tarhi tvaṁ dhyāya vṛndāvanam aniśam athopāsya vṛndāvaneśau |
tan-nāmāny eva nityaṁ japa satatam atho tat-kathāṁ saṁśṛṇuṣva
śrīmad-vṛndāvana-sthān atha paricara bho bhojanācchādanādyaiḥ ||
O sadhu! If you cannot immediately abandon everything as if it were a dream, then meditate constantly on Vrindavan even as you worship the Divine Couple of Vrindavan. Do japa of their names without cessation, listen to the talks of their pastimes, and serve the residents of Vrindavan with food, clothing and other gifts. (1.72)
The strict renunciate view is the absolute commitment to a Reality distinct from that of the visible world. One gives up the entire life as nothing more than an illusion, a dream. This awareness is called jñāna.
mūḍhaḥ satya-dhiyā vibho
I too am deluded in this way, O almighty Lord, foolishly thinking my body, children, home, wife, money and followers to be real, though they are actually as unreal as a dream. (10.40.23)
This is a strong statement of “other worldly” religion. Some people call this attitude life-denying and prefer to seek attitudes that confirm this world and life in it. But in fact, Vaishnavism is not really a life-denying religion; rather it is one that affirms life within the very real context of life’s temporary nature. Nevertheless, those who are completely dedicated to the vision of the Divine Couple in Vrindavan reveal to the worldly people that the Ideal is the Real. It is absorption in that Reality that gives this world and life its reality, its meaning and purpose.
But most people cannot follow the demanding standard of absolute renunciation, so Prabodhananda advises others to follow the program outlined here, that of devotional service in practice, the essence of which is Vrindavan consciousness.
In the Gita also, Krishna prescribes a hierarchy of actions in the 12th chapter.
mayy eva mana ādhatsva mayi buddhiṁ niveśaya |
nivasiṣyasi mayy eva ata ūrdhvaṁ na saṁśayaḥ ||
Just fix your mind upon me alone; engage all your intelligence in me. Thus without a doubt you will reside in me forever, even in the hereafter. (12.8)
Intelligence or buddhi is, according to sāṁkhya philosophy, the world of ideas, the primordial map of laws that result in creation. In Vaishnavism, that map is a reflection of the map of the spiritual realm, which is Vrindavan. When one invests one’s mind in Krishna, one sees the ideal and aligns one’s actions in such a way that it proceeds towards the ideal–i.e., the true realm of Reality, where truth, beauty and love are all-pervading as cause and effect. When one’s thoughts, intelligence and actions are all fixed in that Reality, then one lives in Vrindavan.
That, then, is the state of internal samādhi perfection, svarūpa-siddhi. This is what Prabodhananda is urging constantly in his exhortations to reside in Vrindavan. But if that is not possible? Krishna gives the krama, or sequence.
atha cittaṁ samādhātuṁ na śaknoṣi mayi sthiram|
abhyāsa-yogena tato mām icchāptuṁ dhanaṁjaya ||
O Dhananjaya, if you cannot establish your mind in me in constant samādhi perfection, then try to reach me by the discipline of repeated practice (abhyāsa-yogena) of meditation on me. (12.9)
Here the commentaries show some difference of opinion, but the basic idea is the same as that found in this verse. Ramanuja in particular glorifies the unlimited virtues of the Supreme Person (asaṁkhyeya-kalyāṇa-guṇa-sāgare), indicating that by repeatedly contemplating the Lord in his beautiful form, his qualities, his pastimes and his love for his devotees, one becomes fixed on him in a mood of love. The practice of bhakti leads to prema. Vishwanath also states it beautifully:
anyatra gatam api manaḥ punaḥ pratyāhṛtya mad-rūpa eva sthāpanam abhyāsaḥ |
prākṛtatvād iti kutsita-rūpa-rasādiṣu calantyā mano-nadyās teṣu calanaṁ nirudhya
atisubhadreṣu madīya-rūpa-rasādiṣu tac-calanaṁ śanaiḥ śanaiḥ sampādayety arthaḥ ||
The meaning of abhyāsa-yoga is that one withdraws the mind from other things when it goes to them and fixes it on my form. The river of the mind flows to the contemptible flavors and forms of the mundane world. One should stop that flow and gradually turn it towards my flavors and forms which are most auspicious. (Vishwanath)
The words mām āptum iccha underline the essence of the bhakti process: Devotion is entirely dependent on the desire to attain God itself. The persistence in practice is simply a manifestation of that desire.
