I am bound by the ropes of the desire for distinction by highwaymen like lust. May the heroic devotees of Sri Krishna save me by cutting these ropes and destroying them.
chittvā tāḥ saṁharantas tān
aghāreḥ pāntu māṁ bhaṭāḥ
Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā: In this Vraja-vilāsa-stava Sri Sri Raghunath Das Goswami praises the greatness and glories of Sri Vrajadhāma and Sri Sri Radha Madhava with their associates according to his own pleasure.
Raghunath Das Goswami’s consciousness is always immersed in the rasas of the Vraja pastimes. Vraj is the abode of love. Bhagavan Sri Krishna is beside himself with joy while swimming in the ocean of the Vrajavasis’ love, and he can never reach the limits to this relish. Raghunath Das Goswami is always spinning around on the ocean of mahā bhāva, which consists of the rasa-niryāsa (extract) of the Vraja-gopīs’ prema, the summit of Vraja-rasa. The honey that trickles from the divine bud of his heart’s lotus is this Vraja-vilāsa-stava.
Although this prayer to the Dham and the eternal associates of the Lord may be accessible to the understanding of the rāga-mārgīya sādhaka bhaktas, who are capable of entering into the meditations it presents, there is no doubt that its deeper meanings will be diluted when an insignificant person like me, who performs no bhajan and who is bound by material desires, comments upon it. May Raghunath Das Goswami’s attribute of unlimited compassion therefore cleanse all the offenses committed by one like me and may he shower me with the pollen of his lotus feet, birth after birth, knowing that I have commenced this very bold and daring work for my own purification. This wretch prays that he may attain proximity to his lotus feet.
At the beginning of this Vraja-vilāsa-stava Raghunath Das Goswami, out of humility and anxiety, qualities that naturally arise out of the ocean of his prema, submits his own disqualification at the lotus feet of Sri Govinda and prays for his devotees’ mercy in its first two ślokas. Such humility and eagerness awaken in the heart of a premika devotee when he reaches the highest maturity in prema. Srimat Sanatan Goswami Prabhu has described the reciprocal relation between humility and prema:
Sanatan Goswami comments on his own verse as follows:
nanv evaṁ prema-niṣṭhāyāḥ phalaṁ dainyam iti paryavasyati | tac cāyuktaṁ sarvatra premṇa eva phalatvena pratipādanāt | satyaṁ, tat tu premṇo nātīva bhinnaṁ, kintv āntara-lakṣaṇa-rūpa-mukhyataram aṅgam evety āha – parīti.
“In the first of these two verses it is said that when prema fully ripens, then humility arises (dainyas tu paramaṁ premṇaḥ paripākeṇa janyate). From this one might conclude that the fruit of fixity in prema is humility, but this cannot be right, for has it not been ascertained everywhere that prema itself is the ultimate fruit of human life? That may be true, but humility is not distinct from prema; rather it is one of its main internal characteristics. This is now being stated in the second verse.”
Out of this kind of topmost humility Raghunath Das Goswami thinks of himself as an ordinary sādhaka endowed with so many vices and says: “I have been bound up with the ropes of the desire for distinction by the six highwaymen enemies: lust, anger, greed, delusion, false pride and envy” (pratiṣṭhā-rajjubhir baddhaṁ kāmādyair vartma-pātibhiḥ).
Prior to this, in the fifth verse of his Manaḥ Śikṣā, Das Goswami Prabhu has also compared these six enemies to highwaymen who rob travelers of all their possessions and leave them penniless. Similarly, these enemies like lust and anger rob the sādhaka of his accumulated wealth of bhajan and bereft of their devotional treasure.
prakāmaṁ kāmādi-prakaṭa-patha-pāti-vyatikaraiḥ |
gale baddhvā hanye’ham iti bakabhid-vartmapa-gaṇe
kuru tvaṁ phutkārān avati sa yathā tvāṁ mana itaḥ ||5||
The highwaymen of lust and his friends have bound me around the neck with the painful, horrible, powerful ropes of wicked deeds. O mind, scream out to those who protect the path to Krishna, the killer of Baka, “I am being killed!” so that they will save you from these highwaymen.
In the Gītā Krishna says to Arjuna: “All the senses are controlled by attraction and aversion to the sense objects. Do not be controlled by this duality of attraction and aversion. They are the greatest enemies of the spirit soul!” Thereafter Arjuna inquired:
anicchan api vāṛṣṇeya balād iva niyojitaḥ
“O Krishna! By what are people forcibly engaged in sin, even unwillingly? (Gītā – 3.36)
In other words, who or what forcibly engages us in sinful activities, overwhelming our senses even if we do not want it, and even if we know all the rules and prohibitions of the scriptures?
