Waves of Devotion

Sample Excerpts

Analysis of
The Nectar of Devotion
Chapter 1

Analysis  of  the Introduction of The Nectar of Devotion

Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.1.1-16

The Introduction to The Nectar of Devotion includes three topics: (1) the mangalacaranam of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu; (2) a brief description of the book's contents; and (3) an authoritative definition of pure devotional service.


A mangalacarana is an auspicious invocation. Therefore, Srila Prabhupada's first words in the Introduction are invoking auspiciousness. (NOD, p. xix)

Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami explains that a mangalacarana accomplishes three ends: (1) it defines the book's objective; (2) it allows the author to offer obeisances; and (3) it offers benedictions.9 

The first six verses of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu constitute Srila Rupa Gosvami's mangalacarana.

The First Verse
First Paragraph of Introduction
The first verse of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu defines the book's objective: Lord Sri Krsna. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead because He is the reservoir of all rasas (akhila-rasamrta-murti˙).

Srila Prabhupada translates this verse in Caitanya-caritamrta:

radha-preyan vidhur jayati

Let Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, be glorified! By virtue of His expanding attractive features, He subjugated the gopis named Taraka and Pali and absorbed Syama and Lalita. He is the most attractive lover of Srimati Radharani, and is the reservoir of pleasure for all devotional mellows. (Cc. Madhya 8.142)

Krsna--Reservoir of all Rasa
Krsna's supreme feature is His all-lovable personality, not His position of majesty and authority. In the Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 2.29), Srila Prabhupada explains this by comparing Lord Narayana to a high-court judge. The judge is a majestic and powerful figure in the courtroom, but only in the privacy of his own home do we see the expression of his full personality. At home, the judge reveals his intimate and sweet nature: with his parents he is obedient and faithful, with his friends he is confidential and jovial, and with his spouse he is a passionate lover.

Similarly, when Lord Narayana performs the creationary role of God, He reveals only His majesty and power. At home in Vrindavana, however, the fullness of His wonderfully sweet personality blossoms. Therefore, Srila Rupa Gosvami addresses Vrindavana-Krsna as akhila-rasamrta-murti, and singles Him out as the objective of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu.10

Krsna--Attractor of the Gopis
"...By His universal and transcendental attractive features He has captivated all the gopis, headed by Tarika, Palika, Syama, Lalita, and ultimately Srimati Radharani." (NOD, p. xix)

Srila Rupa Gosvami groups these five different gopis according to the intensity of their affection for Krsna: Taraka and Palika, Syama and Lalita, and Srimati Radharani. By His radiantly attractive features, Krsna subjugates Taraka and Palika; that is, He controls them. He absorbs Syama and Lalita by taking them into His intimate circle. Srimati Radharani is the dearest to Krsna. He becomes Her submissive lover (radha-preyan). Such is the unrivaled power of Her devotion.11

Krsna, the lover of Srimati Radharani and reservoir of all rasa, is the object and goal of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu.

The Second Verse
Second Paragraph

hrdi yasya preranaya
pravartito 'ham varaka-rupo' pi
tasya hare˙ pada-kamalam-
vande caitanya-devasya

"Although I am the lowest of men and have no knowledge, the inspiration to write transcendental literatures about devotional service has been mercifully bestowed upon me. Therefore I am offering my obeisances at the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has given me the chance to write these books." (Cc. Madhya 19.134)

Srila Rupa Gosvami offers obeisances to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who personally taught him the science of bhakti-rasa and inspired him to write Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. Srila Prabhupada was instructed in Krsna consciousness by his own spiritual master. Thus The Nectar of Devotion was more directly inspired by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Gosvami and Srila Rupa Gosvami, the original author. Therefore he adjusts his summary so that this verse offers obeisances to them.

"Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of Srila Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada and of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada, by whose inspiration I have been engaged in the matter of compiling this summary study of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu." (NOD, p. xix) 

Keeping close to the original text, Srila Prabhupada says, "This is the sublime science of devotional service as propounded by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who appeared five hundred years ago in West Bengal, India, to propagate the movement of Krsna consciousness." (NOD, p. xix)

The Third Verse
Third Paragraph

Here Srila Rupa Gosvami offers obeisances to his guru, declaring that the sole purpose of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu is to please him.

Srila Prabhupada offered obeisances to his spiritual master in the previous paragraph, so he translates this verse in the third-person: "Srila Rupa Gosvami begins his great book by offering his respectful obeisances unto Sri Sanatana Gosvami, who is his elder brother and spiritual master, and he prays that Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu may be very pleasing to him." (NOD, p. xix)12

The Fourth Verse
Fourth Paragraph

"Let us offer our respectful obeisances to all the great devotees and acaryas (holy teachers), who are compared to sharks in the great ocean of nectar and who do not care for the various rivers of liberation." (NOD, p. xix)

Srila Rupa Gosvami uses the shark analogy to glorify devotees in three ways: (1) sharks live only in the ocean; (2) sharks reject the rivers; and (3) sharks are never caught in the fisherman's net.

Sharks Live Only in the Ocean
Sharks refuse to reside in any lesser body of water. Similarly, devotees always relish the nectarean ocean of devotion and are never attracted to lesser pleasures.

Sharks Reject the Rivers
Impersonalists argue that the ultimate end of self-realization is to merge with the Supreme, as a river ultimately merges with the ocean. "Impersonalists are very fond of merging into the Supreme, like rivers that come down and merge into the ocean." (NOD, p. xix)

The fault in their argument is that they fail to accurately distinguish the path of self-realization from the person who practices it. If the path of self-realization is like a river, then the person on that path is like a fish in the river, not the river itself. The river may merge with the ocean, but the fish in the river do not. They enter the ocean and experience its variegated forms and entities. 

Srila Prabhupada explains, "The impersonalists are dwelling in the river water, which eventually comes to mix with the ocean. They have no information, however, that within the ocean, as within the river, there are innumerable aquatic living entities." (NOD, p. xix)

The real destination of self-realization is not to merge with the Supreme, but to enter the realm of the Supreme, which is full of innumerable forms and entities. Having already achieved this destination, devotees never take to any process of self-realization other than bhakti. "The sharks who dwell in the ocean do not care for the rivers which are gliding down into it . . . [They] have no business with the other processes, which are compared to the rivers that only gradually come to the ocean." (NOD, pp. xix-xx)

Sharks are Never Caught by the Fisherman's Net
Because devotees swim deep in the ocean of devotional service, they are never caught in the fisherman's net--the snares of birth and death.

The Fifth Verse
Fifth Paragraph

Srila Rupa Gosvami invokes a benediction for the protection of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu from argumentative logicians. "He compares their arguments and logic to volcanic eruptions in the midst of the ocean. In the midst of the ocean, volcanic eruptions can do very little harm, and similarly, those who are against the devotional service of the Lord and who put forward many philosophical theses about the ultimate transcendental realization cannot disturb this great ocean of devotional service." (NOD, p. xx) 

Srila Rupa Gosvami gives his blessings by indicating that those who study this book will become freed from the misconceptions of the impersonalists. 

The Sixth Verse
Sixth Paragraph

In verse two, Srila Rupa Gosvami expresses his humble sentiments and attributes the inspiration to write Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In the sixth verse he again describes himself as incompetent. 

Srila Prabhupada sums up Srila Rupa Gosvami's humility and notes that this is the proper mood of a preacher: "That should be the attitude of all preachers of the Krsna consciousness movement, following in the footsteps of Srila Rupa Gosvami. We should never think of ourselves as great preachers, but should always consider that we are simply instrumental to the previous acaryas, and simply by following in their footsteps we may be able to do something for the benefit of suffering humanity." (NOD, p. xx)

Srila Rupa Gosvami explains that his eagerness to write Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu stems from the desire to please the devotees. In this way he blesses whoever reads his book to achieve transcendental happiness.


