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NAMABHAS AND UTTAMA BHAKTI
WE now take up the subject of the "dim reflection of the Name(Namablias)." If we compare the Name to the sun, this dim reflec¬tion of the Name or Its Abhas, can well be com-pared with the dawn, when the earth is lighted
by the reflected light of the sun, even before the sun rises above the horizon. Shri Krishna, out of His unaccountable Mercy, has manifested Himself into this world as Shriman Nama to deliver the fallen Jivas and impart to them the highest gift of Divine Love in this Kali Yuga. The unhappy Jivas imprisoned in various types of bodies, subject to the merciless and ceaseless rotation of the cyclic wheel, compelled by their actions, are not having free access to this Merciful Manifestation of the Lord, owing to the innumerable inabilities they are beset with. They pre¬vent the Jivas from having a sight of this bright sun. Extreme igno-ranee, hankering alter transitory pleasures, tendency to earn name and fame, etc., form clouds above the unfortunate aspirant and ob¬struct his vision. Just as clouds, fog, etc., cannot do any harm to the shining sun, so too these inabilities of the aspirant fail to obscure the Manifestation of the Divine Name. It shines with Its full splendour, bul the aspirant who is unfortunately a prey to these defects is de¬prived of Its sight. His vision is obscured.
Similarly before the Name actually manifests Itself on one's tongue he becomes illumined by Its dim reflection through any of the sense-organs or senses. Unintentional or indirect utterance or hearing of the Name, without faith or even with contempt, or uttering or hearing It without being cognisant that It is the Name of the Lord, can be aptly defined as Namabhas or dim reflection of the Name. The meaning can be clarified further by quoting examples. For instance a Muslim does not take the name of the wild boar and calls it 'Haram' contemptuously. Here when, he utters Haram even in contempt, he obtains Moksha, as he utters the Name 'Rama' adjunctively or con¬comitantly, even though it forms a part of the contemptuous name of an object which is actually abhorred, let alone the unintentional ut¬terance of the name of god of another faith. Similarly when a tiny toddler utters either 'Krishna' or 'Rama', it cannot have any idea of Godhead or His Name, the question of its faith in Him or It being quite out of question. Similarly when one, who is deeply engrossed in his own work, casually happens to hear, in spite of himself, the Name or Names of the Lord forming part or parts of other words like Krishnamriga, Krishnasarpa, or Ramanagar, or when a born dumb, deaf, and blind person, who is mentally deficient and quite incapable of learning anything, happens to touch or pass his hand over the writ¬ten words like 'Krishna', 'Rama', etc., or if the words or Names like 'Krisna', 'Rama', etc., are tattooed on any part of his body, it amounts to his having Namabhas or the dim reflection of the Divine Name. Namabhas also includes utterance or hearing of the Divine Name in an unconscious or delirious state, or uttering or hearing It on one's deathbed, even unintentionally as was the case with Ajamil. When the Divine Name reflects on the human mind as in a flash, or when the human being happens to perceive the Divine Name in any way, at any time or under any circumstances, by any of his senseorgans or senses, it unequivocally amounts to his having Namabhas and the result unfailingly will be his emancipation from worldly bondage.
"Sanatkumar says to Narada, "O Narada! He who somehow hap¬pens to utter the Lord's Name during his speech, or when he some¬how happens to remember or hear It clearly or otherwise, or with or without impediments between the utterance of the different syllables of the Name, truly crosses this ocean of worldliness; but if It is employed selfishly in the acquisition of wealth, or the acquirement of means of livelihood or as a means in winning name and fame or in acquiring the object of one's greed or amongst the infidels, the realisation of the highest goal which is the primary result of taking the Name, is certainly not immediately accomplished. If one hap¬pens to utter the Name under some pretext other than the intentional utterance (of the Name of the Lord), similarly if It somehow Hashes on the mind, or It some how, i.e., even a part of the Name enters the ears whether distinctly or indistinctly or if the utterance or hearing is uninterrupted and undisturbed, i.e., without any interference by words or sounds while uttering the Name in full, i.e., without uttering in parts, interrupted by other words, or in words like 'Halam riktam', the syllables 'Ha-ri' are there or in the words 'Raja mahishi', the syllables 'Ra-ma exist; in this way other Names may exist in combi¬nation of words, so utterance or hearing without such interruption, or with such interruption, i.e., after one utters a part of the Name, he composes or applies his mind to the unuttered part of the Name, i.e., frequently interrupted by other words between the utterance of the individual syllables of the Name; or when only a part of the Name is uttered and the other part is not uttered at all, i.e., incomplete utter¬ance of the Name; even then the Name or part of the Name does help the utterer to cross this ocean of worldliness; It certainly liberates him from the evil consequences of all his sins and offences. But the primary fruit resulting from the service of the Name is not immedi¬ately achieved. Similarly if the service of the Name is utilised for earning one's bread and butter, the achievement of the main goal, i.e., Shri Krishna Prem, does not readily succeed. Will not the Name achieve Its effects, if It is employed as a means of earning one's livelihood? yes, certainly It will. But in this world ll will not imme¬diately yield the result, i.e., the result will be accomplished Only af¬ter a good deal of delay."241
¦ "When the Yavan (the Muslim) as was being torn to pieces by the wild boar, with its tusk-like teeth, uttered 'Haram', 'Haram'.hc got liberation. How astounding would the result be if the Name is uttered with implicit faith?" "When Ajamil on his deathbed, taking the Name 'Narayana' intended to call his son, went to Shri Vishnu's Abode, what would be the result if one takes It with implicit faith?" To prove that those who experience even Namabhas or the dim re¬flection of the Name-which forms the initial stage of the other devo¬tional modes like Sravana, Kirtan, etc., are not under the control of Yama-the god of death, Shri Vyasadev concludes the chapter by quot¬ing the example of Ajamil. He gives the clear meaning of the Glory of the Name in a single sentence. Ajamil uttered the Name 'Narayana' while on his deathbed without faith; how amazing would the result be if It is taken with faith? He took the Name while dying or on his deathbed; how much more beneficial would the result be if one
takes It during his whole lifetime? He uttered the Name to call his son; how much more beneficial would the result be if he utters It to call the Lord Himself? Besides Ajamil, who was a great sinner, achieved the abode of Shri Vishnu; how grand would the result be if an extremely guiltless or pure person takes the Name? The Glory of 'Shri Hari Nama' has been expounded by the use of the argument 'a fortiori',"241 or "Kaimutik Nyayah, which means a maxim of 'how much more', or 'how much less'. The following Slokas will clarify its significance. "Does it need a special mention that the Kaustubh gem which is more brilliant than a hundred crores of suns, is more effulgent than an ordinary lamp?" "Is it not ridiculous to say that a certain darkness which is throughly dispelled even by a small lamp, fails to disappear in the presence of the Kaustubh gem, more resplendent than even a hundred crores of suns?"2421
saanketyam paarihaasyam vaa stobham helanam eva vaa,
vaikuntha-naama-grahanam sheshaagha-haram viduh..243
tam nirvyaajam bhaja guna-nidhe paavanam paavanaanaam shraddhaa-rajyan-matir atitaraam uttamah-shloka-maulim,
prodyann antah-karana-kuhare hanta yan-naama-bhaanor aabhaaso ’pi kshapayati mahaa-paataka-dhvaanta-raashim..244
Namabhas according to Shrimad Bhagavata are of four types."(1) Sanketya- unintentional and indirect utterance of the Holy Name as in the case of Ajmail, (2) Parihasya- taking the Name while indiferentely cutting jokes with others, (3) Stobh- taking the Name while singing songs, and (4) Hela- inattentive or negligent uttering of the Name. The above four types of the dim reflection of the Holy Name are competent enough to save the soul from the bondage of Maya."243 Vidur says to Dhritarashtra, "Avoiding all insincerity, with real faith, and steadfast devotion, worship Shri Krishna, Who is the Repository of all virtues, of excellent fame, Who is the Purifier of all that is sacred, Whose sun-like Name even by Its dim reflection when It illumines the minutest chamber of one's heart, destroys forthwith all the gloom of the worst forms of sins."244 "O the Sun of Bhagavan Nama! Is there any fortunate soul in the infinite number of universes who is competent enough to esteem fully Your Glories? Even Your dim reflection in the hearts of mankind enveloped in the darkness of power, dispels all darkness from their minds, and imparts enlighten¬ment on loving devotion even to the utterly ignorant of the Absolute Truth."245 "These Vaikunth Parshadas, with the intention of protect¬ing those devotees who happen to utter, or hear, or happen to have even a dim reflection of the Lord's Name, even at the time of their death, from the fear of all impediments to devotion, and spreading the pure cult of Bhakti, move about everywhere according to their own desire, as they are the protectors of Bhakti."24" "One gets libera¬tion, even by the dim reflection of the Lord's Name, or when It is just uttered, or even when It enters his ears. To elucidate the Glory of the devotional cult, emancipation of the Lord's devotees is very easily achieved, by the service of the Lord's Names, or even by the faintest reflection of any one of the Names, howsoever uttered, i.e., uttered jokingly, or even slightingly, etc., or if the Name just throbs on the tip of the tongue, or even if the sound of the Name somehow enters the ears. Ajamil, by calling his son Naiayana by name, went to Vaikunth. Varaha Purana says, "A Brahmin was sitting in water en¬grossed in meditation. A tiger which came there to eat him, was shot by a hunter. Before it breathed its last, because it heard the Lord's Name uttered by the Brahmin, it obtained liberation."247
