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Bhagavad Bhakti Bheda
Different Stages of Devotion to God
General Survey of Uttama Bhakti
kalita shyama-lalito radha-preyan vidhur jayati ||1||
Victory to the moon
Who is enamored by the star named “Radha”
Who is the embodiment of all flavor and vitality
Whose radiant luster dominates the galaxy of stars
And who owns the romantic graces of the dark night.
– Or –
Victory to moonlike Krishna
Who is enamored by Radha
Who is the embodiment of all pleasure and vitality
Whose radiant luster dominates the hearts
of the star-like girl named Taraka
and the galaxy-like girl named Pali
And who owns the hearts
of the beautifully dark girl named Shyama
and the romantic, graceful girl named Lalita.
The first shloka of Bhakti-Rasamrita-Sindhu invokes Shree Radha-Krishna and their associates.
The central word in this shloka is vidhu. A practical and literal translation of this word is “unique.” As such, the term is most often applied to two unique entities: the moon, who is unique amongst all the luminaries of the night sky, and the Supreme Being, who is unique among all beings. In this shloka Rupa Goswami synthesizes both meanings to create an eloquent and instructive double meaning.
Rupa Goswami says that the moon is enamored by the star called “Radha.” I am not conversant with Vedic cosmology and it’s modern correlations, but the moon is said to pass most closely to a star called “Radha.” Since it seems to make it’s entire journey across the dark sky just to come closer to this star, the moon is said to be in love with the Radha-star.
Rupa Goswami describes the Supreme Being as “in love with a girl named Radha.” This has two effects, (1) it makes explicit that Rupa Goswami is talking directly about Krishna, who is famous as Radha’s lover, and (2) it makes it clear that Radha is not an ordinary entity for she is most dearly and intimately loved by the Supreme Being.
Like the moon striving to reach his beloved star, Krishna’s every effort and movement focuses on only one thing: to come closer to his dear Shree Radha.
In Vedic cosmology, the moon is considered the embodiment of all flavor (rasa) and vitality (amrita). The moonlight is said to bestow all taste and nutrition to the earth’s vegetation. Like the moon, Krishna is the embodiment of all pleasure (rasa) and vitality (amrita). The potencies that radiate from his Being bestow all enjoyment and vigor to the living entities.
If we take the words rasa and amrita as one unit (“rasamrita”) we discover that Krishna is the source not only of all temporary, phenomenal pleasures (rasa-amrita), but of all eternal, transcendent pleasures (rasa-amrita) as well. The highest pleasure is to love and be loved. Rupa Goswami calls this pleasure “bhakti-rasa.” Later in this book, he will organize bhakti-rasa into twelve basic categories, all of which, in both their phenomenal and transcendental forms, emanate like cooling rays of moonlight from the effulgent Shree Krishna.
The splendor of the moon radiates in all directions, and dominates the galaxy of stars in the night sky. Likewise, Krishna’s splendors beauty radiates in all directions and dominates the hearts of the gopi named Taraka (“She who is like a star”) and the gopi named Pali (“She who is like the galaxy”).
The moon owns the romantic grace (lalita) of the dark night (shyama) because without the moon the dark night would be more fearful than romantic, and more troublesome than graceful. Similarly, Krishna owns the hearts of the gopi named Shyama (“She who is dark and beautiful like Krishna”) and the gopi named Lalita (“She who is graceful in all the arts of romance”). Without Krishna, the hearts of these girls would neither beat nor continue to sustain their lives.
The gopi named Radha (“She who is devotion personified”) is supreme. Though Krishna “dominates” some gopis and “owns” the hearts of others, Krishna himself, the source of all bliss, is dominated and enthralled by the blissful beauty and charms of Shree Radha.
The other gopis gain their ability to similarly affect Krishna depending on how closely they are associated with Shree Radha. Most removed is Taraka, who belongs to a group of girls that are competitive towards Radha. Next is Pali, who belongs to a group who are neutral to Radha. Next is Shyama, who belongs to a group who are friendly to Radha. Next is Lalita, who belongs to Radha’s own group of intimate friends. The more removed one is from Radha, the less affect one is able to have on Krishna.
Rupa Goswami uses this word is in the present tense to remind us that Krishna’s loving relationship with Radha and her counterparts is supernatural, for Krishna is vidhu – the Supreme Being who is beyond all constraints like time and space, and who is therefore fully present and tangible today, in the present.
We who are currently writing and reading these words can also join in the loving relationship between Radha and Krishna and thus directly experience the embodiment of all pleasure and vitality. The activities of this loving relationship between the soul and the supreme are the subject matter of Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu.
hridi yasya preranaya pravartito ‘ham varaka-rupo 'pi |
tasya hareh pada-kamalam vande chaitanya-devasya ||2||
From within my heart, He inspires me to write this book – even though I am the unqualified and lowly Rupa. I make prayers to the lotus feet of that Lord Hari, who is Shri Chaitanya-deva.
