Bhakti Sandarbha 283 : Pāda-sevā (Concluded) and Arcanam


This section is split between a discussion of additional devotional activities that are included in pāda-sevanam, namely living in the Dham (281.1), worshiping Tulasi Devi (281,2) before turning to arcana, which continues over the next few sections, including an important discussion of necessity for dīkṣā (281,4). This is where the idea of taking initiation in order to establish a "particular  or specific relationship." (283.3)


Anuccheda 283

Pāda-sevā (Concluded) and Arcanam

283.1 Living in holy places

अत्र पादसेवायां श्रीमूर्तिदर्शनस्पर्शपरिक्रमानुव्रजनभगवन्मन्दिरगङ्गापुरुषोत्तमद्वारकामथुरादितदीयतीर्थस्थान- गमनादयोऽप्यन्तर्भाव्याः, तत्परिकरप्रायत्वात्। यावज्जीवं तन्मन्दिरादिनिवासस्तु शरणापत्तावन्तर्भवति। गङ्गादीनां तत्स्थप्राणिवृन्दानां च परमभागवतत्वमेवेति पक्षे तु तत्सेवादिकं महत्सेवादावेव पर्यवस्यति। ततो गङ्गादिष्वपि भक्तिनिदानत्वं भवेत्।

Devotional activities, such as beholding, touching and circumambulating the deity, following behind the deity in a procession, visiting Bhagavān’s temples, the Gaṅgā and holy places, like Puruṣottama-kṣetra, Dvārakā and Mathurā, are also to be included under the category of service to Bhagavān’s feet (pāda-sevanam), because all these activities are related to service. To live in a temple or holy place for the duration of one’s life, however, is part of taking surrender [See Anuccheda 236]. Holy places, like the Gaṅgā, and the living beings residing in them are great devotees of Bhagavān. So in this sense, service to holy places can be included under the heading of service to great devotees. For this reason, holy places like the Gaṅgā are also instrumental in awarding devotion.

अत एव (भा. १.२.१६) —

शुश्रूषोः श्रद्दधानस्य वासुदेवकथारुचिः।
स्यान्महत्सेवया विप्राः पुण्यतीर्थनिषेवणात्॥ इति।

Sūta thus spoke:

O learned ones, by visiting or dwelling in a holy place or by rendering service to great devotees, a person with faith and an interest in hearing narrations about Bhagavān develops a taste for such narrations. (SB 1.2.16)

अत्र पुण्यतीर्थशब्दोक्तस्य गङ्गादेः पृथक्कारणत्वं व्याख्येयम्। यथा तृतीये—"यत्पादनिःसृतसरित्प्रवरोदकेन तीर्थेन मूर्ध्न्यधिकृतेन शिवः शिवोऽभूत्" (भा. ३.२८.२२) इति। शिवत्वं नाम ह्यत्र परमसुखप्राप्तिरिति टीकाकृन्मतम्।

In this verse, the Gaṅgā and other holy places indicated by the word puṇya-tīrtha should be understood as distinct causes [separate from the influence of service to great devotees] for the awakening of attraction towards the narrations of Bhagavān. This is implied in this statement from the third canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam:

Śiva became auspicious (śiva) by accepting on his head the sacred water that flows through the river emanating from Bhagavān's feet. (SB 3.28.22)

तादृशसुखत्वं च भक्तावेव पर्यवसितम्, तत ऊर्ध्वं सुखान्तराभावात्। ब्राह्मे पुरुषोत्तममुद्दिश्य—

According to Śrīdhara Svāmī, the words “became śiva (auspicious)” mean that he attained supreme bliss. And such bliss is possible only in bhakti, because there is no bliss higher than bhakti. A reference to Puruṣottama-kṣetra [Jagannātha Purī] is found in the Brahma Purāṇa:

अहो क्षेत्रस्य माहात्म्यं समन्ताद्दशयोजनम्।
दिविष्ठा यत्र पश्यन्ति सर्वान् एव चतुर्भुजान्॥

How extraordinary is the glory of Puruṣottama-ksetra! The celestial beings perceive all living entities within an eighty mile radius of this sacred place as having four arms [i.e., as being equal to the four-armed associates of Bhagavān in Vaikuṇṭha].

