My Last Conversation with Aindra Prabhu


Since I first met him in 2004 it was my custom to visit with Aindra Prabhu each time that I went to India. Last year was no different, and I knocked on his door on 30 June 2010, not knowing that this would be our last meeting. Visiting Aindra was always a very special occasion. He was a devotee who didn’t wasted time, always was preaching, and always spoke from his realization. And his realizations were something extraordinary. I did have some things I wanted to tell him this time, however-his book. An electronic copy of it was passed to me some months earlier and I wanted to make him aware that it was circulating, perhaps against his wishes.

He had his own agenda however, and from the very beginning he was pressing me: “When will you come back to Vrindavana (even though I hadn’t even left yet!)? Will you be back for Kartika? You should come back and stay in Vrindavana for some time…” On and on he pressed these points, and he was intense about it, and but at the same time very personal, and clearly speaking for my welfare, like a concerned parent would to their teenager. After we spoke a bit more I wanted to excuse myself so as not to take too much of his time, but he wanted to go on, and did go on-for several hours. Quite amazingly it seemed that he knew exactly what I needed (and wanted) to hear and he kept on with it. Moreover, there was an unmistakable urgency to his message that touched me to the core. “There is no time to waste. We don’t know how much time we have in this world, and we should use every available minute for chanting the holy names in japa and harinam. And we should do whatever we can to live in Vrindavana. Vrindavana is such a special place because in Vrindavana you get 1,000 times the benefit for your devotional service than you do anywhere else.”

He had another intense lesson for me, repeatedly telling me that raganuga bhakti was a separate path from vaidhi bhakti, and that raganuga had to be intentionally cultivated as such. He went on and on about this too, but he was speaking about things that I was only partly familiar with, so remembering that I had my MP3 recorder I thought that I should record him. So I turned it on and he continued with his message. Here is (in part) what he said:

“Sadhya bhakti refers to from the stage of bhava onwards…means bhava and prema.

“This brahma bhuta prasanatma na sociti na kanksati, this idea of being established on the brahma buta platform refers to this verse in Bhagavad-gita where he says sa gunan samitiyaitan brahma buyaya kalpate, transcending the modes of material nature and coming to the level of brahman. But Prabhupada establishes in one of his purports that that brahma buyaya kalpate refers to the bhava platform. Which means that one isn’t established above the influence of material nature until he comes to the bhava platform. From the bhava platform, there, real spontaneous devotional service begins. And this is described in Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu where Rupa Goswami says that actually real devotional service doesn’t begin until one comes to the platform of spontaneous devotional service.

“Spontaneous devotional service means sadhya bhakti, not sadhana bhakti. Raganuga is part of sadhana, not sadhya. This is a common misunderstanding among devotees.

“Bhava is the beginning of the stage of sadhya…See the problem is, I can show you, it will take some in-depth discussion, but I can show you where in Prabhupada’s Nectar of Devotion in one chapter there are six serious mistakes which have, I don’t blame it on Srila Prabhupada, but whether Srila Prabhupada read it or not, I don’t know, because it seems like he would have caught the mistakes, but in the Spontaneous Devotional Service chapter, instead of using the actual word used by Rupa Goswami, ragatmika, the word raganuga has been used. Which has created complete confusion among the vast number of devotees in our society who think that raganuga is something that happens after you have already gone to the bauma lilas of Krishna, and you are following in the footsteps of the eternal associates of Krishna, as a cowherd boy trainee in the bauma lilas of Krishna. They have this conception that that is what raganuga is all about, but it’s totally wrong.

“That conception has to change. At that stage it is ragatmika. Those eternal associates of Krishna and those who are sadhana siddhas and krpa siddhas, who come to the perfectional platform of becoming eternal associates of Krishna, they are ragatmika. Whereas raganuga refers to…if you study carefully the Chaitanya-charitamrita, it is correct. But in the Nectar of Devotion which was read long before, and first impressions are lasting impressions, so you may not get beyond the confusion because you are still harboring the misconception, so you don’t catch it.

“But in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, Rupa Goswami, in his description of the process of sadhana bhakti, he describes that there are two margs. It’s not two levels, they are two paths of sadhana bhakti. One is vaidhi sadhana marg, and the other is raganuga sadhana marg. They are both sadhana bhaktis, and they both begin from sraddha. There is adhua shraddha…and, but one type of sraddha engenders vaidhi sadhana, and the other type engenders… there is what is called shastra visvas maya shraddha, vishvas means faith in the instructions or the injunctions of the shastras. Do’s and don’ts. Prohibitions. It is fear-based devotion based on the determination to hear shastric injunctions in order to avoid repercussions by committing offenses. That is vaidhi sadhana marg. And then there is raga sadhana marg. What does raga mean? Raga means attraction.

