We know that childhood experiences leave deep imprints on the subconscious that are indeed hard if not impossible to efface. These are the discoveries of depth psychology, which has its own methods of dealing with them in the attempt to find a "cure for the soul." Madhusudan, however, opens the door to understanding bhakti as a practical solution for the problems caused by these "sum-scars" as I like to call them.
Of course, in the Vaishnava vision of things, saṁskāras or vāsanās stretch across many lives; Rupa makes a point of saying that bhakti-rasa is experienced by devotees whose devotional conditioning (bhakti-saṁskāra) stretches across not only this life, but previous lives as well. No matter, the superiority of the bhakti process over other systems arises out of its effectiveness in effacing the negative conditioning of the subtle body--mind, intelligence and ahaṁkāra, as well as the citta, which I think might best be called the "unconscious." The difference between jnana and bhakti could be compared roughly to that which exists in modern psychology between the talking and behaviorist schools. The former are akin to jnana, in the sense that understanding the subtle causes, etc., of one's particular conditioning is primary, while bhakti is closer to behavioral therapies, which train the mind and senses to function in healthy ways even where there is an imperfect understanding of causes.
The bhakti process of transformation is thus practical. Madhusudana's choice of the word rasāyana, or alchemy, for the title of his book is a clear indication of this transformative power, which he explains in accordance with rasa theory. To Madhusudana, the essential feature of rasa is its ability to melt the mind. There are numerous verses in the Bhāgavatam that remind us of the kind of breakdown that devotees experience when chanting or hearing Krishna's names or glories. The point is that bhakti practices are meant to induce such states of breakdown whereby transcendental associations can be imprinted on the subtle body of the devotee. Evidently, no practice is more powerful than the chanting of the Holy Name, which can leave an indelible impression on the psyche. This is why Narada says,
mukunda-sevy anyavad aṅga saṁsṛtim
smaran mukundāṅghry-upagūhanaṁ punar
vihātum icchen na rasa-graho janaḥ
A servant of Mukunda who has "caught the rasa" never experiences the material world in the same way that others do, for as he constantly remembers the taste of Mukunda's foot lotus nectar, he cannot bear to abandon those feet completely. (SB 1.5.17)Ultimately, bhakti is truly holistic because it engages the human being at all levels of the mind and body in the task of attaining the prayojana, which is understood in terms of love. In other words, as with many other psychological systems, at least since the time of Freud, the ability of a human being to live healthily and holistically is seen as a function of his ability to love healthily. The particular viewpoint of the Vaishnava is, of course, that Krishna has to be the center of any such "cure."
The fundamental idea is that by fixing the mind on Krishna, the source of love, it takes on the shape of that love. The significance of the verses in Canto 7.1 that lead up to tasmāt kenāpy upāyena manaḥ kṛṣṇe niveśayet ("Fix the mind on Krishna by any means whatsoever.") lies here: Kamsa and other demons who thought of Krishna with fear or hate experienced a transformation of their inner being until it became "Krishna-shaped," but that was for all intents and purposes limited in value. They may have attained mukti, but that is a paltry attainment in comparison to the offerings of bhakti.
If one's God is an object of fear or hate, then what benefit does that bring? It is said that they were killed at the hands of God and attained sāyujyā mukti. This is an interesting analysis of a particular religious posture. To know that one is being killed by God, as was inevitable, is the ultimate relief for the God-hater. The same God, as the famous mallānām aśanir verse shows, is experienced in different ways, but the quality of that experience differs, and that difference is significant in ultimate ways.
Though the language differs somewhat, it might be considered an attempt to deepen a comprehension of the mechanics spoken of in Gita 2.59:
rasa-varjaṁ raso'py asya paraṁ dṛṣṭvā nivartate
The sense objects may cease to trouble the embodied soul who refrains from enjoying them, but the taste also ceases in the person who has seen the Supreme Truth.
Jugupsā ratiIn view of the above, I thought it might be interesting to discuss some aspects of jugupsā-rati, which leads to bībhatsā-rasa. Srila Prabhupada used to like quoting one verse that comes from the sthāyi-bhāva chapter of the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu--and I may add that it made sufficient impression on me that I can still recite it from memory without difficulty nearly 30 years after leaving Iskcon:
nava-nava-rasa-dhāmany udyataṁ rantum āsīt
tad-avadhi bata nārī-sangame smaryamāṇe
bhavati mukha-vikāraḥ suṣṭhu-niṣṭhīvanaṁ ca
Ever since my mind turned to cavorting in the light of ever new rasas at Krishna's lotus feet, as soon as I recall my past sexual adventures, my mouth turns in disgust and I have to spit.(BRS 2.5.72)Sometimes this verse is attributed to Mukunda-mālā or some other work, but it is in fact Rupa's own. In his commentary, Vishwanath cites a similar sentiment from the Bhāgavatam--
viṇ-mūtra-pūye ramatāṁ kṛmīṇāṁ kiyad antaram
What is the difference between me, who takes pleasure in [sexual] contact with bodies made of skin, muscle, blood, nerves, fat, marrow, and bones, and the worms who relish disgusting things like rotting food, stool and urine? (SB 11.26.21)Later, in his chapter on bībhatsā-rasa, Rupa gives another example that is quite similar to the earlier verse:
kurvan pūrvam aśeṣa-ṣiḍga-nagarī-sāmrājya-caryām abhūt
citraṁ so’yam udīrayan hari-guṇān udbāṣpa-dṛṣṭir jano
dṛṣṭe strī-vadane vikūṇita-mukho viṣṭabhya niṣṭhīvati
Just look! This devotee was once a great student of the art of seduction. He was dedicated to the service of Kamadeva and had attained lordship over the unlimited realm of debauchery. How amazing it is to see him today, for now if this very same person sees a woman's face while singing Krishna's glories with tear-filled eyes, his face becomes disfigured and he spits. (BRS 4.7.3)In BRS 4.7.2, Srila Rupa Goswami says that mainly bhaktas in the śānta mood take shelter of this rasa and are thus its ālambanas. Jiva there comments that the word śāntādyāḥ in this verse includes both the austere tapasvīs who are generally associated with the śānta-rasa and all others who have not attained closeness to the Supreme Lord (ādya-grahaṇāt aprāpta-bhagavat-sānnidhyāḥ sarva eva). These two restrictions are rather significant, because they indicate a kind of incompleteness in the primary rasa, name bhakti-rasa.
