Narada Bhakti Sutras

Monday, November 27, 2006

Chapter 2, Sutra 1 and 2


Prostrations to all.

Sutra 1 –

Saa tu karma jnaana yogebhyo api adhikatharaa

Word meaning
Saa tu – Bhakthi is definitely
Adhikatharaa – superior
Karma jnaana yogebhyo api – than karma, jnaana and yoga

Sutra meaning
Bhakthi (paraa bhakthi or pure devotion) is definitely superior to karma, jnaana and yoga.

This particular sutra might seem to be contradicting whatever we have learnt as to jnaana and bhakthi being the same. Here we have to properly understand the karma, jnaana and yoga that Narada is pointing out.

Action is always inferior to bhakthi because action is performed with a particular desire. Action since is limited will lead to limited fruit alone. Thus the effect or fruit or phala of karma is always limited and finite. We have already learned that bhakthi gives the fruit of ananda or bliss. Bliss is infinite and unlimited. Thus it is very clear that bhakthi is greater than karma. Moreover karma is performed with kaama or desiring something whereas bhakthi is performed with any particular desires. Bhakthi or pure devotion is mere remembrance of the Lord instead of karma which is propelled by a particular desire.

Karma or action is based on duality – the difference of the doer and the fruit to be achieved being there. But in the case of para bhakthi, there is no such difference. Thereby bhakthi is based on advaita or non-duality whereas karma is based on duality. Katha Upanishad proclaims that there is no duality whatsoever here and whoever sees duality as if existing goes from death to death. Thus karma which bases itself on duality is inferior to bhakthi which bases itself on adviteeya bhagavan.

We have to remember that the karma which Narada speaks about is sakaama karma. Even if we take the case of nishkaama karma or desireless action, that will lead only to chitta shuddhi or purity of mind – cannot directly lead to eternal bliss whereas bhakthi directly leads to eternal bliss or amritatva.

Yoga is the process of control of the mind thereby taking the seeker to the state of Samadhi or absorption. As per the yoga system of patanjali, yoga leads a person to that state wherein the seeker is completely alienated from prakrithi or insentient entities. This is what Yoga system calls as kaivalya. The Samadhi which Vedanta speaks about equivalent to Samadhi of Yoga is Nirvikalpa Samadhi. This itself is not eternal but is temporary. Hence the emphasis in Vedanta of Sahaja Samadhi or natural absorption in the ultimate reality of Lord. Since the fruit of Samadhi is not eternal, therefore it is inferior to Bhakthi.

What Narada speaks about here is intellectual knowledge alone and not aparoksha anubhava or brahma atma aikya jnaana of Vedanta. We have already discussed and seen in the previous chapter that Narada himself is pointing out that bhakthi and brahma atma aikya jnaana are one and the same. Hence the jnaana that Narada points out here is not brahma atma aikya jnaana but mere intellectual knowledge. Intellectual knowledge can never lead to eternal bliss because it is limited by the limited intellect. Intellectual knowledge is the knowledge apprehended by the intellect. Since the intellect is something which is born, it is limited. Since intellect is limited, the knowledge achieved through the intellect also has to be limited. Hence intellectual knowledge or jnaana is also inferior to bhakthi as it leads to only limited fruit and not unlimited infinite bliss of the Lord.

We will see the two reasons which Narada gives to substantiate this particular sutra in the next day.

Sutra 2 –

Word meaning
Phalaroopatvaat - Because of its fruit (fruit or effect of bhakthi being eternal unlike the other means).

Sutra meaning
Since Bhakthi gives the fruit of eternal bliss, therefore it is superior to other means (which give limited fruit alone).

We learned in the previous sutra that bhakthi or pure devotion is greater or superior than the other paths of intellectual knowledge, action and yoga. We also learned that the main reason for the same is because of the fruit of bhakthi being eternal while the fruits achieved through the other fruits are temporary alone. This is what Narada is giving as a logic over here.