We have now understood beyond doubt that the primary result of chanting the Divine Name is the attainment of Divine Love for the Lord. Love, being the most sublime attainment and the rarest of rare virtues, is achieved by the
uttering the Name lovingly. Love is its own reward. ' One who practises the chanting of the Holy Name with a longing heart for this Sub¬lime Goal-Prem must necessarily and invariably pray for that and that alone from the Lord. "Millions of tongues chant His Name and sing His praises and millions of souls are flooded with Love, because they looking on His Face utter His Name, Which is as Potent as His Love. For His Name contains Himself, and those, who utter His Name have Him in their hearts and to! the world to them is complete!" Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in His fourth Sloka of Sikshashtak teaches us how we should pray while taking the Name:-
na dhanam na janam na sundarim kavitaam vaa jagad-isha kaamaye,
mama janmani janmanishvare bhavataad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi..248
"O Lord! May I approach Your Lotus Feet with a humble prayer? Is this unworthy wretch eligible to approach Your ever pure Lotus Feet? I am not uttering Your Names with any expectation from You; no, not in the least. My Lord! I do not ask from you any relief for the various physical ailments I am often subject to; You are not like a mere physician to me; nor Your Name even. I do not covet material learning, popularity, or reputation. From the worldly point of view, I may not be in affluent circumstances. It matters very little to me. I do not hanker after paradise where greater- yes, far greater luxuries for comparatively many more number of year are offered, a paradise where every inhabitant is free from hunger, thirst, or similar physical necessities, where 'ambrosia' itself forms the food of every individual and where none even dreams of death or decrepitude. Never, do I long to be born in a place, where every tree is a wish-yielding one. By Your Mercy I covet not for any of these achievements. I neither crave for the five types of liberations which You are ready to give to those who approach You nor for supernatural attainments offered to Yogis. Crores of births in any form I am willing to accept provided You are merciful to grant one favour to this insignificant servant of Yours. Bless me that I may sing Your Names and Glories in all my births! My Lord! You are the very Embodiment of Mercy, an ever-flowing Ocean of Kindness. This is the only prayer I have to ask of You in my life. Let me be blessed with unflinching and selfless devo¬tion to Your Lotus Feet. Let me be saturated incessantly with such loving devotion to You. Let my determination to serve You materialise in all its fullness, and let there be no end to it. Alas! What amount of attachment I am having to the transitory objects of the material world? Lord! Have Mercy on me; transform this present attachment of mine into one to Your Lotus Feet. O Lord! I pray for no separation be¬tween You and me! A day without Your remembrances, without singing Your Names and Glories, is worse than death itself-the most un¬thinkable disaster in my life! Lord! let me not fall a prey to this calamity. Let not these circumstances, happy or unhappy, stand in my way of rendering services to You. Let my devotion towards You grow in proportion to Your munificence. My Lord! It matters not if I take birth in any form, anywhere in the infinite number of universes; only I must be blessed with selfless loving devotion to Your Lotus Feet. Be merciful to grant my humble prayer."248
naasthaa dharme na vasu-nicaye naiva kaamopabhoge yad bhaavyam tad bhavatu bhagavan purva-karmaanurupam,
etat praarthyam mama bahu matam janma-janmaantare ’pi tvat-paadaambhoruha-yuga-gataa nishcalaa bhaktir astu..249
"The Prem Bhakta wants nothing from his Lord, no boon, no blessssing, material or celestial, not even salvation or Mukti, noth¬ing, nothing save-the blessings of being filled with Love for Him. He prays to his Lord. "O Krishna! It matters not what betides my body, my life, or my earthly circumstances, or in what form of life I am reborn, e\'en if it be that of a worm, let my faith and love be fixed in Thee, my Beloved. Whatever is there in all existence comparted with the luxury of loving Thee ? Thou art the Sum'Total of the realisation of all the desires, of all happiness, Thou, the Secret and Object of all our longing!" A Sloka with similar meaning is seen in Shri Mukundamala Stotra too. "I have no special belief in the performance of pious activities, nor in worldly riches, nor in the gratification of my sensuous pleasures. May all those things come to pass as they are ordained to, O Lord! according to the nature of my previous actions. But this alone is what I regard as worthy of being prayed for, and what I cherish very much. May I retain unswerving devotion that is inspired by the Divine Lotus Feet, in all my successive births!"249
What is the true conception of this unflinching devotion which every sincere aspirant for the Holy Name should aspire after? Reli¬gion in its broader sense is nothing but Love for Godhead. No otherac hievement of humanity is higher than that of this Love. Bhakli or devotion to Lord is the alpha and omega of Life in India. It is the very
essence of India and in fact, our sacred India breathes through this noble quality. From days of hoary antiquity till today, India has come across and been blessd with the thrilling lives and experiences of a vast galaxy of Bhaktas. Their ideal lives and teachings have maintained this perennial flow of devotion even to¬day uninterrupted in our land which is itself named 'Bharata' after the name of a great Bhakta and King who once ruled over our sacred land. Bhakti! Ah! what a marvellous power-house it is! Immense are its potentialities. Who in India has not ever heard the unparalleled and innumerable efficacies and influences of Bhakti or devotion? Who is there in our land who is not moved by the soul-stirring expe¬riences of a regular stream of devotees? Bhakti is not a matter of occasional emotions, but a life of positive living and continuous ex¬periences that can independently claim the highest of achievements which no other course of religious practice can ever dream of.Bhakti is defined in various ways by its different exponents.The derivation of the word 'Bhakti' is from the verbal root 'Bhaj'
which means complete service or Sever. This service is the special feature of Bhakti. It is this that distinguishes Bhakti from the other cults. This method of service consists in complete submission of one's body, mind, and words in pleasing the Supreme Lord. The world 'service' should not be confused with the various kinds of activities such as the service of the nation, country, society, the poor, etc., with which it is usually being identified. Here, the word, 'service' means the service of the Lord. Activities of a religious nature, very often guided by fear, hatred, etc., or the feeling of identity with the Attributeless Brahman are not styled as Bhakti since the quality of submission is always lacking in such course. Those activities that are current in this world at present and passing under the names of duty, service of country, etc., as the equivalents of religious activities deserving of our highest esteem, are but of the nature of efforts for the procurement of sensuous enjoyment, each for himself, by the members of atheistic societies. There is absolutely no question of the service of Godhead in any of those functions. On the contrary, there is to be found in them only the desire for exploiting Shri Krishna and His devotees for the gratification of one's senses. The society of athe¬ists who are devoid of any intention of serving the Transcendental Lord are deceiving themselves and others by their mental specula¬tions. Those functions or ideas are located far away from the truth, and will continue to remain so even if the entire population of the world agree to accept them as true. The selfless, uninterrupted, and unalloyed service of the Supreme Lord is the only universal religion of all conditioned souls. In that religion there are no elements of deception in the forms of frutitive activity, empiric knowledge, etc.
