Brief meditation on pravartaka and sadhaka stages

Understanding the relationship of the pravartaka stage to the sādhaka stage.

There is a gulf of difference between these stages, as the higher level is practically unrecognizable as part of the same path to one in the lower stage.

As one progresses and gets closer to the subsequent stage, one inevitably thinks that he is coming close to either siddhi or to self-destruction. It is a confusing state until one has completed the transformation.

That transformation is easy to misunderstand for numerous reasons, which is why it is often condemned in various ways, usually by using the sahajiyā label as a term of opprobrium. Such propaganda serves the purpose of creating a wall around the next stage.

Like most steps prior to making a leap of progress, this can be characterized as the "wall of dharma" like the one the gopis had to cross to reach Krishna in the forest of Vrindavan on the night of the Rāsa-līlā.

In the pravartaka stage, the practices of devotional service themselves become walls that hold one back by confirming the mind-set that is part of the lower level of understanding, the essence of which is to see God in the deity, or rather to see God as something separate from his presence in the human. Or to see God as "out there somewhere," a blue boy in a place called Goloka or its equivalent in other traditions, and not in the human. It is characterized by the sense of separation and distance from God and the principal attitude is that of service, especially reverential service to the guru.

When the human relationship becomes prominent, i.e., when one falls in love with the devotee sādhanā  partner and sees that partner as the primary manifestation of the Divine, then one passes into the  sādhanā stage. At this point the gains of the pravartaka stage, especially those of the rāgānugā bhakti stage, flow into another level of understanding.

The sādhaka stage is characterized by a complete reversal in the very way of seeing Radha and Krishna, not as a divine object of vaidhī devotion, but as a model of love. Dāsya-bhāva is always predominant.

Though the sādhana stage according to Rupa Goswami is divided into vaidhī and rāgānugā, we feel that some clarification is needed. The goal is to diminish the barrier that exists between Krishna and the devotee. How can this be done?

Radha and Krishna are in the state of eternal desire for each other, kāma. This is actually the desired state that is cultivated by the prema-sādhaka.

Identification becomes prominent, but not in the artificial manner of āropa. It is the natural (sahaja) identification of sādhāraṇīkaraṇa. It is the natural merging of self into the universal substratum of love, which is Radha and Krishna.

This comes about essentially through the experience itself.

I am now firmly convinced that this stage cannot be reached without going through the pravartaka stage, especially not that of  rāgānugā bhakti. The orthodox preachers of vaidhī bhakti wish that pravartaka bhaktas never even make it to that stage, because that is the stage in which madhura-rasa becomes the prominent subject for hearing and chanting.

The orthodox sampradayas practicing rāgānugā bhakti are performing a great service of preserving the rasika literature, but it is much in the way that the guardian knights kept the Holy Grail away from intruders without being able to fully experience it themselves.


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