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The Intrinsic Nature of Devotion
yugapad rajate yasmin bhedabheda vicitrata
vande tam krishna-chaitanyam panca-tattvanvitam svatah (1)
pranamya gauracandrasya sevakan, shuddha-vaishnavan
‘bhakti-tattva viveka’ khyam shastram vakshyami yatnatah (2)
vishva-vaishnava dasasya kshudrasyakincanasya me
etasminn udyame hy ekam balam bhagavati kshama (3)
“I offer pranama unto Shri Krishna Chaitanya who is naturally manifest with the panca-tattva and in whom the contrasting qualities of unity ( abheda) and distinction ( bheda) simultaneously exist. After offering pranama unto the servants of Shri Gaurachandra, who are all pure Vaishnavas, I undertake with utmost care the writing of this book known as Bhakti-tattva-viveka. Being an insignificant and destitute servant of all the Vaishnavas in the world ( vishva-vaishnava dasa), in this endeavour of mine I appeal for their divine forgiveness, for that is my only strength.”
Most respectable Vaishnavas! Our sole objective is to relish and propagate the nectar of shud- dha-bhakti unto Lord Hari. Therefore, our foremost duty is to understand the true nature of shuddha-bhakti. This understanding will benefit us in two ways. First, knowing the true nature of shuddha-bhakti will dispel our ignorance concerning the topic of bhakti and thus make our human life successful by allowing us to relish the nectar derived from engaging in shuddha- bhakti in its pure form. Secondly, it will enable us to protect ourselves from the polluted and mixed conceptions which currently exist in the name of shuddha-bhakti.
Unfortunately, in present day society in the name of shuddha-bhakti various types of mixed devotion such as karma-mishra (mixed with fruitive action), jnana-mishra (mixed with specula- tive knowledge) and yoga-mishra (mixed with various types of yoga processes) as well as vari- ous polluted and imaginary conceptions are spreading everywhere like germs of plague. People in general consider these polluted and mixed conceptions to be bhakti, respect them as such, and thus remain deprived of shuddha-bhakti. These polluted and mixed concepts are our greatest enemies. Some people say that there is no value in bhakti, that God is an imagi- nary sentiment only, that man has merely created the image of a God in his imagination, and that bhakti is just a diseased state of consciousness which cannot benefit us in any way. These types of people, though opposed to bhakti, cannot do much harm to us because we can easi- ly recognise them and avoid them. But those who propagate that bhagavad-bhakti is the high- est dharma yet behave against the principles of shuddha-bhakti and also instruct others against the principles of shuddha-bhakti can be especially harmful to us. In the name of bhakti they instruct us against the actual principles of bhakti and ultimately lead us onto a path which is totally opposed to bhagavad-bhakti. Therefore, with great endeavour our previous acaryas have defined the svarupa or intrinsic nature of bhakti and have repeatedly cautioned us to keep ourselves away from polluted and mixed concepts. We shall deliberate on their instruc- tions in sequence. They have compiled numerous literatures to establish the svarupa of bhakti, and amongst them Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhuis the most beneficial. In defining the general char- acteristics of shuddha-bhakti, Shrila Rupa Gosvami has written there (verse 1.1.11):
anyabhilashita-shunyam jnana-karmady anavritam
anukulyena krishnanushilanam bhaktir uttama
“The cultivation of activities which are meant exclusively for the pleasure of Shri Krishna, or in other words the uninterrupted flow of service to Shri Krishna, performed through all endeavours of the body, mind, and speech, and through the expression of various spiritual sentiments ( bhavas), which is not covered by jnana (knowledge aimed at impersonal liberation) and karma(reward-seeking activity), and which is devoid of all desires other than the aspiration to bring happiness to Shri Krishna, is called uttama-bhakti, pure devotional service.”
