Bhakti Sandarbha 222-223: The Result Of Karma is Under the Control of Bhagavān


This section is a bit difficult as it deals with the problem of apūrva, a concept of the Purva Mimamsa. Jiva quotes Sridhar Swami at length. Bharata performed a sacrifice but saw that the apūrva, i.e., the subtle power of a pious act that connects it to the future result, was actually situated in Bhagavan. Through this awareness he was inexorably led to svarūpa-siddhā bhakti.

Again disclaimer: This is not the final version of this translation. Please bear that in mind and buy the printed edition when it comes out. Our aim is to make this the most authoritative translation of the Sandarbhas.





Anuccheda 222

The Result Of karma is Under the Control of Bhagavān


किं च, कर्मफलं वस्तुतो भगवदाश्रयमेव। तत् तु दुर्बुद्धेरात्मसात्कुर्वतो युक्त्यैव तुच्छफलप्राप्तिः संसारश्च। सुधियस्तु तत्साक्षात्कुर्वतस्तद्वैपरीत्यमित्याह गद्याभ्याम् (भा. ५.७.६)—

Moreover, the result of karma is in reality under Bhagavān’s control. But a person of meager intelligence, who contrives to appropriate the results of karma for himself or herself, acquires trivial benefits as well as material bondage. On the other hand, intelligent people obtain just the opposite of this by offering their karma to Bhagavān. Śrī Śuka conveyed this idea in two prose texts, the first of which is cited here [the second verse is quoted in Anuccheda 223]:

सम्प्रचरत्सु नानायागेषु विरचिताङ्गक्रियेष्वपूर्वं यत् तत् क्रियाफलं धर्माख्यं परे ब्रह्मणि यज्ञपुरुषे सर्वदेवतालिङ्गानां मन्त्राणामर्थनियामकतया साक्षात्कर्तरि परदेवतायां भगवति वासुदेव एव भावयमान आत्मनैपुण्यमृदितकषायो हविःष्वध्वर्युभिर्गृह्यमाणेषु स यजमानो यज्ञभाजो देवांस्तान् पुरुषावयवेष्वभ्यध्यायत्। इति।

After the preparatory rites and component parts of a sacrifice are executed and the actual sacrifice performed, what results is something not immediately tangible because it is experienced only in the future [such as promotion to heaven]. This intangible fruit (apūrva) is known as dharma, or the merit accruing from religious rites. While performing sacrifices, King Bharata considered this intangible fruit to be sheltered exclusively in Bhagavān Vāsudeva, who is the Supreme Transcendence and the Absolute. He did so because he realized Bhagavān Vāsudeva to be the presiding deity of the sacrifice, and the controller of all the gods who are revealed by the mantras pertaining to them. As such, it is Bhagavān Vāsudeva who is the real agent and chief deity of the sacrifice. Because of Bharata’s genius in understanding this truth, he became cleansed of all impurity. When the adhvaryu priests used to take the offering in their hands to pour oblations, the host, Bharata, used to consider the gods, who are entitled to a share of the sacrifice, as limbs of Bhagavān’s body. (SB 5.7.6)

टीका च—सम्प्रचरत्सु प्रवर्तमानेषु नानायागेषु विरचिता अनुष्ठिता अङ्गक्रिया येषु, तेषु यदपूर्वं तद्वासुदेव एव भावयमानश्चिन्तयन्, स यजमानो यज्ञभागभाजो ये देवाः सूर्यादयः, तान् पुरुषस्य वासुदेवस्य आवयवेषु चक्षुरादिषु अभ्यध्यायत्, न तु तत्पृथक्त्वेनेत्यन्वयः।

Śrīdhara Svāmī comments: “When various sacrifices were performed along with their limbs and prepatory rites, the host, Bharata, considered the intangible result to be sheltered exclusively in Bhagavān Vāsudeva. He thus considered the gods, who are entitled to a share in the sacrifice, as limbs of Bhagavān Vāsudeva’s body. He meditated on the Sun god as the eyes of Bhagavān, and other gods in a corresponding manner. He did not consider them as independent of Bhagavān.

