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quarta-feira, 23 de fevereiro de 2011

From Fear to Love

From Fear to Love

by Radhakanta das
The journey from fear to love presented in this short essay is one of an evolution of consciousness. All living beings are conscious, whether plant, insect, reptile, aquatic, bird, animal or human being. What distinguishes a lower species from a higher one is their level of understanding of their self, their environment and God. Lower species live in excessive fear because of the perception of the world they live in is self-centered and competitive. They are absorbed in their own base physical needs to eat, sleep, mate and defend. In their competitive and hostile world, one living being is food for another, and they live in constant fear.

Higher species like human beings may also be covered by fear and illusion according to the advancement of their consciousness. The more a person has realized the real nature of their selves as spirit soul and their relationship with God, the less fear and illusion they will have.

This article will look at fear’s different aspects, what causes it, and how to eradicate its dominance in our lives. We will define and elaborate on what is beyond fear – pure spiritual love, according to the ancient Vedic literatures and the thoughts of contemporary self-realized souls.

What is fear?

The Encarta Dictionary describes fear as “an unpleasant feeling of anxiety or apprehension caused by the presence or anticipation of danger.” As living beings we inhabit a vulnerable and perishable material body, we are thus, consciously or unconsciously, prone to anxiety about its injury and loss. Due to attachment to non-permanent things and persons in this world we carry an innate fear of their loss at every moment. This is confirmed in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.2.37, wherein the Nava Yogendras instruct Maharaja Nimi, “bhayam dvitiyabhinivesatah – fear arises when a living entity misidentifies himself as the material body because of absorption in the external, illusory energy of the Lord”. Thus fear is our constant companion while inhabiting and identifying with a material body.

In some persons a fearful nature is apparent and in others it is hidden. Those who have a greater amount of material opulence and security in terms of wealth, education, social standing, family, friends, youth, health, etc., may exhibit less fear, covered by layers of these so-called securities. Those who have less fortunate karma, who experience ill health, poverty or antagonistic social and political environments, may demonstrate higher degrees of fear in their body, faces, speech and mind. In both cases though, fear is always lurking to undermine one’s happiness and wellbeing.

Is there fear in the spiritual world, in ‘Vaikuntha’?

The word ‘Vaikuntha’ literally means ‘beyond anxiety’. In that realm of the spiritual world it is assumed that there is no fear there. But it is not true. There is fear there but of a different nature. The Encarta Dictionary associates the word fear with ‘reverence’ and ‘respect or awe’ for somebody or something, and the ‘fear of God’. Whenever there is a sense of great respect and awe for a person who is far superior to us, fear is present.

Spiritual love in Vaikuntha, the lower stratum of the spiritual world, is characterized by ‘aisvarya-bhava’, or feelings tinged with awe and reverence due to knowledge of the Lord’s great opulence and the subsequent insignificance of the worshipper. Liberated souls in Vaikuntha worship the all-powerful Lord of Lords, Vishnu or Narayana, in a mood of adoration and respect. In such worship, fear inhibits the worshipper’s ability to fully express feelings of intimacy, thus creating a great ‘wall’ or division, between the Lord and the worshipper.

puri-dvaye, vaikunthadye—aisvarya-pravina……
aisvarya-jnana-pradhanye sankucita priti
CC Mad. 19.193-194

Attachment in which awe and reverence are prominent is found in the two cities Mathura and Dvaraka and in Vaikuntha. When opulence is very prominent, love of Godhead is somewhat crippled.

In the process of regulated devotional service or ‘vaidhi-bhakti’, the practitioner strictly follows the rules and regulations of sastra, based on fear that if they do not, they will incur sin. This spiritual practice along with its concomitant feature of awe and reverence, exhibits a type of fear that stays with the individual through their promotion to the spiritual planets in Vaikuntha. The attraction to the Lord is not based on natural or spontaneous love, but on a sense of duty and religiosity. This type of love cannot blossom to its fullest potential, but remains on a lower platform never entirely satisfying oneself or the Supreme Lord.

aisvarya-jnanete saba jagat misrita,
aisvarya-sithila-preme nahi mora prita
CC Adi 4.17-18

[Lord Krsna thought:] “The entire universe is filled with the conception of My majesty, but love weakened by that sense of majesty does not satisfy Me. If one regards Me as the Supreme Lord and himself as a subordinate, I do not become subservient to his love, nor can it control Me.”

