The Nectar of Devotion – CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT – DEGREES OF ECSTATIC SYMPTOMS

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DEGREES OF ECSTATIC SYMPTOMS

Out of the many ecstatic symptoms of the body, the symptom of being stunned is especially significant. According to the degree of being stunned, the vital force within the body becomes agitated, and due to such a state, the other ecstatic loving symptoms sometimes become altered. These transcendental ecstatic symptoms gradually develop, and in the course of such development they are sometimes called smoky, sometimes called blazing, and sometimes called shining. These three degrees are experienced for many, many years, and they extend to different parts of the body. Unlike the shedding of tears and faltering of the voice, the condition of being stunned is spread all over the body. The shedding of tears and faltering of the voice are simply localized symptoms.

The shedding of tears, however, sometimes makes the eyes become swollen and whitish, and sometimes the lenses of the eyes become differently focused. Faltering of the voice may sometimes cause choking in the throat and extreme anxiety. As the different symptoms of these ecstatic manifestations are localized, they are accompanied by different local reactions; e.g., when the throat is choked up because of a faltering voice, there may be a sound like “ghura.” Such sounds choke the voice, and with extreme mental anxiety they may be manifest in different ways. All these symptoms are listed under the dried-up existential condition known as smoky, and they are exhibited in different ways.

Sometimes, while participating in ceremonies celebrating Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, or in the society of devotees, there is dancing ecstasy. Such sentiments are called blazing.

None of the above symptoms can be manifested without the basic principle of strong attachment for Kṛṣṇa. In the smoky condition of such ecstatic expressions, the symptoms could otherwise be hidden. This type of symptom was experienced by the priest Garga Muni, who was performing some ritualistic ceremony in the house of Nanda Mahārāja. When he heard about Kṛṣṇa’s killing of the Aghāsura demon, there were some tears visible in his eyes, his throat was trembling, and perspiration covered his whole body. In this way priest Garga Muni’s beautiful face assumed a nice condition.

When several such ecstatic symptoms are visible, the condition is called blazing. For example, one of Kṛṣṇa’s friends told Him, “My dear friend, as soon as I heard the sound of Your flute from within the forest, my hands became almost motionless and my eyes became full of tears – so much so, in fact, that I could not recognize Your peacock feather. My thighs became almost completely stunned so that I could not move even an inch. Therefore, my dear friend, I must acknowledge the wonderful vibration of Your transcendental flute.”

Similarly, one gopī said to another, “My dear friend, when I heard the sound of Kṛṣṇa’s flute, I tried to hide myself from the reaction of the vibrations. But still I could not check the trembling of my body, and therefore all of my friends in the house could detect my attachment for Kṛṣṇa without any doubt.”

When the ecstatic symptoms cannot be checked and they simultaneously appear in four or five different categories, this stage of ecstatic love is called shining. The example is cited, in this connection, that when the sage Nārada saw Lord Kṛṣṇa standing before him, his body became so stunned that he stopped playing on his vīṇā. Because of his faltering voice, he could not offer any prayers to Kṛṣṇa, and his eyes filled with tears. Thus, Nārada’s ability to see Kṛṣṇa was also obstructed.

When similar symptoms were manifest in the body of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, some of Her friends criticized Her: “Dear friend, You are blaming the aroma of the flowers for the tears in Your eyes. You are rebuking the air for the standing of the hairs on Your body. And You are cursing Your walking in the forest for Your thighs’ being stunned. But Your faltering voice reveals the cause to be different: it is just Your attachment for Kṛṣṇa!”

Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī remarks that when various symptoms become manifest very prominently, the devotee’s condition may be called the brightest. For example, a friend of Kṛṣṇa addressed Him as follows: “My dear Pītāmbara, because of separation from You all the residents of Goloka Vṛndāvana are perspiring. They are lamenting with different words, and their eyes have become moistened with tears. Actually, all of them are in great confusion.”

There is a supreme symptom of ecstatic love which is called mahā-bhāva. This mahā-bhāva expression was possible only in Rādhārāṇī, but later on when Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya appeared to feel the mode of love of Rādhārāṇī, He also expressed all of the symptoms of mahā-bhāva. Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī says in this connection that when the symptoms of ecstatic love become the most bright, that stage is accepted as mahā-bhāva.

Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī further analyzes the ecstatic loving expression into four divisions which are called sāttvikābhāsa.

Sometimes impersonalists, who are not actually in devotional service, may also exhibit such symptoms of ecstatic love, but this is not accepted as actual ecstasy. It is a reflection only. For example, sometimes in Vārāṇasī, a holy city for impersonalist scholars, there may be seen a sannyāsī crying from hearing the glories of the Lord. Impersonalists also sometimes chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra and dance, but their aim is not to serve the Lord. It is to become one with the Lord and merge into His existence. Rūpa Gosvāmī therefore says that even if the reactions to chanting are manifested in the impersonalist’s body, they should not be considered to be symptoms of actual attachment, but reflections only, just like the sun reflected in a dark room through some polished glass. The chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa, however, is so nice and transcendental that it will eventually melt even the hearts of persons who are impersonalists. Rūpa Gosvāmī says that the impersonalists’ symptoms are simply reflections of ecstatic love, not the real thing.

Sometimes it is found that when staunch logicians, without any trace of devotional service and without actually understanding the transcendental glories of the Lord, sit down to hear the glories of the Lord, they appear to be melting and shedding tears. In this connection there is a statement by a devotee who addresses the Lord thus: “My dear Mukunda, I cannot properly express the glories of Your pastimes. Even when the nondevotees hear of Your glorious pastimes they become affected and shed tears and start to tremble.” Such nondevotees are not actually melted; they are hardhearted. But the influence of the glories of the Lord is so great that even the nondevotees sometimes shed tears.

Sometimes it is found that a nondevotee who has practically no taste for Kṛṣṇa and who follows no rules or regulations can, by practice, make a show of devotional symptoms, even crying in an assembly of devotees. This shedding of tears is not actually an ecstatic loving expression, however. It is done simply by practice. Although there is no need to describe these reflections of ecstatic love, Rūpa Gosvāmī gives some instances where there is no actual devotional service and such expressions are manifested.

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