Here Rupa Goswami identifies Shri Chaitanya as Lord Hari who dwells within the heart of all living entities. Despite feeling himself unqualified for the task, Rupa Goswami got the inspiration to write Bhakti-Rasamrita-Sindu from Shri Chaitanya. In addition to this internal inspiration, Shri Chaitanya personally explained the subjects that would become Bhakti-Rasamrita-Sindhu to Rupa Goswami on the Dvadasvamedha Ghat in Prayag, India. This traces the origin of Bhakti-Rasamrita-Sindhu to the Personality of Godhead, as is mandatory for religious texts (dharman tu sakshat bhagavan pranitam)
vishrama-mandiratya tasya sanatana-tanor mad ishasya |
bhakti-rasamrita-sindhur-bhavatau sadayam promodaya ||3||
Let this Bhakti-Rasamrita-Sindhu be a restful temple of constant pleasure to my Lord Sanatana.
By poetic use of the phrase “sanatana-tanor mad-isha” Rupa Goswami endows this sloka with double meaning: (1) “Let this Bhakti-Rasamrita-Sindhu be a restful temple of constant pleasure to my master, Shri Sanatana Goswami.” And (2) “Let this Bhakti-Rasamrita-Sindhu be a restful temple of constant pleasure to my Lord, the Eternal (‘sanatan’ – the Supreme Godhead).
bhakti-rasamrita-sindhau caratah paribhuta-kala-jalabhiyah |
bhakta-makaranashilita mukti-nandikanna-masami ||4||
I respectfully bow to the great devotees who are like sharks swimming freely in the ambrosial ocean of devotion, deep beneath the fishing-nets of time, abandoning the shallow rivers of liberation.
Rupa Goswami compares the bhakta (devotee of Radha, Krishna and Lord Chaitanya) to a Shark for three reasons: (1) A shark enjoys the waters as the King of the Ocean; so does a bhakta swim in the Ocean of Devotion, enjoying its ambrosial waters. (2) A shark never leaves the ocean for the land or rivers; Similarly, a bhakta never leaves the ocean of devotion for land-locked material pleasures, nor even for the shallow rivers of spiritual opulence. (3) A shark cannot be caught by fishing-nets because it swims deeply in the ocean; Neither can a bhakta swimming deeply in the ambrosial ocean of devotion be caught by the nets of time, which bring about material existence.
mimamsakava-davagneh kathinamapi kunthayannasau |
jihvam sphurantu sanatana suciram tava bhakti-rasamritam-bhodhih ||5||
O Sanatana let the resplendent waters of this Bhakti-Rasamrita-Sindhu extinguish the flames that issue from the tongues of Mimamsakas.
Having invoked Radha and Krishna (sloka 1), Shri Chaitanya (sloka 2), his guru, Sanatan Goswami (sloka 3) and the community of bhaktas (sloka 4), Rupa Goswami now prays for the benediction that his book never be damaged by interpretations from those who believe the ultimate aim of religion to be ritual (karma mimamsaka) or philosophy (jnana mimamsaka).
bhakti-rasya prastutir-akhila-jagan-mangala-prasangasya |
ajnenapi mayasya kriyate suhridam pramodaya ||6||
Though I am unqualified, I will write this book about bhakti-rasa – the source of universal auspiciousness - to please my dear friends.
Table of Contents
etasyah bhagavad-bhakti rasamrita-payonidheh |
catvarah khalu vakshyante bhagah purvadayah kramat ||7||
tatra purve vibhage 'smin bhakti-bhedanirupake |
anukramena vaktavyam laharinam catushtayam ||8||
adya samanya-bhaktadhya dvitiya sadhananvita |
bhavashrita tritiya caturya prema-nirupika ||9||
This ocean of Bhakti-Rasamrita I will divide into four sections: East, South, West, and North. First, the Eastern Ocean, having four waves in it, describes the various stages of bhakti.
The first wave concerns bhakti in general (samanya-bhakti). The second wave concerns bhakti in practice (sadhana-bhakti). The third wave concerns bhakti as it becomes perfect (bhava-bhakti). The fourth wave concerns the perfection of bhakti (prema-bhakti).
Definition of Bhakti
tatradau sushthu vaishishtya-masyah kathayitum sphutam |
lakshanam kriyate bhakter-uttamayah satam matam ||10||
Before explaining the above-mentioned topics, I must first define pure devotional service in accordance with the opinion of great saints.
anyabhilashita-shunyam jnana-karmady-anavritam |
anukulyena krishnanu-shilanam bhaktir-uttama ||11||
“Uttama Bhakti” is activity intended to please Krishna, done as the main pursuit of one without ulterior motive.
