Monday Morning Greetings 2023 #15 – The Universal Form and Rāgānugā-bhakti

April 10th, 2023

One of my passions is to empower people. I define empowerment as recognizing, encouraging, and facilitating the abilities of others, especially those who are junior to one. I will be giving classes for the next few months in the New Jersey area and inviting others to speak at my programs in this spirit. Yesterday, after my short introduction, I asked Jaya Jagannath to do kirtan and share a realization. He didn’t disappoint us. I would like to outline his points from memory. Obviously, as it was his realization, and I am recounting it from memory, I can’t do it full justice, and therefore there might be slight gaps in logic between the points in my presentation that were not there between the points in his lecture. Still, it was so well conceptualized and expressed that I am sure that whatever ideas of his that I can recount will be appreciated. I will list what I remember point-by-point. It’s a shame we didn’t tape it.


  1. Jaya Jagannath was always somewhat bored with reading the description of the universal form that is repeatedly described in several of the initial cantos of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.


  1. Gradually, with his studies of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and deep prayer, he began to appreciate these topics as he realized more and more that those things that manifest from God, such as the universe, are in many ways a microcosm of God and when approached in the proper way and attitude reveal the Divine.


  1. He also realized how important those studies are in molding one’s psyche, for if one doesn’t see design and order in the world and thus just sees the universe as chaos and random, that chaotic or relative conception will naturally be reflected in one’s values or thoughts. As a result, one will tend to embrace post-modern conceptions, where there are no objective truths or values. For example, even the simple distinctions of what is a woman will be blurred.[1]


  1. One important order of the manifest world as described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is that it is generally divided into three divisions: the underworld (the world of the demons), the middle earth or terrestrial realm (humans), and the celestial world (the Gods).


  1. We are also a reflection of God, and thus these three divisions are also reflected in our psyche. Therefore, as within the universe there is both conflicts and cooperation between these three worlds, in the same way these conflicted and cooperative relationships between these different worlds manifest in our psyche in our day-to-day thoughts.


  1. For example, if we are not aware of our underworld and don’t sufficiently recognize it, our lower side will remain as a shadow, and only break out later into our everyday plane with more force.


  1. Also, people who want to develop spiritually must also pay more attention to the pure spiritual self in the upper or celestial world by hearing about and imbibing the consciousness of the residents there and then bring that consciousness into their daily lives.


  1. For people on the path of Krishna consciousness, the celestial world is described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, especially in the Tenth Canto, where the perfection of consciousness is described as the relationship or mood of devotion between the residents of Vrindavan and Krishna.


  1. Rāgānugā-bhakti is the practice of emulating the perfected souls of Vrindavan (the celestial world), which is outlined in three verses in Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s magnum opus, Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. An understanding of the inter-relation between these three divisions in the psyche can also clarify the practice of rāgānugā-bhakti.


  1. The first verse that Rūpa Gosvāmī cites about rāgānugā-bhakti says that one who has reached the platform of spontaneous devotion and becomes attracted to the devotion of a particular resident of Vrindavan should cultivate that mood of devotion by regularly hearing about that devotee and his loving relationship with Sri Krishna.[2] In other words, as we advance, we should increasingly develop our consciousness in relation to the celestial or spiritual world by hearing about that realm and appropriately emulating it, and not, as most people do, keep our thoughts just in the day-to-day karmic terrestrial plane.


  1. The second verse says that we should follow that devotee whose devotion we covet both in their siddha-rūpa (their forms as a resident of the upper celestial world, as a resident of Goloka (celestial) Vrindavan) and in their sādhaka-rūpa (their corresponding form as a practitioner in the middle or earthly realm such as the Six Gosvāmīs of Gokula (terrestrial) Vrindavan.[3]


  1. One way to follow the devotion of the devotee we emulate when they are in their sādhaka-rūpa on the earth plane is not just by emulating their spiritual practices, which is the main thing we should follow, but also by observing and following their bhāvanām (mood of devotion) as it plays out in their dealings with others and in their view of the cosmos in this world.


I am not sure I did justice to Jaya Jagannath’s presentation, but I would just like to elaborate on his last point, which ended his presentation. Remember his class was a response to my request for him to just share a philosophical realization he was a having. If I summed it up, his realization is that the world is a manifestation of the divine, and as one advances in devotion, one increasingly sees it and responds to it in that way. Therefore, when one enters deeper into a life of prayer and starts to increasingly dwell on the celestial or higher realms of existence, the bhāvanām, or mood of devotion one aspires for, increasingly comes into one’s daily life to the extent that rather than reject the material realm as separate from God, one will look at and relate to the cosmos as divine and in relation to one’s relationship with Krishna. Again, it was his personal realization, and I may have fallen short in personally expressing it, but his talk really hit me at the end when he brought his own aspirations in prayer for spontaneous devotion to where he began his presentation: the relevance of the universal form in terms of relating to the world as divine and in a devotional consciousness. In all, a somewhat unique, but substantial realization connecting the universal form, or how we even view the cosmos in a divine way, and spontaneous devotion or rāgānugā-bhakti. It was certainly well done and thought provoking.



[1] It was clear that this example wasn’t denying that people should be identified, treated, and respected by a gender they choose, even if is different than the gender of their birth. The confusion referred to is when the distinction between adult females and adult males is blurred on the biological level.

[2] “The devotee should always think of Kṛṣṇa within himself and should choose a very dear devotee who is a servitor of Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana. One should constantly engage in topics about that servitor and his loving relationship with Kṛṣṇa, and one should live in Vṛndāvana. If one is physically unable to go to Vṛndāvana, he should mentally live there.” (Brs. 1.2.295)

[3] “The advanced devotee who is inclined to spontaneous loving service should follow the activities of a particular associate of Kṛṣṇa’s in Vṛndāvana. He should execute service externally as a regulative devotee as well as internally from his self-realized position. Thus he should perform devotional service both externally and internally.” (Brs. 1.2. 295)


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