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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