By Srila Raghunatha Dasa Goswami, with Commentaries
ABOUT THE BOOK AND THIS EXCERPT
In its twelve verses, Sri Manah-shiksa presents a procedure for one to enter into and become absorbed in the pastimes of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna. It is intended especially for dedicated students seriously practicing bhakti-yoga and aspiring for advanced levels of devotion.
This edition consists of two volumes. Volume 1 (59 pages) presents each verse in the format familiar to readers of Srila Prabhupada’s books, along with a full-page original color painting for each verse and an explanation of each painting.
Volume 2 (537 pages) has four parts: Summaries and Background, Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Commentaries, Commentaries by Contemporary Vaishnavas, and Appendices.
For this excerpt, we are presenting Verse One (without the Sanskrit-English synonyms), along with Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s commentaries and a few paragraphs from each of the commentaries of contemporary Vaishnavas.
gurau goshthe goshthalayishu sujane bhu-sura-gane
sva-mantre shri-namni vraja-nava-yuva-dvandva-sharane
sada dambham hitva kuru ratim apurvam atitaram
aye svantar bhratash chatubhir abhiyache dhrita-padah
“O dear brother! O mind! Having given up all pride, please develop unprecedented and excessive attachment to Sri Guru; to Sri Vrindavana, the abode of cows; to the devotee residents of Vrindavana; to all the devotees on this planet; to the confidential mantra [given by Sri Guru]; to the holy names of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna; and to the process of surrendering to the fresh youthful couple of Vraja. Holding your feet, I beseech you with sweet words.”
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Bhajana-Darpana Commentary
Meaning of the Verse
1 – Sri Guru
Guru includes both diksha-guru and shiksha-gurus (initiating guru and instructing gurus). The types of attachment one should develop towards the gurus while serving them is clearly explained in the next verse (Manah-shiksha 2).
2 Goshtha: Sri Vraja-dhama
This includes Gokula, Nandishvara, Govardhana, Syama-kunda, Yavat and all other places of Krishna’s pastimes in vraja-mandala.
3 – Goshthalayin: The residents of Vraja
Those who reside in Vraja-dhama for the purpose of pleasing the Lord through devotional service are called vraja-vasi-gana. Vrajavasi indicates a pure devotee, an elevated uttama-bhagavata. Such a person resides in vraja-dhama, both physically and in mediation, or just in meditation.
4 – Sujana: The Vaishnavas,2 devotees of the Lord
Vaishnavas may belong to any Vaishnava sampradaya (school). Perhaps they may not reside in vraja-dhama even in meditation, but still they are bona-fide and are devotees of the Supreme Lord, Bhagavan. These are the intermediate, madhyama-bhagavata, devotees.
5 – Bhu-sura-gana: The brahmanas
These are persons who are teachers, priests, intellectuals, scholars, counselors, or healers, and who are firmly fixed in the scriptural duties for their occupation and life stages, varnashrama-dharma. Such persons also teach the worship of the Lord, vaishnava-dharma, to all pious persons, varnashrama followers. They are known as juniors, or kanishtha-bhagavata.
6 – Sva-mantra: One’s diksha-mantra
This is the spiritual mantra, or bhagavan-mantra, that a bonafide guru gives as part of initiation (e.g., kama-gayatri).
7 – Sri Hari-nama
Primary names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in relation to the spiritual world and the spiritual eternal function are names like Sri Hari, Sri Radha-Kanta, Sri Krishna, Sri Govinda, and so forth. Secondary names, such as Patita-pavana (the deliverer of all fallen souls) and Paramatma (Supersoul), are related only to the material world. One should always take shelter of the Lord’s primary names.
8 – Vraja-nava-yuva-dvandva-sharana: Surrender to the youthful divine couple of Vraja
One should take shelter exclusively and one-pointedly of vraja-yuva, the divine couple Sri Sri Radha-Krishna.
9 – Dambham hitva: Give up pride
The varieties of dambha include maya (illusion and trickery), avidya (ignorance), kapatata (cheating), asaralata (lack of direct simplicity) and shathya (deceit and duplicity). While cultivating pure devotional service, if there is any other motive besides progression in bhakti, then one is engaged in a kind of cheating or duplicity. If philosophical detachment (jnana) or good works for material enjoyment (karma) is prominent in the devotional process, then ignorance (avidya) will be seen as more powerful than bhakti. If any unfavorable mood is present in the development of bhakti>/i>, it is a disguised form of maya. One must give up all such things. When one engages in the cultivation of pure devotional service, illusions about duties of occupation and stage of life (varnashrama-dharma), material desires, the self, God, material energy, life’s goal, and the process of success will all disappear.
