Srila Sanatan Goswami
Related references from books by
His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj
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From Golden Staircase; Chapter Two, The Eye to see Sri Guru, section:
Harmonising Instructions of the Upper House
Devotee: It is said there are five principles for bhakti:
associating with devotees, chanting Harinam, hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam, worshiping Tulasi, and residing in the holy Dham. In regard to residing in the Dham, is that for the
general devotees, or just especially fortunate or more advanced
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Generally it means for madhyama-adhikari devotees, those who can discriminate. Kanistha-adhikaris cannot differentiate between the various
positions of different personalities - who is advanced, who is
neutral, or who is envious. But "religion means proper
adjustment" - our Guru Maharaj used to say this now and then -
and that "proper adjustment" requires sambandha-jnana, knowing
what is what. Then one's service will come accordingly, and
one's necessity, one's destination, will be established from that.
Sanatan Goswami is the Acharya of sambandha-jnana. "Who
am I? Where am I? What am I?" All these questions - "Why am
I troubled? What is the real purpose of my life?" - are answered
when there is proper adjustment with the Absolute and the relative.
Nothing can be sacrificed.
And one thing we must always keep in mind is that we
can't investigate all of the subtle, higher knowledge as a
subjective researcher. Rather, according to the degree of our saranagati, our surrender, the Truth will come down to make
Himself known to us. We must always remember this, otherwise
some spirit of imitation will be created in us. Knowledge of the
higher domain is not under the jurisdiction of the intellect, and to
think so is very dangerous. Intellectualism is dangerous, it will
cause us to think that we have "caught the Infinite". It will be
negligence to the infinite characteristic, the infinite aspect of the
Lord. He is Adhoksaja, beyond the grasp of academic research.
One time I asked Prabhupad (Srila Bhaktisiddhanta
Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad), "Srila Rupa Goswami gives his explanation
of Lord Balaram's Rasa-lila in one way and Srila Sanatan
Goswami gives his explanation in another way, but both get their
instruction from Mahaprabhu, so why is there this difference?"
My Guru Maharaj said, "Why has Krishna been called Adhoksaja? Adhoksaja cannot be harmonised within our
intellect. It is achintya-bheda-bheda, inconceivably and
simultaneously one and different. Both explanations may be true simultaneously. It is achintya, inconceivable. The Acharyas have
explained that when Baladev is performing Rasa-lila, He is
actually conducting Rasa for Krishna in His heart. Externally
Baladev is seen to be participating in Pastimes with the gopis
directly, but internally He is making Krishna enjoy that Rasa.
Baladev is not the enjoyer Himself." These are the harmonising
instructions of the upper house, and in this way we shall
From Heart and Halo; Part Two, The Way Home, section:
Sometimes we may be misguided to believe that we must not study the devotional
books, thinking: "To analyse, to know, that is not part of devotion. That is not necessary;
it is knowledge, jnan, and that is anti-devotion." Thinking in this way we will go on
taking the Holy Name, and wherever there is some explanation being given about the
devotional school, we will try to avoid it. But that is not always best, because by hearing
from the proper source we get the kind of knowledge that gives us impetus to go on in
In Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta Srila Krishnadas Kaviraja Goswami says: "siddhanta
baliya", we should discuss the siddhanta (perfect conclusions of devotion). Sanatan
Goswami is the acharya of siddhanta.
One may say, "What is the necessity of knowing siddhanta, what is what? I shall go
on chanting the Name and wherever there is any class being given to explain Srimad
Bhagavatam or Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta I shall avoid it. That is all knowledge: jnane
prayasam udapasya. "One should totally abandon the unnecessary endeavor of gaining
knowledge by discussing empirical philosophical truths." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.14.3)
But the jnan mentioned in this verse does not describe that sort of knowledge
which gives us a real conception of what is the devotee, and what is God. That 'knowledge' appears similar to jnan externally, but if it is coming from a genuine
source; it is of another type, another substance.
The warning about jnan is given because anyone may give any kind of
interpretation of the revealed scriptures. It is not that we should try to know anything and
everything, that whatever anyone will say, we will run there to learn something. But
when there is any revelation coming through a real agent who is higher than us, we
should be very earnest to hear; that will consolidate our position and help us to go on, to
progress in our sadhana.
We should not reject as 'knowledge' that siddhanta: who is Krishna and how He is Svayam Bhagavan; who is Narayan; where are the twenty-four layers of misconception*; where
is Vaikuntha, Goloka; who is Baladev; what are all the different rasas? If I say, "Oh, no,
this is all jnan, dismiss it, and take the Name," that is foolishness. It should be
considered as indolence, or idleness. We should invite that knowledge which will
enhance our faith more profoundly. One should welcome such discussions.
