Narada Bhakti Sutras

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sutra 17 and 18


Prostrations to all.

Definition of bhakthi by Garga

Sutra 17 –
Kathaadishu ithi gargah

Word meaning
Kathaadishu (anuraaga) – attachment towards stories etc. of the Lord
Ithi gargah – (is bhakthi), thus says Garga.

Sutra meaning
Bhakthi is attachment towards hearing of stories etc. of the Lord, thus says Garga.

Here instead of activities by the body and words, activity related to the mind is being mentioned. Garga is of the opinion that bhakthi is listening to the glories of the Lord through stories etc. A person is able to appreciate the glory of the all-pervasive Lord only when he hears about the glories of the Lord. When a person hears the greatness of a particular saint, he gets attracted towards the saint. If the saint is a realized saint capable of imparting knowledge essential for liberation, then this attraction turns to strong attachment in the form of guru-shishya bhava. Similarly attraction towards the ultimate reality of Lord is possible only if we come to know the glories of the Lord.

The glory of the Lord has been explained in depth in the vibhoothi yoga of Bhagavad Gita as well as in various scriptures. But as we all know, it is very tough indeed to get access to the scriptures. Even if we get the original texts as well as translations, it is tough indeed to interpret the scriptures in the right way. If scriptures are interpreted and understood in the wrong way, then it will not only obstruct the spiritual path but will lead the seeker in the entirely wrong direction. Scriptural interpretation is possible only through the guidance of the Guru who helps the disciple in interpreting the scriptures in the right way through proper logic. But as most of us are unaware of the language of the scriptures (Sanskrit) as well as have not dedicated ourselves to the learning of the scriptures under a Guru in the traditional way, thus scriptural access is almost ruled out.

Even in older times, there would have been people who didn’t have access to the scriptures. Various dharma sutras mention about the limitation as to who can learn the scriptures and who cannot – it seems that there were notions that women should learn as well as the shudras. Thus for people who don’t have access to the scriptures, they cannot develop attachment towards the Lord for they don’t know the nature and glory of the Lord.

The nature & glories of the Lord was thus put forth in the various puranic stories by none other than Veda Vyaasa himself. There are no limitations as to listening of the stories of the Lord in the puranas. Anyone can hear the stories of the puranas. Since puranic stories are quite attractive, appealing and easy to understand-remember, thus these reach more people than the scriptures themselves.

Thus through hearing of the stories of the Lord wherein his nature as the substratum of the world, all-pervading consciousness etc. the devotee develops a strong attachment to such a powerful and all-knowing Lord. For a devotee it is not just the powerful and all-knowing nature of the Lord that attracts but the eternal nature of the Lord & the Lord’s dedication of saving his devotees from the ocean of samsaara. Thus people who hear the glories of the Lord get to know about the Lord through stories, get attracted to the Lord & thereby cultivate pure devotion or para bhakthi towards the ultimate reality of Lord.

Thus bhakthi or devotion (apara bhakthi or means) also includes attachment to listening to the stories of the Lord (other than doing activities like worship etc. which we saw yesterday). We see in the bhagavatham itself that wherever bhagavatha parayana happens, there vyaasa, shuka among other sages will be present to hear the glories of the Lord. The Lord as he is infinite is filled with infinite glories. Even though glories are illusory at the ultimate level (once the devotee has merged in the Lord), but still they are valid at the empirical level and helps as a means to attain atma nivedanam.

As Madhvacharya mentions in Tattvaviveka
Tatho anantha guno harih

Hari or the ultimate reality of Lord is filled with infinite qualities (or glories).

The last definition of vyasa was with respect to bodily and word activities whereas here it is more to do with mental activity. We will see the definition of shandilya in the next day.

Definition of bhakthi by Shaandilya

Sutra 18 –

Atma rathi avirodhena ithi shaandilyah

Word meaning
Anuraagah – attachment to God
Atma rathi avirodhena – that is not against the attachment to the Self (enjoyment or immersed in the Self)
(is bhakthi)
Ithi shaandilyah – thus says Shaandilya

Sutra meaning
Bhakthi is attachment to God which is not against the enjoyment or being immersed in the Self – thus says Shaandilya

Atma Rati means enjoyment in the Self or being immersed in the Self. Bhakthi when we see a little beyond activities of the body, words and mind will lead us to that devotion which is associated with the attachment to the Self. This definition indirectly points to the oneness of the devotee and the Lord. As Yajnavalkya says in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad to Maitreyi that everything is loved for the sake of the Self, the Lord also is loved only for the sake of peace and happiness of the Self. Without desiring peace of one’s own Self, there cannot be any devotion. Thus real devotion is when through devotion of the Lord peace of the Self is maintained. Peace of oneself is possible only when there is deep attachment in the Self which leads to constantly being immersed in the Self. Devotion of Lord is not possible unless there is devotion or attachment to the Self. It is because of this reason that we cannot have pure devotion towards the Lord if the body is under trouble – for an initial devotee it is very tough to contemplate on the ultimate reality of Lord if there are physical troubles and pains. It is only due to constant practice that this is overcome through the knowledge that I am not the body but the Self. As is the case with the body, similarly there cannot be pure devotion of the Lord if there is no attachment to the Self. Whatever be achieved or realized, there can never be lack of one’s own Consciousness as without this, nothing exists. Thus pure devotion is when the devotee remembers his own very Self as the ultimate reality of Lord. Thus he develops devotion towards the Lord as the inner Self or antaryamin of each and every being which includes himself.

Thus Shaandilya defines bhakthi as attachment to the Lord which is not against attachment to one’s own Self. This avirodha or non-contradiction is possible only if the Lord is the same as the Self – if not, there would be more love towards either the Self (as is the case of a selfish ignorant person) or the Lord (as is the case of devout Vaishnavas). Thus shandilya indirectly points out that devotion of the Lord is not against but the same as devotion of the Self as the Consciousness in all beings is none other than the Lord alone.

Lord mentions this that he resides in the heart of all beings in many places in Gita thus:

Ishwarah sarvabhootaanam hridheshe arjuna thistathi
O Arjuna! The Lord resides in the heart of all beings.

The heart refers to that location from where the thought of EGO arises. This heart is thus the place of the Self from which Ego gets born (individualistic thought of “I” arises). Thus the Lord is the same as the Self as both are present in the heart alone.

Devotion to the Lord is performance of those activities which are not against attachment of the Self – meaning that those activities which are not against forgetfulness or putting down one’s own Self. Thus through this, the Vaishnava devotions are kind of criticized because there oneself is forgotten for the sake of the Lord. As long as a devotee totally merges into the Lord, such a forgetfulness is accepted as pure devotion seen in atma nivedanam. But that forgetfulness of oneself as limited whereas considering the Lord as unlimited thereby degrading oneself and upgrading the Lord is being indirectly criticized by shaandilya in this particular sutra.

Thus real bhakthi is not against atma rathi or attachment to the Self. After mentioning the various definitions of bhakthi and its means by various acharyas, Narada finally gives his own definition of bhakthi thereby supporting it with valid example and logic as well in the coming sutras. We will learn Narada’s definition in the next day.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God


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