Can one change svarupa and rasa…?
By Puskaraksa das
Please accept my humble obeissances.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada. All glories to Sri Guru & Sri Gauranga.
During my last trip to the USA, I was invited to give class in the Detroit temple and at the end, a Prabhupada disciple asked me if one could change rasa. Interestingly enough, a French born devotee recently asked me the same question.
So, since this question seems to be on some of our devotees’ mind, I decided to explore the matter further and would like to offer you the following quotes, so as to nurture our understanding on this topic.
Hoping this meets you well and in a happy mood of bhajan and seva,
in the service of Srila Prabhupada and his dedicated servants
Editor’s note: To download the original document click here
In his introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srila Prabhupada states: “Arjuna was in a relationship with the Lord as friend. Of course there is a gulf of difference between this friendship and the friendship found in the material world. This is transcendental friendship, which cannot be had by everyone. Of course everyone has a particular relationship with the Lord, and that relationship is evoked by the perfection of devotional service. But in the present status of our life, not only have we forgotten the Supreme Lord, but we have forgotten our eternal relationship with the Lord. Every living being, out of the many, many billions and trillions of living beings, has a particular relationship with the Lord eternally. That is called svarupa. By the process of devotional service, one can revive that svarupa, and that stage is called svarupa-siddhi–perfection of one’s constitutional position. So Arjuna was a devotee, and he was in touch with the Supreme Lord in friendship.”
Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.2.43, purport:
The result of perfection in Krishna consciousness is that after giving up one’s material body, one is immediately transferred to the spiritual world in one’s original spiritual body to become an associate of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Some devotees go to Vaikunthaloka, and others go to Goloka Vrndavana to become associates of Krishna.
Prabhupada’s lecture, Nectar of Devotion 1972 (721020ND.VRN):
Raga-marga is not artificial. It becomes, svayam eva sphuraty adhah. Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau… Everything, devotional relationship with Krishna, you cannot establish artificially. Everyone has got a particular relationship with Krishna in his original constitutional position. That will be revealed gradually as you advance in devotional service in the prescribed rules and regulations as they are directed in the sastras and by spiritual master. When you are trained up properly, you come to the platform of raga-marga, then your devotional si… That is called svarupa-siddhi. Svarupa-siddhi. So svarupa-siddhi is attained at a certain stage. Just like svarupa-siddhi… The desire for sex life is there in every human being, but when the boy and the girl come to the mature stage, it become manifest. It is, is not learned artificially. Similarly, the raga-marga, svarupa-siddhi, becomes revealed or manifest. Sravanadi suddha citte karaye udaya. Udaya. This very word, udaya, is used (awakens).
C.c. Madhya 22.107
nitya–siddha — eternally established; kṛṣṇa–prema — love of Kṛṣṇa; sādhya — to be gained; kabhu — at any time; naya — not; śravaṇa–ādi — by hearing, etc.; śuddha — purified; citte — in the heart; karaye udaya — awakens.
“Pure love for Kṛṣṇa is eternally established in the hearts of the living entities. It is not something to be gained from another source. When the heart is purified by hearing and chanting, this love naturally awakens.
The svarupa is being described as permanent in S.B. 2.10.6 (svarupena vyavasthitih),
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 2.10.6
muktir hitvānyathā rūpaḿ
nirodhaḥ — the winding up of the cosmic manifestation; asya — of His; anuśayanam — the lying down of the puruṣa incarnation Mahā–Viṣṇu in mystic slumber; ātmanaḥ — of the living entities; saha — along with; śaktibhiḥ — with the energies; muktiḥ — liberation; hitvā — giving up; anyathā — otherwise; rūpam — form; sva–rūpeṇa — in constitutional form; vyavasthitiḥ — permanent situation.
The merging of the living entity, along with his conditional living tendency, with the mystic lying down of the Mahā–Viṣṇu is called the winding up of the cosmic manifestation. Liberation is the permanent situation of the form of the living entity after he gives up the changeable gross and subtle material bodies.
