Click here to load whole tree
NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Bhaktivinoda Thakura > Bhakti Tattva Viveka > Cahptre-III

Chapter Three

An Analysis of the Natural Attributes of Bhakti


shuddha-bhakti-svabhavasya prabhavan yat-padashrayat

sadaiva labhate jivastam chaitanyam aham bhaje


“I worship Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. By taking shelter of His feet, the jiva forever obtains the potency issuing from the very nature of shuddha-bhakti.”


Shuddha-bhakti manifests along with six symptoms: (1) kleshaghni—it brings immediate relief from all kinds of material distress, (2) shubhada—it brings all auspiciousness, (3) moksha- laghutakrita—liberation becomes insignificant before it, (4) sudurlabha—it is rarely achieved, (5) sandrananda-visheshatma—it grants intense transcendental pleasure and (6) krishnakarshini—it is the only means to attract Shri Krishna. In the stage of sadhana-bhakti only the first two symp- toms appear, in the stage of bhava the first four symptoms appear, and in the stage of prema all six symptoms appear. These six symptoms will now be systematically discussed.


(1) Kleshaghni—Bhakti-devi completely removes all the klesha or distress of those who take shel- ter of shuddha-bhakti. Klesha are of three types: papa or sin, papa-bija or sins in their seed form and avidya or ignorance. Due to the sins committed by the jiva in innumerable lifetimes or the sins which he may commit in his present or future lives, he has to suffer various types of dis- tress. The prominent sins have been analysed in the fifth wave of the second shower of Shri Chaitanya-shikshamrita. These sins can be further divided into two categories: prarabdha and aprarabdha.


Prarabdha sins are those for which the jiva must suffer the reactions in his present life span. The sins whose reactions will be suffered in one’s next life are called aprarabdha. The sins committed by the jiva in innumerable lifetimes are added to the series of previous aprarabdha sins and in his next birth fructify as prarabdha sins. Hence, within the jurisdiction of eternal law, the jiva is bound to suffer the reactions of the sins he has committed in his innumerable lifetimes. Birth in a brahmana family, a Muslim family, a wealthy family, or a poor family, or having beautiful personal features or being ugly are all the results of prarabdha-karma. Birth in a yavana or untouchable family is due to prarabdha sins. Shuddha-bhakti destroys both types of sins, prarabdha and aprarabdha. If the path of jnana is followed properly it destroys aprarabdha-karma. But according to the scriptures of the jnanis, one must suffer the reactions of his prarabdha-karma. But bhakti also destroys prarabdha-karma:



yat-prahvanad yat smaranad api kvacit

shvado ’pi sadyah savanaya kalpate

kutah punas te bhagavan nu darshanat




“O my dear Lord! By hearing and chanting Your holy names, by offering pranama unto You and by remembering You, even a person born in a family of dog-eaters immediately obtains the right to perform Vedic sacrifices; in other words, he acquires the status of a brahmana. What to speak then of the benefit one can achieve by receiving Your direct darshana?”


This verse highlights how bhakti easily destroys the prarabdha sins which result in taking birth in a low-class family. Now see how bhakti also destroys aprarabdha sins:


aprarabdha-phalam papam kutam bijam phalonmukham

kramenaiva praliyeta vishnu-bhakti-ratatmanam


Padma Purana and Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.1.23


“For those who have undeviating and exclusive attachment for vishnu-bhakti, their (i) aprarab- dhaor the accumulated stock of sins which are lying in a dormant condition, (ii) kuta or sins which are tending toward producing seeds, which means that they are beginning to take shape as sinful desires, (iii) bija or seeds which are already established as sinful desires and (iv) prarabdha or fructified sins are all destroyed in sequence.” The purport is that for the destruction of their sins, the devotees need not perform any separate acts of either karma or jnana as atonement.