Once again let us reiterate and analyze the various paths and the comparison of the paths with respect to the fruits achieved through each path.

The path of action is determined by the eternal law of karma (the law is eternal from the empirical view point and not from the ultimate view point). The eternal law of karma is that of action and reaction. Whatever is the particular action that determines an equivalent reaction or phala. This might seem to be the same as Newton’s third law which states “each and every action has an equivalent and opposite reaction” but we should remember that this eternal law of karma has been there since eternal times (from the vedic periods itself). It is this law of karma that determines the birth and death of an individual. If a person does good actions, he goes to higher worlds starting from mahar loka (land of manes), svarga (heaven) etc. On the other hand, if a person does bad actions, he goes to the below worlds of athala, suthala etc. This is what Katha Upanishad propounds by telling that “yathaa karma yathaa srutham” – the births depend on one’s actions and knowledge. If a person has knowledge of the ultimate reality of Lord (at least intellectually if not aparoksha), he will go to the higher worlds as the fruits of bad actions are burnt in the fire of knowledge.

The highest that a person can achieve through karma is the post of Brahma-Creator in the brahma loka. This is not that easy to attain and it is temporary as well. We find the mention of different brahmas being created and destroyed in the ultimate reality of Brahman. We also have in the hanumad ashtottara shata naamavali that hanuman will be next Brahma.

Thus the position of Brahma is also not eternal though the timeframe of Brahma is much higher than human timeframe. Since Brahma’s position is also not eternal, therefore action cannot give eternality or immortality as the highest action can give is the position of Brahma. Therefore we can conclude that action has limited and finite fruit alone.

Yogic sadhanas can lead us only to either Samadhi or yoga siddhis. Patanjali himself accepts the siddhis as temporary and obstacles to Samadhi. Samadhi of Yoga system is knowing oneself as the purusha distinct from the prakrithi and its effects of world. Thus in Samadhi as well duality persists. Duality wherever it is will create notions of fear (dviteeyaad vai bhayam bhavathi – fear arises out of the notion of duality – thus says Brihadaranyaka Upanishad). Since yoga system’s fruit of Samadhi is based on duality, therefore it cannot give eternal bliss but only gives limited and finite fruit.

As we have seen in the previous mail, jnaana here denotes intellectual knowledge and not brahma atma aikya jnaana because Narada himself had proved that brahma atma aikya jnaana and paraa bhakthi are one and the same in the previous chapter. The maximum intellectual knowledge can lead us to is intellectual satisfaction or fame or money. All these being limited by the intellect (where the knowledge is developed) has to be limited alone. Hence the fruit of jnaana as well is limited knowledge in the form of either limited happiness or limited satisfaction or money or fame.

Thus the fruits of jnaana, karma and yoga are limited and finite whereas the fruit of bhakthi is amrita or ananda (infinite and eternal bliss). Hence bhakthi is superior to jnaana, karma and yoga.

A professor is superior to an assistant professor because the fruit or output of their profession is more in the case of professor (in the form of money). Extending this to the various paths, bhakthi is superior to the other paths because of its fruit being eternal/higher than the limited fruit of the other paths.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Narada Bhakthi Sutras - Chapter 2 Introduction


Prostrations to all.

We learnt in the previous chapter the nature of paraa bhakthi or pure devotion. Narada made it quite clear that all definitions of bhakthi by different acharyas are not contradictory but all together help in cultivating pure devotion. Narada finally defined pure devotion as that in which the devotee always remembers the Lord offering all activities unto the Lord and becoming sad when the Lord is forgotten. This definition was from the perspective of a striving devotee whereas for a devotee who has achieved pure devotion, devotion is immortality & devotion is that by knowing which everything becomes known; by gaining which everything is gained; by attaining which there is no more desires left.

