Bhakti Sandarbha 201 : The Ananya Bhakta is Superior to the Jñānī Bhakta



This is a long a fairly complex but interesting anuccheda. It concludes the analysis of the five verse section in BhP 11.11.29-33 which began with Anuccheda 199. 

Sri Jiva continues to analyze the devotee who are glorified in the Bhagavatam as relatively superior to others. This is done not to create a sense of superiority in those who accept his doctrine, but to establish the nature and goal of pure, unmixed devotion. Today's verse uses the superlative form of devotee, bhaktatama, whereas the previous verses used sattama. This discussion thus leads up to 202 which is about taking a guru, which is the logical end of establishing what kind of devotee is qualified to be a guru.

It goes without saying that everyone is to be encouraged to follow their path with detachment as the Gita says. But when a sādhaka arrives at the cusp of two levels, he will be afflicted by doubt and unresolved questions. At that time, the guru should give guidance according to the teachings of the sampradāya.



Anuccheda 201

The Ananya Bhakta is Superior to the Jñānī Bhakta


अथ शुद्धदास्यसख्यादिभावमात्रेण योऽनन्यः, स तु सर्वोत्तम इत्याह (भा. ११.११.३३)—

Among the devotees engaged in direct devotion to Bhagavān, one who is exclusively devoted to Bhagavān and serves Him in one of the pure relations of servant, friend, parent or lover, is the best of all. This is indicated by Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa in this verse:

ज्ञात्वाज्ञात्वाथ ये वै मां यावान् यश्चास्मि यादृशः।
भजन्त्यनन्यभावेन ते मे भक्ततमा मताः॥
I consider those who worship Me with exclusive devotion to be the best of all devotees, whether or not they are aware of the extent of My being, or who I am in reality, or of what nature I am constituted. (SB 11.11.33)
यावान् देशकालाद्यपरिच्छिनः। यश्च सर्वात्मा। यादृशः सच्चिदानन्दरूपः।

In this verse the relative pronoun of dimension "which extent" (yāvān) means “how far I extend in distance or time” refering to the pervasiveness of Bhagavān [implying that He is not limited by spatial or temporal boundaries]. The relative pronoun yaḥ, “who or what I am,” refers to the identity of Bhagavān as the Immanent Self of all beings. And the relative pronoun of kind yāḍṛsaḥ, “of what kind I am,” refers to the constitutional make-up of Bhagavān as the embodiment of existence, consciousness and bliss.

तं मां ज्ञात्वाज्ञात्वा वा ये केवलमनन्यभावेन श्रीव्रजेश्वरनन्दनत्वाद्यालम्बनो यः स्वाभीप्सितो दास्यादीनामेकतरो भावः, तेनैव भजन्ति, न कदाचिदन्येन इत्यर्थः, ते तु मया भक्ततमा मताः।

Whether or not they know Bhagavān in these various ways, those who worship Him with a mood of exclusive devotion, are considered by Him to be the best of all devotees. [Worshiping with exclusive devotion here implies several things:] First of all, such devotees have one specific mood of service towards Bhagavān among the various relations of servant, friend, parent or lover, and this mood is in accordance with their own desire. Secondly, they experience this mood of service towards a specific manifestation of Bhagavān, such as Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the son of Nanda Mahārāja. Furthermore, they worship their cherished manifestation of Bhagavān, only in accordance with that one particular mood and never with any other mood.

अत एव चतुर्थे श्रीयोगेश्वरैरपि प्रार्थितम् (भा. ४.७.३८) 

प्रेयान्न तेऽन्योऽस्त्यमुतस्त्वयि प्रभो
विश्वात्मनीक्षेन्न पृथग् य आत्मनः।
अथापि भक्त्येशतयोपधावताम्
अनन्यवृत्त्यानुगृहाण वत्सल॥ इति।

Therefore in the Fourth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, while praying to Bhagavān, the Yogeśvaras, or the adepts of the yoga system, also stressed the importance of exclusive devotion:

O Bhagavān, there is no one more dear to You than a person who does not perceive himself as different from You, the universal Being. Yet, O Bhagavān, who are in love with Your devotees, kindly bestow Your mercy upon those devotees who worship You with exclusive devotion in the mood of an unalloyed servant towards his master. (SB 4.7.38)