स्कान्दे—
संवत्सरं वा षण्मासान् मासं मासार्धमेव वा।
द्वारकावासिनः सर्वे नरा नार्यश्चतुर्भुजाः॥

A reference to Dvārakā is found in the Skanda Purāṇa:

Any man or woman who lives in Dvārakā for a year, six months, one month or even half a month acquires four arms.

पाद्मपातालखण्डे—
अहो मधुपुरी धन्या वैकुण्ठाच्च गरीयसी।
दिनमेकं निवासेन हरौ भक्तिः प्रजायते॥

Mathurā is described in the Pātāla-khaṇḍa of the Padma Purāṇa:

How blessed is this land of Mathurā! It is superior even to Vaikuṇṭha, because simply by residing here for one day, one attains devotion to Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa.

आदिवाराहे तामुद्दिश्य, "जन्मभूमिः प्रिया मम" इति।

In the Ādi Varāha Purāṇa, Bhagavān refers to this Mathurā: “My birthplace [Mathurā] is dear to Me.”

एषु च स्वोपासनास्थानमधिकं सेव्यम्। श्रीकृष्णस्य पूर्णभगवत्त्वात् तत्स्थानं तु सर्वेषामेव पूर्णपुरुषार्थदं भवेत्। अत एव आदिवाराहे—
मथुरां च परित्यज्य योऽन्यत्र कुरुते रतिम्।
मूढो भ्रमति संसारे मोहितो मम मायया॥ इति।

Of all the different holy places, those specifically associated with the deity form that one worships are particularly worthy of one’s service or adoration. Nonetheless, because Kṛṣṇa is the complete manifestation of Bhagavān, His place can award the complete goal of human life to everyone. Thus, it is said in the Ādi Varāha Purāṇa (150.17):

If a person abandons Mathurā and becomes enamored with some other place, then such a fool, bewildered by My deluding potency, wanders in the material world.


283.2 The tulasī plant

तदेवं तुलसीसेवा च सत्सेवायामन्तर्भाव्या, परमभगवत्प्रियत्वात् तस्याः। यथा अगस्त्यसंहितायां गारुडसंहितायां च—
विष्णोस्त्रैलोक्यनाथस्य रामस्य जनकात्मजा।
प्रिया तथैव तुलसी सर्वलोकैकपावनी॥ इति।

Similarly, service to the Tulasī plant can also be included within the category of service to devotees, because she is supremely dear to Bhagavān, as stated in the Agastya-saṁhitā and the Garuḍa-saṁhitā:

Just as the daughter of King Janaka, Sītā Devī, is dear to Bhagavān Rāma, who is the same Bhagavān Viṣṇu who controls the three worlds, Tulasī, who purifies everyone, is dear to Him.”

स्कान्दे—
रतिं बध्नाति नान्यत्र तुलसीकाननं विना।
देवदेवो जगत्स्वामी कलिकाले विशेषतः॥
निरीक्षिता नरैर्यैस्तु तुलसीवनवाटिका।
रोपिता यैस्तु विधिना सम्प्राप्तं परमं पदम्॥

Tulasī is also mentioned in the Skanda Purāṇa:

The master of the universe, the source of all gods, has affinity for no place other than a tulasī garden, and especially so in kali-yuga. Those who visit a tulasī garden, or those who plant it according to the prescribed method, attain the supreme destination.

स्कान्द एव तुलसीस्तवे—"तुलसीनाममात्रेण प्रीणात्यसुरदर्पहा" इति। तदेवं पादसेवा व्याख्याता। प्रसङ्गसङ्गत्या गङ्गादिसेवा च।

There is another reference to Tulasī in the Skanda Purāṇa, in the prayer known as Tulasī-stava:

Bhagavān, who snatches the pride of the adversaries of the gods, is pleased just by hearing the name of Tulasī.”

We have thus, described the devotional practice known as service to Bhagavān’s feet. Through contextual relation, service to holy places, such as the Gaṅgā, has also been described.


Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj

The compound word pāda-sevā literally means service to the feet, but actually means service to the person, Bhagavān in the present context. The feet (pāda) represent the complete person of Bhagavān by ajahal-lakṣaṇā. In Vedic culture, out of respect a person is referred to by his or her feet. Thus we have titles of respect like ācārya-pāda, gosvāmī-pāda, prabhu-pāda.

Śrīla jīva Gosvāmīpāda includes the activities of seeing the deity in the temple, circumambulating them, visiting holy places, etc., within the category of pāda-sevanam, service to Bhagavān. Alternatively, visiting holy places like Gaṅgā could be considered as service to a devotee because the Gaṅgā as well as the living beings in it are devotees. The same is true of other holy places like Mathurā . Being great devotees of Bhagavān, they all have the power to bestow bhakti to one who serves them. This is understood from numerous statement found in scriptures proclaiming it. Among all the holy places, Vṛndāvan is supreme because it is the abode of Svayam Bhagavān.

Tulasī is a great devotee of Bhagavān. Thus serving the Tulasī plant is similarly a limb of pāda-sevanam bhakti.


283.3 Arcanam: Deity worship

अथार्चनम्। तच्चागमोक्तावाहनादिक्रमकम्। तन्मार्गे श्रद्धा चेदाश्रितमन्त्रगुरुस्तं विशेषतः पृच्छेत्। तथोदाहृतम्—"लब्ध्वानुग्रह आचार्यात् तेन सन्दर्शितागमः" (भा. ११.३.४८) इत्यादिना।

Now we will discuss arcanam, or worship of the deity form. This worship consists of various procedures, beginning with invoking Bhagavān’s presence in the form of the deity, as described in the Āgama scripture. If one has faith in this path, one should specifically inquire about it from one's mantra-guru, as pointed out earlier:

One who has obtained the grace of the ācārya and has learnt from him the method of worship prescribed in the Āgama should worship Bhagavān in the form to which he or she is attracted. (SB 11.3.48)

यद्यपि श्रीभागवतमते पञ्चरात्रादिवदर्चनमार्गस्यावश्यकत्वं नास्ति, तद्विनापि शरणापत्त्यादीनामेकतरेणापि पुरुषार्थसिद्धेरभिहितत्वात्, तथापि श्रीनारदादिवर्त्मानुसरद्भिः श्रीभगवता सह सम्बन्धविशेषं दीक्षाविधानेन श्रीगुरुचरणसम्पादितं चिकीर्षद्भिः कृतायां दीक्षायामर्चनमवश्यं क्रियेतैव।

According to the view of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the path of arcana, as outlined in books like the Pañcarātra, is not required, because even without it one can attain perfection by following even just one of the limbs of bhakti, such as surrender. Yet those who follow the path recommended by sages such as Śrī Nārada, and who desire a specific relation with Bhagavān consummated by a worthy guru through the process of dīkṣā [initiation into mantra for worship], should certainly perform arcanā after first accepting dikṣā.

(ह.भ.वि. २.९-१०)
दिव्यं ज्ञानं यतो दद्यात् कुर्यात् पापस्य सङ्क्षयम्।
तस्माद्दीक्षेति सा प्रोक्ता देशिकैस्तत्त्वकोविदैः॥
अतो गुरुं प्रणम्यैवं सर्वस्वं विनिवेद्य च।
गृह्णीयाद्वैष्णवं मन्त्रं दीक्षापूर्वं विधानतः॥ इत्यागमात्।

Dīkṣā is described in the Āgama:

Learned exponents of the Absolute declare that the process by which the teacher imparts divine knowledge to the disciple and eradicates all sins is known as dīkṣā or spiritual initiation. Therefore, submitting oneself before one’s teacher and offering everything to him, one should accept a Vaiṣṇava mantra in accordance with the standard initiation procedure.

"दिव्यं ज्ञानं" ह्यत्र श्रीमति मन्त्रे भगवत्स्वरूपज्ञानं, तेन भगवता सम्बन्धविशेषज्ञानं च। यथा पाद्मोत्तरखण्डादावष्टाक्षरादिकमधिकृत्य विवृतमस्ति।

“Divine knowledge” (divya-jñāna) is awareness of Bhagavān’s constitutional identity and one’s specific relation with Him transmitted through the mantra. This is explained in the Uttara-khaṇḍa [Chapter 226] and other portions of the Padma Purāṇa in relation to the eight-syllabled mantra.