Once bhakthi is defined from the perspective of the pure devotee and the striving devotee, next we have to compare and contrast bhakthi with other paths. Swami Vivekananda puts the path to realization as the four of jnaana, karma, bhakthi and yoga (raja yoga). It is a general notion that Vivekananda was one who categorized it. But this is a wrong notion. This kind of categorization is found in this chapter of Bhakthi Sutras as well as in the Gita and other scriptures. We have to remember amidst all such discussions that knowledge of the non-dual reality of Brahman alone is the path to realization – there is no path other than this. This is not “my” personal opinion but the open statement of the Upanishads that the liberation is only possible through knowledge (knowledge here doesn’t signify intellectual knowledge but brahma atma aikya jnaana in the form of aparoksha anubhava).

Whenever we read Swami Vivekananda’s words or any other saints words, those are only the paths mentioned; the final step to realization is through knowledge & knowledge alone. “I” am not trying to attack Swamiji’s categorization but these are mere resonating statements of the Upanishads.

Pure devotion or paraa bhakthi is the same as jnaana as we have seen in the end of the first chapter of bhakthi sutras.

We find that during the time of Narada also, there were confusions and arguments as to which path is the best. Hence this chapter of bhakthi sutras is targeted at showing the mahattva or superiority of paraa bhakthi. Hence the name of the chapter as Paraa bhakthi Mahattvam. The sutras used are confusing so is the direct meaning & hence we have to learn this chapter deeply as well as clearly. Before entering into the chapter, once again let us make our minds clear on this that KNOWLEDGE or ULTIMATE DEVOTION alone is the means to liberation; liberation is not possible through any other means whatever be it and whoever be it that propounds it. Whether it is AMMA or Sri Sri Ravishankar or Ramakrishna Paramahamsa or Ramana Maharshi that propounds, knowledge is the one and only way to liberation. All these saints never go against this truth of the scriptures. If somebody feels that these saints propound elsewhere, then we need to understand the wordings of the saints in the proper context & sense.

Though we have already discussed about jnaana being the one and only way to liberation, let us see a few scriptural statements to reaffirm the same.

Purusha Sookta proclaims thus:

Tameva vidvaan amritha iha bhavathi
Na anyah panthaa vidhyathe ayanaaya

Knowing the ultimate reality (Purusha or Brahman) alone a person attains immortality; there is no other way to liberation than this.

Kaivalya Upanishad proclaims

Tameva viditva atimrityum ethi
Na anyah panthaa vimukthaye

Knowing the reality alone a person attains immortality; there is no other way to liberation than this.

Swetashwatara Upanishad proclaims thus

Yathaa charmavad aakaasham vestayishyanthi maanavaah
Tathaa devam avijnaaya dukhasyantho bhavishyathi

As a person is able to fold the space like a mat, similarly alone will be person be able to put an end to sorrows without knowing the ultimate reality of Brahman – as folding space is impossible, removal of sorrow is impossible without knowledge of the reality.

That Bhagavad Gita propounds jnaana alone has been explained in depth in the article titled Gitaartha dipika available at Interested people can go through the same.

Remembering that jnaana alone is the way to liberation and this is the same as paraa bhakthi, we will start the second chapter of Narada Bhakthi Sutras from the next day.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sutra 23 and 24


Prostrations to all.

Sutra 23 –

Tadviheenam jaaraanaamiva

Word meaning
Tadviheenam – if the glory of knowledge was forgotten
Jaaraanaam iva – the love would be like the illicit love of an adulterous woman.

Sutra meaning
If there is not remembrance of the glory of knowledge, love would be like that of an adulterous woman.

Sutra 24 –

Naasti eva tasmin tat sukha sukhitvam

Word meaning
Tasmin – in the love of an adulterous woman
Tat sukha sukhitvam – becoming happy when the other person is happy
Na asthi eva – surely is not there.

Sutra meaning
In such a false love, there is surely not present the happiness in the other person being happy.

With these two sutras, Narada finishes the first chapter of Bhakthi Sutras. Narada mentioned in the previous sutra that in pure devotion there is no forgetfulness of the glory of the ultimate reality of Lord or that pure devotion is not different from knowledge of the ultimate reality of Lord. In these two sutras, Narada gives the logic for the same.

