kurvann avyartha-vārtāṁ katham api na vṛthā-
ceṣṭayā kāla-yāpī |
tyaktvā sarvābhimānaṁ pratigṛham aṭanaṁ
vṛndāraṇye nivatsyāmy aniśam anusaran
I will wear only a torn piece of cloth as a loincloth and tattered shawl, living on the fruits that fall from the trees, never wasting my time in futile endeavors or in wasted conversation, giving up all arrogance, I will go from door to door, begging for my meals, and in this way I will dwell in Vrindavan, constantly following those who have made Radharani their life and soul. (1.64)
Prabodhananda turns to the sādhaka-daśā for another description of the renounced practitioner of bhajan living in Vrindavan. Just as with the vision of the eternal lila in the nitya Vrindavan, there is a romantic image of the sādhaka who dedicates his life to a monastic ideal in the Holy Dham. Although this ideal is rarely realized in practical experience, it remains as a constant reminder of the temporary and fleeting nature of this world, and has always been held up in India as the real achievement of the human spirit.
Most of the characteristics described in these verses are found elsewhere, particularly in relation to the Six Goswamis who followed Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Here is a verse by their devotee Srinivas Acharya:
bhūtvā dīna-gaṇeśakau karuṇayā kaupīna-kanthāśritau |
vande rūpa-sanātanau raghu-yugau śrī-jīva-gopālakau ||
I venerate Rupa and Sanatan, the two Raghunaths, Sri Jiva and Gopala Bhatta, who quickly abandoned the company of unlimitedly rich and powerful, considering them as insignificant, and taking the loincloth and tattered shawl, mercifully took the leadership of the most humble, and then remained immersed in the rolling waves of the nectarean ocean of the mood of the gopis. (Saḍ-gosvāmy-aṣṭakam, 4)
Rupa Goswami himself considered at least an internal renunciation of the things of this world as being a characteristic symptom of someone with love of God, bhāva, or the stage of bhāva-bhakti. Rupa Goswami describes in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu that there are three stages of devotion, sādhana, bhāva and prema. The first of these comprises the practices that are meant to develop into an internal emotional development, which is the sādhya, or goal. This sādhya has two dimensions, bhāva and prema, which can be roughly defined as the state of internal moods before and after Divine Reciprocation. These two dimensions are thus complementary, the distinction being made in order to understand the functioning of rasa. As with all yoga systems, the movement is one from the external to the internal, from the gross to the subtle.
When the devotee has reached this stage of perfection, or spiritual success, certain symptoms are seen. These are also the signs of love by which one’s own progress can be measured, and sādhakas often pray for them, even though they are in themselves external. There is a popular saying, cited by Sanatan Goswami in his commentary to Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta that the symptoms of the successful are the path to follow for the aspirant, in other words, imitating the successful is the way to achieve success, siddhasya lakṣaṇaṁ yat syāt sādhanaṁ sādhakasya tat. And without adopting right means (sādhana), the end (sādhya) will never be achieved: sādhya vastu sādhana binā kabhu nāhi pāi.
So what are the symptoms of a bhāva-bhakta? Rupa Goswami lists nine anubhāvas:
āśā-bandhaḥ samutkaṇṭhā nāma-gāne sadā ruciḥ ||
āsaktis tad-guṇākhyāne prītis tad-vasati-sthale |
ity-ādayo’nubhāvāḥ syur jāta-bhāvāṅkure jane ||
Forbearance, not wasting time, dispassion, freedom from pride, constant hope, great eagerness, constant pleasure in chanting the names of the Lord, attachment to reciting his glories, and love for residence in his abode, these and others are the actions that are observed in one in whom feeling for the Lord has awakened. (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, 1.3.25-26)
Nearly all of these are encountered in practically every verse of the Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛtam.
Here it can be seen that once again, Rupa Goswami places prītis tad-vasati-sthale, residence in Vrindavan or at the very least a temple or consecrated place, as the final element in the series.
A devotee does not waste his time in frivolous pursuits that have no relation to the goal of loving service to his iṣṭa, the Divine Beloved. And this simultaneously brings about a spontaneous distaste for such worldly things and achievements: viraktir indriyārthānāṁ syād arocakatā svayam (BRS 1.3.30). This does not, therefore, necessarily mean external renunciation, as it is an internal attitude, though as a practice, if one goes to live in Vrindavan, it clearly cannot be done without an external renunciation of all alternatives. To attain Krishna prema, one often has to make choices that favor that spiritual goal alone, rejecting all that does not.
The verse Rupa Goswami quotes as an illustration of this quality comes from the life of Bharata in his final incarnation, when he left aside his royal power and perks out of a desire to be fully absorbed in the loving service of the Lord and nothing else:
jahau yuvaiva malavad uttamaḥ-śloka-lālasaḥ ||
That Bharata, even though still only a young man, out of his ardent desire to attain the glorious Lord, gave up all those things that everyone holds dear and hard to give up—wife, sons, friends and kingdom—as though they were nothing more than excrement. (5.14.43)
In the modern world, such extreme commitments to an other-worldly vision of the Absolute Truth have been almost done away with entirely, and people hope that through some material engagement they will be able to find Love or Truth. But the eternal truths discovered by the yogis, jnanis and bhaktas always emphasize some kind of detachment from the world, for without detachment there can be no transformation, internal or external. Nevertheless, as we have already emphasized (See 1.31) that renunciation is not a primary devotional practice. It does, however, naturally arise as a consequence of loving attachment to the Divine. This is beautifully stated in the Bhāgavatam in the form of a metaphor:
anyatra caiṣa trika eka-kālaḥ
prapadyamānasya yathāśnataḥ syus
tuṣṭiḥ puṣṭiḥ kṣud-apāyo’nughāsam
Devotion, direct experience of the Supreme Lord and indifference to material possessions and sense pleasures arrive simultaneously for someone who surrenders to the Lord, just as a person who eats feels satisfaction, nourishment and the diminishing of hunger with every mouthful. (11.2.42)
The three stages–devotion, direct experience of the Supreme, and dispassion–are given in the proper logical order.
If one has the fortune to live in Vrindavan and to follow and associate with a pure soul who has full dedication to the loving service of the Divine Couple, the attachment to the world and its pleasures and rewards will fall off like the skin of a molting snake.