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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Narada Muni > Narada Bhakti Sutra > Chapter 2 Defining Bhakti

Chapter 2

Defining Bhakti

TEXT 15xiii*

tal-laksanani vacyante nana-mata-bhedat


tat-of it (devotional service); laksanani-the characteristics; vacyante-are enunciated; nana-various; mata-of theories; bhedat-according to the differences.


Now the characteristics of devotional service will be described according to various authoritative opinions.


In the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.23), Prahlada Maharaja very clearly states what the essential activities of devotional service are:

sravanam kirtanam visnoh smaranam pada-sevanam

arcanam vandanam dasyam sakhyam atma-nivedanam

 "Devotional service consists of (1) hearing about the Lord, (2) chanting His glories, (3) remembering Him, (4) serving and meditating upon His lotus feet, (5) worshiping Him, (6) praying to Him, (7) thinking oneself His eternal servant, (8) becoming His friend, and (9) surrendering everything to Him."

One should surrender to the Lord as much as an animal purchased from the market surrenders to its master. Such an animal never thinks of his maintenance because he knows that his master will look after him. A soul totally surrendered to the Supreme Lord is similarly never anxious for his maintenance. Shrila Sanatana Gosvami gives further symptoms of full surrender in his Hari-bhakti-vilasa (11.417):

anukulyasya sankalpah pratikulyasya varjanam

raksisyatiti visvaso goptrtve varanam tatha

atma-niksepa-karpanye sad-vidha saranagatih

 "The six divisions of surrender are: accepting those things favorable to devotional service, rejecting unfavorable things, the conviction that Krishna will give protection, accepting the Lord as one's guardian or master, full self-surrender, and humility." Narada will gradually explain these principles of devotion in the remaining sutras.


pujadisv anuraga iti parasaryah


puja-adisu-for worship and so on; anuragah-fondness; iti-so thinks; parasaryah-Vyasadeva, the son of Parasara.


Shrila Vyasadeva, the son of Parasara Muni, says that bhakti is fond attachment for worshiping the Lord in various ways.


In the previous sutra, Narada Muni promised that he would tell us some of the symptoms of devotional service according to various authoritative opinions. The Shrimad-Bhagavatam (6.3.20) mentions twelve maha-janas, or Krishna conscious authorities, and among them, one maha-jana may emphasize a different aspect of bhakti than another. The Supreme Lord possesses an unlimited variety of qualities and pastimes, and it is natural that devotees favor particular modes of service. All devotees, however, agree on the siddhanta, or accepted conclusion. Bhakti is not open to continual speculation, such as the kind Western philosophers indulge in.

The first opinion Narada offers is that of Shrila Vyasadeva, one of Narada's many exalted disciples. Besides being a faithful disciple of Narada's, Vyasadeva is the compiler of the Vedas, and so his opinions are not contrary to Narada's.

The words Vyasa uses to describe bhakti are puja and anuraga. These refer to worship of the Lord performed with sincere love and great attachment. Nondevotees may perform puja, but they think of it as an external ritual. The Mayavadi, for example, has an offensive concept of worship. He sees it as "a great aid in fixing one's mind on the Supreme." But what the Mayavadi really has in mind is that his puja will lead him to see God and Brahman and the Atman, or self, as one. In other words, he thinks that by worshiping God he will become God. The Mayavadis plainly advocate that while a person worships the Deity his first and foremost meditation should be on his unity with Brahman. This is a faithless and duplicitous form of "worship." The Mayavadi may even offer a fruit or flower to the Deity, but his motivation is not to develop love for God but to attain absolute oneness with the Supreme, which he thinks he can do by imitating the activities of a devotee. Krishna declares in the Bhagavad-gita (4.11), ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham: "As they approach Me, I reward them." And so those who desire to merge into the effulgence of the Supreme Person are awarded that impersonal status.

Some say that mental worship of the Lord is superior to external worship. But Shrila Prabhupada did not make such distinctions. In The Nectar of Devotion we read of a brahmana in South India who worshiped the Deity within his mind. The brahmana was poor and could not afford paraphernalia for puja, but in his mental worship he imagined that he was fetching golden and silver pots, filling them with water, and performing very opulent Deity worship. An intimate devotee of Lord Chaitanya's, Nrsimhananda Brahmacari, also performed mental worship. Once he mentally decorated a road with flowers and gems in anticipation that Lord Chaitanya would walk there. So mental worship of the Lord is certainly bona fide. But while devotees may perform mental worship according to time and circumstances, when the opportunity arises they do not avoid offering flaming lamps, incense, and

so on, as prescribed for temple worship. Moreover, whether mentally or externally, they always worship the spiritual for m of the Personality of Godhead.

A sincere devotee's puja is never merely mechanical but is offered with anuraga, strong feelings of attachment for the Lord. True worship is performed with the mind, the senses, and all the bodily limbs. Therefore the meaning of worship is not limited; it includes the engagement of all one's sensory and mental functions in service to the Supreme. As Lord Krishna says,

aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate

iti matva bhajante mam budha bhava-samanvitah

 "I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts" (Bg. 10.8). Lord Krishna also describes the mahatmas as "great souls [who] perpetually worship Me with devotion" (Bg. 9.14).

Worship may include many activities, but the word puja particularly refers to the worship of the arca-vigraha, the form of the Deity in the temple. Although Lord Chaitanya was Shri Krishna Himself, He worshiped Lord Jagannatha at the temple in Puri. Lord Chaitanya went to see the Deity every day and experienced great transcendental bliss. When Lord Jagannatha was absent from the temple during His renovation before Ratha-yatra, Lord Chaitanya acutely felt the pain of His absence and went into solitude at Alalanatha.

Thus Deity worship is not just for beginners, nor is it merely an aid to impersonal meditation. It is a necessary part of devotional service. Although in this age the chanting of the holy names is the foremost method of devotional service, the bhakta should also worship the arca-vigraha to counteract his tendencies for contamination, which are so strong in the Kali-yuga. This is the opinion of Shrila Jiva Gosvami.

We know from reading Vyasadeva's Shrimad-Bhagavatam that his understanding of what constitutes worship of the Lord is not confined to temple worship of the arca-vigraha. In the Seventh Canto of the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, Prahlada Maharaja mentions nine processes of devotional service. Shrila Vyasadeva-and Shrila Prabhupada-often stressed the first two items, hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord, as the most important, especially in the present age. But by faithfully executing any of the nine processes of bhakti, one can achieve fond attachment to worshiping the Lord.


kathadisv iti gargah


katha-adisu-for narrations and so on; iti-so; garga-Garga Muni.


Garga Muni says that bhakti is fondness for narrations about the Lord, by the Lord, and so on.


As Garga Muni taught the importance of attachment for hearing krishna-katha, so Shrila Prabhupada also stressed krishna-katha. One type of krishna-katha consists of words directly spoken from the mouth of the Lord, such as the Bhagavad-gita. Lord Chaitanya advocated that we repeat the words spoken by Krishna (krishna-upadesa) to whomever we meet. Another kind of krishna-katha consists of words spoken about Krishna, such as those spoken by Sukadeva Gosvami to Maharaja Pariksit in Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Sukadeva speaks throughout all twelve cantos about the wonderful pastimes of the Lord in His various incarnations. In the Tenth Canto he describes the original form of the Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna in Vrndavana, Mathura, and Dvaraka. All of this is krishna-katha.

 It is a characteristic of pure devotees that they speak only on transcendental subjects. A devotee practices mauna, or silence, by refraining from all mundane talk, but he is always pleased to speak krishna-katha. As Krishna states in the Bhagavad-gita (10.9),

mac-citta mad-gata-prana bodhayantah parasparam

kathayantas ca mam nityam tusyanti ca ramanti ca

 "The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me." Before beginning his Tenth Canto descriptions of Lord Krishna, Sukadeva tells Maharaja Pariksit,

nivrtta-tarsair upagiyamanad

bhavausadhac chrotra-mano-'bhiramat

ka uttamasloka-gunanuvadat

puman virajyeta vina pasu-ghnat

  "Descriptions of the Lord spoken by those who are free of material desires are the right medicine for the conditioned soul undergoing repeated birth and death, and they delight the ear and the mind. Therefore who will cease hearing such glorification of the Lord except a butcher or one who is killing his own self?" (Bhag. 10.1.4).

Narada Muni attributed his own Krishna consciousness to the pure devotees (bhakti-vedantas) whom he had served and heard speaking krishna-katha when he was only a five-year-old boy: "O Vyasadeva, in that association and by the mercy of those great Vedantists, I could hear them describe the attractive activities of Lord Krishna. And thus listening attentively, my taste for hearing of the Personality of Godhead increased at every step" (Bhag. 1.5.26). And so the opinion of Garga Muni-that bhakti consists of attraction for krishna-katha-is approved and practiced by the maha-janas.


atma-raty-avirodheneti sandilyah


atma-in relation with the Supreme Soul; rati-of pleasure; avirodhena-by freedom from obstruction; iti-so; sandilyah-Sandilya.


Sandilya says that bhakti results from one's removing all obstructions to taking pleasure in the Supreme Self.