10 – Apurva-rati
The love inherent in the soul is pure love for the Lord (atma-rati is shuddha-rati). When that pure love in the conditioned soul comes into contact with the dull matter of maya, it transforms into material attachment. In pure krishna-bhakti, the original, eternal, deeply emotional attachment remains fixed and visible at all times because Sri Krishna is the soul of all souls. During conditioned life, while performing devotional service, a soul becomes filled with apurva-rati, love that has no material precedent, in proportion to the expression of the soul’s inherent emotional attachment.
11 Atitaram kuru: Make intensive endeavor (atishaya-vidhana)
Enthusiastically feel encouraged to progress and take full shelter in the devotional path. Do not become complacent, thinking, “If I am lucky I will get spiritual success, or, if it is not in my fortune, then I may not achieve it.” As much as the mercy of guru and Krishna combine with one’s own endeavors, one gets spiritual potency. As much as that spiritual potency manifests, one’s desires to enjoy the fruits of one’s own actions will be diminished.
To be eligible to receive the pure instructions in this verse, a person should already have achieved faith, shraddha, in the path of loving devotion to Krishna. Such faith comes from the potency of the association of saintly persons, sadhu-sanga, manifesting within the heart. That potency diminishes the tendency to perform karma, actions for material gain. When shraddha develops, the first action is to accept and take shelter of an initiating spiritual master, diksha-guru, as well as the diksha-mantra to worship yugala-kishora, the divine couple Sri Sri Radha-Krishna. After receiving the mantra one should worship one’s shiksha- and diksha-gurus with pure devotion and attachment to their lotus feet (atma-rati). One should not only respect gurus as saints, using rational intelligence, but one should also deal with one’s gurus as well-wishing friends. Always respect and serve the three types of Vaishnavas [junior, intermediate, and advanced] according to their eligibility, with love and in a friendly manner. One should also develop deep attachment to chanting the mantras and serving the holy name. One should come to the point of complete surrender to the lotus feet of the divine couple, knowing them to be one’s life and soul. This surrender is called sharanagati.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Manah-shiksha Bhasha, Song One3
[O mind,] desire to serve the young couple of Vraja with uncommon, wonderful attachment. Gurudeva, the forest of Vraja, the residents of Vraja, the pure devotees and the brahmanas, your ishta-mantra and the holy name –
O heart! I beg you, falling at your feet, please love all of them. I know the essence – without devotion for all these, along with devotion for Krishna, the soul will not escape the cycle of birth and death (samsara).
Consider that action, knowledge, asceticism, and yoga only further bind one to karma and certainly are unable to free one from it. Renounce all these, O brother, and sing the praise of the goddess of faith, whose grace can bestow devotion.
Give up all pretenses and meditate on the eightfold truths (guru, Vrindavana, Vrindavana’s residents, Vaishnavas, brahmanas, one’s mantra, the holy name, and the process of surrendering) at every moment. Love them all without ulterior motives. With prayers for attaining such love, Bhaktivinoda bows at the lotus feet of Sri Raghunatha Dasa Goswami.
Commentaries of Contemporary Vaishnavas
This verse can be understood in depth by analyzing Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s words. Firstly, there are four specific questions being answered, so we will address those in summary.
The first question has been asked, what is someone’s duty? The word sharane answers the second question of what a devotee’s duty is when his faith awakens in hearing about Lord Krishna. One should take shelter in Krishna, mam ekam sharanam vraja. The ultimate duty of every living entity, every conditioned soul, is to take shelter of Krishna. The natural question that arises is,
“How do I do that? And what is the method for taking shelter, or what is the practical process?” And the answer is, by developing love for Krishna. Taking shelter means that Krishna gives us his shelter. But we cannot get Krishna’s shelter unless we actually have rati. This word rati is a very nice word, a common word which has multiple meanings and usage. So here rati means that one has love of Krishna (prema). When we have love for Krishna then we can receive his shelter. It is something that we have to acquire, that Krishna gives. It is not something that we can simply manipulate or achieve by some certain ritualistic or regulated activity.
The third question is how to develop this love. And the fourth: is this love developed exclusively for Krishna? No, it is not. Rather, it is stated: gurus, Vraja, Vrindavana, vraja-vasis, the holy name, and Radha-Krishna. We cannot exclude anyone from the realm of our attachment. If one loves one’s father, then one will also love one’s mother, brothers, sisters, household – everything else is automatically included. Therefore a devotee is equally disposed, or even more favorably disposed, towards those things that are tadiya, related to the Lord, because they are an easier way of achieving Krishna.
So one may ask, how will I develop love for all of these devotees? And here it is stated, dambham hitva: get rid of your pride.
