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MK 4: The Fourth Shower of Nectar
4. The Fourth Shower of Nectar
In the Second Shower of Nectar, we discussed the two types of bhajana-kriya: steady (nishthita) and unsteady (anishtha). Unsteady bhajana-kriya was further divided into six sections, but little was discussed about bhajana-kriya bhakti performed on the steady, or nishthita, platform. Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.17-18) explains the reason for following this particular sequence in the following verses:
shrinvatam sva-kathah krishnah
hridy antah-stho hy abhadrani
vidhunoti suhrit satam
Shri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone's heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted.
bhaktir bhavati naishthiki
By regular attendance in classes on the Bhagavatam and by rendering of service to the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is almost completely destroyed, and loving service unto the Personality of Godhead, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact.
The Supreme Lord is the
greatest benefactor of the pure devotees, the saintly sadhus. Therefore the
only way to receive the Lord's mercy is to first receive the grace of the pure
devotees. The first verse quoted previously describes the unsteady
bhajana-kriya stage of devotional service. The second verse (1.2.18) describes
naisthiki-bhakti, or steady devotional service, also known as the nishtha
stage. In describing the two stages of bhakti both the verses mention
destroying inauspicious things in the heart, of purifying the heart of unwanted
material desires. The second verse quoted suites that impurities are almost
completely destroyed, meaning that some residue of impurity is still there in
Five Obstacles to the Process of Anartha-nivritti
Now, according to the proper order, nisthiti-bhakti will be explained. Devotion that possesses nishtha (firm commitment and undeviating faith) is known as nishthita-bhakti. At the stage when anarthas still persist in the heart the devotee may try as hard as possible to counteract them by devotional activities, yet the five internal obstacles, laya, viksepa, apratipatti, kasaya, and rasasvada, undermine his attempts to reach steadiness in devotion. Once the ananhas are removed, then these five obstacles are almost abolished and devotion becomes firm and undeviating. Therefore it can be said that the absence of these five impediments in the heart are symptoms of nishthita-bhakti.
The five obstacles are defined in the following way:
Laya is the weakness of being more soporific during hearing about the Lord than while chanting His names, and more soporific while remembering Lord Hari than during hearing about Him.
Viksepa is talking or thinking about mundane nonsense during devotional activities such as hearing or chanting.
Apratipatti is when both laya and viksepa are absent, but at times one still feels incapable of, or disinterested in, hearing, chanting, and so on.
Kasaya is defined as the tendency to display such faults as anger, greed, and arrogance during devotional activities.
Rasasvada means that the mind is so attached to sense pleasure, often meditating on it, that he is unable to hear and chant with concentration.
With the removal of these obstacles, the devotee makes progress towards nishtha, or steady devotion. When naistha-bhakti blossoms in the devotee's consciousness, the immediate effect is that he is no longer ruled by anger, greed, or any other influences from the modes of passion and ignorance. The naisthiki bhakta becomes firmly fixed on the Supreme Lord, who is always situated in pure goodness, and experiences divine bliss. The Shrimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.19) confirms this:
kama-lobhadayas ca ye
ceta etair anaviddham
sthitam sattve prasidati
As soon as irrevocable loving service is established in the heat the effects of nature's modes of passion and ignorance, such as lust, desire and hankering, disappear from the heart. Then the devotee is established in goodness, and he becomes completely happy.
In this verse, the Sanskrit word ca ("and") conveys the presence of passion and ignorance in the heart of the devotee. But in the same verse the expression ceta etair anaviddham (that the mind is unaffected by these) establishes that these material modes are not obstacles on the path of devotion, but reside in the heart in a neutral state until the devotee on the platform of steady devotional service attains bhava. (Bhava is the stage of spontaneous loving devotion to the Lord.)
The Two Types of Fixed Faith
Nishtha (fixed faith) has two varieties: (1) saksat bhakti-visayini or nourishing spontaneous bhakti, and (2) vastu-visayini, or the fostering of complementary bhakti qualities. Saksat-bhakti has many variations that can be broadly categorized into three divisions:
i) kayiki (physical)
ii) vaciki (oral)
iii) manasiki (mental).
Some say that there is a definite order of development in these three divisions of saksat-bhakti. The devotee first cultivates spontaneous bhakti with kayiki, followed by vaciki and manasiki respectively. The opposing group, however, contends that there is no such successive order. Be as it may, qualities like enthusiasm, firm conviction, and unremitting energy are found in varying degrees in devotees. Because some devotees are not inclined to express such qualities in their actions, this gives the impression to others that they are not singleminded in their devotion to the Supreme Lord.
The idea that these different stages of nishtha-bhakti have an order of sequence as mentioned earlier is thus thrown off-balance. Consequently it lends weight to the idea that the different types of saksat-bhakti do not follow in order. Furhiermore, qualities such as humility, which specifically means renouncing respect given to the self by others but still offering respect to others, friendliness, and compassion are conducive to the culture of devotional service. Sometimes it appears that certain devotees who are self-controlled and equipoised possess these, qualities, although they lack bhakti-nishtha, or unwavering faith in devotional service. Conversely, in other cases, an arrogant and therefore disrespectful devotee does not seem to be decorated with these good qualities although he does, in fact, possess bhakti-nishtha. In fact, the presence of these qualities clearly indicates undeviating faith in bhakti, and the absence of these qualities such as friendliness and compassion means lack of faith in the process of bhakti. This is obvious to most people.
The Shrimad-Bhagavatam declares that with the appearance of naisthiki-bhakti the devotee's consciousness is unaffected by the material modes of passion and ignorance. His consciousness, thus purified of evil traits like lust, then becomes fixed in the mode of goodness and the devotee experiences divine happiness. The essential yardstick for measuring perfectly the depth of nishthita-bhakti, or the lack of it (anishthita-bhakti), is whether hearing and chanting has intensified or has stagnated. An increase of hearing and chanting thus indicates a rise in nishthita-bhakti, while any decrease implies the presence of anishthita-bhakti.