Bhakti Sandarbha 200 : The Intermediate Devotee Renounces Karma


"The word “also” (ca) in the phrase "He is also the best of the saintly" indicates that though the person described in the previous group of verses is the best of the saintly, nevertheless, the individual referred to in this verse -- even lacking the virtues described in them -- is equal to him. Consequently, one who acquires all those virtues but still gives up prescribed duties and radical non-dualistic knowledge in order to simply worship Bhagavān, is  alone supreme among the best of the saintly. By the understanding imparted in this verse, the pure devotee’s superiority over one endowed with all the qualities mentioned in the previous verses [yet still engaged in prescribed duties] has been shown."




Anuccheda 200

The Intermediate Devotee Renounces Karma


मध्यममिश्रसाक्षाद्भक्तिसाधकमाह (भा. ११.११.३२)—

आज्ञायैवं गुणान् दोषान् मयादिष्टान् अपि स्वकान्।
धर्मान् सन्त्यज्य यः सर्वान् मां भजेत् स च सत्तमः॥

Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa then describes an intermediate level practitioner who engages in direct devotion, but mixed with an awareness of appropriate and inappropriate action.
He is also the best of the saintly who worships Me completely relinquishing his own duties, knowing full well that they have been ordained by Me, as well as their virtues [of performing them] and defects [of neglecting them]. (SB 11.11.32)
टीका च—"मया वेदरूपेण आदिष्टानपि स्वधर्मान् सन्त्यज्य यो मां भजेत, सोऽप्येवं पूर्वोक्तवत् सत्तमः।

Śrīdhara Svāmī comments: “One who renounces his prescribed duties, even though ordained by Me in the form of the injunctions of the Vedas, and worships Me, is also the best of the saintly, just as is the individual described in the preceding group of verses.

किमज्ञानान्नास्तिक्याद्वा ? न। धर्माचरणे सत्त्वशुद्ध्यादीन् गुणान्, विपक्षे नरकपातादीन् दोषांश्चाज्ञाय ज्ञात्वापि मद्ध्यानविक्षेपकतया मद्भक्त्यैव सर्वं भविष्यतीति दृढनिश्चयेनैव धर्मान् सन्त्यज्य।

"Does the person referred to here abandon his prescribed duties out of ignorance or due to atheism? No. He gives them up in spite of knowing their virtues, such as the resultant purification of heart from performing one's religious duties, as well as the defects of neglecting them such as falling into hellish existence. He gives up all such prescribed duties because he considers them distractions from his meditation on Bhagavān, and thereby has the firm conviction that everything will come about simply by devotion to Bhagavān.

यद्वा, भक्तिदार्ढ्येन निवृत्ताधिकारतया सन्त्यज्य॥" इत्येषा।

Alternatively, he may give them up because he considers that he is no longer obliged to carry them out due to the firmness of his faith in devotion.”

यथा हायशीर्षपञ्चरात्रोक्तनारायणव्यूहस्तवे—

ये त्यक्तलोकधर्मार्था विष्णुभक्तिवशं गताः।
ध्यायन्ति परमात्मानं तेभ्योऽपीह नमो नमः॥ इति।

As stated in the prayer known as Nārāyaṇa-vyūha-stava found in the Hayaśīrṣa Pañcarātra:

I also offer repeated obeisance to those who have given up all prescribed duties related to this world, having fallen under the sway of devotion to Bhagavān Viṣṇu, and are thus meditating on the Supreme Bhagavān.