Sandilya speaks of atma-rati, "taking delight in the self." But what does "taking delight in the self" mean? According to the science of bhakti, that which delights the individual self (jivatma) is devotional service unto the Supreme Self, the Personality of Godhead. Shrila Prabhupada comments in The Nectar of Devotion (p. 288), "The devotees and self-realized persons who are engaged in preaching the glories of the Lord always maintain an ecstatic love for the Lord within their hearts. Thus they are benefited by the rays of the ecstatic moon, and they are called saintly persons." The state of brahma-bhuta, or the joy of discovering one's eternal nature, is only the beginning of spiritual life. Mukti, or liberation, when conceived of as impersonal liberation from birth and death, is also not the ultimate goal. As stated in the Adi Purana, "A person who is constantly engaged in chanting the holy name and who feels transcendental pleasure, being engaged in devotional service, is certainly awarded the facilities of devotional service, and never given just mukti" (The Nectar of Devotion, p. 104). There are many other statements in the Vedic scriptures that prove devotional service surpasses all other forms of liberation. In the Damodarastaka, part of the Padma Purana, a devotee prays,

varam deva moksam na moksavadhim va

na canyam vrne 'ham varesad apiha

idam te vapur natha gopala-balam

sada me manasy avirastam kim anyaih

 "O Lord Damodara, although You are able to give all kinds of benedictions, I do not pray to You for the boon of impersonal liberation, nor for the highest liberation of eternal life in Vaikuntha, nor for any other, similar boon. O Lord, I simply wish that this form of Yours as baby Gopala in Vrndavana may ever be manifest in my heart, for what is the use to me of any other boon besides this?" (Damodarastaka 4).

A transcendentalist may seek atma-rati in impersonal realization before he hears the glories of devotional service from pure devotees. For example, the four Kumaras and Sukadeva Gosvami were all Brahman-realized-but they were never offensive to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As soon as the Kumaras and Sukadeva were introduced to pure Krishna consciousness, they at once gave up their impersonal conceptions and became eager to render devotional service to the Lord. But stubborn Mayavadis who deride devotional service are in a different category. Lord Chaitanya declared that the Mayavadis are great offenders to the Lord and that one should avoid their association.

A typical example of Mayavadi poison is their interpretation of the word atma-rati in this sutra. The Mayavadi claims that the worship (puja) and talking of the Lord (krishna-katha) mentioned in the two previous sutras are meant to lead one beyond the Personality of Godhead to the atma. This is the impersonalist's timeserving attitude toward bhakti. He will worship the Lord and hear His lila, but with the aim of finally denying the Personality of Godhead. He mistakenly thinks his meditation will lead him to realize that he is the all-pervading Brahman: "I am everything."

But if, as the Mayavadis claim, the ultimate bliss is to know that "I am God," then why has that bliss been missing up until now? If my identity is actually one in all respects with the all-pervading Godhead, then how did that identity become covered? What force has overcome the supreme atma? The fact is that the individual atmas, being tiny, are prone to be covered by maya, while the supreme atma, the Personality of Godhead, is never covered by maya or separated from His sac-cid-ananda-vigraha [Bs. 5.1], His spiritual form of eternity, bliss, and knowledge. So while the individual soul can never become God-because he never was God-he can strive for his constitutional perfection as the eternal loving servant of God.

The Mayavadis are consistently defeated by the direct statements of Vedic scriptures. In the beginning of the Bhagavad-gita (2.12), Lord Krishna makes it clear that both He and the individual atmas eternally exist as distinct entities. On the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, where two huge armies had massed for war, Krishna said to Arjuna,

na tv evaham jatu nasam na tvam neme janadhipah

na caiva na bhavisyamah sarve vayam atah param

 "Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings, nor in the future shall any of us cease to be." Krishna reiterates this idea later in the Bhagavad-gita (15.7): mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah. "The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts." Also, the Rg Veda and the Upanisads state that the individual atma and the Paramatma both reside in the heart of the living being, just as two birds sit in a tree. By the mercy of the Paramatma, or "God in the heart," the individual atma may come to realize his eternal, blissful state of loving service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Attempts at concocting a bhakti devoid of eternal service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead are the works of demoniac minds. For genuine bhakti to exist, there must always be three factors: Bhagavan (the Supreme Lord), the bhakta (the eternal, subordinate servitor), and bhakti (loving exchanges between Bhagavan and the bhakta).

The Mayavadis ignore or distort the direct statements of the scriptures, as well as the words of the maha-janas. We need not discuss their interpretations here, except to note that the Mayavadis are often attracted to the bhakti-sastras because they find their own meditations too dry. Thus they approach books like the Bhagavad-gita, the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, and the Narada-bhakti-sutra, but with an intention opposed to the aims of bhakti. By preaching that the forms of Lord Vishnu and His incarnations are material, the Mayavadi commits a severe offense against the Lord. As Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (9.11-12),

avajananti mam mudha manusim tanum ashritam

param bhavam ajananto mama bhuta-mahesvaram

 moghasa mogha-karmano mogha-jnana vicetasah

 raksasim asurim caiva prakrtim mohinim shritah

 "Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature as the Supreme Lord of all that be. Those who are thus bewildered are attracted by demoniac and atheistic views. In that deluded condition, their hopes for liberation, their fruitive activities, and their culture of knowledge are all defeated."

We can experience true atma-rati only in the context of our eternal loving relationship with Krishna, the reservoir of all pleasure. Even when we seek happiness with our material senses, we are indirectly seeking atma-rati. We derive pleasure with the eyes or tongue or ears only because the atma is present within the living body. Therefore bodily pleasure depends on the existence of the atma. Furthermore, the atma's pleasure is dependent on the Paramatma. And the Paramatma is an expansion of Shri Krishna, the original form of the Personality of Godhead. So in all circumstances we are looking for our blissful relationship with Krishna. Self-satisfaction actually means the satisfaction of serving and loving Krishna, the Supreme Self.


naradas tu tad-arpitakhilacarata tad-vismarane parama-vyakulateti


naradah-Narada; tu-but; tat-to Him; arpita-offered; akhila-all; acarata-having one's activities; tat-Him; vismarane-in forgetting; parama-supreme; vyakulata-distress; iti-so.


Narada, however, says that bhakti consists of offering one's every act to the Supreme Lord and feeling extreme distress in forgetting Him.


Narada previously gave three definitions of bhakti, according to three sages: (1) fondness for worshiping the Lord in various ways, (2) fondness for hearing narrations by or about the Lord, and (3) removing all obstacles to enjoying pleasure in the Self. Now Narada gives his own opinion, which does not contradict these views but is their culmination.

Among all forms of the Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna is the original and most attractive. Similarly, among all Vaishnavas, the pure devotees of Krishna in Vrndavana are the best. Lord Chaitanya declared that there is no better method of worshiping Krishna than that practiced by the gopis of Vrndavana. Here Narada says that a pure devotee feels great distress upon forgetting the Lord even for a moment-but in the case of the gopis there was never any question of forgetting Krishna. They were so absorbed in thinking of Him that they could not even perform their household duties. In their intense loving dealings, the gopis sometimes accused Krishna of unfaithfulness, and they expressed a wish that they could forget Him. But they could not. As stated by Shrimati Radharani, the chief of all the gopis:

 We know all about Krishna and how ungrateful He is. But here is the difficulty: In spite of His being so cruel and hardhearted, it is very difficult for us to give up talking about Him. Not only are we unable to give up this talk, but great sages and saintly persons also engage in talking about Him. We gopis of Vrndavana do not want to make any more friendships with this blackish boy, but we do not know how we shall be able to give up remembering and talking about His activities. [Krishna, p. 377]

 Out of intense humility Lord Chaitanya once said that He did not have even a drop of love for Krishna. he claimed that if He actually loved Krishna, then how could He live in His absence? Far from proving a lack of love, of course, this kind of sentiment proves just the opposite-that Lord Chaitanya was filled with the most exalted pure love for Krishna. Although it was not possible for Lord Chaitanya or the gopis to forget Krishna at any time, they still experienced the pain of separation from Him. In His Siksastaka (7), Lord Chaitanya prays,

yugayitam nimesena caksusa pravrsayitam

sunyayitam jagat sarvam govinda-virahena me

 "O Govinda! Because of separation from You, I consider even a moment a great millennium. Tears flow from my eyes like torrents of rain, and I see the entire world as void."

Here Narada says that an essential ingredient of bhakti is dedicating one's every act to the service of the Lord. Unlike what passes for commitment to a cause in the material world, such dedication to Krishna is all-encompassing. Because Lord Krishna is the summum bonum of existence, the pure devotee can be with Him in every circumstance. And because the Lord is all-attractive, the devotee becomes increasingly attached to his beloved. As Krishna declares in the Bhagavad-gita (6.30),

yo mam pasyati sarvatra sarvam ca mayi pasyati

tasyaham na pranasyami sa ca me na pranasyati

 "For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me." To the materialists, with their splayed interests in sense gratification, the devotee's love may appear to be obsessive madness. But love for Krishna actually brings one in touch with the truth, that Krishna is everything.