ये तु सम्पत्तिमन्तो गृहस्थास्तेषां त्वर्चनमार्ग एव मुख्यः। यथोक्तं श्रीवासुदेवं प्रति मुनिभिः (भा. १०.८४.३७)—

अयं स्वस्त्ययनः पन्था द्विजातेर्गृहमेधिनः।
यच्छ्रद्धयाप्तवित्तेन शुक्लेनेज्येत पूरुषः॥ इति।

For wealthy householders, the path of arcanā is considered the primary practice, as the sages informed Vasudeva:

For twice-born householders, the most auspicious path is to faithfully worship the Supreme Person using wealth acquired through fair means. (SB 10.84.37)

तदकृत्वा हि निष्किञ्चनवत् केवलस्मरणादिनिष्ठत्वे वित्तशाठ्यविप्रतिपत्तिः स्यात्। परद्वारा तत्सम्पादनं व्यवहारनिष्ठत्वस्यालसत्वस्य वा प्रतिपादकम्। ततोऽश्रद्धामयत्वाद्धीनम् एव तत्। ततश्च "योऽमायया सततयानुवृत्त्या" (भा. १.३.३८) इत्याद्युपदेशाद्भ्रश्येत्।

Otherwise, if affluent householders neglect such worship and focus exclusively on practices like remembrance, which is taken up by those who have abandoned all striving for worldly possessions, they become guilty of miserliness in regard to the use of their wealth. And if a householder arranges for such worship to be done by others, it shows that his real interest lies in material affairs or that he is lazy. Arranging for someone else to perform one’s worship is inferior because it shows a lack of reverence for Bhagavān. Such action amounts to a breach of this instruction:

One who regularly and favorably worships the fragrance of Bhagavān’s lotus feet without duplicity comes to understand the glory of Bhagavān who wields the discus, whose prowess is limitless, who is the transcendence and the bestower of all fortune. (SB 1.3.38)

किं च, गृहस्थानां परिचर्यामार्गे द्रव्यसाध्यतयार्चनमार्गादविशेषेण प्राप्तेऽप्यर्चनमार्गस्यैव प्राधान्यमत्यन्तविधिसापेक्षत्वात् तेषाम्।

Moreover, for householders the path of arcanā is the primary course because they require strict regulation, even though there is no difference between the process of service (paricaryā) and that of arcanā as far as expenditure of wealth is concerned.

तथा गार्हस्थ्यधर्मस्य देवतायागस्य शाखापल्लवादिसेकस्थानीयस्य मूलसेकरूपं तदर्चनमित्यपि तदकरणे महान् दोषः।

The duties of a householder include the performance of sacrifice for the gods, which is comparable to watering the branches and leaves of a tree, whereas worship of Bhagavān is likened to watering the root of the tree. Consequently, [just as it would be inadequate to water only the branches and leaves of a tree and to neglect the root,] it would be a great mistake for a householder devotee not to worship the deity form of Bhagavān.

अतः स्कान्दे श्रीप्रह्लादवाक्यम्—
केशवार्चा गृहे यस्य न तिष्ठति महीपते।
तस्यान्नं नैव भोक्तव्यमभक्ष्येण समं स्मृतम्॥ इति।

Thus we find this statement of Prahlāda in the Skanda Purāṇa (7.4.36.12):

O King, you should not eat the food of a householder in whose house there is no worship of Keśava, because his food is considered equal to proscribed [like meat, etc.].

दीक्षितानां तु सर्वेषां तदकरणे नरकपातः श्रूयते। यथा विष्णुधर्मोत्तरे—

And it is understood from scripture that for all those who are initiated, regardless of whether they are householders or not, if they do not perform arcanā, they go to hell, as stated in the Viṣṇu-dharmottara Purāṇa

एककालं द्विकालं वा त्रिकालं पूजयेद्धरिम्।
अपूज्य भोजनं कुर्वन् नरकाणि व्रजेन् नरः॥ इत्यादि।

One should worship Hari once, twice or thrice a day. One who eats without first worshiping Bhagavān goes to hell.

