“Active interest in Krishna—the understanding that Krishna is mine or that I am Krishna’s, and that therefore my business is to satisfy the senses of Krishna —is typical of a higher stage than the neutrality of the shanta-rasa. Simply by understanding the greatness of Krishna, one can achieve the status of shanta-rasa, in which the worshipable object may be the impersonal Brahman or Paramatma.” (Teachings Of Lord Chaitanya, Ch 1)
Friend1: The five rasas of bhakti.
Friend2: The best English translation for that is “transcendental mellow.”
Friend1: Sort of like a mood of interaction.
Friend1: To me it answers so many questions.
Friend2: Such as?
Friend1: What happens after liberation? What is eternal life like? It settles the debate as to whether God is a person.
Friend2: Right, because you can’t have interactions with something that doesn’t exist.
Friend1: That, too, but the impersonal side is still something tangible. The rasas explain that God has a personal side. He is not simply the negation of everything we see. Just because I have a body doesn’t mean that the Almighty is without one. Just because I laugh and cry doesn’t mean that such displays of emotion are absent in the spiritual world.
Friend2: There you go. That’s a good way to explain it. The different rasas mean different emotions. Parents are moved to tears at the outpouring of affection from their little ones. Children cry when separated from friends and family. A servant takes great pride in being able to carry out their prescribed duties successfully.
Friend1: And the difference is that these interactions are not in illusion. That is to say the attachment to a temporary body is not there, as we see in the material world.
Friend2: It is Vaikuntha, or the place free of anxieties. It is Goloka Vrindavana, or the planet of spiritual senses where the bhakti, devotion, flourishes. There is no difference between body and spirit. The residents are in their svarupa, or true form, which they use to interact with the chief resident, Shri Krishna.
Friend1: Here is an issue I am not too clear on. We know of the different personal interactions, but there is one that doesn’t really involve any movement.
Friend1: Yes. I know it is explained as the mood of neutrality. I always thought of it as awe and reverence.
Friend2: Right. An example would be if you are at the office and the head of the company decides to visit. Everyone is on their best behavior. They dress nicely and make sure to show up on time. The aim is to show respect.
Friend1: With Krishna, there is so much appreciation. There is a hint of fear, too, which prevents the outward exhibition of emotion or deeper interaction.
Friend2: Yes. Mother Yashoda chastises Krishna. The friends wrestle with Him. The gopis make fun of Him like anything. You can only do those things if you go beyond awe and reverence.
Friend1: So the area of confusion for me is that I’ve heard it said that shanta-rasa is for the impersonalists, as well.
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: That if you only appreciate the impersonal Brahman, the light of spiritual energy, you are interacting with God in neutrality.
Friend2: Well, there is appreciation. Brahman realization is considered a spiritual consciousness. That is to say a person will get liberation at the time of death.
Friend1: I get that, but how can it be considered bhakti? Shouldn’t devotion involve knowledge of the personal side of God?
Friend2: You can think of it as suppressed bhakti. There is a hint of devotion. The light of Brahman is too bright for them to go beyond.
Friend1: Also, what about Mayavadis? They have concluded that everything in this world is maya, or illusion. Are they in shanta-rasa, as well?
Friend2: If there is some appreciation, then yes. If not, then they are offenders, who Krishna characterizes as the lowest among men. These are people who will never acknowledge His true position.
“Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons, do not surrender unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.15)
Friend1: I see. So there must be an element of surrender.
Friend2: The word “asura” is also used. The Brahman realized person is not an asura; at least not in spirit. Shanta-rasa is certainly bhakti, and if you think about it so many people around the world have this type of interaction. The higher stages are there for higher enjoyment, as even in liberated life there is variety and nuance.
After liberation identity persisting,
Options for interaction existing.
With Supreme Lord, on personal side,
On different spiritual planets to reside.
In higher rasas talking without deference,
But shanta for awe and reverence.
Even that bhakti considered,
At death’s time delivered.