|NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Narada Muni > Narada Bhakti Sutra > Chapter 5 Attaining Perfection|
vadah-debate; na-not; avalambyah-to be resorted to.
One should not indulge in argumentative debate.
Narada discourages the egotistic wrangling spirit. One who is proud of his debating skills and eager to defeat others will lose his humility, which, as Narada says in Sutra 27, is essential for pleasing Krishna. The existence of God is not something to be proven or disproven merely by a battle of logical wits. The spiritual reality cannot be understood by material logic or the speculations of the material mind. As the Vedanta-sutra (2.1.11) declares, tarkapratisthanat: "Logical reasoning is inconclusive."
However, when a Krishna conscious preacher defends the Lord or the Vaishnavas against blasphemy, that should not be taken as vain controversy. The devotee doesn't argue on his own account, but on Krishna's. Also, a devotee's preaching is not based on mental speculation, which is always imperfect, but on the perfect process of receiving knowledge from the sastra and the acaryas. As it is said, "Mistakes, illusion, cheating, and defective perception do not occur in the sayings of the authoritative sages" (Cc. Adi 2.86). Also, the Vaishnava acaryas have all argued against Mayavada interpretations. This kind of argumentation is not to be avoided but is rather one of the duties of the madhyama-bhakta, or preacher. Krishnadasa Kaviraja states, "A sincere student should not neglect the discussion of such conclusions [concerning the philosophy of Krishna consciousness], considering them controversial, for such discussion strengthens the mind. Thus one's mind becomes attached to Krishna" (Cc. Adi 2.117).
But sometimes a preacher will avoid a fight if he sees that the challenger simply wants to argue for the sake of argument. Rupa Gosvami once declined to debate a rascal who came to defeat him, but then Rupa's nephew, Jiva Gosvami, took up the challenge. So a devotee may or may not choose to meet the challenges of the atheists and voidists, depending on the circumstances, but in any case he knows that debate and challenge do not lead to a true understanding of God.
Certainly the devotee himself has no challenging spirit when he approaches the scriptures or the acaryas. He accepts them axiomatically, beyond argument. The best method for solving one's personal doubts is to inquire submissively from advanced Vaishnavas, who will always be able to answer in terms of sastra and reason.
bahulyavakasatvad aniyatatvac ca
bahulya-for excessiveness; avakasatvat-because of involving opportunities; aniyatatvat-because of not being decisive; ca-and.
Such argumentation leads to excessive entanglements and is never decisive.
In the Mahabharata, Yudhisthira Maharaja describes the defect of argumentation as follows: tarko 'pratisthah srutayo vibihinna nasav rsir yasya matam na bhinnam. "Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion does not differ from others is not considered a great sage. Simply by studying the Vedas, which are variegated, one cannot come to the right path by which religious principles are understood" (Mahabharata, Vana-parva 313.117).
If you base your philosophical conclusions on logical arguments, a superior logician will eventually defeat you. This is the method of Western philosophers, and India also has its munis. A muni is not considered distinguished unless he defeats the arguments of previous thinkers. But then another muni comes and finds flaws in the arguments of the current champion and claims to replace him with "the latest philosophy." Those who study argumentation come to the conclusion that there is no final truth. This is skepticism, the fruit of mental speculation.
A bhakta should not take part in the tedious, inconclusive contests of logicians. The Vedic truths have been thoroughly researched since time beyond memory and are established conclusively. The acaryas who guide the destiny of Vedic culture, such as Madhva, Ramanuja, and Lord Chaitanya, did not invent the Vedic siddhanta (conclusion), though they all presented it according to time, place, and recipients.
King Yudhisthira continues: dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam maha-jano yena gatah sa panthah."The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated self-realized person. Consequently, as the sastras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the maha-janas advocate."
The bhakti method of receiving truth is by parampara, or disciplic succession. It is confirmed by a checks-and-balances system of hearing from guru, sastra, and sadhu. On the other hand, one who rejects the parampara system and persists in hearing argumentation will never understand the Absolute Truth. As Lord Krishna states, bhaktya mam abhijanati: "One can understand Me only by devotional service" (Bg. 18.55).
When Lord Chaitanya first came to Jagannatha Puri, a dispute arose between His followers and Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, who was at that time a mundane logician. The Bhattacarya and his students refused to accept that Lord Chaitanya was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, although Gopinatha Acarya presented much evidence from Vedic scriptures. Finally the disciples of the Bhattacarya said, "We derive knowledge of the Absolute Truth by logical hypothesis." Gopinatha Acarya replied, "One cannot attain real knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead by such logical hypothesis and argument" (Cc. Madhya 6.81). Gopinatha Acarya further stated that only that person who has received the mercy of the Lord by rendering Him devotional service can understand Him. Logical hypothesis is not the way, but rather sabda-brahma, hearing from authorized sources. Lord Brahma made the same point in his prayers to Lord Krishna in Chapter Fourteen of the Tenth Canto of Shrimad-Bhagavatam:
athapi te deva padambuja-dvaya-
prasada-lesanugrhita eva hi
janati tattvam bhagavan-mahimno
na canya eko 'pi ciram vicinvan
"My Lord, one who is favored by even a slight trace of the mercy of Your lotus feet can understand the greatness of Your personality. But those who speculate in order to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead are unable to know You, even though they continue to study the Vedas for many years" (Bhag. 10.14.29).