अपूर्वे पक्षद्वयं मीमांसकानाम्। तदिदानीमेव सूक्ष्मत्वेनोत्पन्नं फलमेवापूर्वं, कालान्तरे फलोत्पादिका कर्मशक्तिर्वेति। तदुक्तम्—

"The Mīmāṁsakas, or the scholars of the path of karma, have two opinions in regard to the intangible fruit of sacrifice (apūrva). One group claims that apūrva is a fruit immediately generated from the sacrifice, although in an intangible form. The other group claims that apūrva is the endowment of a certain potency within karma that will generate a result later on. These two opinions are expressed in this verse:

यागादेव फलं तद्धि शक्तिद्वारेण सिध्यति।
सूक्ष्मशक्त्यात्मकं वापि फलमेवोपजायते॥ [तन्त्रवार्त्तिका २.१.५] इति।

The result generated from the sacrifice is manifested only through the potency of karma. Alternatively, the sacrifice produces a result in the form of intangible potency. (Tantra Vārttika 2.1.5)

तदेतदाह—क्रियाफलं धर्माख्यमिति च।

“These two opinions are referred to [in the Bhāgavata prose text] by the words kriyā-phalam, 'the fruit [immediately] generated from an action,' and dharmākhyam, 'known as religious merit [bearing fruit in the future].'

ननु यद्यङ्गं देवता कर्म प्रधानमिति मतं, तर्हि कर्तृनिष्ठमपूर्वं स्यात्। तदुक्तम्—

“The following doubt may be raised in this connection: If the gods to whom sacrifice is offered are considered as mere limbs of the sacrifice, whose only role is to dispense the result, and the actual execution of the sacrifice (karma) is the primary factor upon which the result depends, then the result obtained from the sacrifice (apūrva) will be sheltered in the agent who initiates the sacrifice. This view seems to be supported by the following statement:

कर्मभ्यः प्रागयोग्यस्य कर्मणः पुरुषस्य वा।
योग्यता शास्त्रगम्या या परा सापूर्वमिष्यते॥ [तन्त्रवार्त्तिका २.१.५ ] इति।

The ability of karma and the agent who performs it to manifest the fruit of sacrifice, which was not present prior to the execution of the sacrifice, is called apūrva, and this ability, which is generated from the sacrifice, is understood from the injunction of scripture. (Tantra Vārttika 2.1.5)

[In either opinion of the Mīmāṁsakas, the apūrva generated from the sacrifice becomes manifest only at some point in the future, so in the meantime where does this intangible result reside? The Mīmāṁsakas offer only two possibilities—either the result is sheltered in the person who performs the sacrifice or in the gods who administer its result. Yet the verse states that Bharata considered this result to be sheltered in Bhagavān Vāsudeva.]

अथ देवताप्रधानं कर्म तु देवताराधनार्थं, तदा देवताप्रसादरूपत्वादपूर्वस्य देवताश्रयत्वमेव युक्तं। कर्मभ्यः प्रागयोग्यस्य प्रोक्षणाद्यपूर्वस्येव व्रीह्याद्याश्रयत्वम्। कुतो वासुदेवाश्रयमपूर्वं भावयति ?

“If we consider the second alternative, in which karma is performed not for personal gain, but for the pleasure of the gods, then the gods become prominent. In this case, one should consider the intangible result to be sheltered in the gods because it is generated by their mercy. The activities that are part of the sacrifice, such as consecrating with water the rice and other items to be offered, generate apūrva. But prior to the sacrifice the apūrva,which is merely a potential not yet generated, lies in the rice and other items to be offered.