In pure devotion, there always is a dedication. As is generally depicted in the movies, a lover does want just the happiness of his love. Even though this is just a depiction which is not at all real except in the case of the devotion of a bhaktha towards the Lord and a shishya towards the Guru, still it throws in the main point of becoming happy when the other person is happy. Real devotion is that wherein the devotee is happy just remembering the Lord. The devotee is ever happy to remember the Lord, to be of any service to the Lord, to spread the name of the Lord, to continuously speak about the Lord etc. For the devotee, the Lord alone is everything. If the Lord is happy, the devotee becomes very happy even though his physical or mental state would be sorrowful. We find this in the stories of great devotees of the Lord. The various stories of the 63 nayanmars (saivite saints) and alwars (vaishnavite saints) clearly show that they were happy to be of any service to the Lord or to his devotees rather than seeing themselves as happy. It is this quality of becoming happy when the other person who is loved is happy which is found only in pure devotion or love. All other loves are like the love of an adulterous woman. The woman seemingly shows love towards her husband when he is around but all her mental thoughts are towards her lover (who is different from her husband). The love which the woman shows towards her husband is a false one as she is not dedicated to that love. The woman is not dedicated towards her lover as well because a person who is not dedicated to her husband cannot be dedicated towards anyone else.

It is this attitude which we find in the lives of celebrities who live with a particular person for a few years and then break the relationship to start a new one. Real devotion or love is that in which the devotee does anything for the sake of his love. We find this clearly in the life of kannappa (one of the saivite saint) who cut his own eyes to give eye to the siva linga (as the eye of the sivalinga was bleeding). He never bothered about his life because he was happy with happiness of the Lord. It is this pure devotion that we rarely we find in few mothers who are so dedicated to their children. It is but a pity that all mothers don’t show such pure devotion towards children as for them their preference comes first and children come second only.

That devotion which is bereft of knowledge can never be pure because there the devotee doesn’t know the glory of the Lord who is sought through devotion. Only if we know that the Lord who is being sought is eternal and gives eternal bliss (himself) to the one who seeks, we would be seeking the Lord all the while with pure devotion and surrender. Since we are unaware of the nature of the Lord as eternal bliss, we don’t seek him – instead we give less importance to the Lord devoting only a few moments of our day to him & the rest to the world. As Swami Gautamananda of Ramakrishna Mission says, we have to spend 18 hours for spirituality and rest for the world to realize the Lord, but we spend 18 hours with the world and just an hour or two for the Lord (that too on a weekly basisJ).

A real devotee will always think about the Lord alone – he doesn’t want anything other than thought of the Lord. This is what is clearly found in the case of gopis who used to think about the Lord alone and they used to surrender everything for the sake of the Lord, even their husbands. Such pure devotion is possible only when we know the nature of the Lord as the non-dual reality of Consciousness.

It may be argued that gopis were devoted and didn’t have knowledge – but this argument can be raised only out of ignorance. The gopis first itself in the gopi gitam speak thus:

Na khalu gopikaa nandano bhavaan
Akhila dehinaam antharaatma drik

O Krishna! You are not the son of Nanda but you are the indwelling Self of all beings.

Even after learning the gopi gitam if a person claims that gopis are filled with devotion alone, he is but a fool only.

Thus through this two sutras, Narada shows that pure devotion is nothing but knowledge alone. Knowledge and devotion go hand in hand and one cannot be there without the other.

With this, we come to the end of the first chapter of Narada Bhakthi Sutras titled “nature of ultimate devotion”. We will see the summary of the first chapter in the next day and then start with the second chapter.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sutra 21 and 22


Prostrations to all.

Sutra 21 –
Yathaa vraja gopikaanaam

Word meaning
Yathaa – As
Vraja gopikaanaam – in the case of gopis of vraja.

Sutra meaning
Bhakthi is as found in the case of the gopis of vraja.