श्रीगीतासु (गीता ७.२)
ज्ञानं तेऽहं सविज्ञानमिदं वक्ष्याम्यशेषतः।
यज्ज्ञात्वा नेह भूयोऽन्यज्ज्ञातव्यमवशिष्यते॥ 

The implication of this verse can be understood with reference to the following section of verses from the Gītā:

I shall explain to you in full this knowledge along with its realization, knowing which nothing further remains to be known in this world. (Gītā 7.2)

भूमिरापोऽनलो वायुः खं मनो बुद्धिरेव च।
अहंकार इतीयं मे भिन्ना प्रकृतिरष्टधा॥
अपरेयमितस्त्वन्यां प्रकृतिं विद्धि मे पराम्।
जीवभूतां महाबाहो ययेदं धार्यते जगत्॥
एतद्योनीनि भूतानि सर्वाणीत्युपधारय।
अहं कृत्स्नस्य जगतः प्रभवः प्रलयस्तथा॥
मत्तः परतरं नान्यत् किञ्चिदस्ति धनञ्जय।
मयि सर्वमिदं प्रोतं सूत्रे मणिगणा इव॥ (गीता ७.४-७) इति।

After speaking thus, Bhagavān said:

Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect and ego—these are the eight divisions of My material nature. This, however, is My inferior nature. O mighty-armed one, you should know that I have a superior nature to this, which consists of the living beings, by which the entire universe is sustained. (Gītā 7.4-5)

Know that these two natures are the source of all living beings, and that I am the original cause of the manifestation and destruction of the entire universe. There is nothing superior to Me, O conqueror of wealth. Everything in existence rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread. (Gītā 7.6-7)

प्रधानाख्यजीवाख्यनिजशक्तिद्वारा जगत्कारणत्वम्, तच्छक्तिमयत्वेन जगतस्तदनन्यत्वं, स्वस्य तु तयोः परत्वं तदाश्रयत्वं च वदन् निजज्ञानमुपदिष्टवान्, प्रसङ्गेन जीवस्वरूपज्ञानं च। स चैवम्भूतो ज्ञानी मत्स्वरूप-मन्महिमानुसन्धानकृत्त्वात् ज्ञानिभक्तार्तभक्तादीन् अतिक्रम्य मत्प्रियो भवतीत्यप्यन्तेऽभिहितवान्—

Bhagavān is the cause of the universe through the agency of His potencies, known as the primordial nature (pradhāna) and the living beings (jīva). Because the universe is the by-product of these two energies of Bhagavān, it is non-different from Him, but He Himself is superior to and the support, of the universe. By delineating these truths, Bhagavān imparted knowledge about Himself and incidentally touched upon the knowledge of the constitutional nature of the living beings. A wise person of this type, endowed with knowledge of the glories of Bhagavān’s constitutional nature, surpasses the devotees who lack such knowledge and becomes dear to Bhagavān. [Bhagavān asserts this fact at the end of the same section of the Gītā:]

चतुर्विधा भजन्ते मां जनाः सुकृतिनोऽर्जुन।
आर्तो जिज्ञासुरर्थार्थी ज्ञानी च भरतर्षभ॥
तेषां ज्ञानी नित्ययुक्त एकभक्तिर्विशिष्यते।
प्रियो हि ज्ञानिनोऽत्यर्थमहं स च मम प्रियः॥
उदाराः सर्व एवैते ज्ञानी त्वात्मैव मे मतम्।
आस्थितः स हि युक्तात्मा मामेवानुत्तमां गतिम्॥
(गीता ७.१६-१८) इति।
O Arjuna, best of the Bharata dynasty, there are four types of pious people who worship Me: the distressed, the inquisitive, the seeker of wealth and the person of wisdom. Of these, the person of wisdom, who is ever-united with Me, and who is exclusively devoted to Me, is the best, for I am exceedingly dear to him, and he is dear to Me. All of these people are indeed noble, but I consider the person of wisdom to be My very self, because such a devotee, whose mind is fixed on Me, is firmly established in Me alone, as the highest goal. (Gītā 7.16-18)


ततश्चायमर्थः (..३८)—यस्त्वयि विश्वात्मन्यात्मनो जीवान् ईक्षेत् त्वच्छक्तित्वादनन्यत्वेनैव जानाति, तु पृथक् स्वतन्त्रत्वेन ईक्षेत, अमुत अमुष्माद्यद्यपि ते प्रेयान् नास्ति


Taking all of this into consideration, we can now ascertain the meaning of the verse above-cited from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [SB 4.7.38]: When it is said that the devotee sees himself as indistinct from Bhagavān, it means that he perceives himself, and hence all living beings, as situated within Bhagavān, the soul of the entire universe. This means that he understands all living beings as non-different from Bhagavān because they are His potencies; he does not view them as independent of Bhagavān. The adepts of the yoga system state that there is no one more dear to Bhagavān than such a devotee.