Vain controversy may also include gossip and rumor (prajalpa). Narada previously stated that a bhakta shouldn't hear from people who speak of women, wealth, and atheists (Sutra 63). Even members of a religious movement have to be careful in their talks, or they too may become another association of harsh and idle talkers like the nondevotees. One has to distinguish between responsible dialogue on important issues and talk that leads nowhere. If we enter into controversial topics, we should do so with restraint, sincerely seeking the Vaishnava siddhanta according to guru, sastra, and sadhu. The sastras are not to be researched merely as so much ammunition for our own opinions. When we enter debate with an egoistic zest to defeat the opposition, we miss the point and end up fighting with the Vaishnavas. In the prayer known as the Hamsa-guhya, offered by Daksa to Lord Vishnu, Daksa concluded that the method of logical dispute is actually a product of illusion:
I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is full of unlimited qualities and whose different potencies bring about agreement and disagreement between disputants. Thus the illusory energy again and again covers the self-realization of both disputants. [Bhag. 6.4.31]
bhakti-sastrani mananiyani tad-bodhaka-karmani karaniyani
bhakti-of devotional service; sastrani-the scriptures; mananiyani-should be respected; tat-by them; bodhaka-made known; karmani-prescribed activities; karaniyani-should be executed.
One should respect the revealed scriptures of devotional service and discharge the duties they prescribe.
The most important bhakti-sastras have been translated with parampara purports by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Shrila Prabhupada writes, "In our Krishna consciousness movement we have therefore limited our study of Vedic literature to Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad-Bhagavatam, Chaitanya-charitamrita, and Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. These four works are sufficient for preaching purposes. They are adequate for the understanding of the philosophy and the spreading of missionary activities all over the world" (Cc. Madhya 22.118, purport).
The Vedas are vast, comprising millions of Sanskrit slokas. And while the conclusion of all branches of Vedic literature is to render devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, some parts of the Vedic literature are addressed to materialistic religionists and therefore teach a gradual process of elevation. The sages at Naimisaranya, therefore, asked Suta Gosvami to teach them the essence of the Vedas. In Kali-yuga most people do not have the time, energy, or interest to go through all the Vedas, nor is it advisable to try. The essence, selected by Suta Gosvami, is Shrimad-Bhagavatam, which teaches bhakti-yoga as the supreme dharma and rejects all "cheating religion." To bring transcendental light into the age of darkness, Shrila Vyasadeva, the compiler of all the Vedas, gave the world the Shrimad-Bhagavatam as his mature contribution:
anarthopasamam saksad bhakti-yogam adhoksaje
lokasyajanato vidvams cakre satvata-samhitam
"The material miseries of the living entity, which are superfluous to him, can be directly mitigated by the linking process of devotional service. But the mass of people do not know this, and therefore the learned Vyasadeva compiled this Vedic literature, which is in relation to the Supreme Truth" (Bhag. 1.7.6).
Bhakti-sastras include contemporary works written in pursuance of the conclusions of Shrimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, and so on. The writing of commentaries and other bhakti literary works can continue for the edification of people in every age and create a movement away from mundane and speculative books.
Narada states that a person should not only read bhakti-sastras but also live by their instructions. The serious student should render service in terms of what he has heard from the spiritual master and the bhakti-sastras. Shrila Prabhupada writes, "Without hearing such literatures, one cannot make actual progress. And without hearing and following the instructions, the show of devotional service becomes worthless and therefore a sort of disturbance on the path of devotional service. Therefore, devotional service is established on the principles of sruti, smrti, purana, and pancaratra authorities. The make-show of devotional service should at once be rejected" (Bhag. 1.2.12, purport).
sukha-duhkheccha-labhadi-tyakte kale pratiksamane ksanardham api vyartham na neyam
sukha-happiness; duhkha-unhappiness; iccha-hankering; labha-profiteering; adi-and so on; tyakte-having given up; kale-the time; pratiksamane-being waited for; ksana-of a moment; ardham-one half; api-even; vyartham-vainly; na neyam-should not be wasted.
Patiently enduring till the time when one can put aside material happiness, distress, desire, and false gain, one should not waste even a fraction of a second.
Human birth is rare and one's life span brief. Why is human life so precious? Because we can use it for self-realization and get free of birth and death. But, as implied by this sutra, much of our human lifetime is consumed in the struggle for existence. While instructing his young schoolmates on the urgency of Krishna consciousness, Prahlada Maharaja made a calculation of how human life is wasted:
Every human being has a maximum duration of life of one hundred years, but for one who cannot control his senses, half of those years are completely lost because at night he sleeps twelve hours, being covered by ignorance. Therefore such a person has a lifetime of only fifty years.
In the tender age of childhood, when everyone is bewildered, one passes ten years. Similarly in boyhood, engaged in sporting and playing, one passes another ten years. In this way twenty years are wasted. Similarly, in old age, when one is an invalid, unable to perform even material activities, one passes another twenty years wastefully.
One whose mind and senses are uncontrolled becomes increasingly attached to family because of insatiable lusty desires and very strong illusion. In such a madman's life, the remaining years are also wasted because even during those years he cannot engage himself in devotional service. [Bhag. 7.6.6-8]
Whenever we misspend time, it is an irretrievable loss. As Canakya Pandita states, all the gold in a rich man's possession cannot buy back a single moment of time.