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 3.9.11
tvam — unto You; bhakti–yoga — in devotional service; paribhāvita — being one hundred percent engaged; hṛt — of the heart; saroje — on the lotus; āsse — You reside; śruta–īkṣita — seen through the ear; pathaḥ — the path; nanu — now; nātha — O my Lord; puḿsām — of the devotees; yat–yat — whichever; dhiyā — by meditating; te — Your; urugāya — O multiglorious; vibhāvayanti — they specifically think of; tat–tat — the very same; vapuḥ — transcendental form; praṇayase — do You manifest; sat–anugrahāya — to show Your causeless mercy.
O my Lord, Your devotees can see You through the ears by the process of bona fide hearing, and thus their hearts become cleansed, and You take Your seat there. You are so merciful to Your devotees that You manifest Yourself in the particular eternal form of transcendence in which they always think of You.
The statement here that the Lord manifests Himself before the devotee in the form in which the devotee likes to worship Him indicates that the Lord becomes subordinate to the desire of the devotee — so much so that He manifests His particular form as the devotee demands. This demand of the devotee is satisfied by the Lord because He is pliable in terms of the transcendental loving service of the devotee. This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (4.11): ye yathā māḿ prapadyante tāḿs tathaiva bhajāmy aham. We should note, however, that the Lord is never the order supplier of the devotee. Here in this verse it is particularly mentioned: tvaḿ bhakti–yoga–paribhāvita. This indicates the efficiency achieved through execution of matured devotional service, or premā, love of Godhead. This state of premā is achieved by the gradual process of development from faith to love. On faith one associates with bona fide devotees, and by such association one can become engaged in bona fide devotional service, which includes proper initiation and the execution of the primary devotional duties prescribed in the revealed scriptures. This is clearly indicated herein by the word śrutekṣita. The śrutekṣita path is to hear from bona fide devotees who are conversant with Vedic wisdom, free from mundane sentiment. By this bona fide hearing process, the neophyte devotee becomes cleansed of all material rubbish, and thus he becomes attached to one of the many transcendental forms of the Lord, as described in the Vedas.
This attachment of the devotee to a particular form of the Lord is due to natural inclination. Each and every living entity is originally attached to a particular type of transcendental service because he is eternally the servitor of the Lord. Lord Caitanya says that the living entity is eternally a servitor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, every living entity has a particular type of service relationship with the Lord, eternally. This particular attachment is invoked by practice of regulative devotional service to the Lord, and thus the devotee becomes attached to the eternal form of the Lord, exactly like one who is already eternally attached. This attachment for a particular form of the Lord is called svarūpa–siddhi. The Lord sits on the lotus heart of the devotee in the eternal form the pure devotee desires, and thus the Lord does not part from the devotee, as confirmed in the previous verse. The Lord, however, does not disclose Himself to a casual or unauthentic worshiper to be exploited. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (7.25): nāhaḿ prakāśaḥ sarvasya yoga–māyā–samāvṛtaḥ. Rather, by yoga–māyā, the Lord remains concealed to the nondevotees or casual devotees who are serving their sense gratification. The Lord is never visible to the pseudodevotees who worship the demigods in charge of universal affairs. The conclusion is that the Lord cannot become the order supplier of a pseudodevotee, but He is always prepared to respond to the desires of a pure, unconditional devotee, who is free from all tinges of material infection.
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.2.40
evam–vrataḥ — when one thus engages in the vow to chant and dance; sva — own; priya — very dear; nāma — holy name; kīrtya — by chanting; jāta — in this way develops; anurāgaḥ — attachment; druta–cittaḥ — with a melted heart; uccaiḥ — loudly; hasati — laughs; atho — also; roditi — cries; rauti — becomes agitated; gāyati — chants; unmāda–vat — like a madman; nṛtyati — dancing; loka–bāhyaḥ — without caring for outsiders.
