There’s a huge variety of rasas in the spiritual world. There are only five primary ones, of course, but all the variety in our world is a product of only three guṇas so mixture of five should give a far richer environment, not to mention that primary rasas are also aided by secondary ones.
None of those rasas are available to us while in the conditioned state, however. We get only perversions of rasa just as we get only perversions of spiritual bodies. Everything in this world is like an upside down reflection of a tree, as Kṛṣṇa allegorically explained in Bhagavad Gītā. When engaged in Lord’s service here, however, we get to practice dāsya, the service attitude. I doubt that it’s exactly the same rasa as experienced by Kṛṣṇa’s servants in Vṛndāvana, maybe when we achieve perfection in our service here but certainly not on a neophyte stage. As I mentioned yesterday, there’s one more rasa available to us and it’s a mysterious one – I am talking about saṅkīrtana.
As Lord Caitanya declared in the first verse of Śikṣāṣṭaka (CC Antya 20.12) it “enables one to taste full nectar at every step” – meaning it IS a kind of rasa. He also said that it increases the ocean of transcendental bliss so even if it isn’t a rasa in its own right it still acts like one, what do we care about its proper classification?
In Lord Caitanya’s words saṅkīrtana is pūrṇa-amṛta, full nectar, so it could mean that it carries the flavor of all rasas. When devotees achieve perfection in chanting they can, indeed, derive all kinds of rasa from the holy name so it’s not an unsubstantiated speculation. The question is, how much and what kind of rasa trickles down to us. Do we get to decide what flavor is there? Liberated devotees serve the Lord according to their spiritual inclinations, we don’t have those yet, so what kind of bliss is shown to us when we serve in the saṅkīrtana mission?
There’s an explanation that saṅkīrtana embodies the highest rasa, that of gopīs. Being brought in the line of Rūpa Gosvāmī we appreciate the service of mañjarīs higher than of anyone else but I’m not an expert on exact definition of their rasa. Sometimes they act asexually, is it a deficiency on their part or is it an evolution of their love for Kṛṣṇa? They also don’t see their service as more intimate than that of Śrī Rāḍhā, nor anyone else thinks this way, so it can’t be the highest.
The argument could be made that mañjarīs are actually in dāsya rasa, since all they do is serve someone else, but that is not the conclusion of our ācāryas. Somehow or other they list mañjarī bhāva under śṛṅgāra/madhurya. There are verses describing how mañjarīs, though not engaged in direct contact with Kṛṣṇa, experience the same transcendental emotions as Śrī Rāḍha herself, sometimes even to a higher degree. Again, I’m not an expert and I don’t even understand how I got myself in the position of having to explain it. Way above my paygrade.
Anyway, the point is that saṅkīrtana, and I’m talking mostly about book distribution here, though any kind of preaching would do, too, is exactly like the service of mañjarīs. Saṅkīrtana devotees find suitable souls and introduce them to Kṛṣṇa, thus increasing His and someone else’s transcendental pleasure rather than indulging in their own.
The greatest joy of saṅkīrtana is to see someone else’s soul lit up when hearing about the Lord, see the hunger for Lord’s service suddenly awakening in unsuspecting people. That’s what saṅkīrtana devotees go for – bring bliss of Kṛṣṇa consciousness to other people. Mañjarīs do the same thing, they find someone who catches Kṛṣṇa’s eye and introduce her to Him. Actually, this behavior is attributed to Śrī Rāḍha herself but mañjarīs are her extensions, they all share the same attitude of transcendental humility and eagerness to forgo their own pleasure for the sake of others.
The last verse of Śikṣāṣṭaka comes to mind here, too – if breaking our hearts is what pleases Kṛṣṇa at the moment than we ought to assist Him in this endeavor, and not just ought to but offer our services with enthusiasm. Lord Caitanya displayed the highest levels of bhakti, conjugal love in separation, so if we find similar attitudes in saṅkīrtana then it’s another argument for it to be the rasa of the highest caliber.
The argument can be made here that initial contact with Kṛṣṇa consciousness can be intoxicating but it eventually wears off. Shouldn’t we seek more mature displays of devotion than chasing those first impressions? This can be answered in two ways. First is that this initial contact is made in innocence and simplicity. It’s not inferior in any way, it’s just that with passing of time this initial simplicity and implicit faith gets lost and replaced by elaborate speculative constructions that make us into guarantors of devotion – we do things and learn things and deserve positions on devotional ladder. This contaminating attitude is absent on the initial stages where everything is seen as Kṛṣṇa’s grace.
Secondly, it’s not just tiny jīvas little highs that we are after. Kṛṣṇa experience the pleasure of reunion with the lost souls, too. It’s His pleasure that we should be seeking out first and foremost when serving the saṅkīrtana mission. Beginners ecstasy will gradually fade away and get covered by ignorance but Kṛṣṇa’s bliss won’t. One could see saṅkīrtana as making people happy and being pleased with it but one could also see saṅkīrtana as pleasing to the Lord and it’s in this second aspect of it that there’s no limit to the possible ānanda. It’s this ānanda that gets increased at every step – Kṛṣṇa’s ānanda, not ours.
The argument can also be made that we engage in saṅkīrtana on the orders of our guru and if that’s all that drives us then it’s dāsya rasa at best. Fair enough – not everybody gets to taste the bliss of book distribution, most fail miserably. In this case we need to persevere despite the failings and carry out our guru’s orders regardless. We might not qualify for the ultimate bliss this way but we WILL learn to appreciate the taste of selfless service which can raise us to brahma-bhūta platform. One can’t engage in bhakti until one reaches that level anyway, if we are not there yet we have little hope of appreciating saṅkīrtana in full.
Or, perhaps, Lord Caitanya’s saṅkīrtana is pūrna-amṛta and includes both dāsya and madhurya rasas as I argued here, and probably more. One thing is certain – He has given it to us and therefore we all are eligible to partake. It’s only out of foolishness and ignorance that we choose to pursue any other types of service for which we might never get the blessings. I mostly mean those into high end literature but those who settle on deity worship or management, too. Even though these are legitimate engagements but if they exclude saṅkīrtana they will not be fruitful.