Spontaneous Devotional Service
The examples of spontaneous devotional service can be easily seen in Krsna's direct associates in Vrndavana. The spontaneous dealings of the residents of Vrndavana in relationship with Krsna are called raganuga. These beings don't have to learn anything about devotional service; they are already perfect in all regulative principles and have achieved the spontaneous loving service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. For example, the cowherd boys who are playing with Krsna do not have to learn by austerities or penances or yogic practice how to play with Him. They have passed all tests of regulative principles in their previous lives, and as a result they are now elevated to the position of direct association with Krsna as His dear friends. Their spontaneous attitude is called raganuga-bhakti.
Sri Rupa Gosvami has defined raganuga-bhakti as spontaneous attraction for something while completely absorbed in thoughts of it, with an intense desire of love. Devotional service executed with such feelings of spontaneous love is called raganuga-bhakti. Devotional service under the heading of raganuga can be further divided into two categories: one category is called sensuous attraction, and the other is called relationship.
In this connection, there is a statement by Narada Muni to Yudhisthira in the Seventh Canto, 1st Chapter, 29th verse, of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. There Narada says, "My dear King, there are many devotees who first become attracted to the Personality of Godhead for purposes of sense gratification, from being envious of Him, out of fear of Him, or from desiring to associate affectionately with Him. Ultimately these attractions become freed from all material contamination, and gradually the worshiper develops spiritual love and achieves that ultimate goal of life which is desired by the pure devotee."
The gopis may be considered to be examples of spontaneous love in sensual attraction. The gopis are young girls, and Krsna is a young boy. Superficially it seems that the gopis are attracted to Krsna on grounds of sex. Similarly, King Kamsa was attracted to Krsna because of fearfulness. Kamsa was always fearful of Krsna because it had been foretold that his sister's son, Krsna, would kill him. Sisupala was also always envious of Krsna. And the descendants of King Yadu, due to their family relationship with Krsna, are always thinking of Him as one of their members. All of these different kinds of devotees have a spontaneous attraction for Krsna, in different categories, and they achieve the same desired goal of life.
The attraction of the gopis for Krsna and the affection of the members of the Yadu dynasty are both accepted as spontaneous, or raganuga. The attraction of Kamsa to Krsna in fearfulness and the attraction of Sisupala in enviousness are not accepted as devotional service, however, because their attitudes are not favorable. Devotional service should be executed only in a favorable frame of mind. Therefore, according to Srila Rupa Gosvami, such attractions are not considered to be in devotional service. Again, he analyzes the affection of the Yadus. If it is on the platform of friendship, then it is spontaneous love, but if it is on the platform of regulative principles, then it is not. And only when affection comes to the platform of spontaneous love is it counted in the category of pure devotional service.
There may be some difficulty in understanding that both the gopis and Kamsa achieved the same goal, so this point should be clearly understood, because the attitudes of Kamsa and Sisupala were different from that of the gopis. Although in all these cases the focus is on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and all of the devotees are elevated to the spiritual world, there is still a distinction between these two classes of souls. In the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam it is said that the absolute truth is one, and that He is manifested as impersonal Brahman, Paramatma (supersoul), and Bhagavan (the Supreme Personality of Godhead). Here is a spiritual distinction. Although Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan are the same and one absolute truth, still devotees like Kamsa or Sisupala could attain only to the Brahman effulgence. They could not have realization of Paramatma or Bhagavan. That is the distinction.
An analogy can be given with the sun globe and the sunshine: to remain in the sunshine does not mean one has gone to the sun globe. The temperature of the sun globe is different from the temperature of the sunshine. One who has gone through the sunshine in jet planes or in space ships has not necessarily gone to the sun globe. Although the sunshine and the sun globe are actually one and the same, still there is a distinction, for one is the energy and one is the energetic source. The absolute truth and His bodily effulgence are in the same way simultaneously one and different. Kamsa and Sisupala attained to the absolute truth, but they were not allowed to enter into the Goloka Vrndavana abode. Impersonalists and the enemies of the Lord are, because of attraction to God, allowed to enter into His kingdom, but they are not allowed to enter into the Vaikuntha planets or the Goloka Vrndavana planet of the Supreme Lord. To enter the kingdom and to enter the king's palace are not the same thing.
Srila Rupa Gosvami is trying here to describe the different achievements of the impersonalists and the personalists. Generally, those who are impersonalists and inimical to the Supreme Personality of Godhead get entrance only into the impersonal Brahman, when and if they reach spiritual perfection. The impersonalist philosophers are in one sense like the enemies of the Lord because the out-and-out enemies of the Lord and the impersonalists are both allowed to enter only into the impersonal effulgence of the brahma-jyoti. So it is to be understood that they are of similar classification. And actually the impersonalists are enemies of God because they cannot tolerate the unparalleled opulence of the Lord. They try always to place themselves on the same level with the Lord. That is due to their envious attitude. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has proclaimed the impersonalists to be offenders of the Lord. The Lord is so kind, however, that even though they are His enemies, they are still allowed to enter into the spiritual kingdom and remain in the impersonal brahma-jyoti, the undifferentiated light of the absolute.