A devotee uses his time well, and this is one of the symptoms of his advancement. Shrila Prabhupada writes, "He is always anxious to utilize his time in the devotional service of the Lord. He does not like to be idle. He wants service always, twenty-four hours a day without deviation" (The Nectar of Devotion, p. 138).
We cannot wait until after we complete our many duties before starting to remember Krishna. If we give bhakti such a low priority, our practice will never be more than a formality, a hurried prayer stolen from our time for "real" business or a perfunctory visit to the temple once a week. Rather, as Narada has observed, "One achieves bhakti by hearing and chanting about the Supreme Lord's special qualities, even while engaged in the ordinary activities of life in this world" (Narada-bhakti-sutra 37). Let us remember Lord Krishna's advice in Bhagavad-gita (8.7): "Remember Me and fight."
The voice of delusion says, "When I'm older, I'll be less occupied with the struggle for existence. Then I'll take to Krishna consciousness." But we may die before old age ever comes, or we may be too feeble at that time. As King Kulasekhara prays (Mukunda-mala-stotra 40),
adyaiva me visatu manasa-raja-hamsah
kanthavarodhana-vidhau smaranam kutas te
"O Lord, at this moment let the royal swan of my mind enter the network of the stems of the lotus flower of Your feet. How will it be possible for me to remember You at the time of death, when my throat will be choked up with mucus, bile, and air?"
Narada advises that one should "patiently endure." This is advice for the devotee. He should fully engage himself in Krishna consciousness with the goal of going back to Godhead, and in the meantime he should tolerate the dualities of life. As Lord Krishna advises Arjuna, "O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and dis-appearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed" (Bg. 2.14). "Patiently endure" does not mean that one should stoically put up with life's dualities and not fully engage in Krishna consciousness! The devotee spends all his days and moments wholeheartedly engaged in devotional service, but still he has to contend with material upheavals. So in the face of these inevitable changes, he should patiently endure and go on chanting Hare Krishna.
ahimsa-of nonviolence; satya-truthfulness; sauca-cleanliness; daya-compassion; astikya-faith; adi-and so on; caritryani-the characteristics; paripalaniyani-should be cultivated.
One should cultivate such good qualities as nonviolence, truthfulness, cleanliness, compassion, and faith.
Throughout the Bhakti-sutras, Narada has taught the best, the ultimate. He has never given mediocre definitions of bhakti, but from his own realizations and from other Vaishnavas he has taught para bhakti. Similarly, Shrila Prabhupada would always give definitions containing the fullest Krishna conscious substance.
The present verse, therefore, must be understood in the context of what has gone before. Far from cultivating the listed virtues for themselves, the aspiring devotee should understand that all virtues will remain within the framework of the material modes until they are dovetailed in Krishna consciousness. The good man is the paragon of the sattvika mode, but even he cannot attain liberation if he fails to surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As Lord Krishna states, "Those situated in that mode [sattva-guna] become conditioned by a sense of happiness and knowledge" (Bg. 14.6).
Defining ahimsa, Shrila Prabhupada took it to its ultimate conclusion for the life of a devotee:
Nonviolence is generally taken to mean not killing or destroying the body, but actually nonviolence means not to put others into distress. People in general are trapped by ignorance in the material concept of life, and they perpetually suffer material pangs. So unless one elevates people to spiritual knowledge, one is practicing violence. One should try his best to distribute real knowledge to the people, so that they may become enlightened and leave this material entanglement. That is nonviolence. [Bg. 13.12, purport]
Shrila Prabhupada preached tirelessly against violence to animals, especially to the cow. Whenever he met a religionist or educated person, Shrila Prabhupada would test him on this point. He never conceded that it was permissible to kill God's creatures "because they have no soul," or for whatever reason the meat-eaters invented. To the followers of Lord Buddha Shrila Prabhupada challenged, "We are glad that people are taking interest in the nonviolent movement of Lord Buddha. But will they take the matter very seriously and close the animal slaughterhouses altogether? If not, there is no meaning to the ahimsa cult" (Bhag. 1.3.25, purport; italics in original).
Lord Krishna lists satya, "truthfulness," as one of the divine qualities. But truthfulness depends on recognizing the Absolute Truth to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Otherwise, no matter how strenuously one practices honesty, it remains relative and not fully pleasing to the Supreme Lord. But when a person recognizes that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the supreme embodiment of truth and thus dedicates his life to following the truth and distributing that truth, then he can begin to be an honest person.
Cleanliness refers to both inner and outer states. Both are important, but internal purity is more important. Lord Chaitanya declared that the congregational chanting of the holy names is the best process for cleaning the mind. All material concepts-such as identifying the self as the body, seeing dualities in the world, and hankering for sense gratification-are "dirty things" in the heart. The bhakta is always busy cleaning and polishing, freeing himself from the accumulation of dust, by the practice of chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
As for daya, there can be no better kindness than to attain pure Krishna consciousness yourself and to share it with others.
The word astikya, "faith," implies that we should not interpret the words of scripture but take it "as it is." When Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita "Surrender to Me," one should not think himself wiser than Krishna and claim that it is not to the person Krishna whom we have to surrender but to the spirit within Krishna. "Faith" also means to practice devotional service without motivation and without interruption.
