From “Mine-ness” to Mamata

By Prema Bhakti dasi

The love of the Vrajavasis is characterized by a quality of possessiveness called mamata, a divine “mine-ness” wherein the devotees identify completely with Krishna, the object of their devotion, in all respects. He is simply one of them: a cowherd. Such prema is beyond this world. This spiritual possessiveness is the essence of bhajan in the Gaudiya tradition.

The mineness in my life is largely based on my identifying with the body and mind. My attachments define who I am: I am a schoolteacher, a mother, and so many other things. How is it possible in a state of perpetual mineness to begin to understand and thus desire something as pure as the spiritual greed of the Vrajavasis? I know it begins with identifying more fully as an aspiring servant of my dear Guru Maharaja, but clearly at present I am a long way from home.

However, generous statements of our acaryas sometimes provide examples from our worldly experience to give us a glimpse into this perfected love, a way for a novice, whose feet are firmly planted in this realm of duality, to get a grasp on transcendence. For me, a mother of two boys, Srila Prabhupada’s statement that a mother’s unconditional love is the closest thing to pure love is very relevant. Parental affection in this world, although a common and universal experience, nevertheless can grant one an opportunity to channel profound selflessness, and when experienced in the context of cultivating bhakti, it can provide glimpses of our higher prospect.

I had one such experience when my son was only three and disappeared from my sight in a crowded grocery store. I piteously cried out his name as my legs buckled beneath me. I did not care who was staring at me or how crazy I appeared to others, I just wanted to see my son safe again before me. Fortunately after about a minute—which seemed like an eternity—someone pointed out that he had just wandered down the next aisle. I was immediately relieved to have him with me again. When I revisit those desperate feelings and the concern for my son’s welfare, I experience how my vanity, my composure, my egocentric facade completely melted in that moment. How ordinary an experience this was, yet it was one that left me wondering, “What heights and depths can be attained in pure loving dealings with the wonderful cowherd Krishna, and furthermore, how can I move in this direction?”

Srila Rupa Goswami explains in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu that the third anga of bhakti is visrambhena guroh seva. It could be said that the use of the word visrambha implies that a sense of mamata begins with our relationship with sri guru. Visrambha means firm faith, yet it also speaks of a confidence devoid of reverence and a complete identification with the beloved. Sri Jiva Goswami defines the term this way in his commentary on Sri Rupa’s Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. In his Jaiva Dharma, Thakura Bhaktivinoda describes a connection between visrambha and pranaya, an intensified stage of prema that is free from the slightest hint of reverence. In both instances, Sri Jiva and Thakura Bhaktivinoda are defining the term in relation to sakhya rasa, wherein it serves as the pradhana, or foundation, of eternal fraternal love of God, visrambha-pradhana sakhya. In sakhya rati, the love is so concentrated that it is characterized by an intense equality wherein there is no hesitation in its expression or acknowledgment of difference amongst the gopas. Clearly, in our relationship with guru we are always in the inferior position as we are products of his or her mercy only. Nevertheless, there is the possibility of serving sri guru with mature affection, wherein seva to the guru is infused with intimacy and friendship and the desires of the disciple and his or her guru are one in all respects. In such a scenario reverence is not absent, but it has been clothed in affection and formally recedes the background. Thus visrambhena-guroh-seva can be seen as an entrance point, yet it is such a rare and high aspiration in itself that we should hold it high above our heads. If only I could experience that same intensity in relation to losing sight of my guru’s instructions as I felt for my lost son then I would certainly feel confident that I was well on my way to mamata.

I take solace in knowing that the bhakti-marga is merciful. Bhakti adherents’ worldly sense of mineness will fade gradually as they tread the path under the guidance of a sad-guru. As one lives life in an honest and earnest way in the context of sadhana-bhakti, one will indeed experience transformation and gain glimpses of the prospect and possibilities that lie before one. The more one embraces the principle of gurupada asraya, the more receptive one will be to that transformation. The more one hears from authentic sources about the pure love of the Vrajavasis, the more one will embrace this love as one’s cherished ideal. When sadhana-bhakti fully matures, bhava and then prema imbued with mamata will arise, and when such feelings of mamata intensify, concentrated prema develops. At that time one’s mineness is divine.


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14 Responses to From “Mine-ness” to Mamata

  1. Really nice article, Prema!! Thank you.

  2. Prema,

    In a class I’m taking this semester, the professor was expressing a similar idea (albeit not as developed as this notion of “mamata” is in the Guadiya tradition). I think I will print this and take it to class on Wednesday for him. This is a great little essay to refer to when thinking about/discussing the development from sraddha to prema, and all that comes along with that progression.

    Nice Job!

  3. Beautifully written Prema!!

  4. Nice article, Prema! I enjoyed reading about your personal insights and experiences on the path.

  5. The understanding of the guru disciple relationship you write about leans in the direction of what Sri Jiva Goswami has alluded to in Bhakti-sandarbha. His idea is that guru bhakti, which is ordinarily a limb of Krsna bhakti, is sometimes made the body of one’s bhakti turning Krsna bhakti into its limb. And engaging exclusively in such guru bhakti at the cost of engaging in the other limbs of Krsna bhakti, such as hearing and chantng, is sufficient in and of itself to give prema. I believe that Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura comes right out and says this in his Madhurya Kadambini.

