What is love?

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    shashank shastry

    In damadorashtakam, one of the stanzas talks about prema-bhakti.

    please give to me Your own prema-bhakti I only long for this and have no desire for any kind of liberation

    In this world everyone seeks one or more of the six qualities knowledge, beauty, wealth, power, fame, renunciation. Ultimately aren’t we seeking all these for love? What is love?

    Ashish Dalela

    Your seeking those six qualities is for the purpose that someone will love you. This prayer talks about getting the Bhakti of the Lord and rejects Mukti or liberation. Most people are going to God to ask for one of the six qualities. Someone says: “O Lord, may I pass my exam?” Someone says: “O Lord, may my marriage be settled quickly?” In this way, they ask for many things. Then there is a type of seeker who says: “O Lord, I’m tired of this world, please take me out of it”. Finally, there is a type of seeker who says: “I don’t mind staying here, whether in poverty or prosperity if that pleases you”.

    The same point is made by Lord Chaitanya as follows:

    na dhanaṁ na janaṁ na sundarīṁ
    kavitāṁ vā jagad-īśa kāmaye
    mama janmani janmanīśvare
    bhavatād bhaktir ahaitukī tvayi

    The first line pertains to three things, namely, money, illustrious birth, and beautiful women. These are ordinary materialistic desires. They are rejected. The second line pertains to liberation and the desire for the “master of the material world”, which is generally identified as Lord Narayana and is the abode attained by the liberated souls. This is also rejected. The third line talks about repeated birth, which means staying in this world. And the fourth line talks about unmotivated devotion to the Lord while undergoing repeated birth and death in this world. This final stage is accepted.

    The advanced devotees have developed so much happiness out of devotion that they don’t mind the miserable life of this world. They don’t want liberation. And they also don’t care about material enjoyment because they have so much happiness out of devotion. So, they have rejected both material enjoyment (pravritti) and material renunciation (nivritti). They are not interested in going to Vaikuntha where there are very nice people, and they won’t have to face any miseries. They are happy, if the Lord so desires, to stay in this world and just do whatever the Lord wants them to do.

    Gaudiya Vaishnavism was presented by Lord Chaitanya specifically for this highest stage of devotion. Before that, in every other Vaishnavism, there is devotion to Lord Narayana, and there is an expectation of Mukti or liberation. That means when you die, you go to the Lord’s abode. This desire for liberation is also considered selfish by the devotees. But it is a very advanced stage.

    Gaudiya Vaishnavism is the answer to a question that some people might ask: “You are also trying for your liberation, so you are also selfish. How can you say that you are unselfish?” Bhakti is the answer to that question. Of course, nowadays, nobody has the brainpower to ask such a question. I have not heard this question in the last 20 years at least. But I heard this question occasionally about 35 years ago. Centuries ago, this question was very prominent. So, Bhakti is the answer to such questions. 

    These nuances are not so important for beginners. Hence, the distinction between Bhakti and Mukti is also not important. But if someone asks about the central difference between Gaudiya Vaishnavism and other schools of Vaishnavism, then the answer is the Bhakti vs. Mukti distinction.

    In other schools, Mukti is the goal, and Bhakti is the method. But in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Mukti is rejected as a goal, and Bhakti is emphasized. This means that Bhakti is both the goal and the method. So, all schools of Vaishnavism are similar in the sense that Bhakti is the method. But Gaudiya Vaishnavism is unique in saying that the method is the goal, and there is no other goal.

    This is only for the advanced stage. In the preliminary stage, it doesn’t matter because we are just doing the method and the goal is very far. But when one comes near the goal of Mukti, then this question becomes important. At that point, rejecting Mukti leads to the higher goal of Bhakti.

    These two are qualitatively different. The happiness of Bhakti is considered infinitely greater than that of Mukti. But ordinary people cannot understand that. So, we just talk about the method, and if someone comes close to Mukti then there is a discussion about the difference between the two.

    shashank shastry

    Thank you Prabhuji.

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