sarvopaadhi-vinirmuktam tat-paratvena nirmalam,
hrishikena hrishikesha- sevanam bhaktir ucyate..250
(bhakti rasa sindhu,1.1.12)
Mano gateerabichinna....(Shrimad Bhagavatam,3.29.11)252
Sa twasimna parma premarupa.253
aanukulyena krishnaanu- shilanam bhaktir uttamaa..254
(bhakti rasa sindhu,1.1.11)
"Service of the Lord of the senses (Hrishikes) through all the senses is called 'Bhakti'or devotion, which is free from all obstacles and pure by reason of its being exclusively devoted to Shri Krishna."250
It is the predominance of knowledge born of our limited material senses and aversion to the service of Godhead that have acted as two sheaths covering us, leaving us in this present state of bondage. The sage Sandilya explains Bhakti as "the highest kind of attachment to the Lord with unflinching love. "251 Shrimad Bhagavata, the crest-jewel of all the Sastras declares it as the most sublime religion "the unin¬terrupted flow of mind towards Bhagavan."252 The great Narada in his Bhakti Sutras mentions it as "intense unalloyed love for Bhagavan."253' Shri Rupa Gosvami defines it thus:- "The harmoni¬ous pursuit of Shri Krishna by being favourably disposed towards Him and free from all other desires and unconditioned by Jnan, Karma, etc., is known as "Uttama Bhakti'.254 Shri Jiva Gosvami while commenting on the above Sloka mentions that the word 'har¬monious' (Anukulyen) means that the pursit must be favourable or agreeble to minister to the pleasures of Shri Krishna directtly. He is the.Sole Enjoyer of all services rendered by His devotees. Those who are engaged busily day in and day out, in rendering services tlhat are most pleasing to Him by words, deeds, or thoughts, are knowni as true devotees. Various prayers that human beings offer to Him ;are not of this nature. They do not directly please Him. The repeatted entreaties of conditioned souls, fallen in the .whirlpool of endhess sufferings, have no capacity in them to order delight to the Senses^ of the Lord. They may attract His attention or even redeem them fnom their difficulties; but they do not render any special gratificationi to Him or to His Senses. Those who offer such prayers, may get soime benefits and thereby satisfaction for themselves, but the Lord Whco is the Object of the prayer does not get any. Just as a person in tthis world, who is luxurious by nature, and esteemed by position, is pleaised by his praises and by the supply of objects that would assist or ien¬hance his enjoying facilities, even so, the Supreme Lord, Who is the Sole Enjoyer of all the created objects, feels extremely pleased with our services that would provide enjoyment to Him. Supplying the necessities, that would cater to His taste or doing similar actions tthat would directly please Him, are to be understood as the loyal punsuit towards Shri Krishna. Persons given to demoniacal tendencies ;and always of an inimical disposition towards Bhagavan also rendered some satisfaction to Him. By picking up quarrels with Him and! by engaging Him in regular battle, they too have brought out His heiroic propensities. This is only an indirect or unfavourable (Pratikul) ap¬proach to Him. These demons only opposed Him in every way anid at all times. The very thought of Bhagavan enraged and provoked tlhem to challenge His very Authority. Whereas, for a devotee, a reflec¬tion of His recollections makes him float on the rolling waves of an unsurpassable ocean of eternal joy, converts the entire struc¬ture of his into a magnificent power-house of spiritual inspira¬tions enriched with thrilling experiences. Tlie illustrious andl ex¬emplary lives of a host of great devotees, like Nanda Maharaj, Yasoda, the milk-maids of Vraja headed by Shri Radhika, etc., are to be striictly followed in this respect.
The meaning of the word 'Anusilanam' can be roughly expressed as 'submissive pursuit'. This pursuit is twofold:- (1) Activities guided by the impulse of body, mind, and words (Kriyarupa), and (2) actu¬ated by spontaneous feelings (Bhavarupa). Bhakti is awakened by the causeless Mercy of Bhagavan's bliss yielding potency. It is not attained by human efforts alone. Without the Mercy of Bhagavan or Bliaktas, the attainment of Bhakti is not only difficult, but simply impossible. When by the blessings of a Bhakta, a particular indi¬vidual is favoured and permitted to the course, his life and activities are infused with devotional tendencies. Each and every sense-organ of his gets the fitness to perform the functions pertaining to Bhakti.
Shri krishna sambandhynu silanm.255
shri krishnaarth manusilanm.256
Kriyarupa Bhakti consists in the practice of the sixty-four princples (fn. 159) guided by the nature of action the other one, viz., Bhavarupa or actuated by spontaneous feelings, is the mental cul¬ture of devotional principles, such as attachment to the Lord, Love for Him, etc. It is essential that an aspirant must possess both these qualifications and activities in him. The loyal practice of favourable activities towards the pleasure of Shri'Krishna is of two types: (1) Functions that are of direct relationship with Shri Krishna,255 and (2) activities that are done for the sake of Shri Krishna.256 '' Both the obser¬vances are performed for the pleasure of Shri Krishna. The first one is of immediate and direct relationship with Shri Krishna. They are ac¬tions like that of feeding Him, playing with Him, looking to such other Personal comforts, and necessities. The other one is not in the form of a Personal service, but it accelerates the functions aimed to secure the pleasure of Shri Krishna, e.g., the various religious rites, chanties, etc., observed on the occasion of the Advent of Shri Krishna by Nanda Maharaj, Vasudev, etc. These practices when observed with a purely devotional motive, glorify the occasion, and hence form one way of rendering loving devotion of Shri Krishna.
kshine punye martya-lokam vishanti.257
The above twofold ways of devotional activities, are not to be confused, with the pious acts of various charitably-disposed persons, with the object of earning religious merits or name and fame. It is love for one's own sensuous gratification, lurking in the heart, that manifests itself in a variety of forms in the shape of patriotism, feed¬ing the poor, distribution of clothings, starting of charitable hospitals and dispensaries, digging of well and tanks, and various other activi¬ties of such nature. The performers of such deeds attain enjoyments of greater degree, tit for the gods as the fruit of their actions. These enjoyments in Svarga have got their own duration. "When one's mer¬its are completely exhausted, the enjoyer of heavenly bliss would revert once again to the earthly condition."257 Tlie devotees of the Lord are not after such insignificant and transitory results, Hence, they perform these acts with the object of pleasing Bhagavan, con¬trary to those of the other people of the world, who do the same for self-aggrandisement.
By the usage of the word 'Anyabhilasliita', all desires other than that of the direct service to Shri Krishna, such as a desire for the en¬joyment of the transitory pleasures of the material world (Bhog Vasana), and a desire for liberation (Moksha Vasana) are prohibited, as they are harmful to the growth of Bhakti, and hence they are unac¬ceptable. Jnan means the knowledge of the indentity of the , Attributeless Brahman and Jiva (Nirbheda Bralunanusandhaii) which is the worst impediment in the path of Bhakti. If this unfortunate idea creeps into the heart of an aspirant, his efforts in the cult of Bhakti are doomed to failure and disappointment. Tlie world 'Karma'refers to the daily, compulsory, and occasional religious duties mentioned in the orthodox Smritis. The word 'Karma'docs not indicate the vari¬ous devotional activities,.performed by the devotees to the pleasure of Shri Krishna (Bhajaniya Paricharyadi), so also the usage of Jnan. A sincere quest for the Truth in a submissive spirit, and the study of the knowledge about Godhead, congenial to the progress of devo¬tees, are not in any way discouraged. Karma, Jnan, Vairagya, and other virtues, such as self-control (Yama), purity (suchi), etc., are not the proper means for the attainment of Bhakti. These qualifica¬tions by themselves are neither Bhakti, nor are they capable of awak¬ening Bhakti in a person. When any person is fortunate enough to attain Bhakti, all these virtues automatically lend grace to him.
In the above Sloka, Shri Rupa Gosvami describes the negative and positive features of pure devotion. Devotion proper and a show of the same, guided by ulterior motives, though they appear appar¬ently similar, are entirely different with reference to results. Unless there is proper enlightenment, we are apt to be confused while mak¬ing a choice. To save the humans from such grave dangers, is one of the purposes of these divine personages, when they make their ap¬pearance in tliis world. From the negative aspect, unalloyed devotion is absolutely free from hankerings that are averse to or do not con¬tribute to the pleasures of the Supreme Lord. These undesirable han¬kerings, are to be totally avoided by those who yearn for loving de¬votion to Bhagavan.
