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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Compiled and Imp Scriptures > Madhurya Kadambini > 1. Bhakti Is Ultimate

1. The First Shower of Nectar

Like cloudbanks filled with life-giving showers, may Lord Krishna Chaitanya's mercy revive the plant of my life perishing in the desert of material existence. His mercy is unrestricted, giving life to the seeds of the nine-fold path of devotion sown in the fields of the heart. The very appearance of Lord Chaitanya's mercy cools the scorching heat of material life and gives joy to the entire universe.


The nine practices of devotion: to hear, chant, and remember the Lord's transcendental name, qualities, pastimes; to serve His lotus feet; to worship and pray to Him; to become His menial servant and friend; and to offer oneself in total surrender to Him are attained only by the mercy of Lord Chaitanya. The mature fruit of these devotional practices is prema, or love of Godhead.


The eternal associates of Lord Chaitanya have preached and thereby firmly established the path of devotional service all over the world. All this has been done by Lord Chaitanya's grace alone, for pure devotional service is attained solely by the blessings of the Supreme Lord and His pure devotees. The Sandilya Sutra confirms this in the following verse, describing Lord Chaitanya's mercy as unlimited and freely distributed. The verse further explains that no one can obtain devotion to Lord Krishna by the process of yoga, the practice of austerities, or any other method except by the mercy of Lord Chaitanya and His [Ed1]pure followers:


bhaktih purvaih shrita tantu rasam pasyed yadattadhih

tam naumi satatam rupa-nama-priya-janam hareh


In the past, saintly persons have always taken shelter of devotional service. Five hundred years ago such a person appeared by whose mercy seekers are able to distinctly perceive that path of devotional service to Lord Krishna, a path steeped in spiritual mellows. I offer my repeated obeisances to that great soul Shrila Rupa Gosvami, who is very dear to the Lord.


Devotees from previous ages like Uddhava, Narada, Sukadeva Gosvami, Shri Yamunacarya, Nathmuni, and others have rendered loving devotional service to the Supreme Lord. But Lord Chaitanya propagated spontaneous, unalloyed devotion, and on the Lord's order Shrila Rupa Gosvami established this platform. This process is therefore available only to the followers of Shrila Rupa Goswami, and so Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura offers his invocatory prayers to Shrila Rupa Gosvami.


The Supreme Personality of Godhead and Brahman


The sruti or Veda offers irrefutable evidence that establishes the Absolute Truth. The Taittiriya Upanishad states that Brahman is the support and mainstay (brahma-puccham pratistha) of He who is the embodiment of unlimited absolute bliss (the Supreme Godhead), His existence being dependent on Brahman. By this statement the sruti gives preeminence to Brahman, although in a later verse the Taittiriya Upanishad states that the Supreme Lord is the reservoir of rasa or ecstatic pleasure (raso vai sa), and on attaining this reservoir of ecstatic pleasure, who is the Supreme Godhead, even that one Brahman who embodies brahmananda becomes submerged in sublime joy (rasam-hy eva-ayam labdhanandi bhavati).


This statement clearly asserts that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is superior to everything, including Brahman. In this way, the One who has been defined as the reservoir of ecstatic pleasure, rasa svarupa, is described in that crestjewel. and essence of all revealed scriptures Shrimad-Bhagavatam as Krishna, son of Maharaja Nanda, the embodiment of rasa.


The Shrimad-Bhagavatam (10.43.17) states,

The wrestlers saw Lord Krishna as a thunderbolt, the men of Mathura [saw Krishna] as the best of males, the women [saw Krishna] as Cupid in person.


This statement clarifies that the gradual development of spiritual joy depends entirely on rasa and the degree of its intimacy. Therefore rasa is the singular support of spiritual happiness and bliss.

The Supreme Lord Himself declares in the Bhagavad-gita (14.27), “I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman....” The Supreme Lord describes Himself in this way to reveal His real position. Therefore the Vedic scriptures, both sruti and smriti, point out that Krishna, son of Maharaja Nanda, is the Supreme Lord, eternally situated in pure goodness. He is the primeval Supreme Godhead who manifests Himself through His name, form, qualities, and pastimes, independent of any causes or conditions. Krishna reveals Himself by His sweet will in such a way that the jivas can experience Him with their senses, mind and intelligence.


The Lord and Suddha Bhakti—Self-manifest and Independent


Just as the Supreme Lord appears by His independent will as Lord Krishna in the Yadu dynasty, or as Lord Ramacandra in the Raghu dynasty, so also by His sweet will He reveals Himself to the jivas, who perceive Him by their senses. (This fact then determines that it is by the Supreme Lord's will and grace that the jivas can attain God.) Like the Supreme Lord, the process of pure devotional service, belonging to the Lord's internal spiritual potency, also requires no cause or condition to manifest herself.