In discussing a similar list of virtues in the Bhagavad-gita (13.8-12), Shrila Prabhupada writes, "The process of knowledge terminates in unalloyed devotional service to the Lord. So if one does not approach, or is not able to approach, the transcendental service of the Lord, then the other nineteen items have no particular value. But if a person takes to devotional service in full Krishna consciousness, the other nineteen items automatically develop within him."
By listing prominent virtues and using the word adi, indicating that there are many others, Narada reminds us that bhakti has to be situated on a foundation of good behavior. A bhakta cannot be a coarse fool or rascal. Shrila Prabhupada was once asked by a TV interviewer, "How would I be able to tell a devotee of Krishna?" Prabhupada replied, "He would be a perfect gentleman."
sarvada sarva-bhavena niscintair bhagavan eva bhajaniyah
sarvada-always; sarva-bhavena-with all one's feeling; niscintaih-by those who are free from doubt; bhagavan-the Supreme Lord; eva-indeed; bhajaniyah-should be worshiped.
Those who are free of doubts should constantly worship the Supreme Lord with all their hearts.
In his purport to Sutra 12, Shrila Prabhupada writes, "The Narada-bhakti-sutra is a summary of the Bhagavad-gita and the Shrimad-Bhagavatam." Here again we see the truth of that statement, since this sutra is very similar to Lord Krishna's confidential statements in the Bhagavad-gita. For example, at the end of Chapter Fifteen He says,
yo mam evam asammudho janati purusottamam
sa sarva-vid bhajati mam sarva-bhavena bharata
iti guhyatamam sastram idam uktam mayanagha
etad buddhva buddhiman syat krta-krtyas ca bharata
"Whoever knows Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, without doubting, is the knower of everything. He therefore engages himself in full devotional service to Me, O scion of Bharata. This is the most confidential part of the Vedic scriptures, O sinless one, and it is disclosed now by Me. Whoever understands this will become wise, and his endeavors will know perfection" (Bg. 15.19-20). And again in the Eighteenth Chapter:
sarva-guhyatamam bhuyah srnu me paramam vacah
isto 'si me drdham iti tato vaksyami te hitam
man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyam te pratijane priyo 'si me
"Because you are My very dear friend, I am speaking to you My supreme instruction, the most confidential knowledge of all. Hear this from Me, for it is for your benefit. 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. 18.64-65).
There is no difference between Lord Krishna's instruction to "think of Me always" and Narada's instruction to "always think of Bhagavan Krishna." And indeed, any follower of Narada's in disciplic succession can repeat his words: "The Supreme Personality of Godhead alone should always be worshiped wholeheartedly." But our words must be uttered with the conviction born from a life dedicated to the practices Narada has given in the Bhakti-sutras.
Our words and acts in devotional service cannot be mechanical. To qualify as bhakti, they must be done with loving feelings. As Lord Krishna says, "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, I will accept it" (Bg. 9.26). And again, "To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me" (Bg. 10.10).
The wholehearted, exclusive devotion to Krishna Narada recommends is echoed in Bhisma's definition of love: "Love means reposing one's affection completely upon one person, withdrawing all affinities for any other person" (The Nectar of Devotion, p. 147). This stage was attained by all great devotees, such as Prahlada, Uddhava, Narada, and the residents of Vrndavana.
We must remember that constant, ecstatic absorption in Lord Krishna is the goal of bhakti, and that bhakti includes the approach to that goal. In the Twelfth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna recommends the topmost stage, spontaneous love, but He also encourages us by saying that undertaking the practices of bhakti-yoga will bring one to the ultimate stage:
mayy eva mana adhatsva mayi buddhim nivesaya
nivasisyasi mayy eva ata urdhvam na samsayah
atha cittam samadhatum na saknosi mayi sthiram
abhyasa-yogena tato mam icchaptum dhananjaya
"Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt. My dear Arjuna, O winner of wealth, if you cannot fix your mind upon Me without deviation, then follow the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga. In this way develop a desire to attain Me" (Bg. 12.8-9).
Hearing from maha-janas who are in the spontaneous stage of bhakti is itself one of the most important services of the practicing devotee. Even Laksmana, one of Lord Krishna's wives, confided that her attraction to the Lord had been evoked by hearing the words of Narada: "My dear queen, many times I heard the great sage Narada glorifying the pastimes of Lord Krishna. I became attracted to the lotus feet of Krishna when I heard Narada say that the goddess of fortune, Laksmi, was also attracted to His lotus feet" (Krishna, p. 708).
Let us always keep Narada and his representatives as our worshipable preceptors. They will lead us to Lord Krishna.
sa kirtyamanah sighram evavirbhavaty anubhavayati bhaktan
sah-He; kirtyamanah-being glorified; sighram-quickly; eva-indeed; avirbhavati-appears; anubhavayati-gives realization; bhaktan-to the devotees.
When He is glorified, the Lord swiftly reveals Himself to His devotees and allows them to know Him as He is.
The Shrimad-Bhagavatam describes how Narada attained direct perception of Lord Krishna. After Narada heard about Krishna from sages who were visiting his house, he continued living with his mother, since he was only a five-year-old boy. But his mother suddenly died, and Narada took to wandering. Once, as he sat under a banyan tree and began to meditate upon the Supersoul, the Lord appeared to him. Narada relates, "As soon as I began to meditate upon the lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead with my mind transformed in transcendental love, tears rolled down my eyes and without delay the Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna, appeared on the lotus of my heart" (Bhag. 1.6.16).
