Yesterday I was speaking with Srila Gurudeva (Babaji) for a long time. The way he spoke yesterday was amazingly inspirational. I immediately decided that I would pen down the purport of his talk with me because it will be very useful for people treading the spiritual path especially those on the path of Raganugiya Bhakti.
The topic of discussion revolved around two main aspects which affect bhakti; one positive(Nishtha) and the other negative(Pratishtha). If these two aspects of devotional life is covered ; then it sums up our final rendezvous with the divine couple in the spiritual realm!
Srila Gurudeva expressed that the aspect of Pratishta is the single most deterrent on the path of Bhakti. There have been many organizations and institutions that have been established with a very noble motive of spreading the original movement of Sriman Mahaprabhu. But unfortunately the effect they have in the “internal” lives of the followers is practically “zilch” owing to the fact that along with noble motives even the weeds of pratishtha have also been allowed to flourish. Pratishtha means ” Self-worth / Pride / Subtle Ego ” ; A sort of self-conceived worth that “I am a devotee”; ” I have a particular position in the arrangement of things; If I am not there then things will not function ; I know what is supposed to be done and I need not be directed ; I am capable of single-handedly steering things etc . These thoughts emerge from the weeds of deep-rooted pratishtha in the heart. This ; according to Srila Gurudeva is the single-most cause for one not being able to experience transcendental bliss in devotional dedication. Sriman Mahaprabhu clearly exhorts beautifully ” Amanina Manedena” ; never expect any respect for yourself ; always offer respect to others ; take a subservient position and treat Vaishnavas with utmost care and respect. Never demand any respect for yourself. The context of Sriman Mahaprabhu seating himself at the place where people washed their feet ; when He was audience to Sri Prakashanand Saraswati of Kashi is very significant. The Supreme Lord positioned Himself at the lowliest position and gave all respects to the “so-called” scholars. This is the mood of a devotee in the Raganuga mood. He never expects any position or possession and always places others ahead of him. This if done extremely judiciously and consciously is a great way to deal with the poison of pratishta which slowly sucks the life out of the tender feelings that Bhakti Devi donates as we practice Raganuga Sadhana. A spontaneous attraction to Sri Sri Radha Krishna is completely realized only in the “complete absence” of pratishta otherwise not.
Many people confuse administrative capabilities with development of the poisonous mood of pratishtha; saying that for the service of Krishna “so-called ” strictness is a must. However in the whole process the devotees forsake “softness” and “Shishthachaar” ; the appropriate treatment of Vaishnavas. Such behaviour is not approved. One need not care about the institution or how things will be managed. One has to leave that up to the Lord. One only needs to keep one’s own behaviour under check and display conducive behaviour so that Vaishnavas are rendered utmost respect. Softness in speech and a genuine nurturing of respect towards all living entities is the cornerstone of Vaishnava etiquette. If this basic mood is not adhered to ; chanting millions of rounds of Mahamantra will not salvage one. When one forsakes one’s wishes for the service of other Vaishnavas and pleasing them ; makes the Supreme Lord extremely satisfied. The Bhajana process becomes extremely sweet when one’s demeanor is sweet and pleasing. Pratishtha is the most subtle and the most poisonous rodent that eats away mercilessly the store-house of Bhajana and Sadhana and leaves one extremely dry and arid. A heart which nurtures pratishtha can never taste Bhava and Prema. Trinad Api Sunicena Taror api Sahishnunam ; Amanina Manadena Kirtanaya Sada Hari.
Here Sriman Mahaprabhu has only mentioned about Kirtan in the end. The order in which one has to implement Shishtachaar or right behaviour is
- Be ever bending like the blade of grass
- Be more tolerant than the tree.
- Never expect any respect for yourself but always pay respect to others
and lastly “In such a mood always chant the Holy name”. Unless this mood is developed ; the chanting of the Holy name will “not” yield any results. This is the point which most of us are missing in Bhajana. When a suitable mood is prayed for and in that mood ; the Holy name is taken ; that single Holy name will emerge as “Shuddha nama” or that which will represent offenseless chanting. One has to focus on offenseless chanting . The basis of offenseless chanting is to chant without any pratishtha in the heart!!