Narada Bhakti Sutras

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sutra 5 and 6


Prostrations to all.

Sutra 5 –
yatpraapya na kinchit vaanchathi na shochathi na ramathe na utsaahi bhavathi

Word meaning
Yatpraapya – Having attained which
Kinchit na vaanchathi – (a devotee) doesn’t seek anything,
Na shochathi – doesn’t become sad,
Na ramathe – doesn’t indulge (in sensual pleasures)
Utsaahi na bhavathi – doesn’t become excited

(That is pure devotion or bhakthi)

Sutra meaning
Having attained which a devotee doesn’t seek anything, doesn’t become sad, doesn’t indulge in sensual pleasures and doesn’t become excited – know that to be pure devotion.

Spiritual path or rather any path involves dual-activity from the seeker. Whether the action is that of worldly pleasure or of ishwara saakshaatkara, it has two parts to it. One is indulging in those activities which help in the progress & two is restraint from those activities which are obstacles in the progress. These are termed as:

1. Anukoola sevanam – following those which are conducive to the path
2. Prathikoola varjanam – removal of those which obstruct the path

Thus to get into IIM, the anukoola to be followed is constant practice through any external coaching centre and daily preparation for continuous period of time. The prathikoola for the same is not indulging in diversions like TV, movies etc. which kill the time that is essentially required for practice.

In the case of spiritual path, the anukoola is doing sravana, manana and nidhidhyaasana in the jnaana marga & anusandhaana through the nava vidhi or ekaadasha vidhi bhakthi. The prathikoola is not indulging too much in the sensual pleasures & not wasting time-energy in attainment-enjoyment of worldly pleasures – this is what Vedanta calls as vairagya. Narada also explains these as “not indulging in hearing about women, naastikas, wealth etc.” & “not having kaama, krodha, abhimaana” etc.

As is the case of spiritual path, similarly the goal or the state of a supreme devotee or devotion also can be defined in two ways – one as the positive way by which is mentioned the activity of a devotee & what is the state of the devotee with respect to the nature of the goal (eternal bliss, peace, contentment etc.). This positive way of explaining was done by Narada in the previous sutra (this will be explained from a different perspective in the next sutra as well – we will see later as to what is the difference in explanation of the previous sutra and the next sutra though both speak in the positive way only). The second is the negative way by negating things which will not be found in a real devotee or in real devotion.

Until both the positive and negative ways have not been explained, the explanation is not complete. This dual way of explaining is in view of the ignorant seeker alone – to make the seeker understand it in a clear way – as through this the seeker will have removed things which are to be removed & will have attained that which has to be attained.

Thus Narada says here that real devotion is that in which the devotee doesn’t seek anything at all. Thus Narada is pointing out that a real devotee shouldn’t seek anything at all. Seeking is there so long as there is lack of something in life. As we saw in the previous sutra, Amritatva, siddhi etc. can be experienced only when all seeking ends. When the devotee realizes the ultimate reality of Lord through pure devotion – he realizes that by knowing which everything becomes known. This ultimate reality is termed in Chandogya as BHOOMA or that which is POORNA or FULL. Thus knowing or realizing the ultimate reality of Lord, there will be nothing else to be sought. Thus the devotee after gaining pure devotion doesn’t seek anything at all (as to what the devotee will be doing, will be explained in the next sutra).

Sorrow is possible only when there is some seeking. Seeking something temporary always leads to imperfection or “conditional seeking”. Thus such a seeker who seeks temporary things will be losing the temporary thing that he sought. Such temporary entities of the world can only give sorrow and suffering. Thus sorrow is the very seed of worldly objects or the pleasure from the worldly objects.

Lord explains this beautifully in Gita 5th chapter thus:

Ye hi samsparshajaa bhogaah dukhayonaya eva te
Adhyanthavantha kaunteya na teshu ramathe budhah

That pleasure which is attained through contact of sense organs with the sense objects, it is the seed of sorrow – as it has a beginning and an end, and thus the wise never indulges in such worldly pleasures.

Real devotion is that where there is no sorrow as there is no seeking at all.

The opposite of sorrow is happiness. As sorrow is temporary, happiness from the worldly objects is also temporary. A real devotee is one who has achieved eternal bliss – thus he doesn’t indulge in the temporary happiness from the worldly pleasures. Utsaaham or excitement happens when something very good happens for a person. We can call this the height of temporary worldly happiness. Like worldly happiness, utsaaha is also temporary & hence a real devotee who has tasted & tastes eternal bliss will never become excited as he is ever immersed in eternal bliss. Also excitement happens which from a normal state or sorrowful state, a person gets immense temporary happiness. But for the real devotee, there is no fluctuation of happiness as he is ever blissful. Thus he doesn’t get excited.