In the above verse, each and every word has to be analysed; otherwise we cannot under- stand the attributes of bhakti. In this verse, what is the meaning of the words ‘ uttama-bhakti’? Does the phrase uttama-bhakti or topmost devotion also imply the existence of adhama or inferior bhakti? Or can it mean something else? Uttama-bhakti means the stage where the devo- tional creeper is in its completely pure or uncontaminated form. For example, uncontaminat- ed water means pure water, meaning that in this water there is no colour, smell or adulteration of any kind caused by the addition of another substance. Similarly, the phrase uttama-bhakti refers to bhakti which is devoid of any contamination, adulteration or attachment to material possessions and which is performed in an exclusive manner. The usage of these qualifying adjectives here teaches us that we should not accept any sentiments which are opposed to bhakti. The negation of sentiments which are opposed to bhakti inevitably directs us towards the pure nature of bhakti itself. Perhaps by merely using the word bhakti alone this meaning is indicated, since the word bhakti already contains within it all these adjectives anyway. Then has bhakti-rasacarya Shrila Rupa Gosvami specifically employed the qualifying adjective uttama (topmost) for no reason? No—just as when desiring to drink water people generally ask, “Is this water uncontaminated?” similarly, in order to describe the attributes of uttama-bhakti, our previous acaryas considered it necessary to indicate that people mostly practice mishra-bhakti or mixed devotion. In reality, rasacarya Shrila Rupa Gosvami is aiming to describe the attributes of kevala-bhakti or exclusive devotion. Chala-bhakti, pratibimba-bhakti, chaya-bhakti (a shadow of devotion), karma-mishra-bhakti, jnana-mishra-bhakti and so on are not shuddha- bhakti. They will all be examined in sequence later on.
What are the svarupa-lakshana or intrinsic attributes of bhakti? To answer this question it is said that bhakti is anukulyena krishnanushilana, the cultivation of activities which are meant exclusively for the pleasure of Shri Krishna. In his Durgama-sangamani commentary on Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, Shrila Jiva Gosvami has explained that the word anushilanam has two mean- ings. First, it means cultivation through the endeavours to engage and disengage one’s body, mind and words. Second, it means cultivation towards the object of our priti or affection through manasi-bhava, the sentiments of the heart and mind. Although anushilana is of two types, the cultivation through manasi-bhava is included within cultivation by ceshta, one’s activ- ities. Hence, one’s activities or endeavours ( ceshta) and one’s internal sentiments ( bhava) are mutually interdependent, and in the end it is the ceshta which are concluded to be the sole char- acteristics of cultivation. Only when the activities of one’s body, mind and words are favourably executed for the pleasure of Krishna is it called bhakti. Kamsa and Shishupala were always endeavouring towards Krishna with their whole body, mind and words but their endeav- ours will not be accepted as bhakti because such endeavours were unfavourable to krishna-priti or Krishna’s pleasure. Unfavourable endeavours cannot be called bhakti. The word bhakti is derived from the root verb form ‘ bhaj’. It is said in the Garuda Purana (Purva-khanda 231.3):
bhaj ityesha vai dhatuh sevayam parikirtitah
tasmat seva budhaih prokta bhaktih sadhana-bhuyasi
“The verbal root bhaj means to render service. Therefore, thoughtful sadhakas should engage in the service of Shri Krishna with great endeavour, for it is only by such service that bhakti is born.”
According to this verse, krishna-seva or loving devotional service to Krishna is called bhakti. Such service is the intrinsic attribute of bhakti.
In the main verse the word krishnanushilanam has been used. The purport of this is that Svayam Bhagavan Shri Krishna is the sole ultimate objective indicated by the term kevala-bhakti (exclu- sive devotion). The word bhakti is also used for Narayana and various other expansions of Krishna, but the complete sentiments of bhakti which can be reciprocated with Krishna cannot be reciprocated with other forms. This point can be analysed in detail on another occasion when the topic is more suitable for it. For the time being it is necessary to understand that bhagavat- tattva is the only object of bhakti. Although the supreme absolute truth ( para-tattva) is one, it is manifested in three forms, that is brahma-tattva, paramatma-tattva and bhagavat-tattva. Those who try to perceive the absolute truth through the cultivation of jnana cannot realise anything beyond brahma-tattva. Through such spiritual endeavour they try to cross material existence by negation of the qualities of the material world ( neti-neti); thus they imagine brahma to be inconceivable, unmanifest, formless and immutable. But merely imagining the absence of material qualities does not grant one factual realisation of the absolute truth. Such spiritualists think that because the names, forms, qualities and activities in the material world are all temporary and painful, the brahma which exists beyond the contamination of matter cannot possess eternal names, forms, qualities, pastimes and so on. They argue on the basis of evidence from the shrutis, which emphasise the absence of material attributes in the Supreme, that the absolute truth is beyond the purview of mind and words, and that it has no ears, bod- ily parts, limbs and so on. These arguments have some place, but they can be settled by analysing the statement of Advaita Acarya found in the Shri Chaitanya-candrodaya-natakam (6.67) written by Kavi Karnapura:
ya ya shrutir jalpati nirvishesham
sa savidhatte savishesham eva
vicarayoge sati hanta tasam
prayo baliyah savishesham eva
In whatever statements from the shrutis where the impersonal tattva is indicated, in the very same statements personal tattva is also mentioned. By carefully analysing all the statements from the shrutis as a whole, we can see that the personal tattva is emphasised more. For exam- ple, one shruti says that the absolute truth has no hands, no legs and no eyes, but we under- stand that He does everything, travels everywhere and hears everything. The pure under- standing of this statement is that He doesn’t have material hands, legs, limbs and so on as con- ditioned souls do. His form is transcendental, meaning that it is beyond the twenty-four ele- ments of material nature and purely spiritual.