Bhakti-rasa is the subject of Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu. But before describing the relishable flavor of Bhakti, we must first understand what Bhakti is. Rupa Goswami therefore defines Bhakti in the first division of his book, beginning with this essential shloka.
Uttama means “highest.” This can indicate being above all material qualities and thus being uncontaminated or “pure” (one could analyze the word uttama to mean uttara-tamasa – “higher than darkness”). As such, one could translate the phrase uttama-bhakti as “Pure Devotion.”
This phrase indicates that Uttama Bhakti consists of endeavor (shilanam) that pleases Krishna. First, we should understand the verb “endeavor.”
Everything one does is a result of how one feels inside, because action and emotion are intrinsically connected. In Sanskrit, and implicitly in all laguages, verbs therefore imply both action and emotion. Further, a verb implies two types of action: action that invokes an emotion, and action that expresses an emotion. Emotion exists in the context of two things: one’s basic relationship with the object of action, and the side effects of the emotional-action.
For example, the verb “to laugh” most often implies the action of laughter and the emotion of happiness. Further, one might laugh to invoke happiness, or to express it. The happiness invoked or expressed by laughter exists in context of a relationship, most often a friendly one, and amidst side effects – quite often fatigue, or disregard for others. In summary:
Action = Laughter
· Laughter that invokes happiness
· Laughter that expresses happiness
Emotion = Happiness
in context of -
· A friendly relationship
· Emotional side effects like fatigue or disregard for others.
In this shloka the verb is “krishna-anu-shilanam” - endeavor that pleases Krishna. This verb implies both activity for Krishna, and affection for him. Further, activity for Krishna might be intended to invoke affection for him, or to express it. Affection for Krishna exists in context of a specific type of relationship with Krishna, and amidst side effects. In summary:
KriSna-anu-shilanam – Endeavor That Pleases Krishna
Action = Activity for Krishna
· To invoke affection for him
· To express affection for him
Emotion = Affection for Krishna
in context of -
· Ones personal relationship with Krishna
· Emotional side effects associated with an action in that relationship
As the book progresses Rupa Goswami will explain the names and definitions of all these categories of krishna-anu-shilanam. In brief, Uttama-Bhakti includes all these endeavors:
KriSna-anu-shilanam – Endeavor That Pleases Krishna
CeSta-rupa = Activity for Krishna
· - To invoke affection for him (sadhana-bhakti)
· - To express affection for him (anubhava)
Bhava-rupa = Affection for Krishna
in context of -
· Ones personal relationship with Krishna
- Just beginning (bhava-bhakti)
- Fully developed (prema-bhakti)
· Emotional side effects associated with an action in that relationship (vyabhicari-bhava)
Activity for Krishna involves the body, mind, and/or voice. Such activities may be either in pursuit of pleasing Krishna, or in avoidance of displeasing him. For example, in pursuit of pleasing Krishna one might use one’s body to clean Krishna’s residence. In avoidance of displeasing him, one might avoid causing injury or pain to others. One might use one’s mind to meditate on or remember Krishna, or one might avoid using one’s mind to dream up inflated images of one’s ego. One might use one’s voice to sing for Krishna, or might avoid using it to insult Krishna’s devotees. Uttama Bhakti includes all these.
Krishna is the object of action and emotion in Uttama Bhakti. However, since Krishna is the Supreme Being he includes everyone and everything. Therefore everyone and everything could be a subsidiary object of action and emotion in Uttama Bhakti.
“Krishna” includes Krishna himself as well as his expansions: other forms of God, all living beings, and the energies that compose the spiritual and material worlds. When one of these three expansions of Krishna is the immediate object of action and emotion, and Krishna remains the ultimate object, one is still within the purview of Uttama Bhakti.
Thus far, Rupa Goswami has defined Bhakti as “endeavor that pleases Krishna.” This definition is still incomplete because it includes activities that accidentally or unwillingly please Krishna. Krishna’s famous evil Uncle Kamsa, for example, vigilantly tried to kill Krishna, but unwittingly brought him pleasure with each attempt by giving him opportunity to protect his friends and family and enjoy moral combat. Since his attitude towards Krishna was not affectionate, it should be explicitly clear that his actions are not Bhakti, even though they wound up pleasing Krishna.
Rupa Goswami therefore includes the word anukulyena in his definition of Bhakti. This indicates that Bhakti is always impelled by a favorable attitude towards Krishna. Thus, bhakti is not simply an endeavor that pleases Krishna; it is an endeavor intended to please Krishna.
The intention to please Krishna is more important than the actual result. For example, Krishna’s mother often had to chastise or discipline Krishna in various ways that apparently displeased him. Even though the end result was apparently displeasing to Krishna, her action is within the purview of Bhakti, because her intention was loving. On the other hand, the end result of Kamsa’s actions was apparently pleasing to Krishna, but his action is not within the purview of Bhakti, because his intention was hateful.