 One may ask whether the devotees' intense anguish experienced in separation from Krishna contradicts Sutra 18, wherein Sandilya defined bhakti as the bliss of self-realization. There is no contradiction, because the pain of separation felt by Lord Chaitanya and other pure devotees is a variety of transcendental bliss. In the realm of spiritual emotions experienced by those at the stage of prema, love of God, both sadness and happiness are absolute and blissful. Speculative philosophers and less advanced devotees cannot know this, but we may hear about it from the scriptures and see it in the lives of self-realized saints.

A devotee's self-surrender means that he wants nothing in return for his loving service. He only wants Krishna to be pleased. Selflessness does not mean a complete loss of ego. Total self-annihilation is impossible (despite the wishes of the voidists), but ahankara, or false ego, is dissolved by devotional service and replaced by true ego, the understanding that "I am an eternal servant of the Lord." The true self-interest of the living being lies in freedom from selfishness and, as Narada says here, "the offering of one's every act to the Supreme Lord." We are all eternally part and parcel of the Supreme Being, Krishna; as such, we can experience full satisfaction only through giving Him pleasure. Krsne tuste jagat tustam: "When Krishna is satisfied, everyone is satisfied."

The beginner in devotional service can practice selflessness by surrendering to the bona fide spiritual master. The devotee is advised to give all he has to the service of his guru and to always consider his guru his well-wisher. Devotees who practice such selfless service of the guru and the Supreme Lord never want anything in return, yet they eventually receive the greatest reward-the Lord's intimate association. As Krishna says,

man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namas-kuru

mam evaisyasi satyam te pratijane priyo 'si me

 "Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend" (Bg. 18.65).


asty evam evam


asti-it is; evam evam-like each of these.


Bhakti is, in fact, correctly described in each of these ways.


The definitions of bhakti given above-by Shrila Vyasadeva, Garga Muni, Sandilya, and Narada Muni-are not in conflict. While Narada has given us his own definition, here he says that the others are also valid. Bhakti is in fact a universal principle present at least partially in all theistic religions. Indeed, within many religions one could find a definition of love of God that would not contradict the conclusions of Narada Muni and the principles of Krishna consciousness taught by the followers of Lord Chaitanya.

Narada has defined the highest form of bhakti. But is such a perfect state possible? The answer is yes. Unless devotees from time to time manifest pure bhakti, aspirants on the spiritual path would have nothing to emulate and strive for, and they might conclude that parama-bhakti is only an imaginary ideal. As Lord Chaitanya says, dharma-sthapana-hetu sadhura vyavahara: "A devotee's behavior establishes the true purpose of religious principles" (Cc. Madhya 17.185).

Once Sanatana Gosvami pretended to be devoted to a sannyasi named Mukunda Sarasvati, rather than to Lord Chaitanya. When Lord Chaitanya's intimate servant Jagadananda Pandita saw Sanatana's behavior, he became very angry and threatened to beat Sanatana. Sanatana then revealed his purpose: "My dear Jagadananda Pandita, you are a greatly learned saint. No one is dearer to Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu than you. This faith in Lord Chaitanya befits you quite well. Unless you demonstrate it, how could I learn such faith?" (Cc. Antya 13.59).

We have seen the example of complete self-surrender and dedication of one's activities to Krishna in the life of His Divine Grace

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Shrila Prabhupada's sanctity was not a private affair: he gave of himself profusely and was empowered to bring thousands of people to Krishna consciousness. Thus he perfectly fulfilled the criterion given by Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura-that one can tell the quality of a Vaishnava by how many persons he convinces to become Vaishnavas. By his personal preaching, by his books, and by the Krishna consciousness movement he created and nurtured, Shrila Prabhupada showed the example of a life dedicated purely to pleasing Krishna. The potency of his acts continues as an ongoing legacy, accessible to anyone interested in taking up the path of bhakti-yoga. We are assured, therefore, of finding examples of perfect bhakti in the past, at present, and in the future.

Here Narada states that each authority he has quoted has described bhakti in his own authentic way. But in the next sutra Narada will say that the gopis of Vraja are exemplars of bhakti. Of the brief definitions of bhakti given in Sutras 16 through 19, we find that Narada's own definition best fits the gopis: "Bhakti consists of offering one's every act to the Supreme Lord and feeling extreme distress in forgetting Him."


yatha vraja-gopikanam


yatha-as; vraja-of Vraja; gopikanam-of the cowherd women.


The cowherd women of Vraja are an example of pure bhakti.


In Sutra 19, Narada gave the ultimate definition of bhakti. This has led him inevitably to mention the topmost of all devotees, the gopis of Vraja. Narada might have mentioned other renowned bhaktas, such as Uddhava, Arjuna, Prahlada Maharaja, or mother Yasoda, but he has chosen to give the singular example of the gopis. Narada's opinion is shared by all realized Vaishnavas, because the gopis are renowned as the best lovers of Lord Krishna. The gopis are most exalted because they gave everything, and sacrificed everything, for their beloved. As Shrila Krishnadasa Kaviraja writes in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Adi 4.167-69),

Social customs, scriptural injunctions, bodily demands, fruitive action, shyness, patience, bodily pleasures, self-gratification on the path of varnasrama-dharma, which is difficult to give up-the gopis have forsaken all these, along with their families, and suffered their relatives' punishment and scolding, all for the sake of serving Lord Krishna. They render loving service to Him for the sake of His enjoyment.

The gopis' rasa with Krishna is madhurya, or conjugal love. But even bhaktas who worship the Lord in other rasas acknowledge the supermost place of the gopis in the kingdom of bhakti. Narada Muni, for example, usually associates with Lord Krishna in His opulent features in Vaikuntha or Dvaraka. In his exchanges with Lord Krishna, Narada often praises the Lord's inconceivable opulence. For example, once when Narada visited Krishna in many of His sixteen thousand palaces, he was astonished to see how the Lord had expanded Himself so He could be alone with each of His queens. "Your transcendental position is always inconceivable to everyone," said Narada. "As far as I am concerned, I can simply offer my respectful obeisances to You again and again" (Krishna, p. 603). Since Narada is one of the Lord's learned and intimate devotees, he is aware that the gopis exemplify the topmost expression of love for Krishna. Similarly, devotees such as Sukadeva Gosvami, Bhismadeva, and Vyasadeva appreciate the gopis' exalted position.

 Even the impersonalists are attracted to Krishna's loving affairs with the gopis, although they cannot understand them. Attempting to praise the gopis of Vrndavana, one impersonalist "Swami" said, "Gopi-lila is the acme of the religion of love, in which individuality vanishes and there is communion." But it's not a fact that "individuality vanishes," either for the gopis or for any other living entity. As we have pointed out above, Lord Krishna clearly and repeatedly states that both His individuality and the living entities' are eternal. The gopis did, however, completely lose their selfish interest-their interest became entirely one with Lord Krishna's. To consider the gopis' rasa dance with Krishna merely a stage leading to merging into the impersonal Brahman is a great insult to the gopis and to gopi-lila, even though one's intent is to praise. When they appeared before Krishna in the moonlit forest of Vrndavana, the gopis certainly did not want Him to instruct them about "merging" with Him through jnana-yoga, nor did they see the rasa dance in that way. Speaking in the mood of Shrimati Radharani as She met with Krishna at Kuruksetra, Lord Chaitanya once complained to Him about His attempt to teach yoga and meditation to the gopis:

 My dear Krishna, formerly, when You were staying at Mathura, You sent Uddhava to teach Me speculative knowledge and mystic yoga. Now You Yourself are speaking the same thing, but My mind does not accept it. There is no place in My mind for jnana-yoga or dhyana-yoga. Although You know Me very well, You are still instructing Me in dhyana-yoga and jnana-yoga. It is not right for You to do so. I would like to withdraw My consciousness from You and engage it in material activities, but even though I try, I cannot do so. I am naturally inclined to You only. Therefore Your instructions for Me to meditate on You are simply ludicrous..... It is not very good for You to think of Me as a candidate for Your instructions. [Cc. Madhya 13.139-40]


tatrapi na mahatmya-jnana-vismrty-apavadah


tatra-in that case; api-even; na-there is not; mahatmya-of greatness; jnana-of awareness; vismrti-of forgetting; apavadah-criticism.


Even in the case of the gopis, one cannot criticize them for forgetting the Lord's greatness.


Narada is replying to a possible criticism: Although all Vaishnavas praise the gopis, and though even the impersonalists join in the chorus, some philosophers think the gopis' love is uninformed. Because the gopis were attracted to Krishna as a beautiful young boy, and because they ran from their homes in the dead of night to dance with Him in the moonlit Vrndavana forest, foolish critics think the gopis did not know that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

The accusation against the gopis is false, says Narada. The gopis knew that Shri Krishna is the Supreme Person, but in their intimate rasa with Him they put aside the awe and reverence usually offered to the Supreme Lord. The Lord's internal potency, Yogamaya, allows loving intimacy to overshadow God's majesty. But this does not mean that pure devotees like the gopis lack spiritual advancement. Except for the gopis Krishna brought with Him from the spiritual world, all the gopis came to their position of madhurya-rasa only after many lifetimes of austerity and spiritual cultivation. Regarding the cowherd boys (gopas) who play with Krishna, the Shrimad-Bhagavatam states that they attained their position "only after accumulating heaps of pious activities" in many lives. So although it may sometimes appear that the liberated devotees have forgotten that Lord Krishna is God, this is actually an arrangement by Yogamaya for increasing the pleasure of the Lord and His devotees.

