~ Jagad Guru Chris Butler (Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa)

Advancement in hearing, chanting, and remembering

"The order of discipline or sadhana-krama is as follows: The introspective devotee must at first discard all the ten offenses and simply meditate on the holy name, trying to chant constantly. He should distinctly pronounce the holy name and meditate upon the transcendental sound vibration. When his chanting is clear, steady and blissful he should try and meditate on the Syamasundara form of the Lord. With chanting beads in hand, his chanting and meditation should seek out the transcendental form of the holy name. He will indeed see with spiritual vision the real meaning the name represents.

"Another method he may employ to see this form is to sit in front of the Deities, drink the beautiful form of the Lord with his eyes and meditate upon the holy name. Even after reaching the stage where the holy name and the form of the Lord become one, he must try to remember the transcendental qualities of Lord Krsna. The holy name and the qualities of Krsna must merge through consistant chanting.

"Next, he goes on to practice the remembrance of Krsna's pastimes; generally, these will be pastimes that facilitate meditation upon the holy name. The lila-smarana or pastime meditations also gradually become one with the holy name, form, and qualities of the Lord. At this point, the first rays of namarasa, or the transcendental mellows of the holy name, dawn on the horizon of perception. Progressively, the devotee's practice of lila-smarana intensifies to the point where he begins to meditate on the most confidential pastimes of the Lord known as the asta-kaliya-lila, or the eightfold pastimes of Radha-Krsna. When his meditation reaches maturity, rasa rises in full glory.

The svarsiki process of worship

"Asta-kaliya-lila smarqana is also known as svarsiki worship. In this stage of bhajana, Lord Krsna manifests Himself according to the time and place of the pastime being meditated upon. Now the devotee realizes the full grace of his spiritual master, who, in his eternal spiritual form (siddha-svarupa), guides the disciple to a sakhi or gopi, who in turn introduces him into the pastimes of the Lord. Of all the gopis, Srimati Radharani, the daughter of King Vrsabhanu, is the acme of excellence. She embodies the highest spiritual sentiment, mahabhava; serving Krsna under Her leadership is the most sublime spiritual experience.

"The five main rasas or spiritual mellows are: santa (neutrality), dasya (servitorship), sakhya (friendship), vatsalya (parenthood), and srngara or madhurya (conjugal love). Of these, srngara is the highest. Devotees eligible to enter the conjugal rasa are the intimate followers of Sri Krsna Caitanya. In this rasa, Lord Krsna has many yuthesvaris or female group leaders, but everyone prefers Srimati Radharani. She is the direct manifestation of Lord Krsna's svarupa-sakti or spiritual potency, and all the other vraja-gopis are Her expansions. She is the absolute embodiment of all the rasas. It is therefore essential that the rasika devotee enrolls in Her yutha or group. Service to Lord Krsna in Vraja is impossible without first taking shelter of the vraja-gopis. One should enter Srimati Radharani's camp and serve directly under Lalita-devi.

When material coverings are removed, the spiritual goal is achieved

"In the discipline of rasa, sadhana (practice) and bhajana-siddhi (perfection of worship) move into near proximity of one another; thus the wide gap between them closes. In a short time, the servitor's spiritual form begins to take shape. By the mercy of the yuthesvari, he is quite easily overpowered by attraction to Lord Krsna. This strong spiritual attraction eliminates the gross and subtle material concept of his form that was caused by his turning away from Krsna. Thus the jiva gains entrance into Vraja in his original spiritual form. Up to this point, the jiva's progress in spiritual life can be framed in words; beyond it, his relationship with the Lord is indescribable. It can only be perceived by Your grace, Lord Caitanya.

"Srngara-rasa is the most brilliant rasa, because in the spiritual world this rasa outshines every other relationship. By adopting the bhauma-vraja-rasa, or the vraja-rasa available on this material plane in Vrndavana-dhama, one becomes eligible to obtain the srngara-rasa.

"Sri Ramananda Raya said [as recorded in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 8.228-230],

"Therefore one should accept the mood of the gopis in their service. In such a transcendental mood, one should always think of the pastimes of Sri-Sri Radha and Krsna. After thinking of Sri-Sri Radha and Krsna and Their pastimes for a long time, and after getting completely free from material contamination, one is transferred to the spiritual world. There the devotees attain an opportunity to serve Sri-Sri Radha and Krsna as one of the gopis. Unless one follows in the footsteps of the gopis, he can not attain the service of the lotus feet of Krsna, the son of Nanda Maharaja. If one is overcome by knowledge of the Lord's opulence, he can not attain the Lord's lotus feet even though he is engaged in devotional service.'

"The devotee who is naturally inclined to cultivate the conjugal rasa must accept the superior guidance of a vraja-gopi. The jiva is not entitled to serve Krsna in conjugal mellow as a male. Pure devotional service to Lord Krsna at its best is possible only in the form of a vraja-gopi. One can become a vraja-gopi when eleven transcendental sentiments adorn the heart. They are: 1) sambandha (relationship), 2) bayasa (age), 3) nama (name), 4) rupa (form), 5) yutha-pravesa (entrance into a group), 6) vesa (attire), 7) ajna (permission), 8) basasthana (place of residence), 9) seva (service), 10) parakastha (excellence), 11) palyadasi-bhava (the mood of a kept maidservant of Krsna). The devotee may be in any worldly form, but he must cultivate these eleven sentiments and perform bhajana properly.