Not Feeling the Bliss? Here’s the Cure
By Sri Nandanandana dasa (Stephen Knapp)
Sometimes I hear devotees say that they have been chanting Hare Krishna for thirty or forty years or more, and are still waiting to feel the taste for it, or the ecstasy from chanting, or from doing devotional service. I even heard where some devotee workshops were saying that it is not uncommon that devotees do not feel this bliss even after years of chanting, and that sometimes people leave the movement because they don’t feel the higher taste. They did not get what they expected. But the cure for that is clearly explained.
So, let’s look at exactly how we can feel the bliss of our chanting Hare Krishna and in engaging in the devotional service of Lord Krishna. This is clearly described in the Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi-lila Chapter 6, in the descriptions of the glories of Sri Advaita Acharya. Therein it first explains how Sri Advaita Acharya is the expansion of Maha-Vishnu, the creator of the cosmic manifestation. So, it would seem that He is one of the centers or sources of all the bliss that could ever be available. But that is not exactly how it works. In Adi-Lila 6, verses 4-13, it explains the potency of Lord Advaita Acharya:
“Lord Advaita Acharya is the incarnation of Maha-Vishnu, whose main function is to create the cosmic world through the actions of maya.
“Because He is nondifferent from Hari, the Supreme Lord, He is called Advaita, and because He propagates the cult of devotion, He is called Acharya. He is the Lord and the incarnation of the Lord’s devotee. Therefore I take shelter of Him.
“Sri Advaita Acharya is indeed directly the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. His glory is beyond the conception of ordinary living beings.
“Maha-Vishnu performs all the functions for the creation of the universes. Sri Advaita Acharya is His direct incarnation.
“That purusha [form of the Supreme] creates and maintains with His external energy. He creates innumerable universes in His pastimes.
“By His will He manifests Himself in unlimited forms, in which He enters each and every universe.
“Sri Advaita Acharya is a plenary part of that purusha and so is not different from Him. Indeed, Sri Advaita Acharya is not separate but is another form of that purusha.
“He [Advaita Acharya] helps in the pastimes of the purusha, with whose material energy and by whose will He creates innumerable universes.
“Being a reservoir of all auspicious attributes, Sri Advaita Acarya is all-auspicious for the world. His characteristics, activities and name are always auspicious.
“Maha-Vishnu creates the entire material world with millions of His parts, energies and incarnations.”
So, herein, we can begin to understand that Sri Advaita Acharya and Maha-Vishnu are completely spiritual. Being so, They are in constant contact with the supreme bliss that comes from the spiritual abode, and They must also be one of the sources of such ecstasy. Right? But let us read on to further understand Sri Advaita Acharya’s power, in texts 18-27:
“The Lord infuses the material ingredients with His own creative potency. Then, by the power of the Lord, creation takes place.
“In the form of Advaita, He infuses the material ingredients with creative energy. Therefore, Advaita is the original cause of creation.
“Sri Advaita Acharya is the creator of millions and millions of universes, and by His expansions [as Garbhodakashaya Vishnu] He maintains each and every universe.
“Sri Advaita is the principal limb [anga] of Narayana. Srimad-Bhagavatam speaks of ‘limb’ as ‘a plenary portion’ of the Lord.
“O Lord of lords, You are the seer of all creation. You are indeed everyone’s dearest life. Are You not, therefore, my father, Narayana? ‘Narayana’ refers to one whose abode is in the water born from Nara [Garbhodakashaya Vishnu], and that Narayana is Your plenary portion. All Your plenary portions are transcendental. They are absolute and are not creations of maya.” (From Srimad-Bhagavatam: 10.14.14)
“This verse describes that the limbs and plenary portions of the Lord are all spiritual; They have no relationship with the material energy.
“Why has Sri Advaita been called a limb and not a part? The reason is that ‘limb’ implies greater intimacy.
“Sri Advaita, who is a reservoir of virtues, is the main limb of Maha-Vishnu. His full name is Advaita, for He is identical in all respects with that Lord.
“As He had formerly created all the universes, now He descended to introduce the path of bhakti-yoga.”
So, how did He do this? How did He call Lord Krishna to appear? It is explained in text 28 and in Srila Prabhupada’s purport that although He described the process of bhakti-yoga, what is more revealing is that, in spite of all of His potencies, He manifested Himself as a servant of the Supreme Lord, specifically as a servant of Lord Caitanya, which gives us the first indication as to how anyone can feel the bliss in our devotional service:
“He delivered all living beings by offering the gift of Krishna-bhakti. He explained the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam in the light of devotional service.”
