Talk:The vaishnava contemplative tradition

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The Vaiṣṣava Contemplative TraditionSwami Purnananda Swami Purnanda ( January 2007(87)


The term Vaiṣṇava refers to devotees of God in general as well as to devotees of Vishnu in particular. As is evident, the word has been derived from Vishnu. In one sense, Vishnu denotes the omnipresent, all-pervading Being, while in an-other, it represents one of the famous triad of dei-ties of the Hindu faith, the preserver of creation. He has four arms, holding a conch (Pāñcajanya), a discus (Sudarśana), a mace (Kaumudakī), and a lotus. Tis concept of Vishnu is Puranic. But it has a very ancient origin. Te name Vishnu ap-pears in the Rig Veda: ‘Idaṁ viṣṇur-vi cakrame tredhā nidadhe padam, samūhḻam-asya pāṁsure; Vishnu traversed this world: thrice he planted his foot and the whole (world) was gathered in the dust of his footsteps.’1 Elsewhere he has been conceived as a personifcation of light and of the sun ( . ). He is called Śipiviṣṭa, clothed in rays of light. Te wise ever contemplate the supreme station (paramaṁ padam) of Vishnu as the eye ranging over the sky ( .22.20). Te idea of the Vedic Vishnu is abstract, whereas that of Puranic Vishnu is anthropomorphic. He is the unconquer-able Preserver who lives in Vaikuṇṭha or Goloka, and during the period of dissolution he rests on the great serpent Ananta or Śeṣa in the midst of the ocean of causal waters (kāraṇa salila). Many Puranas describe him as the Supreme God. Nev-ertheless, even the Puranic idea of Vishnu has its source in the Vedas. Vāsudeva, Nārāyaṇa, and Kṛṣṇa are the main epithets of Vishnu. Krishna is the primary object of devotion in the Bhāgavata and Gauḍīya traditions. He is worshipped in several forms: as Vāsudeva Krishna (the Supreme Being), as Gopāla Krishna (baby Krishna), as Vanamālī Krishna (the young cowherd), and as the king of Dwāraka.Vaiṣṣava Āgama Te Āgamas are the secondary scriptures of Hin-duism, derived from the Vedas. Tough they have many divisions, the primary Āgamas are fve in number: Saura, Śākta, Gāṇapatya, Vaiṣṇava, and Śaiva or Pāśupatya. Te Vaiṣṇava Āgama has two main subdivisions: the Vaikhānasa Āgama and the Pāñcarātra Āgama. As all these Āgamas are said to have been derived from the Vedas, they are called Śrauta Āgamas. The Vaiṣṇava tradition is primarily a tradition of bhakti, devotion to God. Nārada defnes bhakti as being of the nature of intense love for God: Sā tvas-min parama premarūpā.2 Te sage Śāndilya defnes it as supreme attachment to God: sā parānuraktir-īśvare.3 Two types of bhakti have been described by the teachers of bhakti: vaidhī and rāgānugā. Vaidhī bhakti involves worship and other rituals as instruct-ed by the scriptures, whereas in rāgānugā bhakti in-tense love for God is fundamental, and rituals and worship become secondary. Te Vaikhānasa Āgama deals primarily with vaidhī bhakti, while Pāñcarātra Āgama teaches both vaidhī and rāgānugā bhakti. Vaikhānasa Āgama Te Vaikhānasa school of Vaiṣṇavism claims its ori-gin from the sage Vikhanas or Brahma, the Creator himself. Te Vaikhānasas are primarily a commu-nity of temple priests, and the mode of their wor- ship is essentially oriented towards Vishnu. Te Vaikhānasa Gṛhya Sūtras prescribe for the house- holders a daily worship involving the fabrication of an image of Vishnu. All gods and goddesses are supposed to be worshipped in Vishnu.4 To the Vaikhānasas, Vishnu is the Supreme Being, the highest principle. He has two aspects: sakala (with form) and niṣkala (without form). Te niṣkala aspect is his essence as all-pervasive Being, while his conditioned presence (the sakala aspect) grace- fully responds to devotional intent and medita-tion. Moksha is release into Vishnu’s abode, called Vaikuṇṭha. It can be attained by the practice of japa (devoted repetition of a mantra or prayer), hūta (sacrifce), archanā (service to the image), and dhyana (meditation conforming to a yogic regi- men). Four types of moksha have been described: sālokya (to live in the abode of God), sāmīpya (to live near God), sārūpya (to have a form akin to that of God), and sāyujya (being united with or merged in God). Te last one is considered the ul-timate moksha. Te Vaikhānasa treatises speak of four abodes of Vishnu: Āmoda, Pramoda, Sammo-da, and Vaikuṇṭha, where Viṣṇu, Mahā Viṣṇu, Sadā Viṣṇu, and Nārāyaṇa respectively preside. Among the four sadhanas, archanā has been declared the highest by Marichi Samhita. By means of archanā one can enter Vaikuṇṭha, the abode of Narayana, and enjoy eternal bliss. Pāñcarātra Āgama Pāñcarātra Āgama prescribes worship of Naraya-na. Te Pāñcarātra tradition follows both vaidhī and rāgānugā bhakti. Te term Pāñcarātra can be traced to the Pāñcarātra yajna (a sacrifce spread over fve nights) described in the Shatapatha Brah-mana.5 Te Ahirbudhnya Samhita says that Nara- yana himself composed the Pāñcarātra Tantra and there explained the secret of his fve forms: Para (the transcendent), Vyūha (the primary emanation), Vibhabha (subsequent manifestation—as avataras), Antaryāmin (the indweller within individuals) and Arcā (the divine manifestation within consecrated images). Te Pāñcarātra tradition of Vaiṣṇavism and the Nārāyaṇīya section in the Śāntiparvan of the Mahabharata have great similarity. The prima-ry aim of the Pāñcarātra tradition is prapatti or śaraṇāgati (self-surrender), and the path is there-fore called ekāntika (with but one aim). According to Pāñcarātrikas, śaraṇāgati or total resignation is the main method of contemplation. The Common Contemplative Tradition of Vaiṣṣavism Vaiṣṇavism is in the main a tradition of bhakti. Tis bhakti has been defned and explained in difer- ent ways by diferent teachers. Unmotivated de-votion (ahaitukī bhakti) to God is preached in the Bhagavata: ‘Sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo yato bhaktir-adhokṣaje, ahaituky-apratihatā yayā’’tmā samprasīdati;Tat is the highest religion of human-ity from which arises motiveless and uninterrupted devotion to God that flls the soul with bliss.’6 Te Narada Pancharatra defnes bhakti as the realiza-tion that God alone is ‘mine’ (truly one’s own), ac-companied by divine love (preman) and devoid of attachment to any worldly object. In later Vaiṣṇava tradition a distinction is drawn between bhakti and preman. Bhakti is spontaneous attachment for God, being entirely possessed by and absorbed in him. Preman is the most concentrated form of this love, characterized by that intense attachment to God which purifes the heart completely. Preman is the culmination and fulflment of bhakti, its ut-most perfection. Tis is also the basis of the two divisions: vaidhī or sādhana bhakti (ritual devo-tion) and rāgānugā or premā bhakti (the devotion consequent upon intense attachment). Spirit of Renunciation in Vaiṣṣavism Although there are exceptions, formal renunciation is not an important component of the Vaiṣṇava tra-dition. Te renunciation practised by its adherents manifests more as an indiferent attitude towards worldly objects that are obstacles to one-point-ed or single-minded love for God. Tis is called yukta vairāgya (detachment proper): ‘Anāsaktasya viṣayān yathārham-upayuñjataḥ, nirbandhaḥ kṛṣṇa-sambandhe yuktaṁ vairāgyam-ucyate; Tat detach- ment which is characterized by acceptance of only those objects that are not detrimental to devotion and which is accompanied by a desire to associate with Krishna is termed yukta vairāgya.’7 Tis is in contrast to phalgu vairāgya (feeble detachment) ‘Prāpañcikatayā buddhyā hari-sambandhi-vastunaḥ mumukṣubhiḥ parityāgo vairāgyaṁ phalgu kathyate; Renunciation of all objects—even those related to Krishna himself, knowing them to be worldly—by seekers of salvation is termed phalgu vairāgya’ ( .2.2 ). Tis is the spirit of renunciation of those who tread on the path of knowledge. Vaiṣṇava dev-otees generally practise yukta vairāgya. Sri Caitanya Mahāprabhu exemplifed an uncompromising spir-it of renunciation, and so did his direct disciples like Rūpa, Sanātana, and Jīva Gosvāmi. Sannyasins and Householders and their Sacraments Te Vaiṣṇava movement comprises both sannyasin and householder traditions. Each has a tradition of teacher-pupil succession (paramparā), maintained by the process of dīkṣā (initiation with a mantra). On being initiated into the sect (sampradāya) the disciple undertakes to abide by the values of the tradition and the community. He or she receives a mantra of Vishnu or Krishna (and in case of re- nunciants a new name) in accordance with the traditional iṣṭa (Chosen Deity) of