Shriman Mahaprabhu, while expounding unalloyed devotion to Shri Rupa Gosvami at Allahabad, makes a mention of these obnox¬ious and unhealthy temptations as the worst impediments to the growth of devotion of Godhead. The .negative nature of Bhakti, strictly eschews all the unfavourable tendencies in the development of devo¬tion. It avoids all activities where religion, mainly devotion to the Lord, is at a discount. An excessive desire for enjoying the transitory pleasures of this world or paradise is an awful impediment to the attainment of Bhakti. A longing to retire even from the service of the Lord and lose oneself completely in the Formless Attributeless Brah¬man, is a greater evil in the realisation of Bhakti. The positive aspect of Bhakti consists in observing devotional practices in a most loyal way, to the entire satisfaction of Shri Krishna. It wants to please the Lord in the manner that is most agreeable to Him.
mad-guna-shruti-maatrena mayi sarva-guhaashaye,
mano-gatir avicchinnaa yathaa gangaambhaso ’mbudhau.
lakshanam bhakti-yogasya nirgunasya hy udaahritam,
ahaituky avyavahitaa yaa bhaktih purushottame..258
na paarameshthyam na mahendra-dhishnyam na saarvabhaumam na rasaadhipatyam,
na yoga-siddhir apunar-bhavam vaa mayy arpitaatmecchati mad vinaanyat..260
sa eva bhakti-yogaakhya aatyantika udaahritah,
yenaativrajya tri-gunam mad-bhaavaayopapadyate..261
sa vai pumsaam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokshaje,
ahaituky apratihataa yayaatmaa suprasidati..262
"By merely hearing the discourses or talks regarding My Tran¬scendental Glories from a Bhakta, he experiences a continuous flow of the mind towards Me, the Indwelling Monitor in all the hearts of beings, like that of the stream of the Ganges towards the ocean. This is the distinguishing characteristic of devotion, free from all mun¬dane qualities in it. This devotion to Me, Who am the Supreme Be-ing is selfless and uninterrupted."258 "My devotees never accept from Me any reward in exchange for their services, such as residence in My own realm Vaikunth, having powers similar to Mine, proximity tb My presence, a form resembling My Ownself, or complete ab¬sorption in Me, though offered by Myself. This is because they are not enamoured of any other gifts except My Transcendental Ser¬vice."259 "He, who has completely surrendered himself to Me, never covets for the attainment of high positions like that of Brahma, Indra, sovereignty over all including the nether worlds, supernatural attain¬ments obtainable by Yogic practices, or even the achievement of lib¬eration, except My eternal service."260 "It is such devotion as de¬scribed above that is perfect. By means of such devotion, all Jivas transcend the limits of the triple material qualities and attain the un¬alloyed love for Me."261 Tliis devotion or Bhakti is not merely a temporary means of attaining liberation as many misrepresent it. Bhakti is both the means as well as the end in itself. Shrimad Bhagavata has explained it as the highest religion of all souls. "That function by means of which Bhakti in Adhokshaj (Transcendental Godhead) is aroused, is the highest Dharma of man. Such devotion possesses two distinguishing features in it, viz., (1) it is Ahaituki-Selfless, i.e., not guided by any selfish motive except the selfless desire of pleasing the Supreme Lord, and (2) Apratihata- uninter¬rupted; since it is spontaneous, nothing can arrest its course. It is beyond the pleasure or pain of the mundane sphere. It is only by such spontaneous devotion, the soul is fully satisfied.262
The word 'Adhokshaj' used in the above passage means 'He Who transcends all knowledge born of senses', 'He, Who exists beyond the scope of human intelligence'. He is no other than Shri Krishna himself. The Love towards the Transcendental Reality, that is pro¬duced by the practice of the highest Dharma is known as Bhakti or Seva. This is not based on any adventitious cause. Therefore, it con¬tinues ever unintemipted. Worship that is ordinarily found based on desires for the acquisition of religious merit (Dharma), worldly pros¬perity (Artha), sensuous gratification (Kama), and emancipation (Moksha) is not pure devotion (Suddha Bhakti); and the temporary outbursts of emotions too, subjected by the influence of time, space, and other circumstances are also not genuine expressions of real Bhakti or devotion. Pure devotion is selfless; it is based on the desire for the exclusive Love of the Transcendental Lord. It is also the natural function of all the Jivas. This is the summum honum of human existence, and hence surpasses all other conceptions of Dharmas, which are called Apar. The uninterrupted happiness which is coveted by all souls is attained only by this method of unalloyed devotion. The world 'soul' that is used in the Sloka does not mean the perishable body made up of the five elements (Pancha Bhutas), and the ten organs of senses; nor does it mean the mind, the eleventh sense the present ruler of the sense-organs. All efforts of the body or the mind of the Jiva, result only in gratifying his material senses, and hence is not the Love of the Lord. Tlie service of the Transcendental Lord is not certainly for the satisfaction of any of our senses.
Bhakti, by reason of its being Para Dharama is superior to all other forms of worship. Since it is the natural function of the Jiva, it is entirely selfless, whereas, all other methods, such as Jnan, Yoga, Karma, etc., have got their own interests. True devotion, as we have already dealt with, aims merely at the Supreme plea¬sures of Bhagavan as its final goal. Jnan or knowledge, with its renunciation, aims at the realisation of the Attributeless Brahman and complete absoipotion in the same for freeing the Jiva from the thraldom of nescience. Yoga with its eightfold practices wants to (lose itself in Paramatma. Karma consisting of obedience to scrip¬tural rules and regulations and by dedication of all its fruits to Bhagavan, can only secure a proneness towards the Supreme Lord. All these methods are inferior to exclusive devotion or Kevala Bhakti, which aims at all costs, only the supreme pleasures of the Lord. To a real Bhakta, true Moksha or liberation lies neither in the attainment of the Attributeless Brahman, including complete merging in the same advocated by the Jnanis, nor in the realisation of Paramatma of the Yogis. To him, Moksha means direct vision of the Lord and His realisation in His highest Manifestation as Svayam Bhagavan. This sublime realisation is only possible by undiluted Bhakti alone.
tasmaan mad-bhakti-yuktasya yogino vai mad-aatmanah,
na jnaanam na ca vairaagyam praayah shreyo bhaved iha..263
shreyah-shritim bhaktim udasya te vibho klishyanti ye kevala-bodha-labdhaye,
teshaam asau kleshala eva shishyate naanyad yathaa sthula-tushaavaghaatinaam..264
bhagavad-bhakti-hinasya jaatih shaastram japas tapah,
apraanasyeva dehasya mandanam loka-ranjanam.
shucih sad-bhakti-diptaagni- dagdha-durjaati-kalmashah
shva-paako ’pi budhaih shlaaghyo na veda-jno ’pi naastikah..265
(Hari bhakti sudha,3.11-12)
Hence, it needs no mention that to those fortunate enough to have Bliakti, Jnan will come by itself. By having the realisation of Bhagavan, one automatically gets into all the secrets of the other imperfect and partial Manifestations of the Lord. Therefore, it is not essential that a person aspiring after Bliakti is to follow the paths of Jnan or Yoga. "Hence, for those Yogis who have intense devotion to Me, and whose minds are ever devoted to Me, the efforts for the practice of Jnan or dispassion are not at all beneficial for the attain¬ment of their real good."263 "O Lord! The efforts of those, who aban¬doning the path of pure devotion- the fount of all well-being, aspire after the abstract knowledge or dry wisdom, end in fruitless toil and trouble like the exertions of those who thrash empty husks of corn."264
During the conversation of Shri Vallabhacharya, the founder of Pushtimarga with Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu at Allahabad, the latter gave out His view on Bhakti, in the most unambiguous and illumi¬nating words thus"- "A Chandal of righteous character who is puri¬fied from the evil effects of being born in a low caste, by the blazing fire of his devotional fervour, is indeed an object or esteem, even to eminent scholars; but likewise an atheist, even if he be an erudite scholar, in all the Vedas, is not honoured. All the high compliments,such as lineage, vast erudition in all the Sastras, muttering of the Mantras countless times, and severe austerities, in a person devoid of any spirit of devotion to the Supreme Lord, are merely lifeless exhibitions only, leading to the satisfaction of the worldly-minded. They are like the decorating of a corpse with costly articles, such as attractive costumes, fascinating perfumes, and ornaments studded with precious gems."265 There are many Slokas of the same spirit that speak emphatically, unambiguously and in a comparative way, the unique position of Bhakti over all other modes of religious practices.