Narada mentions here that the definition of bhakthi which he gave in the previous sutra is the right definition only. Why is the definition the right one? Because it is what is found in the case of the gopis of vraja.

We all know that gopis are known for their devotion & they are the first name that comes to our mind when the word “devotion” or “bhakthi” is mentioned. Since we find the definition of bhakthi of Narada perfectly in the gopis, therefore devotion as defined is the right definition.

Gopis were ever thinking about the Lord alone. All their activities were offerings to the Lord – each moment, they would think about the Lord alone. Even though they were doing all activities, still their mind was fixed on the Lord alone. Even while serving their husbands, feeding their children etc. they were totally fixed unto the ultimate reality of Lord. Thus they were always remembering the Lord through offering of all activities & the fruit to the Lord. We also find in many stories and in the puranas the explanation of the lives of gopis wherein they were dying each and every moment without seeing and seeking the Lord. AMMA mentions a story on the same. Once the gopis were all doing their respective activities at home. At that time, somebody told that Krishna is there near the river. Thus all gopis left whatever they were doing and went to see the Lord. One gopi was suddenly stopped by her husband at the door – he obstructed the path of the gopi by holding his hand. The gopi started struggling not able to go and meet Krishna. Like a fish struggling to live on land, she was struggling to live without being able to meet Krishna. As the fish dies on land, the gopi left her life at that place itself as she was unable to go and meet Lord Krishna.

This story clearly explains as to how the gopis were devoted to the Lord in the negative aspect as well. They couldn’t live even for a single moment without seeing or remembering the Lord. This is what Narada mentioned as “tad vismarane parama vyaakulathaa cha” (being desperate when the Lord is forgotten). Thus the gopis always offering their activities to the Lord, always remembered the Lord & were desperate when the Lord was forgotten (they were not able to meet or remember the Lord).

As we have learnt in other threads as to upapatti linga or examples which prove the import of a work, Narada here is giving an example which caters fully to his definition of bhakthi. This way of proving one’s stand through examples is also known as the upamaana pramaana – proof through analogy. Narada would be giving logical proofs for the definition of bhakthi in the next few sutras but here he is giving a valid example for the same.

Since gopis are known for their devotion in the various puranas, Narada mentions them to prove that the definition of bhakthi is valid in the case of gopis & therefore the definition of bhakthi that he has given is the right definition.

Even though we have already seen and learnt in many places the definition of bhakthi of Lord Krishna in the bhakthi yoga (there is an exhaustive article on the same titled Bhakthi Darpanam at, let us try to see and compare it with Narada’s definition.

Mayi aavishitha yo maama nityayukthaa upaasathe
Sraddhayaa paraya upethaa te me yukthathamo mathaah

They are considered to be dear devotees to me who have fixed their mind unto me, ever steadfast in me and always considering me as the final goal in life.

The definition of “fixed their mind unto me” and “ever steadfast in me” point out the same import as Narada’s definition of the positive aspect of bhakthi as “offering all activities unto the Lord thereby constantly remembering the Lord”. The words of “considering me as the final goal” points out the negative aspect of never forgetting the ultimate reality of Lord.

Thus Narada’s definition of bhakthi is the same as the Lord’s definition of bhakthi in the Gita.

Sutra 22 –
Tatraapi na maahaatmya jnaana vismrithi apavaadah

Word meaning
Tatra api – there (in such a state of pure devotion) as well
Apavaadah – chances of (allegations of)
Maahatmya jnaana vismrithi – forgetfulness of the glory of knowledge
Na – are not there

Sutra meaning
There (in pure devotion), there are no chances of forgetting the glory of knowledge.

Narada mentioned that pure devotion is constant thought of the Lord and becoming helpless when the Lord is forgotten. We can have a doubt that in such a state, glory of knowledge or knowledge itself can be forgotten in such a state. Here knowledge can be either interpreted as Lord or as the knowledge that there is only Lord here (knowledge of the ultimate reality of Lord). The second meaning of “knowledge that there is only the Lord here” or “Vedantic Jnaana” is more appropriate in this context.