the particular sampradāya. All Vaiṣṇavas must mark their fore-head with sandalwood tilaka (a holy mark in the form of an extended ‘U’) and other sacred marks—signs of Vishnu’s insignia—on diferent parts of the body: arms, nose, chest, and the like. A body with-out these marks is considered ‘as inauspicious as a carcass’. All initiated Vaiṣṇavas are also expected to wear a string of beads made from the stem of tulsi (the holy basil) around their necks, have a rosary for japa (repeating the divine name), and wear a śikhā (a knotted tuf of hair on the back of the head). The Marks of Vaidhī Bhakti Vaidhī bhakti has nine aspects (navalakṣanā or navadhā): listening to the name and glories of the Lord, chanting his holy name, constant remem-brance, service, worship, salutation, servitude, friendship, and self-surrender—all directed to Vishnu: ‘Śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ vishṇoḥ smaraṇaṁ pādasevanam, arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ sakhyam-ātmanivedanam.’8 Tese nine ways of worshipping Vishnu are followed by all the Vaiṣṇava schools as vaidhī bhakti. Each school has its own approach, emphasizing one or more of these aspects. Accord-ing to Nārada, dedication of all actions to the Lord and extreme yearning on forgetting him are marks of devotion. Te lineage of Parāśara holds that at-tachment to worship and other rituals is the mark of bhakti. Garga maintains that speaking of His glories is the sign of devotion. Śāndilya holds that love for the Self is bhakti. Another aspect of devo-tion especially stressed in the Vaiṣṇava tradition is association with and service to devotees of the Lord. Te Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas hold that to have utmost taste for taking the Lord’s name, compas-sion towards all jivas (living beings), and service to devotees (initiated Vaiṣṇavas) are the means to as well as marks of devotion. But it is śaraṇāgati that is most important for a Vaiṣṇava spiritual aspirant. Tis śaraṇāgati has six aspects: (i) resolve to subor-dinate one’s will to the divine will, (ii) avoidance of all that is contrary to His will, (iii) frm faith that the Lord is the saviour of all, (iv) acceptance of the protective grace of the Lord, (v) total surren-der to Him, and (vi) awareness of one’s poverty (of spirit): ‘Ānukūlyasya saṁkalpaḥ prātikūlyasya var-anam, rakṣiṣyatīti viśvāsa goptṛtvavaraṇaṁ tathā; ātmanikṣepakārpaṇye ṣaḍvidhā śaraṇāgatiḥ.’ Vaidhī bhakti is further categorized into three groups ac-cording to the three guṇas: sāttvika, rājasika, and tāmasika. Rāgānugā or Premā Bhakti Te highest form of devotion is that which tran-scends all the three guṇas. It is love for love’s sake alone. It is a spontaneous and uninterrupted in-clination of the mind towards the Lord without even the desire for liberation (mukti). It is supreme bhakti, or preman—intense, uninterrupted, un- alloyed, and motiveless love towards God, which leads to God-realization. This preman surpasses all other types of bhakti. Sri Ramakrishna says, ‘Te mature stage of bhakti is bhāva. When one attains it one remains speechless, thinking of Satchidānanda. Te feeling of an ordi-nary man can go only that far. When bhāva ripensit becomes mahābhāva. Prema is the last.’9 When love towards God is intensifed, a sweet relationship is established between God and the devotee. Tis rāgātmikā or rāgānugā bhakti manifests in fve difer-ent attitudes (bhāvas): śānta (calm), dāsya (service-ful), sakhya (friendly), vātsalya (parental), and mad-hura (amorous). Several sentiments go to make each attitude, and each bhāva subsumes the sentiments inherent in the preceding attitude. For instance, in śānta bhāva the devotees enjoy divine bliss through meditation on the transcendental beauty of the De-ity and adore him with all their hearts’ devotion. When this love matures into a personal or relational love, the devotees serve the Deity much like a serv-ant serves the master. Tis stage of love includes sne-ha (afection), praṇaya (friendship), māna (pique), and rāga (attachment). A servant enjoys both the wealth (aiśvarya) and sweet afection (mādhurya) of the Lord. Next the devotee approaches even near-er and loves the Deity as a friend (sakhā). Tis type of love includes anurāga (love as a constant fresh-ness) in