By chanting the holy name of the Supreme Lord, one comes to the stage of love of Godhead. Then the devotee is fixed in his vow as an eternal servant of the Lord, and he gradually becomes very much attached to a particular name and form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As his heart melts with ecstatic love, he laughs very loudly or cries or shouts. Sometimes he sings and dances like a madman, for he is indifferent to public opinion.
Chandogya Upanisad (3.14.1) describes two moods of worship of the Supreme Lord: madhurya (sweetness) and aisvarya (opulence). According to the mood of worship, the devotee attains an eternal relationship with a corresponding form of the Supreme Lord.
“According to the desire of the Supreme Lord, devotees relish particular flavors of devotion, even though they appreciate all forms of devotional service to all forms of the lord. Thus particular devotees assume particular roles of loving service to particular forms of the Lord.” (Vedanta-sutra 3.3.57 paraphrased)
“After liberation, the devotee eternally serves that form of the Lord to whom he developed attachment.” (Vedanta-sutra 3.3.58 paraphrased)
Here Srila Prabhupada clearly explains the eternal nature of our relationship with Krishna:
Hamsaduta: Prabhupada, you said that when a person changes original spiritual form, just like the Visnudutas, they have their four-handed form. Does that mean that they will never rise up to the state of associating with Krishna in two-handed form? What does it mean “original form”?
Prabhupada: Original form, two-handed.
Hamsaduta: So that four-handed form is not complete perfection of Krishna consciousness?
Prabhupada: No. There is perfection everywhere in the spiritual world, but it is a question of variety, taste. When you take rasagulla, don’t take kachori, that does not mean kachori is not perfect. It is a question of taste. Somebody likes kachori, somebody likes rasagulla. Not that kachori is inferior to rasagulla; rasagulla is inferior to kachori.
Hamsaduta:So that means if someone is situated in that svarupa…
Prabhupada:Yes. Everything is svarupa. Everything is svarupa.
Hamsaduta: Suppose someone is situated as Visnuduta. He may change his taste.
Prabhupada: Why he shall change it?
Hamsaduta: He may get a taste for associating with Krishna.
Prabhupada: The change is taking place in this material world. There, all tastes are fixed up, rasa, eternal, eternal rasa. Every one of us has a different taste of associating with Krishna, and that will be realized when one is liberated.
Hamsaduta: So that’s fixed already.
Prabhupada: Yes. When you are liberated, you will understand in which way you are related with Krishna. That is called svarupa-siddhi. But that is attained when you are actually perfect in devotional service. Just like in our family, we enjoy different rasas. We have got one kind of relationship with wife, one kind of relationship with sons and daughters, one kind of relation with friends, one kind of relationship with servants, one kind of relationship with property. So similarly, Krishna… The whole creation is His family, and He has got relationship in that way. So why the son will change his relationship into husband and wife?
Prabhupada: Yes. Because every relationship is very palatable. The gentleman, the head of the family, his relationship with wife and his relationship with servant is as much palatable. Maybe some degradation, but it is palatable. There is no question of changing. Not that “I am tasting this rasa at the present moment. Then I will get better rasas.” No, that is not. Everyone thinks, “My rasa is the best.” Although there is comparative gradation, but everyone thinks. These things are explained in Caitanya- caritamrta. Why don’t you see?
Hamsaduta: And Nectar of Devotion.
Prabhupada:Yes. Everyone thinks, “My relationship with Krishna is the best.”
Hamsaduta: So it’s not a matter of aspiring to some…
Prabhupada: No, there is no question of aspiring, because he is already situated in the best of relationship with Krishna. Even the trees in Vrndavana, they want to serve Krishna silently in that way, supplying fruits and flowers. That is their ananda, everyone enjoying the supreme bliss. When Krishna comes, takes a flower or fruit, that is their enjoyment: “Oh…”
Revatinandana: When Krishna doesn’t come, then they are feeling separation?
Prabhupada: Yes, certainly. That is another bliss, to feel separation from Krishna. Everything, either you meet or you separate, the bliss is there. Crying for Krishna is better bliss.