na saadhayati maam yogo na saankhyam dharma uddhava,
na svaadhyaayas tapas tyaago yathaa bhaktir mamorjitaa..266
Even emancipated souls are not fully satisfied with their attain¬ment of Moksha, and therefore, engage themselves in the devotional services of Bhagavan. The paths of Jnan and Yoga lead their respec¬tive votaries to the realisation of Brahman and Paramatma, who are only the incomplete and partial aspects of Bhagavan. The path of Karma, with dedication to Bhagavan is only a gateway to all such practices. It is not a necessary means to the attaining of Bhakti. All these different paths help humanity to wipe out their averseness or Vaimukhya, to the Lord, the root cause of all their sufferings they are having at present and replace it with Sammukhya or proneness to the Lord instead. Since human beings are ceaselessly struggling under varying degrees of eligibilities, one single course, however sublime it may be, does not prove effective to suit their individual capacities. Hence, the All-Merciful Lord, through the Sastras, has prescribed different methods to satisfy the eligibilities of different persons. But, when Bhakti is attained, all other paths appear inferior to Bhakti which is always independent. It grows by itself spontaneously It does not require the support of either Karma, Jnan, or Yoga. Whereas, in the case of all other methods, such as Karma, Jnan, Yoga, Vairagya, etc., they are to depend chiefly upon the mercy of Bhakti. None of them independently can lead their respective followers to the ulti¬mate goal of realising Transcendental Bliss. Hence, Bhakti, free from all these courses occupies the supreme position over all other reli¬gious practices mentioned in the Sastras. "() Uddhav! a well-devel¬oped and unalloyed devotion to Me wins My Heart, and other prac¬tices, such as Yoga, Sankhya, the observance of socio-religious du¬ties, study of Vedas, severe austerities, and renunciation are unable to do so."266
vyadhasyacaranam dhruvasya ca vayo vidya gajendrasya ka kubjayah kim u nama rupam adhikam kim tat sudamno dhanam,
vamsah ko vidurasya yadava-pater ugrasya kim paurusham bhaktya tushyati kevalam na ca gunair bhakti-priyo madhavah..267
Of all the spiritual practices mentioned for realising Bhagavan,nothing is more popular and appealing like Bhakti to the masses as well as classes in India. Bhakti is so catholic that it is accessible to one and all irrespective
of caste, creed, sex or age. Both the literate and the illiterate are equally placed with regard to it. It is free from rigid restrictions as seen in other practices. It is intended for all times and can be observed
under all conditions, in all places and by all beings. No other mode of worship is so pleasing to Bhagavan as Bhakti itself. "What were the religious practices that Dharma-Vyadha observed? How old was Phruv? Did the great Gajendra possess any learning? Was, Kubja-the servant-maid and the hunchbacked woman ever beautiful enough to attract the Lord? Was the devoted Brahmin Sudama ever wealthy? What was the social status of Vidur? What prowess had
Ugrasen, the King of Yadavas? Did not these devotees captivate the Lord? Certainly, they did. By what qualities? By pure Bhakti and Bhakti alone. The Lord is delighted by Bhakti and Bhakti alone and not by the acquirement of any other virtues."267
akaamah sarva-kaamo vaa moksha-kaama udaara-dhih,
tivrena bhakti-yogena yajeta purusham param..268
Bhagavan was extremely pleased with Gajendra on the merits of Bhakti alone. The incomparable glory of Bhakti being such, all the Sastras, the saints, and the Lord insist on all the practise devotion.It is desirable and preferable for one and all irrespective of his eligibil¬ity or status to follow the path of BhaM in all sincerity. "A wise person guided by innumerable desires in him, Whether he is ever entent upon attaining Bhakti alone, or seeking liberation, should worship the Supreme Lord with intense devotion."268 Bhakti is a very vast subject. Its characteristics are innumerable. A few of the impor¬tant features, as expounded by the eternal devotees, are elucidated below in order to correct many of the erroneous notions.
klesha-ghni shubha-daa moksha-laghutaa-krit su-durlabhaa,
saandraananda-visheshaatmaa shri-krishnaakarshini ca saa..269
"Utlama Bhakti is the destroyer of misery, giver of good, in-spirer of contempt for Moksha (emancipation from worldly bond¬age), extremely difficult to obtain, the essence 0f the most highly concentrated bliss, and ca-
pable of attracting Shri Krishna Himself. "269 1. KlesaghnaWa- capacity for removing miseries. Various miseries that are mercilessly torturing humanity irrespective of any position are mainly due to (1) sins (Papa), (2) the seed of sin (Papahij), and (3) nescience (Avidya). Sins that we have committed are twofold: (1) Frarahdha, and (2) Aprarabdha. When the fruits of sins have matured they are called Prarahdha; when they are yet to mature they are known as Aprarabdha. A person who is fortunate enough to obtain Bhakti, is always freed from sinful activities. Even when he attains strong faith which is the qualification for gaining Bhakti, he abstains from the sinful actions. Sinful impulses, 'the seed of sin' also find no place in the heart of those who are sanctified by pure devotion. Error regarding the knowledge of one's own self- the Jivatma, is nescience. While making progress towards unalloyed de¬votion, a Jiva is enabled to understand his true natuer. It experiences that it is not an entity of the material world nor has it any permanent relationship with its physical and mental cases in which it is a pris¬oner at present. Its false ego or misidentification of its own self with the gross or subtle organism, leaves it for ever. It comes to know for certain that it is an eternal servant of the Supreme Lord. The cause of all our suffering is due to the misidentification, resulting from our averseness to Godhead. When the light of unalloyed devotion illumi¬nates the dark chambers of our heart, the root, cause of all such suf¬ferings is completely irradicated leaving no room for any further miseries.
yathaagnih susamriddhaarcih karoty edhaamsi bhasmasaat,
tathaa mad-vishayaa bhaktir uddhavainaamsi kritsnashah..270
tais taany aghaani puyante tapo-daana-vrataadibhih,
naadharmajam tad-dhridayam tad apishaanghri-sevayaa..271
yat-paada-pankaja-palaasha-vilaasa-bhaktyaa karmaashayam grathitam udgrathayanti santah,
tadvan na rikta-matayo yatayo ’pi ruddha-sroto-ganaas tam aranam bhaja vaasudevam..272
"Just as a blazing fire reduces every piece of fuel to ashes, even so, unflinching devotion to Me, strikes at the root of all sins."270 "The performance of expiatory acts, such as penance, liberal gifts, obser¬vance of religious vows, etc., no doubt delivers a sinner from the various sins he has committed. But these actions are incapable of removing -the impurities caused by the practice of irreligious activi¬ties guided by the impulse of sin. It is only by the service of the Lord that this impulse of sin can be totally destroyed."271 "Bhaktas, by meditating with love upon the ever-effulgent Toes of the Lotus Feet of the Supreme Lord gradually destroy the evil knots of Karma eas¬ily; but those Yogis, who have experienced even Niivikalpa Samadhi, though dispassionate, having control over their flowing senses, could not succeed in their efforts to cut assunder the knots of Karma. Hence, avoiding all those futile attempts for controlling the senses, serve Bhagavan Shri Vasudev with loving devotion. "272
yasyaasti bhaktir bhagavaty akincanaa sarvair gunais tatra samaasate suraah,
haraav abhaktasya kuto mahad-gunaa mano-rathenaasati dhaavato bahih..273
2. Subhadatva- capacity for bestowing good of all types. By the astounding efficacy of this characteristic, a devotee is loved by one and all in the world. He becomes a living embodiment of various appreciable virtues. He experiences incessant happiness both exter¬nal and internal, spiritual and material. "All the gods with their excellent qualities reside in him, who is endowed with unflinching de¬votion to Shri Hari. But, where is the possibility of those great quali¬ties in one who is void of devotion to Shri Hari? He remains engrossed in the worldly activities and attachments guided by the evil dicta¬tions of his wavering mind."273 There is nothing in the infinite num-,ber of worlds which an intense devotion to Bhagavan would not of¬fer. A true Bhakta never casts a glance at anything other than his coveted goal, i.e., the attainment of love towards the object of his worship. As such, the highest benefit of realising the transcendental bliss is a certainty to him.
bhaktistvayi sthirataraa bhagavan yadi syaad daivena nah phalati divya-kishora-murtih,
muktih svayam mukulitaanjali sevate'smaan dharmaartha-kaama-gatayah samaya-pratikshaah..274
nimagnaanaam kim asmaakam nirvaana-lavanaambhasaa.