This is why Rupa Goswamipada concludes the chapter and the section on the gauṇa-rasas by making the significant statement that in fact there is only one bhakti rasa, which is based on the direct relationships with Krishna. This single rasa is then subdivided into five. In this optic, the other seven rasas, which are called secondary, function as vyabhicārīs rather than as full rasas in their own right. What is most exceptional about jugupsā-rati, however, is that it is the only sthāyi-bhāva of which Krishna cannot be the object.
This is underlined by the division of jugupsā into two--prāyikī ("generalized") and vivekajā ("born of discernment"). The examples given above are of the latter sort, whereas the kind of disgust of stool and other things, which has little at all to do with bhakti, is more generalized. In a world where there is no forgetfulness of Krishna, the latter has a place, but the former cannot arise. It is only those who are able to conceive of forgetfulness of Krishna who experience it.
This can be recognized in the sādhakas described by Krishna in the following verses of the Bhāgavatam--
veda duḥkhātmakān kāmān parityāge’py anīśvaraḥ
tato bhajeta māṁ prītaḥ śraddhālur dṛḍha-niścayaḥ
juṣamāṇaś ca tān kāmān duḥkhodarkāṁś ca garhayan
One whose faith in my topics has arisen and who is indifferent to all works, who knows that material desires (kāma) are permeated with suffering, but is still unable to abandon them completely, should engage in my devotional service with love, faith and firm purpose, even as he tries to fulfill those desires while simultaneously condemning them for being the source of misery. (SB 11.20.27-28, Bhakti-sandarbha 172)Vishwanath explains the latter part of the verse with the following description of the devotee in the above situation.
yad ete bahuśo nāma-grāham api sa-śapatham api tyaktā api samaye bhoktavyā eva bhavantīti, "nindāmi ca pibāmi ca" iti nyāyena bhuñjānaḥ
Alas, these sense gratificatory activities bring about so much unwanted trouble and they are unfavorable to my real goal, which is to attain the Lord's lotus feet. And even though I have analyzed these desires, named them and sworn to give them up, from time to time it seems I must engage in them. I condemn them and drink them at the same time.There may be a place for this kind of self-flagellation at an early stage of the self-purificatory process. We see it in certain places, in prayers of submission and humility. Nevertheless, the above statements by Sri Rupa and Jiva Goswamis indicate that this kind of consciousness of the conditioned state maintains rather than reduces the distance between the practitioner and the Lord. So, we must conclude that this is a characteristic of the vidhi-mārga and thus of limited usefulness to those on the path of rāga.
Mādhurya-rasaThe reader will have remarked the familiar juxtaposition of the erotic with jugupsā in the above examples. But before we read too much into these condemnations of sexuality, we should take all the above caveats into consideration. I will make my argument here brief. To some extent I have already made it before when I spoke about the engagement of the senses, including the sex organs, as elements of bhakti practice.
My real purpose, however, is to place make a distinction between the actual sex activity and sexual love, which may be better served by the term "romantic love." Let me state it in the following way: The idea presented by Madhusudan Saraswati is that the bhakta seeks to imprint his mind with Krishna, producing an inner transformation. Madhusudan's argument is ultimately that only bhakti-rasa produces the most profound levels of transformation.
My suggestion, however, is that the human being undergoes the most radical "meltdown" when he falls in love. If at this time he is able to imprint the image of Radha and Krishna on his consciousness, he will spring easily and smoothly into Radha and Krishna consciousness. The jugupsā part of the equation comes in any non-devotional elements that interfere with the process. Recently there were reports of vegan woman who found the very idea of having sexual relations with carnivorous men to be disgusting. Similarly, for a devotee who is seeking entry into the transcendental pastimes of Radha and Krishna, the very idea of a lust-based relationship with a non devotee is repulsive.
On the other hand, the transformative potential of love between practicing devotees, aided by ritual and the appropriate consciousness, is extremely great.
What I am getting at is this: There is a two-way relation between the ideal and the real, represented by Radha-Krishna and the human couple respectively. As Vaishnavas we are essentialists rather than existentialists, even though as acintya-bhedābheda-vādins we recognize the validity of both standpoints. Modern existentialism, which is really the basis of radical agnostic individualism, is something of an adolescent game. Human experience informs our experience of the Divine; our experience of the Divine helps us to shape our human experience. The combination of the two is like light concentrated by repeated reflection between two mirrors.
If you say that human love is abhorrent and you fail to recognize its value in informing our experience of the Divine, you cut the heart out of Radha-Krishna worship.