Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha



Helping hand

(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, 05.01.2016, morning, Sofia)

(continues from the previous Monday)

Let’s discuss something about the first stages of devotion.

“The three categories of devotional service which Rupa Goswami describes in Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu are listed as devotional service in practice, devotional service in ecstasy and devotional service in pure love of Godhead.”[1]

I think we can stop here. So, there are three categories of devotional service: in practice, in ecstasy and in pure love. Sometimes devotees use very high expressions. “This is full ecstasy!” Or ‘What was that very special feeling at the end of the kirtan?” Or “This prasadam is not rasa, it’s ruchi – the highest rasa possible!” So sometimes we use very high class of expressions, although most probably we are on a very elementary platform of our spiritual practice. Nevertheless we have a hope that after practically doing our service if we attain the second platform, then full ecstasy will come. Ecstasy means ‘to go beyond yourself’. ‘To stand outside’ – ex-stasis[2] – outside, to stay outside of you, to go beyond yourself. When you can transcend your limitations – that is ecstasy. This is not a result of a pill, this is when you go beyond your utmost limitations. And ultimately the highest stage is devotion in pure love of Godhead.

“There are many subheadings in each of these categories. Generally it is understood that in the category of devotional service in practice there are two different qualities; devotional service in ecstasy has four qualities; and devotional service in pure love of Godhead has six qualities. These qualities will be explained by Shrila Rupa Goswami later on. In this connection Shrila Rupa Goswami suggests that the person eligible for Krishna consciousness or devotional service can be classified by his particular taste. He says that the devotional service is a continual process from one’s previous life. No one can take to devotional service unless he has had some previous connection with it. For example, suppose in this life I practice devotional service to some extent. Even though it is not 100% perfectly performed, still whatever I have done will not be lost. In my next life, from the very point that I stopped in this life I shall begin again. In this way there is always continuity. But even if there is no continuity, if only by chance a person takes interest in a pure devotee’s instruction, he can be accepted and can advance in devotional service. Anyway, for persons who have a natural taste for understanding the books like Bhagavad Gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, devotional service is easier than for those who are simply accustomed to mental speculation and argumentative process).”

So, continuity. Everything has got a reason before. But what is the first reason? Because in order to continue something we have to begin somewhere. How that first moment happened?

Hayagriva: Some sukriti[3].

Pavitra: The good fortune to meet a saint.

Swami Tirtha: And also there is one other chance – if we start to have preliminary trust. It is not preliminary faith, but preliminary trust. All these factors can help a person to be connected somehow. Our own efforts in a good direction, in a sattvic direction; or by some good fortune we can meet a pure devotee; or before we have accumulated some merits, some good deeds – sukriti – and this will bring the fruit of being able to start a spiritual process.

But why should we analyze so much the first moment? Shrila Prabhupada said that if you are drowning in the middle of the ocean and if by some good fortune some ships are around you, and somebody extends a hand to you to save you, why should you analyze from which ship, which hand, who extended it and how it happened – just grab it! Because if we analyze too much, then we are drowned. So better be saved than to be clever.

But then we have to continue. Because once we have started we should never give it up. In that respect life is long and we might face unexpected situations. For example today you have the entire positive and nourishing environment to practice your spiritual life. Everything is provided for you: Mahaprabhu is here, the sanga is here, the ashram is here, your guru is here, your japa is here, your little-little willingness to do is also still present. So you have all the favorable circumstances for practice. All right, let’s remove some of the elements of this list. If Mahaprabhu is not here, then what happens? Your heart is broken and you die immediately; then how can you practice? Or when our spiritual master leaves? He is inspiration for us! Or if the sanga is removed? You remain alone. Or if there is no ashram? Or ultimately – if you lose your willingness? These are very difficult moments of life. Therefore we have to grab the opportunity until we have it. Don’t take it for granted.


(to be continued)


[1] Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 2

[2] From Greek ‘standing outside oneself’

[3] Sukriti – spiritual credits


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