tvat-kathaamrita-paathodhau viharanto maha-mudah,
kurvanti kritinah kecic catur-vargam trinopanam..275
yadricchayaa labdham api vishnor dasharathes tu yah,
naicchan moksham vinaa daasyam tasmai hanumate namah..276
bhava-bandha-cchide tasyai sprihayaami na muktaye,
bhavaan prabhur aham daasa iti yatra vilupyate..277
3. Moksha-laghuta-karitva- capacity to create contempt for Moksha or liberation. Bhakti, when it awakens in a fortunate person, creates in him a contempt for Moksha which is always opposed to its progress. Bhakta never covets any attainment, however great it may be, which stands in the way of his eternal relationship with the Lord. The bliss arising out of genuine devotion to Bhagavan has no com¬parison to the aggregate happiness that all the worlds and the attain¬ment of various other methods can jointly offer. "O my Lord! If my love to You is quite firm, and if by good fortune, Your Divine Adoles¬cent Figure is obtained by me, then Mukti (liberation) itself will en¬treat me with folded hands to accept her in my service, and Dharma (parctice of routine religious rites), Artha (earthly wealth), and Kama (the desired objects) will wait for their turn for me. When I have Your Love, these four purusharthas, i.e., the four ends of human life, are not at all worth anything to me."274 "O Nanda's Son! Of what use is the salt-water of Nirvana, i.e., total emancipation to us, who are deeply absorbed in the great ocean of Nectarine Pastimes of Your Adolescence? Those fortunate few, who joyously dally in the floods of Your Nectarine Accounts, treat the four aims of human life quite as insignificant as a blade of straw."275 "I bow down to that Hanuman, who desired nothing except the service of Shri Vishnu-the Son of Dasaratha, even when he got Moksha, i.e., liberation, in¬explicably by some stroke of luck alone."276 "I covet not for that lib¬eration which frees one, from the cycle of births and deaths, by at¬taining which, the present relation between You as my Lord and I as Your humble servant, w;ll cease to exist."277
jnaanatah su-labhaa muktir bhuktir yajnaadi-punyatah,
seyam saadhana-saahasrair haari-bhaktih su-durlabhaa..278
(bhakti rasa sindhu,1.1.36)
matir na krishne paratah svato vaa mitho ’bhipadyeta griha-vrataanaam,
adaanta-gobhir vishataam tamisram punah punash carvita-carvanaanaam..279
raajan patir gurur alam bhavataam yadunaam daivam priyah kula-patih kva ca kinkaro vah,
astv evam anga bhagavaan bhajataam mukundo muktim dadaati karhicit sma na bhakti-yogam..280
4. Sudurlabhatva- extremely difficult to attain, Bhakti is not a cheap achievement that one can have by a mere wish. Even by ecounterine endless difficulties, in most cases Bhakti remains far from our reach; since no amount of human efforts independently can succeed in their sublime realisation. "By pursuing the path of Jnan, salvation in the form of realising Undifferentiated Brahman can surely be attained; heavenly enjoyments are easily gained by pious deeds, such as Yajna, etc., but despite thousands of such efforts unalloyed devotion to the Lord is unattainable."278 "Those householders who are the slaves of their passions, and hence extremely addicted to their bodies, and their surroundings, fail to attain devotion to Shri Krishna, either by their individual efforts, by the help of others, or by their combined co-operative attempts. Such householders only go on chew¬ing the chewed and left behind as utterly useless by their predeces¬sors."279 The goddess of devotion never imparts her blessings so easily as we mistake. She is prepared to offer us any other reward, such as Moksha, etc., for all our hardships, except Bhakti. On a minute scrutiny of the sincerity of the longing of one who struggles for Bhakti, she imparts it to him. "O King! Lord Mukunda was a Protector, Spiri¬tual Guide, Object of worship, and the family Guardian for all of you and the yadav race. Not only this much, but He even acted on certain occasions as your Mediator, Charioteer, etc., too. Over and above all these, He even bestows salvation or Mukti upon those who worship Him; but He never endows Bhakti so readily upon one."280
alam alam iyam eva praaninaam paatakaanaam nirasana-vishaye yaa krishna krishneti vaani,
yadi bhavati mukunde bhaktir aananda-saandraa viluthati caranaabje moksha-saamraajya-lakshmih..281
antar-gatah sva-vivarena cakaara teshaam sankshobham akshara-jushaam api citta-tanvoh..282
5. Sandrananda-Viseshatmata- unalloyed devotion is the very essence of the most highly concentrated bliss. "The words 'Krishna', 'Krishna' are more than enough to destroy the sins of people, as that would amount to the. application of drastic remedy for a minor ail¬ment. A sinner is never able to perpetrate as many sins as the single utterance of the Name 'Hari' is able to destroy. But if ar¬dent devotion to the Lotus Feet of Shri Krishna springs thereby, the whole affluence of the empire of liberation will come abegging to his feet, looking askance at him. Hence, to usethe Name 'Krishna' for dispelling one's sins would be a serious insult to the 'Name', and hence a great offence by the aspirant."281
The bliss that a devotee can enjoy by rendering loving services to the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna has no comparison elsewhere. It is this achievement that prompts the devotees to reject any other offer from the Lord, however tempting it may be, to others who are the votaries of other paths. The type of bliss that accrues from devotional services, enables the devotee to enjoy a particular mood of compact happiness, infinitely higher than the one that flows from the attainment of the Abstract Brahman. Even if all other types of happiness- material or spiritual, are totalled to¬gether and multiplied a billionfold, it does not attain even eligibility to compare with this kind of Transcendental Bliss. Those who are fortunate enough to experience it are alone capable of speaking a few words on it. Invariably it is better realized than expressed. "When the great Sanak, Sanandan, etc., saw the Lotus-Eyed Lord Narayana approaching them, they had the experience of a breeze laden with the sweet perfume of Tulasi leaves coupled with Kesar. This fra¬grance entering into the deepest chambers of the hearts of those sages who were absorbed in the happiness of the Undifferentiated Brah¬man, not only created a thrill of joy in their bodies, but caused a flash of great delight in their minds as well."282
yuyam nri-loke bata bhuri-bhaagaa lokam punaanaa munayo ’bhiyanti,
yeshaam grihaan aavasatiti saakshaad gudham param brahma manushya-lingam..284
6. Shri Krishnakarshanatva- urialloyd devotion, possesses a special characteristic in it, to attract Bhagavan Shri Krishna Himself. Nothing excels this in its power to attract unalloyed devotion to the Lord, who becomes subservient to the devotees, Uttama Bhakti dis¬tinguishes itself from all other practices in this respect. Followers of the various other cults, even if successful in realising the Lord, never can claim such a sublime achievement. They may see Him, they may receive boons from Him, they may be saved from calamities, they may even be benefitted in many other ways, but none except His ardent devotees can bind the Lord with ties of love and affection. Even for the many devotees offering devotional services, guided by feelings of reverence, this experience is very limited. Many of them are denied this special privilege which is reserved for a few of His most loving devotees. Our scriptures give a good many incident to illustrate the above subject. Most of these events are so common and soul-stirring that they are day to day topics even amongst the igno¬rant masses. People forget themselves while discussing these capti¬vating events. They wonder, how the most powerful, Almighty Lord, the Protector, the Creator, and the Destroyer of the infinite number of universes-the Transcendental Autocrat becomes subdued by the genuine loving services of His beloved devotees.283 "Indeed, you are the most fortunate in the whole world, because those great sages- the purifiers off all the worlds, often visit your house, where lives the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna, Himself unrecognised in Human Form."284
bhukti-mukti-sprihaa yaavat pishaaci hridi vartate,
taavad bhakti-sukhasyaatra katham abhyudayo bhavet..285
The above six characteristics of unalloyed devotion are distrib¬uted amongst Sadhan Bhakti, Bhav Bhakti, and Prem Bhakti; the three different stages in unalloyed devotion. While in the stage of Sadhan Bhakti, it claims the first two, and when it develops into Bhav Bhakti, it gains two more, making the total four, and in the last stage, Prem Bhakti claims the remaining two, as its speciality in ad¬dition to the other four, making altogether the six characteristics. "So long as the desire for enjoyment of transitory pleasures and lib¬eration- the two evil spirits, haunts our hearts, how can we expect the joy of devotion to grow there."285
Both enjoyment and liberation are not the goals of human existence. Liberation is only the other side of enjoyment. Both of them can be compared with ugly devils. They cause the Jivas to fall away from their positive goal. These two are the worst impediments in the path of devotion. Hence, those who are wise and earnest in the realisation of Bhakti never throw themselves on the tender mercy of these loathsome devils, viz., enjoyment, and liberation.
