Narada Bhakti Sutras

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


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