अत्र त्वेवं व्याख्या—यदि च स्वात्मनि तत्तद्गुणयोगाभावः, तथाप्येवं पूर्वोक्तप्रकारेण गुणान् कृपालुत्वादीन् दोषांस्तद्विपरीतांश्चाज्ञाय हेयोपादेयत्वेन निश्चित्यापि, यो मया तेषु गुणेषु मध्ये तत्र आदिष्टानपि स्वकान् नित्यनैमित्तिकलक्षणान् सर्वान् एव वर्णाश्रमविहितान् धर्मान् तदुपलक्षणं ज्ञानमपि मदनन्यभक्तिविघातकतया सन्त्यज्य मां भजेत्, स च सत्तमः।

On the other hand, the following can also be given as the explanation [of the verse under discussion, SB 11.11.32]: The holiest of all these saints (the sattama) is the one who gives up all duties and engages in bhajana to Bhagavan. This is true even of a person who does not possess all the above-mentioned virtues, but who recognizes that according to the description in the previous verses certain qualities like compassion are virtues and their opposites are flaws, and that they should be rejected or embraced respectively. Furthermore, he knows that these virtues are included in the personal duties, both regular and irregular, that are prescribed in the varṇāśrama system, and all of which without exception have been given at the order of the Bhagavan Himself, along with the knowledge that is associated with them. In spite of this awareness, he still gives them up because they are impediments to exclusive devotion and so is sattama.

चकारात् पूर्वोक्तोऽपि सत्तम इत्युत्तरस्य तत्तद्गुणाभावेऽपि पूर्वसाम्यं बोधयति। ततो यस्तु तत्तद्गुणान् लब्ध्वा धर्मज्ञानपरित्यागेन मां भजति केवलं, स तु परमसत्तम एवेति व्यक्त्यनन्यभक्तस्य पूर्वत आधिक्यं दर्शितम्।

[As we saw in the previous anuccheda] The word “also” (ca) in the phrase "He is also the best of the saintly" indicates that though the person described in the previous group of verses is the best of the saintly, nevertheless, the individual referred to in this verse -- even lacking the virtues described in them -- is equal to him. Consequently, one who acquires all those virtues but still gives up prescribed duties and radical non-dualistic knowledge in order to simply worship Bhagavān, is  alone supreme among the best of the saintly. By the understanding imparted in this verse, the pure devotee’s superiority over one endowed with all the qualities mentioned in the previous verses [yet still engaged in prescribed duties] has been shown.

अत्र "अद्वेष्टा सर्वभूतानां" (गीता १२.१३) इत्यादि श्रीगीताद्वादशाध्यायप्रकरणमप्यनुसन्धेयम्। सत्तम इत्यनेन तदवरत्रापि सत्तरत्वं सत्त्वमप्यस्तीति दर्शितम्। अस्तु तावत् सदाचारस्य तद्भक्तस्य सत्त्वम्, अनन्यदेवताभक्तत्व-मात्रेणापि दुराचारस्यापि सत्त्वान्यपर्यायं साधुत्वं विधीयते, "अपि चेत् सुदुराचारः" (गीता ९.३०) इत्यादौ।

In this regard one may also consult the twelfth chapter of the Gītā from verse 12.13 onwards [in which a similar description is found.] It has already been shown that use of the superlative form sat-tama, “the best of saints,” implies the existence of the comparative form sat-tara, “a better saint,” and the original attribute itself sat, “a saint,” both of which exhibit lesser degrees of the quality of saintliness. It goes without saying that a devotee of Bhagavān whose conduct is established in virtue is endowed with the quality of saintliness. In fact, even a person of immoral conduct is said to be endowed with saintliness simply because of being exclusively devoted to Bhagavān, giving up the worship of all other gods. This is specifically pointed out in verses such as Gītā 9.30, wherein such a person is referred to as a sādhu, which is a synonym for the word sat, “a saint.”

अत्र च साधुसङ्गप्रस्तावे यत् तादृशं लक्षणं नोत्थापितं, तत् खलु तादृशसङ्गस्य भक्त्युन्मुखेऽनुपयुक्तताभिप्रायेण। यथोक्तं श्रीप्रह्लादेन—"सङ्गेन साधुभक्तानाम्" (भा. ७.७.३०) इति। साधुरत्र सदाचारः।

In the context of our discussion about the association of saints, we have not cited the example of this latter type of sādhu, because the association of such a person is of no use in enabling one to embrace the path of devotion. As Śrī Prahlāda said in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, “One can attain loving attachment to Bhagavān by the association of devotees who are situated in virtuous conduct.” (SB 7.7.30) The word sādhu here means one with virtuous conduct (sad-ācāra).

