Waves of Devotion

Sample Excerpts

Analysis of
The Nectar of Devotion
Chapter 1


Analysis of the Preface of The Nectar of Devotion

The Nectar of Devotion’s preface addresses two main subjects: it gives a brief history of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu with a biography of its author, and it discusses bhakti-rasa, the primary subject of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu.

Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu originates from Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Rupa Gosvami heard it from Him for ten days on the bank of the Ganga at Dasasvamedha-ghata in Prayaga. The Gosvami assimilated the Lord’s instructions and systematically presented them in writing. In 1970 His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada summarized Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu and gave it to the world as The Nectar of Devotion.6

Bhakti-rasa is the primary subject of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. Srila Prabhupada introduces this subject by briefly commenting on the book’s title.

Srila Prabhupada says, “Bhakti means ‘devotional service.’” (NOD, p. xii)

Bhakti connotes devotion, or love, and love implies service. Service refers to that activity which is intended to please the beloved. Thus “devotional service” is an eloquent definition of bhakti.7

Devotion is the most fundamental drive of every living entity. “The basic principle of the living condition is that we have a general propensity to love someone. No one can live without loving someone else.” (NOD, p. xv)

We cannot be happy without satisfying this desire to love. We will not be able to perfectly fulfill this desire without permitting its expansion to the most inclusive extent. “In the primary stage a child loves his parents, then his brothers and sisters, and as he daily grows up he begins to love his family, society, community, country, nation, or even the whole human society. But the loving propensity is not satisfied even by loving all human society; that loving propensity remains imperfectly fulfilled until we know who is the supreme beloved.” (NOD, p. xv)

Srila Prabhupada says that love can become all-embracing only when we understand that Krsna is the supreme beloved. He is the root of all creation. By embracing Him we successfully embrace everyone, just as pouring water on the root of a tree successfully nourishes every leaf and branch.

“The Nectar of Devotion teaches us the science of loving every one of the living entities perfectly by the easy method of loving Krsna.” (NOD, pp. xv-xvi)

The loving propensity expands like a beam of light. By instructing us to love Krsna, “The Nectar of Devotion will teach us how to turn the one switch that will immediately brighten everything, everywhere. One who does not know this method is missing the point of life.” (NOD, p. xvi)

The term rasa is difficult to translate. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura translated it as “mellow.” Srila Prabhupada followed in his footsteps. “The word rasa, used in the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, is understood by different persons differently because the exact English equivalent is very difficult to find. But as we have seen our spiritual master translate this word rasa into ‘mellow,’ we shall follow in his footsteps and also translate the word in that way.” (NOD, p. 151)

Rasa literally means “juice.” Contextually, it means “mellow.” Mellow means “sweet and full-flavored from ripeness, as fruit.”8 Thus “mellow” refers to the relishably sweet taste of a fruit—the taste contained in its juice. Relationships are comparable to fruits. The pleasure we taste in a relationship is the juice or mellow of the relationship, the rasa.

It is the taste of a fruit that attracts us to eat it. Similarly, the force that attracts us to a certain activity or relationship is the taste we enjoy in it. Srila Prabhupada explains: “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.” (NOD, p. xiii)

There are two kinds of tastes: (1) bhakti-rasa, the taste relished in devotional service to Krsna; and (2) mundane rasa, the taste enjoyed by sense gratification.

Bhakti-rasa is the incalculably superior taste. Not only is it superior to sense gratification, it is limitlessly superior even to the bliss of spiritual emancipation. Srila Rupa Gosvami describes, “If brahmananda, or the happiness of becoming one with the Supreme, is multiplied by one trillionfold, it still cannot be compared to an atomic fraction of the happiness derived from the ocean of devotional service.” (NOD, p. 15)

It is impossible for us to fully understand the infinite happiness relished in bhakti because it is beyond the realm of anything we can experience in our finite existence. Srila Prabhupada, however, provides us with a glimpse of bhakti-rasa by comparing it to something with which we are quite familiar—mundane rasa.

Mundane Rasa
Srila Prabhupada describes mundane rasa by noting its two qualities: (1) bhoga-tyaga, oscillation between enjoyment and renunciation; and (2) capala-sukha, or flickering happiness.

Bhoga-Tyaga and Capala-Sukha
Neither enjoyment (bhoga) nor renunciation (tyaga) is the soul’s natural position. Therefore, we cannot remain permanently situated in either extreme. Rather, we will continue to oscillate between the two, finding satisfaction in neither. The happiness (sukha) of mundane rasa is always temporary and flickering (capala). Even the greatest material pleasure ends at death.

We enjoy (bhoga) ordinary material pleasure for a time, but because it is temporary happiness (capala-sukha) we soon abandon it (tyaga) in search of some other pleasure.

Srila Prabhupada illustrates the superiority of bhakti-rasa over mundane rasa by contrasting the two (see NOD, p. xiii). Mundane rasa is bhoga-tyaga. In contrast, bhakti-rasa is the natural position of the soul, which means we can remain satisfied there perpetually, without oscillation. Mundane rasa is capala-sukha. In contrast, the pleasure of bhakti-rasa does not flicker, but is eternal (amrta).

Since the pleasure of bhakti-rasa does not fade, it is amrta, deathless. “Bhakti-rasa, however, the mellow relished in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, does not finish with the end of life. It continues perpetually and is therefore called amrta, that which does not die but exists eternally.” (NOD, p. xiv) Srila Prabhupada explains that the activities of devotional service are never vanquished, even by death.

Amrta also means “nectar,” a tasty beverage which makes us deathless. Devotional service not only bestows eternal pleasure, it is also the process by which eternity is achieved.

The nectarean pleasure derived from devotional service to Krsna is clearly superior to material sense gratification. We may sometimes manage to procure a few drops of sense pleasure, but there is an entire ocean (sindhu) of the nectar of devotion easily available to everyone, always. By understanding The Nectar of Devotion, one can dive deeply into that ocean (see NOD, p. xvi).


6. Srila Jiva Gosvami and Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura are the two most significant commentators on Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu.

7. Mitam ca saram ca vaco hi vagmita iti: “Essential truth spoken concisely is true eloquence.” (Cc.Adi 1.106)

8. Random House Webster’s Dictionary.