उच्यते—यदि कर्तृनिष्ठमपूर्वं स्यात्, तर्हि वासुदेवस्यान्तर्यामिणः प्रवर्तकत्वेन मुख्यकर्तृत्वात् तदाश्रयमेवापूर्वं, न तु तत्प्रयोज्ययजमानाश्रयं, "शास्त्रफलं प्रयोक्तरि" इति न्यायात्।

“In either of these two cases, the question must be asked how Bharata considered the intangible fruit to be sheltered in Bhagavān Vāsudeva. If we consider the first possibility, in which apūrva is sheltered in the agent, then because Vāsudeva as the supreme indwelling Soul is the impeller, He is the chief agent and thus apūrva is exclusively sheltered in Him. apūrva is not sheltered in the host who undertakes the sacrifice and who is merely impelled to act by Bhagavān. This is also confirmed by this axiom: ‘The result generated by adhering to scriptural injunctions lies in the impelling agent.’ (Pūrva Mīmāṁsā 3.7.18)

अन्यथा ऋत्विजामप्यपूर्वाश्रयत्वप्रसङ्गात्। तदेतदाह—साक्षात्कर्तरि इति। देवताश्रयत्वेऽपि वासुदेवाश्रयत्वमेवेत्याह—परदेवतायामिति।

"Furthermore, if the apūrva was sheltered in the host, it would have to be sheltered in the priests as well, since they conduct the sacrifice on behalf of the host. Therefore, the verse under discussion states that Bharata considered the apūrva to be sheltered exclusively in Bhagavān Vāsudeva who is qualified by the adjective sākṣāt-kartāri, the direct agent of the sacrifice.

परदेवतात्वे हेतुः—सर्वदेवतालिङ्गानां तत्तद्देवताप्रकाशकानां मन्त्राणां ये अर्था इन्द्रादिदेवतास्तेषां नियामकतया तस्यैव प्रसादनीयत्वात् फलदातृत्वाच्च युक्तमेवापूर्वाश्रयत्वम् इत्यर्थः।

“If we consider the second possibility, in which apūrva is sheltered in the gods, then also it resides exclusively in Vāsudeva because He is the supreme God. For this reason, the verse used the adjective para-devatāyām to describe Vāsudeva, which means that He is supreme among all the gods. “The reason why Vāsudeva is to be considered as the para-devatā, or the Supreme God, is stated in the verse itself. He is described as the controller of Indra and all the other gods who are revealed by the various mantras pertaining to them. So because the sacrifice is ultimately to please Him and because He bestows the result, it is fitting that the intangible result is sheltered in Him.

एवं भावनमेव आत्मनो नैपुण्यं कौशलं, तेन मृदिताः क्षीणाः कषाया रागादयो यस्य। अध्वर्युभिरिति बहुवचनं नानाकर्माभिप्रायेण॥ इत्येषा।

“The verse states that Bharata’s genius was in understanding the truth that the intangible fruit of sacrifice lies in Bhagavān Vāsudeva [and not in the impelled agent or in the gods]. It was due to this genius that he became cleansed of all impurity, such as attachment. The word adhvaryubhiḥ, ‘by the priests,’ is in the plural, and this is just to indicate that Bharata conducted many sacrifices.”

[Śrīdhara Svāmī’s comment ends here.]

अत्र विष्णोरङ्गित्वे प्राप्ते यज्ञाङ्गत्वेन तद्भजनं च दोष इति लभ्यते। अत्र पाद्मोत्तरखण्डे यथा (प.पु. ६.२३५.८) 

उद्दिश्य देवता एव जुहोति च ददाति च।
स पाषण्डीति विज्ञेयः स्वतन्त्रो वापि कर्मसु॥ इति।

In the cited prose passage (SB 5.7.6), Bhagavān Viṣṇu is regarded as the whole; therefore, to worship Him as a part of the sacrifice is a mistake. This is indicated in the Uttara-khaṇḍa of the Padma Purāṇa:

A person who performs a sacrifice or donates charity only to appease the gods, or one who considers himself as the independent agent of his karma should be considered a heretic. (PP 6.235.8)

पाषण्डत्वमत्र वैष्णवमार्गाद्भ्रष्टत्वमित्यर्थः।

The word pāṣandi, “heretic,” is used here in the sense of one who has slipped away from the Vaiṣṇava path.