Through this sutra, Narada is telling all devotees or seekers of the Lord to not seek anything (other than the Lord), not to get sad or happy or excited instead constantly seek the Lord alone.

Narada ends up the definition of the goal or the ultimate state in the next sutra which we will see the next day.

Sutra 6 –
yat jnaatva mattho bhavathi, sthabdho bhavathi, aatmaaramo bhavathi

Word meaning
Yat jnaatva – Having known which
Mattho bhavathi – becomes mad or intoxicated,
Sthabdho bhavathi – becomes rigid or without any activities,
Aatmaaramo bhavathi – always is immersed in the bliss of the Self (Lord)

(That is pure devotion or bhakthi)

Sutra meaning
Having known which a seeker becomes intoxicated, without any activities and is ever immersed in the bliss of the Lord, know that to be pure devotion.

This sutra and the 4th sutra (which explained real devotion as that having attained which a devotee attains siddhi, immortality and satisfaction) are almost similar – the difference being that the 4th sutra spoke about the goal that is achieved (goal here means characteristics or nature of the goal) through pure devotion whereas this sutra speaks about the state of the devotee who achieves the goal. Thus 4th sutra is about the goal or prameya or object to be achieved whereas this sutra speaks about the pramaatha or the subject-devotee who achieves the goal.

As we have been hearing again and again in the postings in this series that knowing the ultimate reality of Lord through pure devotion is knowing whatever is to be known. As Narada mentioned that after having attained pure devotion or attained the goal of atma-saakshaatkara through atma-nivedanam, the seeker doesn’t seek anything else because he has known the one and only entity that exists.

We frequently witness that we become intoxicated or in a state of delirium upon getting temporary happiness from worldly objects. When the result of the 10th exam comes & we come to know that we have got rank, we become very happy – this state is a state wherein we become totally merged with what we have achieved. Once that happens, there is no difference between the goal and ourselves – during such a state there is vikshepa or projection of duality & hence we are happy/blissful. But still there is avarana or veiling of the reality as we are not aware of our nature of eternal bliss but just that the projections have temporarily vanished even as in the case of deep sleep. We all very well know how intoxicated the state of deep sleep is. Thus the state of a bhaktha who has realized the Lord is similar to intoxication due to worldly possession or deep sleep. If temporary merging of the dual perceptions itself can cause a person to become mad, what to speak about total sublation of the duality?

Thus when the devotee realizes the ultimate reality of Lord, there remains nothing else to be known & there is no duality at all. Thus the devotee is in a state of intoxication. This is what Narada is speaking here as Mattah bhavathi. From the lives of Sri Ramakrishna among other saints, we can very well understand this easily. The jnaani or bhaktha behaves like a madman. Brahma Sutra following the Upanishad compares the jnaani with a child and a madman. The jnaani or bhaktha is like a child because he is innocent (as there is no mind at all) and he ever lives in the present (as he has reached that state where there is no time or space). The jnaani or bhaktha is as well like a madman because he behaves as if he is madman – his activities cannot really be explained. He is like a person who has experienced eternal bliss but is unable to speak about it as it is inexpressible. Even as taste of sugar can never be expressed but only tasted, similarly the state of bliss cannot be expressed but only experienced.

Thus the jnaani behaves as if he is intoxicated with some powerful drugs. This also means that his activities cannot really be explained through logic or compared to behavior of normal people. At times he might be running here and there – at times he might be dancing – at times he might be getting angry with others.

A bhaktha (as we have already seen that para bhakthi is same as jnaana – therefore bhaktha and jnaani mean the same person only) also becomes silent with respect to word and actions. Knowing the ultimate reality of Lord, knowing which everything is known, there remains nothing for the bhaktha to speak or act. Any word or action is performed with the desire to achieve or attain something. But for the devotee who have achieved or attained the ultimate reality of non-dual Lord, there remains no desire left – thus he remains silent in words and actions.

A bhaktha as well is always immersed in the bliss of the Lord who is in the heart of all beings. Thus he is ever immersed in bliss. This is the reason why Lord says in Gita that a person who goes to such a bhaktha will get bliss emanating from the bhaktha. Mundaka Upanishad says that a person who has realized the ultimate reality of Lord will never do any debates but will be immersed in bliss of the Self (vijaanan vidvaan bhavathe na athivaadi – atmakridaa atmaratih kriyaavaan esha brahmavidaam varistah).