Spiritual organizations that over emphasize this regulated devotional service and have rigid hierarchies of authoritarian figure heads; awe, reverence and fear dominate. Such oppressive climates are not conducive to the cultivation of the highest bhakti of spontaneous devotional service. Although vaidhi-bhakti, regulated devotional service, is necessary for sadhakas in this world, it is to be practiced with the aim of attaining the higher state of raganuga-bhakti, pure spontaneous devotion. In Vaisnava sangas that strive for raganuga-bhakti an atmosphere of a more natural flow of love and affection is apparent.

All relationships or ‘rasas’ found in the spiritual world, such as dasya, sakhya, vatsalya and madhurya, are also present in this material world but in a perverted form. For example, the relationship between a householder and their menial servant is on the level of reverence and duty, or dasya. The master and servant are not intimate. The servant renders reverential service out of duty and for a reward. The servant has some fear to do their duty and please the master or else their position may be lost.

Between friends (sakhya), a sense of playfulness arises due to a feeling of being ‘equals’. Friends freely share with each other their thoughts and feelings, and spend their leisure time together. Thus, a greater sense of trust and closeness with less fear is created between friends.

The relationship of a mother and father with their child (vatsalya) progresses further in intimacy through the moods of caring, nurturing and protecting. A strong bond of love is formed between a parent and child. The parent is dedicated to providing for their child, without expectation of reward. They form a natural affectionate bond for ‘their own flesh and blood’ that surpasses the intimacy of the two previous relationships, and a reduction of the fear factor.
Higher than all these relationships is the relationship between a husband and wife (madhurya), who make lifelong vows to love and support each other. Each one sacrifices much for the other, revealing their own deep emotions, sharing all their material belongings and even their own precious bodies. This surpasses all other relationships in terms of intimacy. But even this relationship is plagued with some kind of fear and insecurity. This is because all worldly relationships, regardless of how intimate they are, ultimately are temporary. If a relationship can endure the rigors of modern life and last for many years (which is rare nowadays), it is still lost at the time of death. Therefore an underlying sense of fear exists in all worldly relationships, eroding any security and happiness in them.
Spiritual relationships with God, Krsna, and things related to Him, like His holy names and His pure devotees are different. They can be free from mundane fear because they are eternal. They do not end with the death of the body, but continue life after life, eternally. If these relationships are approached with a mood of selfless pure devotion, they can provide lasting happiness and real shelter. It is therefore of paramount importance to understand what is pure devotion and spiritual love and where to repose our love and affection.

nehabhikrama-naso ‘sti, pratyavayo na vidyate
sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya, trayate mahato bhayat

In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.  Bhagavad Gītā 2.40
Material endeavors must be completed otherwise everything is lost, but even a small beginning on the path of devotional service can never be lost at any stage. Whatever percentage is complete in one life remains, and in the next life one resumes from where they left off. Spiritual advancement is an eternal asset. ‘To protect one from the most dangerous type of fear’ means to be saved at the time of death from being degraded to take birth in a lower species, like an animal. From the animal species it is very difficult, practically impossible, to make rapid spiritual advancement. All species, except humans, are predestined to evolve in the cycle of birth and death from one species to the next, without separate endeavor. Animals cannot create bad karma like human beings because they have no capacity to make autonomous decisions. They act out their lives strictly controlled by the laws of material nature. Their brain power, reasoning, and higher sentiments are not as developed as in humans; therefore they act impulsively according to the modes of material nature and are always engulfed in fear. After many millions of reincarnations, a soul evolves to a human birth, which affords them the opportunity to resume (or begin) the process of spiritual inquiry and practice. We are very fortunate to now be in this human form and able to make inquiries about how to achieve the ultimate goal of life, love of God.