By the cultivation of jnana it will appear that impersonal brahma is the supreme tattva. Here the subtlety is that jnana itself is material, meaning in the material world whatever knowledge we acquire or whatever principle ( siddhanta) we establish is done by depending solely upon material attributes. Therefore, either that principle is material or by applying the process of negation of the material ( vyatireka) we conceive of a principle which is the opposite of gross matter, but by this method one cannot achieve the factual supreme tattva. In his Bhakti-san- darbha, Shrila Jiva Gosvami has outlined the tattva which is attained by those who pursue the path of impersonal jnana as follows:
prathamatah shrotrinam hi vivekastavan eva, yavata jadatiriktam cinmatram vastupasthitam bha- vati. tasminsh cinmatre ’pi vastuni ye visheshah svarupa-bhuta-shakti-siddhah bhagavattadi-rupa varttante tams te vivektum na kshamante. yatha rajani-khandini jyotishi jyotir matratve ’pi ye mandalantar bahish ca divva-vimanadi-paraspara-prithag-bhuta-rashmi-paramanu-rupa visheshas tamsh carma-cakshush na kshamanta ity anvayah tad vat. purvavac ca yadi mahat-kripa-visheshena divya drishtita bhavati tada visheshopalabdhish ca bhavet na ca nirvishesha cinmatra-brahmanubhave- na tal lina eva bhavati. (214) idam eva ( Gita 8.3) “svabhavo ’dhyatmam ucyate” ity anena shri-gitas uktam. svasya shud- dhasyatmano bhavo bhavana atmany adhikritya vartamanatvad adhyatma-shabdenocyate ity arthah. (216)
“In the beginning the students who are pursuing the path of jnana require sufficient dis- crimination to comprehend the existence of a transcendent entity ( chinmaya-vastu) which is beyond the contamination of gross matter. Although the specific attributes of Godhead estab- lished by the potencies inherent within the Lord’s very nature are intrinsicly present within that transcendent entity, the adherents of the path of jnana are unable to perceive them. For exam- 4 ple, the sun is a luminary which dispels the darkness of night. Although its luminous quality is easily understood, the inner and outer workings of the sun planet, the difference which exists between individual particles of light, and the specific distinguishing features of the innumer- able atomic particles of light are all imperceptible to human eyes. Similarly, those who view the transcendent entity through the eyes of impersonal jnana are unable to perceive the Lord’s divine personal attributes. If, as previously described, one acquires transcendental vision by the special mercy of great devotees, one will be able to directly recognise the Lord’s personal attributes. Otherwise, by realisation of the impersonal existential brahma, one will attain only the state of merging into that brahma.” (Anuccheda 214)
“This knowledge is stated in the Bhagavad-gita (8.3): svabhavo ’dhyatman ucyate—‘The inherent nature of the living entity is known as the self.’ The meanings of the words svabhava and adhyatma are as follows. Sva refers to the shuddha-atma or pure self, and the word bhava refers to ascertainment. Consequently the ascertainment of the pure living entity as a unique individual, eternally related to the Supreme, is known as sva-bhava. When the atma or self is made the principal subject of focus and thus given the power to act in its proper function, it is known as adhyatma.” (Anuccheda 216)
The purport of this is that when spiritual knowledge is acquired through the process of nega- tion ( neti-neti), the absolute truth, which is transcendental to maya, is realised only partially. The variegated aspect of transcendence which lies much deeper within is not realised. If one who follows this process meets a personalist, self-realised Vaishnava guru, then only can he be protected from the anartha of impersonalism.