Ataamaaramo means ever immersed in the Self – this means that such a bhaktha will not stray from the ultimate reality of Lord even for a second. Whatever happens, he will ever be immersed in the ultimate reality of Lord – he will ever be blissful whatever be the situation and surroundings. Some devotees once asked Ramana as to why Vishwamitra who built a new svarga for Trishanku not help Rama when Ravana kidnapped Sita – Ramana replied that a jnaani is ever immersed in the ultimate reality & hence he doesn’t see any sufferings in the world as the world is filled with the Lord alone for such a jnaani. This was not the state of Vishwamitra but this was the state of Ramana Maharshi as well. When followers of Mahatma Gandhi went to Ramana to offer their prostrations and seek blessings, they asked Ramana as to why he is not helping the people around in the world who are suffering. Ramana replied by telling that “I don’t see anybody suffering, I see only bliss everywhere – therefore how can I help?”

There is a famous parable mentioned about a jnaani and as to why he is not in the realm of even religious activities like Sandhya Vandanam. Once an elderly Brahmin was asked as to why he didn’t do sandhya vandanam. He replied “Sandhya can be done only when the sun rises and sets – the person for whom the Sun of Self has risen never to set, how can he do sandhya (as there is no rising or setting for him)?”

Thus Narada through this sutra is mentioning that a jnaani will ever be immersed in the reality of Lord – there is no deviation from that state for a jnaani or bhaktha. Pure devotion once attained can never be lost as it totally destroys the ignorance which is the cause of dual perception and notion of difference between the seeker, the Lord and the world.

With this sutra, Narada has clearly defined the goal or the fruit of attaining para bhakthi. We will continue with Narada explaining the nature of bhakthi or the path of bhakthi in depth through the next sutras the next day.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sutra 2 and 3


Prostrations to all.

Sutra 3 –

amrita svaroopaa cha

Word meaning
Cha – and
Amrita svaroopaa – of the nature of immortality (nectar).

Sutra meaning
And bhakthi is of the nature of amrita or immortality as well (meaning that bhakthi of the nature of supreme devotion and immortality).

In this and the previous sutra, Narada is giving the two distinct nature of bhakthi or two different facets of bhakthi one being supreme devotion and the other being nectar or immortality.

Amrita in this sutra is better interpreted as nectar than immortality. Bhakthi or real devotion to the Lord is like nectar – it has no limits and a person who is immersed in it can never come out of it. A person who has once tasted bhakthi for the Lord can never get away from it. It is more addictive than the worldly addictions that we know about.

Sureshwaracharya beautifully explains this addictive nature in Naishkarmya Siddhi. Sureshwara first raises a purvapaksha statement as to that once a person tastes bliss of the Self or the bliss emanating through scriptural knowledge or paroksha jnaana, can he be again fully immersed in the ocean of samsaara. He answers this by telling that the addiction of shaastra jnaana is so strong that it attracts a person again to taste the nectar that is got through it. If the worldly addictions which give only temporary happiness can be so strong that it takes people years (and even births) to get out of it, what to speak about addiction towards the Lord which gives a glimpse of eternal bliss????

Thus pure devotion is of the nature of nectar – it is indescribable and quenches the thirst of the devotee totally. But until a devotee merges into the Lord, there will always be desire to get the nectar again and again. Thus pure devotion always is like nectar – attracting the devotee all the while until he himself becomes nectar by merging unto the Lord.

Pure devotion can also be taken to be immortality or amrita because it leads a person to that state beyond birth and death. Satisfaction or contentment through the nectar of devotion is possible only if the thought or notion of “I am the body” and that “I have birth-death” vanishes. Thus amrita or knowledge that I am ever present and beyond birth-death alone can give a devotee eternal bliss. The first and foremost hindrance or obstacle to the spiritual path is the feeling that “I am the body”. Thus the bliss of the Lord can be enjoyed (either a glimpse or as a whole) only when this thought of “I am the body” vanishes. In the state of deep sleep, this body-thought is not there & hence the seeker experiences bliss in that state.

Thus only when we know that “I am not born nor will I die” that nectar in the form of pure devotion to the Lord can be enjoyed. Thus real devotion which is constantly thinking about the Lord – always being immersed in the thought of the Lord has to be of the nature of pure or supreme devotion as well as of the nature of immortality.

Sutra 4 –

yallabdhva pumaan siddho bhavathi amritho bhavathi triptho bhavathi

Word meaning
Puman – a person
Yat labdhvaa – having attained which
Siddho bhavathi – attains perfection
Amritho bhavathi – attains immortality
Triptho bhavathi – and becomes extremely satisfied (content)

(that is pure devotion or bhakthi)

Sutra meaning
That by attaining which a person attains perfection, immortality and contentment, that is pure devotion or bhakthi.

Narada was defining bhakthi in the previous two sutras. Any action or activity is propelled only by desiring for the fruit that is achieved through the activity. Bhakthi as well requires activity in the form of nava vidhi bhakthi or ekaadasa vidha bhakthi (as Narada puts it). A person will be made to go for these actions or even go for bhakthi as such only if he knows what is its fruit & the fruit or phala appeals to the person. It is for this reason that one of the anubandha chathustayam is phala or fruit of studying a particular work.