Pure Love

To comprehend pure love let us examine it from 2 angles, ‘what it is not’, and ‘what it is’. First, pure love is opposite to love in this material world which is selfish and distraught with fear. What is known as love is actually lust, or the desire to satisfy one’s own senses or those of one’s extended self, girlfriend/boyfriend, husband/wife, family, friends and society. Even for a great philanthropist, their ‘giving’ and ‘love’ has its root in a kind of extended self-gratification of the ego, giving the donor a sense of self-importance and worth. It is for this purpose that famous persons sacrificed themselves for their country in war, for their families and friends or for social and political causes. This idea may appear harsh to those accustomed to appreciating mundane kindness and ‘love’. But if we carefully examine from a neutral point of view the subtle intentions as to why people do what they do we will find this to be true.

The ‘love’ found in this world has been romanticized by writers and poets in song, literature and cinema as the treasured object of life. Everyone has been programmed from early childhood to run after this mirage till the end of their life. No-one, however, has ever become fully satisfied by the attainment of worldly love. On the contrary, those who have achieved it become disappointed in time. They then go on to repeatedly seek newer and newer variations of it in hopes of contentment, but ultimately end in despair. Material love is pale and insignificant in comparison to real spiritual love. Those who have had the good fortune to associate with saintly Vaisnavas who imbibe real spiritual love can be familiar with it. They can speak about its authenticity with knowledge and realization. To know and experience real love we must turn to the great spiritual teachers and their writings, and associate with pure devotees who have it.

Pure love or spiritual love is called ‘Prema’. Prema is selfless, unmotivated love of God. At its root is pure devotion or uttama-bhakti. The ‘svarupa laksana’, intrinsic nature and primary definition of bhakti, is given by Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmi in his Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu 1.1.11 ‘anyabhilasita-sunyam jnana-karmady-anavrtam, anukulyena krsnanu-silanam bhaktir uttama’.

Pure Bhakti or uttama bhakti is the cultivation of all activities meant exclusively for the pleasure of Sri Krsna. It is the continuous flow of favorable devotional service to Sri Krsna performed through all endeavors of the body, mind, words, as well as spiritual emotions. Favorable service means that it is performed with the sole intention to make Sri Krsna happy and is devoid of any unfavorable moods. Such uttama-bhakti is free from any other selfish desires like karma (reward seeking activity), jñana (accumulation of knowledge for liberation) or yoga (acquiring mystic powers).

How is pure bhakti achieved? This eternally perfect pure devotion is situated in the heart of all living beings. In conditioned souls it is in a dormant or seed-like state. In order to ‘sprout’ this seed, a certain condition must be present. Just as fertile earth, water and sunshine are required for a plant to grow; the proper state of consciousness (developed through the accumulation of bhakti-sukriti), hearing the powerful spiritual messages from self-realized souls (hari-katha), and the Lord’s mercy are required for bhakti to develop.
The desire to serve the Lord (Krsna seva vasana) can only be inspired from persons who possess it. Such perfected beings are learned, self and god realized and detached from material enjoyment. They have become liberated by the process of sadhana-bhakti over many lifetimes, or they are eternal residents of the spiritual world, ‘nitya-siddhas’, who descend here for uplifting mankind. By approaching such sadhus, taking their shelter, serving them we will receive their mercy and bhakti will manifest in our hearts. Merely by our own efforts, no amount of learning, austerity, or pious activities can cause bhakti to awaken.

bhaktis tu bhagavad-bhakta-sangena parijayate,
sat sanga prapyate pumbhih sukraih purva-sancitaih
(Brhan Naradiya Purana 4.33)

Bhakti is awakened when one associates with bhaktas of Sri Bhagavan. Association with suddha-bhaktas is attained only by the accumulation of transcendental pious activities (bhakti-unmukhi sukriti, unknowingly associating with and rendering service to sadhus) performed over many lifetimes.