addition to the sentiments mentioned ear-lier. When love rises to a still higher level it mani-fests as parental afection (vātsalya) for the beloved. All the qualities inherent in friendly love are further intensifed and awareness of aiśvarya is dispelled; only mādhurya prevails. Up to this stage of paren-tal love, the bhakti is relational (sambandhātmikā). When the last vestige of remoteness of the Deity vanishes from the mind of the devotee, two more mental states become manifest: bhāva (intoxica-tion) and mahābhāva (supreme love-intoxication). Te personality of the lover merges with the Belov-ed. Te lover concentrates his or her whole being on the Beloved and becomes united with the Deity in spirit. Tis is the highest consummation of love for God. Tis has been described as amorous love (kāmātmikā), which is considered the highest form of contemplation in the Vaiṣṇava tradition. Te devotees of this grade do not want liberation or any-thing other than divine communion—enjoying the absolute sweetness (mādhurya) of the Lord. Tis is the culmination of preman, the purest love for the beloved. Te state where separation is overcome and total union between the devotee and the Be-loved takes place is mahābhāva. Te deep impact of this experience afects the entire being—the mind, body, and soul of the devotee. It manifests exter-nally as the sāttvika vikāras (unafected emotions), which are recognized to be eight in number: sveda (perspiration), stambha (stupor), romāñca (horri-pilation), svara-bhaṅga (broken voice), vaivarṇya (pallor), aśru (tears), vepathu (tremor), and pra-laya (loss of consciousness). Tese manifestations take place only when the mind becomes extremely pure and totally free from all worldliness. Sri Rama-krishna has pointed out that ‘the ordinary jīva does not experience mahābhāva or prema. He goes only as far as bhāva’ (2 ).Tere are many sects among the Vaiṣṇavas. We shall now take a brief look at some of them and see how they have adapted and developed these general ideas on contemplation. Śrīvaiṣṣavism and Rāmānuja Nāthamuni is traditionally considered the founder of the Śrisampradāya (that is how this school is re-ferred to in North India), and Yāmunācharya the frst ācārya. But it was Rāmānuja who established this school on a frm footing. Bhakti: According to the Śrīvaiṣṇava tradition, bhakti is realizing one’s ultimate relationship with the Lord as his eternal servant. Tis relationship generates love for and attachment to him. Rāmānuja also equates bhakti with dhyana and upāsanā. Dhy-ana is the concentration of the mind on the De-ity, and upāsanā, continuous thought of Him or Her. Bhakti has two stages: sādhana-bhakti (bhak-ti as means, i.e. ritual devotion) and phala-bhakti or sādhya-bhakti (bhakti as fruit). Sādhana-bhakti aims to inculcate strong faith in the Deity as the highest value and a sense of the utter transitoriness of worldly achievements. Sādhya-bhakti is being es- tablished in love for God, as a servant loves the mas-ter. Tis is the means to mukti. To achieve sādhya- bhakti, one must go through a seven-fold culture (sādhana saptaka): (i) viveka, discrimination regard- ing what ought to be accepted and what to be given

Te Vaiṣṇava Contemplative Traditionup, especially in relation to food; (ii) vimoka, control of passions like anger, jealously, and lust; (iii) abhyāsa, prac-tice of disciplines like worship, japa, chant-ing the names of God, and pilgrimage, in or-der to maintain a con- stant memory of God as the indwelling prin-ciple (śeṣin) within oneself as well as in the whole universe; (iv) kriya, the fve-fold works or sacrifc-es—to gods and goddesses through agnihotra (fre sacrifce) and other rituals, to the rishis through scriptural study, to one’s ancestors, to human beings, and to other living beings (bhūtas) through appro-priate oferings; (v) kalyāṇa, virtuous conduct, con- sisting in practising virtues like satya (truth), ārjava (straightforwardness), dayā (compassion), dāna (charity), and ahimsā (non-injury); (vi) anavasāda, freedom from despair, dejection, pessimism, and the like, and maintenance of a cheerful and positive attitude of mind; and (vii) anuddharṣa, absence of exultation or excitement, maintaining an even tem-perament in all situations. Prapatti: By long and continued practice