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada: “Although Sri Advaita Prabhu is an incarnation of Vishnu, for the welfare of the conditioned souls He manifested Himself as a servitor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and throughout all His activities He showed Himself to be an eternal servitor. Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda also manifested the same principle, although They also belong to the category of Vishnu. If Lord Caitanya, Lord Nityananda and Advaita Prabhu had exhibited Their all-powerful Vishnu potencies within this material world, people would have become greater impersonalists, monists and self-worshipers than they had already become under the spell of this age. Therefore the Personality of Godhead and His different incarnations and forms played the parts of devotees to instruct the conditioned souls how to approach the transcendental stage of devotional service. Advaita Acharya especially intended to teach the conditioned souls about devotional service. The word acharya means ‘teacher.’ The special function of such a teacher is to make people Krishna conscious. A bona fide teacher following in the footsteps of Advaita Acharya has no other business than to spread the principles of Krishna consciousness all over the world. The real qualification of an acharya is that he presents himself as a servant of the Supreme. Such a bona fide acharya can never support the demoniac activities of atheistic men who present themselves as God. It is the main business of an acharya to defy such imposters posing as God before the innocent public.”
In spite of all the powers of Sri Advaita Acharya, He still felt it was best to call Lord Caitanya to descend into this material world to do what no other form of the Lord can do. However, the means by which He called Lord Caitanya will give us the techniques which we should also use to call the Lord into our own lives, as described in text 34:
“He worshiped Krishna with tulasi leaves and water of the Ganges and called for Him in a loud voice. Thus Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared on earth, accompanied by His personal associates.”
In this way, Sri Advaita Acharya called Lord Caitanya in a Loud Voice. In other words, there was no other focus for Sri Advaita Acharya. All other thoughts were vacant because of this intense clarity, intention, and singleness of purpose. This is what we should have, singleness of purpose to the point wherein all other intentions and desires are expelled from our minds. We need to call on Lord Krishna with full focus on Him, and this is how He will respond.
Of course, in our present condition it does not mean we give up all of our other responsibilities, but our understanding should be that out of everything else we may need to do, this is our ultimate goal, to attain love of Krishna. If that is our focus, then Lord Krishna will arrange that as we develop, all our other responsibilities will fade, until our main goal stands fully revealed, which is to attain singleness of purpose toward our full service to Lord Krishna. Until then, we should always be calling for Krishna in a loud voice, either verbally or mentally.
However, as the following verses (texts 35-43) explain, Sri Caitanya accepted Sri Advaita as His master and descended into this material world. But Sri Advaita Acharya accepted the position of a servant to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. But why would He do this? This is explained:
“It is through Him [Advaita Acharya] that Lord Caitanya spread the sankirtana movement and through Him that He delivered the world.
“The glory and attributes of Advaita Acharya are unlimited. How can the insignificant living entities fathom them?
“Sri Advaita Acharya is a principal limb of Lord Caitanya. Another limb of the Lord is Nityananda Prabhu.
“The devotees headed by Srivasa are His smaller limbs. They are like His hands, face and eyes and His disc and other weapons.
“With all of them Lord Caitanya performed His pastimes, and with them He spread His mission.
“Thinking ‘He [Sri Advaita Acharya] is a disciple of Sri Madhavendra Puri,’ Lord Caitanya obeys Him, respecting Him as His spiritual master.
“To maintain the proper etiquette for the principles of religion, Lord Caitanya bows down at the lotus feet of Sri Advaita Acharya with reverential prayers and devotion.
“Sri Advaita Acharya, however, considers Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu His master, and He thinks of Himself as a servant of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
“He forgets Himself in the joy of that conception and teaches all living entities, ‘You are servants of Sri Caitanya Mahäprabhu.’”
Here is the key that opens the door to the bliss for which we are always hankering. This is what is taught by Sri Advaita Acharya more than anything else, that we are the servants of Sri Caitanya, we are the servants of Lord Krishna. This concept allows us to enter into the blissful exchange, the ecstatic reciprocation between ourselves and the Lord. This opens our heart and our consciousness to supreme revelation of who we are and our eternal connection with the Lord. This bliss is so powerful that once a person experiences it, he or she will never forget it. Such bliss may not always be constant in our developing stages of bhakti-yoga, but it becomes stronger and more constant as we practice and become increasingly purified, and more Krishna conscious.
The prime key to opening the experience of this bliss, which is deeper than the mental, intellectual or emotional stages of consciousness, is the mood of servitude. It is this mood of servitude that opens the natural joy of the soul. This is clearly explained in the following verses:
“The conception of servitude to Sri Krishna generates such an ocean of joy in the soul that even the joy of oneness with the Absolute, if multiplied ten million times, could not compare to a drop of it.