The Lord answered:
mahāśano mahāpāpmā viddhy enam iha vairiṇam
O Arjuna! This is lust, this is anger, which is born from the material quality of passion and is insatiable and highly sinful. Know lust to be the great enemy of the sādhaka.Lust is the desire for sense gratification. When desire is frustrated or thwarted it turns into anger, hence lust and anger form a single unit and are therefore mentioned together in apposition. The desires for sense gratification further assume the forms of greed, illusion, false pride and envy, all of which are related to the sense objects. In other words, when one is excessively attracted to pleasures and money, it is called greed. When this craving makes the intelligence attached to temporary things, it covers our knowledge of our own spiritual nature and of God, and this is called delusion (moha). When the ignorance accruing from this craving takes the form of self-identification such as, “I am rich” or “I am learned,” then it is called intoxication (mada) or false pride. Then when this false sense of self makes one upset upon seeing others’ achievements in wealth, friends and knowledge, then it becomes a burning sensation called envy, para-śrī-kātaratā, “the inability to abide other’s success.” Therefore lust or desire is the root cause of all mischief; this is the sole enemy of humankind. The leader of this gang of highway robbers is desire or lust.
Not all sādhakas in the kingdom of bhajan have freed themselves completely from the grip of these enemies by giving up all connection with the sense-objects, recognizing them as the chief obstacles to their bhajan. Although Raghunath Das Goswami is an eternal associate of the Lord, he speaks here for the benefit of all living entities: “The highwaymen like lust have bound me around the neck with the ropes of the desire for distinction (pratiṣṭhā), meaning the desire to be recognized as a scholar, as highly qualified, as a devotee, renounced, a bhajanānandī, a premika. “May everyone sing my glories and I will lord it over the society of devotees by becoming the most highly honored among them.”
These kinds of aspirations are called pratiṣṭhāśā. Even a person who has given up everything cannot easily give up the desire for distinction.
sarva-tyāge’py aheyāyāḥ sarvānartha-bhuvaś ca te
kuryuḥ pratiṣṭhā-viṣṭhāyā yatnam asparśane varam
Though one may be able to give up everything, the desire for personal prestige is the hardest thing to give up. Since it is the source of all anarthas, one should be carefully to keep as far from it as he would from stool. (Hari-bhakti-vilāsa 20.370)
This is such a wicked and turbulent desire that is not as easy to control as lust and anger and so on. When a sādhaka begins to create a material identify around to his devotional activity, then this will drag the boat of his sādhana down to hell. We have discussed this matter extensively in our commentary to the seventh śloka of Manaḥ Śikṣā:
pratiṣṭhāśa dhṛṣṭā śvapaca-ramaṇī me hṛdi naṭet
kathaṁ sādhu premā spṛśati śucir etan nanu manaḥ |
sadā tvaṁ sevasva prabhu-dayita-sāmantam atulaṁ
yathā tāṁ niṣkāśya tvaritam iha taṁ veśayati saḥ ||7||
As long as the impudent untouchable woman of the desire for prestige dances in my heart, how can the pure love for Radha and Krishna ever touch it? O mind, continuously serve the spiritual master, the leader of those who are dear to the Lord. Then my master will quickly kick out that harridan and allow pure love to enter.
The target of a sincere devotee, who turns towards the Lord and who is free from deceit, is only to act for the love of the Lord. A devotee who is thus adorned with all great qualities like humility and modesty, can cast the desire for distinction, which is a powerful weapon of the enemies like lust, far away. Śrīla Thakur Mahashay has written:
sakala vipatti yābe, mahānanda sukha pābe, prema bhakti parama kāraṇa
Do not engage in sinful endeavors for profit, adoration and distinction. Think always of Govinda’s lotus feet! All calamities will then go and you will become very happy. This is the greatest cause for loving devotion! (Prema-bhakti-candrikā 26)
All the sādhaka‘s calamities will be destroyed by thinking of Govinda’s lotus feet. The greatest means of remembering them is association with Govinda’s devotees and attaining their mercy. Therefore Das Goswami has said: “May the heroic devotees of Sri Krishna sever these ropes of distinction and protect me by destroying these highwaymen like lust.” (chittvā tāḥ saṁharantas tānn aghāreḥ pāntu māṁ bhaṭāḥ).
In the company of Sri Krishna’s devotees their attributes of humility and modesty are infused into the consciousness of the sādhaka. By their grace the desire for distinction flees far away. By hearing Hari-kathā from their holy mouths the enemies like lust disappear and attachment to bhajan awakens within the heart of the sādhaka.
sakala vipatti yābe, mahānanda sukha pābe, yāra hoy ekānta bhajana.
“They (these vices) will flee automatically when they hear the sound of Govinda’s name, just as elephants flee when they hear the lion’s roar. All calamities will go from one who surrenders to bhajana and he will attain topmost bliss.” (Prema-bhakti-candrikā 25)
Thus Raghunath Das Goswami teaches the sādhakas who are still struggling with all these vices by his own example how to pray to the devotees of Sri Krishna:
e saṁsāre nigūḍha bhāvete
pratiṣṭhā rajjura dvārā, chaya jane mili tārā,
bāṅdhiyāche āmāra golete
Highwaymen like lust are secretly wandering through the material world. These six enemies have bound me around the neck with the ropes of distinction.
chaya ripu vadha kori, rakṣā koro keśe dhari, kṛṣṇa boli koriyā garjana
With a straw between my teeth I pray to the heroic devotees of Krishna to sever their bondage. While roaring out the name of Krishna they will kill these six enemies and save me by holding me by the hair.