How to develop & increase our taste & pleasure in our spiritual practices?
Updated: Jan 26, 2022
When first joining the Bhakti Centre I had so many devotees offering to help with my spiritual journey, that I did not know which direction to take. I was quite bewildered until I met Rasarani, a most advanced devotee who would come to be my Siska Guru. She told me I could follow a progressive path in Bhakti, and she would be my guide.
My first and possibly most difficult challenge was to try to control the mind and senses, or Sraddha. Rasarani explained that she used small tokens to help her to remember Krishna’s names, forms, qualities and pastimes. Using her japa beads was a good example, as we repeat the mantra on each bead. To speak only of Krishna and to use the five austerities of speech was life her motto. I was directed to only accept that which was favorable and reject that which hindered my path of Bhakti.
I was encouraged at each step, as I made progress. Along with controlling my mind and senses, I now included practicing patience and hearing and chanting the holy names with enthusiasm. The more I practiced, the more confident I became. The more I chanted, the more I wanted to associate with these loving devotees, serving the Lord together and becoming more like those who modeled themselves on previous Acaryas or teachers.
But there were some things I noticed that other devotees did not favor, such as having too much money, too many attachments and spending their time with non-devotees. I soon realized that these only hindered their time spent with Krishna. I could see that their reasoning was true. All it did was distract from spending time chanting the holy names of Lord Krishna.
An important part of sradha-sangah is the association with devotees, which Rasarani encouraged me to develop. This is something that cannot be compared to the material relationships that I have experienced before or since. Jana-sangha I was told, is association with those who do not have an interest in Krishna consciousness and I honestly felt that the deeper my love and devotion became for Krishna, the less I wanted this type of connection.
I started to reject offers to material pastimes and instead participated in activities that revolved around our local preaching centre. It was during this time that I learned that devotees exchange their love in six ways. They offer and accept gifts in charity, putting lots of love and thought put into these gifts and appreciating the thought involved. They reveal their mind and inquire in confidence; trusting that we can listen and be heard without judgement. We honor each other by giving and sharing space. But possibly the most recognized gift that is shared is prasadam, or spiritualized foods. This becomes a social time as we can share stories, sing kirtans or listen to lectures as we prepare the food and spend time together.
Never in my life have I felt friendship and love like I have with devotees. Everyone was senior to me, but all were very welcoming and shared just enough, allowing me time to take this in, before I was taught the next lesson. My taste strengthening as I progressed. I understood that I was just a beginner, but what did that mean and how did I get to a level such as Rasarani? Upon my enquiry, I was taught about the levels of bhakti. When I was blessed to take harinama initiation from my Guru Maharaj and while trying to chant, I was a neophyte or kanistha-vaisnava. I was currently working towards madhyama-adhikari, being one who has taken spiritual initiation and is fully engaged in transcendental loving service.
Where then, was Rasarani in these levels of Bhakti? Rasarani was very modest, nevertheless I learned that she is at the level of uttama-adhikari and is of our most senior devotees. She is advanced in devotional service, her heart is pure and she is a devotee that many in our temple, aspire to be like. The way that Rasarani chants the holy names, speaks about Krishna and described the sweet taste of loving service, while allowing all bad habits and association to melt away, is inspiring.
Following Rasarani’s example, trying my best to spend every moment in remembering, chanting the Lord’s names and feeling myself becoming attached to Krishna. I already had learned a lot, but now I wanted to explore on my own. Lastly Rasarani recommended I learn about the best of the best of people and places. I discovered that while many spiritual travellers search for Vrindavan and Govardhana, Radha Kunda is the most supreme place.
Many seekers feel that the spiritual world is superior to anything we can find in the material world. However, places that Krishna spent his pastimes are even more supreme.
Radha Kunda is where Krishna’s love overflows from Govardhana, down into the kunda or lake at its base, where Radha bathed and is the best of the best of all places. This led me to search for the best of people, which is Radha. Better than karmis, bhakta’s and even the Gopis. Radha’s devotional service excels all others. Radha is the most beloved of Krishna and she is the most beloved of all Gopis. It should be our desire to serve Radha in her Radha Kunda throughout our life.To do so will bring us prema, pure love of Krishna and deliver us back to Godhead.