Seventh Paragraph, Verses 7-9

"Originally, in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, the ocean is divided like the watery ocean into east, south, west, and north, while the subsections within these different divisions are called waves. . . . In the first part there are four waves, the first being a general description of devotional service. The second concerns the regulative principles for executing devotional service, and the third wave, devotional service in ecstasy. In the fourth is the ultimate goal, love of God." (NOD, p. xx)


From the top of page xxi of The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada begins to translate and explain the definition of uttama-bhakti, pure devotional service. This is the most important verse in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu:13

anukulyena krsnanu-
silanam bhaktir uttama

"When first-class devotional service develops, one must be devoid of all material desires, knowledge obtained by monistic philosophy, and fruitive actions. The devotee must constantly serve Krsna favorably, as Krsna desires." (Cc. Madhya 19.167)

In other words, pure devotional service is activity intended to please Krsna without ulterior motive, and is not covered by philosophical or fruitive pursuits.

Svarupa-Laksana--Primary Characteristics14
In The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada translates the primary characteristics of pure devotional service: "First-class devotional service is known by one's tendency to be fully engaged in Krsna consciousness, serving the Lord favorably." (NOD, p. xxi)

There are three primary characteristics: (1) devotional service is for Krsna; (2) devotional service is an active engagement; and (3) devotional service is executed with favorable intent. 

Krsna--Devotional Service is for Krsna
Pure devotional service is for Krsna, not for anyone else. Of all the primary characteristics, this is the most essential.

It may seem a bit too exclusive to say that devotion is only for Krsna and no one else. What about the people around us, can't we also love them?

We can love only Krsna, but Krsna is not ordinary. "When we speak of 'Krsna' we refer to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, along with His many expansions." (NOD, p. xxiii) In other words, Krsna and His expansions are proper recipients of our pure devotion.

Srila Prabhupada explains "many expansions: "He is expanded by His plenary parts and parcels, His differentiated parts and parcels, and His different energies." (NOD, p. xxiii)

"Plenary parts and parcels" refers to all the expansions and incarnations of Godhead, such as "...Baladeva, Sankarsana, Vasudeva, Aniruddha, Pradyumna, Rama, Nrsimha, and Varaha, as well as many other incarnations and innumerable Visnu expansions." (NOD, p. xxiii) "Differentiated parts and parcels" refers to the living entities. "Different energies" refers to the material and spiritual worlds.

These three categories include everything that exists. "'Krsna,' in other words, means everything and includes everything." (NOD, p. xxiii)

Obviously, it is overly inclusive to say that anything and everything is a valid recipient of pure devotional service. Srila Prabhupada therefore explains, "Generally, however, we should understand 'Krsna' to mean Krsna and His personal expansions . . . So Krsna includes all such expansions, as well as His pure devotees." (NOD, p. xxiii) Two paragraphs later, Srila Prabhupada also includes Krsna's paraphernalia and His transcendental abode as bona fide objects of the devotee's pure loving affection.

The conclusion: Krsna is the singular target of pure devotion. As a result of this one-pointed love for Krsna, one loves everything directly connected to Him.

This is neither too exclusive nor too inclusive.

Anusilanam--Devotional Service is an Active Engagement 
Pure devotion is the activity of offering loving service to Krsna. "The particular word used by Srila Rupa Gosvami in this connection is anusilana, or cultivation by following the predecessor teachers (acaryas). As soon as we say 'cultivation,' we refer to activity. Without activity, consciousness alone cannot help us." (NOD, p. xxi)

Srila Prabhupada explains that there are two aspects of anusilana: (1) pravrtti, pursuance of activities that are favorable to Krsna consciousness; and (2) nivrtti, avoidance of activities unfavorable to Krsna consciousness. We can perform both pravrtti and nivrtti with body, mind, and words (see NOD, p. xxi).