After this initial darsana, the Supreme Lord withdrew Himself in His personal form but spoke to Narada: "O virtuous one, you have only once seen My person, and this is just to increase your desire for Me, because the more you hanker for Me, the more you will be freed from all material desires" (Bhag. 1.6.22). The Supreme Lord further told Narada that he would eventually "become My associate in the transcendental world after giving up the present deplorable material worlds."
And so Narada's life is a personal testimony to his own instruction given in this sutra. Narada went on to become one of the twelve authorities on Krishna consciousness known as maha-janas, and he is the spiritual master of such stalwarts as Prahlada, Dhruva, and Vyasadeva.
Narada once came to Vyasadeva when Vyasa was feeling despondent, even after having compiled most of the Vedic scriptures. Narada quickly diagnosed his disciple's depression and spoke to him:
You have not actually broadcast the sublime and spotless glories of the Personality of Godhead. That philosophy which does not satisfy the transcendental senses of the Lord is considered worthless. Please, therefore, describe the transcendental pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, more vividly. [Bhag. 1.5.8, 21]
Vyasa took Narada's instructions to heart and began composing the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, which is filled with the glories of Lord Krishna in His many incarnations, as well as narrations of the Lord's pure devotees. Vyasadeva later expressed his profound gratitude by glorifying Shri Naradadeva in various verses of the Shrimad-Bhagavatam:
aho devarsir dhanyo 'yam yat kirtim sarnga-dhanvanah
gayan madyann idam tantrya ramayaty aturam jagat
"All glory and success to Shrila Narada Muni because he glorifies the activities of the Personality of Godhead, and in so doing he himself takes pleasure and also enlightens all the distressed souls of the universe" (Bhag. 1.6.38).
tri-satyasya bhaktir eva gariyasi bhaktir eva gariyasi
tri-in three ways (by his mind, body, and words); satyasya-for one who is truthful; bhaktih-devotional service; eva-alone; gariyasi-most dear; bhaktih-devotional service; eva-alone; gariyasi-most dear.
Devotional service is the most precious possession of a person who honestly uses his mind, body, and words.
The word tri-satya may refer to the three ways of expressing truth-with one's thoughts, actions, and words. Then again, tri-satya may be taken to indicate that bhakti is the best way of realizing the truth in all three phases of time-namely, past, present, and future. Lord Kapila told His mother, Devahuti, "I shall now explain unto you the ancient yoga system, which I explained formerly to the great sages. It is serviceable and practical in every way" (Bhag. 3.25.14). In his purport Prabhupada writes, "When we have a superexcellent process already present in the Vedic scriptures, there is no need to concoct a new system to mislead the innocent public. At present it has become a fashion to reject the standard system and present something bogus in the name of a newly invented process of yoga" (Bhag. 3.25.14, purport). Bhakti is ancient wisdom, an immediate practical program, and the vision of the future. It is tri-kala-jnana, knowledge of past, present, and future.
As the best use of body, speech, and mind, bhakti is the best happiness, the best action, and the best meditation. When Lord Chaitanya asked Ramananda Raya to explain the very best thing, Ramananda Raya described bhakti in many ways:
The Lord inquired, "Of all types of education, which is the most important?" Ramananda Raya replied, "There is no education that is important other than the transcendental devotional service of Krishna."
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu then inquired, "Out of all liberated persons, who should be accepted as the greatest?" Ramananda replied, "He who has love for Krishna has attained the topmost liberation."
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu asked, "Out of all topics people listen to, which is the best for living entities?" Ramananda Raya replied, "Hearing about the loving affairs between Radha and Krishna is most pleasing to the ear." [Cc. Madhya 8.245, 249, 255]
In this sutra Narada says the same thing as Ramananda Raya did, but in condensed form: Bhakti is the best in every category. Why should we doubt it? And why should we dilute bhakti with other truths, as if bhakti is in need of help? Bhakti itself confers all knowledge and renunciation. It offers the most courageous action, as well as the best art, science, and recreation. Most important of all, only bhakti is pleasing to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As Lord Krishna says, "One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of Me by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God" (Bg. 18.55). Even if we think that we may be able to accomplish something just as well by a non-bhakti method, our effort would still fail to please the Lord, and thus we would not find self-satisfaction.
Bhakti is best, and bhakti means devotional service to the Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna. Once Narada visited Lord Krishna in Vrndavana and praised His unique position:
My Lord, let me offer my respectful obeisances unto Your lotus feet.... Your unlimited potency cannot even be measured by anyone. My dear Lord, You are the supreme controller. You are under Your own internal potency, and it is simply vain to think that You are dependent on any of Your creations.... Your advent on the surface of the earth in Your original form of eternal blissful knowledge is Your own pastime. You are not dependent on anything but Yourself; therefore I offer my respectful obeisances unto Your lotus feet. [Krishna, p. 303]
Let us keep Narada's spirited words in our hearts so that we may practice bhakti-yoga without doubt. And let us proclaim the glories of Krishna joyfully, as Narada does. Narada is a space traveler, and wherever he goes he sings the Lord's glories to the accompaniment of his vina:
narada muni bajaya vina
"Playing his vina, Narada Muni chants the names of Lord Radhika-ramana." As followers of Narada Muni, we may also select a "vina," or method of bhajana, and use it to please the Lord. Playing our vina like Narada, we may tell everyone we meet, "Bhakti is the best path, bhakti is the best!"