“Actually Srila Prabhupada didn’t come to give vaidhi bhakti, but to give raga bhakti. And this is described in Chaitanya-siksamrita, and you should read it very carefully, that the purpose of vidhi, rules, is to curtail one’s inordinate raga, or attraction, for mundane rasas. So the viddhi is simply there to force you to give up your attraction and attachment to mundane rasas so that you stand a fighting chance. By the influence and association of rasika Vaishnavas or raga bhaktas, they can help you to become acquainted to Krishna Who is all-attractive. And then when you become attracted to Krishna-lila then viddhi has already served its purpose and is no longer relevant. But there is a transitional stage where there are different degrees of the necessity for the influence of viddhi and the influence of attraction.

“It is very clear that there are two margs. One marg is based on shastra vishvas maya shraddha and the other is based on lobha maya shastra. Lobha means greed and greed is based on attraction. So it depends on what kind of association you have. If you are associating, and it depends on the receptivity, based on previous accumulation of bhaktyam mukhe sukriti, from previous lifetimes, which is based on the types of association you had in previous lifetimes. If you associated with ritualistic devotees in previous lives, then in this life you may be develop this shartra vishvas maya shraddha to a large extent and be more or less fixed up in your determination to follow vaidhi marg. Whereas if in previous lives you had association with rasika Vaishnavas then your natural receptivity toward the attractiveness of Krishna, and unalloyed devotional service in Krishna consciousness will engender lobha maya shraddha. This shraddha is based on greed to attain something that you have seen that is very attractive to you. You have high estimation to something that is very attractive and wonderful that has allured you to go beyond whatever would stand in your way to attain. Therefore Bhaktivinoda Thakur says that the difference between vaidhi marg and raga marg is that the vaidhi marg is very weak whereas the raga marg is very strong. By vaidhi marg, on account of the fact that you are lacking the attraction to the actual objective, you are only adhering to the principles of bhakti due to your fear of falling back into maya. And he says that it will be a very long time and laborious process by following the vaidhi marg to come from the stage of sraddha to the stage of bhava.

“And not only that, but the bhava that is realized by doing vaidhi bhakti is different from the bhava realized by raga. You wind up with a ritualistic form of bhava, or what is called mayada bhakti, or aisvarya jnana mayi bhakti. Whereas in the raga marg, because of the force of attraction, the magnetism that one experiences in coming with Krishna’s subject matter, which is attracting your heart, when that greed evolves in your heart, then naturally you don’t want anything to come between you and your objective, and you can very quickly progress through the stages anartha nivriti.

“This is described in Visvanatha’s Ragavartma Chandrika, which is a very important book to read. There is one book called “Bhakti Trilogy” that might include it. I can give you these electronically. I have all these books.

“The point is that in Nectar of Devotion, in the chapter titled “Spontaneous Devotional Service Further Described”, there is no mistake as such, where they are improperly using the word raganuga. It’s just that in the previous chapter you have read the word raganuga, raganuga, raganuga, and you get this idea of what raganuga is, but when you the next chapter you are wondering what are we talking about here because he’s using the same word raganuga to refer to something that is of a different nature. So you must be thinking that this is raganuga that is relative to term raganuga used in the previous chapter, and then you are totally confused.

“I wish we could sit longer, maybe if you have time tomorrow, and I can show you Banu Maharaja’s translation of Bhakti Rasamrta Sindu. I first discovered this many years ago when I read Banu Maharaja’s translation. In his translation the word ragatmika is used, then I went back to Prabhupada’s and I saw that there was a misuse of the terminology. And I realized that that is where all the confusion is coming from.” Unfortunately at this point the recorder battery was finished, but this significant segment of the conversation was captured, and this is what I wanted to share with the Dandavats readers. Aindra is absolutely correct in this mistake that appears in the “Nectar of Devotion.” The good news is that the correction has finally been made in the most recent English edition, and I recently confirmed this with Dravida Prabhu, the BBT editor. The bad news is that this mistake has been promulgated in the translations of NOD because they are all based on the English book. I have checked the Lithuanian book (where I am right now) and the mistakes are there. So I want to encourage all devotees who have friends in non-English speaking countries to tell them to correct these mistakes so that the confusion is not perpetuated. Two Different Paths? At first I was confused by Aindra’s statements that vaidhi-bhakti and raganuga-bhakti were two different paths, because Srila Prabhupada repeatedly and clearly makes it clear that one must follow vaidhi-bhakti until he has reached the stage of anartha-nivritti, being free from the impulse and desire to commit sinful activity. I needed to think this through carefully and research it. As I did it became clear that he was making the point that after one reaches anartha-nivritti one needs to intentionally take up the path of raganuga, not in-place of, but as far as necessary, along with vaidhi bhakti. This instruction is given by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur in “Sri Caitanya-siksamrita”:

“There is another type of sadhana bhakti besides vaidhi bhakti. It is called raganuga bhakti. Previously it was said that there are two ways of pleasing the Lord: by following rules and by attraction. It is necessary to differentiate between these two. That system of worship of the Lord that is executed through a sense of duty is called vaidhi bhakti. Rules that are executed through consideration of a sense of duty are called “vidhi.” The tendency that operates through a natural taste is called “raga”” To be completely and spontaneously absorbed in some object is called “raga.”

