sabhā-madhye na śobhante jāra-garbhā iva striyaḥ ||
Learning taken from books according to one's own impressions, but not learned with a guru, is unfit for the public space, like a woman who is pregnant with an illegitimate child. (Chanakya)I think that actually having the association of rāgānugā sādhakas, my own diksha guru, Lalita Prasad Thakur, Ananta Das Babaji in Radha Kund and many others over the years, has made a bit of difference in the way that I approach the issue of rāgānugā-bhakti and mañjarī-bhāva. Like my guru wrote on the back of the siddha-praṇāli sheet he handed out to his disciples: "You can't just get it from books."
This offends people who are convinced that everything can be found in books, because why were the books written if not to inform of them? Of course, that Bhaktivinoda Thakur's books talk about taking siddha-praṇāli from or through the medium of a guru somehow seems irrelevant to them.
There are instructions about other rasas in the books, but they are there as guidance for the general audience. Some people don't want to be "forced" into mañjarī-bhāva, which so few people understand anyway. It has to be a choice. But what I am saying is that if you get the mercy of Rupa Goswami, you will want what he has. And if you don't want what he has, it means that you have not yet received his grace or the grace of a Rupanuga Vaishnava.
Show me one acharya in the sampradāya after the second generation whose inner mood was not mañjarī-bhāva. I am talking Siddhanta Saraswati's "big names" sampradāya here. The śikṣā-sampradāya, as it were.
Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was known to be Nayanamani Manjari. Bhaktivinoda Thakur was Kamala Manjari and he had a siddha-praṇāli of all manjaris going back to Jahnava Thakurani, Ananga Manjari. So where are the acharyas of other moods?
It is currently something of a controversy in ISKCON as to whether Srila Prabhupada was an acharya of the sakhya-rasa. I don't know, but I would suspect that much of the confusion arises from this position. Narayan Maharaj could not support that opinion because he felt, like myself, that mañjarī-bhāva was the treasure of the Rupanuga sampradāya.
I don't necessarily agree with Narayan Maharaj in his denial of the sakhya of Prabhupada, which seems to be pretty well documented, but I can understand his frustration at what he perceived as a lack of niṣṭhā for ekānta-rādhā-dāsya in ISKCON.
I would say that the confusion about mañjarī-bhāva in ISKCON is the direct result of Prabhupada's general mood. This is why those devotees argue that through Srila Prabhupada one can have any mood one desires. But in fact, it is the ambiguity of Prabhupada's mood that creates the problem.
A make the analogy of a chef's platter: Everyone is invited to the feast, but not everyone gets the chef's platter. Everyone is getting the mercy of the holy name. And the holy name will give you all things, but that mercy of the holy name comes through the association of rasika devotees, NOT exclusively through your own intelligence guided by the Supersoul or through books.
And believe me, I am not opposed to the inner guidance of the Lord, but if you have genuine rāgānugā desire for bhajan, you will find sajātīya-saṅga and follow those who have the same mood and desire as you. tad-anurāgi-janānugāmī.
There may be some rare souls who can find their way without seeking out such association, through direct inspiration from within, but even Raghunath Das, who was a direct associate of Svarupa Damodar Goswami and Mahaprabhu himself for many years in Puri, only discovered mañjarī-bhāva when he came into the company of Rupa Goswami in Vrindavan. This is the fact. That is the meaning of this verse of Vilāpa-kusumāñjalī:
vraja-bhuvi bata netra-dvandva-dīptiṁ cakāra |
tadavadhi tava vṛndāraṇya-rājñi prakāmaṁ
caraṇa-kamala-lākṣā-sandidṛkṣā mamābhūt ||
Only when some Manjari in Vraj named Rupa opened my eyes, O Queen of Vrindavan, did the powerful desire to see the red unguent on your lotus feet arise. (Verse 14)Like so many verses of Raghunath's, so beautiful, so emotional, so deep. This is what it means to be a follower of Rupa and Raghunath. It is not general, it is very specific, sambandha-viśeṣa.
In the debate about whether sakhī-bhāva was within the scope of the Gaudiya sampradāya as an acceptable mood, we cite Raghunath Das Goswami as our topmost authority. If we cannot accept Rupa Goswami as having promoted mañjarī-bhāva in his writings, we cannot say the same of Raghunath Das.
nānyat kadāpi samaye kila devi yāce
sakhyāya te mama namo'stu namo'stu nityaṁ
dāsyāya te mama raso'stu raso'stu satyam
Other than the boon of service to your lotus feet, I ask for nothing at all at any time, Oh Devi! I bow down to friendship to you, but I do not want it. May my taste, yes my taste, be ever for service to you. (Vilāpa-kusumāñjalī 16)The confusion arises because people mix general instructions with the particular. Of course one should follow one's own proclivity and taste. But who are you going to follow in the sādhaka-deha? The sādhaka-deha means someone who has the siddha mood that you seek. Someone who just says "follow your heart" is not a guru in the true sense, certainly not a bhajana-śikṣā-guru.