guna-mahatmyasakti-rupasakti-pujasakti-smaranasa ti-dasyasakti-sakhyasakti-vatsalyasakti-kantasakty-atma-nivedanasakti-tan-mayasakti-parama-virahasakti-rupai kadhapy ekadasadha bhavati
guna-of the (Lord's) qualities; mahatmya-to the greatness; asakti-attachment; rupa-to His beauty; asakti-attachment; puja-to worship; asakti-attachment; smarana-to remembrance; asakti-attachment; dasya-to service; asakti-attachment; sakhya-to friendship; asakti-attachment; vatsalya-to parental affinity; asakti-attachment; kanta-as a conjugal lover; asakti-attachment; atma-of one's self; nivedana-to the offering; asakti-attachment; tat-maya-to being full of thought of Him; asakti-attachment; parama-supreme; viraha-to separation; asakti-attachment; rupa-having as its forms; ekadha-onefold; api-although; ekadasakha-elevenfold; bhavati-becomes.
Although devotional service is one, it becomes manifested in eleven forms of attachment: attachment to the Lord's glorious qualities, to His beauty, to worshiping Him, to remembering Him, to serving Him, to reciprocating with Him as a friend, to caring for Him as a parent, to dealing with Him as a lover, to surrendering one's whole self to Him, to being absorbed in thought of Him, and to experiencing separation from Him. This last is the supreme attachment.
Narada has taught that bhakti is the best of all processes for realizing truth, and he has described the rules and regulations leading to perfection. He has told us that we have to experience bhakti for ourselves, and that it is the highest bliss. Now he indicates the liberality of bhakti by listing the various ways one may render devotional service.
There has been nothing to suggest that Narada is presenting a theoretical treatise. Thus we should not conclude our reading of the Narada-bhakti-sutra without deciding how we shall render practical service to Krishna. Once a college student came to visit Shrila Prabhupada and told him that he had already read the Bhagavad-gita. Shrila Prabhupada asked, "So, what is your conclusion?" The student admitted that he had not reached any particular conclusion after his study of the Gita. Prabhupada explained that the conclusion of the Bhagavad-gita
is that Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that one should give up all other processes of religion and serve Him. An intelligent reader of the Bhagavad-gita should know this and take up devotional service. Similarly, here at the end of the Bhakti-sutras Narada is telling us how we may serve the Supreme Lord.
Of course, the rasas with Krishna are for the liberated devotees and cannot be taken up arbitrarily. Our service to Krishna should be guided by our spiritual master. He will help us to serve according to our psychophysical nature, in a way that is most effective for our purification. But from the beginning we can at least know that Lord Krishna is served by His liberated associates in many ways and that our own perfection will be to discover how we are meant to serve Him eternally to our heart's content.
A devotee appreciates the many services the Lord's devotees engage in, and he studies how to become perfect in his particular relationship with the Lord. Narada's eleven ways of bhakti appear to be a combination of the nine process of bhakti taught by Prahlada Maharaja and the five main rasas with Lord Krishna described by Rupa Gosvami in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. Examples of devotees who achieved perfection by practicing one of the nine processes of bhakti are as follows:
(1) Maharaja Pariksit became perfect by hearing about Krishna; (2) Sukadeva Gosvami became perfect by speaking the glories of the Lord; (3) Prahlada Maharaja became perfect by remembering the Lord; (4) Laksmidevi became perfect by serving the lotus feet of the Lord; (5) Maharaja Prthu became perfect by worshiping the Lord; (6) Akrura became perfect by offering prayers to the Lord; (7) Hanuman became perfect by serving the Lord; (8) Arjuna became perfect by befriending the Lord; and (9) Bali Maharaja became perfect by offering everything to the Lord.
As for the five rasas, they are: (1) adoration of the Lord (santa), (2) servitude (dasya), (3) friendship (sakhya), (4) parental love (vatsalya), and (5) conjugal love (madhurya). Prominent examples of devotees in each of these rasas are as follows: the four Kumaras in santa-rasa; Hanuman and Krishna's various servants in Dvaraka and Mathura in dasya-rasa; Shridama, Sudama, and Stoka-krishna in sakhya-rasa; Krishna's parents in vatsalya-rasa; and the gopis of Vrndavana and the queens in Dvaraka in madhurya-rasa.
All liberated devotees are situated in absolute transcendence, and one devotee does not hanker for the perfection of another. But the Vaishnava acaryas have analyzed the rasas to show that there is a progression in affection-and a diminishing in feelings of awe and reverence toward the Lord-from dasya-rasa up to madhurya-rasa. All the qualities of the other rasas are fully contained in conjugal love. As for love in separation, which Narada mentions as the eleventh and highest stage of attachment, that was especially demonstrated by the gopis of Vrndavana, and also by Lord Chaitanya. Lord Chaitanya's demonstration of viraha, or transcendental anguish in separation from Krishna, is the highest of all possible expressions of love of God.