अशक्तमयोग्यं प्रति च आग्नेये—

पूजितं पूज्यमानं वा यः पश्येद्भक्तितो हरिम्।
श्रद्धया मोदयेद्यस्तु सोऽपि योगफलं लभेत्॥ इति।

If one is unable to worship or is unqualified to do so, the Agni Purāṇa ordains:

One who witnesses Hari being worshiped or having been worshiped with devotion, or who approves the worship of Bhagavān with an attitude of faith, also attains the result of yoga.

योगोऽत्र पञ्चरात्राद्युक्तः क्रियायोगः। क्वचिदत्र मानसपूजा च विहितास्ति। तथा च पाद्मोत्तरखण्डे—"साधारणं हि सर्वेषां मानसेज्या नॄणां प्रिया" इति।

The word yoga here means kriyā-yoga as outlined in the Pañcarātra. Sometimes worship within the mind is also ordained, as stated in the Uttara-khaṇḍa of the Padma Purāṇa: “Worship within the mind is generally pleasing for all human beings.”


281.4 Necessity for dīkṣā 

किं च, अस्मिन्नर्चनमार्गेऽवश्यं विधिरपेक्षणीयः। ततः पूर्वं दीक्षा कर्तव्या। अथ शास्त्रीयं विधानं च शिक्षणीयम्।

Moreover, on the path of arcanā following scriptural injunctions is certainly compulsory. As a prerequisite to such worship, one must take dīkṣā. Thereafter, one should learn the scriptural procedure of worship.

दीक्षा, यथागमे (ह.भ.वि. २.३४) —

द्विजानामनुपेतानां स्वकर्माध्ययनादिषु।
यथाधिकारो नास्तीह स्याच्चोपनयनादनु॥
तथात्रादीक्षितानां तु मन्त्रदेवार्चनादिषु।
नाधिकारोऽस्त्यतः कुर्यादात्मानं शिवसंस्तुतम्॥ इति।

The importance of dīkṣā is stated in the Āgama:

The brāhmaṇas who have not yet undergone the sacred thread ceremony, do not have the right to assume their prescribed duties such as studying the Vedas. They acquire this authority only after being invested with the power of the ceremony. Similarly, those who are not initiated do not have the right to chant mantras and worship the deity. Therefore one should make oneself fortunate by accepting initiation. (HBV 2.34)

शास्त्रीयविधानं च, यथा विष्णुरहस्ये—

अविज्ञाय विधानोक्तां हरिपूजाविधिक्रियाम्।
कुर्वन् भक्त्या समाप्नोति शतभागं विधानतः॥ इति।

The importance of knowing the scriptural procedures of worship is described in the Viṣṇu-rahasya:

One who worships the deity of Hari with reverence, yet without knowing the prescribed procedure of worship, obtains only one percent of the benefit of doing it properly.

भक्त्या परमादरेणैव शतभागं प्राप्नोति। अन्यथा तावन्तमपि नेत्यर्थः। विधौ तु वैष्णवसम्प्रदायानुसार एव प्रमाणम्। यतो विष्णुरहस्ये—

If one worships the deity with great reverence, as indicated by the word bhaktyā, yet without acquaintance with prescribed procedures, obtains only one percent of the benefit, otherwise not even that. The guiding authority in the matter of the procedures of worship is the vaiṣṇava-sampradāya [or knowledge received in disciplic successions related to Viṣṇu]. This is indicated in the Viṣṇu-rahasya:

अर्चयन्ति सदा विष्णुं मनोवाक्कायकर्मभिः।
तेषां हि वचनं ग्राह्यं ते हि विष्णुसमा मताः॥

One should embrace the words only of those who always worship Viṣṇu with body, mind and speech, for they are as honorable as Viṣṇu.

कौर्मे—
संपृष्ट्वा वैष्णवान् विप्रान् विष्णुशास्त्रविशारदान्।
चीर्णव्रतान् सदाचारान् तदुक्तं यत्नतश्चरेत्॥

And in the Kūrma Purāṇa:

One should inquire about Viṣṇu from Vaiṣṇavas who are brāhmaṇas, adept in the conclusions of scripture, engaged in vows, and whose conduct is rooted in truth. One should follow their instructions with great care.