Thus the intention to please Krishna is the inseperable essence of endeavor in Uttama Bhakti.
“Devotion” and “Pure Devotion”
Thus far Rupa Goswami has defined bhakti (“devotion”) as, “anukulyena krishnanu-shilanam” – endeavor intended to please Krishna. Now, he refines this to become a definition of Uttama Bhakti (“pure devotion”) by excluding impurities from it as follows:
This phrase indicates that Uttama Bhakti is free from ulterior motive. Bhakti is an endeavor intended to please Krishna, but what if one undertakes such an endeavor with an ulterior motive? What if one offers something to Krishna with the intention of pleasing him, but with the motive to obtain a reward from Krishna as a result of pleasing him – is this Bhakti?
Yes, it is Bhakti, but it is not Uttama Bhakti – it is a kind of love and devotion, but not pure love and devotion. In pure devotion, one pleases one’s beloved simply for the sake of pleasing him or her, and not to obtain anything in return.
The word anyabhilaSita is made up of “anya” (other), “abhilaSin” (one with desires), and the suffix “-ta.” It is joined to the word “shunyam” (void). The whole phrase indicates that Uttama Bhakti belongs to persons who are devoid of other desires, devoid of ulterior motives. However, the suffix “-ta,” comprable to the English suffix “-ness,” adds a sense of liberality. Here, it indicates that in Uttama Bhakti a person must have basic desireless-ness. In other words, if one’s basic motivation is to please Krishna one can be within the purview of Uttama Bhakti even if extraneous or ulterior desires, especially in trying circumstances, sometimes arise and subside again beneath one’s prime motivation – to please Krishna.
This phrase indicates that in Uttama Bhakti, one’s endeavor to please Krishna is one’s main pursuit; it is not obstructed or overshadowed by any other endeavors.
What are “other endeavors?” Rupa Goswami mentions cultivation of Knowledge (“jnana”), secular and religious endeavor for personal prosperity (“karma”) and similar other pursuits (“adi”).
What kind of knowledge can obstruct or overshadow one’s endeavor to please Krishna? Clearly not knowledge about how the pure soul loves God (prayojana-jnana), about how to please God (abhideya-jnana), or about one’s relationship with God and his creation (sambandha-jnana); these do not obscure Bhakti, they nourish it. Other types of knowedlge can obstruct or overshadow Bhakti, even knowledge about the soul and knowledge that produces detachment from the temporary word, when not understood in terms of their eternal relationship with God.
What does it mean to “obstruct or overshadow Bhakti?”
If one thinks one cannot please Krishna without first performing certain religious or secular activities, or without first aquiring extraneous varieities of knowledge, etc. then these things have “obstructed” or “overshadowed” (anavritam) one’s Bhakti. One with such opinions will give more importance to his or her mundane religious, secular or educational endeavors – and his endeavor to directly please Krishna by hearing about him, glorifying him, remembering him, etc. will diminish and weaken in the shadow of one’s other pursuits.
Knowledge and activities that do not directly endeavor to please Krishna are, to some extent, an unavoidable counterpart of survival in this ever-changing world. One must undertake the religious, secular, and educational endeavors appropriate for one’s survival and basic prosperity. To do so does not overshadow or obstruct Bhakti, as long as one does not consider such pursuits to be more significant than the pursuit of pleasing Krishna.
“Devotion” or “Bhakti” is an endeavor intended to please Krishna. When this endeavor is free from the impurities of ulterior motive and not overshadowed by other endeavors, it is “Uttama Bhakti” or “Pure Devotion.” The remainder of Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu describes Uttama Bhakti and it’s ambrosial flavor.
yatha shri narada-pancaratre
savopadhi-vinirmuktam tat-paratevena nirmalam |
hrishikena hrishikesha-sevanam bhaktir-ucyate ||12||
In Shri Narada Pancaratra –
“Bhakti is said to be service done with the senses for the Master of the Senses, purified of all material motivation.”
In Sloka 10 Rupa Goswami said he would define Uttama Bhakti according to the opinions of the great saints (“satam matam”). In Sloka 11, he defined, Uttama Bhakti. Now, in Slokas 12-15, he quotes the teachings of great saints to show how his definition is in accordance with their opinion. Here he quotes Narada Muni.
Hrishikena Sevanam = service done with the senses; parallel to “anusilanam” from Sloka 11. Hrishikesha = Krishna; the service is done for Krishna. The motivation (tat paratvena) for such service is pure (nirmalam) because it is free from material designation (sarvopadhi vinirmuktam). This is parallel to “anyabhilasita sunyam…” from Sloka 11.
shri bhagavatasya tritiyaskhandhe ca
lakshanam bhakti-yogasya nirgunasya hy udahritam |
ahaituky avyavahita ya bhaktih purushottame ||13||
In the third canto of Shri Bhagavatam–
“The definition of transcendental Bhakti-yoga: It is devotion for the Supreme Person that arises without cause and cannot be obstructed.”