Moving from Fear to Love

The Sanskrit word for fear is ‘bhaya‘ and ‘abhaya’ means ‘without fear’. In Govinda Das Kaviraja’s famous song, he sings, “Bhajahu re mana sri-nanda-nandana, abhaya caranaravinda re – Oh mind; just worship Sri Krsna, the son of Nanda Maharaja, whose lotus feet are the abode of fearlessness”. That shelter first takes the form of sri-guru padasraya, or approaching a bona-fide spiritual master, taking shelter of him, taking initiation, serving him with love and following his instructions. From this practice, the tendency to love the Lord arises in the heart and one begins the bhakti process. Gradually through the association of saintly persons and performing the various limbs of bhakti, the practitioner becomes free from unwanted desires and habits and becomes firmly established in devotion. Thereafter, taste or relish in the chanting and hearing of the name, form, qualities and pastimes of the Lord arise, giving way to intense absorption and gradually genuine spiritual emotions. When these emotions intensify they manifest as pure love, or Prema. This is the gradual development of prema in the sadhaka.

The predominance of fear will be eradicated when bhakti manifests in our hearts, just as hunger is dissipated through the process of eating. On the other hand, if we keep the association of materialists, or spiritualists shackled by vaidhi-bhakti, fear will dominate our lives. Abandoning unfavorable association and taking the association of rasik vaisnavas (those who are relishing the mellows of devotion) or at least those strongly desiring pure bhakti, love and devotion will blossom in our hearts.

Love in Vrindavana

In Vrindavana, the highest abode of the spiritual world, where Radha-Krsna resides, love abounds to its fullest extent. There love is free from any inebriety that exists in this material world and even in the lower stratums of the spiritual world in Vaikuntha. In Vrindavana, no one knows Krsna as God, but only as their dear-most friend, darling son or intimate lover. Because of the intensity of their love, the Lord Himself becomes controlled by his loving servants. In affection, Krsna runs to greet His father carrying his slippers on his head. He takes his father’s cows out to graze in the forest with his cowherd boyfriends and play games with them all day. If he loses at a wrestling match, he will carry his friend on his own back. Playing like an ordinary boy, Krsna takes great pleasure in the ways of simple village life. In the middle of the night, he slips away from his parent’s house to sing and dance with his girlfriends in the beautiful moonlit forests along the bank of the Yamuna river. When his dearest paramour, Śrī Rādhā, becomes jealous or displeased with him in some way, he will desperately try to console her saying, “I promise never again to do anything to displease you or make you angry”. He will even bow his head down at her lotus feet and beg for forgiveness. Such subjugation of Himself makes Krsna extremely happy. He derives more pleasure by being subservient to his dear devotees than in receiving service from them.

mora putra, mora sakha, mora prana-pati, ei-bhave yei more kare suddha-bhakti
apanake bada mane, amare sama-hina, sei bhave ha-i ami tahara adhina

CC Adi 4.21-22
“If one cherishes pure loving devotion to Me, thinking of Me as his son, his friend or his beloved, regarding himself as great and considering Me his equal or inferior, I become subordinate to him.”

mata more putra-bhave karena bandhana, atihina-jnane kare lalana palana
akha suddha-sakhye kare, skandhe arohana, tumi kon bada loka,—tumi ami sama
priya yadi mana kari’ karaye bhartsana, veda-stuti haite hare sei mora mana

CC Adi 4.24-26
“Mother sometimes binds Me as her son. She nourishes and protects Me, thinking Me utterly helpless. My friends climb on My shoulders in pure friendship, saying, ‘What kind of big man are You? You and I are equal. If My beloved consort reproaches Me in a sulky mood, that steals My mind from the reverent hymns of the Vedas.”
Vrindavana is permeated with this kind of sweet love everywhere, in every direction. Every walk is a dance, and every word is a song. Even the trees, creepers and animals express love and affection for Krsna. The most insignificant dust on the ground is full of conscious loving sentiments and is more precious than the costliest gems. The land of Vrindavana is alive with moods of devotion everywhere. Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmi has written in his 8th sloka of Upadesamritam that the best place to live and do bhajan is in Vrindavana.

tan-nama-rupa-caritadi-sukirtananu-smrtyoh kramena rasana-manasi niyojya
tisthan vraje tad-anuragi jananugami, kalam nayed akhilam ity upadesa-saram

While living in Vraja, as a follower of the eternal residents of Vraja who possess inherent spontaneous love for Sri Krsna, one should utilize all of one’s time by sequentially engaging the tongue and the mind in meticulously chanting and remembering Krsna’s name, form, qualities and pastimes. This is the essence of all advice.
If we want to have this pure love, we will have to become a resident of Vrindavana, following in the footsteps of Sri Rupa and Ragunatha Goswamis. If we cannot live there physically, we can reside there mentally, taking the moods of the residents of Vrindavana and making them our moods in executing bhakti, wherever we reside.

