Narada Bhakti Sutras

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sutra 15 and 16


Prostrations to all.

Sutra 15 –
Tallakshanaani vaachyanthe nana matha bhedhaat

Word meaning
Tallakshanaani – its characteristics (definitions)
Vaachyanthe – (saints) speak
Nana matha bhedhaat – in different ways (different views).

Sutra meaning
The characteristics of Bhakthi are explained in different ways by different bhakthi acharyas.

Narada here mentions that bhakthi is explained in different ways by different acharyas. Different ways of explaining is a particularity of the ultimate reality of Lord as propounded in the Upanishads. As chinmaya beautifully puts it, Vedanta is a subjective science. Thus there can be different varied views about the ultimate reality of lord or devotion or knowledge. This is because when we see the reality, it is a perspective view rather than the normal view. The reality when grasped through the mind is seen in different ways. This is quite popular in Jain theory of the reality being multi-faceted. The famous example of blind people trying to find out how an elephant will be can be quoted here.

Few blind people heard that there was some elephant in their place. They hadn’t seen an elephant before & hence they went to see the elephant. One person touched the tail of the elephant & proclaimed that an elephant is hairy. Another person touched the legs & said that the elephant is something which is hard. Yet another person touched the horn and said that it is smooth but sharp. All of these people were right, no one was wrong but still the views were not complete.

Similarly the ultimate reality of Lord has been explained in different ways in the scriptures. The famous rig veda hymn propounds that “one reality is being explained in different ways by saints”. That the reality even though is of the very nature of Existence, consciousness and bliss absolute but has been explained in different ways is testimony to the upanishadic statements that the reality is beyond words and thought. The moment we try to point out the reality, we fall short of words. This is also due to the truth that the reality is the subject and can never be objectified; also cause the reality is without any attributes. But still explanations are required for people to understand about the reality. Thus the different ways of proclaiming about the one non-dual reality.

Similarly, devotion as well has been explained in different ways by different acharyas. Here explanation is not the definition as to the nature of devotion but as to the path or means to devotion. As the famous statement that “all roads lead to rome”, there are many ways in which devotion can be cultivated in order to realize the ultimate reality of Lord – the nava vidha bhakthi propounded by Prahlaada is a testimony to this.

Even though Narada mentions in this sutra that bhakthi and its characteristics are explained by different acharyas in different ways, this doesn’t signify that each of the views are contradictory even as there are different sub systems of Vedanta each contradicting the other. Narada only means that different saints have explained different aspects of devotion. It is only when we imbibe and put all those explanations in a single place that devotion becomes fully defined & fruitful for a devotee towards atma nivedanam.

Thus Narada here doesn’t say that different acharyas fight with each other about devotion but only that they explain different facets of bhakthi. This is clearly understood by Narada himself explaining at the end of bhakthi sutras that all acharyas speak about bhakthi in the same sense & word.

As to the various definitions of bhakthi, we will take it up one by one in the coming days.

Definition of bhakthi by Paaraasharyah (son of paraashara – vyaasa)

Sutra 16 –

poojadishu anuraagah ithi paaraasharyah

Word meaning
Poojadishu anuraagah – attachment to pooja and other ritualistic activities (is bhakthi)
Ithi paarasharyah – thus says Parashaara (Veda Vyaasa).

Sutra meaning
Bhakthi is defined by Vyaasa as attachment to pooja and other vedic activities.

Paarasharyah is the son of Paraashara or Veda Vyaasa. Narada gives the definition of Veda Vyaasa as the first definition of bhakthi or devotion. This definition is with respect to vedic rituals or rituals propounded in the Vedas for the spiritual path.

It is important to note here that vedic activities doesn’t mean the vidhis or injunctions of the Vedas like sandhya, agnihotra etc. Pooja and other vedic activities which help in the spiritual path by constant remembrance of the Lord are the actions that are indicated over here. This is made clear by the word “anuraaga” or attachment.

Vedas are broadly split into three parts or khandas. The three khandas are karma khanda, upasana khanda and jnaana khanda respectively. Karma khanda portion includes various rituals for attaining specific fruits like svarga or heaven etc. This portion consists of rituals which are done expecting certain fruits as well as with the attitude of doer-ship. Upasana Khanda is the portion wherein different types of meditation and contemplation methods have been put forth in order to help the seeker gain mental control through which the seeker will be able to realize the ultimate reality of Lord (through jnaana or knowledge). The last and final portion of the Vedas is the jnaana khanda wherein the knowledge of the ultimate reality of Lord is propounded & the means of sravana-manana-nidhidhyasana to realize the ultimate reality of Lord.

This particular definition of bhakthi (as strong attachment to activities like worship etc.) doesn’t include the karma khanda rituals but includes the upasana khanda activities. The most common of all activities which lead to purification of the mind as well as contemplation of the ultimate reality of Lord is pooja or worship of the Lord. Other activities include chantings, singing bhajans etc.

The word of “anuraaga” or “strong attachment” is very important in this definition. A person does the action that he likes the most. There can be attachment to any action only when there is strong desire for the fruit that is achieved through performance of the particular action. A person would have the strong desire to learn music only when he has the strong desire to become a musician. Thus the desire to become a musician is what drives the action of learning music. The strong desire to learn music is anuraaga. Anuraaga is not mere desire but strong attachment like the attachment a lover has towards his love, a wife has towards the husband and a mother has towards her child.

Extending anuraaga to spiritual activities, there can be strong desire for performance of ritualistic activities like pooja, archana etc. only if the fruit of pure devotion towards the ultimate reality of Lord is desired. Thus there should be strong desire to gain pure devotion about the ultimate reality of Lord. As the person who has the strong desire to become a musician gets a strong attachment towards the act of learning music, similarly the devotee who has the strong desire to gain pure devotion towards the ultimate reality of Lord will have the strong desire towards the various activities of pooja etc. which aid him in getting the fruit of pure devotion.

We have learnt and know that there are three types of actions depending on the level at which they are performed which are kaayika (performed by the body), vaachika (through words) and maanasika (mental activities like dhyaana etc.).

This has been propounded by Ramana Maharshi in Upadesa Saram thus:

Kaaya vaak manah kaaryam uttamam
Poojanam japah chinthanam kramaath

Work done through body, words and mind are superior to one another – the respective activities are pooja (worship), japa (chanting) and chintanam (dhyaana or meditation).

Thus here Narada mentions the definition of bhakthi by Veda Vyasa which includes kaayika and vaachika actions (actions performed through the body and words). These activities lead to purification of the mind as well as aid in constant contemplation of the ultimate reality of Lord. This in turn leads the devotee to jnaana (knowledge) or para bhakthi (supreme devotion) which is knowing the Lord as the one and only entity existing.

Ramana Maharshi thus says about karmas in Upadesa Saram:

Ishwara arpitham na icchayaa kritham
Chitta shodhakam mukthi saadhakam

Work done as an offering to the Lord and without expecting any fruits helps in the purification of mind and thereby leads to mukthi or liberation.

We will see the definition of bhakthi as per garga in the next day.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God


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