of these disciplines, one is established on the plane of vaidhī bhakti consisting of dhyana and upāsanā. Tereafer the aspirant ascends to the plane of paramā bhakti (supreme devotion), maintaining in oneself the knowledge that one is merely a śeṣa (a minute part of the whole, which is the Deity) and that the Deity is the śeṣin (the whole). Paramā bhakti is identical with prapatti (resignation). Tis state of being an eternal servant of the Lord is itself the highest goal. Te idea of identifcation with the Supreme Being is not acceptable to the Śrīvaiṣṇava. According to this tradition the Supreme Being or Puruṣottama is by nature devoid of all blemish and is full of limitless, unsurpassable, and count-less auspicious qualities: ‘nirasta-nikhiladoṣo-’nava-dhikātiśayāsaṅkhyeya-kalyāṇaguṇagaṇaḥ’.10 Other Vaiṣṣava Traditions Te theological traditions of the other Vaiṣṇava sects in South India have resemblance to the one developed by Rāmānuja, albeit with note-worthy variations. Teachers like Madhva, Val- labha, Nimbārka, and others also incorporated Rāmānuja’s ideas in their philosophies. Mad- hva too did not accept the Advaitic concept of jīvanmukti or nirvāṇa mukti. According to him, mukti is the attainment of Vaikuṇṭha, the abode of Vishnu (sālokya), and attainment of a form sim- ilar to the Deity (sārūpya). Mukti or salvation is attained only by the grace of Vishnu, and even af- ter mukti the jiva remains the servant of the Lord.Ishvara and jiva are distinct entities. Bhakti, the only means of salvation, leads to the direct percep-tion of the Deity. By performing proper worship a person becomes com-petent for bhakti. Tis worship includes :aṅkana (marking the body with holy sym-bols), nāmakaraṇa (naming children and other objects of love with holy names),and bhajana (serv-ice). Bhajana again is of three types: kāyika (physical), vācika (verbal), and mānasika (mental). Kāyika bhajana includes dāna (charity), paritrāṇa (acts of deliverance), and parirakṣana (acts of pro- tection). Vācika bhajana includes satyakathana (speaking the truth), hitavākya kathana (benef- cial counsel), priyavākya kathana (sweet and gen-tle speech), and svādhyāya (study of scriptures). Mānasika bhajana comprises dayā (compassion),spṛhā (desire for service to God), and śraddhā (faith in the guru and scriptures). Trough these devotional practices mediate knowledge is gained; this helps the growth of bhakti, which in turn re-sults in enlightenment. Tis leads to a very ripe de- votion which, in turn, leads to liberation—eternal servitude to God. The Vāllabha Tradition Although the school founded by Vallabhācharya ac-cepts the Vedas, the Bhagavadgita, and the Narada Pancharatra as scripture, its primary authority is the Bhagavata Purana, because this text is directly relat- ed to Krishna. For Vallabha, Sri Krishna is the Sat-cid-ananda Parabrahman, also called Puruṣottama, even when present in his pastoral aspect as the cowherd boy of Vraja. Vallabha, however, does not accept the reality of Rādhā as in the Vrindavan Vaiṣṇava tradition and the Gauḍīya tradition. Ac- cording to Vallabha the highest type of jiva is puṣṭi jīva, the spiritually nourished jiva. Tis concept of puṣṭi is derived from the Bhagavata: ‘poṣaṇaṁ tadanugrahaḥ; poṣaṇa is his grace.’11 Tis is why Vallabha’s system of philosophy is called Puṣṭi Mārga. One may practise bhakti rigorously, but divine grace is nonethe-less the last word and the summum bonum of life. A puṣṭi jīva pre- fers to serve the Lord, even eschewing muk-ti. Bhajanānanda (the joy of devotional ado- ration) is infnitely su-perior to brahmānanda (the bliss of Brahman), and this can be had through service to Krishna, the Pūrṇa Puruṣottama (the Supreme Being totally manifest). To attain this privilege, the disciplines of nine-fold bhak-ti mentioned earlier have been prescribed. When this bhakti matures, the devotee enters into a tran-scendental state in this very life and gets a spiritual body in the life beyond, in order to be perpetually engaged in the divine service of the Lord. Early Medieval Vaiṣṣava Schools Many other Vaiṣṇava devotees called sants preached the doctrine of love throughout India. Several sects have preserved the traditions they founded. Tese include the sects of Nimbārka, Rāmānanda, and Samartha Rāmdās, the