Nirguna-bhakti is synonymous with uttama-bhakti. ahaituki (causeless) is synonymous with anyabhilasita sunyam. avyavahita (uninterruptible) is synonymous with jnana-karmady anavrittam.
salokya-sarshti-samipya-sarupyaikatvam apy uta |
diyamanam na grihnanti vina mat-sevanam janah ||14||
“To live on my planet, to posses equal opulence as I, to have a place in my entourage, to posses the same form as I, or to achieve oneness with me – If such things are devoid of my service, devotees will not accept them.”
This sloka indicates the depth of a devotees freedom from ulterior motive (anyabhilasita sunyam). They do not even desire liberations as a fruit of their devotion. Diyamanam indicates that they will not even accept such fruits if Krishna personally offers them.
sa eva bhakti-yagakhya atyantika udahritah |
yenativrajya trigunam mad-bhavayopapadyate ||15||
“Certainly that bhakti-yoga is the final goal, for by it one crosses far beyond the three modes of material nature and attains my nature.”
This substantiates that Bhakti is free from all material taint (“uttama” and “anyabhilasita sunyam”). The phrase mad-bhavayopapadyate may also be read as, “becomes qualified to attain pure love for me” if mad-bhava is taken as “bhava-bhakti for krishna.”
salokyetyadi-padyastha bhaktotkarshani-rupanam |
bhakter-vishuddhata-vyaktya-lakshane paryavasyati ||16||
The shlokas beginning with “salokya” substantiate my definition of pure Bhakti by showing the nature of a Bhakta.
Six Qualities of Uttama Bhakti
kleshaghni shubhada mokshalaghutakrit sudurlabha |
sandrananda-visheshatma shri-krishnakarshini ca sa ||17||
Uttama Bhakti removes suffering, bestows auspiciousness, makes light of liberation, is very rare, is composed of condense bliss, and attracts Shri Krishna.
tatrasyah kleshaghnatvam —
kleshastu papam tad vijam avidya ceti te tridha ||18||
Removing Suffering –
Suffering has three stages: wrong acts, wrong desires, and wrong understanding.
A wrong understanding of self (avidya or “ignorance”) causes desires that are not in consonance with the self. These dissonant desires (vija or “seeds”) cause one to act in ways not consonant with the self. The reactions from these dissonant actions (papam or “sin”) cause suffering (klesha).
tatra papam —
aprarabdham bhavet papam prarabdham ceti tad dvidha ||19||
Wrongful Acts –
Wrongful Action has two stages: manifest and unmanifest.
Papam (“wrong action” or “sin”) refers to both the act of sin, and the results of sin, which are twofold: manifest (prarabdha papam) results directly felt by the performer of sin, and unmanifest (aprarabdha papam) results not yet directly felt by the performer.
This and the previous sloka together identify that suffering comes from sin, which is of four distinct stages: (1) vijam – desire, (2) avidya – ignorance, (3) prarabdha papam – manifest sin, and (4) aprarabdha papam – unmanifest sin.
tatra aprarabdha-haratvam yatha ekadashe –
yathagnih susamriddharcih karotyedhansi bhasmasat |
tatha mad-vishaya-bhaktir uddhavainansi kritsnashah ||20||
Removing Unmanifest Sin
In the Eleventh Canto…
“A blazing fire consumes wood to ashes, so does devotion to Me consume sins, Uddhava.”
The unmanifest potential for fire is in wood. The sins compared to here to wood are unmanifest sins (aprarabdha papam). Bhakti consumes this stage of suffering.
prarabdha-haratvam yatha tritiye –
yan-namadheya shravan-anukirtanad yat-prahvanad yat-smaranad api kvacit |
shvado’pi sadyah savanaya kalpate kutah punaste bhagavannu darshannat ||21||
Removing Manifest Sin
In the Third Canto…
”Hearing or saying your name, offering you obeisance, or even once remembering you turns even a dog-eater into a priest of ritual. Then what of those who receive your direct audience?”
Rupa Goswami explains this sloka in the next.
durjatir eva savanayojnatve karanam matam |
durjaty arambhakam papam yat syat prarabdham eva tat ||22||
Poor birth is considered the cause of being ineligible to perform priestly ritual. Poor birth is the manifestation of previous sin, known as “prarabdham.”
The previous sloka said that even a slight connection with Uttama Bhakti turns a person considered by Vedic standards to be of the poorest birth (a dog eater) into a person considered to be of purest birth (a priest). The condition of ones birth is supposed to be the result of his previous actions, and is therefore a manifest reaction (prarabdha karma). Saying that Uttama Bhakti nullifies the effects of a poor birth is thus equivalent to saying that it removes the suffering felt from manifest sinful reactions (prarabdha papam).
padma purane ca –
aprarabdha phalam papam kutam vijam phalonmukham |
kramenaiva praliyeta vishnu-bhaktir atatmanam ||23||
And in Padma Purana –
”All stages of sin – unmanifest, internal, seed, or manifest – are destroyed in turn by Vishnu-Bhakti.”
