Monday Morning Greetings #2018 #50 – Which Religion is Best? Part II: Back By Popular Demand

December 10th, 2018

Several people wrote to me disappointed that in my article “Which Religion is Best” I chose not to continue the dialogue between Śrī Caitanya and Rāmānanda Rāya to its ultimate conclusion. I cited constraints of time (article deadline) and space (article length) as the reason. But it was more than that.


The original question asked by Śrī Caitanya to Rāmānanda Rāya was meant to ascertain the verse in the scriptures that represents the highest attainment. After a long dialectic between them where Caitanya initially expresses less than complete satisfaction with the references cited, Rāmānanda eventually progresses to a verse describing mādhurya-rasa, conjugal love of God.  Although Śrī Caitanya finally seemed satisfied and even deems the verse the limit of perfection (sādhyāvadhi suniścaya), He still unexpectedly requests Rāmānanda to speak something more. Rāmānanda’s reaction was telling: “Until this day I did not know anyone within this material world who could inquire beyond this perfectional stage of devotional service.”


Beyond the perfectional stage of devotional service!? That’s when I thought that even if there were no other restraints, there was no need to continue analyzing this dialogue to its conclusion. I reasoned that just as a very young child is not mature enough to understand a romance movie, we similarly lack the experience of bhāva, advanced devotion, to maturely understand subjects stretching to the intimate dealings of Radha and Krishna. For this reason these sections were only read, but not discussed publicly in the Gauḍīya Maṭha under Śrīla Bhaktisiddhanta’s order.[1]


It’s already Thursday and too late to start a new article. What to do? I thought of a solution to reconcile the necessity to continue and my reluctance to do so. I will just be very careful in my presentation to honor the sanctity of the subject. After all, Śrīla Prabhupāda did carefully comment on these subjects in the Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta. I will therefore carefully summarize the remaining levels of this discussion so that we can at least have a theoretical understanding of the subject. I will do this by following the same formula I used to analyze the first five levels:

  1. Paraphrase of the verse Rāmānanda Rāya cited to answer Śrī Caitanya’s question
  2. Explanation of why the verse was cited
  3. Quote of Śrī Caitanya’s response to the verse cited
  4. Explanation of Śrī Caitanya’s response

I should mention here that the only difference between the levels of attainment I described before and the summary of the remaining levels is that now Rāmānanda Rāya often quotes several references for each level of attainment instead of just one.


Level 6: Prema-bhakti: Ecstatic love of Godhead.

  1. “When devotional service is executed with an intense greed or thirst for devotion transcendental bliss or pure love for God awakens in the heart of a devotee.” (Padyāvalī 13-14, paraphrased)
  2. One can practice pure devotional service (jñāna-śūnyā bhakti) when one is fixed in devotion, but until one has achieved an intense greed to please Krishna to the extent that there is nothing else within one’s heart, one has still yet to attain prema-bhakti, the ultimate perfection.
  3. eho haya, āge kaha āra: This is alright, but still speak something more.
  4. There is something higher than a simple cognizance of love of Godhead and that is when love of God is expressed in an intimate relationship where one feels a certain intimacy as God’s personal servant.


Level 7: Dāsya-prema: Spontaneous loving service in the mood of the Lord’s personal servant.

  1. “A man becomes purified simply by hearing the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose lotus feet create the holy places of pilgrimage. Therefore what remains to be attained by those who have become his servants.” (Bhāg.5.16 as quoted in Cc Madhya 8.72)This is just one of several verses given to glorify dāsya-prema.
  1. This verse is a straightforward description of the exalted attainment of the mood of being the Lord’s personal servant.
  2. eho haya, āge kaha āra: This is alright, but still speak something more.
  3. Intimate service in the mood of the Lord’s personal servant is exalted, but because there is always a natural sense of obligation and apprehension in dealing with a superior, the force of pure devotion, although powerful, is somewhat inhibited within that relationship. Śrī Caitanya therefore still wants something more.


Level 8: Sakhya-prema: Loving service to Krishna rendered in the mood of fraternity.

  1. It is hard to understand how certain exalted persons, after accumulating volumes of pious activities are now playing with the Lord in friendship as cowherd boys. (Bhāg.12.11, paraphrased)
  2. Here the exalted attainment of loving service in fraternity is described where one plays with the Lord as one’s equal, not inhibited by a sense of reverence or fear.
  3. eho uttama, āge kaha āra: This statement is very good, but please proceed even further.
  4. Although since level five (jñāna-śūnyā bhakti) Śrī Caitanya has been appreciative of the answers (eho haya), this is the first time the reference is described as excellent (uttama) because, as mentioned above, one’s devotion is finally not weakened by even a scent of obligation. More intimate and deep than friendship with God, however, is parental love. Seeing the Lord as one’s dependent child is not only not tempered by apprehension, but the consequent feelings of anugraha (mercy) engendered in a parental relationship make it even more forceful than fraternal devotion. Śrī Caitanya thus still requests more.


Level 9: Vātsalya-prema: Loving service to the Lord in the parental relationship.

  1. “The favor mother Yaśodā obtained from Krishna was never obtained by Lord Brahma, Lord Siva, or even the goddess of fortune.” (Bhāg.9.20, paraphrased)
  2. In this verse the words na lebhire (never obtained) are used three times. When something is uttered three times it indicates a great stress on a fact. Here it indicates the exalted position of Mother Yaśodā where, in the mood of motherly love, Krishna has become completely subordinate to her
  3. eho uttama, āge kaha āra: This statement is very good, but please proceed even further.
  4. Parental devotion like fraternal devotion is forceful and without apprehension, and therefore deemed excellent by Śrī Caitanya. Śrī Caitanya is still not satisfied that the highest attainment has been achieved, so He again asks to hear about something better.


Level 10: Kāntā or mādhurya prema: Conjugal attachment for Krishna.[2]

  1. “My dear gopīs the force of your love is so strong that I cannot possibly repay you. You will have to be satisfied with the love itself.” (Bhāg.32.22, paraphrased)This is one of six references cited by Rāmānanda Rāya about the glories of mādhurya prema.
  1. Mādhurya-rasa, conjugal love for God, includes all the feelings manifest in previous relationships in addition to a level of intimacy and freedom unique to that relationship. The feelings of love for Krishna therefore become so forceful that even Krishna feels inadequate to properly reciprocate such devotion.
  2. ei ‘sādhyāvadhi’ suniścaya kṛpā kari’ kaha, yadi āge kichu haya: This is certainly the limit of perfection, but be merciful to Me and speak further if there is more.
  3. As mentioned, mādhurya-rasa is the most forceful and complete manifestation of love of Godhead and thus the highest attainment. Śrī Caitanya thus only reluctantly asks if there could be anything more.


Obviously, I miscalculated again. There is no way I have the time this week to go further on this subject. Among the gopīs, Śrī Radha is the best. Śrī Caitanya hints that He wants to hear Her glories. Stay tuned; To be continued.



[1] The spiritual organization of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s guru.

[2] Conjugal attachment for Krishna is described in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu as kāma-rūpa, the form of lust. In other words, it has nothing to do with mundane sex desire. Only the form is similar. The consciousness of one with this relationship with Krishna is simply, “How Krishna can be pleased by my romantic overtures?”


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