Sometimes an impersonalist may gradually elevate himself to the personal conception of the Lord. The Bhagavad-gita confirms this: "After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me." By such surrender, an impersonalist can be elevated to the Vaikuntha-loka (spiritual planet) where, as a surrendered soul, he attains bodily features like the Lord.
In the Brahmanda Purana it is stated: "Those who have achieved liberation from material contamination, and those who are demons and are killed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, become absorbed in the Brahman concept of life and reside in the spiritual sky of the brahma-jyoti." That spiritual sky is far beyond the material sky, and it is confirmed also in the Bhagavad-gita that beyond this material sky there is another, eternal sky. The enemies and the impersonalists may be allowed to enter into this Brahman effulgence, but the devotees of Krsna are promoted all the way to the spiritual planets. Because the pure devotees have developed their spontaneous love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they are allowed to enter into the spiritual planets to enjoy spiritual bliss in association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In the Tenth Canto, 87th Chapter, 19th verse, of Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Vedas personified address the Lord in this way: "My dear Lord, yogis meditate upon Your localized features, and thus they achieve the spiritual perfection of being merged in the impersonal brahma-jyoti. Persons who treat You as an enemy achieve the same perfection without meditating. The gopis, who are embraced by Your serpentine hands and who have such lusty attitudes, also achieve the same perfection. And, as far as we are concerned, being different demigods in charge of the different parts of Vedic knowledge, we are always following in the footsteps of the gopis. Thus we hope to attain the same perfection." By "the same perfection" we must always remember the example of the sun and the sunshine. Those who are impersonalists can merge into the sunshinelike brahma-jyoti, whereas those who are in love with the Supreme Person enter into the supreme abode of the Lord, Goloka Vrndavana.
The "lusty attitude" of the gopis does not refer to any sort of sex indulgence. Srila Rupa Gosvami explains that this "lusty desire" refers to the devotee's particular attitude of association with Krsna. Every devotee in his perfectional stage has a spontaneous attraction to the Lord. This attraction is sometimes called the "lusty desire" of the devotee. The lust is the devotee's excessive desire to serve the Lord in a particular capacity. Such desire may seem to be a desire for enjoying the Lord, but actually the endeavor is to serve the Lord in that capacity. For example, a devotee may be desiring to associate with the Personality of Godhead as His cowherd friend. He will want to serve the Lord by assisting Him in controlling the cows in the pasturing ground. This may appear to be a desire to enjoy the company of the Lord, but actually it is spontaneous love, serving Him by assisting in managing the transcendental cows.
This extreme desire to serve the Lord is manifest in the transcendental land of Braja. And it is specifically manifested amongst the gopis. The gopis' love for Krsna is so elevated that for our understanding it is sometimes explained as being "lusty desire."
The author of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Kaviraja Krsnadasa, has explained the distinction between lusty desire and the service attitude in this statement: "Lusty desire refers to the desire to gratify one's personal senses, and transcendental desire refers to the desire for serving the senses of the Lord." In the material world there is no such thing as a lover wanting to please the senses of his beloved. Actually, in the material world, everyone wants mainly to gratify his own personal senses. The gopis, however, wanted nothing at all but to gratify the senses of the Lord, and there is no instance of this in the material world. Therefore the gopis' ecstatic love for Krsna is sometimes described by scholars as being like the "lusty desire" of the material world, but actually this should not be taken as a literal fact. It is simply a way of trying to understand the transcendental situation.
Great devotees up to the standard of Uddhava are very dear friends of the Lord, and they desire to follow in the footsteps of the gopis. So the gopis' love for Krsna is certainly not material lusty desire. Otherwise, how could Uddhava aspire to follow in their footsteps? Another instance is Lord Caitanya Himself. After accepting the sannyasa order of life, He was very, very strict about avoiding association with women, but still He taught that there is no better method of worshiping Krsna than that conceived by the gopis. Thus the gopis' method of worshiping the Lord, as if impelled by lusty desire, was praised very highly even by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This very fact means that although the attraction of the gopis for Krsna appears to be lusty, it is not in the least bit material. Unless one is fully situated in the transcendental position, it is very difficult to understand the relationship of the gopis with Krsna. But because it appears to be just like ordinary dealings of young boys and girls, it is sometimes misinterpreted to be like the ordinary sex of this material world. Unfortunately, persons who cannot understand the transcendental nature of the love affairs of the gopis and Krsna take it for granted that Krsna's love affairs with the gopis are mundane transactions, and therefore they sometimes indulge in painting licentious pictures in some modernistic style.
On the other hand, the lusty desire of Kubja is described by learned scholars as being "almost lusty desire." Kubja was a hunchback woman who also wanted Krsna with a great ecstatic love. But her desire for Krsna was almost mundane, and so her love cannot be compared with the love of the gopis. Her loving affection for Krsna is called kama-praya, or almost like the gopis' love for Krsna.
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