There are two types of enjoyment (भुक्ति): material enjoyment and spiritual enjoyment. There are also two types of liberation (मुक्ति): freedom from material troubles, and spiritual liberation- getting completely out of the material world. None of these fit into the definition of uttamā bhakti1.
Of these, we will examine the desire for spiritual enjoyment in this article, with a focus on sālokya mukti – the liberation of being in Kṛṣṇa’s abode, Goloka.
Śrī Kapila Deva says in the Bhāgavatam (quoted in भक्ति रसामृत सिंधु 1.2.28):
sālokya-sārṣṭi-sāmīpya- sārūpyaikatvam apy uta |
dīyamānaṁ na gṛhṇanti vinā mat-sevanaṁ janāḥ ||
Without my service, my devotee does not accept any of these five types of mukti: sālokya, sārṣṭi, sārūpa, sāmīpya and ekatva- even if I want to give it to him.
As we have examined before, the heart of uttamā bhakti is अानुकुल्येन कृष्णानुशीलनम् – which means service. Any desire which is independent of service, therefore, is excluded from the definition of uttamā bhakti. Just as desires for material enjoyment are anarthas on the path of uttamā bhakti, desires for spiritual enjoyment are also anarthas because they are not anyābhilāṣitā śūnyam! That is, they do not fit the definition of having only service as the goal. This is why the five types of liberation above, beginning with sālokya- do not fit into the definition if devoid of service. The desire to enjoy in Goloka – whether through being close to Kṛṣṇa (sāmīpya) or reaching his abode (sālokya) – are excluded from uttamā bhakti.
It is common to hear “Back to Goloka” or “Back home” as the main goal in uttamā bhakti. One may become focused on such slogans, and perform bhakti- that is service to Kṛṣṇa, as a means to get out of the material world, and get relief or enjoyment (spiritual भुक्ति) in Goloka. However, Śrī Caitanya says in his famous शिक्षाष्टकम् (teachings in eight verses) – मम जन्मनि जन्मनि इश्वरे भवताद् भक्तिरहैतुकि त्वयि – may I get unmotivated bhakti for Kṛṣṇa in every birth. Śrī Caitanya is teaching us not to worry about being born again in the material world – but to worry about having bhakti as our only desire.
Similarly Rupa Goswami strongly rejects such types of spiritual enjoyments from uttamā bhakti with the following कारिका (1.2.57):
kintu premaika-mādhurya-juṣa ekāntino harau |
naivāṅgīkurvate jātu muktiṁ pañca-vidhām api ||
But the one-pointed devotees of the Lord who experience the sweetness of prema never ever accept even the five types of muktis.
Back to Goloka is not the goal of bhakti. The goal is prema.
Jiva Goswami notes in his commentary in this context that to serve Kṛṣṇa, one naturally will be in his abode, and depending on the nature of the service, one will naturally be close to him. But these are accepted only because they assist the goal: service to Kṛṣṇa. They are not accepted independently of service, and they are not the goal.
What then is wrong with desiring to be in Goloka? One can desire if one wishes, but such a desire does not fit the definition of uttamā bhakti. That should be clearly understood.
- भक्ति रसामृत सिंधु lectures, Bhakti Tirtha II, Shri Satyanarayana dasa Babaji, Jiva Institute, Vrindavan. 2017. ↩