By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Bhakti, devotional service, is transcendental even to mukti, liberation. Generally people are concerned with dharma, artha, kāma and moksha. In the beginning, there is dharma (religion), then artha (economic development), kāma (sense gratification), then moksha (merging into the Supreme One). However, bhakti is above all these. Mukti is not very important for a bhakti (devotee). In the words of Bilvamangala Thakura: muktih svayam mukulitānjali sevate ‘smāt. “Mukti herself is standing with folded hands, waiting to serve the devotee.” (Krishna-karnāmrita 107) This is the experience of Bilvamangala Thakura, who was a very rich South Indian brahmana. Due to bad association, Bilvamangala Thakura became a very staunch prostitute hunter, and he spent all his money on a prostitute named Chintamani. One night, during a terrible rainstorm, Bilvamangala went to see Chintamani, but the prostitute was thinking, “Surely tonight Bilvamangala will not come. This is a terrible storm.” Nonetheless, Bilvamangala came, despite all difficulties. Somehow he managed to cross the raging river, and when he saw the gates of Chintamani’s house closed, he somehow managed to jump over them. Despite all the dangers, he reached Chintamani’s house, and the prostitute, being very astonished, said, “How is it you have come tonight? Oh, you are so attracted to this skin! If you just had this much attraction for Krishna, it would certainly be to your benefit.” Bilvamangala then immediately left the prostitute’s house and went to Vrindavana. The fact was that in his previous life he had executed devotional service up to bhāva-bhakti. Thus the prostitute Chintamani actually became his guru. While in Vrindavana, Bilvamangala Thakura wrote a book named Krishna-karnāmrita, which has been recommended by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In that book, Bilvamangala Thakura writes: “If we have devotion fixed on You, My Lord Bhagavan, then we can easily see Your divine form as kaiśora-mūrti, a young boy.”
Another name for Krishna is Kaiśora. The word kaiśora refers to the age before marriage—that is, it refers to a boy between the ages of eleven and sixteen. Sri Krishna is always kaiśora-mūrti. By devotional service, one can see the kaiśora-mūrti of Krishna very easily.
When Bilvamangala Thakura was going to Vrindavana, he was still attracted to women. One night he stayed at the house of a very rich merchant, and the merchant’s wife told her husband that Bilvamangala Thakura was attracted to her. She asked her husband what to do, and the merchant simply said, “Serve him.” Finally Bilvamangala Thakura came to his senses, and he thought, “These eyes are my enemies.” When the beautiful woman approached him, Bilvamangala Thakura said, “Mother, please give me the pins out of your hair. I am very mad after the beauty of women. So let me pluck out my eyes.” In this way, he blinded himself. Although he could not see, in Vrindavana he was supplied milk by Krishna Himself. Thus he personally realized Krishna through bhakti and wrote of his personal experience. He wrote, “Mukti is not a very important thing. She is always at my service with folded hands, saying, ‘My dear sir, what can I do for you?’” Thus a devotee is not very anxious for mukti because he is already liberated. If a man has a million dollars, why should he hanker after ten rupees?
Bhakti should be animittā, without motive. Actually Krishna can fulfill all of our wishes without difficulty because He is almighty and full of all opulences. If we want material happiness from Krishna, it is certainly not difficult for Him to grant it. He can also give us mukti, liberation, but it is foolishness to ask anything from Krishna except bhakti. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvatī Thakura used to say that asking God for mukti or anything else other than bhakti is like going to a rich man and asking for ashes. There is another story, about an old woman who was carrying a bundle of dry wood through the forest. Somehow or other the bundle, which was very heavy, fell to the ground. The old woman became very disturbed, and thought, “Who will help put this bundle back on my head?” She then began to call on God, saying, “God help me.” Suddenly God appeared and said, “What do you want?” She said, “Please help me put this bundle back on my head.” So this is our foolishness. When God comes to give us some benediction, we simply ask Him to load us down again with all these material bundles. We ask Him for more material things, for a happy family, for a large amount of money, for a new car or whatever.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaches us that we should only beg God for His service life after life. This is the actual meaning of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. When we are chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare Hare, we are actually addressing God and His energy, Harā. Harā is Krishna’s internal potency, Srimati Radharani or Lakshmī. Jaya Radhe! This is daivī prakriti, and the devotees take shelter of the daivī prakriti, Srimati Radharani. Thus the Vaishnavas worship Radha-Krishna, Lakshmi-Narayana and Sita-Rama. In the beginning of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra we first address the internal energy of Krishna, Hare. Thus we say, “O Rādhārānī! O Hare! O energy of the Lord!” When we address someone in this way, he usually says, “Yes, what do you want?” The answer is, “Please engage me in Your service.” This should be our prayer. We should not say, “O energy of the Lord, O Krishna, please give me money. Please give me a beautiful wife. Please give me many followers. Please give me some prestigious position. Please give me the presidency.” These are all material hankerings, which should be avoided. Lord Buddha advocated that we give up all material desires. It is not possible to become desireless, but it is possible to give up material desires. It is the nature of the living entity to desire; it is not possible to be desireless. If one is desireless, he is dead. Desirelessness means purifying one’s desire, and desire is purified when we only desire the service of Krishna.
Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu teaches:
na dhanam na janam na sundarīm
kavitām vā jagad-īśa kāmaye
mama janmani janmanīśvare
bhavatād bhaktir ahaitukī tvayi
[Cc. Antya 20.29, Śikshāshtakam 4]
“O almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor do I desire beautiful women, nor do I want any number of followers. I only want Your causeless devotional service birth after birth.” (Śikshāshtakam 4) He requests Lord Krishna’s service birth after birth. It is not that He is seeking salvation; rather, He simply wants to serve Krishna one life after another. The devotees are not anxious to merge into the existence of the Supreme. The Buddhist philosophy advocates nirvāna, the negation of all material desires. Buddha does not offer more than this. Shankaracharya gives a little more, saying that we should become desireless in this material world and then enter into the Brahman effulgence. This is called brahma-nirvāna.
According to the Vaishnava philosophy, however, we should negate material desires and be situated on the Brahman platform, but in addition we should engage in the devotional service of the Lord. This is called bhakti. Māyāvādī philosophers cannot understand this, but Krishna says that this devotional service is on the transcendental platform.
[An excerpt from “Teachings of Lord Kapila”by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, available at your nearest Hare Krishna Center]