The desires to commit sinful activities which are situated within the heart of the jiva are called papa-bija or the seeds of sins. Papa-bija can only be destroyed by bhakti:


tais tany aghani puyante tapo-dana-vratadibhih

nadharmajam tad-dhridayam tad apishanghri-sevaya


Shrimad-Bhagavatam6.2.17 and



The systematic methods for the atonement of sins which are prescribed in the scriptures, such as the performance of difficult vows like candrayana and other activities on the path of ordi- nary karma as well as the performance of austerities and the giving of charity, destroy only those sins for which they are specifically prescribed. Those atonements do not destroy the seeds of sin, or in other words the sinful desires which have arisen due to ignorance. Sinful desires can be removed only by engaging in the service of Krishna, meaning that besides bhakti there is no other means which can expunge sinful desires from the heart. As soon as Bhakti- 25 devi appears in the heart, all the sinful desires as well as any desires for piety are destroyed at the root. In the Padma Puranaand in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, it is described how bhakti erad- icates avidya:


kritanuyatra vidyabhir hari-bhaktir anuttama

avidyam nirdahaty ashu davajvaleva pannagim


Padma Purana and Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.1.26


“When hari-bhakti appears in the heart, she is followed by vidya-shakti which immediately dispels the ignorance situated within the heart of the jiva, just as a serpent is burnt by a blaz- ing forest fire.”



karmashayam grathitam udgrathayanti santah

tadvan na rikta-matayo yatayo ’pi ruddha-

sroto-ganas tam aranam bhaja vasudevam


Shrimad-Bhagavatam4.22.23 and Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.1.25


“Ascetics who have detached their minds from the objects of the senses by keeping their senses away from those objects cannot easily untie the knot of the false ego from their hearts, whereas devotees who are exclusively engaged in transcendental loving service unto the lotus feet of Shri Krishna can untie this knot in no time. Hence, one should engage in the bhajana of Shri Krishna, the supreme shelter.”


Though the cultivation of jnana can dispel avidya to some extent, without taking shelter of bhakti a sadhaka will certainly fall down:


ye ’nye ’ravindaksha vimukta-maninas

tvayy asta-bhavad avishuddha-buddhayah

aruhya kricchrena param padam tatah

patanty adho ’nadrita-yusmad-anghrayah


Shrimad-Bhagavatam 10.2.32


“O lotus-eyed Lord! Although by the cultivation of neti-neti or the negativity principle non- devotees endeavour to attain something different from dull matter and consider themselves lib- erated, their intelligence is impure. With great difficulty they cross the ocean of nescience to attain the stage of brahma, but because they have not taken permanent shelter of Your lotus feet, they fall down from such a stage.”


O intimate devotees! Having surely heard the word ‘ avidya’ before, you must be eager to know its intrinsic nature. Therefore, I will explain a few points in this regard. Shri Krishna pos- sesses unlimited varieties of shaktis or potencies. Among them, cit-shakti, jiva-shakti and maya- shakti are prominent. Cit-shakti displays Bhagavan’s dhama or abode and all the paraphernalia necessary for His lila. Another name for cit-shakti is svarupa-shakti. Jiva-shakti produces innumer- able jivas. By nature jivas are purely cit-tattva or spiritual, but due to their incomplete consti- tution they can be trapped by maya. By harbouring selfish desires they become opposed to Krishna and are trapped by maya, and by desiring to be disposed towards Krishna they are freed from maya and engage in His service. This is the difference between conditioned and liberated jivas. Maya acts in two ways upon the intrinsic nature of the conditioned jiva: through the avidya potency and through the vidya potency. Through its avidya aspect, maya covers the constitutional pure ego of the jiva, thus creating a false or distorted ego by which the jiva iden- tifies himself with gross matter. This shackle of avidya is the cause of the jiva’s conditioned stage. Becoming free from avidya and devoid of false designations, the jiva attains the stage of liberation. Thus avidya is nothing more than a special potency of maya which makes the jiva forget his constitutional position. Avidya causes karma-vasana or the desire for fruitive activi- ty in the jiva. These desires initiate the process of sin and piety. This avidya is the root cause of all the difficulty experienced by the jiva. Besides bhakti no other process is capable of elim- inating this avidya. Karmacan only destroy sins, and jnana can destroy at the root the desires which cause both sin and piety. But bhakti totally eradicates at the root the sins themselves, the desires to perform both sin and piety, and the prime cause of these desires, avidya.


(2) Bhakti is auspicious by nature. Shrila Rupa Gosvami says (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu1.1.27):


shubhani prinanam sarva-jagatam anuraktata

sad-gunah sukham ityadinyakhyatani manishibhih


“Scholars define shubha or true auspiciousness as possessing love for all living entities and becoming the object of affection of all living entities as well as possessing all good qualities, happiness, and other similar auspicious achievements.”


