Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

One can experience, perceive and literally see transcendental phenomena i.e. the spiritual form of Bhagavan Sri Krishna or one’s own siddha svarupa according to the purity of one’s consciousness. Brahmaji says a sadhaka can directly see God, Bhagavan Sri Krishna, when the mind and eyes are fully purified and saturated with Krishna prema.
premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti (Brahma Samhita 5.38)

To enter fire one must become fire. Thus, if one wants to see the transcendental, madhurya prema svarupa of Vrajendranandan Sri Krishna, one must also have a form, heart, mind and eyes full of madhurya prema.

As GaudiyaVaisnavas we are aspiring for the absolute topmost of all conceivable and attainable goals of spiritual perfection i.e. Radha-Krishna prema, and the confidential service of Sri SriRadha-Krishna in the bowers of Vrindavanaas the loyal maidservant manjaris of SrimatiRadharani.

Such a lofty spiritual perfection will naturally demand the utmost sacrifice, dedication, determination, patience and enthusiastic endeavor continually sustained for possibly many life times. Yes, it’s true that spiritual success in Kali-yuga comes to one and all just by chanting Hare Krishna, dancing and honoring Krishna prasadam.

Although it may sound easy, IT IS NOT SO EASY! There are many levels and stages of purification that one must pass through before attaining the coveted goal of Krishna prema, wherein one will pass his/her days chanting and dancing with Krishna in Vrindavana!

When confronted by disciples disappointed over their slow progress, lack of spiritual advancement, and complete absence of any direct experiences of Sri Krishna, Srila Prabhupada repeatedly used the phrase “GRADUAL PROCESS” as seen in the following examples:
“Cleansing the heart is a gradual process, it doesn’t happen abruptly!”
“Krishna consciousness is a gradual process of realization and purification.”

This post will describe the ‘gradual process’ (anukramat) of spiritual advancement in Krishna consciousness, and the consequent seeing or perceiving of one’s individual eternal spiritual body (siddha deha/siddha svarupa).

One starts Krishna consciousness by hearing and reading to gain knowledge of Krishna, the practice, and the goal of bhakti sadhana. Transcendental knowledge helps us to perceive our eternal individual spiritual identity as atomic particles of consciousness—a soul, jivatma. Gradually purity and knowledge (aka Krishna consciousness)increases to a point wherein one can meditate on Sri Sri Radha-Krishna’s beautiful names, forms, qualities and sweet Vraja lilas.

Although moving from one level to the next may take many years OR EVEN MANY LIFE TIMES, the fact remains that bhakti sadhana has different stages (anukramat) which one must reach before attaining spiritual perfection in Krishna consciousness.

There are nine levels or stages in performing Krishna bhakti sadhana:
culturing faith – sraddha;
meeting a Vaisnava, hearing hari-katha, taking diksha, and serving Sri Hari, Guru and Vaisnavas – sadhu sanga;
performing bhakti sadhana –bhajanakriya;
purification and inner peace – anarthanivritti;
steadiness and conviction – nishtha;
taste, inner joy and satisfaction – ruchi;
loving attachment and hankering to see Bhagavan Sri Krishna – asakti;
ecstatic spiritual emotions, experiences, and possibly a glimpse of Radha and Krishna – bhava;
overwhelming spiritual bliss and continual communion with Radha and Krishna – Krishna prema.

The Srimad Bhagavatam describes the ‘gradual process’ or the progressive steps to spiritual perfection as follows:

I. HEARING/READING ABOUT KRISHNA
(sraddha, sadhu sanga)

“With an attentive mind one should constantly hear, chant, remember and worship Bhagavan Sri Krishna who protects devotees.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.14)
tasmād ekena manasā, bhagavān sātvatāṁ patiḥ
śrotavyaḥ kīrtitavyaś ca, dhyeyaḥ pūjyaś ca nityadā

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das: One may ask, “The Bhagavata directs one to constantly hear about Krishna. But I have no interest or attraction for this. Even if I try to read spiritual books, I get no taste and just fall asleep. So how does one get the desire and a genuine taste to hear and read about Sri Krishna?”

The Bhagavata(Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.16) answers:
“By nicely serving pure-hearted devotees (mahatsevanisevanat) one obtains four priceless benefits:
a. Taste for Harikatha (vasudevakatharuchi);
b. Strong faith;
c. Surrender to Guru;
d. Genuine desire to hear more Harikatha.”
śuśrūṣoḥ śraddadhānasya, vāsudeva-kathā-ruciḥ
syān mahat-sevayā viprāḥ, puṇya-tīrtha-niṣevaṇāt

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das: Here the secret is revealed—it’s mercy. There is a mystic transference from the kind and compassionate heart of the sadhu bhakta into the mind and heart of the humble serving soul. You approach a saint and attentively, lovingly and carefully serve him.

