Bhakti Sandarbha 248-250 : Introduction to Śravaṇam

At the beginning of Anuccheda 236, it was said that there are various divisions of vaidhī bhakti, including surrender, service to the wise, hearing, singing and other similar acts of devotion. Surrender was discussed in Anucchedas 236- 237 and service to the wise in Anucchedas 238-247 (See below for links). Hearing is the next limb of bhakti in order to be treated and discussion of it goes on to Anuccheda 257.

Anuccheda 248

Hearing - A Limb Of Bhakti

अथ क्रमप्राप्तं श्रवणम्। तच्च नामरूपगुणलीलामयशब्दानां श्रोत्रस्पर्शः।

Now we will describe hearing, which is next in the sequence of devotional practices.
When the ears contact words describing the name, form, qualities and divine play of Bhagavān, it is known as hearing, śravaṇam.

तत्र नामश्रवणं, यथा (भा. ६.१६.४४)—

न हि भगवन्नघटितमिदं
त्वद्दर्शनान् नृणामखिलपापक्षयः।
यन्नाम सकृच्छ्रवणात्
पुक्कशोऽपि विमुच्यते संसारात्॥

We will first cite an example of the power of hearing Bhagavān’s name, as Citraketu spoke to Bhagavān Saṅkarṣaṇa:
O Bhagavān, it is not at all astonishing that those who see You become free from all sins, because even an outcaste person becomes liberated from material existence simply by hearing Your name just once. (SB 6.16.44)

तादृशस्यापि सकृच्छ्रवणेऽपि मुक्तिफलप्राप्तेरुत्तमस्य तच्छ्रवणे तु परमभक्तिरेव फलमित्यभिप्रेतम्॥

If even an outcaste person attains liberation merely by once hearing Bhagavān’s name, then an elevated person who hears Bhagavān’s name attains supreme devotion. This is the implication of the verse.

॥६.१६॥ चित्रकेतुः श्रीसङ्कर्षणम्॥२४८॥

Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj

At the beginning of Anuccheda 236, it was said that there are various divisions of vaidhī bhakti, including surrender, service to the wise, hearing, singing and other similar acts of devotion. Surrender was discussed in Anucchedas 236- 237 and service to the wise in Anucchedas 238-247 (See below for links). Hearing is the next limb of bhakti in order to be treated and discussion of it goes on to Anuccheda 257.

A person’s birth in high or low family takes place because of one’s good or bad karma in the past life or lives. To become liberated one must become free of all one’s past and present karma. Birth as a Pukkaśa is certainly the result of some such forbidden action. Hearing about Bhagavān’s name and so on just once relieves a Pukkaśa of his or her karma and grants freedom from material bondage. However, if one is free of offense, then such a hearing will award love of Bhagavān. This is the implied sense of this verse.

Anuccheda 249

Hearing About Bhagavān's Form

अथ रूपश्रवणम् (भा. ३.९.५)—

Now we will give an example of hearing about Bhagavān’s form, as in Brahmā’s statement to Bhagavān Garbhodakaśāyi:

ये तु त्वदीयचरणाम्बुजकोशगन्धं
जिघ्रन्ति कर्णविवरैः श्रुतिवातनीतम्।
भक्त्या गृहीतचरणः परया च तेषां
नापैषि नाथ हृदयाम्बुरुहात् स्वपुंसाम्॥
But, O Master, Your devotees smell through their ears the fragrance released from the whorl of Your lotus feet, carried on by the wind of the 
Śrutis. You are never separated from the lotus hearts of such devotees, because they have bound Your feet with the ropes of supreme devotion. (SB 3.9.5)तु-शब्दो "यो नादृतो नरकभाग्भिरसत्प्रसङ्गैः" (भा. ३.९.४) इति पूर्वोक्तनिन्दितानां भगवद्रूपानादरवतां प्रतियोग्यर्थनिर्देशे निर्दिष्टः।

The word "but" at the beginning of this verse indicates that those spoken of here are completely different from those who have no regard for the Bhagavān’s form condemned in the verse preceding it: “Those who are fit to go to hell and who associate with those of unwholesome character do not respect Your form.” (SB 3.9.4)

अनेन येऽत्र एतद्विरोधिनो भवन्ति, त एव पूर्वोक्ता असत्प्रसङ्गा इति गम्यते। चरणमात्रनिर्देशो भक्त्यतिशयेन। गन्धं वर्णाकारादिमाधुर्यं कर्णविवरैर्जिघ्रन्ति, नासाविवरैः परमामोदमिव तैरास्वादयन्तीत्यर्थः।

From this it can be understood that those who are opposed to Bhagavān’s form are the same people referred to in the previous verse as asat-prasaṅga, or those whose company is unwholesome. The specific mention of Bhagavān’s feet is out of a feeling of great reverence. When it is said that the devotees smell through their ears the fragrance from Bhagavān’s lotus feet, it means that they relish the sweetness of Bhagavān’s complexion, shape and other features just as one enjoys smelling an alluring fragrance through the nostrils.