    This is an important point for a number of reasons. One of which that comes to mind is that if properly understood it shatters the misconception that the guru is nothing more than an information board who gives instructions and that bhakti is a process that one can take up without much if any emphasis on the guru. In my experience, it is all about guru kripa. Without this grace there is no hope, and one who has the power to benedict is not an ordinary person or devotee.

    • Thank you so much for bringing this out. Yes, VCT comes right out and says this in Madhurya Kadambini. He uses the analogy of the devoted and chaste wife who while absorbed in the service of her husband may ignore even her own children. He writes, “Similarly, a disciple who is deeply absorbed in the service of the guru may even ignore practices such as hearing and chanting, knowing that by guru seva alone he can easily attain complete perfection in devotion.”

      In writing this piece, I became well aware that any ability I have to express faith in this principle and to feel such prospect in the face of my shortcomings is a result of my good fortune to have the guidance of a sad guru. I feel the most essential line in the whole piece is, “Bhakti adherents’ worldly sense of mine-ness will fade gradually as they tread the path under the guidance of a sad guru.” I would hope for the readers and especially for myself as the author that these sentiments expressed would inspire one to become more grateful of their good fortune and thus apply one self more vigorously to the principle of guru pada asraya. For sincere spiritual seekers who don’t have such fortune, I would hope for them to become more inspired to seek it out as an essential principle to their progress.

      • Very nice article Prema! This is such an important point that I couldn’t resist further comment on it. We sometimes see that there are devotees who appear to be absorbed in bhakti, e.g., they are perhaps born in devotional families, are expert in things favorable to devotion like kirtana and whose whole social lives are with devotees as well. Those lacking in sambandha-jnana would likely see such people as “great devotees;” after all, one can’t do kirtana day and night and not be one, right? But if we look closer in many cases we’ll see that those who look so absorbed in bhakti miss the most important thing, i.e., finding and surrendering to a sat guru. The practices take precedence for them and they don’t realize that one can do the practices of bhakti for eons and not attain prema if one does them without the grace and guidance of a qualified sadhu.

        • I tend to view these statements of Sri Jiva and VCT not so much as a de-emphasis of the power of nava laksana bhakti but an emphasis on the great power of guru bhakti. One could also say that although one may have the good fortune of association of a sad guru one may still miss this point. Sri Jiva writes that this understanding of the power of guru bhakti is “supremely confidential.” It seems that these verses are speaking of a very deep devotion to guru.

          Another nice point by Sri Jiva is the idea that guru bhakti is arguably greater than Krsna bhakti because it is so immensely pleasing to Krsna. He provides Krsna’s own words to elucidate this point‚ “The worship of My devotee exceeds the worship of Me.”

      • Actually, as Prema and I discussed in personal correspondence, Visvanatha’s assertion of the primacy of devotion to the guru in Sarartha-darshini, his commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam. This is from his commentary on SB 4.28.34. The verse describes the intense devotion Vaidarbhi, the wife of King Malayadhvaja, felt for her husband. We see that Visvanatha uses the verse to analogize such devotion to the sense of complete trust (visrambha) that should characterize our devotion to the spiritual master.

        And this devotion to the guru is absolutely essential to spiritual progress. Krishna das Kaviraja says in Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita that the spiritual master is “the active principle in spiritual life.” The Bengali word Srila Prabhupada gives as “active principle” here is sara. Another way to understand this word is essence, or essential principle. Consequently, we can see that surrender to the guru is the essence of spiritual life, and failure to do so means we completely miss the point of spiritual endeavor, which renders our attempts at progress useless. Srila Jiva Goswami says in Bhakti Sandarbha that satisfying the guru is the main cause of attaining divine love and service. Srila Prabhupada sometimes summed up the science of Krishna consciousness in six words: I am Krishna’s; he is mine. Visrambhena guroh seva implies that spiritual progress depends on having the same sentiment for the guru.

        This topic is so exciting that I may have to write an article on it. I don’t think I can even do justice to provoking more discussion in a comment.

  6. Hladini Shakti Das

    The article is wonderful! Did you say it is a maiden-voyage outing. Bravo! Let there be more, and more, and more.

    As a parent of three, I especially liked your narration of the instance when at the moment of distressed concern for your son’s safety you called out his name with absolutely no considerations of time, place, circumstance, or mundane propriety. Loving parents can all relate to that unbreakable paternal affection and its spontaneous expression, whether elicited by the gust of untoward events, or by the flow of sweet occurances, as the case may be.

    Reading through the comments was also enriching. Thanks for catching me up in the loop. I will bring others to this site to read your article, and I will read it again myself, because it deserves re-reading. And again, thank you.

    Your humble servant,
    Hladini Shakti das

    • Hladini, thank for responding to my link to the article on Facebook. I am glad it brought you back into the loop. There are so many wonderful articles on the Harmonist to read and share. I hope to see you comment here more often.

  7. Great article. Thank you, Prema.

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