shri-vishnoh shravane parikshid abhavad vaiyaasakih kirtane prahlaadah smarane tad-anghri-bhajane lakshmih prithuh pujane,
akruras tv abhivandane kapi-patir daasye 'tha sakhye 'rjunah sarvasvaatma-nivedane balir abhut krishnaaptir eshaam paraa..286
Bhakti as practised by the aspirants, are of two kinds- (1) Vaidhi-regulated by the rules and regulations of the scriptures, and (2)Raganuga- spontaneous longing for the loving services of Shri Krishna. In both the cases there
are the stages of Sadhan or practice. Regarding the details in the practices of Vaidhi Bhakti, we have already dealt with in 10th Chapter, footnote 159. There are sixty-four principles of devotional practices including the ninefold ways of devotion. All these sixty-four devotional activities are summarised in the ninefold ways of devotion. Each one, in these nine modes of devotion is competent enough to bring us the highest realisation. Some of the devotees practised one single mode, whereas, some practised all the nine modes. "The great King Parikshit is noted for hearing (Sravana) alone, Shri Sukadev for narrating the Transcen¬dental Excellence of the Lord (Kirtan), Prahlada is noted for remem¬brance of the Lord (Smarana) amidst all the atrocities inflicted on him by his hostile father, and his group of equally demoniac admir¬ers. Lakshmidevi is a typical example for tending the Feet of the LordfPadasevan), Prithu Maharaj is an ideal in ritualistic worship (Archan), Akrur distinguishes himself in the practice of bowing down (Vandan), Hanuman is an inspiring example for servitude (Dasya), Arjun, Uddhav, etc., stand for friendship (Sakhya), and the great ruler Mahabali is often spoken of as a glorious ideal of complete self-surrender (Atma Nivedan). "286 These devotees are famous in their observance of one form of devotion (Ekanga) alone, while the an¬cient King Ambarish stands reputed in the practice of more than one (Anekanga) Bhakti."287
Amongst the devotees of the Lord, the inhabitants of Vraja oc¬cupy the highest position. The kind of devotion they practised is known by the name 'Ragatmika'. The mode of loyally following in the foot¬steps of these Ragatmik Bhaktas, is styled as 'Raganuga Bhakti'. Raga is the spontaneous, deep and inseparable absorption in one's desired object of love (Ishtadev). In Vaidhi Bhakti, its followers lack a spontaneous inclination in them to the service of the Lord. They are to be regulated and inspired by the injunction of the Sastras. A feeling of reverence and loyalty to the scriptural rules forms a characteristic of their devotional practices. Raganug Bhaktas are guided by a natural craving to follow in the ways of devotional observances of the Vrajavasis. This is effected on hearing the Transcendental Glo¬ries of Shri Krishna, His enchanting Pastimes in the company of those favorite devotees of Vraja. The onrush of this sentiment, is so great, that it seldom cares for the injunctions of the Sastras. But, they are not disloyal to the Sastras, nor cultivate any hostile attitude, in them towards the scriptures. This mode of devotion is of two kinds. (1) external and (2) internal. As for their external practice, they engage themselves in hearing and chanting the Glories of the Lord through the medium of their organic bodies. In their internal observances, they accepting their real selves as the eternal servants of a Gopi, render services to Shri Krishna day in and day out, under her guid¬ance, in His most favourite Abode of Vrindavan. They lose them¬selves in total absorption while meditating on the charming Pastimes of Shri Krishna in Vraja. A devotee of this order renders service to Shri Krishna in any of the four Rasas permanently existing in the Tran¬scendental Realm, such as servanthood/Drt.syaJ, friendship (Sakhya), parenthood (Vatsalya), and consorthood (Madhurya). They engage themselves in this eternal service under the expert guidance of their spiritual preceptor, who is a most intimate associate of the Lord, and an adept in any of these Rasas, or, sometimes in all.
kshaantir avyartha-kaalatvam viraktir maana-shunyataa,
aashaa-bandhah samutkanthaa naama-gaane sadaa rucih.
aasaktis tad-gunaakhyaane pritis tad-vasati-sthale,
ity aadayo 'nubhaavaah syurjaata-bhavaankure jane..288
(Shri Bhakti-rasaamrita-sindhu 1.3.25-26)
This stage of Sadhan or practice in this loving devotion, devel¬ops into spontaneous loving feeling (Bhav Bhakti). The characteris¬tics of a Bhakta, who has attained this stage of Bhav Bhakt 288 is thus explained by Shri Rupa Gosvami in Shri Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu:- (1)Kshanti means extreme forbearance. A devotee of this stage never falls a prey to the innumerable ups and downs in the social world. Even under great provocative circumstances he never loses his patience. Remaining undisturbed by any serious inci-dent, he ever remains calm and steady in his contemplation of the Lord or any other devotional practice he pursues. (2) Avyarthakalatvam is special care in the utility of time. By his various experiences, he has understood the precious nature of time. He never wastes even a fraction of a minute, in any activity which has no di¬rect relation with Shri Krishna and His services. (3) Virakti means non-attachment. He is dispassionate to the various tempting offers of the world, the enjoyment of the transitory pleasures. The worth of all these sensuous objects is well-known to him, as such these fleeting pleasures have ceased to arouse any charm in him. He is not after any material success. He becomes completely detached from the influ¬ence of these mundane objects and their allurements. (4) Manasunyata is lack of pride. This is an important characteristic of a true devotee. He is never influenced by the least ego. He may be an embodiment of all rare and excellent virtues,.still, he considers himself the lowest of all (5) Asabanda is deep bond of hope. A devotee is fully confi¬dent of his success towards the attainment of his final goal, and is convinced beyond any doubt on this issue. At every moment he is hopeful, since he knows that the Lord is an Embodiment of Mercy. (6) Samutkantha means excessive eagerness. His impatience for see¬ing the Lord reaches its highest pinacle. (7) Namaganesadaruschi is a real taste in singing the Name of the Lord constantly. (8) Asaktistadgunakhyane means an uncontrollable attachment in nar¬rating and listening to the Glories of the Lord. And (9) Pritistadvasatisthale is a fondness for residing in the places which are graced by the residence of the Lord, such as Mathura, Vraja, etc.
premaiva gopa-raamaanaam kaama ity agamat prathaam,
ity uddhavaadayo ’py etam vaanchanti bhagavat-priyaah.
kaama, prema,——donhaakaara vibhinna lakshana,
lauha aara hema yaiche svarupe vilakshana.
aatmendriya-priti-vaanchaa——taare bali ‘kaama’,
krishnendriya-priti-icchaa dhare ‘prema’ naama.
kaamera taatparya——nija-sambhoga kevala,
krishna-sukha-taatparya-maatra prema ta’ prabala.
(Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita,4.163-166)
ataeva kaama-preme bahuta antara,
kaama——andha-tamah, prema——nirmala bhaaskara.
ataeva gopi-ganera naahi kaama-gandha,
krishna-sukha laagi maatra, krishna se sambandha..289
(Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita,4.171-172)
krishna-bhaktyaiva saadhutvam saadhanam paramam hi saa,
tayaa saadhyam tad-anghry-abja-yugalam paramam phalam..290 .
bhakteh phalam param prema tripty-abhaava-sva-bhaavakam,
avaantara-phaleshv etad ati-heyam sataam matam..291
This stage matures into Prem Bhakti which again, in stages of succession, results into still deeper and sweeter feelings of Sneh, Maria, Pranaya, Raga, Anurag, Bhav, and Mahabhav. The attain¬ment of Prem to the Lord, and carnal appetites are poles asunder. "The desire for the gratification of one's senses is called 'Kama' or 'lust'; the desire for the gratification of the Senses of Shri Krishna bears the name of 'Prem' or 'Transcendental Love'. "289 "Goodness or purity is obtained by devotion to Shri Krishna alone, as that itself is the highest means of attaining purity. By practising de¬votion to Shri Krishna, one does attain His Lotus Feet-the high¬est fruit of Shri Krishna Bhakti. Is perfect purity attained by the practice of one's own Asram Dharmas or by following the Jnan Marga? Not in the least. By devotion to Shri Krishna alone, one achieves the highest Sadhutva, otherwise it will be of the sec¬ondary type. Shri Krishna has said in the Ambarish Upakhyan to Durvasa Muni, "O Brahmin! I am subservient to My devotees. I am indeed, a Dependent, etc." At the end he says "My devotees are as dear to Me as My Heart, and I am as dear to them as their heart. They do not know anything except Me, i.e., I am their all in all, and I too care not a whit for others except My devotees. In these sentences, He has referred to the good of His Bhaktas only. Because Bhakti alone is the best means to lead them to His Lotus Feet. The paths of fruitive actions, knowl¬edge, and renunciation, etc., are treated as a part of secondary importance to Bhakti, before it actually dawns. Hence, the best fruits of devotion which is the highest means to reach His Lo-tus Feet, are His Lotus Feet only."290 "The highest fruit of Bhakti is Krishna Prem, the true sign of which is want of satisfaction or insatiability; so self-contentedness of the Atmaramas (those who seek satisfaction in their self) goes counter to the attainment of Krishna Prem. Hence, this self-satisfaction is the most despised one even amongst extraneous or secondary fruits, and must be greatly avoided in the opinion of the ardent devotees."291
nityaishvaryo nitya-naanaa-vishesho nitya-shriko nitya-bhritya-prasangah,
nityopaastir nitya-loko 'vatu tvaam nityaadvaita-brahma-rupo 'pi krishnah..292
"May Shri Krishna - the Para Brahman, Whose form is eter¬nal, Who is ever present with Divine Faculties, like Affluence, Omnipresence, Omnipotence, and Omniscience, Who ever ex¬ults in His evernew Beauty, Splendour, Luscious Sweetness, At¬tributes, Pastimes, etc., because of His everlasting Excellences, Who is ever-marked with the insignia of Shri on His Chest, Who is ever served by His servants and devotees (as is signified by His statement, "O son of Kunti! Know for certain that in the case of My ardent devotees, everything results in their ultimate good," which shows that by His lasting Grace, the devotees should not at any time entertain the least doubt of ruin; by this the perpetuity of His Parshadas and other devotees is also assured), Who is eter-nally served by Bhakti, (this ever-fulfilment of His devotion, re¬futes the notion that devotional practices, like Sravana, Kirtan, etc., are the functions of the human sense-organs, and proves that their manifestation in them is solely through His Eternal Fund of Kindness; this point is further elucidated at a later stage; and Whose Abode too is ever present, protect you from impedi¬ments, like liberation, etc., to the attainment of devotion to His Lotus Feet."292 Aiming on the highest goal, avoiding all other de¬sires when the Holy Name is uttered, the chanter is fortunate to realise this special gift. This is the highest desired result of the chanting of the Name. Longing for all other types of attainments deprives us from this unique and incomparable attainment.