So, Sastras and Srila Prabhupada state that the soul has an eternal rasa and svarupa.
However, on the other hand, in a conversation, Srila Prabhupada said that a devotee could, but rarely changes his rasa and svarupa.
In this regard, here is an interesting conversation on a morning walk (07/06/1976):
“Ramesvara: Srila Prabhupada, when the devotee is in the original relationship with Krsna, his siddha-deha, why is it that he sometimes changes his original rasa with Krsna?
Ramesvara: Each one of us has an original relationship with Krsna, some as plant, some as tree, some as cow, some as cowherd boy. So if that is re-established, why should the devotee desire to change it?
Prabhupada: Well, that is spiritual kingdom. You can change if you like.
Tamala Krsna: It is not static, Prabhupada once explained. Love is not static.
Prabhupada: Generally, it is not changed. Just like mother Yasoda, she’s mother all the time, eternally.
Following is another interesting exchange:
Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.1-4 — Melbourne, May 20, 1975
Yasomatinandana: Srila Prabhupada, you were saying that because the body has arms and legs, then the coat has a similar shape. Then does the spirit soul that’s within our body have arms and legs like that?
Yasomatinandana: Would the spirit soul that is within, say, a cow’s body, is in a different shape?
Prabhupada: Yes. It has got also legs. But the shape has taken according to his desire. Every animal has got these four things. Just like bird, it has got two wings, two legs. The animal has got four legs. And the man has got two hands, two legs. So the same parts of the body, they are appearing in a different type. But the four limbs of the body are there. Hm?
Yasomatinandana: Is the original body of the spirit soul a human form?
Madhudvisa: The question is that whether the eternal form of the spirit soul is a human form or is it…
Prabhupada: Yes, human form. God is also human form. “Man is made after the shape of God.” I think there is in the Bible. Is it not? So God is also like human form. Here you see Krsna, two hands, two legs.
Hari-sauri: How do we understand, then, that there are peacocks and flowers and trees in the spiritual world? Are these not eternal forms?
Prabhupada: Yes. They are more covered. Just like if you cover your body with blanket, the hands and legs are invisible. But you are not the blanket. So the trees and plants, they are more covered. They are not in full manifestation. The human form is the full manifestation of the soul.
Hari-sauri: They are covered in the spiritual world?
Madhudvisa: He is asking if they were actually covered in the spiritual world as well.
Prabhupada: Not in the spiritual world. There that is voluntary. Some devotee wants to serve Krsna as flower; they become flower there. If I want that “As a flower I shall lie down at the lotus feet of Krsna,” he becomes flower, voluntarily. And he can change his…, from flower to human body. That is spiritual life. There is no restriction. If some devotee wants to serve Krsna as cow, he serves Krsna as cow, as calf, as flower, as plant, as water, as ground, field, or as father, as mother, as friend, as beloved, anything. Ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham [Bg. 4.11]. That is Krsna’s all-powerfulness, spiritual life.
A devotee may also be promoted from Vaikuntha to Goloka Vrindavana:
Nectar of Devotion, Ch. 4: Some of the liberated persons who have achieved these four stages of liberation may also develop affection for Krishna and be promoted to the Goloka Vrndavana planet in the spiritual sky. In other words, those who are already promoted to the Vaikuntha planets and who possess the four kinds of liberation may also sometimes develop affection for Krishna and become promoted to Krishnaloka.
Nevertheless, Srila Prabhupada stated that generally: “The change is taking place in this material world.”