For example, as Vasudeva carried his baby son Krishna across the Yamuna River, the baby fell into the river. Shrila Prabhupada writes, "Just to test the intense love of Vasudeva, Lord Krishna fell down into the waters of the Yamuna while His father was crossing the river. Vasudeva became mad after his child as he tried to recover Him in the midst of the rising river" (Bhag. 3.2.17, purport). Lord Krishna did not want Vasudeva to think, "Oh, Krishna will save Himself; He's God," but He wanted to evoke the paternal rasa in full intensity. In a similar way, mother Yasoda sometimes expressed her maternal love for baby Krishna by punishing Him. And when His mother came to punish Him, Krishna reciprocated by running away in fear. Shrila Prabhupada describes this apparent contradiction as follows:

The Lord's pure devotee renders service unto the Lord out of unalloyed love only, and while discharging such devotional service the pure devotee forgets the position of the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord also accepts the loving service of His devotees more relishably when the service is rendered spontaneously out of pure affection, without any reverential admiration.... If mother Yasoda had been conscious of the exalted position of the Lord, she would certainly have hesitated to punish the Lord. But she was made to forget this situation because the Lord wanted to make a complete gesture of childishness before the affectionate Yasoda.... Mother Yasoda is praised for her unique position of love, for she could control even the all-powerful Lord as her beloved child. [Bhag. 1.8.31, purport]

Another prominent example is Arjuna, Krishna's friend, who accepted the infallible Lord as his chariot driver.

As for the gopis of Vraja, they often manifested deep knowledge of Krishna's divinity. But they never diminished their conjugal mood in order to become scholars or meditators. Krishna wanted to dance with the most beautiful girls in the universe, and so the gopis, His completely surrendered servants, happily complied. When Krishna called the gopis to Him in the dead of night, He first began to lecture them on morality. The gopis complained to Him about this attitude, and yet their statements indicate that they knew very well who He was. The gopis said to Krishna,

Within these three worlds there is no distinction between men and women in relation to You because both men and women belong to the marginal potency, or prakrti. No one is actually the enjoyer, or male; everyone is meant to be enjoyed by You. There is no woman within these three worlds who cannot but deviate from her path of chastity when she is attracted to You because Your beauty is so sublime that not only men and women, but cows, birds, beasts, and even trees, fruits, and flowers-everyone and everything-become enchanted, and what to speak of ourselves? [Krishna, p. 252]

After Lord Krishna left Vrndavana, He sent Uddhava to deliver a message to the gopis. When Uddhava saw the gopis' undying devotion for Shri Krishna, he praised their transcendental perfection:

My dear gopis, the mentality you have developed in relationship to Krishna is very, very difficult to attain, even for great sages and saintly persons. You have attained the highest perfectional stage of life. It is a great boon for you that you have fixed your minds upon Krishna and have decided to have Krishna only, giving up your family, homes, relatives, husbands, and children for the sake of the Supreme Personality. Because your minds are now fully absorbed in Krishna, the Supreme Soul, universal love has automatically developed in you. I think myself very fortunate that I have been favored, by your grace, to see you in this situation. [Krishna, p. 380]

The gopis were always impatient when either Uddhava or Krishna spoke philosophy to them, because all they wanted was to be alone with Krishna in the Vrndavana mood. So when Uddhava praised them, they did not find it very pleasing. Sometimes they even denounced Krishna's behavior, and yet they remained aware of His supreme and independent position. As one gopi said, "Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the husband of the goddess of fortune, and He is self-sufficient. He has no business either with us-the girls of Vrndavana forest-or with the city girls in Mathura. He is the great Supersoul; He has nothing to do with any of us, either here or there" (Krishna, p. 386).

It is offensive to judge the gopis according to ordinary standards of human behavior. The intimacy Krishna allowed them is inconceivable, and no one can understand it except those who are completely free of material desires. The gopis' love is certainly beyond awe and reverence, and yet it is never mundane.

The impersonalist sometimes tries to jump on the bandwagon of praise for the gopis. He says that the gopis cannot be understood by people infected with worldly lust, but then he himself commits an even worse offense: he thinks Krishna's affairs with the gopis are "allegories that contain profound spiritual truths." Behind the Mayavadi's admiration of gopi-bhava is the desire to commit spiritual annihilation, to become one with God. In other words, the impersonalist thinks that at the last stage of perfection, a gopi will realize that her beloved Krishna is her very self. We have already pointed out the foolishness of these claims, but we do so again just to expose the impersonalist's so-called praise of krishna-lila.

By contrast, Narada Muni's praise of the gopis' devotion to Lord Krishna is upheld by all sastras and sages.


tad-vihinam jaranam iva


tat-of it (awareness of the Lord's greatness); vihinam-devoid; jaranam-of illicit lovers; iva-like.


On the other hand, displays of devotion without knowledge of God's greatness are no better than the affairs of illicit lovers.


The gopis' loving exchanges with Krishna have nothing to do with mundane passion, but because they resemble lusty activities in the material world, those with impure minds mistake them for such. Shrila Prabhupada was therefore always very cautious in presenting Lord Krishna's rasa-lila. Lord Chaitanya was also very cautious in discussing such topics. Although He was always merged in gopi-bhava, He discussed Krishna's loving affairs with the gopis only with a few intimate disciples. For the mass of people, Lord Chaitanya distributed love of God by propagating the congregational chanting of the holy name.

Shrila Prabhupada would sometimes tell a story to show how most people mistake the transcendental loving affairs of Radha and Krishna as mundane dealings between an ordinary boy and girl. Once there was a fire in a barn, and one of the cows almost died of fright. Afterward, whenever that cow saw the color red, she would think a fire was burning and become panic-stricken. Similarly, as soon as an ordinary man or woman sees a picture of Radha and Krishna, he or she immediately thinks Their relationship is just like that between an ordinary boyfriend and girlfriend or husband and wife. Unfortunately, professional reciters of the Bhagavatam promote this misconception by jumping into Lord Krishna's conjugal pastimes in the Tenth Canto, although neither they nor their audience are fit to hear them. The authorized approach to the Bhagavatam is to first carefully read the first nine cantos, which establish the greatness of the Supreme Lord, His universal form, His material and spiritual energies, His creation of the cosmos, His incarnations, and so on. Reading the first two cantos is like contemplating the lotus feet of the Lord, and as one gradually progresses, one looks upon the Lord's various bodily limbs, until finally one sees His smiling face in the Tenth Canto's account of His pastimes with the gopis.

 If Krishna's pastimes with the gopis' were lusty affairs, neither pure brahmacaris like Narada and Sukadeva nor liberated sages like Uddhava and Vyasadeva would have praised them so highly. Such great devotees are free from all mundane passion; so how could they be interested in Radha and Krishna if Their love were a worldly sex affair?

From the Shrimad-Bhagavatam we learn that all the gopis had spiritual bodies. This is another proof that Krishna's pastimes with the gopis are supramundane. When Krishna played His flute in Vrndavana on the full-moon night of the autumn season, the gopis went to Him in their spiritual bodies. Many of these gopis are eternal companions of Krishna, and when He exhibits His transcendental pastimes within the material world, they come with Him. But some of the gopis who joined Krishna's pastimes within this material world came from the status of ordinary human beings. By always thinking of Krishna as their beloved, they became purified of all material contamination and elevated to the same status as the eternally liberated gopis. Shrila Prabhupada writes, "All the gopis who concentrated their minds on Krishna in the spirit of paramour love became fully uncontaminated from all the fruitive reactions of material nature, and some of them immediately gave up their material bodies developed under the three modes of material nature" (Krishna, p. 242). Shrila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura explains in his commentary on the Shrimad-Bhagavatam that here "giving up the material body" does not mean dying but rather purification of all material contamination and attainment of a purely spiritual body.

When Sukadeva Gosvami began reciting Krishna's rasa-lila pastimes, Maharaja Pariksit raised a doubt similar to that addressed in this sutra. He asked, "How could the gopis attain liberation by thinking of a paramour?" Sukadeva replied that even if one thinks that the gopis were motivated by lust, any association with Krishna will purify one of all material desires. Because He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, even someone like Sisupala, who was absorbed in thinking of Krishna out of envy, gained salvation. As Shrila Prabhupada explains in Krishna (p. 245):

The conclusion is that if one somehow or other becomes attached to Krishna or attracted to Him, either because of His beauty, quality, opulence, fame, strength, renunciation, or knowledge, or even through lust, anger, or fear, or through affection or friendship, then one's salvation and freedom from material contamination are assured.

The society girl Kubja is an example of how even lusty attraction to Krishna frees one from material contamination. She approached Krishna with lusty desire, but her lust was relieved just by smelling the fragrance of Krishna's lotus feet.