“He [Sri Advaita Acharya] says, ‘Nityananda and I are servants of Lord Caitanya.’ Nowhere else is there such joy as that which is tasted in this emotion of servitude.
“The most beloved goddess of fortune resides on the chest of Sri Krishna, yet she too, earnestly praying, begs for the joy of service at His feet.”
If I can take a moment to tell my own personal story of feeling this bliss, it was right after I was initiated by Srila Prabhupada, which itself is a great boost to one’s spiritual development, I felt an overwhelming ecstasy in my service to Lord Krishna. It did not matter what I was doing, whether polishing the Deity silver, transferring the prasadam from the Deity plates, mopping the temple floor, chanting Hare Krishna, or even taking a shower, it was all engaged in the mood of simply trying to serve to increase the happiness in the pastimes that were going on between Radha and Krishna in the form of the Deities in the temple. All I wanted to do was to stay in touch with this ecstasy by staying in this mood, which is what maintained my connection with Sri Sri Radha and Krishna, through Srila Prabhupada. Even today when I become absorbed in this mood, no matter whether I’m preaching to others, writing and publishing, or helping manage the local Krishna temple in various ways, if I am in this mood of servitude to the Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Kunjabihari here in Detroit, or to Srila Prabhupada, the service takes on a whole new level of feeling the bliss of spiritual life. This is certainly enough to prove that this process of bhakti-yoga works, and that the Lord will reciprocate with His devotees in various ways, which itself continues to instill the confidence to keep working at one’s spiritual development. And do not let any negativity, faultfinding, or offenses get in the way of that, all of which will decrease or prevent you from feeling the ecstasy. And if you lose your bliss, you will know why. It is simply a matter of staying in the right mood.
Not only does Sri Advaita Acharya and Lord Nityananda long to remain in this mood of servitude, but all of the demigods and other great sages and associates of Lord Caitanya also wish to feel this ecstasy by remaining in this mood. In fact, it makes them mad in ecstasy, as described:
“All the associates of Lord Krishna, such as Brahma, Shiva, Narada, Suta and Sanatana Kumara, are very pleased in the sentiment of servitude.
“Sri Nityananda, the wandering mendicant, is the foremost of all the associates of Lord Caitanya. He became mad in the ecstasy of service to Lord Caitanya.
“Srivasa, Haridasa, Ramadäsa, Gadadhara, Murari, Mukunda, Candrashekhara and Vakreshvara are all glorious and are all learned scholars, but the sentiment of servitude to Lord Caitanya makes them mad in ecstasy.
“Thus they dance, sing and laugh like madmen, and they instruct everyone, ‘Just be loving servants of Lord Caitanya..’
“Sri Advaita Acharya thinks, ‘Lord Caitanya considers Me His spiritual master, yet I feel Myself to be only His servant.’
“Love for Krishna has this one unique effect: it imbues superiors, equals and inferiors with the spirit of service to Lord Krishna.”
Herein is another symptom of this bliss, the attainment of indifference to one’s position after attaining this ecstasy in the mood of servitude. In other words, the ecstasy is so powerful that everyone feels united in this mood of serving Krishna. It takes away all differences of position, status, age, sex, ethnicity, or other egoistic forms of identity, and makes way for the ultimate of mutual respect, cooperation, assistance, etc., with other devotees, all for the attainment of the mood of servitude to Lord Krishna. Anyone who experiences this only wants to share it with others, knowing that Lord Krishna also feels great joy when His pastimes expand and His devotees increase by the introduction of other beings into His service. In this way, our own attitude of servitude increases, and the feeling of ecstasy goes deeper.
This is also why Krishna consciousness is a prime system that can pave the way for genuine peace in the world between everyone. If people can begin experiencing this bliss through devotional love for Lord Krishna, so many differences, quarrels, disagreements, wrong perceptions, the influence of the bodily conception of life, etc., will become insignificant. Then we can all move forward together to enter more deeply into our real spiritual identity as servants of the Supreme Lord.
“For evidence, please listen to the examples described in the revealed scriptures, which are corroborated by the realization of great souls.
“Although no one is a more respected elder for Krishna than Nanda Maharaja in Vraja, who in transcendental paternal love has no knowledge that his son is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, still ecstatic love makes him, what to speak of others, feel himself to be a servant of Lord Krishna.
“He too prays for attachment and devotion to the lotus feet of Lord Krishna, as the words from his own mouth give evidence.
“My dear Uddhava, please hear me. In truth Krishna is my son, but even if you think that He is God, I would still bear toward Him my own feelings for my son. May my mind be attached to your Lord Krishna.
