CULTIVATING FEELINGS OF SEPARATION
By isana dasa
In the 34th chapter of the Krishna Book, entitled The Gopis Feelings of Separation, Srila Prabhupada writes:
When Kṛṣṇa went to the forest with His cowherd boyfriends and cows, the gopīs did not physically take part, but their hearts went with Him. And because their hearts went, they were able to enjoy His company through strong feelings of separation.
This is Srila Prabhupada’s transcendental poetry. The gopis did not physically take part. They could not walk to the forest along with Krishna and His cowherd boyfriends; but their hearts went with Him. This is a lovely image. As Krishna and His friends walked into the forest, the hearts of the gopis moved with Krishna, side by side. And in this way, they were able to enjoy His company through strong feelings of separation.
This is easy for us to understand. Because the hearts of the gopis were overwhelmed with feelings of love for Krishna, wherever Krishna went, their hearts followed Him. But transcendental separation is not like separation in the material world. Srila Prabhupada explains:
….. because their hearts went, they were able to enjoy His company through strong feelings of separation.
This is wonderful for us to contemplate. Loving feelings of separation from Krishna, are not different from direct association with Krishna. Loving feelings of separation from Krishna cause the devotee to feel the ecstasy of Krishna’s presence. Therefore, Srila Prabhupada describes the transcendental paradox:
they were able to enjoy His company through strong feelings of separation.
But then Srila Prabhupada gives us a direct instruction:
To acquire this strong feeling of separation is the teaching of Lord Caitanya and His direct disciplic succession of Gosvāmīs. When we are not in physical contact with Kṛṣṇa, we can associate with Him like the gopīs, through feelings of separation.
Then Srila Prabhupada gives us more specific instruction:
There are nine different kinds of devotional service. Devotional service to Kṛṣṇa in feelings of separation elevates the devotee to the highest perfectional level, to the level of the gopīs.
In other words, Srila Prabhupada states, that these feelings of separation from Krishna are to be cultivated through our sadhana practices, our prescribed forms of devotional service.
On this same page, Srila Prabhupada writes that when the Six Goswamis lived like mendicants in Vrindavan:
they were so much enriched with the gopīs’ feelings of separation that they enjoyed transcendental pleasure at every moment.
Similarly, when Lord Caitanya was at Jagannātha Purī, He was in the role of Rādhārāṇī, feeling the separation of Kṛṣṇa.
Srila Prabhupada’s next sentence may come as a surprise to some of us; even as a jolt:
Those who are in the disciplic succession of the Mādhva-Gauḍīya-sampradāya should also feel the separation of Kṛṣṇa…….
Those who are in the disciplic succession: Srila Prabhupada is talking about us! Not only that we can have those feelings, but that we should.
Surely, we cannot pretend to have such feelings! But there is a process. Krishna consciousness is a science. Therefore, in the very next sentence Srila Prabhupada proceeds to explain that process:
The spiritual masters should enrich the devotees to the highest devotional perfection.
We are to become enriched by Srila Prabhupada, our spiritual master, with the devotional feelings of Krishna consciousness. How this enrichment process occurs is described by Srila Prabhupada in his purport to SB 1.5.25. The very first sentence of that purport reads as follows:
Pure devotion is as much infectious, in a good sense, as infectious diseases.
By associating with someone who carries an infectious disease, we also can become infected. Something within the infected person has to enter into us, so that we also become infected.
Srila Prabhupada goes on to explain:
The bhakti-vedāntas as above mentioned were pure devotees, and the boy (Narada Muni) became infected with their qualities of purity by their association……..
This is significant! If we are to become infected with pure devotion, it is mandatory that our spiritual master is a pure devotee, a mahabhagavata. Then, and only then, can we become infected in a good sense.This is a common-sense understanding. If the acquisition of pure devotion is a process of infectious transmission, we can only catch it from a pure devotee, one who indeed carries this very infection, one who has received this infection through the chain of disciplic succession coming down to us from Lord Caitanya.
In the 34th chapter of Krishna Book, Srila Prabhupada encourages us that we should cultivate devotional feelings of separation from Krishna. Therein he explains how those devotional feelings are acquired by us:
The spiritual masters should enrich the devotees to the highest devotional perfection.