श्रुतिर्वेदस्तदनुगामिशब्दान्तरं च। सैव वातः, तेन प्रापितम्। ततः परया च भक्त्या प्रेमलक्षणया गृहीतचरणस्त्वं नापयातुं शक्नोषि॥

The word Śruti in this verse refers to the Vedas and other literature written in pursuance of the Vedas. This literature is the wind that carries the fragrance of Bhagavān’s form. The verse states that Bhagavān is unable to stray from His devotees’ hearts because His feet are bound by pure devotion characterized by love.

॥३.९॥ ब्रह्मा श्रीगर्भोदशायिनम्॥२४९॥

Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj

Fragrance is the quality of earth, which is perceived through one’s nose. Sound is the quality of ether, ākāśa, and is perceived through one’s ear. Ākāśa is all-pervading in the material creation. Its quality, sound, is thus limitless. The implied meaning of smelling through the ear, therefore, is that there is no end to the description of Bhagavān’s form. Thus one can go on hearing without an end. The ear, being a part of ether, which is all-pervading, will never become full and thus render further hearing impossible.

Such hearing with devotion binds Bhagavān to the heart of the devotee. Indeed, Bhagavān becomes situated in the heart of a devotee as soon as he or she simply desires to hear the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, (1.1.2), what to speak of when one actually hears it.

Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī while commenting on the word śruti writes that it includes not only the Vedas but also any literature written following the teaching of the Vedas. Thus by indicative meaning (lakṣaṇārtha), it includes the Vedas, Purāṇas, Itihāsa, Āgama and so on.

Anuccheda 250

Hearing About Qualities of Bhagavān

अथ गुणश्रवणम् (भा. १२.३.१४-१५)—

कथा इमास्ते कथिता महात्मनां विताय लोकेषु यशः परेयुषाम्।
विज्ञानवैराग्यविवक्षया विभो वचोविभूतीर्न तु पारमार्थ्यम्॥
यस्तूत्तमःश्लोकगुणानुवादः सङ्गीयतेऽभीक्ष्णममङ्गलघ्नः।
तमेव नित्यं शृणुयादभीक्ष्णं कृष्णेऽमलां भक्तिमभीप्समानः॥

Now we will cite an example of hearing about Bhagavān’s qualities, as Śrī Śuka said:
O King, I have narrated to you these stories of glorious kings, who achieved great fame in this world and then met their demise, in order to impart to you knowledge and detachment. These stories are merely a display of eloquence and have no bearing on the Absolute Truth. On the other hand, the descriptions of the qualities of Bhagavān, who is praised with choice poetry eradicate all inauspiciousness when sung. One who is eager to attain pure devotion to Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa should continuously hear these narrations on a daily basis. (SB 12.3.14-15)
टीका च—राजवंशानुकीर्तनस्य तात्पर्यमाह—कथा इमा इति। विज्ञानं विषयासारताज्ञानम्। ततो वैराग्यम्। तयोर्विवक्षया। परेयुषां मृतानां वचोविभूतीर्वाग्विलासमात्ररूपाः। पारमार्थ्यं परमार्थयुक्तं कथनं न भवतीत्यर्थः।

Śrīdhara Svāmī comments: “[In the first of these two verses,] Śuka reveals the purpose for which he has described the genealogy of different kings. He has done so simply to impart knowledge and detachment. Knowledge here refers to realization of the futility of sense enjoyment, and with this understanding comes detachment. The stories of these kings, who have now passed away, are a mere display of eloquence. As such, they are not expressions of the Absolute Truth.

कस्तर्हि पुरुषाणामुपादेयः परमार्थः ? तमाह—यस्त्विति। नित्यं प्रत्यहम्। तत्राप्यभीक्ष्णम्॥ इत्येषा।

Then what is an expression of the Absolute, which is beneficial for all humanity? The next verse is spoken in response to this question. The word nityam means that the descriptions of Bhagavān’s qualities should be recited daily, and abhīkṣṇam means that on top of this they should be sung continuously.”

अत्र यत् क्वचिच्छ्रीरामलक्ष्मणादयोऽपि तेषां राज्ञां मध्ये वैराग्यार्थं छत्रिन्यायेन पठ्यन्ते, तन्निरस्यते। अतो यद्यपि "निगमकल्पतरोः" (भा. १.१.३) इत्याद्यनुसारेण सर्वस्यैव प्रसङ्गस्य रसरूपत्वं, तथापि क्वचित् साक्षाद्भक्तिमयशान्तादिरसरूपत्वं, क्वचित् तदुपकरणशान्तादिरसरूपत्वं च समर्थनीयम्। अस्ति हि तत्र तत्र भक्तिरसेष्वपि तारतम्यमिति।

Avatāras of Bhagavān, such as Śrī Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa, have been included along with all the other kings, whose stories are simply to promote detachment, by the principle known as “the umbrella bearers."  The second verse, however, refutes the idea that the stories of avatāras of Bhagavān, such as Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa, have been narrated only for that purpose.