[The vision being described in this first line of the verse is that of a jñānī-bhakta. That such a devotee is most dear to Bhagavān is the same conclusion that Kṛṣṇa makes in the Gītā. Yet the fact that in the second half of the verse the Yogeśvaras petition Bhagavān to bestow pure devotion in the mood of a servant of such devotees indicates that they aspire for this type of devotion.]

तथापि, हे वत्सल ! हे भृत्यप्रिय ! भृत्येशभावेन ये भजन्ति, तेषां या अनन्या वृत्तिरव्यभिचारिणी निजा भक्तिः, तयैव अनुगृहाणप्रस्तुतत्वेनास्मान् ज्ञानिभक्तान् इति लभ्यत इति

The Yogeśvaras then address Bhagavān as vatsala, or “one who is tenderly affectionate, then as bhṛtyeśa, "Lord of His servants." In other words, those who worship Him as the Lord of His servants have an exclusive mode of being which is undeviating devotion. So kindly bestow Your mercy [by giving them this and this alone]. In the present context it is to be understood that the Yogeśvaras, who are themselves jñāni-bhaktas, are praying like this for themselves.

[Although there is no one more dear to Bhagavān than the devotee who understands all living beings as non-different from Him, the Yogeśvaras pray to Bhagavān to bless such a bhakta with His own devotion, and specifically with the exclusive devotion of those who worship Bhagavān with the mood of an pure servant towards his master. The term yogeśvara essentially refers to jñānī-bhaktas. So from the context, the Yogeśvaras are in effect saying, “Please bless us, the jñānī-bhaktas, with this type of devotion.”]




अथ मूलपद्ये ज्ञात्वाज्ञात्वा इत्यत्र ज्ञानाज्ञानयोर्हेयोपादेयत्वं निषिद्धम् भक्ततमा इत्यत्र पूर्ववाक्यस्थसत्पद-निर्देशमतिक्रम्य विशेषतो भक्तपदनिर्देशाद्भक्तेः स्वरूपाधिक्यमत्रैव विवक्षितम्

So, from the above discussion we can draw certain conclusions about the main verse of this anuccheda [SB 11.11.33]. By saying "whether or not they are aware" Kṛṣṇa prohibits drawing conclusions about the benefits of knowledge or rejectability of ignorance. By using the term "greatest devotee" (bhaktatama), i.e., by using the word bhakta directly, Kṛṣṇa indicates that he is going beyond the variants on the word sat used in the prior verses and thereby indicates that devotion in its essential form surpasses other kinds of saintliness.

[When Bhagavān says that He considers the devotees who worship Him with the mood of exclusive devotion as the best of all devotees, whether or not they have detailed knowledge of His glories, it means that for such devotees Bhagavān is discounting the relevance of such knowledge or the lack thereof. In the previous verse Bhagavān used the word sattama, “the best of saints,” to describe those engaged in exclusive devotion. Yet in this verse He has replaced this with the word bhaktatama, “the best of all devotees.” By the specific use of the word bhakta in this verse, Bhagavān has indicated the superior quality of bhakti present in such devotees.]

Tते मे मता इत्यत्र मम तु विशिष्टा सम्मतिरत्रैवेति सूचितम्, ईदृशानुक्तचरत्वात्।

Furthermore, by saying, “In my opinion, they are the best of all devotees” (te me bhaktatamā matāḥ), Bhagavān is indicating His personal viewpoint, because He did not qualify his previous statements in the same way.

अत एव प्रकरणप्राप्तमेकवचननिर्देशमप्यतिक्रम्य गौरवेणैव ये ते इति बहुवचनं निर्दिष्टम् ततः किमुत तद्भावसिद्धप्रेमाण इति भावः एषां भावभजनविवृतिरग्रे रागानुगाकथने ज्ञेया

Another point is that in the previous verses the singular case was used, “such a person is the best of all saints.” Disregarding this pattern, Bhagavān used the plural number, “such persons [in the devotional moods of servant, friend, parent or lover] are the best of all devotees,” as a way of indicating the greater weight being given to such a devotee. [In Sanskrit the plural is sometimes used as a sign of respect.Then how much more this is true of those who have perfected devotional love these moods. This is the intent. A description of the devotional moods and worship of these devotees will be given later in the context of the discussion of rāgānugā-bhakti.