Narada thus after defining bhakthi gives the fruit of getting pure devotion to the Lord. We have to remember that the fruit which Narada mentions (in 3 sutras starting from this sutra) is for para bhakthi or supreme devotion and not lower devotion (gaauni bhakthi). A person can never attain perfection by apara bhakthi as still there will not be eternal bliss due to separation from the Lord. Any love doesn’t lead to fulfillment or contentment or perfection until the lovers meet and merge into one another. Similar is the case with bhakthi as well – since Narada is mentioning perfection, contentment etc. as the fruit of devotion, therefore the devotion which he is pointing out is para bhakthi or supreme devotion (that which is to be ultimate gained through atma nivedanam or offering oneself completely to the Lord).

What is the phala of getting pure devotion unto the Lord????
Narada mentions three qualities or three gunas as the phala of pure devotion. The three are siddhi or perfection, amritha or immortality and tripthi or satisfaction.

Perfection is attained when there is nothing more to do in life to become perfect. In other words, perfection is achieved when all imperfections vanish. As we already have learnt, supreme devotion is that in which the devotee merges into the Lord. The Lord is poorna or perfect in all aspects as he is one without a second. Thus when the devotee who is individual and hence imperfect merges unto the Lord, the devotee becomes perfect or attains perfection. Perfection is that state wherein there is no imperfection either physically, mentally or spiritually as the devotee has attained that attaining which there is nothing more to attain.

A person becomes immortal when he doesn’t again enter into the ocean of samsaara characterized by birth and death. So long as the individual ego or jeeva exists in the seeker (characterized by the identification with body and mind), there will be births and deaths physically and mentally. But as the devotee through pure devotion merges unto the Lord killing one’s own individual ego, therefore there is no more birth or death. Birth-death is with respect to the Ego – when Ego vanishes, birth-death also vanish. Also since the jeeva merges into the Lord who is AJAH (beyond birth and thereby death), therefore he also becomes immortal.

Satisfaction or contentment is attained when the seeker feels happy and blissful such that he doesn’t crave for anything else. SIDDHI is to do with removal of imperfections whereas TRIPTHI is to do with attaining perfection. Thus both are different facets of the same thing. One is negation whereas the other is attainment. Satisfaction or contentment is achieved when the seeker becomes perfect and achieves that which satisfies everything else – this is amritatva or immortality or eternal bliss. We see bliss in the form of deathlessness. If we ask 100 people as to what would they ask to God as a boon, 90 people will definitely ask a deathless life. Thus satisfaction is achieved when the seeker becomes deathless or merges unto the deathless Lord.

As a result of getting pure devotion, the devotee achieves that by achieving which everything is achieved. This is the very same question which Saunaka asked Sage Angiras in Mundaka Upanishad as “tell me that by knowing which everything else is known” (eka vijnaanena sarva vijnaanam) and Angiras mentions about Brahman as being everything – finally saying that “brahmavid brahmaiva bhavathi” or “he who knows Brahman becomes Brahman”. This Brahman is mentioned as BHOOMA or perfection or poorna by Sanatkumara to Narada in Chandogya Upanishad. Thus we find here that Bhakthi as propounded by bhakthi acharyas is not different from jnaana of Upanishads. Both are one and the same only expressed in different ways.

We will continue with the phala of pure devotion in the next two sutras in the coming days.

Prostrations to all.


PS: translation of Narada Bhakti Sutras can be had from

Let a moment not pass by without remembering God

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sutra 1 and 2


Prostrations to all.

Sutra 1 –
Athato bhakthim vyaakhyaasyaamah

Word meaning
Atha – Now
Atah – Therefore
Bhakthim vyaakhyaasyaamah – bhakthi will be explained

Sutra meaning
Now, therefore bhakthi will be explained

Atha is considered as one of the two words used by Brahma at the time of creation (the other being AUM). Since these two words were used by Brahma at the beginning, therefore they are considered as auspicious or mangalakaram. Thus the word ATHA means auspiciousness and shows start of some work as such.

Atah or therefore means that after all the various literatures have been propounded, bhakthi is explained clearly with various acharyas views so that it can be memorized and implemented. As sutras are works which summarize a philosophy, therefore this work summarizes bhakthi from various puranas and other saints words.

This Sutra can also be said to point out the subject matter of the work which is BHAKTHI or devotion.