As the Supreme Lord independently appears to the jivas by His own sweet will, so Bhakti-devi is also self-manifest and fully independent, appearing in any place of her choice. (There is no difference between sakti, or energy, and the energetic principle; hence devotional service, or Bhakti is nondifferent from the Lord in all respects). Therefore Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.6) states,


The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.


Loving devotion is described here as being without any motive for personal gain. This establishes that bhakti is unfettered by causes or conditions, The use of the term ''uninterrupted" in this verse implies that nothing is more pleasing than bhakti Therefore Bhakti-devi cannot be hindered or interrupted; she is free to appear at will, and for the jivas to perceive her with their senses.

How the Lord Bestows His Mercy and Pure Bhakti

In the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.20.8) it is stated:


yadricchaya mat-kathadau            jata-sraddhas tu yah puman

na nirvinno nati-sakto            bhakti-yogo 'sya siddhi-dah


bhakti has been described by the word yadricchaya, or “own volition.” Again, in Shridhara Svami's commentary on this verse, he writes that bhakti is free to act at will. The dictionary meaning of the word yadricchaya is “spontaneous and independent”. Some persons interpret the meaning of yadrcchaya as “a sort of luck or fortune”. But when explained in this way there are bound to be apparent fallacies. For example, is this fortune because of pious activities? or misfortune because of impious acts? or simply a lack of good actions? If we accept that good fortune as a result of pious activities creates bhakti then it makes bhakti dependent upon, and subservient to, pious activities. In other words, this explanation infringes upon the principle of bhakti's free will.


If we agree to the other suggestion that lack of good fortune gives birth to bhakti then we admit that such fortunes are capricious, unpredictable, and therefore imperfect. How can the imperfect produce anything that is perfect? And if one says that the Supreme Lord' mercy is the ultimate cause of bhakti then one has to again undergo tedious research to pinpoint the cause of His mercy. It is certain that after much probing and speculation a single irrefutable cause will not be established. In following this line of thought, confusion reigns. On the other hand, if we agree that bhakti impregnates the devotee's heart as a result of Krishna's causeless mercy, then understanding this become easier. Yet one may raise the question as to why the Lord's mercy often seen to be unequally dispensed. Is the Supreme Lord guilty partiality? If the Lord's grace is causeless then He must shower it everywhere without consideration, but it is seen that His mercy is not freely given to all. Should we blame Krishna for being biased, or even unfair? The open discrimination the Lord practices against the demons by killing them, and the favor he shows towards His devotee does not tarnish the Lord's reputation, but rather becomes an embellishment in His character. Krishna's quality of bhakta-vatsalya; His protective affection towards the devotees, surpasses His other transcendental excellences. (The Eighth Chapter will deal with this point in detail.)


It is frequently pointed out that the pure devotee's mercy is also the cause of devotion. just as the Lord's mercy is known to be causeless, so His devotees who possess the same qualities as the Lord also shower their causeless mercy. Hence, when we declare that the devotee's causeless mercy is the reason which inspires bhakti but that bhakti is not being equally distributed, naturally this will be criticized as partiality. Though it is wrong to say that the causeless mercy of both the Lord and the pure devotee is prejudiced, we read in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.46),


The madhyam adhikari offers his love to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is a sincere friend to all the devotees of the Lord, shows mercy to ignorant people who are innocent and disregards those who are envious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.


These characteristics clearly indicate that the madhyam adhikari devotee does not distribute his mercy equally to everyone. The truth is that the Supreme Lord is subservient to His devotee's wishes; therefore He emulates His devotee in disbursing mercy. Based on this fact it is easy to see that if the madhyam devotee is merciful to someone the Lord automatically showers His mercy on that recipient This conclusion is sound in all respects.


The single cause that attracts the mercy of the Lord is the bhakti that permanently resides in the pure devotee's heart. In other words, Krishna's mercy will not be invoked without that bhakti within the heart of His devotee which attracts His mercy to appear in the first place. Therefore, because bhakti is completely independent, even from previous piety and good fortune, it is undisputedly confirmed that bhakti is self-manifest. As mentioned earlier, devotion is the only cause of devotion; Bhakti-devi does not require any cause or reason to appear other than her own sweet will.