While the word kama (lust) is used to describe the gopis' feelings toward Krishna, in their case it is actually a transcendental emotion. The gopis wanted Krishna to be their husband, but there was no possibility of His marrying all of them in the usual sense. So they married regular husbands (though some were unmarried at the time of the rasa dance) but retained their love for Krishna. Therefore Krishna's loving relationship with the gopis is known as parakiya-rasa (paramour love). But whereas in the material world the relationship of a married woman with a paramour is abominable, in the spiritual world it is the most exalted relationship one can have with Krishna. Just as a tree reflected in the water appears upside down, so that which is topmost in the spiritual world-Krishna's loving dealings with the gopis-becomes abominable when reflected in the material world as illicit sexual affairs. When people imitate Krishna's rasa dance with the gopis, they enjoy only the perverted reflection of the transcendental parakiya-rasa. Shrila Prabhupada writes in Krishna (p. 240), "It is stated in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam that one should not imitate this parakiya-rasa even in dream or imagination. Those who do so drink the most deadly poison."

Another characteristic of mundane paramour love is that it is unsteady. As soon as one's sex pleasure is disrupted, one seeks out a new partner. The Shrimad-Bhagavatam predicts that in the Age of Kali marriage will become degraded to a mere convenience for sex pleasure and will break apart as soon as that pleasure abates. But once one revives one's loving relationship with Krishna, that relationship will remain steady and ever fresh.

The gopis' love for Krishna is within Shri Krishna's hladini-sakti, or internal pleasure potency. When Shri Krishna wants to enjoy, He associates with the gopis, not with women of the material world. This is another indication of the gopis' superexcellent spiritual position. In Krishna's exchanges with the gopis through the hladini-sakti, there is unlimited and unending ecstasy; this pleasure is far different from the quickly satiated lusts of sexual affairs, which are soon followed by painful entanglements and karmic reactions.

Even after Sukadeva Gosvami had explained the spiritual nature of the love that Krishna and the gopis exchanged during the rasa dance, Maharaja Pariksit questioned Sukadeva as to why Krishna would act in a way that would make ordinary people see Him as immoral. Sukadeva replied that because Lord Krishna is the supreme isvara, or controller, He is independent of all social and religious principles. This is simply more evidence of His greatness. As the supreme isvara, Lord Krishna may sometimes violate His own instructions with impunity, but that is possible only for the supreme controller, not for us. Since no one can imitate such astounding activities of Lord Krishna's

as creating the universe or lifting Govardhana Hill, no one should try to imitate His rasa dance, either. To further clear up all doubts about Krishna and the gopis, one may read Chapter Thirty-two of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.


nasty eva tasmims tat-sukha-sukhitvam


na-there is not; eva-indeed; tasmin-in it; tat-His; sukha-in the happiness; sukhitvam-finding happiness.


In such false devotion one does not find pleasure exclusively in the Lord's pleasure.


As already explained, lust is as different from love as iron is from gold. Shrila Krishnadasa Kaviraja states,

atmendriya-priti-vancha-tare bali `kama'

krsnendriya-priti-iccha dhare `prema' nama

 "The desire to gratify one's own senses is kama [lust], but the desire to please the senses of Lord Krishna is prema [love]" (Cc. Adi 4.165). Shrimati Radharani expresses Her pure love for Krishna in this way:

"I do not mind My personal distress. I only wish for the happiness of Krishna, for His happiness is the goal of My life. However, if He feels great happiness in giving Me distress, that distress is the best of My happiness" (Cc. Antya 20.52).

Krishnadasa Kaviraja informs us, "The gopis have no inclination for their own enjoyment, and yet their joy increases. That is indeed a contradiction." The solution to this contradiction is that "the joy of the gopis lies in the joy of their beloved Krishna" (Cc. Adi 4.188-89). Although the gopis are the leaders in this selfless love for the Lord, all Vaishnavas share in this sentiment. When Lord Nrsimhadeva wanted to offer a benediction to Prahlada Maharaja, who had undergone so much suffering on the Lord's account, Prahlada declined. He said he had not performed his devotional service in the mood of a merchant seeking profit in exchange for service: "O my Lord, I am Your unmotivated servant, and You are my eternal master. There is no need for our being anything other than master and servant. You are naturally my master, and I am naturally Your servant. We have no other relationship" (Bhag. 7.10.6).

In a similar mood, Madhavendra Puri underwent difficult austerities in order to carry a load of sandalwood for the sake of his beloved Gopala Deity. Madhavendra walked thousands of miles through territory governed by Muhammadans and filled with thieves and watchmen. Describing Madhavendra's service, Lord Chaitanya said, "This is the natural result of intense love of Godhead. The devotee does not consider personal inconveniences or impediments. In all circumstances he wants to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead" (Cc. Madhya 4.186).

Like the gopis, all pure devotees feel great happiness when serving Krishna, even when that service entails severe austerity. Shrila Prabhupada writes, "It is said that when one sees apparent unhappiness or distress in a perfect Vaishnava, it is not at all unhappiness for him; rather it is transcendental bliss" (Cc. Madhya 4.186, purport).

We may ask, Why does a devotee approach Lord Krishna with pure selfless love, seeking only to please Him? To understand the answer to this question, one has to personally experience such love. There are glimmers of such love even in the material world, as in the love a mother feels for her child. Even within the animal kingdom a mother sometimes risks her life to protect her offspring. But pure selfless love exists only in relation to the all-attractive Personality of Godhead. One cannot precisely analyze this love in intellectual terms, but one can experience it with a purified heart.

The secret driving force for the devotees is the all-attractive nature of Krishna and the fact that He is the Self of all selves. Sukadeva Gosvami explains this in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (10.14.50-57), after he relates how Krishna expanded Himself into all the calves and cowherd boys of Vrndavana. When Krishna expanded Himself in this way, the parents of the boys and calves felt increased love for their offspring. Upon hearing the account of this miraculous pastime, Maharaja Pariksit asked, "When Krishna expanded Himself, why is it that the boys' parents became more loving toward Him than toward their own sons? Also, why did the cows become so loving toward the calves, more so than toward their own calves?" Sukadeva replied that since what is most attractive to the living being is his own self, and since Krishna, as the Supersoul, is the Self of all selves, He is the all-attractive center for everyone. Therefore, when He expanded Himself as the calves and boys of Vrndavana, the calves' and boys' parents were more affectionate toward Krishna's expansions than toward their own offspring.

By loving Krishna, a person realizes his love for all living beings. In other words, universal love is a part of God consciousness. This is expressed in two great commandments of the Bible: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deuteronomy 6:5); and "Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 19:19). Prabhupada would give a homely example to show how love of God implies universal love: When a man marries a woman, he also gains a relationship with her whole family and may quickly develop affection for his new in-laws. Similarly, if one develops love for Krishna, the father of all living beings, one immediately becomes aware of one's loving relationship with all Krishna's children. A devotee who even partially realizes his love for Krishna wants to work to fulfill Krishna's mission in this world, which is to help all living beings end their suffering and go back to Godhead. When one does this not for fame as a preacher and not as a professional business-but as a humble servant meeting all difficulties for the sake of spreading Krishna consciousness-he becomes the dearmost servant of the Lord. This is the perfection of happiness in spiritual love, and it is completely unlike lust, the desire for one's own pleasure.


sa tu karma-jnana-yogebhyo 'py adhikatara


sa-it; tu-but; karma-to fruitive work; jnana-speculative knowledge; yogebhyah-and mystic meditation; api-indeed; adhikatara-superior.


Pure devotional service, on the other hand, is far superior to fruitive work, philosophical speculation, and mystic meditation.


Having described the gopis of Vraja as the topmost example of para bhakti, Narada now turns his attention to bhakti-yoga in general. Here Narada asserts that all bhaktas are categorically superior to other Vedic practitioners. The classification of human beings into karmis, jnanis, yogis, and bhaktas is itself a brilliant gift of Vedic knowledge. Let us see why, out of the full range of possible activities, bhakti is the highest.

Karma refers in the broadest sense to any activity, but it often means activities performed within the bounds of Vedic injunctions with the intention of enjoying the results. (Another term, vikarma, is used for activity forbidden by the Vedas.) So karma, although having religious stature, is still material. The karmi is interested in rewards like money, sense pleasure, and fame in this life, and he also seeks promotion to higher planets in the next life. The great defect of karma is that it always results in reactions, which force the karmi to take another material birth by the process of transmigration of the soul. Therefore, whether "good" or "bad," pious or impious, all karma keeps one bound within the cycle of birth and death.