Although there is a progression in intimacy in the rasas from dasya-rasa to madhurya-rasa, all are based on the ecstasy of service to the Lord. Krishnadasa Kaviraja writes, "Love for Krishna has this one unique effect: it imbues superiors, equals, and inferiors with the spirit of service to Lord Krishna" (Cc. Adi 6.53). Krishna's friends in Vrndavana feel pure fraternal affection for Him, yet they too worship His lotus feet in a spirit of servitude. Krishna's mother and father sometimes chastise the Lord, thinking that He is their little son, and yet they always think of themselves as His servants. Krishna's father, Nanda Maharaja, once said to Uddhava, "May our minds be attached to the lotus feet of your Lord Krishna, may our tongues chant His holy names, and may our bodies lie prostrate before Him" (Cc. Adi 6.60). Even the gopis of Vrndavana regard themselves as Krishna's maidservants. Shrimati Radharani prays, "O My Lord,... reveal Yourself to Your maidservant, who is very much aggrieved by Your absence" (Bhag. 10.33.9). Being a servant of the Supreme Lord is so auspicious and blissful that even Lord Krishna Himself descended as Lord Chaitanya to accept the emotions and form of His own servant. Therefore all devotees can best cultivate their loving relationship with Lord Krishna by becoming the servant of other Vaishnava devotees. If we fix ourselves in steadfast and spontaneous loving service to the Lord's devotees, Krishna will reveal Himself to us and indicate new, intimate ways in which we may serve Him.
ity evam vadanti jana-jalpa-nirbhaya
eka-matah kumara-vyasa-suka-sandilya-garga-visnu-kaundilya-sesoddhavaruni-bali-hanumad-vibhisanadayo bhakty-acaryah
iti-thus; evam-in this way; vadanti-they speak; jana-of ordinary people; jalpa-of the gossip; nirbhayah-unafraid; eka-of one; matah-opinion; kumara-vyasa-suka-sandilya-garga-visnu-kaundilya-sesa-uddhava-aruni-bali-hanumat-vibhisana-adayah- the Kumaras, Vyasa, Suka, Sandilya, Garga, Vishnu, Kaundilya, Sesa, Uddhava, Aruni, Bali, Hanuman, Vibhisana, and others; bhakti-of devotional service; acaryah-the founding authorities.
Thus say the founding authorities of devotional service: the Kumaras, Vyasa, Suka, Sandilya, Garga, Vishnu, Kaundilya, Sesa, Uddhava, Aruni, Bali, Hanuman, Vibhisana, and others-speaking without fear of worldly gossip and sharing among themselves one and the same opinion.
Narada previously gave definitions of bhakti according to sages like Vyasa and Garga, and now he gives a longer list. He also adds that there are many other authorities who could also be cited. In this way, although Narada's word is sufficient, he increases the authority of his conclusion that bhakti is the best of all paths.
While praising Lord Krishna as the Supreme Brahman and the God of gods, Arjuna also referred to great sages in order to support his statement:
param brahma param dhama pavitram paramam bhavan
purusam sasvatam divyam adi-devam ajam vibhum
ahus tvam rsayah sarve devarsir naradas tatha
asito devalo vyasah svayam caiva bravisi me
"You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa confirm this truth about You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me" (Bg. 10.12-13).
Shrila Prabhupada writes, "It is not that because Krishna is Arjuna's intimate friend Arjuna is flattering Him by calling Him the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth. Whatever Arjuna says in these two verses is confirmed by Vedic truth" (Bg. 10.12-13, purport). When Yamaraja wanted to impress upon his messengers, the Yamadutas, that Lord Vishnu is the supreme authority and that bhakti is the supreme path, he also quoted an impressive list of names. These teachers are known as the twelve maha-janas, or authorities in Krishna consciousness:
svayambhur naradah sambhuh kaumarah kapilo manuh
prahlado janako bhismo balir vaiyasakir vayam
dvadasaite vijanimo dharmam bhagavatam bhatah
guhyam visuddham durbodham yam jnatvamrtam asnute
"Lord Brahma, Bhagavan Narada, Lord Siva, the four Kumaras, Lord Kapila [the son of Devahuti], Svayambhuva Manu, Prahlada Maharaja, Janaka Maharaja, Grandfather Bhisma, Bali Maharaja, Sukadeva Gosvami, and I myself know the real religious principle. My dear servants, this transcendental religious principle, which is known as bhagavata-dharma, or surrender unto the Supreme Lord and love for Him, is un-contaminated by the material modes of nature. It is very confidential and difficult for ordinary human beings to understand, but if by chance a person fortunately understands it, he is immediately liberated, and thus he returns home, back to Godhead" (Bhag. 6.3.20-21).
In his purport, Shrila Prabhupada stresses not only the importance of the individual sages but the fact that they are representatives of Vaishnava sampradayas:
There are four lines of disciplic succession: one from Lord Brahma, one from Lord Siva, one from Laksmi, the goddess of fortune, and one from the Kumaras. The disciplic succession from Lord Brahma is called the Brahma-sampradaya, the succession from Lord Siva (Sambhu) is called the Rudra-sampradaya, the one from the goddess of fortune, Laksmiji, is called the Shri-sampradaya, and the one from the Kumaras is called the Kumara-sampradaya. One must take shelter of one of these four sampradayas in order to understand the most confidential religious system. In the Padma Purana it is said, sampradaya-vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah: "If a person does not follow the four recognized disciplic successions, his mantra or initiation is useless." [Bhag. 6.3.20-21, purport]
Narada states that the acaryas of the Absolute Truth were not afraid of criticism. In bygone ages fools criticized pure devotees and even the Supreme Lord Himself. Once the powerful progenitor Daksa cursed Narada because he had convinced Daksa's sons to reject marriage and remain celibate. Daksa called Narada a sinful rascal posing as a devotee. Narada tolerated Daksa's curse without retaliation, but he continued his preaching.