Devotional service is possible only by the mercy of Krsna and His devotees. Without the assistance of the disciplic succession, silanam cannot connect to Krsna. Thus the prefix anu ("that which follows") links silanam to Krsna.

Those who follow Krsna are the guru-parampara. We perform devotional activities by following a spiritual master who himself is following the guru-parampara, which is ultimately following Sri Krsna's dictations. In this way, our own activities may connect to Krsna's transcendental desires.

Srila Prabhupada explains, "...we can offer many services with our bodily activities. But all such activities must be in relationship with Krsna. This relationship is established by connecting oneself with the bona fide spiritual master, who is the direct representative of Krsna in disciplic succession." (NOD, p. xxii)

Initiation by the spiritual master ensures purity and selflessness in our service. Without initiation, we cannot connect with Krsna and know exactly what we should do to please the Lord.

Devotional Activities are Under the Internal Energy
Since all the activities of devotional service follow Krsna's desire, they are part of the internal, spiritual energy. "Any activities done in devotional service, or in Krsna consciousness, are directly under the control of spiritual energy." (NOD, p. xxii)

The energy and inspiration to perform devotional service transpires from Krsna. They originate from Krsna's spiritual potency, flow down through the disciplic succession, and are instilled in our hearts by the spiritual master. By following a bona fide spiritual master we link our energies and activities to Krsna's internal potency. Thus they become spiritualized. 

Srila Prabhupada concludes, "In other words, energy is a sort of strength, and this strength can be spiritualized by the mercy of both the bona fide spiritual master and Krsna."  (NOD, p. xxii)

Anukulyena--Favorable Intention 
Srila Rupa Gosvami has so far defined devotional service as activity for Krsna's pleasure (Krsna-anu-silanam). However, sometimes Krsna derives pleasure from the activities of those who are inimical toward Him. For example, the demons sometimes please Krsna by affording Him the opportunity to fight and protect His devotees. Thus they are engaged in activity that pleases Krsna. Still, it would be absurd to say that demons practice devotional service.15 Therefore Srila Rupa Gosvami qualifies his definition with the adjective anukulyena (favorable intention). 

The point is that pure devotional service is not just an activity that incidentally pleases Krsna. It must be intended to please Krsna. Otherwise it is not bhakti.

Grammatically, anukulyena is an adjective in the instrumental case; it is inseparable from the noun it qualifies. This indicates that a favorable, non-inimical attitude toward Krsna is essential to the activities of devotional service. 

To explain this, Jiva Gosvami introduces the analogy of a warrior and his weapons. He says that when a king calls for a sentry, it is expected that the sentry will appear properly dressed and armed. Similarly, Krsna-anu-silanam must be accompanied by anukulyena, a favorable attitude. The two elements are inseparable, just as wherever a king goes, he is accompanied by his retinue.

In The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada puts a twist on the analogy about the soldier and his weapons. He then sets it into a context with the word Krsna, explaining that all paraphernalia in connection with Krsna may also be the object of pure devotional service. 

In conclusion, devotional activities should be pleasing to Krsna, and they should be done with favorable intent. If an activity pleases Krsna but was not intended to do so, that activity is not bhakti. On the other hand, even an action that apparently displeases Krsna can be considered pure devotional service if the intention is loving. A perfect example is Mother Yasoda's chastisement of Krsna. Thus favorable intention (anukulyena) is of prime importance in executing devotional service.

Tatastha-Laksana--Secondary Characteristics16

The two secondary characteristics of pure devotional service are: (1) anyabhilasita-sunyam, pure devotional service is free from ulterior motive; and (2) jnana-karmady anavrtam, pure devotional service is not covered by philosophical or fruitive pursuits.