This starting of bhakthi sutras doesn’t mean that previously nothing was mentioned or previous mentioned were of no real use – previously bhakthi should have been explained because here bhakthi is explained from the view of other acharyas (which means that Narada had access to the various bhakthi literature and views of different bhakthi acharyas). Previously mentioned things cannot be said to be of no real use (here things means the Vedas, Upanishads, darshanas etc.) because there also bhakthi has been mentioned clearly. Here it only means that bhakthi is being collected from all works & words of all acharyas and put together in a capsule form through sutras so that a bhaktha can learn, remember and implement it easily in life.

This sutra doesn’t require any particular explanation as such & hence this ends the explanation of the first sutra. We will learn the second sutra of the first chapter tomorrow.

Sutra 2 –
Saa tu asmin parama prema roopaa

Word meaning
Saa tu – Bhakthi is (surely)
Parama prema roopa – of the nature of supreme devotion
Asmin – on the Lord (towards the Lord)

Sutra meaning
Bhakthi is verily supreme devotion towards the ultimate reality of Lord.

Narada here defines bhakthi as ultimate or supreme devotion towards the ultimate reality of Lord. Narada will be explaining in depth about this bhakthi and its in-depth definition but here it is a very short and concise definition of Bhakthi.

The word Parama means supreme and the word prema means love or devotion. Supreme here means total and unconditional. Prema here doesn’t mean mere love but it is love for the ultimate reality of Lord more than the love that we have towards our own existence or Self. A bhaktha is ever devoted towards the Lord. Even if he/she has to die for the sake of the Lord, he is ever ready to do that because the Lord alone is being really loved by the devotee. As per the bhakthi granthas, the bhaktha doesn’t even crave for moksha because the Lord is greater than moksha for the devotee.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa gives three examples of worldly love which put together is real devotion to the Lord (this is not his own idea but is mentioned in the bhakthi sutras itself).

1. Love of a chaste wife towards her husband
We have grown up in a culture wherein we find women as satis or the very embodiment of chastisy even though this is found less these days due to the western culture taking the mainstream in the lives of most of the youngsters. A chaste woman is one who lives for the sake of the husband alone. Manu speaks about how a woman should behave towards her husband quite beautifully – a woman should be like a kshatriya while dealing with official and other matters of the husband, a woman should be like a vaishya giving the husband good food and other items whenever he requires it, a woman should be like a Brahmin leading the husband to progress in the spiritual path through support in spiritual activities and like a shoodra (Manu literally means a prostitute) at night while sleeping with the husband. This analysis of Manu can also be taken to show the status of woman as not having much importance during that period of time but what is important here is that for a chaste woman, the husband is everything. It is this devotion towards the husband who is well versed in the scriptures due to the brahmacharya avasthaa being spent in the Gurukula which leads both to realize the ultimate reality of Lord within a single birth. We thus find Maadhva entering into the fire when Pandu died – Kunti did not enter into the fire because she had to take care of the children. Thus a chaste wife is totally devoted to her husband, similar should be the love of a devotee towards the Lord.

2. Love of a mother towards her child
We all know about the love that a mother has towards her child who is born out of her flesh itself. Even though we don’t find so pure love today but still the greatest love that we can find in the world apart from spiritual love is this kind of love. AMMA says that a pure love is that which a mother has towards her child. The mother takes so much pain and carries the child for nine months. Once the child is born, the mother imparts her own blood in the form of breast milk and takes care of the child at all time. We know that when the child cries, the mother becomes sad. Such is the deep bond between a mother and the child. Similar to the love of a mother towards her child, a devotee should love the Lord in the same way.

3. Love of a worldly person towards worldly objects
A worldly person whose mind is totally attracted and attached to worldly objects will always be seeking out worldly objects. He cannot live without the worldly objects even for a second. The moment he loses some object, it is as if he is dying like a fish on shore. The previous two types was pure love filled with dedication whereas this is love filled with strong attachment and pangs of separation (in case of separation).

A person who is endowed with the above three types of love towards the Lord has pure love or supreme love towards the Lord which Narada is speaking about here.

It is this supreme devotion which the lord mentions through three points in Bhakthi Yoga thus:

Mayi avesha mano ye maam nitya yuktaa upasathe
Sradhayaa parayopetaa te me yukthatamo mataah

A person who is endowed with the three qualities is a real and supreme devotee:
1. Fixing the mind unto me at all times
2. Ever steadfast on me as the ultimate reality
3. Considering me as the supreme goal to be achieved in life

We can go on speaking about supreme devotion but in order to keep it short so that everyone will be reading it, am not entering into much explanation. The above three points have been dealt in depth in Bhakthi Darpanam ( Interested people can go through the same.

Knowing what is the ultimate devotion and love towards the Lord, let us try to judge as to where we stand in terms of love so that we can improve our love and progress towards ultimate devotion which will lead to merging unto the ultimate reality of non-dual Lord.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Chapter 1 -- Two types of devotion


Prostrations to all.