Vārkarīpantha (worshippers of Viṭṭhala or Viṭhobā of Pandharpur, includ-ing Nāmadeva, Eknāth, Tukārām, and Janābai among others); and smaller sects associated with Haridās and Dādu. Jñāneśvara blended bhakti with Advaita Vedanta in Jnaneshvari, his commentary on the Bhagavadgita. Te oth-er sants have stressed bhakti as the path to God-re-alization and advocated singing the name of the Lord and chanting his praise. Tese sants accepted and preached the path of pure devotion (premā bhakti), considering God a loving parent or master rather than as the divine lover of the Bhāgavata or Gauḍīya tradition. An exception was Mīrābāi; she practised and preached rāgānugā bhakti (passion-ate love) towards the Lord, viewing him as lover. Gauṣīya and Bhāgavata Tradition The Gauḍīya tradition of bhakti is based on the theology of the Bhagavata and the Narada Pan-charatra. Te Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas are worshippers of Rādhā and Krishna. Te person of Rādhā does not fnd mention in the Bhagavata. Tis concept is derived from the Narada Pancharatra, where Pārvati, the divine consort of Shiva, says: ‘Tadrāse dhāraṇādrādhā vidvadbhiḥ parikīrtitā; I held you in rāsa (divine play), that is why I am known as Rādhā by those in the know.’12 Gopīs, the milk- maids of Vraja, are the embodiments of amorous love. Te aggregate of this love of the gopīs is Rādhā, the embodiment of mahābhāva, the manifestation of hlādinī (the power of divine beatitude), which is one of the components of God’s svarūpa śakti (intrinsic powers).Tis concept of Rādhā is a dominant theme in Vrindavan. Te highest aspect of mahābhāva, known as mādana or maddening delight, is pos-sessed only by Rādhā and none else, not even by Krishna.13 Te delight Rādhā derives thereby is so Te Vaiṣṇava Contemplative Tradition immensely superior to what Krishna enjoys as the object of her love and is so irresistibly tempting, that Krishna cannot suppress his eagerness to taste his own charms and sweetness as Rādhā does. Ac-cordingly, there is an aspect of Krishna in which all the attributes of the Krishna of Vrindavan as well as those of Rādhā coexist.14 In this aspect, Krishna, as the subject of mādana, relishes his own charms and sweetness. Caitanya Mahāprabhu (or Śri Gaurānga), is considered to be this dual form—Krishna and Rādhā embodied in one frame—by the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. So it is their custom to worship Gaurānga and his companions before worshipping Krishna.

Te highest privilege for a jiva is to serve the Lord with madhura rati (amorous attachment) and be united with him, while maintaining one’s indi-viduality, or while maintaining an idea of separa- tion of Puruṣa and Prakṛti (in Vaiṣṇava theologi-cal terms). To attain this state one needs to prac- tise thinking of oneself as a young gopī, beautifully dressed, attending on Rādhā in her love-pastimes with Krishna, being the principal subordinate to Rūpamañjarī, the chief among Rādhā’s attendants (known as mañjarīs). Similar is the mode of medi-tation for devotees with other ratis (2.22.9 ). But this is not possible for novices. So they are to prepare themselves by following the disciplines of vaidhī bhakti and navadhā bhakti mentioned earlier. Tereafer, the aspirant is expected to de- velop the sentiments inherent in the śānta, dāsya, sakhya, and vātsalya attitudes (sneha, praṇaya, and the like). When the aspirant feels a deep attraction for and cannot bear separation from Krishna, he or she is established in bhāva. When this too ripens, the aspirant is established in the attitude of a gopī ( gopī bhāva siddha), which, in select aspirants, cul-minates in mahābhāvaIn this state separationis removed and totalunion prevails; the aspirant enters into thesupreme state of divineecstasy and becomesone with the belovedenjoying the absolutemādhurya of KrishnaIn this state Krishnais looked upon as thenearest and dearest, nay—the person of the devotee is totally merged into that of Krishna, who isNarayana of Goloka, the advaya jñāna-tattva vastuthe unique or non-dual essence of knowledge. Sahajiyā and Śaṣkaradeva Traditions Te Sahajiyā sect developed in the train of the Caitanya movement, though it is virtually extinct at present. Its practice involved madhura bhāva asparakiyā sādhana, having