वैष्णवतन्त्रे—
येषां गुरौ च जप्ये च विष्णौ च परमात्मनि।
नास्ति भक्तिः सदा तेषां वचनं परिवर्जयेत्॥ इति।

And in the Vaiṣṇava Tantra:

One should completely avoid the instructions of those who are not devoted to their guru, to their mantra and to the Supreme Bhagavān Viṣṇu.

तथाह (भा. ९.४.२१)—
एवं सदा... इत्यादौ
तन्निष्ठविप्राभिहितः शशास ह 
॥  इति।

अम्बरीष इति प्रकरणलब्धम्॥

Therefore, it is said in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam:

Being thus fully devoted and always offering his actions to the Supreme Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa, who is the Absolute and the enjoyer of all sacrifice, he ruled the earth, following the instructions received from the vipras who were devoted to Bhagavān. (SB 9.4.21)

From the context, this refers to King Ambarīṣa.


Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj

The next limb of devotion is arcanam, deity worship. For this one must have accepted a genuine guru and taken dikṣā from him/her. One should learn the process of worship from one’s guru. Every school or sub-school may have its own system of worship. Without dīkṣā one is not qualified for worship. Just as a brāhmaṇa has the right to study Vedas but gets this eligibility only after he has undergone the upanayana-saṁskāra, similarly everyone has the right to worship deity but that eligibility comes only after taking dikṣā in a Vaiṣṇava's mantra.

The mantra is non-different from Bhagavān and it establishes one’s relation with Him. Taking dikṣā is compared to a second birth, a spiritual birth. Just as by material birth one comes in a particular dynasty and has a corresponding ego and identity, by taking dikṣā one becomes part of a spiritual family and dynasty that has its source in Bhagavān Himself. This gives one the identity of having a specific relation with Bhagavān. Then with this relation and identity one serves the deity.

By doing deity worship properly one can very quickly experience a personal relation with Bhagavān. Thus it is compulsory that after taking dīkṣā the disciple engages in deity worship regularly. Besides receiving the mantra one must understand its meaning, the ṛṣi, devatā, chandas, and bīja of the mantra. Śrī Śiva tells Parvatī,


aviditvā tu mantrārthaṁ siddhiṁ naivādhigacchati
 na tu bhuktiṁ ca bhaktiṁ ca na ca muktiṁ varānane


One cannot attain perfection in mantra without knowing its meaning, nor can one get any material boons nor devotion, nor liberation, O Beautiful Parvatī. (PP 6.226.93)

The meaning of mantra is understood after knowing its devatā, as it is said,


veditavyaṁ daivataṁ hi mantra prayatnataḥ
daivatajño hi mantrāṇāṁ tad-artham avagacchati


One must know the devatā of a mantra carefully. One who knows the devatā of mantras can understand their meaning. (Bṛhad-devatā 1.2)

Deity worship is especially recommended for those who are married householders. This is because deity worship requires a fixed place and some paraphernalia. The renounced sādhus may not be able to afford it. Deity worship also helps to regulate the lives of family members, and maintain a standard of cleanliness and ritual purity. One should not be miserly in doing deity worship. Nor one should do it as a show to impress others or to earn donations. Worship of deity by hiring a pūjārī is considered inferior than doing it oneself. It also shows neglect and lack of faith.


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. This material is copyrighted by the Jiva Institute.

Bhakti Sandarbha 280-282 : Service to Bhagavān (Pāda-sevanam)
Bhakti Sandarbha 275-279 : Smaranam
Bhakti Sandarbha 273-274 : Conclusion of Kirtan Section
Bhakti Sandarbha 270-272 : Kīrtana in the Kaliyuga
Bhakti Sandarbha 266-269 : Rupa, Guna and Lila Kirtan, Glories of Kirtan
Bhakti Sandarbha 265 : Offenses to the Holy Name
Bhakti Sandarbha 263-264 : Kirtan of the Holy Name
Bhakti Sandarbha 260-262 : More Glories of Hearing the Bhagavatam
Bhakti Sandarbha 257-259 : Hearing the Bhagavatam
Bhakti Sandarbha 254-256 : Hearing Lila

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