Bhakti Sandarbha 340 :: The Sequence of Progress In Bhakti

Anuccheda 340
The Sequence of Progress In Bhakti

तदेवं साधनात्मिका भक्तिर्दर्शिता। तत्र सिद्धिक्रमश्च श्रीसूतोपदेशारम्भे "शुश्रूषोः श्रद्दधानस्य" (भा. १.२.१६) इत्यादिना दर्शितः।

We have thus described the practice of devotion. The progressive stages of devotion leading to perfection have been shown in the beginning of Śrī Sūta's instructions in a series of verses beginning with this one:

O learned ones, by visiting or dwelling in a holy place a person gets an opportunity to associate with great devotees and to render service to them. By such service a person awakens faith and an interest in hearing narrations about Bhagavān and thus develops a taste for such narrations. (SB 1.2.16)

यथा च श्रीनारदवाक्ये "अहं पुरातीतभवेऽभवम्" (भा. १.५.२३) इत्यादौ।

An example of how this development unfolds was seen in the case of Śrī Nārada, who described to Śrī Vyāsa the events of his previous life, beginning with this verse:

O sage, in my former life during the previous millennium I took birth as the son of a maidservant to some enlightened sages of the Vedas. When these yogīs were living together during the four months of the rainy season, I, though just a boy, was engaged in their service. (SB 1.5.23)

यथा च श्रीकपिलदेववाक्ये "सतां प्रसङ्गान् मम वीर्यसंविदः" (भा. ३.२५.२२) इत्यादौ।

Another reference to this development is found in the teachings of Śrī Kapiladeva:

By association with devotees, one gets an opportunity to hear discussions of My pastimes, which illustrate My prowess and act as a tonic for the ears and the heart. By listening to these pastimes, faith, attachment and devotion to Bhagavān Hari quickly manifest one after another. (SB 3.25.25)

अत्र कैवल्यकामायां "भक्त्या पुमान् जातविरागः" (भा. ३.२५.२३) इत्यादिना। शुद्धायां, "नैकात्मतां मे स्पृहयन्ति केचित्" (भा. ३.२५.३१) इत्यादिना क्रमो ज्ञेयः।

The order of progress in devotion mixed with a desire for liberation is to be understood from verses such as this:

While meditating on My pastimes in the matter of creation, a person by participation in devotion awakens detachment from all sensual enjoyment experienced in this world or heard about from scripture. One who is thus intently involved in the yoga of devotion is able to control the mind through the effortless path of devotional yoga. (SB 3.25.26)

And the order of progress in pure devotion is discerned from verses such as this:

Some devotees, who are devoted to the service of My feet, whose activities are dedicated to Me, and who gather together to glorify My prowess, do not aspire for the liberation of merging into Me. (SB 3.25.34)

तथा शुद्धायामेव श्रीप्रह्लादकृतदैत्यबालानुशासने "गुरुशुश्रूषया" (भा. ७.७.२५) इत्यादिना।

Another description of the order in pure devotion is found in Prahlāda's teachings to the sons of the demons, beginning with this verse:

Devotion for Bhagavān develops by serving one’s teacher with love, by offering everything acquired to him, by associating with saintly devotees and by worshiping the Supreme Bhagavān. (SB 7.7.30)

तमेवं क्रममेव सङ्क्षिप्य सदृष्टान्तमाह (भा. ११.२.४२-४३)—

भक्तिः परेशानुभवो विरक्तिरन्यत्र चैष त्रिक एककालः।
प्रपद्यमानस्य यथाश्नतः स्युस्तुष्टिः पुष्टिः क्षुदपायोऽनुघासम्॥

The sage Kavi briefly describes the same order to King Nimi along with an example:

Just as a hungry person experiences satisfaction, nourishment and relief from hunger with every morsel of food he or she consumes; so too a person who is taking shelter of Bhagavān, devotion, direct experience of the Supreme Lord, and detachment from other things all appear at once. (SB 11.2.42)

टीका च—"प्रपद्यमानस्य हरिं भजतः पुंसो भक्तिः प्रेमलक्षणा, परेशानुभवः प्रेमास्पदभगवद्रूपस्फूर्तिस्तया निर्वृतस्य ततोऽन्यत्र गृहादिषु विरक्तिरित्येष त्रिक एककालो भजनसमकाल एव स्यात्। यथा अश्नतो भुञ्जानस्य तुष्टिः सुखं, पुष्टिरुदरभरणं, क्षुन्निवृत्तिश्च प्रतिग्रासं स्युः।

Śrīdhara Svāmī comments: "Taking shelter of Bhagavān" (prapadyamānasya) means one engaged in the service of Bhagavān Hari. The devotion such a person attains is characterized by love for Bhagavān. "Direct experience of the Supreme Lord" (pareśānubhava) means that Bhagavān, who is the recipient of the devotee’s love, manifests His form to the devotee. And because of the joy one experiences through this revelation of Bhagavān’s form, one feels detachment from all else, such as one’s home and belongings. These three developments appear simultaneously, or in other words, at the same time that one is engaged in service, just as to one eating satisfaction (tuṣṭi) or enjoyment, nourishment (puṣṭi) or filling of the belly, and relief from hunger (kṣud-apāyaḥ) are experienced with every morsel of food consumed.