“The object pursued by raga is called the desired object. In the activities of raga there is no necessity of consideration or deliberation of what to do or what not do. Raga is a natural propensity. The raga exhibited by the soul in a conditioned state is a perversion due to false bodily identification, and the perverted raga accepts material things as its objects. Directing this raga towards flowers, food, drink, intoxicants, clothing, shelter, or lover, the living entities end up in a world of illusions. For this reason the conditioned souls are situated far apart from raga directed to the Lord. Since bhakti instigated by raga is therefore very rare, it is necessary to consider carefully what is beneficial and detrimental in worshipping the Lord. From this consideration arises rules or vidhi.

“The rules monitor the state of raga. Rules are not an opposing party to raga. Rules may be called ritual and raga may be called spontaneous attachment. Though they are different conceptions, in the pure state they are one. Rules in their pure state are assistants to raga. Pure raga follows the rules, which are the will of the Lord. For the Lord, the rules predominate, and for the jivas, raga predominates. The opposition of raga and vidhi seen in the material world is due to the unhealthy condition of raga. When raga recuperates, vidhi, having fulfilled its function, retreats. Therefore, in the healthy state raga predominates for the jiva. As much as raga for material things leads to degradation, so raga for the Lord becomes the highest condition of existence. The relation of raga with vidhi is like the relation of the body to medicine. Raga has many functions, but vidhi’s function is to protect and nourish raga. When raga is thoroughly nourished, it does not depend on vidhi any longer.

“Pure raga for the Lord takes shelter of only the pure soul, a soul who has been liberated from material contamination. That pure raga is called ragatmika bhakti. Only pure souls, who participate in the Lord’s pastimes, are qualified for ragatmika bhakti; none except the inhabitants of Vraja are qualified. When conditioned souls, by hearing the descriptions in the scriptures, develop a desire to follow after the inhabitants of Vraja who offer ragatmika bhakti to Krsna, the bhakti that results is called raganuga. The inspiration for this bhakti is greed for its object, not rules or scriptural guidelines. The rules, by various methods, attempt to stimulate the nature of the soul. When greed becomes the impetus for those rules, it is no longer called vaidhi bhakti, but raganuga bhakti. Thus there are two types of sadhana bhakti: vaidhi and raganuga.

“That person who becomes greedy to attain the emotional state in which the ragatmika devotees serve Krsna is qualified for raganuga bhakti. Raganuga bhakti includes all the same angas as vaidhi bhakti, but the devotee of raganuga bhakti performs those activities with a spontaneous mood, rather than by rule. The conditioned soul living in the world must necessarily carry out physical, mental and social activities to maintain his body. Those rules mentioned in the discussion of vaidhi bhakti, which serve to keep the devotee on the path of devotion and prevent him from becoming materially contaminated, must also be followed by the practitioners of raganuga bhakti.

“The practice of raganuga is internal, so what external rules should the person follow?

[Devotees! Please note this next important paragraph!]

“If devotees do not accept all the necessary rules of vaidhi bhakti which serve to make them fit for practicing internally, they will finish their life untimely or revert to material life, and reduce their propensity for raga. If the manner of cultivating devotion is not accepted in full, internal practice cannot be maintained or grow. Interest in raganuga may grow, but the angas of bhakti, such as hearing and chanting should not be given up.

“Just as in vaidhi bhakti, the rules of naitika dharma mature and change shape, so also, in raganuga bhakti, the rules of vaidhi bhakti change slightly in emotional content and display some independent qualities. In some circumstances the rules change slightly, and in other cases they transform entirely. This will be apparent from observing the conduct of the devotee. These changes do not arise from scripture, but according to the taste of the individual, and thus examples are hard to give. Examples can only be given for vaidhi bhakti.” This quotation should be sufficient to make the point perfectly clear. Please note the corrections to the Nectar of Devotion and make them in your copy. I did get the opportunity to tell Aindra about his book and he was more concerned whether the one circulating was the final copy of the book. Apparently he had made some changes that were important to him, and if anything was going to circulate he wanted it to be the final edition. In any case the paper edition is available and it is such a lovely and artistic book, both in the printing and case, as well as the language, which can only be Aindra’s. I love it. Alas, I didn’t go back the next day as I had made a hasty arrangement to return to Delhi that morning. But I was ecstatic about our conversation and was so much looking forward to meeting with Aindra again to continue the discussion. Sadly, that was the last conversation. He knew he was going to leave this world soon, and he said as much in his book. Perhaps that was why he spoke to me in such an urgent mood.