Narada Bhakti Sutras

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sutra 13 and 14


Prostrations to all.

Sutra 13 –
anyathaa paathithya shankaa

Word meaning
Anyathaa – if not (if scriptural injunctions are not followed)
Paathithya shankaa – there is a chance of falling down (from the spiritual path)

Sutra meaning
If scriptural injunctions are not followed, then there is a chance of falling down from the spiritual path.

The above two sutras can be interpreted in two ways. We can see “shaastra rakshanam” as meaning following of scriptural injunctions or the various nitya-naimittika karmas put forth by the scriptures. Or we can as well see “shastra rakshanam” as performance of the scriptural path of “sravana-manana-nidhidhyaasana” in addition of constant contemplation of the Lord (which in a way is nidhidhyaasana). Let us see these both cases one by one.


As we all would already know, there are mainly four types of karmas. These are nitya, naimittika, kaamya and praayaschitta. Nitya karmas are regular activities to be done on a regular basis – these include the sandhya vandanam, agnihotra etc. Naimittika karmas are those which are done on special occasions like birth of a child etc. Kaamya karmas are actions done desiring some fruits. Prayaschitta karma is done to get rid of some sin accrued.

Scriptures proclaim that not doing nitya-naimittika karma as well doing of prathishiddha karma or prohibited actions (like drinking, adultery etc.) will cause sin. These sins will become obstacles in the spiritual path for the seeker. When there are obstacles, it is tough to follow the spiritual path. These obstacles are like body-pains, moments of sorrow due to relatives/friends dying etc.

So long as there are obstacles, it is tough to progress in the spiritual path unless the seeker is well advanced and knows the scriptures so that he knows himself to be not the kartha-ahamkaara but the sakshi-kutastha-atma. Since Narada is speaking about apara bhakthi here, such bhakthas are not versed in the scriptures and not into the jnaana marga. Thus it becomes tough for them to progress in the spiritual path. Thus it is essential that scriptural injunctions (which is two-fold of doing nitya-naimittika karma & refraining from restrained actions) are followed by a seeker so that there is no obstacles in the spiritual path. When obstacles are created, the seeker falls down from the spiritual path as his concentration goes towards worldly things instead of the Lord. For example, if a person has bodily pains then he will be concentrating more on the body than on the Lord.

The above is a general explanation of the sutra with respect to scriptural actions as such. We can and should rather see this explanation from the jnaana perspective than karma perspective. SHAASTRA RAKSHANAM means protection of the shastras – the protection of shastras is through following of the path propounded in the scriptures – the path that scripture propounds is that of sravana-manana-nidhidhyaasana (listening-reflecting-contemplating). When a seeker follows the bhakthi marga, he contemplates on the Lord. Mere contemplation on the Lord is not enough as we find even the dvaitins and vishista advaitins among many others contemplating on the Lord. It is essential to understand the nature of the Lord who is being contemplated. If this nature is found as someone different from oneself, then there cannot be eternal bliss or moksha because bhedha still exists. Contemplation or bhakthi is nidhidhyaasana but without sravana and manana which means that the Lord is contemplated but the real nature of the Lord is not known or understood. Thus such a seeker is sure to fall down because he doesn’t know the Lord who is being contemplated. If a person contemplates on the Lord as sitting in heaven and bestowing blessings on his devotees alone, such a person cannot progress because he imagines a Lord in the wrong way. It is against the samatva bhaava which is mentioned by the Lord in Gita in many places as well as the various Upanishads also.

Thus Narada says that scriptural injunctions or sravana-manana-nidhidhyaasana has to be followed along with bhakthi or contemplation of the Lord (which Narada has been explaining in the last few sutras as nirodha etc.) else there is chance of falling down from the spiritual path as the seeker is led in the completely wrong direction.

This interpretation as per jnaana marga is proper and better than the karma marga explanation which is generally explained by many people. Since the word used is shaastra rakshanam or protection of scriptures, it is proper to see this as jnaana marga alone because the shaastras are protected by jnaana marga alone through realization of the vishaya of Lord of the scriptures.

Thus Narada here adds the clause of following sravana-manana-nidhidhyaasana process along with bhakthi towards the Lord.

What is sravana-manana-nidhidhyaasana????
This is knowing that the Lord alone exists as the adviteeya vasthu amidst the illusory world. Whatever is seen as the dual world is only an illusion in the Lord. This is knowing that the Lord alone exists here and thereby seeing the Lord as pervading all illusory things.

Narada winds up this topic of explaining bhakthi and the way to bhakthi in the next sutra & thereby enters into how bhakthi is defined by various bhakthi acharyas. We will see that in the coming days.

Sutra 14 –
loko api taavadeva bhojanaadi vyaapaarasthu aashareera dhaaranaavadhi

Word meaning
Lokah api – worldly activities also
Taavad eva – like that only (to be performed to the extent that they don’t become obstacle to the spiritual path)

Bhojanaadi vyaapaarah tu – but the normal activities like eating, sleeping etc.
Aashareera dhaaranaavadhi – will be done as long as the body is there.

Sutra meaning
All worldly activities are to be performed as long as they don’t pose obstacles in the spiritual path (and are not opposed to the Lord) but normal activities like eating, sleeping etc. will be continued as long as the body is there (as long as a person is embodied).

Narada mentioned that all activities are to be renounced whether they are worldly or religious first & then explained that this renunciation is performance of the activity as an offering to the Lord so that activities don’t obstruct the spiritual path. After Narada mentioned about worldly activities, now we can ask the question as to what about normal, daily activities like eating, drinking etc. Anticipating this question, Narada is answering the same here.

That worldly activities are to be performed as an offering to the Lord and so long as they don’t become obstacles in the spiritual path has been explained earlier itself. But the daily activities like eating etc. will be continued so long as the body is there. This means that even though a person might have renounced all activities by offering it to the Lord or by sanyaasa but still daily activities will continue as they are of the body alone. So long as the seeker associates himself with the body, there will be the identification and superimposition of the Self as the doer of all activities & all activities of the body as one’s activities. But once the devotee realizes himself as the Self distinct from the body, there will be no identification with the activities of the body. The activities of the body go on until the body dies off. This is where we can say the differentiation between jeevan mukthi and videha mukthi comes – jeevan muktha is a person for whom the body is still there but he doesn’t identify himself with the body. Videha muktha is a person whose body completely falls off and he becomes one with the ultimate reality of Brahman. This distinction of jeevan mukthi and videha mukthi is only for explanation to the ignorant seeker. For a person who knows that the body is temporarily seen even as water is seen in desert, there is no body at all to vanish. Thus in reality there is neither jeevan mukthi nor videha mukthi but there exists only the nitya muktha atma (ever liberated Self).

What Narada is mentioning here is that even for saints or people who have realized, the activities of the body will go on when an ignorant person views the saints and his activities. This only means that basic needs of the body have to be supplied for the body else the body itself will become an obstacle for spiritual progress. Hence a seeker should not discard the body until he becomes a complete witness of all the activities of the body.

Ramana Maharshi has mentioned in many places in his works that a seeker should not discard the body and should satisfy the basic needs of the body. Narada after this sutra enters into the definition of Bhakthi by various bhakthi acharyas. We will see those from the next day.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God


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