“Driven by affection for his wife and children, a family man works day and night. A philanthropist works in the same way for love of the greater family, and a nationalist for the cause of his country and countrymen. That force which drives the philanthropist, the householder and the nationalist is called rasa, or a kind of mellow (relationship) whose taste is very sweet. Bhakti-rasa is a mellow different from the ordinary rasa enjoyed by mundane workers.” (The Nectar Of Devotion, Preface)
Bhakti-yoga is also known as bhakti-rasa. This means the “taste of devotion.” The rasa is also a mellow, or mood of interaction. We enjoy pizza through taste, music through sound, and paintings through sight. There is enjoyment in each case, but the exact form of interaction is not the same.
With connection to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, there are different rasas available. The presence of a taste gives proof of two individuals, one at each end. If God were merely an abstract or something impersonal, it would not be possible to experience a taste.
The fuel of bhakti is a desire to see the enjoyment of the person to whom the service is offered. Comparisons to different temporary identifications is helpful in understanding the concept.
1. The philanthropist
There is love for people, in this case the downtrodden. Perhaps in a specific area the community is underprivileged. Not everyone has two parents living with them. Maybe the living conditions aren’t ideal. Perhaps the dinner table is not always full.
The philanthropist is driven to experience the rasa of helping others. They want to see the material condition improve. Though the work is described as selfless, there is a personal interest being met; otherwise there would be no impetus to even begin the process.
2. The family man
This case is similar to the philanthropist, except on a smaller scale. The husband wants to see the wife comfortable and happy. They want the children to feel secure, living in a nice place. To meet these objectives, the family man goes to work. It may not be the best situation. The boss could be horrible. The jobs might change from year to year, but the effort is worth it to see smiles on the faces of loved ones.
3. The nationalist
This person sacrifices to the extreme. They want their nation to triumph, to be secure from foreign enemies. The nation is merely the largest collection of local communities. The flag stands for all the people, including the neighbors. The nationalist may reach the point of taking up arms to defend their fellow countrymen. Again, a rasa is the driving factor. National pride is the resulting feeling.
Bhakti-rasa is similar, but also different. It is a transcendental taste, one that bypasses all other designations, which are temporary. One family man is working hard, but another one is doing the same. They each limit their scope of interest. The philanthropist helps the poor, but the rich are also suffering. The nationalist does not consider the wellbeing of people born in other nations. These are foreigners, who sometimes immediately become the enemy based only on where they were born.
Bhakti-rasa is focused on the origin of everything. In that sense there is automatic connection with everything and everyone, including the non-human species. Bhakti-rasa is like watering the root of the tree, wherein the component parts are automatically nourished.
Devotion is tasted in a variety of moods, but there is always some work being done. The spiritual land of Vrindavana provides a clearer picture. There the cows and the parrots take part in devotion, though their abilities in communication are greatly limited in comparison to the human population. Nevertheless, the object of affection, Shri Krishna, appreciates the cows just as much as the friends and the parents. This is God’s special vision; He holds tremendous love for every one of His children, wherever they may reside.
Not difficult to decide,
Since wherever to reside.
Holding the greatest affection,
Of slightest service detection.
Devotees in same way viewing,
Not scope of limited work doing.
Similar with taste force driving,
Lord’s smile the fuel providing.
Categories: the three