The Padma Purana here identifies four stages of sin, (1) aprarabdha phalam – sin whose fruit has not yet manifest, (2) kutam – sin which is silent within the heart, (3) vijam – sin voiced as desire, and (4) phalonmukham – sin whose fruit manifests as suffering.
These four stages are identical with the four stages identified by Rupa Goswami in slokas 18 and 19. (1) Padma Purana’s aprarabdha phalam is identical with Rupa Goswami’s aprarabdha papam, (2) Padma Purana’s kutam is synonymous with Rupa Goswami’s avidya as they both define latent conditions of the heart which give rise to unnatural desire, (3) Padma Purana’s vijam is identical with Rupa Goswami’s vijam, and (4) Padma Purana’s phalonmukham is synonymous with Rupa Goswami’s prarabdha papam as they both define the state of sin that produces the fruit of suffering.
By characterizing unmanifest sin (aprarabdha papam) as “kutam-unmukham” this sloka indicates that unmanifest sin nourishes ignorance (kutam /avidya). This reveals sin to be a self-perpetuating cycle that begins with a grain of willful ignorance (avidya or kuto papam). This ignorance, which is essentially an unnatural conception of self, produces unnatural desires, which in turn impel unnatural actions (“sin”). These actions generate manifest (prarabdha) as well as unmanifest (aprarabdha) reactions. These unmanifest reactions produce ignorance (kutam /avidya) and thus restart the cycle of sin with increased velocity.
This sloka contends that the cycle can be broken by Vishnu-Bhakti, which eradicates all stages of sin in the following order: first aprarabdha, then avidya/kutam, then vijam, and finally prarabdha.
vija-haratvam yatha shashthe –
tais tany aghani puyante tapo-dana-vratadibhih |
nadharmajam tad hridayam tad apishanghri-sevaya ||24||
Removing Desire for Sin
In the Sixth Canto…
”Sins can be purified by austerity, charity, vows, and other religious observances, but only Service to the feet of the Lord can purify the heart and the birth place of irreligiousity.”
This sloka admits that there are other means to remove suffering, but establishes that besides Uttama Bhakti no means can permanently remove suffering. The “birth place of irreligious action” (adharma-ja) is irreligious desire (vijam).
avidya-haratvam yatha caturthe –
yat-pada-pankaja-palasha-vilasa-bhaktya karmashayam grathitam udgrathayanti santah |
tad van na rikta-matayo yatayo 'pi ruddha sroto-ganas tam aranam bhaja vasudevam ||25||
In the Fourth Canto…
”By devotion to His pleasant lotus-petal-like toes, saints untie the hard knot binding them to desire and action. But those without such a mood cannot stop the flow of the senses, though they try and try. Therefore be devoted to the most worthy Vasudeva.”
As denoted in slokas 23 and 18, ignorance (avidya or kutam) is the knot binding one to desire (vijam or, in this sloka, asa), which in turn binds one to sinful action (papam, or in this sloka, karma). This sloka indicates that only Uttama Bhakti can untie this knot of Ignorance.
padme ca –
avidyam nidarhatyashu davajvaleva pannagim ||26||
In Padma Purana –
”Knowledge follows naturally from the practice of devotional service to Hari, and destroys ignorance like a forest fire destroys snakes.”
Rupa Goswami’s discussion of the first quality of Uttama Bhakti, the Removal of Suffering, concludes with this sloka. He contends herein that Uttama Bhakti is the best means of obtaining relief from distress, for it removes all stages of suffering, and is the only means to eradicate the root cause, ignorance.
shubhani prinanam sarva jagatam-anuraktata |
sadgunah sukham ity-adiny akhyatani manishibhih ||27||
Bestowing Auspiciousness –
The wise describe the main characteristics of “auspiciousness” as that which (1) is universally endearing and beneficial, (2) generates saintly character, and (3) bestows happiness.
tatra jagat-prinanadidvaya-pradatvam yatha padme –
yenarcito haristena tarpitani jaganty api |
rajyanti janta-vastatra jangamah sthavara api ||28||
Now, regarding the bestowal of “Universal Endearment and Benefit” –
In the Padma Purana:
”One who worships Hari satisfies the entire universe. Thus everyone, even the immobile entities, hold him dear.”