In his purports, Shrila Prabhupada compares the criticism Narada received to the criticism he himself received from his disciples' parents. Their accusation was the same as Daksa's-that the spiritual master has unreasonably caused young boys (and girls) to give up the normal life of sense gratification and take to extreme forms of renunciation and devotion to God. The criticism of the Krishna consciousness movement has taken organized shape as part of the "anticult movement," but Shrila Prabhupada assured his followers not to be afraid of attacks:
We have no business creating enemies, but the process is such that nondevotees will always be inimical toward us. Nevertheless, as stated in the sastras, a devotee should be both tolerant and merciful. Devotees engaged in preaching should be prepared to be accused by ignorant persons, and yet they must be very merciful to the fallen, conditioned souls. If one can execute his duty in the disciplic succession of Narada Muni, his service will surely be recognized.... Preaching can be a difficult, thankless task, but a preacher must follow the orders of the Supreme Lord and be unafraid of materialistic persons. [Bhag. 6.5.39, purport]
Critics deride the Hare Krishna movement as a concocted new cult. But just as the Narada-bhakti-sutra is supported by venerable authorities and maha-janas, so the Krishna consciousness movement, created by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, is also authoritative. In fact, the same authorities Narada has cited also back up the Krishna consciousness movement. Shrila Prabhupada comes in the disciplic line of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya-sampradaya, a line that includes Brahma, Narada, Vyasadeva, Madhva, and Lord Chaitanya. In the pranama-mantra Shrila Prabhupada's followers chant, the phrase gaura-vani-pracarine means that Shrila Prabhupada teaches the message of Lord Chaitanya. The sankirtana movement, the congregational chanting of Hare Krishna, was begun by Lord Chaitanya Himself, and so the Krishna consciousness movement now spreading around the world is not a new religion but a continuation of the original sampradaya. As Shrila Prabhupada says, "Actually the original father of this movement is Lord Krishna Himself, since it was started a very long time ago but is coming down to human society by disciplic succession" (Bhagavad-gita As It Is, preface).
ya idam narada-proktam sivanusasanam visvasiti sraddhate sa bhaktiman bhavati sa prestham labhate sa prestham labhata iti
yah-one who; idam-this; narada-proktam-spoken by Narada; siva-auspicious; anusasanam-instruction; visvasiti-trusts; sraddhate-is convinced by; sah-he; bhakti-man-endowed with devotion; bhavati-becomes; sah-he; prestham-the most dear (Supreme Lord); labhate-attains; sah-he; prestham-the most dear; labhate-attains; iti-thus.
Anyone who trusts these instructions spoken by Narada and is convinced by them will be blessed with devotion and attain the most dear Lord. Yes, he will attain the most dear Lord.
Narada ends the Bhakti-sutras by stating that one has to hear them with faith. Inquiries and even doubts may be placed before the guru, just as Arjuna expressed his doubts before Lord Krishna. But an attitude of disbelief will prevent us from understanding. As Lord Krishna states,
asraddadhanah purusa dharmasyasya parantapa
aprapya mam nivartante mrtyu-samsara-vartmani
"Those who are not faithful in this devotional service cannot attain Me, O conqueror of enemies. Therefore they return to the path of birth and death in this material world" (Bg. 9.3). And as stated in the Svetasvatara Upanisad (6.23),
yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah prakasante mahatmanah
"Unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master, all the imports of the Vedas are automatically revealed."
This final sutra declares that if a person hears the Narada-bhakti-sutra with faith, then Narada blesses him with devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This means that Narada Muni is present and acting through the teachings of the sutras. The same potent blessing Narada has given to many persons enabling them to become staunch bhaktas are available even now through his vani, or teachings. As the Skanda Purana states, "My dear Narada, of all the saintly persons, you are so great and glorious that simply by your good wishes a lowborn hunter also has become a great, elevated devotee of Lord Krishna" (The Nectar of Devotion, p. 137).
Let us gratefully receive this benediction and repeatedly hear the Narada-bhakti-sutra for our transcendental pleasure and benefit. Narada wishes to bless us that we shall attain the param gatim, the ultimate goal of life, the most cherished desire. But we must ask ourselves, "What do I desire?" If we desire to attain krishna-bhakti and if we lead our life in accordance with the teachings of Krishna consciousness, then Narada promises we will attain the ultimate in this life and the next: we will render devotional service to Lord Krishna, the supreme beloved. As Rupa Gosvami states in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, the goal of bhakti is very rarely attained. The Supreme Lord doesn't grant devotion as easily as He grants liberation, because when He gives devotion one gets an opportunity to serve Him directly. Sukadeva Gosvami tells Maharaja Pariksit, "Those engaged in getting the Lord's favor attain liberation from the Lord very easily, but He does not very easily give the opportunity to render direct service unto Him" (Bhag. 5.6.18).
Narada assures us twice, so there should be no doubt about it: although bhakti is very rare and hard to attain, with the blessings of Narada and his representatives we will attain the supreme beloved, we will attain the supreme beloved.
-Completed on Unmilani Maha-dvadasi, November 24, 1989, in Jagannatha Puri, as desired by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada