Question: Jīva Goswami describes that bhakti can also be attained by svābhāvika-dharma, performing one’s natural duty directed towards satisfying Śrī Hari. How does varṇāśrama-dharma lead to bhakti?
Answer: Bhakti is the ultimate thing to be attained from svābhāvika-dharma, if it is executed for the satisfaction of Bhagavān. It means that you surrender to Bhagavān, and then you serve according to your svābhāvika-dharma (your nature), and that will take you to the pure devotional platform. If you do it for some material purpose, then you will get a material gain. But if one does it solely for the satisfaction of Bhagavān, then one will get the fortune to associate with saintly people, and by serving them, one will get bhakti.
Question: Is it that this is not bhakti, but rather that it leads to bhakti, because one will get sādhu-saṅga and then bhakti?
Answer: Yes. That is what he said earlier also:
sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokṣaje ahaituky apratihatā yayātmā suprasīdati
“That is indeed the supreme duty of humanity which leads to causeless, unobstructed bhakti too Krsna. The self is completely satisfied by this bhakti. (SB 1.2.6)
Question: It was mentioned just now that the purpose of varṇāśrama is to lead one to bhakti. Could you just explain it more? Because varṇāśrama is not explicitly saying that one should surrender to Kṛṣṇa.
Answer: Varṇāśrama leading to bhakti is not uttama-bhakti. Bhakti is of various types. There is bhakti in the guṇas of tamas, rajas and sattva. Varṇāśrama is also bhakti because people follow instructions. So if it is done as an offering to Bhagavān, then it may give the result of bhakti. But it is not uttama-bhakti, which is characterized by ānukulyena (by favorable service). There is no such description of this in varṇāśrama. Bhakti is of various types. The word bhakti is used for devotion to parents, nation and so on. In that sense, it is bhakti, but it is not the same word as we use in uttama-bhakti.
In the Bhāgavatam, it is stated that nirguṇa-bhakti is of one type and the other bhaktis are of many types; they are in the guṇas. In nirguṇa-bhakti you are naturally absorbed in Bhagavan, but when bhakti is in the guṇas, it is in sattva, rajas or tamas. There are 81 types of bhakti in the guṇas. The word bhakti is used for all of them.
Question: If one is born in varṇāśrama-dharma, does one follow that in addition to doing devotional service? But what dharma should one follow if one is born in the West?
Answer: People, not only in the West but even in India, are not qualified to follow varṇāśrama-dharma. Therefore Śrī Caitanya propagated bhakti. Bhakti is the supreme dharma and it is for everyone. Varṇāśrama was limited.