“May our minds be attached to the lotus feet of your Lord Krishna, may our tongues chant His holy names, and may our bodies lie prostrate before Him.
“Wherever we wander in the material universe under the influence of karma by the will of the Lord, may our auspicious activities cause our attraction to Lord Krishna to increase.”
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada: “These verses from Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.47.66–67) were spoken by the denizens of Vrindavana, headed by Maharaja Nanda [Krishna’s father] and his associates, to Uddhava, who had come from Mathura.”
Even in Krishna’s topmost spiritual domain of Goloka Vrindavana, where the residents do not even understand that Krishna is God, they experience the highest bliss by engaging in loving service to Him. How this happens is explained in texts 62-66, as follows:
“Lord Krishna’s friends in Vrindävana, headed by Sridämä, have pure fraternal affection for Lord Krishna and have no idea of His opulences.
“Although they fight with Him and climb upon His shoulders, they worship His lotus feet in a spirit of servitude.
“Some of the friends of Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, massaged His feet, and others whose sinful reactions had been destroyed fanned Him with hand-held fans.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.15.17)
“Even the beloved girlfriends of Lord Krishna in Vrindavana, the gopis, the dust of whose feet was desired by Sri Uddhava and who are more dear to Krishna than anyone else, regard themselves as Krishna’s maidservants.”
This is the great good fortune that we all share, as has been given to us by Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, as handed down through the parampara from Sri Advaita Acharya and Lord Caitanya, which gives us the key to open the door to the highest experience of bliss in whatever service we do to Lord Krishna, simply by cultivating the mood of servitude. Therefore, if we are not experiencing this bliss, then we only need to analyze our own attitude, our own mood, and discern where we are going wrong, or what we need to do to make the proper adjustments in our mood and consciousness. When we do that, we may also become mad in the ecstasy of serving the Supreme Object of affection, the God of Love, Lord Sri Krishna. Whether we are jumping in kirtan, or simply absorbed in the bliss of service within ourselves while sitting calmly meditating on the pastimes of Lord Krishna, the bliss can become a constant companion that compels us to bring ourselves ever closer to wanting to perfect our devotion to Lord Krishna, as described next:
“I am a servant of Lord Caitanya, a servant of Lord Caitanya. I am a servant of Lord Caitanya, and a servant of His servants.
“Saying this, Advaita Prabhu dances and loudly sings. Then at the next moment He quietly sits down.”
Not only are all of Lord Krishna’s servants hankering to enter deep into the mood of servitude which enables us to experience the highest ecstasy, but also all of the avatars that expand from Lord Krishna feel the same way.
“The source of the sentiment of servitude is indeed Lord Balarama. The plenary expansions who follow Him are all influenced by that ecstasy.
“Lord Sankarshana, who is one of His incarnations, always considers Himself a devotee.
“Another of His incarnations, Lakshmana, who is very beautiful and opulent, always serves Lord Rama.
“The Vishnu who lies on the Causal Ocean is an incarnation of Lord Sankarshana, and, accordingly, the emotion of being a devotee is always present in His heart.
“Advaita Acharya is a separate expansion of Him. He always engages in devotional service with His thoughts, words and actions.
“By His words He declares, ‘I am a servant of Lord Caitanya.’ Thus with His mind He always thinks, ‘I am His devotee.’
“With His body He worshiped the Lord by offering Ganges water and tulasi leaves, and by preaching devotional service He delivered the entire universe.
“Sesa Sankarsana, who holds all the planets on His heads, expands Himself in different bodies to render service to Lord Krishna.
“These are all incarnations of Lord Krishna, yet we always find that they act as devotees.
“The scriptures call them incarnations as devotees [bhakta-avataras]. The position of being such an incarnation is above all others.”
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada: “The Supreme Personality of Godhead appears in different incarnations, but His appearance in the role of a devotee is more beneficial to the conditioned souls than the other incarnations, with all their opulences. Sometimes a conditioned soul is bewildered when he tries to understand the incarnation of Godhead with full opulence. Lord Krishna appeared and performed many uncommon activities, and some materialists misunderstood Him, but in His appearance as Lord Caitanya He did not show much of His opulences, and therefore fewer conditioned souls were bewildered. Misunderstanding the Lord, many fools consider themselves incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but the result is that after leaving the material body they enter the lower species.”
In this way, we should not take for granted the great treasure we have been given in understanding how to engage in bhakti-yoga, devotional service to Lord Krishna, but should strive to overcome our impurities, and discern how we can enter ever more deeply into that mood of servitude. Thus, we can reach the highest level of ecstatic love and share the means for others to reach the same. Nothing is more pleasing to Guru and Gauranga, or to our own soul. There is nothing greater to attain in this world than this.