The Padma Puranaexplains what is meant by possessing love for all living entities and being the object of affection of all living entities ( Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu1.1.28):


yenarcito haris tena tarpitani jaganty api

rajyanti jantavas tatra jangamah sthavara api


“Those who have worshipped Shri Hari have satisfied the entire universe. Therefore, all living entities, both animate and inanimate, love them.” The purport is those who are devoted exclu- sively to hari-bhajana love everyone without any envy; therefore, others also love them.


In devotees all varieties of good qualities develop naturally. This is easily verified by exam- ining the lives of devotees. In this regard it says in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (5.18.12, as well as Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu1.1.29):


yasyasti bhaktir-bhagavaty-akincana

sarvair gunais tatra samasate surah

haravabhaktasya kuto mahad-guna

manorathenasati dhavato bahih


Those who possess undeviated and exclusive bhakti for Bhagavan become the residence of all the demigods and all good qualities. How can such great qualities exist in non-devotees whose illicit desires compel them to run after sense gratification? The qualities of compassion, truthfulness, humility, detachment, spiritual awareness and so forth appear only in those hearts in which bhakti has arisen. Even upon numerous endeavours these qualities don’t appear in those hearts which are occupied with desires for sense gratification. Though happiness is included within auspiciousness, it is being reviewed separately. By nature bhakti bestows all auspiciousness.


Shrila Rupa Gosvami has written that the happiness of the conditioned soul can be divided into three categories: vaishayika-sukha, brahma-sukhaand aishvara-sukha. Vaishayika-sukha is all the varieties of mundane pleasure which are found within this material world. The eighteen types of mystic perfection and heavenly enjoyment are also considered vaishayika-sukha. Upon realising that mundane pleasure is ultimately distressful and temporary, the endeavours to eradicate it through the process of neti-neti is called vyatireka or the principle of negation. The impersonal pleasure derived from these vyatireka efforts through eliminating all mundane feel- ings and imagining oneself to be one with the unchangeable brahma is called brahma-sukha. The happiness derived from taking permanent shelter of Bhagavan, who possesses all opu- lences in full, is called aishvara-sukha. By nature hari-bhakti bestows all varieties of happiness. According to one’s specific qualification and desires, it bestows either vaishayika-sukha, brahma- sukha or aishvara-sukha.


siddhayah paramashcarya bhukti-muktish ca shashvati

nityam ca paramanandam bhaved govinda bhaktitah


Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.1.31


“Anima, mahima, laghima, prapti, ishita, vashitva, prakamya and kamavasayita—these eight types of perfections, all varieties of material enjoyment, brahma-sukha and paramananda or the supreme bliss can all be achieved by performing bhakti for Shri Govinda.”


It is written in the Shri Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya (and Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.1.32):


bhuyo ’pi yace devesha tvayi bhakti-dridhastu me

ya mokshanta-caturvarga-phalada sukhada lata


“O Lord of the demigods! I repeatedly beg for the boon of attaining exclusive devotion unto You by which, according to their specific qualification, some devotees obtain the fruits of wealth, religiosity, sense gratification and liberation while others obtain the fruit of the happi- ness of possessing prema for You.”


The purport is that bhakti is capable of bestowing all types of happiness but the unalloyed devotees, considering the pleasure derived from sense gratification and brahma-sukha to be insignificant, search exclusively for prema-sukha. Without the help of bhakti, the paths of jnanaand karma are incapable of yielding any result. Hence, in any condition, happiness can- not be obtained without bhakti.


(3) Moksha-laghutakrita: By nature bhakti renders the conception of mukti insignificant. It is said in the Narada-pancaratra (and Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.1.34):


hari-bhakti mahadevyah sarva muktyadi siddhayah

bhuktayash cadbhutas tasyash cetikavad anuvratah


“The various kinds of perfections headed by mukti and the entirety of mundane pleasures follow behind the goddess of hari-bhakti, Bhakti-devi, as her maidservants.”