Prema – the goal of life

Prema Purusottama, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, incarnated in this world to give the gift of pure love to everyone, regardless of their qualification, caste or creed. He accomplished this through the congregational chanting of the holy names, Harinama sankirtana, specifically the maha-mantra, Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
By sincere chanting under the guidance of a self-realized guru, a sadhaka will pass through the various stages of sadhana-bhakti and finally reach bhava-bhakti, the preliminary stage of love of Godhead. At this stage, sattvika bhavas or ecstatic symptoms will appear in the devotee’s body (hair standing on end, horripilation and tears in the eyes, etc.) and internally he will realize his eternal svarupa (spiritual form and service) and bhava (fixed spiritual emotion or sthayi-bhava). The heart will begin to melt on account of 3 intense desires, 1.) The desire to meet the Lord, 2.) The desire to serve Him in a special favorable way and 3.) The desire to have an intimate relationship with Him and make Him happy. Nine external symptoms will manifest such as: forgiveness or tolerance, concern not to waste time, detachment, absence of pride, hope, eagerness, taste for chanting the holy name, natural and increasing attachment for Hari-katha and affection for places of the Lord’s pastimes. These are called ‘anubhavas’ or actions which reveal that bhava has sprouted in the heart.
When these emotions intensify even more, the container of this material body becomes unsuitable for the pure spiritual love of prema. Such a fortunate soul gives up the material body and is awarded a transcendental body in the spiritual domain of Vrindavana or Navadvipa somewhere within the universe where the Lord’s pastimes are going on. There they live in the association of the Lord and His associates as they perform their pastimes, perfecting their own love through the progressive stages of prema. Prema condenses and crystallizes becoming sneha, maan, pranaya, raga, anuraga, bhava and finally mahabhava. One stage matures and develops into the next, each possessing its own individual characteristic and sweetness. Finally his/her love reaches the summit of its eternal platform where one eternally relishes love from that vantage point. After that life in the manifest pastimes of the Lord, prakat lila, the premi-bhakta will transcend to the spiritual world and enter into the unmanifest pastimes of the Lord, ‘aprakrta lila’, never to return to this world of birth and death.
Understanding these stages of prema in detail is beyond the scope of this paper as it deserves another entire study to give it justice. Those who aspire to understand prema-tattva more comprehensively may read Srila Rupa Goswami’s Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu and Ujjvala-nilamani under the tutelage of an advanced Vaisnava devotee. These topics have also been discussed concisely in Caitanya-caritamrta in the sections where Sri Caitanya instructs Srila Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis.
In conclusion, material love and spiritual love imbued with awe and reverence are crippled by fear. Only the pure love of the Vrajabasis controls fear. At times some fear may be present even in Vrindavana, but it appears momentarily only to nourish prema. Our highly esteemed goal of attaining the prema of the Vrajabasis may take lifetimes to attain, but is worth the endeavor however long it takes. It is said that ‘love is kind’ and ‘love is patient’. Therefore, may we be kind and patient with ourselves and others on this sublime path. Fear, control and manipulation have no scope on the path of bhakti. If these tendencies are observed in our self or others, bhakti is far away. Bhakti-devi, the personification of devotion, is a very sweet gentle young girl who inspires sweet and gentle moods in her followers. Those on the path of bhakti will imbibe these transcendental moods along with compassion, tolerance and friendliness to all living entities, whether plants, animals or human beings, and especially towards other Vaisnavas. Love is the universal language of true spirituality. Let there be love in our lives always
Acknowledgements to my spiritual master, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Goswami Maharaja, Srila Gour Govinda Swami, and AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada for their causeless mercy in exemplifying pure devotion and prema bhakti and giving an abundance of teachings on the subject. I also offer my respects to all the Vaisnavas who nourish and support our development in bhakti. Thanks to Syamarani dd and the BBT for the artwork used.


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