Narada Bhakti Sutras

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Chapter 4 Sutra 7, 8


Prostrations to all.

Sutra 7 –
uttarasmaat uttarasmaat purva purvaa sreyaaya bhavathi

Word Meaning
Uttarasmaat Uttarasmaat – than the previous one
Purva Purva Sreyaaya bhavathi – the later ones are higher.

Sutra Meaning
The later ones are higher than the previous ones (the rajo guna bhaktha is higher than tamo guna bhaktha, sattva guna bhaktha is higher than rajo guna bhaktha etc.)

It has been quite long since we continued this thread. In the previous few sutras of this chapter Prema Nirvachanam or defining bhakthi, Narada initially explained that bhakthi is indefinable even as a dumb person cannot speak about taste. Narada also mentioned that the bhaktha will ever be immersed in activities regarding the Lord and will always have focus on the Lord whatever be the activity that he is doing. This is the higher type of devotion or paraa bhakthi wherein the devotee is ever focused on the Lord – he doesn’t know anything apart from the Lord – whatever he knows is the Lord alone. Whatever he sees are forms of the Lord, whatever he hears are praises of the Lord, whatever he speaks are glories of the Lord, whatever work he does is an offering to the Lord and whatever is there is the Lord alone.

This higher devotion is not that easy to directly achieve as very few are capable to directly reaching such a level. Hence majority of people (excluding exceptions) will have to initially get attached to the Lord seeking something. Such devotion wherein the devotee gets attached not to the formless or all-pervasive Lord but a particular form depending on his quality as well as seeking some or the other thing in life is called gauni bhakthi or secondary type of devotion. The word gauni can mean “depending on guna” as well as “secondary”. Narada here thus mentions that gauni bhakthas are of three types and there is a two-fold categorization of the gauni bhakthas.

Gauni bhakthas can be categorized depending on the quality or internal attitude of the devotee or depending on what the devotee seeks from the Lord. Depending on the quality of the devotee, it is tamo guna bhakthas, rajo guna bhakthas and sattva guna bhakthas. As most of us are aware of, a person’s mind can be of either of three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas. That mind which is calm and peaceful is having sattva guna. That which is ever filled with actions in the form of thoughts is in rajo guna which denotes activity. That which is ever in slumber, laziness etc. is in tamo guna. Tamo guna also indicates violence as well as activities considered bad as per the dharma shastras.

The devotees who pray fierce Lords like Kali etc. and pray through tamas activities like offering a human being or an animal are tamo guna bhakthas. Though in olden times such activities were found, it was only for certain types of rituals or karmas which required it compulsorily. There can be no Lord or God who wants killing of another person for his fulfillment – such a Lord is a sadist in nature which is contrary to the scriptural portrayal of the Lord.

The devotees who do activities like getting donations, doing poojas, arranging get-togethers, programmes etc. are rajo guna bhakthas. The sattva guna bhakthas are those who depend on peace and calmness of the mind by ever focusing on the Lord at all times irrespective of situation and surrounding.

As Narada says in the 7th sutra, the later ones are higher and superior than the previous ones. Hence we should always strive to worship the Lord through sattva guna activities – sattva guna bhakthas are very close to paraa bhakthi as their mind has subdued and is ever immersed in the Lord.

Another categorization of the gauni bhakthas are based on what is being sought. This is mentioned by the Lord in Gita thus:

Chathurvidhaa bhajanthe maam janaah sukrithino arjuna
Aartho jijnaasurarthaarthi jnaani cha bharatharshabha

O Arjuna! Four types of people worship me due to their previous good actions. They are aartha (people seeing removal of worldly sorrow), jijnaasu (people seeking knowledge), arthaarthi (people seeking wealth in one or other form) and jnaanis (people who are ever immersed in me).

Jnaanis are same as people who are in paraa bhakthi. Hence Narada mentions the other three types of devotees are gauni bhakthas. Aarthah are people seeking removal of worldly sorrow, jijnaasu are people seeking knowledge and arthaaarthi are people seeking wealth. All the three people seek something or the other. The higher one among these three are the jijnaasus who seek knowledge and thereby will slowly become jnaanis or enter into paraa bhakthi.

We will continue with the next sutra in the next day.

Sutra 8 –
anyamaat saulabham bhakthau

Word Meaning
Saulabham – easier
Anyamaat – than other paths
Bhakthau – for devotees

Sutra Meaning
Devotion is easier (to attain) than the other paths towards realization of the Lord.

Here Narada is giving the reason as to why everyone has to choose the path of devotion than the other paths. We have to remember here that as per Narada, the path of knowledge is not different from the path of devotion (as jnaana is the same as paraa bhakthi). But if we take other paths of yoga (raja yoga or hatha yoga) as well as the path of karma (actions – doing nitya naimittika karma whereas non-doing of prathishiddha karma) is tough. For raja yoga, we have to slowly progress through the asta angas or the eight steps starting with yama, niyama etc. We cannot proceed to dhyaana or Samadhi until we cross over asana, pranayama, pratyahara and dharana. Asana as per yoga shastra is any position which is comfortable for a person and the person can sit in it without any movement for a stretch of minimum 2 hours. We all know how tough it is to sit in a position without moving for 2 hours or more. Thus the path of yoga is tougher than the path of devotion. Similar is the case with karma – karmas have so many limitations and restrictions on them. If we miss one restriction, then the outcome that we get will be different from what we are expecting. A brief criticism of karma can be found in the 1st Mundaka 2nd Khanda of Mundaka Upanishad.

To put it in Sankara’s beautiful terminology, a doer has the options of karthum, akarthum, anyatha karthum with respect to actions (doing, non-doing, doing in a different way). Thus since there isn’t in the first place any security around karma (to ensure that we do it in the proper way) as well as the reason that there are too many restrictions, karma is a tougher path than bhakthi.

When comparing the path of yoga and karma with bhakthi, bhakthi is very simple. The only two main sadhana that Narada mentioned in the third chapter was “vishaya tyaagam – sanga tyaagam” (renunciation of desire for sense objects and attachment to sense objects) and “avyaavritta bhajanam” (uninterrupted devotion towards the Lord). There are no restrictions of place, position, time etc. for bhakthi – whatever be the action that we are doing, we just have to remember the ultimate reality of Lord and offer our actions to the Lord. This is very simple compared to the doing yoga or doing actions (path of karma means doing bigger rituals like sandhya vandanam, agnihotra etc.).

We will see the two beautiful reasons that Narada gives for substantiating this utra that bhakthi is easier than other paths in the next day.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God


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