord of love. Invasion of privacy; to take the higher topic of lila to the public is an offense. In the time of Saraswati Thakura such was never the indulgence of any member of the Gaudiya Matha, nor did any of his bona fide disciples venture in that way after his disappearance.
We have heard many narrations from our Guardians (gurus) that exemplify how much regard Saraswati Thakura had for the higher plane of divinity and how ever so carefully he dealt with that plane. From Srila Sridhara Maharaja we once heard that Saraswati Thakura did not allow his disciples to read (study and discuss) such higher books as Govinda-lilamrtam, Stava-kusumanjali, Ujjvala-nilamani, and even certain portions of Chaitanya-charitamrita wherein the lila of Radha Krishna is discussed. Whenever Saraswati Thakura heard that someone was reading those books, he took it that an offense was being committed by interfering in the higher lilas. So if such a measure of caution is given by one who on one hand was the most dynamic and progressive preacher of Krishna consciousness in the 20th century, and on the other hand so cautious in dealing with the higher lilas, then how much caution should we, the fallen souls, exercise when approaching such matters? It is only logical that we should follow his example and exercise extreme caution.
The most profound example of the mood in which Saraswati Thakura approached divinity was related to us by Srila B.P. Puri Goswami Maharaja as follows –
At the close, before his entrance into his eternal pastimes, in the morning he requested Srimad Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja to sing Sri Rupa Manjari-pada of Sri Narottama dasa Thakura, and Navina-Krishna Prabhu to sing Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura’s Tuha daya sagara tarayite prani. This was the commentary on Siksastaka. After giving this instruction to sing, Sri Srila Prabhupada began to repeat his famous counsel: Implicit obedience to the precepts laid down by Srila Rupa Goswami through the medium of the spiritual master is the wealth of our devotions. In this instruction, he outlined the true method of our devotional practices as well as the real disciplic succession. Furthermore, in hearing the song of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura (tuya daya echana parama adara), Sri Srila Prabhupada clasped his hands to his forehead and profuse tears of humility rolled down his cheeks. These personal gestures reminded us of our lamentable plight in not having any attraction for the holy name.
If you want the highest position, then take this example. Keep the lotus feet of Sri Rupa Goswami (Sri Rupa Manjari) on your head as your supreme wealth and cultivate with every atom of your existence great humility and attachment for the holy name of Krishna. This is the highest aspiration of a Gaudiya Vaishnava.