Jnana refers to the cultivation of knowledge. The jnani sees the shortcomings of karma and begins to inquire into higher truth. Jnanis are generally philosophers and meditators. They are not interested merely in material results, but in knowledge for its own sake. By cultivating jnana through the study of Vedic sastras or through meditation, the jnani can come to the brink of spiritual knowledge, awareness of eternal Brahman. But unless he goes further and understands his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he will suffer the same defeat as the karmi-confinement within the cycle of birth and death. A prayer to Krishna by the demigods points up the jnanis' shortcoming:

O lotus-eyed Lord, although nondevotees who accept severe austerities and penances to achieve the highest position may think themselves liberated, their intelligence is impure. They fall down from their position of imagined superiority because they have no regard for Your lotus feet. [Bhag. 10.2.32]

The third category of human endeavor is yoga. Lord Krishna describes the yogi as follows: "A yogi is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist, and greater than the fruitive worker. Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances be a yogi" (Bg. 6.46). There are many types of yoga, such as hatha-yoga, astanga-yoga, raja-yoga, dhyana-yoga, and bhakti-yoga. Rudimentary hatha-yoga has become very popular as a form of exercise and relaxation, but real yoga-as taught by Patanjali in his Yoga-sutra or by Krishna in the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita-is an eightfold system of meditation for attaining samadhi, or complete absorption of the mind in the Supreme. The eightfold yoga process is very difficult to perform, and even Arjuna decided it was too difficult for him. And those few who can practice it often become captivated by the siddhis, or perfections, that one can gain through this yoga, such as the ability to walk on water, become extremely small, and control other people's minds. So the mystic yoga process, being very difficult and full of many possible distractions, is not recommended in this age.

Activities of karma, jnana, and yoga are not condemned as such by those practicing bhakti, devotional service. Rather, when these lesser activities are dovetailed in the service of the Supreme Lord, they are favorable methods of devotional service. For example, when karma, or activity, is joined with devotional service, it becomes karma-yoga, action in Krishna consciousness. Lord Krishna recommends this in the Bhagavad-gita (9.27):

yat karosi yad asnasi yaj juhosi dadasi yat

yat tapasyasi kaunteya tat kurusva mad-arpanam

 "Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform-do that, O son of Kunti, as an offering to Me" (Bg. 9.27).

Those who cultivate knowledge (jnana) are often very proud and consider themselves superior to devotees. But the perfection of knowledge is to surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and realize that He is everything. Then jnana becomes jnana-yoga and is purified of mental speculation. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (7.19),

bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate

vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma su-durlabhah

 "After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare" (Bg. 7.19).

Similarly, Krishna tells Arjuna at the end of the Sixth Chapter of the Gita that absorption in Krishna consciousness is the ultimate yoga:

yoginam api sarvesam mad-gatenantar atmana

sraddhavan bhajate yo mam sa me yuktatamo matah

 "And of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me-he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion" (Bg. 6.47).

So karma, jnana, and yoga can become favorable for Krishna consciousness. But direct para bhakti is the conclusion of Lord Krishna's teachings in the Bhagavad-gita:

man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namas-kuru

mam evaisyasi satyam te pratijane priyo 'si me

 sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja

 aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah

 [Bg. 18.66]

 "Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend. Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear" (Bg. 18.65-66).

Thus in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna confirms Narada's assertion here that bhakti is supreme.




phala-of the fruit; rupatvat-because of being the form.


After all, bhakti is the fruit of all endeavor.


Bhakti is more than a process leading to a result: it is the constitutional nature of the living being. As Lord Chaitanya states in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 20.108), jivera `svarupa' haya-krsnera `nitya-dasa': "It is the living entity's constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krishna." Even in the beginning stages, bhakti is both the means and the end. To explain this, Shrila Prabhupada gives the example of a mango. In its unripe stage, a mango is a mango, and when it becomes ripe and relishable, it is still a mango. So even neophyte activities of bhakti are within the realm of love of God and are pleasing to Krishna. But activities of karma, jnana, and yoga are not pleasing to Krishna unless they are dovetailed with bhakti.

 When one begins devotional service, the emphasis is on performing obligatory practices ordered by the spiritual master. But even at this stage bhakti-yoga is based on the soul's dormant inclinations. Shrila Prabhupada explains in The Nectar of Devotion (p. 20):

[The practice of devotional service] is not for developing something artificial. For example, a child learns or practices to walk. This walking is not unnatural. The walking capacity is there originally in the child, and simply by a little practice he walks very nicely. Similarly, devotional service to the Supreme Lord is the natural instinct of every living entity.

Narada has defined bhakti as superior to other processes because it is both the means and the end, whereas other processes must ultimately lead to bhakti to have any value. This is one important reason why bhakti is superior, and now Narada will offer further evidence.


isvarasyapy abhimani-dvesitvad dainya-priyatvac ca


isvarasya-of the Supreme Lord; api-also; abhimani-of those who are proud; dvesitvat-because of being one who dislikes; dainya-of humility; priyatvat-because of being fond; ca-and.


Furthermore, the Lord dislikes the proud but is pleased with the humble.


The humility Narada praises here is not ordinary modesty but is in relationship to the Supreme Lord. The whole point is that the bhakta does what Krishna likes. In the Hari-bhakti-vilasa (11.417), Sanatana Gosvami describes six symptoms of a surrendered soul, and each of them involves humility before the Lord:

anukulyasya sankalpah pratikulyasya varjanam

raksisyatiti visvaso goptrtve varanam tatha

 atma-niksepa-karpanye sad-vidha saranagatih

 "The six aspects of full surrender to Krishna are (1) accepting things favorable for devotional service, (2) rejecting things unfavorable for devotional service, (3) believing firmly in the Lord's protection, (4) feeling exclusively dependent on the mercy of the Lord for one's maintenance, (5) having no interest separate from that of the Lord, and (6) always feeling meek and humble before the Lord."

Humility is pleasing to Krishna, and therefore the devotee is humble. If Lord Krishna had said He preferred pride, the devotee would be proud. In fact, sometimes the Lord likes His intimate friends to show a kind of transcendental pride and reprimand Him. By the influence of the Lord's yogamaya potency, Krishna's cowherd boyfriends think themselves His equals and sometimes challenge Him. A boy will climb on His back and say, "What kind of a big man are You?" Similarly, when mother Yasoda or Shrimati Radharani chides Krishna, He likes it. These are examples of proud behavior in prema-bhakti, but Narada is discussing a more basic instruction-that pride in one's self and one's activities is not pleasing to the Lord.

Everyone should acknowledge that the Supreme Lord has given him whatever opulence he has. Whatever prowess, wealth, beauty, fame, or learning we possess is nothing to be proud of because it is all "borrowed plumes." Even when we receive Krishna's favor in devotional service, we should know that it is due to His mercy and not our own greatness. Sometimes when a devotee displays pride, Krishna personally crushes it, as at the beginning of the rasa dance:

The gopis. .. soon began to feel very proud, thinking themselves to be the most fortunate women in the universe by being favored by the company of Krishna. Lord Krishna, who is known as Kesava, could immediately understand their pride caused by their fortune of enjoying Him personally, and in order to show them His causeless mercy and to curb their false pride, He immediately disappeared from the scene, exhibiting His opulence of renunciation. [Krishna, p. 253]

The more power one has, the more one is liable to become puffed up. Demigods like Brahma and Indra sometimes become proud and forget Krishna's supreme position. Once when Indra became envious of Krishna, he tried to punish the residents of Vrndavana by sending torrential rainfall, but Krishna protected the Vraja-vasis by lifting Govardhana Hill. Indra then approached Krishna and sought forgiveness:

[Indra said,] "Within this material world there are many fools like myself who consider themselves to be the Supreme Lord or the all-in-all within the universe. You are so merciful that without punishing their offenses, You devise means so that their false prestige is subdued and they can know that You, and no one else, are the Supreme Personality of Godhead." [Krishna, p. 226]

Lord Chaitanya considered humility essential for one who is aspiring to chant the holy names of God. He wrote in His Siksastaka (3),

trnad api su-nicena taror iva sahisnuna

amanina mana-dena kirtaniyah sada harih

 [Cc. adi 17.31]

 "One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect honor but is always prepared to give all respect to others can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord." Vaishnavas offer respect not only to the Supreme Lord and His direct representatives, but to all living beings. The more one advances spiritually, the more humble one becomes. The greatest devotee, the maha-bhagavata, sees everyone except himself as a servant of Lord Krishna. As said in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Antya 20.25), "Although a Vaishnava is the most exalted person, he is prideless and gives all respect to everyone, knowing everyone to be the resting place of Krishna."

If at any point a devotee becomes proud of being a distinguished Vaishnava, then he has developed an anartha (unwanted thing). This is confirmed in the Chaitanya-charitamrita (Antya 20.28): "Wherever there is a relationship of love of Godhead, its natural symptom is that the devotee does not think himself a devotee. Instead, he always thinks that he has not even a drop of love for Krishna" (Cc. Antya 20.28).

Although all transcendentalists may aspire to humility, bhakti-yoga is the best way to cultivate it. In bhakti-yoga one cannot advance without pleasing Lord Krishna by acts of humility, whereas karma, jnana, and yoga do not directly culture humility. Therefore a person who follows these other processes is more likely to think he is advancing by his own effort. The karmi may think he is accumulating wealth by his hard endeavor, the jnani that he is gaining knowledge by his tedious study, and the yogi that he has attained mystic powers by long years of austerity. By contrast, the pure bhakta knows that the bliss he feels in the course of his devotional service is due simply to the mercy of the Supreme Lord. Thus the devotee alone is always aware that his advancement depends on his humility before Krishna. One cannot be puffed up and at the same time be a devotee.