उपलक्षणमेतत्। प्रतिसिक्थमपि यथा स्युस्तद्वत्। एवमेवैकस्मिन् भजने किञ्चित् प्रेमादित्रिके जायमान अनुवृत्त्या भजतः परमप्रेमादि जायते, बहुग्रासभोजिन इव परमतुष्ट्यादि। ततश्च भगवत्प्रसादेन कृतार्थो भवतीत्याह—इत्यच्युताङ्घ्रिमिति॥ इत्येषा।

This is implication through analogy. Devotion, realization, and detachment are experienced just as one feels satisfaction, nourishment and cessation of hunger with every single bite. So precisely in this way, by executing one limb of bhakti, devotion, realization and detachment all appear proportionately. Thereafter, by regular service, one experiences these three up to the supreme extent, just as one who has eaten a full meal feels complete satisfaction, filling of the belly, and total cessation of hunger. After this the devotee becomes perfect by the mercy of Bhagavān, which is stated in the following verse. Here ends Śrīdhara's commentary.

इत्यच्युताङ्घ्रिं भजतोऽनुवृत्त्या भक्तिर्विरक्तिर्भगवत्प्रबोधः।
भवन्ति वै भागवतस्य राजंस्ततः परां शान्तिमुपैति साक्षात्॥

O King, a devotee of Bhagavān who continuously worships the lotus feet of Bhagavān Acyuta in the above-stated manner is blessed with devotion, realization of Bhagavān and detachment. Thereafter, they directly attain supreme peace. (SB 11.2.43)

शान्तिं कृतार्थत्वम्, साक्षादन्तर्बहिश्च प्रकटितपरमपुरुषार्थत्वादव्यवधानेनैवेत्यर्थः। पूर्वपद्यभक्त्यादीनां तुष्ट्यादयः क्रमेणैव दृष्टान्ता ज्ञेयाः। उत्तरत्राप्येतत्क्रमेण भक्तितुष्ट्योः सुखैकरूपत्वात्. पुष्ट्यनुभवयोरात्मभरणैकरूपत्वात्, क्षुदपायविरक्त्योः शान्त्येकरूपत्वात्।

When it is said that the devotee attains śāntim, or peace, it means that he or she attains perfection. This implies that because the supreme goal becomes directly manifest both within the devotee and without, without any separation at all between cause and effect . In the analogy given in the first verse, it should be understood that bhakti is compared to satisfaction, realization of Bhagavān to nourishment, and detachment to the cessation of hunger. In the second verse also, by this very same order, bhakti is equated with satisfaction because both are of the nature of happiness, realization is equated with nourishment because they are one in the sense of fulfilling the self, and detachment is equated with relief from hunger because they both bring about a condition of peace.

यद्यपि भुक्तवतोऽन्नेऽपि वैतृष्ण्यं जायते, भगवदनुभविनस्तु विषयान्तर एवेति वैधर्म्यम्, तथापि वस्त्वन्तरवैतृष्ण्यांश एव दृष्टान्तो गम्य इति॥

There is an element of dissimilarity in the example because one who has eaten becomes detached from food itself, whereas one who has realized Bhagavān becomes detached from other things. Nonetheless, the example is to be taken only in the sense of detachment from other objects.

॥११.२॥ श्रीकविर्निमिम्॥३४०॥


Up to the previous anuccheda Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī has established that bhakti is the abhidheya or prescribed process for achieving the highest goal of life, prema. In this anuccheda he gives the order of a sādhaka’s progress. First he refers to the verses from second chapter of the First Canto (1.2.16-21) spoken by Sūta in response to Śaunaka’s questions. This has been summarized by Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu:

One begins on the path of bhakti with śraddhā, which leads to the association of a sādhu or guru. Thereafter one engages in acts of devotion which result in removing the unwanted things from the practitioner’s heart. Then one becomes fixed, which results in developing a taste for devotional acts (ruci). As one continues, one becomes addicted or deeply attached to devotion (āsakti) and this further results in bhāva or a stable sense of relationship with Bhagavān. Then one attains love or prema. This is the order in which prema appears in the practitioner. (1.4.15-16)

A detailed explanation of these two verses is given by Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī in his Mādhurya-kādambinī.

The practical application of these verses is seen in the life history of Nārada’s previous birth as the son of a maidservant. First he got the association of the munis and got śraddhā (1.5.23). Then he further associated with them and did service (1.5.24). This cleaned his heart and he attained fixity (1.5.25). He continued hearing from the munis regularly and got ruci (1.5.26). Nārada continued to describe his progress to āsakti (1.5.27) which further led him to achieve bhāva (1.5.31).

Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī also refers to Bhagavān Kapila in which there is mention of sādhu-saṅga, bhajana-kriyā in the form of hearing kathā. The words śraddhā, rati and bhakti in this verse (3.25.25) refer to āsakti , bhāva and prema respectively.