We now enter into the work of Narada Bhakthi Sutras. As we learnt two days back, Sutra is that which is very concise but yet contains the main essence. These were/are used so as to remember things easily.

Chapter 1 - ParaBhakthiSvaroopam

The first chapter is titled as ParaBhakthiSvaroopam wherein Paraa Bhakthi or ultimate or higher devotion is explained.

What are the two main types of devotion or bhakthi?
Bhakthi is mainly of two types – one is Apara Bhakthi or lower devotion and the other is Para Bhakthi or higher devotion.

Apara Bhakthi
Here the devotee finds himself as different from the Lord. He does activities favoring the Lord – trying to always remember the Lord. But here there is the distinction between the devotee and the Lord. The devotee always finds or thinks himself as different from the Lord. This distinction between devotee and Lord is generally explained in Vedanta as TRIPUTI – the triads.

Any action has mainly three components – the doer, the object seeking which the action is done & the action in itself. The doer in this case is the BHAKTHAA. The object or UPAADEYA VASTHU (attainable object) is the Lord. The action in itself is called as BHAKTHI or devotion.

As the scriptures point out through the various vakyas of NEHA NANA ASTHI KINCHANA (there is no duality whatsoever here), SARVAM KHALU IDAM BRAHMA (everything is verily Brahman), SARVAM BRAHMA MAYAM JAGAT (the world is filled with Brahman), there is no duality whatsoever in the world. Even if we see duality as existing, that is only a seeming appearance & not ultimately real.

Lord as well points to this adviteeya vasthu in many places of Gita thus:

NA TVEVAAHAM JAATU NAASAM (there has never been a time when you, me or the other things have not existed – as they all exist as the substratum of Consciousness), AJOPI SAN AVYAYAATMA BHOOTAANAAM ISHWAROPI SAN (even though I am unborn, I become manifest through my own Maya), YO MAAM SARVATRA PASHYATHI SARVAM CHA MAYI PASTHYATHI (he who sees me as present everywhere and everything in me, he is never veiled from my vision), MATTAH PARATARAM NA ANYAT KINCHIT ASTHI DHANANJAYA (O Arjuna! There is nothing different or apart from me here), AHAMAATMA GUDAAKESHAH SARVABHOOTAASHAYASTHITAH (I am the inner Self of all beings), ISHWARAH SARVABHOOTANAAM HRIDHESHE ARJUNA THISTHATHI (the Lord resides in the heart of all beings) etc.

Brahma Sutras in the starting itself mentions the ultimate reality of Brahman as JANMAADYASYAYATHAH (that from which creation started). As SATYA DARSHANAM (a english logical work dealing with creation as such) has explained it in detail as to that the creator alone exists & the creation is only illusion in the creator).

Thus APARA BHAKTHI is based on ignorance and is an initial stage but not the final.

Para Bhakthi
Unlike the lower devotion wherein duality still exists, the higher devotion is that in which there exists no distinction between the devotee and the Lord. This is the same as JNAANA which Sankara propounds in depth in his works. NARADA himself explains bhakthi as amrita svaroopa or of the nature of immortality & as ultimate love or devotion culminating in ATMA NIVEDANAM wherein the devotee totally merges into the Lord (thereby duality totally vanishing).

Thus once the devotee becomes very devoted & totally immersed in the ultimate reality of Lord, he offers himself to the Lord. Thus the TRIPUTI vanishes & what remains behind is the non-dual ultimate reality of Lord alone. Thus this higher devotion wherein the devotee doesn’t see any difference between himself and the Lord because he knows and experiences that the lord alone exists, is the culmination of bhakthi or devotion.

Whenever some acharya speaks about bhakthi and jnaana being the same, he is mentioning about para bhakthi and not apara bhakthi.

It is true that bhakthi acharyas like ramanuja, chaitanya mahaprabhu, vallabhacharya etc. have mentioned the real devotion as that in which the devotee is still different from the Lord. But this is not the final state as we find in Bhagavatham or the bhakthi granthas.

It is also wrong to say that Advaita doesn’t support Bhakthi and is bereft of devotion to the Lord as here the reality is NIRGUNA PARA BRAHMAN which cannot be really contemplated upon. These are words of ignorant people just going around criticizing Advaita without understanding it properly. NIRGUNA PARA BRAHMAN can very well be contemplated upon as the substratum of all things in the world – this is how Ishavasya Upanishad as well as Gita propounds the sadhana to realization – seeing everything in the Lord and the Lord in everything – this is NIRGUNA BHAKTHI.

Adi Sankara has written commentaries on the Vishnu Sahasranama ad written many bhakthi granthas as well – in Sankara’s bhashyas as well we find him relating the Lord with PARA BRAHMAN and devotion is also mentioned as JNAANA (para bhakthi). It is right that Sankara emphasized on knowledge but this knowledge also requires sadhana which is devotion and dedication to scriptures as well as to the all-pervading Brahman (who is the cause of the world and hence the same as the Lord of bhakthi schools).