There is a ladder in our lives. We can go down in the direction of kama, become degraded, sad, disappointed, frustrated, and keep taking birth after birth, or we can go to the same ladder of desire, but go up to the level of love, to the beginning states
of gratitude or appreciation of Krishna, feeling closeness to the Lord. Then we feel some bhakti, and finally some spiritual energy will really start working intensely in us, and then there will be ruchi and asakti and bhava someday. But we can start now, and it’s only a matter of which direction we look.
Do we want to look toward the material energy, or do we want to look toward guru, toward vraja-dhama, toward the brahmanas, toward the Vaishnavas, and all these personalities we have heard about in Manah-shiksha? Train the mind to look to these residents of Vraja, the Vaishnavas, and to our diksha-mantras, the holy name, and we will see, without any doubt, that we will become free from this kama, this selfish desire that only makes us miserable and disappointed.
When in the association of devotees, something happens. A sadhu is someone who practices bhajana and who helps us to do bhajana also. So when we come together with proper devotees who practice Krishna consciousness and who will preach to us nicely, I can guarantee we will faint when we smell the fragrance of the cup full of honey that will be opened in their association. In the association of materialists our heads turn downwards, and down we go. In the association of sadhus our heads turn upwards and up we go. It is that simple.
Certainly, externally we must be humble. Externally, we should try and offer respect to one and all, not expecting it in return. Externally, we should chant the holy name, but bhakti is not a mechanical process. We need to think what should be occurring in our hearts. That science is what Raghunatha Dasa Goswami explains in the Manah-shiksha.
In this first instruction, Raghunatha Dasa Goswami says, “O my brother, my dear mind, I’m offering my obeisances to you; I’m taking a very humble position. I’m taking hold of your feet and I humbly pray to you. Please, give up all your pride: sada dambham hitva.”
He then says, “I pray to you, ‘O mind, try your hardest to develop attachment.’” The reason for this instruction is contained in the first two lines where he enumerates to whom and to what we should develop our attachment. Gurau – to Sri Guru; goshtha – Vrindavana; goshthalayishu – to the residents of Vrindavana. Sujane means devotees. Bhu-sura-gane means brahmanas. Sva-mantre means in our own diksha-mantras. Sri-namni – the holy name. Vraja-nava-yuva-dvandva-sharane – the shelter of the lotus feet of Kishora-kishori.
Each word or phrase carries an important message, which helps us to have a clearer idea of how we should chant the holy name and perform devotional service.
Urmila Devi Dasi
In his book Jaiva-dharma, Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes, “Sri Manah-shiksha has laid down a systematic procedure (paddhati) for one to enter into and become absorbed in the pastimes of Sri Sri Radha Krishna; one should follow it without guile.” A paddhati is a kind of instruction manual.
Raghunatha Dasa Goswami joins together the concepts of having great love for others with giving up our inner pride. If we explore that relationship, we will find that love and humility must go together. Even in ordinary life, when we are convinced that we are great and so deserve to have others serve us, we can neither serve them selflessly nor appreciate and value the service they do for us. Thus, the essence of love – being fascinated by the beloved, valuing the beloved, and caring for the beloved – cannot happen authentically in the presence of pride. Certainly in the spiritual realm, saprema-bhakteh paramanukulam dainyam maha-pushti-karam (Brihad-bhagavatamrita 3.5.74), utter humility nourishes pure love.
We should especially note that we are told in verse one to have great love for our gurus, the spiritual masters who show us the path, instruct us, and initiate us into the chanting of mantras. Krishna tells us in the Bhagavad-gita that we must serve a guru to receive transcendental knowledge. Such service, however, is not merely official, nor in the mood of an employee. As Srila Prabhupada explains in his purport to Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya-lila 17.15: “The words snigdha (very peaceful) and su-snigdha (affectionate) are used in verses fourteen and fifteen respectively, and they are also found in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.1.8): bruyuh snigdhasya shishyasya guravo guhyam apy uta. ‘A disciple who has actual love for his spiritual master is endowed, by the blessings of the spiritual master, with all confidential knowledge.’ Srila Sridhara Swami has commented that the word snigdhasya means prema-vatah. The word prema-vatah indicates that one has great love for his spiritual master.” Thus the exchange of service and knowledge between guru and disciple is that of love.
1 The meter for the verses of Manah-shiksha is shikharini, like that of Jagannathashtakam, found in ISKCON songbooks.
2 Some people say that Srila Raghunatha Dasa Goswami has placed sujana (Vaishnavas) and bhu-sura-gana (brahmanas) in two separate categories to show that a Vaishnava is not automatically a brahmana. However, if the term bhu-sura-gane is taken as an adjective of the term sujane, then it will translate as “to all the Vaishnavas, who are also brahmanas.”
3 The Bengali verses of the song appear in the book.