तदेवमीश्वरबुद्ध्या विधिमार्गभक्तयोस्तारतम्यमुक्तम्। तत्रैवोत्तरस्यानन्यत्वेन श्रेष्ठत्वं दर्शितम्। तत्रैवार्चनमार्गे त्रिविधत्वं लभ्यते पाद्मोत्तरखण्डात्। तत्र महत्त्वं "तापादिपञ्चसंस्कारी" (प.पु. ६.२५३.२७) इत्यादौ।

In this and the previous Anuccheda, we have thus shown the gradation between two levels of devotees who worship Bhagavān with a sense of reverence dictated by the knowledge of His majestic feature, and who are situated on the path of devotion according to scriptural regulations (vidhi-mārga). [This refers respectively to those who worship Bhagavān with a mixture of karma and jñāna, and those with exclusive devotion.] Of these two levels of devotees, the second one has been shown to be superior because of the quality of exclusive devotion.

The three divisions of devotees on the path of arcanā, or deity worship, can be understood from the Uttara-khaṇḍa of Padma Purāṇa:

The great devotee (mahat) was already referred to [in Anuccheda 198] in this verse:

A brāhmaṇa who has undergone five types of rituals, beginning with marks of Viṣṇu on his body, who engages in nine types of sacrificial activity, and who knows the five subjects is called a mahā-bhāgavata,or a great devotee.

मध्यमत्वम्—
तापं पुण्ड्रं तथा नाम मन्त्रो यागश्च पञ्चमः।
अमी पञ्चैव संस्काराः परमैकान्तिहेतवः॥ इत्यत्र।

The intermediate devotee is described in these words:

Undergoing the ritual of having one’s body stamped with the symbols of Bhagavān, applying tilaka to the body, being bestowed with a name that identifies one as a servant of Bhagavān, being initiated into the chanting of Bhagavān’s mantras, and practicing the yoga system are the five saṁskāras, which are the cause of attaining to the supreme level of exclusive devotion.

कनिष्ठत्वं—
शङ्खचक्राद्यूर्ध्वपुण्ड्रधारणाद्यात्मलक्षणम्।
तन्नमस्करणं चैव वैष्णवत्वमिहोच्यते॥ इत्यत्र॥

The lesser devotee is described in this verse:

One who applies tilaka marks to his body as well as Bhagavān’s insignia, such as the conch, disc, club and lotus, and who offers obeisance to Bhagavān is called a Vaiṣṇava.


Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj

In the previous anuccheda three verses were cited listing the virtues of a devotee. These virtues are not directly a part of bhakti, except for the quality of surrender to Bhagavān. The rest of the qualities form part of the karma and jñāna mārgas. The present verse describes devotee who gives up his dharma. This implies that the one describes in the previous anuccheda does not give up his dharma. For that reason, he was called a mixed devotee. His practice of bhakti is mixed with karma and jñāna.

In the main verse of this anuccheda, the conjunction evaṁ("thus") carries the sense “of the kind previously specified” referring to guṇān and doṣān, “virtues and flaws.” In other words, he word guṇān refers to the qualities mentioned in the three previous verses, beginning with compassion, and doṣān to their opposites. The implication of this verse is that the person being described here may lack the qualities described in the previous verses, yet he is fully aware of these virtues and defects. This means that he realizes in what manner these qualities are of value and how their antitheses are a hindrance. Knowing all this, he gives up, out of the various qualities mentioned, all those duties specifically related to varṇa and social position, whether they are regular or incidental duties, and in spite of the fact that they are ordained by Bhagavān. 