Those who pursue the path of yoga in the end arrive only at realisation of the all-pervading paramatma-tattva. They cannot attain realisation of shuddha-bhagavat-tattva. Paramatma, Rishvara, personal Vishnu and so on are the objects of research in the yoga process. In this process we can find a few attributes of bhakti, but it is not shuddha-bhakti. Generally religious princi- ples in this world which pass for bhagavat-dharmaare all merely yoga processes which strive for realisation of the paramatma feature. We cannot expect that in the end all of them will ulti- mately lead us to bhagavat-dharma, because in the process of meditation there are numerous obstacles before one finally realises the absolute truth. Besides, when after practicing either yoga or meditation for some time one imagines that “I am brahma” ( ahangrahopasana), there is the maximum possibility of falling into the trap of impersonal spiritual jnana.
In this process, realisation of the eternal form of Bhagavan and the variegated characteristics of transcendence is not available. The form which is imagined at the time of upasana or med- itational worship—whether it be the virat (the gigantic form of the Lord conceived in the shape of the universe) or the four-armed form situated within the heart—is not eternal. This process is called paramatma-darshana or realisation of the Supersoul. Although this process is superior to the cultivation of impersonal jnana, it is not the perfect and all-pleasing process. Ashtanga- yoga, hatha-yoga, karma-yoga and all other yoga practices are included within this process. Although raja-yoga or adhyatma-yoga follows this process to a certain extent, in most cases it is merely included within the process of jnana. The siddhanta or philosophical conclusion is that paramatma-darshana cannot be called shuddha-bhakti. In this regard it is said in Bhakti-san- 5 darbha, “ antaryamitvamaya-maya-shakti-pracura-cic chaktyasha vishishtam paramatmeti”: after the creation of this universe, the expansion of the Supreme Lord who enters it as the controller of material nature and who is situated as the maintainer of the creation is known as Jagadishvara or the all-pervading Paramatma. His function is related more to displaying the external poten- cy rather than the internal potency. Therefore, this tattva is naturally inferior to the supreme and eternal bhagavat-tattva.
Absolute truth realised exclusively through the process of bhakti is called Bhagavan. In Bhakti-sandarbha the characteristics of bhagavat-tattva are described as “ pari-purna-sarva- shakti-vishishta-bhagavan iti”: the complete absolute truth endowed with all transcendental poten- cies is called Bhagavan. After the creation of the universe, Bhagavan enters it through His par- tial expansion as the Paramatma: as Garbhodakashayi, He is situated as the Supersoul of the complete universe ( virat-antaryami) and as Kshirodakashayi, He is situated as the Supersoul in the hearts of the living entities. Again, in direct distinction from the manifested material worlds, Bhagavan appears as the impersonal brahma-svarupa-tattva. Hence, Bhagavan is the original tattva and is the supreme absolute truth. His svarupa-vigraha or intrinsic form is transcenden- tal. The complete spiritual bliss resides in Him. His potencies are inconceivable and beyond any reasoning. He cannot be fathomed by any process fabricated by the knowledge of the infinitesimal jiva. By the influence of His inconceivable potency, the entire universe and all the living entities residing within it have manifested. Jivas manifesting from the tatastha-shakti or marginal potency of Bhagavan become successful only by following the dharma of engaging exclusively in His loving transcendental service. Then by the practice of nama-bhajana one can realise through one’s transcendental eyes the unparalleled beauty of Bhagavan. The process- es of jnana and yoga are incapable of approaching Bhagavan. By combining bhagavat-tattva with jnana, the tattva appears as the formless and effulgent impersonal brahma, and if He is seen through the yoga process, He appears as Paramatma invested within this material cre- ation. Bhakti is supremely pure. It is very painful for Bhakti-devi, the personification of bhakti, to see the Supreme Personality in His lesser manifestations. If she sees this anywhere, she can- not tolerate it.