Sincere prayers aimed simply for the love of the Lord alone, effectively melf His Heart. Prayers guided by motives of getting some¬thing in exchange, either of this world or of the next including salva¬tion itself, never touch or move His Heart. Fully equipped with the four essential qualifications (footnote 202), and with a sincere heart, longing ardently for the unflinching love of the Lord, if we proceed witfi the chanting of the Name, we are offered the true benefits of the course. The results thus achieved are described in the first Sloka of 'Shri Sikshashtak' composed by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
ceto-darpana-maarjanam bhava-mahaa-daavaagni-nirvaapanam shreyah-kairava-candrikaa-vitaranam vidyaa-vadhu-jivanam,
aanandaambudhi-vardhanam prati-padam purnaamritaasvaadanam sarvaatma-snapanam param vijayate shri-krishna-sankirtanam..293
"Let the chanting of the Name of Shri Krishna he glorified, which in successive stages offers sevenfold blessings to the chanters. It cleans the mirror of the heart which is covered with layers of accumulated dirt gathered in ever so many births. It extinguishes thoroughly the wild conflagration of repeated cycle of births and deaths. It is like the shedding of moonlight for the blooming of the lily of eternal good. It is the very life of transcendental learning. It swells in the hearts of the chanters a surging ocean of everlasting bliss. It enables the devotee to experience by every utterance of the Holy Name, perfect happiness and finally, It is an all round bath of the body, mind, and soul in the surging ocean of Transcendental Bliss."293 This process of Nama-Sankirtan is the most liberal course ever introduced by the Lord for the benefit of humanity. All the rigid rules, innumerable restrictions, and never-ending hardships are to¬tally absent in this practice. The Merciful Lord has lilted all bans from this procedure. In the second Sloka of 'Shri Sikshashtak' this is impressively illustrated.
naamnaamakaari bahudhaa nija-sarva-shaktis tatraapitaa niyamitah smarane na kaalah,
etaadrishi tava kripaa bhagavan mamaapi durdaivam idrisham ihaajani naanuraagah..294
maayaamugdhasya jivasya jneyo 'narthash catur vidhah,
hriddaurbbalyam caaparaadho 'sat-trishnaa tattva-vibhramah..295
syaat krishna-naama-caritaadi-sitaapy avidyaa-pittopatapta-rasanasya na rocikaa nu,
kintv aadaraad anudinam khalu saiva jushtaa svaadvi kramaad bhavati tad-gada-mula-hantri..296
ki sayane ki vajane kiva jagarane,
aharnischa chinta krishna balha vadane..297
"0 Supreme Lord! You are an unfathomable Ocean of Mercy. How many ways You have devised to help Your fallen children! You have manifested ever so many Names, Each identical and equipotent with You in all respects. You have relaxed all the hard rules and made it a very simple one, easily accessible to the entire humanity. How can a petty human being estimate the depth of Your Mercy? You have done the maximum favour to humanity. But, what to speak of my utter ill luck! In spite of all Your unimaginable munificence to any human being, my adamant heart remains unchanged. It never shows the slightest inclination towards the chanting of Your Glorious and ever Sweet Name."294 "Conditioned souls have sunk to the deplor-able depths of various evil propensities. They are struggling against heavy odds, being surrounded on all sides by innumerable mundane distractions that are commonly known as 'Anartlias' .29S These are fourfolds - (1) weakness of the heart, (2) offences, (3) evil desires and (4) error relating to the true knowledge of the eternal truth." "Though, we at first lack in a real enthusiasm for chanting the Holy Name, yet with utmost care we must proceed with the chanting. A patient affected by bile, never relishes sugarcandy. Taking sugarcandy is a necessity to arrest the growth of the disease. Hence, the patient, though he finds it bitter in taste, should imperatively take to its use. Even so, one who has not developed a genuine taste for the Holy Name, should ardently and sincerely utter It, which will gradually shower Its Mercy upon him."296
"While at meals, or while taking test, or while awake, go on incessantly chanting the Holy Name 'Krishna' meditating upon Him."297 The constant chanting of the Name, enables the chanter to realise the true nature of his self, with respect to the Lord.
ayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram patitam maam vishame bhavaambudhau,
kripayaa tava paada-pankaja-sthita-dhuli-sadrisham vicintaya..298
nayanam galad-ashru-dhaarayaa vadanam gadgada-ruddhayaa giraa,
pulakair nicitam vapuh kadaa tava-naama-grahane bhavishyati..299
yugaayitam nimeshena cakshushaa praavrishaayitam,
shunyaayitam jagat sarvam govinda-virahena me..300
"O Son of Nanda! I-Your humble servant, am helplessly going down every moment in this terrible ocean of worldliness. Be Merci¬ful to regard me as a particle of dust of Your Lotus Feet and save me.298 Chanting the Holy Name realising one's true self, as the eter¬nal servant of the Lord, awakens feelings of love to Him. The inter¬nal feelings react externally as well. He experiences a thrill of ec¬stasy accompanied by different changes on his body, such as shed¬ding tears, hair standing on end, choking of the voice due to emo¬tional upheavals, etc. The sixth Sloka of Shri Sikshashtak throws proper light in this respect. "O Lord! When will the chanting of Your Name send thrills over my body, making the hair stand on end? When will 1 experience uncontrollable flow of tears from my eyes and my voice get choked with feelings while uttering Your Name? 299 His steady progress in devotion leads him to still greater realisations. He expe¬riences unbearable and inexpressible pangs of separation from his Beloved Lord. This stage is explained in the seventh Sloka. "The fearful experiences born of the pangs of separation from my Beloved Govinda break my heart immediately. A single moment without Him appears to me an age; my eyes pour forth tears like the downpours on a rainy day, and the whole world has lost its interest and appears dull to me."300
aashlishya vaa paada-rataam pinashtu maam adarshanaan marma-hataam-hataam karotu vaa,
yathaa tathaa vaa vidadhaatu lampato mat-praana-naathas tu sa eva naaparah..301
asundarh sundarsekhare va guneerbiheene guninan barao va,
drosi mayeesyatakruna mbhudheerva krishnah ca evadha gateermamayama..301.1
The final and the most sublime stage of unalloyed devotion is the next experience. It has no comparison elsewhere with the achieve¬ment of any other votary of devotion. He who is fortunate to reach this state of supreme devotion stands unrivalled in his views since he identifies all his pleasures, comforts, and conveniences fully with those of his Beloved Lord. This is the highest stage - that is reached by the devotees of loving devotion, a stage experienced in extreme rarity by an exceptionally few. The last Sloka of Shri Sikshashtak by Shriman Mahaprabhu is an exposition of this unique experience. "It matters very little even if He reduces me - His beloved, devoted to His Lotus Feet, to pulp by His close embrace or crushes my vitals by the pangs of poignant separation from Him. He is free to do as He pleases, as He is the Self-Willed Dissolute. Yet He alone is my Sole Overlord and no one else."301 "He may be quite ugly or the most charming; He may or may not be endowed with virtues or merits; He may hate me or be an Ocean of Kindness to me; anyway, that Shri Krishna alone is today my Sole Resort."301-1