According to the third verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam the entire contents of this book are ambrosial: “This Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the mature fruit of the desire tree of the Vedas, and it is full of nectar.” (SB 1.1.3) Yet in some places, the descriptions are direct manifestations of bhakti-rasa, delineating the various relationships with Bhagavān in the moods of neutrality, friendship, and so on; whereas, in other places the descriptions are in the form of ingredients that make up the same rasas of neutrality, friendship and so on. Certainly there is a gradation even among the different rasas of bhakti.

गुणाः कारुण्यादयः। तद्गुणकीर्तिः स्वभाव एवासाविति श्रीगीतास्वपि दृष्टम्—"स्थाने हृषीकेश तव प्रकीर्त्या जगत् प्रहृष्यत्यनुरज्यते च" (गीता ११.३६) इत्यादौ।

"Qualities" refers to those such as compassion. Such indeed is the nature of the recitation of Bhagavān’s qualities, as found in the Gītā also: “It is fitting indeed, O Hṛṣīkeśa, that the universe exults and is filled with love by chanting Your glories.” (Gītā 11.36)

अत्र महाभागवतानामपि भगवत इव गुणश्रवणं मतम् (भा. १.१६.६)

तत् कथ्यतां महाभाग यदि कृष्णकथाश्रयम्।
अथवास्य पदाम्भोज मकरन्दलिहां सताम्॥ 

इति शौनकोक्तेः।

Hearing the qualities of great devotees is also recommended in the same way as hearing the qualities of Bhagavān, as Śaunaka said:

O greatly fortunate one, please narrate these incidents if they relate to Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa or His devotees, who lick the honey from His lotus feet. (SB 1.16.6)

यद्यप्यत्र गुणशब्देन रूपलीलयोरपि सौष्ठवं गृह्यते, तथापि तत्प्राधान्यनिर्देशात् पृथग्ग्रहणम्। एवमुत्तरत्रापि ज्ञेयम्। भक्तिं प्रेमाणम्। अमलां कैवल्यादीच्छारहिताम्॥

Although in the verse under discussion the word guṇa ("qualities") also includes the beauty of Bhagavān's form and pastimes, yet to show that glorification of Bhagavān’s qualities is predominant [in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam], this particular act of devotion has been singled out here. The same should be understood when other limbs of devotion are described later on. In the verse, bhakti means love, and “pure” (amalām) means devoid of desire for liberation or other attainments.

॥१२.३॥ श्रीशुकः॥२५०॥

Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj

The Bhāgavata Purāṇa or Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, as the very name suggests, is a book about Bhagavān. One may, then, raise a doubt about the stories of various kings described in the book. How do these stories fit into the purpose of this Purāṇa, which is to elucidate Bhagavān?

Śrī Śukadeva answers this in the verse cited at the beginning of this anuccheda. These stories are meant to inspire a sense of renunciation by showing the futility of material sense pleasures. These kings like Bharata were very powerful, lived very long lives, and ruled without any rival. Yet they gave up their kingdoms in the pursuit of bhakti. Mere sense pleasures, power and relatives could not satisfy their inner being. In comparison to these kings, our lifespan, wealth and power are very insignificant. For us to hope that we can be fully satisfied by our material pursuits using our limited capabilities and facilities is phantasmagoria. To infuse such a sense of renunciation is the real purpose behind the narrations of these various kings.

Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī says that renunciation has some limited usefulness for entering the devotional path: “Knowledge and renunciation are a little useful in the beginning to enter into bhakti, bu they should not be considered as part of bhakti.” (BRS 1.2.248)

One may raise an objection that there are also stories of kings like Rāma who is an avatāra. Are the stories of the avatāras also only to inspire renunciation? Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī replies that such is not the case. The stories of the avatāras are all auspicious.

From the third verse (1.1.3) it is understood that the whole of Bhāgavata Purāṇa is in the form of bhakti-rasa, sometimes directly such as the narrations about Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes and sometimes indirectly by inspiring renunciation and making one interested in bhakti. The stories of the kings that inspire renunciation are like an appetizer.

DISCLAIMER: All the posts related to Bhakti Sandarbha are not the final product. This version will be refined by other readers and editors, including Babaji himself. Please do not use this material without reference to this disclaimer.

Bhakti Sandarbha 246-247 : Honor Should be Given to All Vaiṣṇavas
Bhakti Sandarbha 243-245 : More Benefits of Sat-sanga
Bhakti Sandarbha 240-242 : The Power of Sat-saṅga to Grant Love for Krishna
Bhakti Sandarbha 239: Sat-saṅga Brings Bhagavān Under Control
Bhakti Sandarbha 238 : Sat-saṅga Captivates Bhagavān
Bhakti Sandarbha 237: Guru-sevā is the Key to Success
Bhakti Sandarbha 236 : Sharanagati or Surrender
Bhakti Sandarbha 235 : Vaidhī Nirguṇā Bhakti
Bhakti Sandarbha 234 : Svarūpa-siddhā Niṣkāmā Bhakti
Bhakti Sandarbha 231-233 : Svarūpa-siddhā Bhakti and the Three Gunas


Anonymous said…

Jagadananda Das quoted: “O greatly fortunate one, please narrate these incidents if they relate to Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa or His devotees, who lick the honey from His lotus feet. (SB 1.16.6)”

Beautiful, simply beautiful quote Jagadananda Das.

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