What is Bhajan?

Śrīla Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj explains the necessity of subservience to Guru–Vaiṣṇava.

An editorial
translated from the original Bengali text
published in Śrī Gauḍīya Darśan,
Volume 5, Issue 11, Friday, 10 June 1960.

What is bhajan? The service of that which is to be served (bhajanīya-tattva). Even if the conception of ‘that which is to be served’ finds a place in the hearts of men in many different forms, still the revelation of the form of ‘that which is to be served’ in the pure, clean heart is the Lord Himself. The Lord’s fundamental, original form is Nanda Nandan Kṛṣṇa, the Akhila-rasāmṛta-mūrti [the embodiment of the nectar of all rasas] celebrated by the highest section of liberated souls.

īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sach-chid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ
anādir ādir govindaḥ sarva-kāraṇa-kāraṇam
(Śrī Brahma-saṁhitā: 5.1)
[“The embodiment of spiritual energy, consciousness, and ecstasy, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Lord of all Lords. He has no origin, He is the origin of all, and He is the cause of all causes.”]

This is the conclusion of the Vedas, Vedānta, Gītopaniṣad, and other scriptures. Thus, that which is to be served is none other than Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Power Himself accompanied by His Power (Saśakti-śaktimān). Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s service cannot be performed by a soul with mundane ego. Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmīpād has said,

ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ
sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ
(Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu: Pūrva-vibhāga, 2.234)
[“Although Kṛṣṇa’s Name, Form, Qualities, and Pastimes cannot be grasped by the material senses, they manifest themselves on the tongue and to the other senses according to one’s service attitude.”]

We can understand from this verse also that Kṛṣṇa’s Name, Form, Qualities, Pastimes, associates, and identity are all supramundane. He only bestows His mercy and reveals Himself to the senses of the soul who is qualified and devoted to His service.

Śrī Gaurasundar also said, “Aprākṛta vastu nahe prākṛta gochara: supramundane existence is not mater­i­ally perceptible.” A genuine servant of Kṛṣṇa is also supramundane. Furthermore,

dīksā-kāle bhakta kare ātma-samarpaṇa
sei-kāle kṛṣṇa tāre kare ātma-sama
sei deha kare tāra chid-ānandamaya
aprākṛta-dehe tā̐ra charaṇa bhajaya
(Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta, Antya-līlā, 4.192–193)
[“At the time of initiation a devotee surrenders himself, and Kṛṣṇa accepts him. Kṛṣṇa makes the devotee’s body spiritual and joyful, and in that supramundane body the devotee serves Kṛṣṇa’s feet.”]

In truth, a devotee dedicated to Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s service resides in the supramundane realm and serves Kṛṣṇa with a supramundane body. A soul’s pride in considering Kṛṣṇa’s service mundane is nothing more than self-deception.

Here there is a question. “Māyā-baddha jīvera nāhi Kṛṣṇa-smṛti jñāna: souls bound by māyā have no consciousness of Kṛṣṇa.” So how is it possible for souls to attain such fortune?

Answer: The solution to this problem is the appearance of sādhu, guru, and scripture.

Question: But how will the soul attain them?

Answer: Only by subservience (ānugatya). Yes, subservience is the only way to attain Kṛṣṇa’s service. The inclination to serve Kṛṣṇa will arise in the heart as a result of subservience to a devotee engaged in supramundane service.

The sādhus and scriptures disparage the soul’s  freedom in all respects and teach that submission to the Lord is the sole path to be followed. A relationship with the Lord Himself is possible only through the sādhus’ association (satāṁ prasaṅgād). The life of the Vaiṣṇava sādhus is subservience. The activities of their senses are engaged in Kṛṣṇa’s service twenty-four hours a day.

Tulasīdās wrote,

santa baḍe paramārthī, śītala unki āṁ
tapana budhāyata āurake dharāyata āpanā raṁ

Thus, as soon as one can make one’s mind and activities like the minds and activities of the sādhus, which are fully established in the soul’s dharma—the dharma of Kṛṣṇa’s service, so soon one will become fulfilled.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa is served by His supramundane servitors through undeviating devotional practice (avyabhichārī bhakti-yoga). Moreover, without subservience to a genuine devotee of Kṛṣṇa, devotion cannot become undeviating (avyabhichārī). Thus, “Lava-mātra sādhu-saṅge sarva-siddhi haya: all perfection is realised within a moment of association with sādhus.” This principle is an eternal truth. In the prayers to our two wish-fulfilling Āchāryas we see:

govindābhidham indirāśrita-padaṁ hastastha-ratnādivat
tattvaṁ tattvavid-uttamau kṣiti-tale yau darśayāñ chakratu
[“Śrī Rūpa and Śrī Sanātan, the highest knowers of the Truth, show Govinda, at whose feet Lakṣmī Devī (wealth itself) is sheltered, to the world as though He is a jewel in their hands.”]

Thus, remaining inattentive or inactive in this regard [in taking shelter of the Vaiṣṇava] is the soul’s one and only misfortune. Kim adhikam iti: what need I say more?


satāṁ prasaṅgān mama vīrya-saṁvido
bhavanti hṛt-karṇa-rasāyanāḥ kathāḥ
taj-joṣaṇād āśv apavarga-vartmani
śraddhā ratir bhaktir anukramiṣyati
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 3.25.25)
[The Lord says:] “By associating with sādhus, discussions which reveal My glory become pleasing to the ear and heart. By relishing them, faith, attachment, and devotion to Me—the path to liberation—quickly develop.”
māñ cha yo ’vyabhichāreṇa bhakti-yogena sevate
sa guṇān samatītyaitān brahma-bhūyāya kalpate
(Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā: 14.26)

One who, without deviation, serves Me exclusively with devotion, transcends the modes of material nature and becomes fit for spiritual perfection.”

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