Srila Prabhupada summarizes: "Pure devotional service should be free from the desire for any material benefit or for sense gratification, as these desires are cultivated through fruitive activities and philosophical speculation. In order to keep the purity of such Krsna conscious activities, one must be freed from all material desires and philosophical speculation." (NOD, p. xxi)

The secondary characteristics of uttama-bhakti serve to distinguish pure devotional service from ordinary devotional service. Ordinary devotional service is activity intended to please Krsna. Additionally, pure devotional service is (1) free from ulterior motive; and (2) not covered by philosophical or fruitive pursuits.

Anyabhilasita-Sunyam--Free From Ulterior Motive 

Anyabhilasita-sunyam--free from ulterior motive
Anya--other; abhilasita--integral desire; sunyam--void

Anyabhilasita-sunyam means "void of any other desire." Srila Prabhupada says, "Any desire except for the service of the Lord is called material desire." (NOD, p. xxiv)

If one says that pure devotional service is utterly void of all material desires, that could be too exclusive. Therefore Srila Rupa Gosvami modifies anyabhilasa ("material desire") by adding the suffix "-ta."

Abhilasa means "desire." The suffix -ta means "-ness." Thus abhilasita literally means "desire-ness." This differentiates "desire" from "desire-ness," where the former can also be inclusive of the inevitable desires integral to material existence, and latter exclusively refers to desires for sense gratification.

Inevitably, integral desires are the basic instincts for self-preservation, such as the drive to survive, to eat, or to evacuate. One can have these desires and still not be out of the realm of pure devotional service, as long as, of course, they do not become the main motivational force in one's life.

For example, suppose a devotee who has dedicated his full energy to advancement in devotion is suddenly put in a life-threatening situation. He may call out, "Krsna, save me!" This is not a desire for Krsna's pleasure. It is a personal desire for self-preservation. But it is an inevitable, integral part of existence. Such non-integral desires do not exclude one from pure devotional service.

The conclusion is that even if there are extraneous desires, one's motive must be kept completely pure. One should desire only to please the Lord, and thus execute pure devotional service.

Jnana-Karmady-Anavrtam--Not Covered By Jnana or Karma

As mentioned, there are two secondary characteristics (tatastha-laksanam) of pure devotional service: (1) anyabhilasita-sunyam, free from ulterior motive; and (2) jnana-karmady-anavrtam, not covered by philosophical or fruitive pursuits. These secondary characteristics modify the primary characteristics, and thereby distinguish pure devotional service from general devotional service.

Jnana--Philosophical Speculation 
It is not that we must completely rule out all philosophical speculation, but if our philosophical interests become more prominent than our concentration on simple bhakti, they will cover our devotional attitude and disqualify us from pure devotional service.17  

"The ultimate end of philosophical speculation then must be Krsna, with the understanding that Krsna is everything, the cause of all causes, and that one should therefore surrender to Him. If this ultimate goal is reached, then philosophical advancement is favorable, but if the conclusion of philosophical speculation is voidism or impersonalism, that is not bhakti." (NOD, p. xxiv) 

Karma--Ritualistic Pursuits 
We can engage in ordinary social and religious activities, but such engagements must not become more prominent than our engagement in direct bhakti. If such activities overshadow our attention on devotional activities, such as hearing and chanting, they will cover our devotional attitude and disqualify us from pure devotional service. "There are many persons who are very much attracted by the ritualistic activities described in the Vedas. But if one becomes attracted simply to ritualistic activities without understanding Krsna, his activities are unfavorable to Krsna consciousness." (NOD, p. xxiv) 

An example of ritualistic activities that do not cover devotional service are those performed simply out of social convention, such as Lord Caitanya's offering pinda upon His father's death.18

An example of an activity that could cover devotional service is astrology. Although astrology can serve a purpose, a devotee may gradually put more faith in the power of destiny than in the power of bhakti, and thus impede or cover his surrender to Krsna.