Then the sweet heart of the sadhu melts, and he invisibly deposits into the vault of your heart some jewels from the vast treasure of his personal firm faith in Radha-GovindaYugala and his deep taste for hearing Harikatha. Your newly strengthened faith and taste attracts the attention of Bhagavan Sri Krishna, who in turn comes to purify you and personally help you advance in spiritual life.

II. CHANTING GLORIES OF SRI KRISHNA (bhajanakriya, anarthanivrtti)
“By the mercy of the sadhu bhakta, one now hears and chants the beautiful and purifying topics of Sri Harikatha with taste and faith. Becoming pleased, Krishna as the Antaryami within (hṛdiantaḥ)personally removes all one’s obstacles and inauspiciousness (abhadrāṇividhunoti ).” (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.17)
śṛṇvatāṁ sva-kathāḥ kṛṣṇaḥ, puṇya-śravaṇa-kīrtanaḥ
hṛdy antaḥ stho hy abhadrāṇi, vidhunoti suhṛt satām

III. NISHTHA
“Daily hearing from and serving the beautiful Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavata devotees destroys all inauspiciousness to nil and brings steadiness in bhakti bhajana.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.18)
naṣṭa-prāyeṣv abhadreṣu, nityaṁ bhāgavata-sevayā
bhagavaty uttama-śloke, bhaktir bhavati naiṣṭhikī

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti: By serving bhaktas and Bhagavata, most of one’s namaaparadhas (abhadresu) diminish, and this continues till the stage of bhava bhakti. Anarthas are mostly destroyed, and one attains the stage of nishtha where one can easily concentrate on Bhagavan Sri Krishna.

IV. RUCHI & ASAKTI
“Gradually one becomes very fixed, steady, pure minded and free from lust, desire, greed, hankering and other qualities born of ignorance and passion.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.19)
tadā rajas-tamo-bhāvāḥ, kāma-lobhādayaś ca ye
ceta etair anāviddhaṁ, sthitaṁ sattve prasīdati

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti: The mind is not disturbed or transformed (anaviddham) by the agitations of lust, greed and other qualities such as anger, illusion, and hatred arising from passion and ignorance, rajas, tamas.

In the stage of ruchi, one loses his/her taste and interest in material objects because one is relishing great happiness by hearing, chanting and remembering Radha and Krishna. After this, the mind becomes fixed (sthitam) in the transcendental form of Bhagavan Sri Krishna and one attains the stage of asakti, which means continuous attachment and thinking of Radha and Krishna.

IV. BHAVA
“By the process of Krishna bhakti bhajana, one’s mind becomes enlivened and satisfied. One obtains clear, realized knowledge of Bhagavan Sri Krishna and freedom from all bad association.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.20)
Second translation: The mind becomes joyful and satisfied on attaining bhava or rati. Finally prema manifests along with complete detachment. The devotee then experiences the transcendental form, qualities, pastimes, powers and sweetness of Bhagavan Sri Krishna.

evaṁ prasanna-manaso, bhagavad-bhakti-yogataḥ
bhagavat-tattva-vijñānaṁ, mukta-saṅgasya jāyate

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti: As one becomes more and more attached to Sri Krishna and worships Him at every moment which is the stage of asakti. Afterwards, the stage of bhava bhakti appears (prasanna-manasao). Without having bhava bhakti, no one can be completely detached from the objects of material enjoyment.

And without constant detachment, one can never find mental satisfaction. Finally the long awaited Krishna prema appears (bhagavad-bhakti-yogatah). From that arises realization (vijñānaṁ) of the Sri Krishna’s form, qualities, pastimes, powers and sweetness.

V. KRISHNA PREMA
“The knots (ignorance) within the heart are completely cut out, and all doubts and karmic reactions are destroyed because one now sees his real self and His eternal Supreme Controller, Bhagavan Sri Krishna.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.21)
bhidyate hṛdaya-granthiś, chidyante sarva-saṁśayāḥ
kṣīyante cāsya karmāṇi, dṛṣṭa evātmanīśvare

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti: Ignorance which is the main knot in the heart is cut out, hrdaya-granthischidyante. All doubts, i.e. thinking that attaining Krishna prema is impossible, are destroyed. And all karmas are destroyed because one directly sees Bhagavan as the Paramatma, (atmani) in the mind (sphurti), and also externally with the eyes.”

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti summarizes the ‘gradual process’ to spiritual perfection in Krishna prema in fourteen steps:
1. mercy of devotees;
2. service to devotees;
3. faith;
4. surrender to guru;
5. desireto worship, serve and hear about Bhagavan Sri Krishna;
6. bhakti;
7. clearance of anarthas;
8. nishtha;
9. ruci;
10. asakti;
11. rati;
12. prema;
13. sphurti, seeing Sri Krishna;
14. madhuryaasvadana, experiencing and relishing the sweetness of Shyamasundara.

Krishna bhakti bhajanaki jai! Nava vidha bhakti ki jai! Jaya Jaya Sri Radhe!

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