श्रीगीतासु (९.२३-२४) 
येऽप्यन्यदेवताभक्ता यजन्ते श्रद्धयान्विताः।
तेऽपि मामेव कौन्तेय यजन्त्यविधिपूर्वकम्॥
अहं हि सर्वयज्ञानां भोक्ता च प्रभुरेव च।
न तु मामभिजानन्ति तत्त्वेनातश्च्यवन्ति ते॥ इति।

In the Gītā also it is said:

Even the devotees of other gods who worship them with faith actually worship Me alone, O Son of Kuntī, but they do so improperly. I alone am the enjoyer and the master of all sacrifices. They do not know Me in truth, and hence they fall down. (Gītā 9.23-24)

अतो वास्तवविचारे सर्व एव वेदमार्गाः श्रीभगवत्येव पर्यवस्यन्तीत्यभिप्रेत्योक्तं श्रीमदक्रूरेण (भा. १०.४०.९-१०) 

Thus, in the true estimation all Vedic paths culminate only in the Supreme Bhagavān. With this in mind, Śrī Akrūra said:

सर्व एव यजन्ति त्वां सर्वदेवमयेश्वरम्।
येऽप्यन्यदेवताभक्ता यद्यप्यन्यधियः प्रभो॥
यथाद्रिप्रभवा नद्यः पर्जन्यापूरिताः विभो।
विशन्ति सर्वतः सिन्धुं तद्वत् त्वां गतयोऽन्ततः॥ इति।

O Bhagavān, even those who are devoted to other gods and who consider them as independent of You, worship You alone, the Supreme Controller and embodiment of all the gods. Just as the rivers originating in the mountains and swollen by the monsoon rains make their way to the ocean from every direction, O Bhagavān, so do all paths ultimately lead to You alone. (SB 10.40.9-10)

गतयो मार्गाः। अन्ततो विचारपर्यवसानेन।

The word gatayaḥ means the paths, and antataḥ,“ultimately,” means that it is concluded by deliberation [that all paths lead to God].


Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaja

After explaining that karma offered to Bhagavān can make one free of karma, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī discusses the results of karma. How does one get the result and where does it exist? We perform action to satisfy our desires. Every action brings some result, desirable or undesirable. In the Vedas there is a description that by doing a particular yajña one can attain heaven in next life, such as svarga-kāmo yajeta. It is seen that a cause must immediately precede its effect, niyata-pūrva-vṛttivat kāraṇatvam (Tarka-saṅgraha). How then can yajña be the cause of heaven? A yajña is an action that comes to an end in the executor’s present life whereas heaven is a reward that comes in another life. At that time the yajña will be non-existent and thus cannot possibly be the cause of heaven.

To solve this problem, the Mīmāṁsakas propose an intermediate force called apūrva. The yajña along with all its subsidiaries produces an apūrva that continues to exist after the yajña is over. This apūrva then manifests the results of the sacrifice at the appropriate time. Thus yajña is not directly the cause of heaven, but indirectly through apūrva.

A thorough discussion of this subject is found in the commentaries on Pūrva-mīmāṁsā-sūtra (2.1.5), codanā punar ārambhaḥ. The two verses cited here by Śrīdhara Svāmī are from the famous commentary Tantra-vārttikā of Kumārila Bhaṭṭa. He says that before the main action, i.e., the yajña, is executed the yajña as well as the executor of the yajña have no ability get the result proclaimed by the yajña. But once the yajña is executed then both become qualified to give the result. This qualification is called apūrva. This is known from the Vedic injunctions such as darśa-pūrṇa-māsābhyāṁ svarga-kamo yajet – a person desiring heaven should execute the Darśa and Pūrṇamāsa yajñas. In this statement the compound word darśa-pūrṇamāsābhyāṁ is in the instrumental case, which implies that they are the means for attaining heaven. When the yajña is performed it removes the disqualification that impede the executor from going to heaven.