The order given by Sūta Gosvāmī is general in nature. For some practitioners it may be a little different depending upon their goal and the intensity of their practice. It is not necessary that everyone experience all these steps.

Sage Kavi summarizes the order of progress on the path of pure devotion in just three words, namely bhakti, pareśānubhava and virakti. It means that when a person is pure-hearted, the experience of bhakti, which here means prema, and realization of Bhagavān happen simultaneously. There is no delay. Also coming simultaneously at this time is detachment from anything not related to devotion. This was also said by Sūta Gosvāmī at the very beginning of Bhāgavatam (1.2.7). Really speaking, on the path of pure devotion there is only one step. If something is causeless then there can be no steps in it. Steps or a sequence are seen on the paths of karma, jñāna and yoga because there one makes gradual process by one’s own efforts. Bhakti comes by the grace of Kṛṣṇa or His devotee. Therefore, it is not gradual. Yet it is shown to have an order so that it also appears like a path resembling other paths.

One may raise a doubt on this say that in reality bhakti is also seen to have various steps as listed by Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī. The answer is that the steps only show the degree of a practitioner's preparation in becoming qualified to get bhakti, to be the proper ground for bhakti to manifest. As soon as one is ready, bhakti manifests. To convey this message sage Kavi uses the word eka-kālaḥ (11.2.42), "simultaneously ." He is not speaking of any order or steps or gradual attainment.

This is the excellent characteristic of bhakti. The steps in bhakti are described so that practitioner will engage in sādhanā. Otherwise one would only wait for grace and do nothing. But Kṛṣṇa wants us to make an effort and yet at the same time know that it is not by our effort that we get bhakti. In Gītā, Kṛṣṇa says that He has already killed the enemies, and He practically showed it Arjuna, yet He told Arjuna to fight and be just an instrument (Gītā 11.33-34). Yet at the end of Kṛṣṇa’s instruction in Gītā, Arjuna acknowledges that it is by Kṛṣṇa’s grace that he has become enlightened, not by doing any sādhanā (18.73).

Thus Śrī Jīva concludes Bhakti Sandarbha establishing bhakti as the abhidheya. Bhakti Sandarbha which contains 340 anucchedas or sections can be divided into three parts. In the first part, which contains Anucchedas 1 to 178, Srī Jīva Gosvāmī discusses the complete methodology, abhidheya, and shows that only bhakti is the most suitable process to realize the Absolute, Tattva. He does a thorough analysis of bhakti in this part. The second part consists of Anucchedas 179 to 213. In this part Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī discusses the greatness of the devotees of Bhagavān. The devotees are so supreme that Bhagavān Himself comes under their control. They are the source of bhakti to the conditioned beings of in the material world. Without their grace no one can get bhakti. The third part of the book consists of Anucchedas 214 to 340. In this part Śrī Jīva discusses the practice of bhakti. He defines and categorizes bhakti from various angles. In the last part of the book he writes that bhakti is of two types, vaidhī and rāgānugā. Of these two he favors the second one. The highest form of rāgānugā can be practiced towards Kṛṣṇa in Gokula. With this he closes his discussion of bhakti. In the next book, Prīti Sandarbha, he will write on the third topic of Bhāgavata Purāṇa called prayojana.

तदेतद्व्याख्यातमभिधेयम्। अत्रान्योऽपि विशेषः शास्त्रमहाजनदृष्ट्यानुसन्धेयः।

We have thus described abhidheya, or the methodology to attain the purpose of human life. In this regard, any other specific details that may be required should be understood from scripture and the vision of great devotees.

गुरुः शास्त्रं श्रद्धा रुचिरनुगतिः सिद्धिरिति मे
यदेतत् तत् सर्वं चरणकमलं राजति ययोः।
कृपापूरस्यन्द स्नपितनयनाम्भोजयुगलौ
सदा राधाकृष्णावशरणगती तौ मम गतिः॥

Śrī Rādhā Kṛṣṇa, whose lotus feet are everything to me—my preceptor, scripture, faith, attraction, service and the goal; whose lotus eyes are always bathed with streams of tears full of compassion, and who are the shelter of the shelterless, are my constant refuge.

इति श्रीकलियुगपावनस्वभजनविभाजनप्रयोजनावतार-
श्रीश्रीभगवत्कृष्णचैतन्यदेवचरणानुचर-विश्ववैष्णवराजसभाजन-श्रीरूपसनातनानुशासनभारतीगर्भे श्रीभागवतसन्दर्भे श्रीभक्तिसन्दर्भो नाम पञ्चमः सन्दर्भः ॥

Thus ends the Bhakti Sandarbha, the fifth book of the Bhāgavata Sandarbha, which contains the instructions of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī, the revered leaders of the royal assembly of the world's Vaiṣṇavas. They are unalloyed servants of the lotus feet of the Supreme Bhagavān, Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the purifier of the jīvas in kali-yuga, who descended to distribute the benediction of His own devotional service.

समाप्तश्चायं श्रीभक्तिसन्दर्भः ॥

This Bhakti Sandarbha, the fifth book of the Bhāgavata Sandarbha, which is the receptacle of all other anthologies, is now complete.


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