Out of these three manifestations of the absolute truth, it is only the manifestation of Bhagavan’s personal form which is the object of bhakti. But even within Bhagavan’s personal manifestation there is one important distinction. Where the internal potency ( svarupa-shakti) displays its complete opulence ( aishvarya), there Bhagavan appears as Vaikunthanatha Narayana, and where the internal potency displays its supreme sweetness ( madhurya), there Bhagavan appears as Shri Krishna. In spite of being predominant almost everywhere, aishvarya loses its charm in the presence of madhurya. In the material world we cannot draw such a com- parison; no such example is visible anywhere. In the material world aishvarya is more influen- tial than madhurya, but in the spiritual world it is completely the opposite. There madhurya is superior and more influential than aishvarya. O my dear devotees! All of you just deliberate upon aishvarya one time, and then afterwards lovingly bring sentiments of madhurya into your hearts. By doing so you will be able to understand this truth. Just as in the material world when the sun rises and consumes the moonlight, similarly when a taste of the sweetness of madhurya 6 appears in a devotee’s heart, he no longer finds aishvarya to be tasteful. Shrila Rupa Gosvami has written ( Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu1.2.59):
siddhantatas tv abhede ’pi shrisha-krishna svarupayoh
rasenotkrishyate krishna-rupam esha rasa-sthitih
Although from the viewpoint of siddhanta Narayana and Krishna are non-different, Krishna is superior due to possessing more rasa. Such is the glory of rasa-tattva. All of this tattva will be made clear later in this discussion. But for now it is essential to understand that the favourable cultivation of activities meant to please Shri Krishna ( anukulyena-anushilanam) is the sole intrinsic characteristic ( svarupa-lakshana) of bhakti. Thus this confirms the same statement made in the main verse. To remain both devoid of desires separate from the desire to please Shri Krishna ( anyabhilashita) and free from the coverings of jnana and karma ( jnana-karmady anavritam) is the tatastha- lakshana or marginal characteristic of bhakti. “ Vishnu-bhakti pravakshyami yaya sarvam avapy- ate”—in this half verse from Bhakti-sandarbha the marginal characteristics of bhakti are reviewed. Its meaning is that by the practice of the aforementioned vishnu-bhakti the jiva can attain everything. The desire to attain something is called abhilashita. From the word abhlilashita one should not derive the meaning that the desire to progress in bhakti and to ultimately reach its perfectional stage is also to be rejected. “Through my practice of sadhana-bhakti I will one day attain the stage of bhava”—it is highly commendable for a devotee to maintain such a desire, but apart from this desire all other types of desires are fit to be rejected. There are two types of separate desires: the desire for sense gratification ( bhukti) and the desire for liberation ( mukti). Shrila Rupa Gosvami says ( Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu1.2.22): bhukti-mukti-spriha yavat pishaci hridi varttate tavat bhakti-sukhasyatra katham abhyudayo bhavet As long as the two witches of the desires for bhukti and mukti remain in a devotee’s heart, not even a fraction of the pure happiness derived from svarupa-siddha-bhaktii will arise. Both bodily and mental enjoyment are considered bhukti. To make an extraneous effort to remain free from disease, to desire palatable foodstuffs, strength and power, wealth, followers, wife, sons and daughters, fame and victory are all considered bhukti. To desire to take one’s next birth in a brahmana family or in a royal family, to attain residence in the heavenly planets or in Brahmaloka or to obtain any other type of happiness in one’s next life is also considered bhukti. Practice of the eightfold yoga system and to desire the eight or eighteen varieties of mystic perfections are also categorised as bhukti. The greed for bhukti forces the jiva to become subordinate to the six enemies headed by lust and anger. Envy easily takes over the heart of the jiva and rules it. Hence, to attain shuddha-bhakti one has to remain completely aloof from the desire for bhukti. To abandon the desire for bhukti,a conditioned soul need not reject the objects of the senses by going to reside in the forest. Merely going to reside in the forest or accepting the dress of a sannyasi will not free one from the desire for bhukti. If bhakti resides in a devotee’s heart, then even while living amidst the objects of the senses he will be able to remain detached from them and will be capable of abandoning the desire for bhukti. Therefore, Shrila Rupa Gosvami says ( Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu1.2.254-256):
rucim udvahatas tatra janasya bhajane hareh
vishayeshu garishtho ’pi ragah prayo viliyate
anasaktasya vishayan yatharham upayunjatah
nirbandhah krishna-sambandhe yuktam vairagyam ucyate
prapancikataya buddhya hari sambandhi vastunah
mumukshubhih parityago vairagyam phalgu kathyate