As we have been learning again and again that knowledge and devotion are not different from one another, this is what Narada is here emphasizing through this sutra. We might think that when there is pure devotion, there cannot be any scope of knowledge or jnaana. This is a completely wrong notion. Pure devotion is not mere attachment to a Lord but attachment to the Lord who alone is present as the substratum of the illusory world. The Lord towards whom a bhaktha develops bhakthi is not a mere form but the Lord is Brahman of the scriptures. If we really have to know about the Lord, we have to gain knowledge of the Lord through study of scriptures. It is only the scriptures which can speak about the indescribable reality of Brahman (synonymous to Lord of the bhakthas). Scriptures are the mirror in which we see our own very nature of the Lord even as the face is seen in the mirror alone. Without scriptural knowledge, our concept of Lord is limited to hear-say. Whatever we hear from some person whether that person is a realized saint or an ignorant person is not valid as such. Any words are valid only if they are not contradicted in the scriptures and are supported in the scriptures. The words of the Guru is valid not because he is a Guru but because it is as per the scriptures. The Guru’s very words are experiences based on the scriptures. The scriptures are not mere books but they are the revelations of the various saints. Scriptures are apaurusheya or without any author – they have just been revealed to the saints during times of deep contemplation. The very concept of a brahma jnaani or Guru is mentioned in the Mundaka Upanishad as srotriya or learned in the scriptures and brahma nista or one who is established in Brahman. Thus a Guru is judged only based on the scriptures – he is a real Guru whose words are not against the scriptures but are mere resonances of the truth imbibed in the scriptures.

Pure devotion is not possible until the nature of the Lord who is the object of devotion is known. The nature of the Lord is known only through scriptural study. It is thus we find in the various Upanishads, gita and the puranas the various saints speaking about the ultimate reality of Lord in many ways. As we have been learning, Srimad Bhagavatham among other puranas put forth the reality of Lord through various stories. Thus pure devotion cannot be against knowledge. It is only ignorance about pure devotion which causes a person to think that pure devotion is against knowledge or greater than knowledge. Only those who are ignorant about the scriptural teachings of bhakthi and jnaana compare and contrast bhakthi and jnaana. Pure bhakthi is the same as jnaana and jnaana is the same as bhakthi. Jnaana is knowing the nature of the Lord as the creator-protector-destroyer-substratum of the illusory world. Bhakthi is pure devotion or attachment to such a Lord. When we have jnaana or knowledge about the Lord as the one and only real entity, we will develop pure devotion towards such a Lord. Pure devotion or constant remembrance of the Lord is possible only when we know the nature of the Lord as the only real entity – any real entity alone can give eternal bliss and put an end to all sorrows-sufferings. Hence it is seeking of the Lord alone that can satisfy all our desires by putting an end to the desires. This is possible only when we have pure devotion to that Lord who is capable of putting an end to all desires. Thus wherever we have knowledge, devotion is also there.

As knowledge and devotion are mutual, therefore pure devotion doesn’t have forgetfulness of the knowledge or nature of the Lord. Narada will be explaining this through a logical reason in the next couple of sutras.

If we take the word of “maahatmya jnaana” as “glory of the Lord”, still we will come up with the same conclusion only. Glory of the Lord is knowing the Lord as the substratum of the illusory world. As the Lord mentions in Gita, the glory of the Lord is the entire world which is pervaded in and out by the Lord. This world is temporary and changing. The world is situated in the changeless Lord. Hence knowing the glory of the Lord is knowing the Lord as the substratum of the illusory world. This is knowledge or jnaana of the scriptures. Thus jnaana is not forgotten in pure devotion as pure devotion is possible only when jnaana of the Lord is there.

Thus Narada through this particular sutra puts forth that jnaana and bhakthi are one and the same only – and not contradictory to each other.

We will see the next sutras in the coming days with which the first chapter of Narada Bhakthi Sutras will end.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God