There have been great devotional acharyas in Advaita as well ranging from Vidyaranya to Appayya Dikshitar to Madhusudana Saraswathi. Madhusudana Saraswathi’s commentary on Gita titled Gudartha Dipika is totally a bhakthi bhashya wherein he even differs from Sankara in few places – he has strived and successfully shown that bhakthi is not at all different from jnaana. Madhusudana Saraswathi has as well written a work titled Bhagavad Bhakthi Rasaayana wherein he deals about bhakthi quoting from Bhagavatham among other works – here he speaks about bhakthi culminating in atma nivedanam and becoming para bhakthi or jnaana as the scholar might say.

Thus jnaana is the same as para bhakthi – both paths lead to the same final step of merging into ONE or NON-DUAL BRAHMAN.

JWe haven’t yet entered into the sutras – let this weekend pass (as it might be too much of reading/learning if the sutras explanation is started today). Hence we will start with the first sutra on Monday.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Narada Bhakthi Sutras - Introduction


Prostrations to all.

As mentioned earlier, there are mainly two works which are considered to be the basic texts for bhakthi or devotion – these are the Narada Bhakthi Sutras and Shandilya Bhakthi Sutras. Even though different systems of Vedanta do differ about this but Advaita accepts these two texts are authoritative in terms of Bhakthi or devotion.

Narada Bhakthi Sutras as the name goes is attributed to Sage Narada. We all very well know about the devotion of Narada. Hence there is no other person who is worthy than Narada to explain Bhakthi. Even though the work is attributed to Narada, there are mention of devotion as perceived by other saints as well. The work also mentions about Narada’s views about bhakthi not in the first person view but as a third person view. Thus the work mentions that “Narada considers bhakthi as….” instead of “I consider bhakthi as….” Thus it can as well be that somebody other than Narada just collected the different views of devotion and attributed the name to Narada as Narada is considered as the ultimate devotee of the Lord. Anyway, we are not interested in the authorship of the work but just the content of the work. Authorship does matter in certain cases as if the author is authoritative one, then there remains no doubt about acceptance of the concepts in the work. But since the content of the work very well matches bhakthi as propounded by the Lord in Bhakthi Yoga (12th chapter of Bhagavad Gita) and jnaana as propounded by the scriptures, therefore the work is considered as authoritative irrespective of whoever is the real author of the work (we will see while learning the work as to how and why the work goes as per Gita and the scriptures).

Narada Bhakthi Sutras has a commentary by Narayana Teertha (currently don’t have any book on Narada Bhakthi Sutras and hence am not very sure whether it is Narayanendra Saraswathi or Narayana Teertha but guess it is Narayana Teertha who was a great devotee of Lord and wrote many devotional carnatic songs as well) – Savithri might be able to throw some light of some of the popular songs of Narayana Teertha – one song which I know and remember is “Govardhana Giridhaara govinda gokula baala paramaanandaa” sung in Darbari Kanada.

There are other commentaries in Sanskrit for the work as well – haven’t read any of the commentaries as couldn’t get the Sanskrit commentaries from any place except that the RK Mutt book does mention about the same. Famous English translations of the work are from RK Mutt and Swami Chinmayananda’s translation of the work. There is a beautiful Malayalam translation and explanation of the work by Jnaanaananda Saraswathi of Kanyakumari wherein he uses lot of quotations from Bhagavatham.

Getting into the outline of the work, the work is split into 5 chapters and in total contains 84 sutras. The sutras are simple and almost like hindi so that each one of us can easily understand. One of the main reasons that there are many sutra literatures for different topics is that it is easy to remember, memorize and recollect (as has very few words). Once the sutra meaning is learnt, memorizing is easy. Sutras consist of very few or minimal words but yet conveying the entire meaning of whatever is to be conveyed.

The first chapter is titled “PARABHAKTHI SVAROOPAM” (nature of supreme devotion) wherein the ultimate or higher devotion is explained. This chapter consists of 24 sutras and herein the definition and explanation of paraa bhakthi or higher devotion is there. This chapter also gives the definition of devotion by various sages and finally concluding with Narada’s definition and supporting it with reason/example.
The second chapter is titled “PARABHAKTHI MAHATVAM” (importance of supreme devotion). This chapter consists of 9 sutras. Here it is mentioned that bhakthi is greater than all the other paths of jnaana, karma, yoga etc. (jnaana here means only intellectual knowledge or mere learning of scriptures without any proper import – we will deal with this when learning this chapter). This chapter also gives reasons as to why bhakthi is greater than all other paths – thus Narada doesn’t believe in blind statements but gives logical reasons for the same. Thus we find over here that even in devotion, there should be logical analysis and reasoning – also that ultimate devotion is not against logic but logic will support supreme devotion.