That is someone who infuses you with relish, like Shukadeva, who makes the ripened fruit of the Vedic true sweeter by his own relish of the tastes and transmits THAT. This is what we mean by sampradāya and paramparā. Narottam Das's heartfelt prayer to Rupa Manjari, which Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaj sang to Saraswati Thakur as he lay awaiting his entry to the nitya-līlā at his request, is the revelation of Saraswati Thakur's heart. Follow Rupa and Raghunath. That means mañjarī-bhāva. If you don't desire that, you have missed out on the heart of Saraswati Thakur, of Narottam Das, of the sampradāya itself.
sei mora bhajana pūjana
sei mora prāṇadhana sei mora ābharaṇa
sei mora jīvanera jīvana
sei mora rasanidhi sei mora vāñchā siddhi
sei mora vedera dharama
sei vrata sei tapa sei mora mantra japa
sei mora dharama karama
anukūla hobe vidhi se pade hoibe siddhi
nirakhiba ei dui nayane
se rūpa mādhurī rāśī prāṇa kuvalaya śaśī
praphullita hobe niśi dine
tuā adarśana ahi garale jārala dehi
cira dina tāpita jīvana
hā hā prabhu koro dayā deha more pada chāyā
narottama loilo śaraṇa
And it is not that I am not a great believer in the inner guidance of the Antaryami Guru. I am. But the Antaryami Guru guides you when you internalize the rasika gurus, not through siddhānta, but through rasa. The rasa illuminates the siddhānta.
If you want, you can also be a devotee of Sita-Ram or Hanuman, or a devotee of Nrisingha. There is no obstacle other than finding other people in the same mood, and even that is not necessarily a handicap. But what is the point of being a Rupanuga if that is what you want?
I found very interesting in Swami Bhakti Abhaya Ashram's book about Prabhupada as a sakha his chapter on Prabhupada's relation to Nityananda Prabhu. Some people report that Narayan Maharaj taught that Nityananda did not preach mañjarī-bhāva, but the chanting of the Holy Name, etc.
This is very true and the analogy of Prabhupada to Nityananda Prabhu is helpful. So for a general external preaching mood, Nityananda and Prabhupada are great examples, and why not have sakhya-rasa for this preaching? I don't see any obstacle, but the point is that it is general.
The exclusive bhajanānandis in Vrindavan, the Goswamis were following the particular mood that was the goal of the whole edifice that had been constructed from the Bhāgavatam and the Holy Name, the two base points of Mahaprabhu's teaching.
But try to understand, the entire philosophy of Jiva Goswami is to get you to the beginning point, to get through the jungle of the Bhagavatam to the siddhānta of mañjarī-bhāva, service to Radha-Krishna with a special emphasis on Radha.
But that is the beginning point, not the end. We have to restructure our thinking in accordance with mañjarī-bhāva, to conceive of the world through the eyes of mañjarī-bhāva. It is not that we just create a conventional religion with a different form of the same old God. Nor that mañjarī-bhāva is for old doddering ascetics in a monastery somewhere. What that means is yet to be seen.
It is about both self-transformation and social transformation.
It is the great misfortune of so many devotees in ISKCON that they have placed so much emphasis on the Supersoul and Prabhupada's books that they do not trust advanced Vaishnava association, they don't even believe it exists.
This is what Narayan Maharaj saw, and instead of recognizing him as an advanced Vaishnava who could help them make progress they looked on him as a threat and made finding chinks in his armor the primary way of dealing with him. Same goes for Lalita Prasad Thakur and Ananta Das Baba and just about anyone else who talks about Vrindavan bhajan.
But like I say, mañjarī-bhāva is not meant for a few fuddy-duddies of dubious morals in Braj, it is the basic guiding principle of the entire sampradāya, that was created by Rupa Goswami. Until you get to that point you haven't really begun to understand what he was getting at.
So you have a bunch of people who think that Prabhupada has given them everything when they still haven't understood what Rupa Goswami was getting at because he was following Nityananda in preaching to those who were on the platform of absolute beginners.
And now, after so many years, you get a few people who have read a few books and finally start to understand what rāgānugā bhakti is about, still in general terms, and they think they have gotten to the top of the mountain.
Rupa Goswami was merciful, that is why he explained rasa in general terms. But his inner purpose was mañjarī-bhāva. So that is what must be understood. That is where they are taking you. That is where the mercy goes.
But when you get to mañjarī-bhāva, you kind of have to start all over. Why? Because thinking and feeling like a manjari is not exactly easy. Nor is the way of mādhurya thinking the same as aiśvarya. Nor is rāgānugā the same as vaidhī. It is quite different.
Mañjarī-bhāva is the sādhana. Prema is the sādhya. That is why I say it is just the beginning.