There are two views about apūrva among the Mīmāṁsakas. According to Prabhākara the religious act such as yajña immediately creates its result in subtle form. This result itself becomes manifest later at the appropriate time. Kumārila Bhaṭṭa, however, says that it is not that the result is produced, but an intermediate power is produced which will bring about  the result at the appropriate time.

The next question is where does the apūrva lie? On this also there are two views. The first view is that the apūrva lies within the agent because the devatās are secondary to the act of yajña. The second view is that the apūrva lies in the devatā.

Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī cites a passage from the life of King Bharata who although a devotee engaged in karma to set an example for others. He himself was beyond the jurisdiction of karma because karma has its applicability as long as a person has not become detached from material desires or has not acquired śraddhā in bhakti (11.20.9). The text states that he considered the apūrva to be sheltered in Kṛṣṇa and not in himself as the host or instigator of the sacrifice (yajamāna) or the devas. This is a third view unknown to the Mīmāṁsakas.

An objection is raised on this. Before the yajña is completed there are various subsidiary activities such as sprinking the rice with water. This also creates a mini apūrva. This apūrva is sheltered in the rice itself, not in Bhagavān. Bhagavān is the shelter of the parama-apūrva, the final apūrva. After the yajña is completed then the apūrva is either in the agent, the host, or in the devatā. These were the two views of the Mīmāṁsakas. In both cases the ultimate shelter of apūrva is Bhagavān.

If the first view is accepted then the priest should also be the shelter of apūrva. But nobody accepts the priest as the shelter of apūrva because the benefit of the yajña is for the host (yajamāna), not for the priest. Moreover it is Bhagavān who is the impelling agent and according to the Mīmāṁsā-sūtra cited above, it is the impelling agent who gets the fruit. An individual being cannot be the shelter of apūrva because he does not have the power to arrange for its result. The devas also cannot be its shelter because they are also not independent. They are all parts of the body of Bhagavān. Part here means dependent, just as our bodily parts are dependent on the whole.

Kṛṣṇa says that He is the enjoyer (bhoktā) of all yajñas (Gītā 5.29). If He is the bhoktā then He also must be the kartā because these two have a common substratum. He is the prayojaka-kartā because He is the ultimate impeller of all action, including those of the devatās (Gītā 10.8). Therefore, King Bharata accepted only Viṣṇu as the shelter of apūrva.

There is one more reason for accepting Viṣṇu in this way. In a yajña one has to decide what is the major thing (aṅgī) and what are his parts. The major thing can be either the karma, i.e. the yajña, the devatā or Bhagavān. If the yajña is made prominent, then the devatā and Viṣṇu will become its subordinates. That means that they exist for the sake of the yajña. But that is not true, and it is also insulting to them. If a devatā is made prominent then the yajña and Viṣṇu will become subordinate. This will be an offense to Viṣṇu, who is the source of the devatās. Therefore, such people have been declared as heretics. Those who act against the teachings of Vedas or who criticize their meaning are called heretics.

Anuccheda 223

Offering of karma Can Lead to bhakti


अथ द्वितीयं गद्यम् (भा. ५.७.७) —

एवं कर्मविशुद्ध्या विशुद्धसत्त्वस्यान्तर्हृदयाकाशशरीरे ब्रह्मणि भगवति वासुदेवे महापुरुषरूपोपलक्षणे श्रीवत्सकौस्तुभवनमालारिदरगदादिभिरुपलक्षिते निजपुरुषहृल्लिखितेनात्मनि पुरुषरूपेण विरोचमान उच्चैस्तरां भक्तिरनुदिनमेधमानरयाजायत॥ इति।

And now we will examine the second prose passage:
In this way Bharata’s heart became purified by the sanctification of his karma. Then he developed intense devotion, which multiplied day by day, to Bhagavān Vāsudeva, who resides in the sky of the heart, who is the Supreme Brahman, who is distinguished as the Supreme Person, who is decorated with the mark of śrīvatsa, the kaustubha gem, and a garland of forest flowers, who bears a disc, conch, club and other items, who is engraved in the hearts of His devotees, and who exists as the Supreme Being in Bharata’s heart. (SB 5.7.7)