Lord Krishna is attracted to the humble. For example, He was very pleased by the unpretentious behavior of Sudama Vipra, and He blessed him in many ways. Similarly, Lord Chaitanya showed special mercy to a devotee named Kalidasa, who worshiped all Vaishnavas with great respect and love. But Lord Chaitanya was not pleased by the proud scholarship of Vallabha Bhatta.

Narada's statement here-that the Supreme Lord is pleased with the humble and displeased with the proud-does not mean Krishna is partial. Lord Krishna does not withhold His love from anyone; rather, it is we who withhold our love from Him out of pride and ignorance and thus become unqualified to experience His presence and reciprocate His love. The sun shines for the benefit of all living beings, but creatures like owls hide themselves from its rays. The great devotee Prahlada Maharaja puts it this way in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (7.9.27):

Unlike an ordinary living entity, my Lord, You do not discriminate between friends and enemies, the favorable and the unfavorable, because for You there is no conception of higher and lower. Nonetheless, You offer Your benedictions according to the level of one's service, exactly as a desire tree delivers fruits according to one's desires and makes no distinction between lower and higher.


tasya jnanam eva sadhanam ity eke


tasyah-of it (bhakti); jnanam-knowledge; eva-alone; sadhanam-the means; iti-thus; eke-some.


Some say that knowledge is the means for developing devotion.


In this and the following two sutras Narada discusses the relation between knowledge and bhakti.

 Is bhakti based on knowledge? Acquiring knowledge is certainly an important part of Krishna consciousness. In the beginning of the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna reprimands Arjuna for "speaking learned words" but acting like one in ignorance. Krishna thus becomes the guru of Arjuna and begins by teaching him about the immortality of the soul. Indeed, throughout the Bhagavad-gita Krishna gives Arjuna essential knowledge concerning devotional service. Lord Chaitanya also took the role of teacher in His pastimes with Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, Prakasananda Sarasvati, and Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis.

Krishna conscious knowledge is not jnana in the impersonal sense but is rather knowledge of the soul, God, and God's energies, with a bhakti conclusion. It is obvious, therefore, that knowledge helps one practice bhakti. Sometimes Shrila Prabhupada was asked, "How can a person without knowledge know if a spiritual master is bona fide?" Shrila Prabhupada replied that to know who a bona fide spiritual master is, one must first have some idea of what a spiritual master is. He gave the example that if someone wants to buy gold, he had better learn about gold and the gold market. Otherwise, he will be easily cheated. Or if someone wants to attend a college, he has to research the qualifications of various universities, their entrance requirements, and so on. So knowledge is certainly an important component of bhakti. Shrila Prabhupada wrote his books with the aim of distributing transcendental knowledge, and in his Bhagavad-gita he wrote, "Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation."

Yet although knowledge is important, it is not an absolute requisite for bhakti. If Krishna likes, He can immediately bestow enlightenment upon any person, regardless of his education. And in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.7), Suta Gosvami declares,

vasudeve bhagavati bhakti-yogah prayojitah

janayaty asu vairagyam jnanam ca yad ahaitukam

 "By rendering devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead, Krishna, one immediately acquires causeless knowledge and detachment."

Therefore, while knowledge may help one to take up and prosecute bhakti, the contention that knowledge is the source of bhakti is false.


anyonyasrayatvam ity eke


anyonya-mutual; asrayatvam-dependency; iti-thus; eke-some.


Others consider bhakti and knowledge interdependent.


The spiritual harmony of knowledge and devotion is well expressed in the phrase bhakti-vedanta. Some observers think of bhakti and jnana as separate or in opposition to each other. The Advaitins claim a monopoly on jnana through the study of the Vedanta-sutra according to the commentary of Sankara. But Vedantic study is not in opposition to bhakti-yoga. The author of the Vedanta-sutra is Shrila Vyasadeva, who also compiled the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, which is a masterpiece of bhakti as well as the natural commentary on the Vedanta-sutra. The Vaishnava acaryas Ramanuja, Madhva, and Baladeva Vidyabhusana all wrote commentaries on the Vedanta-sutra and proved Vedanta to be harmonious with devotional service. So when a Vaishnava studies the Vedanta-sutra and other Vedic literatures in order to understand the glories of the Supreme Lord, then we have bhakti-vedanta.

 Knowledge is especially required by the Krishna conscious preacher, who has to meet opposing arguments. The Vaishnava acaryas were all highly learned in Sanskrit, philosophy, and logic, but they were never dry speculators like the academic or impersonalist scholars. They knew that Krishna is the conclusion of the Vedas. As Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (15.15), vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah/ vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham: "By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas."

Knowledge and devotion are harmonious, but to say that they are interdependent is too strong. Love of Krishna often arises without a

long development of jnana. Narada Muni once blessed a sadistic hunter with pure devotion to Krishna. This type of spontaneous development of bhakti is known as krpa-siddhi, perfection via the good graces of the Lord and the Vaishnavas.

In the eternal pleasure pastimes of the Lord, Yogamaya sometimes covers the devotee's knowledge that Krishna is God. This is another example of how knowledge and bhakti are not always interdependent. Sometimes the eternal associates of Krishna remember that He is the Supreme Lord, and sometimes they forget, depending on the requirements of their particular devotional mood, or rasa. At Krishna's name-giving ceremony, the sage Garga said, "This child will grow in power, beauty, opulence-everything-on the level of Narayana, the Supreme Personality of Godhead." Still, mother Yasoda treated Krishna as her dependent child. Once Yasoda ordered Krishna to open His mouth so she could see if He had eaten dirt. Krishna obeyed, and when mother Yasoda looked into her child's mouth, she saw the universal form, including all time, space, and planets. Realizing that Krishna was the Supreme Person, she prayed,

Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead,... under whose illusory energy I am thinking that Nanda Maharaja is my husband and Krishna is my son, that all the properties of Nanda Maharaja belong to me, and that all the cowherd men and women are my subjects. [Krishna, p. 84]

But then Lord Krishna expanded His internal energy to cover mother Yasoda's sense of awe and reverence with maternal affection. She immediately forgot that Krishna was God and again accepted Him as her child. In cases like these, in the eternal pastimes of the Lord, knowledge of Krishna's divinity comes and goes, but always in the service of bhakti.


svayam phala-rupeti brahma-kumarah


svayam-itself; phala-rupa-manifesting as its fruit; iti-thus; brahma-kumarah-the son of Brahma (Narada).


But the son of Brahma says that bhakti is its own fruit.


Narada now gives his opinion-that bhakti is not dependent on anything else for nourishment. In other words, Krishna consciousness is the natural, transcendental state of the living being, and this state manifests automatically when we take up the process of bhakti-yoga. As Shrila Prabhupada puts it in his lecture entitled "On Chanting Hare Krishna," "Krishna consciousness is not an artificial imposition on the mind. This consciousness is the original energy of the living entity." The chanting of Hare Krishna, Shrila Prabhupada says, "is directly enacted from the spiritual platform, surpassing all lower stages of consciousness-namely, sensual, mental, and intellectual."

In His Siksastaka (1), Lord Chaitanya declares that the chanting of the holy name of Krishna cleans the mirror of the mind. When the mirror of the mind is clean, one can see one's original, spiritual self along with the Supreme Lord. The initial activities of bhakti, therefore, clear away ignorance and false ego and reveal to the living entity his eternal state of devotional service. So bhakti is not produced by something else; rather, the practices of sadhana-bhakti remove the obstacles to our original loving relationship with the Lord.

Shrila Prabhupada would sometimes say that Krishna consciousness is causeless. For example, "Revival of the dormant affection or love of Godhead does not depend on the mechanical system of hearing and chanting, but it solely and wholly depends on the causeless mercy of the Lord" (Bhag. 1.7.6, purport). This means that the Lord freely bestows bhakti upon the devotee. The Supreme Lord is not bound to respond to any religious act or austerity we may perform, as if in mechanical obedience to law. This theory, put forward by the Karma-mimamsakas, is rejected in bhakti-yoga. Krishna is svarat, supremely independent, and so is bhakti. In other words, one's advancement in devotional service does not depend on any of the various departments of human accomplishment, such as karma, jnana, or yoga. If a person happens to be lacking in any department-even in devotion itself-Lord Krishna can supply the requirements as He likes.

