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 devotees?

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 harmonise things.

From Heart and Halo; Part Two, The Way Home, section:

Transcendental Knowledge

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 our sadhana.

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
     ghateta karunatmanah
     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
     apunar bhava-darsanam

" '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, stands there."

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 my head.'

"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 Vrindavan."

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 fortunate.

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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