When the jiva develops a taste for krishna-bhajana, at that time his excessive attachment for the objects of the senses starts gradually fading. Then with a spirit of detachment he accepts the objects of the senses only according to his needs, knowing those objects to be related to Krishna and behaving accordingly. This is called yukta-vairagya. The renunciation of those who, desiring liberation from matter, reject the objects of the senses considering them to be illusory is called phalgu or useless. It is not possible for an embodied jiva to completely renounce the objects of the senses, but changing the enjoying tendency towards them while maintaining an understanding of their relation to Krishna cannot be called sense-gratification. Rupa (form), rasa (taste), gandha (smell), sparsha (touch) and shabda (sound) are the objects of the senses. We should try to perceive the world in such a way that everything appears related to Krishna, mean- ing that we should see all jivas as servants and maidservants of Krishna. See gardens and rivers as pleasurable sporting places for Krishna. See that all types of eatables are to be used as an offer- ing for His pleasure. In all types of aromas, perceive the aroma of krishna-prasada. In the same way, see that all types of flavours are to be relished by Krishna, see that all the elements we touch are related to Krishna, and hear only hari-katha or narrations describing the activities of His great devotees. When a devotee develops such an outlook, then he will no longer see the objects of the senses as being separate from Bhagavan Himself. The tendency to enjoy the happiness obtained from sense gratification intensifies the desire for bhukti within the heart of a devotee and ultimately deviates him from the path of bhakti. On the other hand, by accepting all the objects of this world as instruments to be employed in Krishna’s service, the desire for bhukti is completely eradicated from the heart, thus allowing shuddha-bhakti to manifest there.
As it is imperative to abandon the desire for bhukti, it is equally important to abandon the desire for mukti. There are some very deep principles and conceptions regarding mukti. Five types of mukti are mentioned in the scriptures:
salokya-sarshti-samipya-sarupyaikatvam apy uta
diyamanam na grihnanti vina mat-sevanam janah
Shri Kapiladeva said, “O my dear Mother! Despite being offered the five types of liberation known as salokya, sarshti, sarupya, samipyaand ekatva, my pure devotees don’t accept them. They only accept my transcendental loving service.”
Through salokya-mukti one attains residence in the abode of Bhagavan. To obtain opulence equal to that of Bhagavan is called sarshti-mukti. To attain a position in proximity to Bhagavan is called samipya-mukti. To obtain a four-armed form like that of Bhagavan Vishnu is called sarupya-mukti. To attain sayujya-mukti (merging) is called ekatva. This sayujya-mukti is of two kinds: brahma-sayujya and ishvara-sayujya. The cultivation of brahma-jnana or impersonal knowledge leads one to brahma-sayujya. Also by following the method prescribed in the spir- itual scriptures one attains brahma-sayujya. By properly observing the Patanjali yoga system, one attains the liberation known as ishvara-sayujya or merging into the Lord’s form. For devo- tees both types of sayujya-mukti are worthy of rejection. Those who desire to attain sayujya as the perfectional stage may also follow the process of bhakti, but their bhakti is temporary and fraudulent. They don’t accept bhakti as an eternal occupation and merely consider it to be a means to attain brahma. Their conception is that after attaining brahma, bhakti does not exist. Therefore, the bhakti of a sincere devotee deteriorates in the association of such spiritualists. Shuddha-bhakti never resides in the hearts of those who consider sayujya-mukti to be the ulti- mate perfection. Regarding the other muktis, Shrila Rupa Gosvami explains ( Bhakti-rasamrita- sindhu1.2.55-57):
atra tyajyatayaivokta muktih panca-vidhapi cet
salokyadis tathapy atra bhaktya nati virudhyate
sukhaishvaryottara seyam prema-sevottarety api
salokyadir-dvidha tatra nadya sevajusham mata
kintu premaika-madhurya-jusha ekantino harau
naivangi kurvate jatu muktim panca-vidham api
Although the aforementioned five types of mukti are worthy of rejection by devotees, the four types of salokya, samipya, sarupya and sarshti are not completely adverse to bhakti. According to the difference in a particular devotee’s eligibility to receive them, these four types of mukti assume two forms: sva-sukha-aishvarya pradanakari (that which bestows transcenden- tal happiness and opulence) and prema-seva-pradanakari (that which bestows loving tran- scendental service unto Bhagavan). Those who reach the Vaikuntha planets through these four types of liberation obtain the fruit of transcendental happiness and opulence . Servitors or devotees of the Lord never accept such liberation under any circumstances, and the premi- bhaktas or loving devotees never accept any one of the five varieties of mukti. Therefore, with- in pure unalloyed devotees the desire for liberation does not exist. Thus to remain free from the desire for mukti is anyabhilashita-shunya, being devoid of any desire other than that to please Shri Krishna. This is one of the tatastha-lakshana or marginal characteristics of bhakti.
