Monday, May 22, 2017

Shraddha and Bhakti Sandarbha

Since I have been reading about śraddhā in the Bhakti Sandarbha, I will discuss some thoughts on the subject.

Let me begin by giving Jiva Goswami's definition of faith, which is repeated several times and is brief and clear: Faith is a belief in the truth of the scriptures that deal with bhakti.

Faith is the qualification for bhakti. This is where the discussion begins. Though faith is not directly a part of bhakti, because bhakti, being directly a part of the svarūpa-śakti of Bhagavan, is independent of any belief or otherwise on the part of a being. The only problem is the recipient. If the recipient is crystal clear and innocent, then bhakti will act immediately, as it did with Ajamila. If not, it is like fire and wet fuel, it will take time.

Faith is, then, an intellectual act. Here is a verse that is taken from Brahma Vaivartta (I imagine this is a Madhva pramāṇa):

kiṁ satyam anṛtaṁ ceha vicāraḥ sampravartate |
vicāre'pi kṛte rājann asatya-parivarjanam |
siddhaṁ bhavati pūrṇā syāt tadā śraddhā mahā-phalā ||
O King, at first one investigates whether statements are true or false. Once such an investigation is complete, one's complete rejection of the false is successful. At this point one’s śraddhā becomes complete and yields the supreme fruit.
This actually comes at the end of the discussion of the symptoms of someone in whom faith has arisen. Jiva draws an exact correlation between faith and śaraṇāgati, or taking refuge in the Lord, with its six characteristics. But even if one takes refuge and does not fully display the six characteristics of śaraṇāgati, one still can have sufficient faith to abandon one's adhikāra for karma, and adopt ananyā bhakti, single-minded devotion to Krishna to the exclusion of all other duties.

As a matter of fact, one is obliged to do so. As the Gita says, One IS one's faith. To the extent that we follow through on our faith, that is the extent to which we are genuine in our path, or perfected in our path.



This is just a sidestep from the discussion of śraddhā in BhaktiS 173. The extended discussion is really about adhikāra. So it is important for Jiva to discuss the qualifications for karma and jñāna also, in order to specify the distinction. The discussion raises and resolves a lot of questions about the relation between karma and bhakti and how certain instructions are meant for those with one adhikāra or another.


jugupsitaṁ dharma-kṛte'nuśāsataḥ
svabhāva-raktasya mahān vyatikramaḥ |
yad-vākyato dharma itītaraḥ sthito
na manyate tasya nivāraṇaṁ janaḥ ||


Satya Narayan Dasji's translation:

Materialistic people are by nature attached to sense pleasure. Moreover, in the name of dharma you have advised them to participate in contemptible fruitive activities. This is a great impropriety on your part because people will accept such selfish fruitive acts as the true path of religion on the authority of your statements. So if anyone tries to establish the real truth and to forbid such actions, they will not believe his words. (SB 1.5.15)

Another translation, no attribution:

Those who are completely immersed in the material nature are done a great disservice when they are told to engage in disgusting activities in the name of religion, for once such acts are approved of as valid religious duties, these people will never respect the restrictions that are placed on them.

I went to look at the commentaries on this verse, and found that there is a unique lengthy Krama Sandarbha here, that is not found in the six Sandarbhas. I was quite surprised at that, as nearly everywhere lengthy argumentation is found in KS, it appears in almost the exact same form somewhere in the six Sandarbhas. This verse is quoted three times in Bhakti Sandarbha and not elsewhere, but it is never cited as the principal verse of an Anuccheda and the discussion here is quite different from the BhaktiS, or at least I have not come across the same thing elsewhere.

In Krama Sandarbha, Jiva treats the verse very contextually and enters into a glorification of the contrast between the necessity of engaging the less qualified souls in karma, even horrible acts like animal sacrifice... and perhaps the word jugupsitam can be stretched even further to include all the ritual karmas of the Vedas that lead to the useless fruitive results of material pleasure either in this life or the next. Indeed, from the point of view of the bhakta, to not serve Krishna is jugupsita.

So what about this verse in the Gita, who is this for, the bhakti adhikāré or the karma adhikāré, for that is exactly what Jiva is distinguishing. Now after saying how much better it is to glorify Krishna's pastimes by quoting the beloved verse, the love for which was instilled in me by Srila Prabhupada

nivṛtta-tarṣair upagīyamānād
bhavauṣadhāc chrotamanobhirāmāt |
ka uttama-śloka-guṇānuvādat
pumān virajyeta vinā paśughnāt ||

The virtues of the Lord
who is glorified in the greatest poetry
are sung by those who know no thirst;
it is the medicine for the material disease
and it is a joy to hear;
other than the soul-killers,
who then will care nothing for them? (BhP 10.1.3)
But, Jiva asks himself, isn't Vyasa right not to disturb people's minds with instructions for which they have an adhikāra? Isn't Krishna's instruction in the Bhagavad Gita no to disturb the minds of those who have faith in karmas, not to disturb a person at their level of adhikāra? After all, isn't it a virtue to act according to one's adhikāra, which is revealed by his faith? If someone has no faith, isn't it wrong to instruct in bhakti and thereby disturb his mind?

Now what is interesting is that this verse appears in both Krama Sandarbha and the Bhakti Sandarbha passage at roughly this point. In Krama Sandarbha, Krishna says that this instruction is for those who are on the path of jñāna. In other words, in the opinion of the jñāna mārga, people are at the level of karma adhikāra because their consciousness has evolved up to a certain point. They are at their particular nexus, their coordinates in the spectrum of life according to their karma. A jñānī, strictly speaking, knows that his adhikāra for jñāna, i.e., his indifference to material pleasures in this life and the next, is not easily attained and so he allows the natural workings of nature to do their work until those tied to karma finally understand that happiness in this world is illusory and seek to cultivate knowledge in order to become liberated.

na buddhi-bhedaṁ janayed ajñānāṁ karma-saṅginām |
joṣayet sarva-karmāṇi vidvān yuktaḥ samācaran ||

The wise should not disturb the intelligence of the ignorant who are attached to fruitive work. Rather, he should encourage them to perform their prescribed duties, while himself setting the example. (Gītā 3.26)

A wise person established in the self should not unsettle the minds of the ignorant who are attached to karma. While duly carrying out all his own responsibilities, he should encourage them to perform their own duties. (Satyanarayana Dasaji)

So this is, as the verse itself clearly states, for the vidvān, the jñāni.

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