The auspicious person holds everyone dear, and everyone holds him dear. He therefore acts for the benefit of everyone, and everyone wishes to benefit him.
sadgunadipradatvam yatha pancame –
yasyasti bhaktir bhagavaty akincana sarvair gunais tatra samasate surah |
harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-guna manorathenasati dhavato bahih ||29||
Now, regarding the bestowal of “Saintly Character” –
In the Fifth Canto,
”All saintly qualities and the gods themselves are found in one with pure devotion to God. But what good quality can exist in those devoid of devotion, whose minds race to externals?”
sukham vaishayikam brahmam aishvaram ceti tat-tridha ||30||
Regarding the bestowal of “Happiness” –
Happiness is of three types: happiness (1) from objects, (2) from the soul, and (3) from God.
siddhayah paramashcarya bhukti-muktish ca shashvati |
nityam ca paramanando bhaved govinda-bhaktitah ||31||
In the Tantra –
”Wondrous mystic perfections, everlasting sensory pleasure and liberation, and eternal, supreme bliss manifest from devotion to Govinda.”
Mystic perfections (siddhi) and sensory pleaure (bhukti) are both in the category of Happiness from Objects (vaisaya sukha – see sloka 30). Liberation (mukti) is in the category of Happiness from the Soul (brahmana sukha). Supreme eternal bliss (paramananda) is in the category of Happiness from God (aisvara sukha).
yatha hari-bhakti-sudhodaye ca
bhuyo 'pi yace devesha tvayi bhaktir-dridhastu me |
ya mokshanta-caturvarga phalada sukhada lata ||32||
And, in Hari-Bhakti-Sudhodaya –
”Repeatedly I ask, O Master of the gods; Grant me steadfast devotion to you, for that devotion is a vine whose fruits are the four human goals, up to final liberation, and all the happiness thereof.”
Thus sloka confirms that Uttama-Bhakti bestows all categories of happiness. Rupa Goswami has demonstrated that Uttama Bhakti bestows auspiciousness for it makes the Bhakta universally endeared and beneficial (sloka 28), develops his or her saintly character (sloka 29), and bestows all categories of happiness (slokas 30-32).
Making Every Goal, Including Liberation, Seem Trivial
manageva prarudhayam hridaye bhagavad-ratau |
purusharthastu catvaras trinayante saman-tatah ||33||
Making even liberation seem trivial –
When affection for God slightly awakens in the heart, the four goals of human life seem equal to straw.
yatha shri narada-pancaratre –
hari-bhakti maha-devyah sarva muktyadi-siddhayah |
bhuktyash-cadbhutas tasya cetika-vadanu-vraha ||34||
In this regard, in the Narada Pancaratra –
“Hari Bhakti is the Supreme Goddess, and all other accomplishments – including liberation, perfection, and wondrous pleasures – are hand-maids attending her attentively.”
Rupa Goswami says that all other goals of life seem trivial when compared to achieving pure affection for God. This Sloka, quoted from Narada Pancaratra, illustrates the point by comparing Uttama Bhakti to the Supreme Goddess and all other achievements to her servants.
sadhanaughair-anasangair alabhya sucirad-api |
harina cashvadeyeti vidha sa syat sudurlabha ||35||
Very Rare –
There are two reasons Uttama Bhakti is very rare: (1) One cannot obtain it by diligently and prolongedly performing sadhana without attachment, and (2) Hari is reluctant to bestow it.
Explaining this sloka requires referencing two other slokas yet to come in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu. First, in sloka 1.1.46, Rupa Goswami explains that Uttama Bhakti’s hallmark of being “very rarely achieved” (sudurlabha) refers to the achievement of Uttama Bhakti at the stage of Bhava.
Second, in sloka 1.3.6, Rupa Goswami explains that Bhava-Bhakti is attainable by two means, through practice or by Krishna’s blessing.
This being said, the current sloka means, “Bhava Bhakti is very rarely attained because (1) although it can be attained by practice, even diligent and prolonged practice will not achieve bhava-bhakti if that practice is without deep and sincere attachement to Krishna, and (2) although it can be attained by Krishna’s blessing, he is reluctant to bestow such blessings.”
tatra adya yatha tantre –
jnanatah sulabha muktir bhuktir yajnadi-punyatah |
seyam sadhana-sahasrair hari-bhaktih sudurlabha ||36||
About the first
In the Tantra –
“Liberation comes easily by jnana-yoga. Sense gratification comes easily by performing sacrifice, but Hari Bhakti remains very difficult to attain even after practicing it thousands of times.”
In the previous sloka, Rupa Goswami clarified that sadhana (practice), even if diligent and prolonged, cannot attain bhava-bhakti as long as it is “without attachement.” Ahead, in sloka 1.4.15-16, Rupa Goswami will clarify that sadhana must progress through various stages of purification until it eventually comes to the stage of “attachment” (asakti). Only when Sadhana is executed with intense and sincere attachment to Krishna can it awaken Bhava-Bhakti.