The third chapter is titled “BHAKTHI SAADHANAANI” wherein the different means or sadhanaas for bhakthi is propounded. Thus after explaining supreme devotion and as to why supreme devotion is important and to be followed by all seekers, the means to supreme devotion is mentioned. As Vedanta accepts two ways or two wings to be followed in the spiritual path, here too we find the same of “anukoola sevanam” (doing things that support the spiritual path) and “prathikoola varjanam” (removal of things that obstruct the spiritual path). Thus we find that Narada’s views are not against Vedanta but it is in par with Vedanta only. After explaining the means, Narada ends the chapter with explanation of who overcomes the ocean of samsaara. This chapter consists of 17 sutras.

The fourth chapter is titled “PREMA NIRVACHANAM” (exposition of Prema or love). This chapter consists of 16 sutras. Here exposition of love is done. Love or pure devotion is explained beautifully with examples and logic. The difference between the first chapter and this chapter is that the first chapter deals with Supreme Devotion from theoretical viewpoint whereas this chapter deals with LOVE from practical viewpoint. So the first chapter explains theories whereas this chapter emphasizes on actions or implementations at the empirical level.

The fifth and the last chapter titled “MUKHYA BHAKTHI MAHIMA” (importance of mukhya bhakthi) has 18 sutras. Mukhya bhakthi is one-pointed devotion – the work does mention about gauni bhakthi which is at the empirical implementation level whereas the devotee does activities at the physical level. We will see the different types of bhakthi as and when we deal with the work.

The last chapter ends with mention of different bhakthi acharyas and that all of them have the same view & nobody really deviates or differs from other persons.

Having seen a brief introduction of the work, we will start with the first sutra tomorrow.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God

Monday, September 11, 2006

Learning of Narada Bhakthi Sutras


Prostrations to all.

Vedanta again and again stresses that the ultimate reality of Brahman is realized as once our very nature through knowledge of the reality. Knowledge is of two types or two stages – first is Paroksha Jnaana or knowing indirectly from the Guru and scriptures. Second is Aparoksha Jnaana or knowing directly or intuitive experience of oneself as the ultimate reality of Brahman which is the substratum of all illusions & of the nature of Sat, Chit, Ananda (Existence, Consciousness and Bliss absolute).

We find mention about bhakthi in Bhagavad Gita. When we hear the name Bhakthi, we generally consider it as going to temple, being pious and god believing. But this definition of Bhakthi is not the real definition of Bhakthi as per bhakthi acharyas and scriptures.

Bhakthi is primarily of two types – Para Bhakthi and Apara Bhakthi. Apara Bhakthi or lower devotion is wherein the devotee finds himself as different from the Lord but yet being totally and unconditionally devoted to the Lord as the all-pervasive essence of all existences. As to what is the real definition of Bhakthi, we will see it at a later time. Para Bhakthi or higher devotion is that devotion in which the devotee merges into the Lord – thus there is no difference between the Lord and the devotee. This bhaava is called Atma nivedanam or offering oneself completely unto the Lord.

Vedanta says that real devotion of para bhakthi is the same as jnaana or knowledge. As Swami Paramarthananda of Chennai (who is a disciple of Dayananda Saraswathi of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam) says, in jnaana the seeker merges the TAT into the TVAM by seeing everything as the Self which is TVAM or “I”. Whereas in devotion, the devotee merges the TVAM into the TAT and here TAT remains behind. In jnaana, TVAM alone remains whereas in devotion TAT alone remains. Both ways, what remains behind is adviteeya atman whether it is one’s own inner Self of Consciousness or the ultimate reality of Lord.

We have already learnt the 12th chapter of Gita from Rajesh Kumar which is available at

But there are two main works which are considered as the basic scriptures for bhakthi (where bhakthi is explained from all perspectives and in perfect harmony with shruthi wherein jnaana is stressed). The two works are Narada Bhakthi Sutras and Shaandilya Bhakthi Sutras. We all very well know that there is no other person in the world who knows devotion better than Narada. Thus to learn the different facets of bhakthi from none other than Narada is but a great boon to seekers of the ultimate reality.

We will try to learn the Narada Bhakthi Sutras from tomorrow. We will try to learn the sutras slowly and in depth so that the concept of bhakthi becomes very clear. The sutras are very simple and easy to understand unlike other sutras like yoga sutra, brahma sutras etc.

As to details about the work and introduction, we will see starting from tomorrow.

Hoping that this particular study is welcomed and fruitful to everyone in the forum.

Prostrations to all.