By upalakṣaṇa, or the implying of that which is not directly stated, it is understood that he also gives up the process of knowledge directed towards non-dual awareness. One who gives up all of this because he considers it as an obstacle to exclusive devotion, and who worships Bhagavān, is the best of the saintly.


The word “mixed” used for the madhyama-bhakta in this anuccheda is different from the sense in which it was used to describe the neophyte’s devotion in the previous one. To understand its usage here, the five verses (11.11.29-33) describing the three levels of devotees have to be seen in relation to each other. The first three describe the neophyte who is surrendered to Bhagavān but is still attached to prescribed duties and the qualities that they engender. His devotion to Bhagavān is thus subordinate to his attachment to prescribed duties, and thus it was described as mixed in the beginning of Anuccheda 199.

The intermediate devotee described in the verse below understands the distinction between appropriate and inappropriate action, but consciously sets aside such considerations to engage in pure devotion. The superlative devotee, who will be further described in the next anuccheda, transcends all considerations of right or wrong and simply engages in pure devotion out of love. So although the intermediate devotee engages in pure devotion, he or she does so with an awareness of right and wrong, which inhibits the natural flow of love. So the intermediate devotee’s mixture is in this sense. When one comes to the level of spontaneous love, the question of right or wrong never arises.

The renunciation of one’s duty could be (1) out of ignorance about it, (2) because of not believing in Vedic authority, (3) because one understands that true duty or abhidheya is bhakti, (4) or because one has become detached from all material desires while executing his duties and has acquired faith in bhakti by the grace of devotee. 

Out of these four possibilities only the last two are applicable to an intermediate devotee. Among these two also, the latter is better than the former. The reason for this is that this devotee has acquired the qualities stated in the previous three verses (11.11.29-31) and then gives up both karma as well as jñāna for engaging in bhakti. The other bhakta gives up karma and jñāna but may not have these qualities. But this devotee is also sattama and in that sense equal to the one described in the previous three verses.

Because Kṛṣṇa uses the word sat-tama, the best in superlative degree, then it implies that there are also sat-tara and sat devotees. In Sanskrit the comparative suffix tara is used to show a higher degree of some particular attribute when two objects are compared. The superlative suffix -tama is used to show the highest degree of some particular attribute when the best out of numerous possibilities is to be shown.

Śrī Jīva makes a point that the real measure of saintliness is devotion to Bhagavān and not virtuous behavior. Virtuous conduct may be a measure of saintliness on other paths but not on bhakti. However, when it comes to having association with a saint one must consider the character of the saint. He or she must also have have moral character. The reason for this is that the person associating with such a saint will not benefit if the saint has ill-character. We can learn from someone whom we respect. It is difficult to respect someone of ill-conduct. Rather his ill-conduct will influence us. We will tend to criticize such a saint and become implicated in offense. Worse will be to take his ill-conduct as acceptable, standard behavior.

In Anuccheda 198 Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī gave the characteristics of a great devotee on the path of worship. Keeping that in mind he cites definitions of the intermediate and neophyte devotee on that path.


Bhakti Sandarbha 199 : Divisions of Devotees on the Basis of their Spiritual Practice
Bhakti Sandarbha 198 : Bhagavān is Bound to the Heart of an Uttama Bhāgavata
Bhakti Sandarbha 191-197 : More Characteristics of the Uttama Bhagavata
Bhakti Sandarbha 190 : Definition of a Neophyte Devotee
Bhakti Sandarbha 189: Definition of a Madhyama Mahā bhāgavata
Bhakti Sandarbha 188 : An Uttama-bhāgavata Sees Bhagavān in Everything
Bhakti Sandarbha 187 : The Greatness of a Devotee is Known by the Quality and Quantity of His Love
Bhakti Sandarbha 185-186 : Beginning the classification of sadhus
Bhakti Sandarbha 181-184 : The Grace of Devotees is Independent

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