The Nitya-siddha and Sādhana-siddha Devotees

By: Bhava Dasa on November 2019

In the previous edition we introduced the various categories of dharma, the transmigration of the living entities, the five levels of consciousness, and the sādhya-sādhana of daivī-varṇāśrama. The intention was to show the eternal living entity’s inescapable entanglement in material energy and the Lord’s divine system of permanent liberation from it.

In this edition, we explain the ten meanings for the word bhakti, the three stages of the appearance of bhakti, and the nine forms of prema in relation to the five primary rasas (mellows of loving exchange). The purpose is to define, in more depth, the sādhya-sādhana (the process and goal) of daivī-varṇāśrama.

Such detailed information of bhakti-tattva-jñāna (transcendental knowledge in devotional service) may seem somewhat technical, but by developing a deeper understanding of these essential truths of bhakti, we can further appreciate and relish the esoteric pastimes of the liberated devotees with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Regarding the liberated devotees, there are two main categories, namely, the nitya-siddhas and the sādhana-siddhas. The nitya-siddha devotees are eternal residents of Vaikuṇṭha who descend to this material world to assist the Lord in His various transcendental pastimes and show by their example the different mellows of loving devotional service. The sādhana-siddha devotees are those who fell from Vaikuṇṭha and became materially conditioned, but who have since become liberated by following in the footsteps of the nitya-siddhas. When the Lord and His liberated devotees return to Vaikuṇṭha, they leave behind transcendental literatures like the Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, which give instructions on how to advance on the path of devotional service and provide various accounts of the Lords eternal pastimes with His pure devotees.

"Without hearing such literatures, one cannot make actual progress. And without hearing and following the instructions, the show of devotional service becomes worthless and therefore, a sort of disturbance on the path of devotional service. Therefore, devotional service is established on the principles of śruti, smṛti, purāṇa, and pañcarātra authorities. The make-show of devotional service should at once be rejected" (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.2.12, Purport – Śrīla Prabhupāda )

The Ten Meanings for the Word “Bhakti”

’bhakti’-śabdera artha haya daśa-vidhākāra

eka—‘sādhana’, ‘prema-bhakti’—nava prakāra

“There are ten meanings for the word ‘bhakti’ [devotional service]. One is sādhana-bhakti, execution of devotional service according to the regulative principles, and the other nine are varieties of prema-bhakti, ecstatic love of Godhead. [Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 24.30]

Sādhana-bhakti is a combination of two processes, namely, pāñcarātrika-vidhi (rules and regulations for Archan and temple worship), and bhāgavata-vidhi (beginning with śravaṇaṁ (hearing) and kīrtanaṁ (chanting)). The two processes—pāñcarātrika-vidhi and bhāgavata-vidhi—are compared to the parallel rails of a train’s track, which guide and support steady progression forward.

Regarding these two processes, Śrīla Prabhupāda states:

Lord Nārāyaṇa is worshipable by the pāñcarātrika-vidhi, or regulative principles, whereas Lord Kṛṣṇa is worshipable by the bhāgavata-vidhi. No one can worship the Lord in the bhāgavata-vidhi without going through the regulations of the pāñcarātrika-vidhi. Actually, neophyte devotees worship the Lord according to the pāñcarātrika-vidhi, or the regulative principles enjoined in the Nārada Pañcarātra. Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa cannot be approached by the neophyte devotees; therefore temple worship according to regulative principles is offered to Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa. Although there may be a Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa vigraha, or form, the worship of the neophyte devotees is acceptable as Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa worship. Worship according to the pāñcarātrika-vidhi is called vidhi-mārga, and worship according to the bhāgavata-vidhi principles is called rāga-mārga. The principles of rāga-mārga are especially meant for devotees who are elevated to the Vṛndāvana platform. [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 4.24.45-46, Purport – Śrīla Prabhupāda]

ei ta sādhana-bhakti—dui ta’ prakāra

eka ‘vaidhī bhakti’, ‘rāgānugā-bhakti’ āra

“There are two processes of practical devotional service. One is regulative devotional service, and the other is spontaneous devotional service.” [Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 22.108]

Sādhana-bhakti combines both vaidhī-bhakti and rāgānugā-bhakti; together, they cure our spiritually diseased condition. They include specific rules and regulations prescribed by the Vaiṣṇava guru and bhakti-śāstra (devotional literature) to bring us back to our original spiritually healthy condition of sat-cit-ānanda (eternity, knowledge, and bliss).

The disciples of His Divine Grace Śrīla Prabhupāda—both dīkṣā and śikṣā—are instructed to daily chant a minimum of 16 rounds of japa (soft chanting of the mahā-mantra[i] on “japa beads[ii]”) and follow the “four regulative principles” (i.e., no illicit sex, no meat-eating, no intoxication, and no gambling). A newcomer to bhakti may consider these principles too difficult and restrictive, but those who are advancing on the path of realizing bhakti-tattva (the truth of devotional service[iii]), accept them as the “regulative principles of freedom.” In the beginning, we can start with a few rounds of japa—maintain them—and then gradually increase to 16 or more.