एवं पूर्वोक्तप्रकारेण कर्मविशुद्ध्या विशुद्धसत्त्वस्य भक्तिः सश्रद्धश्रवणकीर्तनादिलक्षणा अजायत इत्यन्वयः।

The adverb of manner evam, “in this way,” means by the method of sacrifice described in the previous verse. Bharata’s heart became pure by this sanctification of his karma. He then developed bhakti, which was characterized by hearing, chanting and performing similar acts with faith.

क्वचिद् भगवति वासुदेवे पूर्णस्वरूपभगाभ्यां सर्वनिवासेन च तत्तन्नाम्ना प्रसिद्धे, अन्तर्हृदये य आकाशः, स एव शरीरं स्वस्यैवाविर्भावविशेषाधिष्ठानं यस्य तस्मिन्नन्तर्यामिणि परमात्माख्ये, ब्रह्मणि निर्विशेषाविर्भावात् तदाख्ये च।

The Supreme Bhagavān, for whom Bharata developed such devotion, is described by several words. He is known as Vāsudeva because He is replete with all form and opulence and is the abode of all. The sky of the inner heart is His body, or rather the seat of His specific manifestation as the Paramātmā, the Supreme indwelling Self. He is also referred to as Brahman because He manifests one feature that is devoid of attributes.

भगवतो निराकारत्वं वारयति—महापुरुषस्य यद्रूपं शास्त्रे श्रूयते तद्रूपं लक्ष्यते दृश्यते यत्र तस्मिन्। किं च, श्रीवत्सादिभिरपि चिह्निते । एधमानरया वर्धमानप्रकर्षा॥

Yet the speaker of the verse, Śrī Śuka, denies that the Supreme Bhagavān being described is formless by saying that He is distinguished as the Supreme Person. This means that one can see in Vāsudeva the characteristics of the Mahāpuruṣa (the Supreme Being) that are described in scripture. Furthermore, He is decorated with the mark of śrīvatsa and other distinguishing features. The words edhamāna-raya, qualifying the word bhakti, mean “increasing vehemently.”

॥ ५.७॥ श्रीशुकः॥२२३॥


Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaja

Usually people perform karma to fulfill some material desire. But karma if performed for the satisfaction of Bhagavān will lead to svarūpa-siddhā bhakti. To show this Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī cites the example of King Bharata. Bharata engaged in a yajña, which is a part of karma path, but he did so only for the satsfaction of Bhagavān. The outcome was that his heart became completely pure and svarūpa-siddhā bhakti manifested in it. His bhakti was always increasing. That is why he later handed over the royal responsibilities to his son and retired to the Himalayas to engage in svarūpa-siddhā bhakti full time. This is the meaning when Kṛṣṇa says that kings like Janaka attained perfection by karma alone (Gītā 3.20).

In reality King Bharata was pure-hearted from his very birth. That is why his father Rṣabhadeva instructed his other sons to remain under his care (5.5.20).


Karma Offered To Bhagavān Destroys Karma
Bhakti Sandarbha 217: Three Divisions of Bhakti (Āropa siddhā bhakti)
Bhakti Sandarbha 216 : Ahaṅgrahopāsanā and Sādhanā Bhakti Defined
Bhakti Sandarbha 214-215 : The Process of Brahman Realization
Bhakti Sandarbha 212-213 : The Spiritual Guru is the Manifestation of Bhagavān
Bhakti Sandarbha 210-211: The Mantra Guru is Also Compulsory
Bhakti Sandarbha 209 : The bhajana-śikṣā guru is also necessary
Bhakti Sandarbha 208 : There is No Possibility of Knowledge Without Guru
Bhakti Sandarbha 207 : Dīkṣā Guru is Only One
Bhakti Sandarbha 206 : The śravaṇa- and bhajana-śikṣā-gurus are usually the same person

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