Shrila Rupa Gosvami has also said this very beautifully (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu1.1.33):


manag eva prarudhayam hridaye bhagavad ratau

purusharthas tu catvaras trinayante samantatah


“Only when one understands the fourfold achievements of economic development, reli- giosity, sense gratification and liberation to be very insignificant can it be accepted that shuddha- bhakti is appearing within him.”


(4) Attainment of hari-bhakti is extremely rare, sudurlabha. Shrila Rupa Gosvami writes about the extreme rarity of bhakti ( Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu1.1.35):


sadhanaughair anasangair alabhya sucirad api

harina cashv adeyeti dvidha sa syat sudurlabha


There are two reasons for hari-bhakti being so rare. First, it cannot be achieved in spite of engaging in many varieties of sadhanafor a long period of time as long as one is bereft of firm faith and unwavering persistence. Second, Shri Hari does not easily grant His bhakti even though one may be engaged in asanga-yukta-sadhana or sadhanaendowed with unflinching attachment. The word ‘ asanga’ implies expertise in bhajana. Without expertise in bhajana, no sadhana can grant hari-bhakti. By executing sadhana with expertise in bhajana for a long peri- od of time and after namaparadha and vaishnava-aparadhahave been dispelled, by the mercy of Bhagavan shuddha-bhaktiwhich establishes one in knowledge of his constitutional identity arises in the heart.


jnanatah sulabha muktir bhuktir yajnadi punyatah

seyam sadhana-sahasrair hari-bhaktih sudurlabha




“By the cultivation of jnana one can easily obtain muktiand by the performance of sacrifices and other pious activities one can also easily obtain bhukti, but despite performing innumer- able sadhanas one cannot achieve hari-bhakti so easily.”


Bhagavan does not easily grant His bhakti, as confirmed in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (5.6.18 and Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu1.1.37):


rajan patir gurur alam bhavatam yadunam

daivam priyah kula-patih kva ca kinkaro vah

astv evam anga bhajatam bhagavan mukundo

muktim dadati karhicit sma na bhakti-yogam


“My dear King Parikshit! Lord Mukunda Himself was the protector, guru, ishtadeva(worshipable Deity), well-wisher and kula-pati (head of the dynasty) of the Pandavas and the Yadu dynasty. Sometimes He even became their obedient servant. It is a matter of great fortune because Bhagavan easily grants mukti to those engaged in His bhajana, but He doesn’t easily award His prema, which is far superior to mukti.”


In his commentary to this verse, Shrila Jiva Gosvami comments, “ tasmad asangenapi krite sad- hana-bhute sakshad bhakti-yoge sati yavat phala-bhute bhakti-yoge gadhasaktir na jayate tavan na dadatity arthah”: those who engage in bhagavad-bhajana by executing the ninefold limbs of bhakti are not granted shuddha-bhakti by Bhagavan until they develop strong attachment for rati-tattva which is the fruit of the perception of one’s eternal identity. Until that time comes, one’s bhakti remains in the form of chaya-bhakti-abhasa.


(5) Sandrananda-visheshatma: By nature bhakti is very intense ananda or transcendental plea- sure. It has already been mentioned that Bhagavan is the complete saccidananda-svarupa and the jiva is anucidananda or an infinitesimal particle of spiritual bliss who is likened to a single particle of light situated within a ray of the unlimited spiritual sun. Hence, cit and ananda are also present within the jiva in minute quantity. People generally understand the word ananda to mean mundane pleasure, but whatever pleasure can be derived from all material pleasures combined is extremely negligible when placed before ananda-tattva. Material pleasure is extremely weak and momentary, whereas cidananda, transcendental pleasure, is extremely intense. Bhakti is very intense transcendental pleasure and the intrinsic pleasure of the jivas. Brahmanandais negligible before bhakti. Brahmananda is not the eternal bliss of the jiva; it is the so-called pleasure obtained from the negation of matter and material activities. Shrila Rupa Gosvami has said ( Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu1.1.38):


brahmanando bhaved esha cet pararddha-guni-kritah

naiti bhakti-sukhambhodheh paramanu-tulam api


“Even if the brahmananda experienced by impersonalists is multiplied by ten million times, the resulting ananda won’t be equal to even a drop of the ocean of pleasure derived from bhakti.” The purport is that by simple imagination we may extend brahmananda to whatever extent, but in reality it cannot even come near the intrinsic pleasure of the jiva, what to speak of equalling it. The constitutional pleasure of the jiva is inborn and hence natural. Brahmananda is unnatural due to arising from the jiva’s distorted endeavours and hence it is temporary. It is said in Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya (and Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu1.1.39):


tvat-sakshat-karanahlada-vishuddhabdhi-sthitasya me

sukhani gospadayante brahmany api jagad-guro


“O Bhagavan! By attaining Your darshana, I am now established in the ocean of pure bliss. What to speak of material pleasure, even brahma-sukha now seems as insignificant as the water in a calf’s hoof-print.”