In a purport describing the free wandering of Narada Muni, Shrila Prabhupada gives an eloquent expression of the independence of bhakti-yoga:

  There is no reason or obligation for [Narada's] traveling, and no one can stop him from his free movement. Similarly, the transcendental system of devotional service is also free. It may or may not develop in a particular person even after he undergoes all the detailed formulas. Similarly, the association of the devotee is also free. One may be fortunate to have it, or one may not have it even after thousands of endeavors. Therefore, in all spheres of devotional service, freedom is the main pivot. [Bhag. 1.6.37, purport]

The Mayavadis sometimes twist a sutra like this one in an attempt to prove that the individual atma needs no assistance to attain self-realization. They say that the scriptures and gurus and even God Himself are just inventions that may help us achieve self-realization but that then must be thrown away, just as one may remove a thorn in his flesh with another thorn and then throw them both away. The misconception here is that the bhakti-sastras and pure devotees are finite products of the material world. In truth, the sastras are eternal manifestations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as stated in the Bhagavad-gita (3.15): brahmaksara-samudbhavam. Elsewhere it is stated that the Vedas are the "breathing of Narayana." The Vedic scriptures are sometimes manifest and sometimes not, but they exist eternally. Similarly, the Supreme Lord and His eternal associates sometimes appear within the material world, and after a time they disappear, but they are always manifest in the spiritual world, where they engage in unlimited varieties of pastimes. Shrila Prabhupada writes,

Persons with a poor fund of knowledge conclude that a place devoid of material qualities must be some sort of formless nothingness. In reality, however, there are qualities in the spiritual world, but they are different from the material qualities because everything there is eternal, unlimited, and pure. [Cc. Adi 5.22, purport]

Lord Krishna, His expansions, and His devotees are not "dispensable," as the Mayavadis contend. On the contrary, it is the Mayavada doctrine that is a temporary creation, introduced at a certain time for a special purpose but intended to be discarded later. Shrila Krishnadasa Kaviraja writes,

Sankara, who was an incarnation of Lord Siva, is faultless because he is a servant carrying out the orders of the Lord. But those who follow his Mayavada philosophy are doomed. They will lose all their advancement in spiritual knowledge. One who considers the transcendental body of Lord Vishnu to be made of material nature is the greatest offender at the lotus feet of the Lord. There is no greater blasphemy against the Supreme Personality of Godhead. [Cc. Adi 7.114-15]

The opinion of Narada Muni, here describing himself as "the son of Lord Brahma," is that bhakti is eternal and self-manifested, not dependent on any lesser process. When such devotional service is revealed to a sincere devotee, he realizes that its nature is like the Lord's-sac-cid-ananda, full of eternity, bliss, and knowledge.

SUTRAS 31-32

raja-grha-bhojanadisu tathaiva drstatvat.

 na tena raja-paritosah ksuc-chantir va


raja-royal; grha-in a residence; bhojana-in a meal: adisu-and so on; tatha eva-just like this; drstatvat-because of its being seen; na-not; tena-by that; raja-of the king; paritosah-satisfaction; ksut-of hunger; santih-pacification; va-or.


This is illustrated by the examples of a royal palace, a meal, and so on. A king is not really satisfied just by seeing a palace, nor can someone placate his hunger just by looking at a meal.


By these worldly examples, Narada helps us understand the actual experience of bhakti. Narada has said that some philosophers think knowledge is the means for developing bhakti, whereas others say that knowledge and bhakti are interdependent. But Narada's conclusion is that bhakti is its own fruit. This means that bhakti, being an intimate exchange between the Lord and His devotees, does not depend on any other process. Only the Lord's pure devotees can enter into and understand such an exchange.

The examples Narada gives illustrate the difference between jnana (theoretical knowledge) and vijnana (realized knowledge). It is especially important to hear from a spiritual master who has vijnana. We will have to experience vijnana for ourselves, but if the spiritual master is not self-realized, how can he guide us? Only those who have confidential knowledge can convey it to others. For example, Lord Brahma, the first enlightened living being, received Vedic knowledge directly from Lord Krishna. If one hears Brahma's realized knowledge from someone in disciplic succession who has also realized it, then one is in a position to receive vijnana.

 Much depends on the quality of submissive hearing. These sutras of the Narada-bhakti-sutra dealing with the examples of a king's palace and a feast give us a remarkable inside look at spiritual life. If we listen with sensitivity and faith, then even before the stage of full realization we can begin to get an inkling of what it is like. We hear that spiritual perfection will be like going home, and our attraction for this develops. One thinks, "Yes I too would like to go home, back to Godhead." Faithful hearing can produce realization. Shrila Prabhupada writes,

For topics concerning Uttama-sloka, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the spiritual master speaks, and the disciple hears with attention.... The spiritual master and disciple do not need to understand more than Krishna because simply by understanding Krishna and talking about Krishna, one becomes a perfectly learned person. [Bhag. 10.1.4, purport]

Throughout the Vedic literature we find a strong emphasis on hearing about Krishna. Shrila Prabhupada states, "Whenever offenseless hearing and glorification of God are undertaken, it is to be understood that Lord Krishna is present there in the form of transcendental sound, which is as powerful as the Lord personally" (Bhag. 1.2.17, purport). Unless one experiences it, one cannot understand the powerful purification engendered by hearing from a bona fide spiritual master. As Shrila Prabhupada further writes:

Human reason fails to understand how by serving the devotee bhagavata or the book bhagavata one gets gradual promotion on the path of devotion. But actually these are facts explained by Shrila Naradadeva, who happened to be a maidservant's son in his previous life. [Bhag. 1.2.18, purport]

Effective hearing must be accompanied by surrender to the Lord and the Lord's devotee. It is not idle armchair talk. One has to be serious about inquiring into the Absolute Truth, prepared to hear submissively, and ready to serve the learned spiritual master.

Here Narada's analogies of a king looking at a palace and a hungry man looking at a meal point up the fact that bhakti has to be practiced wholeheartedly if one wants to fully appreciate it. The other processes-karma, jnana, and yoga-even if practiced well, cannot bring the taste of krishna-bhakti. They are compared to the nipples on a goat's neck, which look promising but which cannot yield milk, no matter how much you try to milk them. Nor can mere academic knowledge of bhakti produce any real understanding of it. Prabhupada liked to compare academics who study bhakti to bees who lick the outside of a bottle of honey: a lot of energy expended, but all for naught.

The example of eating is also a metaphor to help us understand what it is like to attain Krishna consciousness:

bhaktih paresanubhavo viraktir

anyatra caisa trika eka-kalah

prapadyamanasya yathasnatah syus

tustih pustih ksud-apayo 'nu-ghasam

 "Devotion, direct experience of the Supreme Lord, and detachment from other things-these three occur simultaneously for one who has taken shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in the same way that pleasure, nourishment, and relief from hunger come simultaneously and increasingly with each bite for a person engaged in eating" (Bhag. 11.2.42).

Shrila Prabhupada used to say that no one has to give you a certificate to state that you are now Krishna conscious. You will know it for yourself, and in fact, only you can know it for yourself. Similarly, if you are hungry and you begin to appease your hunger by eating, no one has to tell you, "Now you're satisfied." So, even the most vivid analogies cannot enlighten us beyond our realization. Ultimately, we have to go to the spiritual world to see it for ourselves. During the 1960's in America, at the time of the Vietnam War, a new devotee asked Shrila Prabhupada, "What is it like in Krishnaloka?" Shrila Prabhupada replied, "You won't be bothered by the draft board." That was a suitable (and humorous) reply for a person plagued with that particular fear, but there is of course much more to Krishnaloka than "no draft board." Sometimes when Prabhupada was pressed with inquiries about the spiritual world, he would reply, "You will know when you go there."

The conclusion is that Narada and the acaryas are inviting us to get off the mental platform and to actually participate in bhakti-yoga-if we want to know what it really is and taste its fruit, going back to Godhead.


asmat saiva grahya mumuksubhih


asmat-therefore; sa-it; eva-only; grahya-should be accepted; mumuksubhih-by persons desiring liberation.


Therefore seekers of liberation should take to devotional service alone.


As stated in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (10.2.32), those who pursue liberation but do not take shelter of the Supreme Lord in devotional service may think that they have attained the highest position and been liberated, but eventually they fall down to materialistic activities. Because the impersonalist meditator fails to develop his loving relationship with the Supreme Person, he must return from his sojourn in Brahman and come back into the material world to fulfill his personal desires. Therefore eternal liberation, freedom from repeated birth and death, is achieved only in the spiritual world, when one is fixed in one's eternal relationship of loving devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In previous sutras Narada mentioned that pure devotional service is not performed for any reward, including release from birth and death. Lord Chaitanya also expressed this idea in His Siksastaka (4):

na dhanam na janam na sundarim

kavitam va jagad-isa kamaye

mama janmani janmanisvare

bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi

 "O almighty Lord, I have no desire for accumulating wealth, nor do I have any desire to enjoy beautiful women, nor do I want many followers. All I want is Your causeless devotional service in my life, birth after birth." By saying "birth after birth," Lord Chaitanya implies that He does not seek liberation, either. All He desires is continuous service and remembrance of the Lord, in any sphere of life.

And yet although a pure devotee never aspires for mukti, he automatically achieves it. By Krishna's desire, he is promoted to Krishnaloka or to a Vaikuntha planet, depending on his rasa with the Lord. Or, like Narada, he may remain in the material world to preach Krishna consciousness. Shrila Prabhupada used to say that liberation doesn't mean one has to develop four arms and four heads. If one is purely Krishna conscious one may continue to live in the material world and be fully liberated. As Shrila Rupa Gosvami says in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.187):

iha yasya harer dasye karmana manasa gira

nikhilasv apy avasthasu jivan-muktah sa ucyate

 "A person acting in the service of Krishna with his body, mind, intelligence, and words is a liberated person even within the material world, although he may engage in many apparently material activities."