To remain free from and uncovered by tendencies such as those for jnana and karma is another marginal characteristic of bhakti. In the phrase ‘ jnana-karmadi,’ the word ‘ adi,’ mean- ing ‘and so forth,’ refers to the practice of ashtanga-yoga, vairagya sankhya-yogaand the occu- pational duties corresponding to one’s caste or creed. It has already been mentioned that the favourable cultivation of activities to please Shri Krishna is called bhakti. The living entity is tran- scendental, Krishna is transcendental, and the bhakti-vritti or tendency of unalloyed devotion through which the living entity establishes an eternal relationship with Krishna is also transcen- dental. When the jivais situated in his pure state, only then does the svarupa-lakshana or intrin- sic attribute of bhakti act. At that time there is no opportunity for the tatastha-lakshana of bhakti to act. When the jiva is conditioned and situated in the material world, along with his svarupa or constitutional identity two more marginal identities are present: the gross and subtle bod- ies. Through the medium of these the living entity endeavours to fulfil his various desires while residing in the material world. Therefore, when introducing someone to the conception of shud- dha-bhakti we have to acquaint him with the concept of anyabhilashita-shunya, being devoid of any desires other than the desire to please Shri Krishna. In the transcendental world this type of identification is not required. After becoming entangled in the ocean of material existence, the jiva becomes absorbed in various types of external activities and is thereby attacked by a dis- ease called ‘forgetfulness of Krishna’. Within the jiva suffering from the severe miseries caused by this disease arises a desire to be delivered from the ocean of material nescience. At that time within his mind he condemns himself, thinking, “Alas! How unfortunate I am! Having fallen into this insurmountable ocean of material existence, I am being thrown here and there by the violent waves of my wicked desires. At different times I am being attacked by the crocodiles and other violent creatures of lust, anger and so forth. I cry helplessly at my miserable condi- tion but I don’t see any hope for my survival. What should I do? Do I not have any well-wish- er? Is there any possible way I can be rescued? Alas! What to do? How will I be delivered? I don’t see any solution to my dilemma. Alas! Alas! I am most unfortunate.” In such a distressed state of helplessness, the jiva becomes exhausted and falls silent.
Seeing the jiva in this condition, the most compassionate Shri Krishna then mercifully implants the bhakti-lata-bija or seed of the creeper of devotion within his heart. This seed is known as shraddha or faith and it contains within it the undeveloped manifestation of bhava or the first sprout of divine love for Bhagavan. Nourished by the water of the cultivation of devotional activities headed by hearing and chanting, that seedling first sprouts, then grows leaves, and then finally flowers as it assumes the full form of a creeper. When in the end good fortune dawns upon the jiva, the bhakti-lata bears the fruit of prema.
Now I will explain the gradual development of bhaktistarting from its seed-form of shraddha. It is to be understood clearly that as soon as the seed of shraddha is sown in the heart, imme- diately Bhakti-devi appears there. Bhakti at the stage of shraddha is very delicate like a new- born baby girl. From the very time of her appearance in a devotee’s heart she has to be very carefully kept in a healthy condition. Just as a householder protects his very tender baby daughter from sun, cold, harmful creatures, hunger, and thirst, similarly the infant-like Shraddha-devi must be protected from all varieties of inauspiciousness. Otherwise the undesir- able association of jnana, karma, yoga, attachment to material objects, dry renunciation and so forth will not allow her to gradually blossom into uttama-bhakti and will instead make her grow into a different form. In other words, the shraddha will not eventually develop into bhakti but will merely assume the form of anarthas. The danger of disease remains up until the tender Shraddha-devi becomes free from the influence of anarthas and transforms into nishtha from being nurtured by the affectionate mother of the association of genuine devotees and from tak- ing the medicine of bhajana. Once she has reached the stage of nishtha, no anartha whatsoever can easily harm her.