The main principle here, as stated in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.1.11), is that “One should accept everything which is favorable for the devotional service of Lord Kṛṣṇa and reject whatever is unfavorable.”

“The process of devotional service—beginning with chanting and hearing—is called sādhana-bhakti. This includes the regulative principles that are intended to awaken one to devotional service.” [Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 19.177, Purport – Śrīla Prabhupāda]

By adhering to these principles, simple faith in the instructions of the guru develops, the heart becomes cleansed of material desires, firm faith in guru and śāstra is established, transcendental taste in devotional service is realized, and one becomes undeviatingly attached to devotional association and service. Subsequently, transcendental emotions for the Lord and His pure devotees begin to surface, and finally, the symptoms of pure unadulterated loving devotion (prema-bhakti) manifest.

Sādhana-bhakti is the process—prema-bhakti is the goal.

As discussed earlier, this is the sādhya-sādhana of daivī-varṇāśrama. This condition of spiritual consciousness is also known as the jaiva-dharma (intrinsic nature) of the jīva. As a result of following the process of sādhana-bhakti, the realization of one’s eternal constitution nature is awakened, and the sādhaka (a suitable candidate for liberation) returns to the blissful position of an eternal servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as stated by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu:

jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya—kṛṣṇera ‘nitya-dāsa’

"Every living entity is constitutionally a servant of Kṛṣṇa." [Cc. Madhya 20.108]

The Appearance of Prema Bhakti

“Bhakti may be considered in three stages, called guṇī-bhūta, pradhānī-bhūta, and kevala, and according to these stages there are three divisions, which are called jñāna, jñānamayī, and rati, or premā—that is, simple knowledge, love mixed with knowledge, and pure love.” [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.3.31, Purport – Śrīla Prabhupāda].

Here Śrīla Prabhupāda is referring to the semblance and appearance of bhakti. The stage of guṇī-bhūta is referred to as guṇī-bhūta-bhakti or jñāna (simple knowledge—lacking understanding of the opulence of the Absolute—the stage of the brahmavādīs[iv]). The stage of pradhānī-bhūta is called jñāna-miśra-bhakti or jñānamayī (bhakti mixed with knowledge of the opulence of Bhagavān). And the stage of kevala is called kevala-bhakti (or prema-bhakti, in which rati now makes its appearance). In future editions, we will discuss the stages of guṇī-bhūta and pradhānī-bhūta, but for now, our focus is on the nine meanings of prema-bhakti (unalloyed love).

Regarding the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His kevala-bhaktas, it is stated: 

īśvarera svabhāva—kevala bhakta-vaśa

viśeṣe prabhura mukhe śunite e yaśa

“It is the natural characteristic of the Supreme Lord to remain controlled by His devotees. The Lord takes special pleasure in glorifying His devotees.” [Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata, Madhya-khaṇḍa 5.125 – Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura]

Additionally, in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, it is stated:

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said to the brāhmaṇa, ‘I am completely under the control of My devotees. Indeed, I am not at all independent. Because My devotees are completely devoid of material desires, I sit only within the cores of their hearts. What to speak of My devotee, even those who are devotees of My devotee are very dear to Me. As chaste women bring their gentle husbands under control by service, the pure devotees, who are equal to everyone and completely attached to Me in the core of the heart, bring Me under their full control.’” [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 9.4.63: “Ambarīṣa Mahārāja Offended by Durvāsā Muni”]

An example of the Supreme Lord being controlled by the love of His pure devotee is found in His childhood pastime as Dāmodara (dāma means "ropes,” and udara means "the abdomen"[v]). Yaśodā-mātā (His mother) attempted to tie Him with a rope to the household grinding mortar to curtail His naughty behavior. But while trying to tie the rope around His waist, she discovered it was too short by the width of two fingers—though initially, it was long enough. Nevertheless, she added another length of rope and again found it too short! After trying a number of times, she became tired. Seeing His mother in this condition, the compassionate Lord allowed Himself to be controlled and bound by the pure desire of His loving mother.

There are numerous other examples of the Lord’s submissive display toward His perfect devotees, such as His assuming the role of Arjuna’s chariot driver, Pārtha-sārathi, on the battlefield of Kurukṣetra.

The Supreme Lord appears in different incarnations to reciprocate the pure devotional service and unadulterated love of the Nitya-siddha-bhaktas (eternally perfect devotees). With the sādhana-bhaktas (those preparing for perfection), He agrees to appear in His Deity form (referred to as the arcā-mūrti, arcā-vigraha, arcā-avatāra, and arcā incarnation, etc.) and accepts our service.

In the form of the Deity, He accepts our earnest attempts of service. Gradually, the deity enters our thoughts throughout the day and our dreams at night. Eventually, when a devotee is free of all material contamination and completely absorbed in pure loving devotional service, the Lord may choose to come out of His Deity form and speak face-to-face. But it is quite a distance from here to there!

For now, He encourages us as Paramātmā (the Lord in the heart) through “little miracles,” hinting at His presence, arrangements, and desires. In this way, the devotee gradually gains deeper faith in the process and pushes forward.