The stages Sadhana must pass through are: anartha-nivrtti (“removal of impurities”), nishtha (“fixedness”), ruci (“taste for Bhakti”), and finally asakti (“attachment to Krishna”).
dvitiya yatha pancama-skandhe –
rajan patir gurur alam bhavatam yadunam daivam priyah kula-patih kva ca kinkaro vah |
astv evam anga bhajatam bhagavan mukundo muktim dadati karhicit sma na bhakti-yogam ||37||
About the second
In the Fifth Canto–
“O King! Lord Mukunda became the protector of your family, your teacher, god, friend, family-head, and even your servant because of the strong affection you have for him. Thus, he may grant one liberation but not easily bhakti.”
As said in sloka 35, Bhava-bhakti can be attained by Krishna’s blessing, but he is reluctant to bestow such blessings. This sloka explains why. When fully developed, affection for God attracts the Supreme and places him subordinate, as illustrated in this sloka from the Fifth Canto of Bhagavat Purana. Krishna is very reserved about granting such a powerful blessing.
Composed of Condensed Bliss
brahmanando bhavedesha cet prarariddha gunikritah |
naiti bhakti-sukhambhodheh paramanu-tulam api ||38||
Composed of Condensed Bliss –
The infinite bliss that arises from attaining self-realization is an infinitesimal drop in the ocean of bhakti’s happiness.
yatha hari-bhakti-sudhodaye –
tvat sakshat karanahlada vishuddhabdhi sthitasya me |
sukhani goshoadayante brahmany api jagad-guro ||39||
In the Hari Bhakti Sudhodaya –
“Being in your direct company generates the ocean of pure bliss in which I am now plunged. In comparison, even the happiness self-realization seems as small as a puddle in a cow’s hoof-print, O teacher of the world.”
tatha bhavarthadipikayam ca –
tvat-kathamrita pathoghau viharanto mahamudah |
kurvanti kritinah kecit catur-vargam trinopamam ||40||
In the Bhavartha Dipika –
“Those who enjoy hearing of your ambrosial pastimes alone truly consider the four goals of life to be like straw.”
Attracting Shri Krishna
kritva harim premabhajam priya varga samanvitam |
bhaktir vashi karotiti shri-krishnakarshini mata ||41||
Attracting Shri Krishna –
Worshipping Hari with pure love makes him equally enchanted with the worshipper. Thus we consider that one with Bhakti can attract Shri Krishna.
na sadhyati mam yogo na sankhyam dharma uddhava |
na svadhyayas tapas tyago yatha bhaktir mamorjita ||42||
In the Eleventh Canto–
“I cannot be attained by yoga, nor study, nor religion, O Uddhava; nor by recitation of scripture, by austerity, or by renunciation. Thus only love (Bhakti) can conquer me.”
saptame ca naraoktau –
yuym nriloke bata bhuribhaga lokam punana munayo’bhiyanti |
yesham grihanavasatiti sakshad gudham param brahma manushya lingam ||43||
And in the Seventh Canto, Narada says–
“You are the most fortunate persons in this world. Even the saints who purify the world desire to live in your home, for there the Supreme directly manifests in the most secret human form.”
The Six Qualities of Bhakti in General
agrato vakshyamanayas tridha bhakter anukramat |
dvishah shadbhih padairetan mahatyam parikirtitam ||44||
In the beginning, I mentioned that Uttama Bhakti has three stages of development. Each stage has two of these six glorious and famous qualities.
The first and second qualities, relief from distress and bestowal of auspiciousness, begin to be felt in the initial stage of Uttama Bhakti, called “Sadhana”. The third and fourth qualities, making even liberation seem trivial and being very rarely achieved, are characteristics of Uttama Bhakti’s second stage, “bhava.” The final two qualities, being composed of condensed bliss and attracting Shri Krishna, are manifest in Uttama Bhakti’s final stage, “prema.”
Each of the three stages of Uttama Bhakti contain the qualities of the stages before it. Thus sadhana has qualities one and two, while bhava has these two, plus the third and fourth quality, and prema has all four previous qualities, plus the fifth and six.
Each quality manifests sequentially (anukramat). Thus each quality becomes fully mature only at the stage of prema. It may be inferred that the qualities continue to expand through the various substages of prema, up to and including the highest stage of prema, “mahabhava.”
svalpapi rucir eva syad bhakti tatvavabodhika |
yuktistu kevala naiva yadasya apratishthata ||45||
Just a little attraction will make the truth of bhakti understandable, not intelligence alone, which is unstable.
tatra pracinair apy uktam –
yatenapadito ‘py arthah kushalair anumatribhih |
abhiyukta tarair anyair anyathaivopapadyate ||46||
Thus the elders say –
“The conclusion established by the intellectual and soon replaced by the conclusion of one with subtler intellect.”
iti shri shri bhakti-rasamrita-sindhau purva-bhage bhakti-samanya lahari prathama
The first wave (concerning bhakti in general) of the eastern division of the Ambrosial Ocean of Devotion thus ends.