The Supreme Lord Is Subservient to His Pure Devotee


The word ati-bhagya (extreme good fortune) in the verse “yah kenapyati-bhagyena jatasraddho'sya sevane" wherein it describes “one who engages in devotional service with firm faith due to some extreme good fortune", takes on a new and deeper meaning. It no longer means extreme good fortune as a result of previous pious activities, but extreme good fortune received owing to the pure devotee's compassion.

Here, one may present a counter argument saying that devotees are always under the Lord's control, therefore how can the devotee's mercy appear first, independently, and not as a successor to the Lord's causeless compassion? Krishna Himself provides the solution to this problem by openly declaring that He is voluntarily subservient to His pure devotees. The Lord empowers His devotees to distribute mercy as they like, and in this way He broadcasts their superexcellent position.


The Lord Acts on His Own Sweet Will


When the devotees are experiencing the results of their past actions unfolding on the stage of this material world, the Supreme Lord retains full independent control over His mercy potency towards them. The Lord can utilize at will that mercy potency (krpa-sakti) He has entrusted to His devotees. In other words, the devotees do not have full liberty in distributing mercy.


Despite this fact, the Lord's kindness to His surrendered devotees is very clear. In the Bhagavad-gita, the Lord says, mat-prasadat param santim mat-samsthamadhi-gacchati. “My devotees obtain by My mercy alone the supreme peace that fully reposes in Me. “Here the word prasada means the kindness the Lord shows to His devotees by entrusting them with His mercy potency. This was already mentioned earlier. Besides this, from the verse, “by the nature of His fully independent will", certain relevant points require elaboration.


One can understand from many scriptural evidences that the internal reason the Lord incarnates is simply because of His independent will. Yet the external reason the scriptures give for His appearance is to alleviate the burden of sin weighing down mother Earth. Similarly, no one commits a grievous mistake by saying that desireless activities—whereby one does not aspire to enjoy the fruits of action-are a means to approach bhakti, or devotional service. Again, the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.12.9) explains:


yam na yogena sankhyena            dana-vrata-tapo-'dhvaraih

vyakhya-svadhyaya-sannyasaih            prapnuyad yatnavan api


Even though one engages with great endeavor in the mystic yoga system, philosophical speculation, charity, vows, penances, ritualistic sacrifices, teaching of Vedic mantras to others, personal study of the Vedas, or the renounced order of life, still one cannot achieve Me.


Here the scripture clarifies that all such practices cannot lead to bhakti. Elsewhere, the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (10.47.24) declares:


dana-vrata-tapo-homa            japa-svadhyaya-samyamaih

sreyobhir vividhais canyaih            krishne bhaktir hi sadhyate


Devotional service unto Lord Krishna is attained by charity, strict vows, austerities and fire sacrifices, by japa, study of Vedic texts, observance of regulative principles and, indeed, by the performance of many other auspicious practices.


The type of bhakti attained by performing the activities mentioned in this verse refers to a devotion dominated by knowledge and on the mundane platform of the mode of goodness. It definitely does not refer to the unalloyed devotion that is transcendental to the material modes and on the plane of prema, or spontaneous love of Godhead.


Some scholars explain this verse by saying that charity means to give to Lord Vishnu and His devotees; fasting means to observe fasts like Ekadashi, Janmastami; and renunciation and penances means to renounce sense gratification and accept a simple lifestyle to attain the lotus feet of Lord Krishna. When these activities are thus explained they acquire the characteristics of sadhana-bhakti, or regulative devotional service. Bhakti is cultivated perfectly by the nine processes of devotional service, Therefore the scriptural declaration is that bhakti is the cause of bhakti.


This philosophical presentation summarizes the different counter arguments and establishes the principle that bhakti is causeless.


Pure Bhakti Is the Only Means to Perfection

Bhakti is the only means to attain complete perfection. To abandon this path and accept voluntary hardships in pursuit of empirical knowledge is as futile as beating the empty husks of wheat. As the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (10.14.4) describes in the following verse, one gains nothing from it but useless toil.


sreyah-shritim bhaktim udasya te vibho

klisyanti ye kevala-bodha-labdhaye

tesham asau klesala eva sishyate

nanyad yatha sthula-tushavaghatinam


My dear Lord, devotional service unto You is the best path for self-realization. If someone gives up that path and engages in the cultivation of speculative knowledge, he will simply undergo a troublesome process and will not achieve his desired result. As a person who beats an empty husk of wheat cannot get grain, one who simply speculates cannot achieve self-realization. His only gain is trouble.

The Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.5.17) states, kovartha apto' bhajatam svadharmatah—that if a man gives up his occupational duties to serve the Supreme Lord, Hari, and in the process accidentally falls down before attaining perfection, then still there is no loss by his having abandoned his occupational duties. Again the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (10.14.5) describes that many yogis in the past tried to attain the Lord's lotus feet by their own endeavors; they offered the results of yogic practices the Lord and, because of it, became eligible to hear about transcendental glories. Hearing those transcendental topics an rendering devotional service made them self-realized, and thus achieved the supreme destination.


These scriptural evidences clearly indicate that for the yogis, jnanis, and karmis to become successful in their individual paths, their engagement in devotional service is imperative. Whereas to attain perfection the path of bhakti which results in spontaneous love of Godhead prema, there is no need of yoga, jnana karma, or any other process. The scripture (SB. 11.20.31) states that the cultivation of knowledge renunciation are not conducive to the path of bhakti, and that one who has left all other types of religion and is solely surrendered unto Krishna is the best of all saintly souls. From these instructions we understand that there is no question of bhakti ever being dependent on anything extraneous. In fact, all other processes like yoga, jnana and karma are able to offer the practitioner the desired results only with the help of bhakti. Thus Bhakti-devi, instead of being dependent on the other processes, in turn lends her potency to them so that these other processes are able to give the desired results. Bhakti-devi on her own can offer same results. Hence the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.20.32-33) states,


Everything that can be achieved by fruitive activities, penance, knowledge, detachment, mystic yoga charity, religious duties, and all other means of perfecting life is easily achieved by devotees through loving service to Me.


Besides, what is the use of acquiring such results without bhakti? Therefore the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya (3.11-12) declares:


bhagavad-bhakti-hinasya            jatih sastram japas tapah

apranasyaiva dehasya            mandanam loka-ranjanam


A person's noble birth, studying the Vedas, chanting mantras performing penances, and so on are an worthless if he is bereft of devotion, or bhakti, Just like the decorations of a dead body.


Pure Bhakti Is Independent Unlike Other Processes


As the proper functioning of the body is solely dependent on life being present in it, similarly, yoga, jnana, karma and so on are subservient to and singularly dependent on, bhakti. Another fact is that karma-yoga, is effective only when the right conditions are present: the time, place, ingredients, performer, circumstances, and so on have to be auspicious and accurate. Mistakes in observing any of these regulations render fruitless all endeavor. (Detailed information about this is available in the smriti scriptures dealing with karma-yoga.) None of these stipulations, however, govern the practice of bhakti. In order to clarify this point the Vishnu-dharmottara states:


na desa-niyamas tatra            na kala-niyamas tatha

nocchishtadau nishedhas ca            shri-harer namni lubdhakah


O hunter! in the matter of chanting the holy name or executing other such processes of devotional service there are no hard and fast rules dependent on time, place, circumstance, etc. In fact, one can chant the holy names even in a contaminated state.


Bhakti is able to award absolute perfection without having to depend on anything. Again the Padma Purana (the Shri Vyasa Padyavalya) declares:


sakrid api parigitam sraddhaya helaya va

bhrigu-vara nara-matram tarayet krishna-nama


O best of the Bhrgus! if anyone chants Lord Krishna's name even once unreservedly, whether in a derisive mood or with proper faith, the holy name will certainly award him liberation.

If while executing karma-yoga a person commits the slightest mistake in observing its many rules and regulations it results in negative, inauspicious influences. Therefore the smriti scripture warns that while peforming yajna, or sacrifice, if the Vedic mantras are chanted improperly, or the intonations and pronunciations like anudatta, udatta, and svarita are faulty then these acquire the fearsome form of a thunderbolt that devastates the performer.


An example of the importance of following such stipulations found in the story of Vrtrasura, wherein Tvasta Rsi performed sacrifice to vanquish Indra. While chanting the mantras the rsi mispronounced the word indra-satruh Pronounced correctly the word means “enemy of Indra {Vrtrasura}", instead it came to mean “Indra, enemy of Vrtrasura”. This mistake proved fatal for Vrtrasura.

All Jivas Have the Right of Admission into Bhakti-yoga


Similarly, in jnana-yoga, or the cultivation of empirical knowledge, the conditions are that the, jnana-yogi must purify his internal senses, namely: the mind, the intelligence, and the consciousness. In the case of karma-yoga, the yogi must relinquish the fruits by which his internal senses are purified. At this stage of practice he becomes eligible to embrace the path of jnana-yoga. This proves that jnana-yoga in some ways is dependent upon, and subservient to, karma-yoga. In jnana-yoga, if the jnani either accidentally or deliberately has the slightest falldown the scriptures (SB 7.15.36) condemn him as a shameless person, likening him to someone who eats his own vomit. Although such persons as Kamsa, Hiranyakasipu, and Ravana were very erudite and accomplished jnana-yogis, yet they are infamous characters condemned throughout history for their moral aberrations. The slightest hint of profligacy penalizes the jnana-yogi and his spiritual preceptors then ostracize him.


In the case of bhakti-yogi; the path of pure devotional service, even if the devotee is infected with lust, greed, and other such faults he is still eligible to take up the process. Later, by the practice of bhakti, which is completely independent and beyond all rules and regulations, the devotee's heart and consciousness become purified of any defects. Therefore, the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (10.33.39) explains:


vikriditam vraja-vadhubhir idam ca vishnoh

sraddhanvito 'nushrinuyad atha varnayed yah

bhaktim param bhagavati pratilabhya kamam

hrid-rogam asv apahinoty acirena dhirah


Anyone who faithfully hears or describes the Lord's playful affairs with the young gopis of Vrindavana will attain the Lord's pure devotional service. Thus he will quickly become sober and conquer lust, the disease of the heart.

In this verse the Sanskrit for “attains pure devotional service is an infinitive verb and it is placed in the beginning of the verse. By doing so it means that, in spite of the person being afflicted with lust, he first attains bhakti and later roots out the material diseases.


The Bhakti-yogi Is Above Censure


In the Bhagavad-gita (9.30) Lord Krishna says,

Even if one commits the most abominable action, if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination.

The scriptures elsewhere (SB 11.14.18) also indicate that the Lord's devotees may come under the control of lust, greed, and so on.


From such authoritative statements we can conclude that despite character blemishes the scriptures do not censure such devotees. The appearance of the Vishnudutas, the messengers of Lord Vishnu, at the time of Ajamila's death proved that he was a devotee of the Lord. He had called out his son's name (Narayana) with his last breath, simply out of affection for his child and thus chanted the Lord's name in sanketa (a hint-alluding to the Lord). Even though Ajamila did not consciously chant the holy name, according to the scriptures his unconscious chanting was a sufficient reason for such a devotee to be praised and accepted as saintly and to not be defamed.


For the karma-yogi, the essential key to success is the proper consideration of time, place, and circumstance. In jnana-yoga, purification of the internal senses is the essential ingredient for progress. In both these processes the slightest deviation from the set rules neutralizes any success. Jnana-yoga and karma-yoga fully depend on bhakti to help them achieve their respective goals; therefore bhakti is their resuscitator. Neither karma-yoga nor jnana-yoga are independent-they are always inferior to bhakti because, unlike bhakti, karma and jnana-yoga are regulated by stringent rules. To say that jnana is the only means to execute bhakti is indeed foolish. The ultimate goal of life is mukti, or liberation, but bhakti takes one to. the highest spiritual realm.


The scriptures (SB 5.6.18) declare that the Lord easily grants one liberation, but rarely does He bless someone with bhakti, or devotion. The Shrimad-Bhagavatam (6.14.5) confirms this:


muktanam api siddhanam            narayana-parayanah

sudurlabhah prasantatma            kotishv api maha-mune


O great sages, among many millions who are liberated and perfect in knowledge of liberation, one may be a devotee of Lord Narayana, or Krishna. Such devotees, who are fully peaceful, are extremely rare.


Bhakti is the Ultimate


In His Vamana incamation the Supreme Personality of Godhead acted as Inda's junior Vamanadeva was the omnipotent Supreme Lord and the maintainer of India, and so the learned sages understood this as the Lord's kindness and not that His taking the inferior position was in any way demeaning. Similarly, when scriptural statements give more importance to jnana and show bhakti as its appendage, this does not confound the wise. They understand that although bhakti is placed in a secondary position to jnana, it is there to act as a support to jnana. The scriptural adage (SB. 11.3.31) “bhakti gives rise to bhakti'' proves that the ultimate goal of devotion is prema (spontaneous love of Godhead) - And prema is the pinnacle of all spiritual perfections. Bhakti-devi is the Supreme Lord's direct internal potency, and like the Lord she is omnipresent, supremely autocratic, subjugating everyone, the life-giving force, the highest principle, self-manifest. These are but a few of Bhakti-devi's unlimited qualities.


Perfection found by following any path other than the path of bhakti-yoga is limited, to say the least. It is clear that if a person chooses to embrace any of these other methods for spiritual elevation, we can understand that he has not read the authorized scriptures at all, or, if he has read them, that he has missed their essential teachings. The scriptures stress the point that only animals, who are inferior to human beings, do not worship and serve the Supreme Lord. This proves that those who are really on the human platform naturally must develop devotion to the Supreme Lord.