Prema-bhakti and the Primary Five Rasas

Returning to the phrase “prema-bhakti”, its nine meanings are listed as: rati (attraction), prema (love), sneha (affection), māna (adverse feelings), praṇaya (intimacy), rāga (attachment), anurāga (sub-attachment), bhāva (ecstatic love) and mahābhāva (sublime ecstatic love); additionally, its five primary forms of relationships are: śānta (neutrality), dāsya (servitorship), sakhya (fraternity), vātsalya (parenthood), and mādhurya (conjugal love).

The transcendental devotional relationships and their corresponding forms of prema are explained in the following verses spoken by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu to Sanātana Gosvāmī:

“The attraction to Kṛṣṇa of devotees on the platform of neutrality increases up to love of Godhead [prema], and the attraction of devotees on the platform of servitorship increases to spontaneous attachment [rāga]. “Devotees in Vṛndāvana who are friends of the Lord can increase their ecstatic love to the point of anurāga. Parental affectionate lovers, Kṛṣṇa’s father and mother, can increase their love of Godhead up to the end of anurāga. “The gopīs of Vṛndāvana who are attached to Kṛṣṇa in conjugal love can increase their ecstatic love up to the point of mahābhāva, the greatest ecstatic love. These are some of the glorious meanings of the word ‘bhakti.’” [Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 24.32-34: “The Sixty-One Explanations of the Ātmārāma Verse”]

Quick summary of the above statement:

  1. Śānta-rasa (neutrality) increases up to spontaneous attachment (prema)
  2. Dāsya-rasa (servitorship) increases to spontaneous devotion (rāga)
  3. Sakhya-rasa (fraternity) in Vṛndāvana can increase to the point of sub-attachment (anurāga)
  4. Vātsalya-rasa (parenthood) can increase up to the end of sub-attachment (anurāga)
  5. Mādhurya-rasa (conjugal love) the love of the gopīs of Vṛndāvana, can increase up to the point of sublime ecstatic love (mahābhāva)

Only Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī embodies the limits of mahābhāva; therefore, She is referred to as mahābhāva-svarūpa[vi] (the personification of mahābhāva).

Regarding mahābhāva, Śrīla Prabhupāda states:

“The unadulterated action of the hlādinī-śakti is displayed in the dealings of the damsels of Vraja and Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, who is the topmost participant in that transcendental group. The essence of the hlādinī-śakti is love of Godhead, the essence of love of Godhead is bhāva, or transcendental sentiment, and the highest pitch of that bhāva is called mahābhāva. Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is the personified embodiment of these three aspects of transcendental consciousness. She is therefore the highest principle in love of Godhead and is the supreme lovable object of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.” [Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 4.69: The Confidential Reasons for the Appearance of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Purport – Śrīla Prabhupāda]

In terms of the different forms of rasa, it should be noted that each category of rasa contains within it, all previous forms of prema (and rasa).

Devotees in these five primary rasas are further defined by Śrīla Prabhupāda in the Upadeśāmṛta as follows:

“Rāgānuga-bhakti, or spontaneous devotional service, can be executed in the śānta-rasa when one aspires to be like Kṛṣṇa's cows or the stick or flute in the hand of Kṛṣṇa, or the flowers around Kṛṣṇa's neck. In the dāsya-rasa one follows in the footsteps of servants like Citraka, Patraka or Raktaka. In the friendly sakhya-rasa one can become a friend like Baladeva, Śrīdāmā or Sudāmā. In the vātsalya-rasa, characterized by parental affection, one can become like Nanda Mahārāja and Yaśodā, and in the mādhurya-rasa, characterized by conjugal love, one can become like Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī or Her lady friends such as Lalitā and Her serving maids (mañjarīs) like Rūpa and Rati. This is the essence of all instruction in the matter of devotional service." [The Nectar of Instruction, "Upadeśāmṛta,” verse 8, Purport]

Regarding gopī-prema, only from their hearts does such love appear. This level of emotion is not to be prematurely or artificially displayed, as in the case of the prākṛta-sahajiyās—the unscrupulous imitators of prema-rasa (transcendental mellows of love).

Saṅkīrtana-yajña—The Yuga-dharma

āpani karimu bhakta-bhāva aṅgikāre āpani ācari’ bhakti śikhāimu sabāre

āpane nā kaile dharma śikhāna nā yāya ei ta’ siddhānta gītā-bhāgavata gāya

“I shall accept the role of a devotee, and I shall teach devotional service by practicing it Myself.” [Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 3.20]

[Continued in Vol.1.3]


[i] Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare 

[ii] 108 beads (usually made from the branches of a tulasī plant) strung on a thick thread

[iii] Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 25.265: “How All the Residents of Vārāṇasī Became Vaiṣṇavas”

[iv] Those who wish to enter into the brahma-jyotir (the bodily effulgence of the Lord)

[v] The Nectar of Devotion (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu), chapter four: “Devotional Service Surpasses All Liberation”

[vi] Teachings of Lord Caitanya, 31: “The Supreme Perfection”



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