Devotional service need only involve the nine activities of hearing, chanting, remembering, etc. Anything else is extraneous and could become an impediment to pure devotion. Pure devotees must therefore be on guard not to let extraneous activities overwhelm and cover their hearing and chanting. "Actually, Krsna consciousness can be based simply on hearing, chanting, remembering, etc. . . . besides which everything done is unfavorable to Krsna consciousness. Thus, one should always be guarding against falldowns." (NOD, p. xxiv)

Adi--Other Pursuits 
The same paradigm can be applied to any other pursuit, such as renunciation, yoga, etc. We can utlilize these processes, but they must not cover our bhakti. Our motive in life should be to awaken our eternal loving relationship with Krsna. Other pursuits may be undertaken, but remain secondary. Srila Prabhupada summarizes, "Many forms of so-called renunciation are also not favorable to Krsna conscious devotional service." (NOD, p. xxiv)

Review of Definition

Pure devotional service is activity intended to please Krsna, without ulterior motive, and not covered by philosophical or fruitive pursuits.

Srila Rupa Gosvami's definition of uttama-bhakti (pure devotional service) is perfect. Each word is so precise that we cannot mistake pure devotional service for anything else. His definition is not overly exclusive, nor overly inclusive. It applies perfectly to all stages of devotees--those in practice and those in perfection.

References Quoted to Support this Definition

Srila Rupa Gosvami quotes verses to support his definition of pure devotional service, beginning with a prominent verse from Narada Pancaratra describing unalloyed bhakti: sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam. Srila Prabhupada ends his introduction with a brief explanation of this verse.


9. Cc. Adi 1.22: “The invocation involves three processes: defining the objective, offering benedictions and offering obeisances.” Cc. Adi 1.20: “In the beginning of this narration [mangalacarana], simply by remembering the spiritual master, the devotees of the Lord, and the Personality of Godhead, I have invoked their blessings.”

10. Akhila-rasamrta-murti means that Krsna is the full embodiment of all rasa. In The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada translates akhila-rasamrta-murti as “the reservoir of all rasa.” (NOD, p. xix)(akhila—full, every, all; rasa-amrta—nectarean mellows; murti—embodiment, form)

11. Bhavisya Purana mentions Taraka, Palika, Syama, Lalita, and Srimati Radharani as among the ten most important gopis who attended the rasa dance (see BRS 1.1.1, Jiva Gosvami’s commentary).

12. Srila Rupa Gosvami uses the word sanatana with a double meaning. Sanatana (which literally means “eternal”) can refer either to Krsna, the eternal Lord, or to Sanatana Gosvami. Thus the mangala- carana’s third verse offers obeisances to both guru and Krsna simultaneously.

13. This verse is the paribhasa-sutra—the “thesis statement” upon which the entire book is based. In Hari- namamr†a-vyakarana, Jiva Gosvami defines paribhasa-sutra as aniyame niyama-karini paribhasa: “A paribhasa-sutra implies a rule or theme where it is not explicitly stated.” In other words, it gives the context in which to understand a series of apparently unrelated statements in a book. Srila Prabhupada’s explanation of this verse (BRS 1.1.11) draws mainly from the commentary of Jiva Gosvami.

14. The nayakosa defines svarupa-laksanam as svarupamera laksanam—that which describes the fundamental nature of an object or person.

15. Srila Prabhupada notes that “great demons like Ravana, Kamsa, and Hiranyakasipu were always thinking of Krsna, but they were thinking of Him as their enemy. This sort of thinking cannot be accepted as bhakti, or Krsna consciousness.” (NOD, p. xxiii)

16. The nayakosa defines tatas†ha-laksanam as yaval-laksyakalam anavastha-yitve sati yad vyavartakam tat— that which further distinguishes an object (or person) by describing qualities outside its fundamental nature.

17. Jnana (philosophical speculation) generally refers to the cultivation of impersonal knowledge, not to knowledge directed toward the attainment of Krsna.

18. Pinda is a type of funeral ceremony in which a son offers prasadam to his deceased father.