What Is Sad-dharma? by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
As fortunate persons wish to follow the characteristics of the sādhus’ devotional service, they similarly desire to know their duty. Unfortunate proud persons have the opposite mentality. As they search paths different from those of the sādhus, they disrespect the sādhus’ determined conclusions while elevating their own. They do not care to preach the teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to the people of this world. Rather they propogate doctrines contradictory to those of Mahaprabhu. They are unaware of how much misfortune they are creating in this way.
Those who are simple-hearted endeavor to properly learn the teachings of Lord Chaitanya from Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta. The Lord’s teachings are our life and only shelter. Sad-dharma lies in this fact alone. The bonafide disciple especially tries to understand sad-dharma. If he cannot understand it on his own, then he prays at the feet of his sikṣaguru (instructing spiritual master) and learns from him. Those who have this kind of determination to know sad-dharma quickly achieve their desired goal. The Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.1.9) says:
anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṁ jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānuśīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamā
“One should render transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna favorably and without desire for material profit or gain through fruitive activities or philosophical speculation. That is called pure devotional service.”
As long as this pure devotional symptom, in the form of understanding sad-dharma, has not clearly manifest in the heart of an inquisitive person, his mind remains covered with darkness and he cannot understand the true nature of pure devotional service. If one depends on his own speculation, then unalloyed devotional service will not manifest in his heart.
We meet many so-called paṇḍitas who think they have understood the constitution of bhakti (devotional service) by their knowledge and intelligence. Some of them have concluded that devotional service mixed with jñāna (knowledge) is pure bhakti, and some of them have concluded that devotional service mixed with karma (fruitive work) is pure bhakti. They are so proud that if they hear the teachings of Śrī Caitanyacaritāmṛta, they say, “Everyone can make their own conclusion. What is the need for accepting the conclusion of Caitanya-caritāmṛta?” Such people never come in touch with sad-dharma because they have no real desire to know it. The only result of performing their personally concocted process of devotional service is they can never relish pure devotion.
—Śrī Bhaktyāloka – The Six Faults and Qualities of Bhakti » Translated by Sarvabhāvana dāsa.