abhyāse’py asamartho’si mat-karma-paramo bhava |
mad-artham api karmāṇi kurvan siddhim avāpsyasi ||10||
If you are unable to engage even in this practice, then fix yourself in my work. By performing activities for my sake, you will attain success.
There is a difference of opinion amongst the various commentaries here, but we agree with the majority who take it to mean the physical actions of devotion. This would indicate that the previous verse was giving priority to the inner culture of devotional thought and feeling, while this one indicates external activities like the nine kinds of devotion, i.e., hearing, chanting, deity worship and so on. The next verse indicates an even more external layer:
athaitad apy aśakto’si kartuṁ mad-yogam āśritaḥ |
sarva-karma-phala-tyāgaṁ tataḥ kuru yatātmavān ||
If you are unable to do this, then take refuge in my yoga. Then being self-controlled, give up the results of all actions. (12.11)
Mad-yoga here must be taken to mean engaging in one’s surrender all actions and their fruits, i.e., niṣkäma-karma-yoga. This entails the culture of detachment, which Krishna has been emphasizing from the beginning of the Gita. The last verse in the series summarizes what went before, but at the same time appears to give a somewhat contradictory sequence, which has resulted in confusion and conflict of opinion among the various commentaries.
śreyo hi jñānam abhyāsāj jñānād dhyānaṁ viśiṣyate |
dhyānāt karma-phala-tyāgas tyāgāc chāntir anantaram||
Better indeed than the practice of concentration is knowledge; better than knowledge is meditation. From meditation arises the renunciation of the fruits of action and peace follows from such renunciation. (12.12)
This verse can only be understood in the following way: karma-phala-tyāga refers to the most external practice, which lies at both the beginning and end of spiritual practice. It is the first instruction that Krishna gives Arjuna in chapter 2, but it also lies at the end of that chapter in the description of the external symptoms of the state of samādhi or sthita-prajñā. So Krishna gives this as the all-pervading feature of all yoga practices in both their beginning and their end. It is the symptom of perfection that shows complete indifference to the dualities of the material world. It exists as the principal element of Vrindavan sadhana as given by Prabodhananda in this VMA also.
Therefore the jñāna and dhyāna here have to be two aspects of the state after abhyāsa, which incorporate all the elements of sādhanā, in particular the innermost practices referred to in verse 12.9. This distinction was not clearly made in 12.8, but can be inferred. The commentaries also show variety here, but the fundamental difference might be described as jñāna or theoretical knowledge and vijñāna or practical realization, or actual full samādhi, not the dhyāna that is one of the subsidiary practices of the eight-fold yoga system, which in this context would be in the category of abhyāsa.
So, in Prabodhananda’s instruction, living in Vrindavan as a physical practice belongs to the category of physical renunciation. This stage is not actually mentioned in the outline given by Krishna in this sequence of the Gita, nor in Rupa Goswami’s description of the krama to attaining prema found in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.4.11-12, which emphasizes positive attachment rather than detachment from material desires and so on, except to name them except to indicate that there is a progressive removal of internal and external obstacles, anartha-nivṛtti. But the Bhāgavata does harmonize the two:
mat-kathā-śravaṇādau vā śraddhā yāvan na jāyate ||
One should not take the renounced order of life and continue engaging in prescribed duties until such time as he develops a faith in hearing and chanting about me. (11.20.9)
In other words when one believes in the truth, power and efficacy of hearing and chanting about Radha and Krishna, when one has complete faith and is ready to abandon all else, then one is eligible for life in Vrindavan as the final step in sādhanā. Until then, one should endeavor to cultivate the taste by engaging in practices favorable to that goal in the association of rasika devotees.
See previous 1.71.