*Twenty-four elements by which the baddha-jiva (conditioned soul) is covered.
From Search for Sri Krishna, Reality The Beautiful, Eighth Chapter.
Levels of God Realisation
The gradation of transcendental realisation has been explained by Srila Sanatan
Goswami in his book Brhad Bhagavatamrta. There we find that in the course of
the realisation of suddha-bhakti, pure devotional service, the great sage Narad
Muni is visiting different places. First, he encounters karma-misra bhakti, or
devotional service mixed with fruitive activities.
Once there was a brahmana in Allahabad. He was a wealthy man, and on the
occasion of the Kumbha-mela, when millions of sages and devotees gather for a
religious festival, he arranged for services to the different types of saintly
persons who were present there. He conducted a sacrifice and finally finished
the function with the chanting of the Holy Name of the Lord. The brahmana was
mainly engaged in karma-kanda, or fruitive work, but he was also rendering
service to the saintly persons. Ultimately he ended everything with Nam-sankirtan, the chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord.
Narad Muni approached the brahmana saying, "You are very fortunate that you
are doing these things. This is the proper utilisation of your money and caste. By
engaging in such holy activities, you are certainly most fortunate." The
brahmana told him, "What am I doing? This is nothing. You should go to see the
fortune of King Indradyumna. He is distributing the prasad remnants of Lord
Jagannath in a grand style. How grandiose is the worship of Narayan there!
Go there, and you will appreciate his devotional service.
So, Narad Muni went to see Indradyumna Maharaj, and there he also found
the king extensively engaging all his resources in the worship of Lord
Jagannath. Narad approached him, saying, "You are so fortunate in this
world." The king told him, "What can I do Narad? This is nothing. If you want
to see how devotional service should be practised, you should go to Lord Indra,
the king of heaven.
Narad Muni went to Indradev and praised him by saying, "O Indra, you are
very fortunate. Vamanadev, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appeared as
your younger brother. And here in Indraloka, there are always religious festivals
worshiping Krishna." Indra said, "Oh, what do you say? What love have I for
Krishna? Everything belongs to Him, but in my foolishness, I tried to prevent Him
from taking the parijata tree from heaven. Not only that, but I am always being
attacked by the demons, and my wife is also sometimes disturbed; what fortune
do you find in me?"
From Indra, Narad went to Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe. There he
found the personified Vedas singing praise to Lord Brahma. Narad, who was
also his son and disciple, approached Lord Brahma saying, "How greatly
fortunate you are! You are entrusted by Lord Narayan Himself with the
management of the whole universe, and sometimes you visit Him for guidance
in the administration of the universe. We also find that some portions of the
Vedas are engaged in singing your glories. You are so fortunate!"
Lord Brahma felt a little disturbed. He said, "What are you saying Narad? You
are praising me and increasing my false pride, but did I not tell you that I am
nothing but a small creature in the hand of Narayan? I am engaged in external
activity. I have no time to give in the interest of my devotional life. My Lord has
rather deceived me by engaging me in such a busy matter as managing the
universe. I am most unfortunate. Rather, you should go to Mahadev, Lord Shiva.
He does not care for anything in this world. He is aloof and indifferent, and has
his aim toward Lord Narayan. He is devoted to Lord Ramachandra, and he is
very fond of the Holy Name of Lord Rama. His wife, Parvati-devi, is also helping
him in his devotional life, and she is very happy.
Narad Muni went to Shivaloka and began to chant in praise of Lord Shiva, "You
are the master of the world. The Vedas sing your glories. You hold the highest
position." In this way, Narad began to glorify him, but Lord Shiva became very
excited and a little angry at this: "What are you saying, Narad? I have so much
indifference towards this world that I am mainly interested in knowledge and
penance; This holds the better portion of my interest. Whatever little inclination
I have for devotional service to Narayan is very negligible. Sometimes I have
such an apathetic spirit towards Narayan that I even fight with Him in favour of
one of my disciples! I am disgusted with my position. Penance, power, mystic
yoga perfection, and indifference to the world; that is my business."
This is jnana-misra bhakti, or devotional service mixed with empiric speculative
knowledge. Lord Brahma is the ideal of karma-misra bhakti, or devotional
service mixed with fruitive activity, and Lord Shiva is the ideal of jnana-misra
bhakti. He still maintains some affinity for an independent position, and not for
cent percent acceptance of service to the Supreme Lord, Narayan.
