What is it that all living entities desire? What drives our numerous endeavors, and what do we hope to achieve by all of our various activities? The answer to these questions is that we all hanker to relish rasa. Rasa was, is, and will always remain the ultimate pursuit for one and all. What is rasa? Rasa, which can be translated as juice, essence, or taste, is what all of us long to experience in life, in different ways. This rasa is what makes the various situations in life relishable. For materialists, rasa is mundane sense pleasure and for the devotees, rasa is the relationship found in pleasing Krsna’s senses. Both are called rasa, and a person must choose wisely which rasa he or she should strive to taste.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, in Sri Prema Pradipa, one of his numerous books on the esoteric subject pertaining to bhakti, explains the different types of rasas.
The first kind of rasa is known as parthiva-rasa, or earthly rasa, which arises when one enjoys a particular item one is attracted to. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains this rasa with the example of sugar. When a person has a sweet tooth and is very eager to taste sweets, then the rasa, juice or pleasure that one experiences on eating sugary delicacies is known as parthiva-rasa. This rasa pertains to the senses and the pleasure that they derive from contact with the sense objects. In this material world all living entities are busy gratifying their various sense organs by trying to procure their respective sense objects. This, however, is the lowest of all kinds of rasas to be experienced.
Higher than this is the second kind of rasa known as svargiya-rasa, or the relish one experiences in having affection for another person. This material world is the perverted reflection of the spiritual world, so here also, the living entities have loving relations in the moods of servitude, fraternity, parental affection and conjugal love. When one feels deep love and affection for another person, the pleasure experienced is not associated with the body but rather with the mind, which experiences great bliss in such loving relationships. Therefore, this rasa is known as swargiya, or that which gives heavenly pleasure.
Due to the temporary nature of this material world, however, both parthiva and swargiya-rasa are not capable of giving pure bliss to the jiva and are therefore inferior types of rasa.
vaikuntha-rasa is the topmost rasa. It is beyond the jurisdiction of this material world and it is this that we should endeavour to taste. Since it is eternal, full of bliss and ever fresh, vaikuntha-rasa is the only rasa intelligent personalities endeavor to relish to their hearts fullest content. Vaikuntha-rasa is experienced when the jiva directs his attraction towards Sri Krsna or one of His incarnations like Lord Rama or Lord Narayana.
Developing loving relationship with the Lord in one of the five rasas – santa, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya and madhura, the living entity becomes immersed in the highest limits of transcendental bliss. All Vaisnavas desire to relish this vaikuntha-rasa, which one experiences when one develops deep, loving attachment to the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha Syamasundara, who are eternally performing sweet pastimes in the groves of Vraja with their dear gopi friends.
By understanding the difference between the different kind of rasas, an intelligent person will certainly only strive to taste vaikuntha-rasa in the service of the Lord.