And here again in his purport to SB 1.5.25, Srila Prabhupada uses this very word again. Enrich:
….. by the association of pure devotees all …. obstacles are removed. The neophyte devotee becomes practically enriched with the transcendental qualities of the pure devotee, which means attraction for the Personality of Godhead’s name, fame, quality, pastimes, etc.
In this same purport (wherein Srila Prabhupada explains that we are to become infected with his devotional feelings, and that he will enrich us in this way) he explains more intricately how this transmission takes place:
Infection of the qualities of the pure devotee means to imbibe the taste of pure devotion always in the transcendental activities of the Personality of Godhead.
Every morning, as disciples of Srila Prabhupada, in our guru puja ceremony we recite:
From him Krishna prema emanates; by him ignorance is destroyed.
As sunlight emanates from the sun globe, Krishna prema emanates from His Divine Grace. And our job, as students is to imbibe the taste of pure devotion. And as we do so, our ignorance is destroyed.Continuing his purport, Srila Prabhupada writes:
This transcendental taste (when imbibed) at once makes all material things distasteful.
Now the way forward becomes open, cleared of obstruction. Srila Prabhupada lays out the progressive steps in summarizing this SB purport:
After the elimination of all sins or obstacles on the path of devotional service, one can become attracted, one can have steadiness, one can have perfect taste, one can have transcendental emotions, and at last one can be situated on the plane of loving service of the Lord. All these stages develop by the association of pure devotees, and that is the purport of this stanza.
Returning to our consideration of Krishna Book, Chapter 34, we can consider those instructions in the light of imbibing the taste of devotion which emanates from our spiritual master:
To acquire this strong feeling of separation is the teaching of Lord Caitanya and His direct disciplic succession of Gosvāmīs. When we are not in physical contact with Kṛṣṇa, we can associate with Him like the gopīs, through feelings of separation…….. The spiritual masters should enrich the devotees to the highest devotional perfection………… There are nine different kinds of devotional service. Devotional service to Kṛṣṇa in feelings of separation elevates the devotee to the highest perfectional level……..
Attempting to paraphrase the above in the most simple language: Srila Prabhupada encourages us to cultivate feelings of separation from Krishna. We can do this by imbibing the taste of pure devotion that emanates from His Divine Grace. Being enriched in this way, by his mercy, we can proceed to cultivate those feelings through our own sadhana. The practice of imbibing and cultivating are inseparable. By feeling his divine presence within our hearts, we become enriched with the ability to cultivate the devotional feelings that we imbibe from him. Therefore, all of our sadhana is to be done always in the heartfelt association of the pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada.
Therefore, Srila Prabhupada declares:
As far as possible,
the chanting should be heard
from the lips of a pure devotee of the Lord
so that immediate benefit can be achieved
And what is that immediate benefit?
Communion with the Lord by transmission of the transcendental sound is nondifferent from the whole spirit Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. It is a completely perfect method for approaching the Lord……. There is no bar for chanting this transcendental sound by anyone, provided it is received through Nārada’s representative, coming down by the chain of disciplic succession, or the paramparā system. (SB 1.5.39 purport excerpt)
The transcendental form of eternal bliss and knowledge can be experienced by our original spiritual senses, which can be revived by chanting of the holy mantras, or transcendental sound representations. Such sound should be received from the transparent agency of the bona fide spiritual master, and the chanting may be practiced by the direction of the spiritual master. That will gradually lead us nearer to the Lord. (SB 1.5.38 purport excerpt)
Again, to paraphrase: It is imperative that we receive the transcendental sound vibration of the holy name from the pure devotee in disciplic succession. He is called the transparent agent, because by chanting under his direction (after imbibing the taste of his devotion) the Supreme Lord can be seen by our awakened spiritual senses. In other words, by the adoption and cultivation of his devotion, through the medium of our sadhana, we can come to see the face of the Lord through the lens of our spiritual masters’ heart. This is a most simple process. And yet, in order to put the subject forward in a manner that dispels any possible suspicions or doubts, we have tried to base our presentation on the words of instruction of our spiritual master. Our personal experience shows us that the greatest challenge in the application of these teachings lies in the ability to open the heart to Srila Prabhupada, in a spirit of faith and love, thereby enhancing the capacity for receptivity and application. However, we feel confident that even if one cannot immediately implement this depth of practice, simply by conceptually understanding, and contemplating, aspiring, and praying for guidance, all support and devotional strength will be received by the mercy