Lord Shiva said, "If you really want to experience suddha-bhakti, go to Prahlad
Maharaj. There you will find pure devotional service." In this way, we have
been directed to trace the development of suddha-bhakti, pure devotional
service, beginning with Prahlad Maharaj, because Prahlad does not want
anything in exchange for his devotional service.
In Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.10.4.) he says:
nanyatha te 'khila-guro
yas ta asisa asaste
na sa bhrtyah sa vai vanik
"Whoever is doing something for the satisfaction of Narayan and wants
something in return, is not a servant, but a merchant. He wants to give
something to the Lord and then take some price in exchange for that." So,
Prahlad Maharaj is a pure devotee, and only through a pure devotee of
Narayan can one attain pure devotion.
All these peculiar achievements in the devotional world begin with Prahlad
Maharaj. The nature of his devotional service is that of santa rasa, neutrality,
where there is no actual service, but only perfect adherence to Narayan under
all circumstances. Whatever may be the unfavourable condition in the
environment, he stands true to the faith that Narayan is all in all, and that He is
our master. So, Prahlad Maharaj, and the four Kumaras, the sons of Lord
Brahma, are in the position of santa rasa bhakti, or neutral love of God.
Prahlad Maharaj is Narad Muni's disciple. Still, for our benefit, Narad Muni
was approaching him to measure the standard of his devotion in a comparative
study of the devotional world. Approaching Prahlad Maharaj, Narad said, "I
have come to see you, Prahlad, because Lord Shiva also appreciates your
position. You are really a devotee of Lord Krishna. You are so fortunate! I have
come to see how you are."
Prahlad Maharaj told him, "Gurudev, you are all in all. Have you come to
test me? Whatever fortune I may have, I have received by your grace. I was born
in a family of demons, so the demonic qualities have not exclusively left me.
Don't you know that in Naimisaranya, I went to fight with Lord Visnu? I repent
for that, but what can I do? He has given me such a position. I cannot have the
privilege of direct service to Him, but only mentally I think of Him. I think that
He is everything, but I do not have the great fortune of rendering service to Him.
Hanuman is really a devotee. How fortunate he is! What grace he has received!
He gave everything to Lord Ramachandra. I envy his situation, but what can I do?
God's dispensation is absolute. We must accept that. Hanuman's position is
really enviable. How attached to his master he is, and what a great magnitude of
service he has done for Lord Rama."
From there, Narad Muni went to visit Hanuman. He approached Hanuman's
residence, playing on his vina the mantram: Rama Rama Rama Rama Rama.
When Hanuman suddenly heard the Name of his master, Lord Rama, he jumped
towards that direction, and even in the sky, embraced Narad Muni. Hanuman
said, "Oh, who is helping me to hear the sound of Lord Rama's Holy Name? After
such a long time, the sound of Rama Nama is enlivening me. I was dying without
hearing the Name of Rama." Ecstatic tears were running down the eyes of both
of them. Then Narad Muni went to Hanuman's quarters, and began to praise his
fortune, saying, "How fortunate you are! Oh, Hanuman,You serve Lord
Ramachandra so intimately; you do not know anything but your master, Lord
Rama. You rendered such great service to Him that your service has become the
ideal for the whole of human society."
Hanuman told Narad, "Yes, by His grace I was able to do something, but it is
all His grace; I am nothing, I am worthless. But I hear that now Lord
Ramachandra has come as Lord Krishna. Although I don't like any incarnation
other than Lord Rama, I have heard from a distance how Krishna, who is
Ramachandra Himself, is showing His favour to the Pandavas. The Pandavas are
very fortunate because the Lord is dealing with them like an intimate friend. So,
I have great appreciation for the fortune of the Pandavas." In this way, Hanuman
began to praise the Pandavas for their fortune.
Then, Narad Muni, leaving Hanuman, went to the Pandavas. There he found
Yudhisthir Maharaj seated on a throne and began to sing the glories of the
Pandavas. He told Yudhisthir Maharaj, "How friendly you are in your
relationship with Krishna! How fortunate you are!" Yudhisthir Maharaj said, "What are you saying Devarsi? Of course Krishna favours us, we can't deny that,
but what is our position? We have no position at all. On the other hand, I feel
now and then, that by seeing our example the people in general won't want to
serve Krishna, because they will calculate that being such intimate friends of Lord
Krishna, the Pandavas had to pass through difficult troubles and dangers their
whole lives. They will think that to be a devotee of Krishna means that one must
suffer troubles throughout his whole life. So, I am afraid that by thinking of us,
people will not venture to approach Krishna."