॥११.११॥ श्रीभगवान्॥१९९-२०१॥


Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj

At the beginning of Anuccheda 199, Jīva Gosvāmī stated that he would demonstrate the gradation of neophyte, intermediate and superlative devotees in accordance with the evolution of their spiritual practice. He also said that he would quote five verses from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [SB 11.11.29-33] to illustrate these distinctions. After discussing the neophyte and intermediate devotees in Anucchedas 199 and 200 respectively, he now describes the superlative devotee, quoting the fifth verse in the series.

The specific characteristic of the devotee described in this verse is ananya-bhāva. This implies the ananya-bhakti or akiñcana-bhakti described in Anuccheda 178. The distinction between this devotee and the one described in the previous verse is that he is not keen on knowing the majestic feature of Bhagavān. In other words he does not worship Bhagavān because He is Bhagavān, but only because of love. His love is so supreme that he does not care to know Him as Bhagavān. Indeed, bhagavattā or Godhood cannot manifest itself in front of such a devotee. Yaśodā saw the whole universe in Kṛṣṇa’s mouth still she could not believe that Kṛṣṇa was God. She only accepted Kṛṣṇa as her baby. This is the intensity of her love. And even if the idea of Godhood enters in their mind, it cannot subdue their love.

The devotee described in the previous verse has knowledge of God and thus his love cannot swell to the same degree as that of the devotee mentioned in the present verse. Knowledge of God’s majesty brings a sense of awe and reverence that creates a distance by restricting one's natural love. This is the difference between the love a majestic bhakta and mādhurya-bhakta or one who knows God as a human being. The intensity of love brings intimacy. That has been called here as ananya-bhāva. To show the importance of this intimacy, Śrī Jīva cites the prayers of the Yogeśvaras to Viṣṇu who manifested in the yajña of Dakṣa. Because the concept of radical non-dualism is very popular and the cited verse is liable to be misunderstood, Śrī Jīva explains it with the help of the Gītā ślokas.

An impersonal interpretation of the verse would be as follows: “No one else is dearer to You, O Master, than he who sees no difference between You, the Self of the universe, and himself. Nevertheless, be gracious, O lover of devotees, to them who resort to you with exclusive devotion as their master as well.”

In this translation of the verse the sense is just the opposite of what Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī points out. If such a meaning is taken, then the sense of calling Bhagavān as vatsala becomes futile. Naturally He is dear to His devotees and they are dear to Him, as He Himself says (9.4.68): “Devotees are My very heart and I am the heart of My devotees. They do not know anything more dear than Me and I also do not know anything more dear than them.” Therefore, to think that the jñānī bhakta is superior to an ananya-bhakta is gross misunderstanding.

In summing up the three levels of devotees described in Anucchedas 199-201, it can be said that the neophyte is one whose worship of Bhagavān is mixed with other processes, like karma or jñāna. Thus his focus is more on the development of the qualities mentioned in SB 11.11.29-31. The intermediate devotee is engaged in exclusive devotion, regardless of whether he manifests those qualities or not, but his fixation with the knowledge of Bhagavān’s majestic power inhibits him entering into an intimate relation with Bhagavān. Such a person is known as a jñānī-bhakta. The superlative devotee transcends such knowledge and becomes situated in a pure relation with Bhagavān, either in the mood of a servant, friend, parent, or lover.

So although the jñānī-bhakta has been declared as most dear to Bhagavān both in the Gītā section cited above, as well as in SB 4.7.38, this is just to state that a pure devotee, situated in wisdom, is the highest stage of progress prior to the point of developing an intimate relation with Bhagavān in one of the four stated moods. Such intimate love for Bhagavān transcends the need for abstract knowledge of Bhagavān’s glories. In other words, for a devotee situated in an intimate relation of love with Bhagavān, having such knowledge is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage, and similarly, not having such knowledge is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage.

Bhakti Sandarbha 200 : The Intermediate Devotee Renounces Karma
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

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