Here are some examples mentioned in Caitanya-caritamrita:
CC Madhya 9.25-27,
vipra bale,–ei tomāra darśana-prabhāve
tomā dekhi’ gela mora ājanma svabhāve
bālyāvadhi rāma-nāma-grahaṇa āmāra
tomā dekhi’ kṛṣṇa-nāma āila eka-bāra
bālya–avadhi—since the days of my childhood; rāma–nāma–grahaṇa—chanting the holy name of Lord Rāmacandra; āmāra—my; tomādekhi‘-upon seeing You; kṛṣṇa–nāma—the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa; āila—came; eka–bāra—once only.
sei haite kṛṣṇa-nāma jihvāte vasilā
kṛṣṇa-nāma sphure, rāma-nāma dūre gelā
sei haite—since that time; kṛṣṇa–nāma—the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa; jihvāte—on the tongue; vasilā—was seated tightly; kṛṣṇa–nāma—the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa; sphure—automatically comes; rāma–nāma—the holy name of Lord Rāmacandra; dūre—far away; gelā—went.
or C.C. Madhya 9.159-161.
more pūrṇa kṛpā kaila lakṣmī-nārāyaṇa
tāṅra kṛpāya pāinu tomāra caraṇa-daraśana
more—unto me; pūrṇa—complete; kṛpā—mercy; kaila—did; lakṣmī–nārāyaṇa—the Deity of mother goddess of fortune and Nārāyaṇa; tāṅrakṛpāya—by Their mercy; pāinu—I have gotten; tomāra—Your; caraṇa–daraśana—vision of the lotus feet.
kṛpā kari’ kahile more kṛṣṇera mahimā
yāṅra rūpa-guṇaiśvaryera keha nā pāya sīmā
kṛpākari‘-showing causeless mercy; kahile—You have spoken; more—unto me; kṛṣṇera—of Lord Kṛṣṇa; mahimā—the glories; yāṅra—whose; rūpa–guṇa–aiśvaryera—of forms, qualities and opulence; keha—anyone; nā—not; pāya—gets; sīmā—the limit.
ebe se jāninu kṛṣṇa-bhakti sarvopari
kṛtārtha karile, more kahile kṛpā kari’
ebe—now; se—that; jāninu—I understand; kṛṣṇa–bhakti—devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa; sarva–upari—above all; kṛta–artha—successful; karile—You have made; more—unto me; kahile—You have spoken; kṛpākari‘-by Your causeless mercy.
This is also explained by the fact that all the previous Avataras are present within Krishna, also known as bhagavan purna:
purna bhagavan avatare yei kale ara saba avatara tante asi’ mile
“When the complete Supreme Personality of Godhead descends, all other incarnations of the Lord meet together within Him.” (CC Adi 4.10)
narayana, catur-vyuha, matsyady-avatara yuga-manvantaravatara,
yata ache ara sabe asi’ krsna-ange haya avatirna aiche avatare krsna bhagavan purna
“Lord Narayana, the four primary expansions [Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha], Matsya and the other lila incarnations, the yuga-avataras, the manvantara incarnations and as many other incarnations as there are – all descend in the body of Lord Krsna. In this way the complete Supreme Godhead, Lord Krsna Himself, appears.” (CC Adi 4.11-12)
Bhaktivinoda Thakura: Navadvipa Mahatmya, Ch. 5,10,11:
“‘Brahma, hear these secret (antara) words, but do not reveal this openly in the scriptures. Taking the role of a devotee, I will taste the nectar of bhakti rasa and propagate the most rare process of sankirtana. I will make the devotees of all the previous avataras drunk with the nectar of Vrndavana.”
“‘O brahmana, I will tell you a very secret thing. In a short time, there will be ecstasy given out here. Gauranga will appear at Mayapur in Sacidevi’s house, and He will freely distribute prema. In all these places the Lord and His devotees will dance madly in the nectar of sankirtana. The Lord will perform kirtana along with the devotees of all the previous incarnations. The whole universe will be drowned in the flood of prema; other than the false logicians, everyone will receive that gift of love.
“The Lord lifted the couple up with His two lotus hands and spoke nectarean words, ‘Both of you are My exalted devotees, therefore I desired to give you My darsana. Very soon I will take birth in Nadia in the womb of Saci. With all the devotees of all the avataras, I will distribute the gift of prema and Krishna kirtana.