Devarsi Narad said, "No, no, I don't see it from that angle of vision. What is
danger or affliction to the Pandavas? What is the meaning of that? That is the
message that Krishna is coming. When the Pandavas are in danger that is nothing
but the message that Krishna is coming to save you. So, your mother also prayed:
vipadah santu tah sasvat
tatra tatra jagad-guro
bhavato darsanam yat syad
" 'Let dangers come: may they visit me always. I don't care for that, because that
brings Krishna much closer to us. We rather like the dangers that bring Krishna into
our intimate connection.' That famous statement of your mother, Kuntidevi,
The Pandavas, headed by Maharaj Yudhisthir said, "Yes, Krishna visits us now
and then, in the time of our dire need, but how fortunate are the Yadus! Lord
Krishna is always with them. They are so proud of their master, Lord Krishna, that
they do not care for any other power in the world. They are so fortunate that
Lord Krishna is always closely connected with them."
So, Narad Muni went to
the Yadus and began chanting in praise of them. They said, "What do you say,
Devarsi Narad? Krishna is with us, of course, and in any time of great danger He
comes to help us, but how much do we care for Him? We are living
independently, careless about His existence. But among us, Uddhava is really
His favourite. Whatever Krishna does, He always consults with Uddhava, and in all
His confidential matters, Uddhava is present there, and in every case, He is
always very thick with Uddhava. Even we envy the fortune of Uddhava."
Then Narad went to Uddhava and told him, "Uddhava, you are the most
favourite devotee of Krishna. Krishna says:
na tatha me priyatama
atma-yonir na sankarah
na cha sankarsano na srir
naivatma cha yatha bhavan
" 'O Uddhava! What to speak of other devotees like Brahma, Shiva, Sankarsana, or
Laksmi; you are more dear to Me than My own life.' You are such an intimate
associate that Krishna values you more than His own life." Uddhava said, "Yes, of
course, out of His causeless benevolence, He might have said something like
that, but I don't think that I am His real devotee, especially after visiting Vrindavan. All my pride has been melted by seeing those devotees. The spirit of
service and the intensity of love towards Krishna that I found in the devotees in
Vrindavan is unparalleled. O Devarsi, I am nowhere. Do you know that
statement of mine? It is recorded in the Srimad Bhagavatam (10.47.61):
asam aho charana-renu jusam aham syam
vrndavane kim api gulma-latausadhinam
ya dustyajam svajanam arya-patham cha hitva
bhejur mukunda-padavim srutibhir vimrgyam
" 'The gopis of Vrindavan gave up their husbands, children, and families who
are 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
Vrindavan, so that I may take the dust of the lotus feet of those great souls upon
"There I have disclosed my heart fully. The quality of love for Krishna that I
found in the damsels of Vrindavan is so exalted that I could not but aspire to be
born in Vrindavan as a piece of grass, so that the foot-dust of those divine
damsels might touch my head. So, what are you saying Devarsi? If you would
like to see real devotion, real divine love, you should go to Vrindavan. Don't put
us in an awkward position, saying that we possess devotion to Krishna; this is
rather a mockery, a foundationless utterance. I found real devotees of the Lord
In this way, Sanatan Goswami tries his best to take us through the path, by
showing us the gradual development of devotion to Krishna. Prahlad Maharaj
has been accepted as the basis of suddha-bhakti, the beginning of pure
devotional service, because he is situated in santa rasa, or devotional service in
neutrality. Above that there is dasya rasa, love of God in servitude, as shown by
Hanuman, and above that there is sakhya rasa, or the mood of friendship. That is
exemplified by the Pandavas. Uddhava is somewhat sakhya, connecting with vatsalya, parental love, and madhurya, conjugal love. In this way we can trace
the progressive development of devotion.
Our close adherence to Krishna develops in this way to Vrindavan. The acme of
devotional service is found there. In the conversation between Ramananda Raya
and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu we find it mentioned that Radharani's devotional
service is categorically higher than that of the gopis (tebhyas tah pasu-palapankaja-drsas tabhyo 'pi sa radhika). The kind of serving spirit we find there is
unaccountable and inconceivable.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came with that quality of adherence to the truth:
unconditional surrender. He came seeking that fortune of serving the truth. If we
can seek such a higher type of existence, we may consider ourselves most
Self-surrender is the very basis of our highest fortune. We cannot but surrender
ourselves to whatever beautiful and valuable thing we have come across. Our
appreciation for any higher thing is shown by the degree of our surrender to that.
So, we can measure the quality of the truth we are connected with only by the
intensity of our surrender.
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