a person of the opposite sex, other than one’s spouse, as companion for one’ssadhana. An aspirant practises looking upon his or her paramour as an embodiment of Rādhā orKrishna to foster divine love.Important exponents of the Gauḍīya traditioninclude Rūpa, Sanātana, and Jīva Gosvāmi. Amongmore recent traditions, the Svāmīnārāyaṇa groupbears resemblance to the South Indian traditionof Vaiṣṇavism, while ISKCON, the Hare Krishnaschool, follows the Gauḍīya tradition. Te ISKCON followers emphasize keeping count on the rosary( japa mālā) while repeating the holy name, andconsider the Bhagavata, the Gita, and the Chaitanya Charitamrita their main scriptures. I NortheastIndia, Śaṅkaradeva has a large Vaiṣṇava followingTis group considers the Bhagavata as the embodiment of Krishna, and worships it as such. Tey usually do not worship images, but otherwise followGauḍīya theology. Tey follow the teachings of the Bhagavata, which prescribes the Kaliyuga method of worshipping the Supreme Being throughkīrtana, identifying him with Krishna and RamaSri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and addressing him as Mahāpuruṣa.15 Tus the Puruṣottama of the Gita is the Mahāpuruṣa of the Bhagavata, and the the- ology of Śaṅkaradeva is known as Mahāpuruṣiyā Dharma. Kīrtana, the main method of wor- ship, is also called nāma-dharma. Just as the Gita enjoins giving up all duties and the practice of implicit resignation to the Lord,16 Śaṅkaradeva also lays great stress on eka śaraṇa (surrender to the one Lord), which gives the school its other epithet eka śaraṇiyā. Te concept of mukti is not given much importance by this sect, and it does not accept madhura bhāva or the Rādhā and gopī concepts of Caitanya and the Bhāgavata school. Sri Ramakrishna on Vaiṣṣava Bhakti According to Sri Ramakrishna, in this Kaliyuga de-votion as prescribed by Nārada is the way to God- realization. Tis involves intense love for God and total indiference towards everything contrary to God; and this is developed by singing the names and glories of God. Ramakrishna says that two things are essential to realize God: simplicity and yearning. It is necessary to establish a close relation-ship with God and impress deeply on the mind the idea that God is one’s very own. Knowing this, one must take refuge in God and develop an intense attachment for him/her. He says, ‘God reveals Himself to a devotee who feels drawn to Him by the combined force of these three attractions: the attractions of worldly possessions for the worldly man, the child’s attraction for its mother, and the husband’s attraction for the chaste wife.’17 He pre-scribes four aids to contemplation: (i) association with holy persons, (ii) solitude, (iii) discrimina-tion (between the real and the unreal, to develop the conviction that God alone is real and all else unreal), and (iv) prayer for genuine faith and love for God. He declares that God realization is the sole aim of human life, and that a still higher aim is to love God with all one’s heart and soul but with-out any ulterior motive. Mukti is a secondary mat- ter for Ramakrishna, and is inferior to bhakti. Te culmination of all knowledge is the realization that the same (and one) God has become the jivas, the universe, and all its components; it is to experience God in every thing and in every being. Tis is also the highest state of bhakti according to Vaiṣṇava theology. Hari Om. PTe image of Madhvacharya is courtesy of Rama-krishna Mission, Chengalpattu; other images in this ar- ticle are courtesy of Ramakrishna Math, Hyderabad. References 1. Rig Veda, 1.22.17. 2. Narada Bhakti Sutra, 2. 3. Shandilya Bhakti Sutra, 2. 4. Vaikhanasa Grihya Sutra, 4.10.12. 5. Shatapatha Brahmana, 13.6.1. 6. Bhagavata, 1.2.6. 7. Rupa Gosvami, Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, 1.2.253. 8. Bhagavata, 7.5.22. 9. M, Te Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, trans. Swami Ni-hilananda (Chennai, Ramakrishna Math, 2002), 502–3. 10. Ramanujacharya, Brahma Sutra Sri Bhashya, 1.1.1. 11. Bhagavata, 2.10.4. 12. Narada Pancharatra, 1.2.62. 13. Rupa Gosvami, Ujjvala-nilamani, ‘Sthayibhava Prakarana’, 172 et seq. 14. Krishnadas Kaviraj, Chaitanya Charitamrita, 1.4.109, 115–16; 2.8.239. 15. Bhagavata, 11.5.32–34. 16. Bhagavadgita, 18.66. 17. Gospel, 83.