There are many similar statements found in the scriptures.


(6) Krishnakarshini: Bhakti is the only means to attract Krishna. As Shrila Rupa Gosvami writes ( Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu1.1.41):


kritva harim prema-bhajam priya-varga-samanvitam

bhaktir vashi-karotiti shri-krishnakarshini mata


“ Shuddha-bhakti overpowers Shri Krishna and all His dearmost associates with prema; this very ability to attract Shri Krishna is actually the inherent nature of Bhakti-devi.”


The purport of this is that in the stage of sadhana-bhakti, as long as shuddha-bhakti hasn’t arisen within the heart, a sadhaka is performing bhakti-abhasa. At this stage the attainment of shuddha-bhakti is very rare. But when shuddha-bhakti does appear in the heart—even in the stage of sadhana—a little of the splendour of the limbs of bhajana begins to blossom. At that time realisation of the jiva’s eternal identity and realisation of the true intrinsic nature of bhagavat-tattva is kindled by the medium of that splendour. Subsequently, a powerful agitation in the form of deep attachment for bhakti develops within the heart of the devotee. Thus, the appearance of this stage of bhajana causes shuddha-bhakti-sadhana to quickly unfold into the stage of rati or bhava and to ultimately fully blossom into prema. In the stage of bhava, bhakti attracts Shri Krishna along with His dearmost companions, but in the stage of prema, bhaktimakes the sadhaka an instrument of shri-krishna-lila and thus induces him to relish the topmost rasa. This topic will be explained more clearly ahead. Vishva-vaishnava dasa comments on this subject in the following five verses:


kleshaghni shubhada-bhaktir yada sa sadhanatmika

hridaye baddha-jivanam tatastha-lakshananvita (1)


kleshaghni shubhada moksa-laghutakrit sudurlabha

sa bhaktir bhava-rupena yavat tishthati cetasi(2)


prema-rupa yada bhaktis tada tat-tad-gunanvita

sandrananda-visheshatma shri-krishnakarshani ca sa(3)


muktanam eva sa shashvat svarupananda-rupini

sambandha-svarupa nityam rajate jiva-krishnayoh(4)


bhaktyabhasena ya labhya muktir maya nikrintani

sa katham bhagavad-bhakteh samyam kankshati cetika(5)


“There are three stages of bhakti: sadhana, bhava and prema. Bhakti in the stage of sadhana has two aspects: kleshaghnatva, meaning it removes all types of material distress, and shubha- datva, meaning it offers the supreme auspiciousness. In the stage of bhava, four aspects of bhakti are visible: kleshaghnatva, shubhadatva, moksha-laghutakaritva, meaning it reveals to the practitioner the insignificance of liberation, and sudurlabhatva, meaning it is extremely rare. In the stage of prema, over and above these four attributes, two more aspects are visible: san- drananda-visheshatma, meaning it grants extremely intense transcendental pleasure, and shri- krishnakarshini, meaning it is the only means to attract Shri Krishna. In the conditioned stage of the jiva, the three intrinsic attributes of bhakti, that is sandrananda-svarupatva, shri-krishnakarshatva and sudurlabhatva, remain mixed with its three marginal characteristics, that is kleshaghnatva, shubhadatva and moksha-laghutakaritva. In the liberated stage, the bhakti of the jiva acts between the jiva and Krishna as eternal loving service in a particular relationship and as the jiva’s intrinsic transcendental pleasure. The mukti which dispels the covering of maya can be attained simply by the performance of bhakti-abhasa. Since such mukti is just one of the ordi-nary maidservants among the many maidservants of Bhakti-devi, how can she aspire to be equated with Bhakti-devi?”