If Shraddha-devi is not properly nurtured with the utmost care, she will be polluted by the germs, termites, mosquitoes and unhealthy environment of the processes of jnana, renuncia- tion, impersonal conceptions, sankhya and so forth. In the conditioned stage, jnana, vairagya and so on are unavoidable for the jiva, but if jnana is of a particular variety which is unfavourable to bhakti, it can ruin bhakti. Hence, according to Shrila Jiva Gosvami the word ‘ jnana’ here refers to the pursuit of impersonal brahma. Jnana is of two types: spiritual knowl- edge which is directed towards obtaining mukti, and bhagavat-tattva-jnana which arises simul- taneously along with bhakti within the heart of the jiva. The first type of jnana is directly opposed to bhakti and it is essential to stay far away from it. Some people say that bhakti aris- es only after the cultivation of such spiritual knowledge, but this statement is completely erro- neous. Bhakti actually dries up by the cultivation of such knowledge. On the other hand, the tattva-jnana concerning the mutual relationship ( sambandha) between the ishvara, the jiva and maya which arises within the heart of the jiva through the faithful cultivation of devotional activities is helpful for his bhakti. This knowledge is called ahaituka-jnanaor knowledge which is devoid of ulterior motive. Suta Gosvami says in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.7):
vasudeve bhagavati bhakti-yogah prayojitah
janayatyashu vairagyam jnanam ca yad ahaitukam
“ Bhakti-yoga which is performed for the satisfaction of Bhagavan Vasudeva brings about detachment from all things unrelated to Him and gives rise to pure knowledge which is free from any motive for liberation and which is directed exclusively toward the attainment of Him.”
Now, by carefully reviewing all the previous statements, we can understand that to remain uncovered by jnana, karma and so forth—which means accepting them as subservient enti- ties—and engage in the favourable cultivation of activities meant to please Shri Krishna which are devoid of any other desire is called uttama-bhakti. Bhakti is the only means by which the jiva can obtain transcendental bliss. Besides bhakti all other methods are external. With the assis- tance of bhakti, sometimes karma is identified as aropa-siddha-bhakti or endeavours which are indirectly attributed with the quality of devotion and sometimes jnana is identified as sanga- siddha-bhakti or endeavours associated with or favourable to the cultivation of devotion. But they can never be accepted as svarupa-siddha-bhakti or bhakti in its constitutionally perfect- ed stage. Svarupa-siddha-bhakti is kaitava-shunya or free from any deceit and full of unalloyed bliss by nature, meaning that it is devoid of any desires for heavenly enjoyment and the attain- ment of liberation. But in aropa-siddha-bhakti the desires for bhukti and mukti remain in a hid- den position. Therefore, it is also called sakaitava-bhakti or deceitful bhakti. Oh my dear inti- mate Vaishnavas! By your constitutional nature you are attracted to svarupa-siddha-bhakti and have no taste for aropa-siddha-bhakti or sanga-siddha-bhakti. Although these two types of devotion are not actually bhakti by their constitution, some people refer to these two types of activities as bhakti. In fact they are not bhakti, but bhakti-abhasa or the semblance of real bhakti. If by some good fortune through the practice of bhakti-abhasa one develops shraddha for the true nature of bhakti, then only can such practice transform into shuddha-bhakti. But this doesn’t happen easily, because by the practice of bhakti-abhasa there exists every possibility of remaining bereft of shuddha-bhakti. Therefore, in all the scriptures the instruction is to fol- low svarupa-siddha-bhakti. In this short article, the intrinsic nature of shuddha-bhakti has been explained. Having care- fully reviewed all the instructions of our predecessor acaryas, in summary form we are pre- senting their heartfelt sentiments in the following verse:
purna cidatmake krishne jivasyanu cidatmanah
upadhi-rahita ceshta bhaktih svabhaviki mata
Shri Krishna is the complete, all-pervading consciousness who always possesses all potencies, and the jiva is the infinitesimal conscious entity who is likened to a single particle of light sit- uated within a ray of the unlimited spiritual sun. The natural and unadulterated endeavour of the infinitesimal conscious entity towards the complete consciousness is called bhakti. The jiva’s persistence towards anyabhilasha (acting to fulfil desires other than the desire to please Shri Krishna), jnana and karma is called “acquiring material designation.” We should understand that the natural inherent endeavour of the jiva can only mean the favourable cultivation of activi- ties to please Shri Krishna.