Sunday, November 08, 2009

Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya :: Five best verses

Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya is purported to belong to the Narada Purana, but this is spurious. It cannot be found in any edition of that Purana and so was likely a later work that tried to hitch a ride on the NarP. Nothing unusual about that.

Ramnarayan Vidyaratna, the editor and translator who under the sponsorship of Maharaja Manindra Chandra Nandy of Cossim Bazaar (1860-1929) brought to light hundreds of previously unpublished works of the Gaudiya sampradaya (the Murshidabad editions), was the first to publish this work. He based it on three manuscripts, two of which came from Agartala in Tripura, the easternmost part of Bengali speaking India. This seems to confirm that the work was probably written in Bengal and its circulation was limited to this part of the subcontinent.

It was recently reprinted by the Sanskrit Book Depot in Kolkata, without any change or editing. Madhavananda Dasji of Bhubaneswar made PDF files of the recent reprint available to me, and so I am working on a GGM edition. There are a number of obvious mistakes which as far as possible we will correct for the online digital file.

It has 20 chapters and 1415 verses. The apparent contradiction in verse numbers may come from the way of counting verses according to syllables (a verse = 32 syllables, therefore a 44-syllable verse counts as 1.38 verses) rather than indicating missing portions.

Of the 20 chapters, 10 are devoted to Prahlada and two to Dhruva. The book begins in Naimisharanya with the same cast of characters found in the Bhagavatam, only Narada is the guest speaker. His tale begins with an account of Parikshit's last days. The book concludes with a chapter describing the glories of tulasi, the ashvattha tree and the Vaishnavas, another on yoga and the final chapter glorifying bhakti-yoga.

Rupa Goswami, Jiva Goswami and Krishnadas Kaviraj quote several verses from this book in their works. There are a number of verses quoted in Hari-bhakti-vilasa as well, but not all of them can be found in this edition of HBS. Many of these verse are very strongly supportive of pure devotion and the association of devotees, and always made me curious about the work.

For the pleasure of the devotees, I am giving my top five Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya verses, with a little bit of commentary:


यस्य यत्सङ्गतिः पुंसो मणिवत् स्यात् स तद्गुणः ।
स्वकुलर्द्ध्यै ततो धीमान् स्वयूथानेव संश्रयेत् ॥

yasya yat-sangatiḥ puṁso
maṇivat syāt sa tad-guṇaḥ
sva-kula-rddhyai tato dhīmān
sva-yūthān eva saṁśrayet

Like a mirror, a person takes on the qualities of those with whom he comes in contact. One who is intelligent should therefore seek the company of those who have the same ideals in order to develop their good qualities in himself. (HBS 8.51, BRS 1.2.229).
Though Rupa Goswami quotes this in support of sat-sanga, Hiranyakashipu originally spoke it to Prahlada to advise him not to associate with devotees. The word sva-kula actually means "one's own family," indicating a sectarian kind of consciousness. It reminds me of when Srivas Pandit heard that Niimai had become a Vaishnava, he said, "May our congregation go on increasing." But Rupa Goswami's usage is correct. Congregations are there so that we can cultivate our own values in common with like-minded people. Our kula is not our material family, nation or guild, but those with whom we share common values. When our values become clear and refined, we naturally seek those with whom they can be shared and developed. It may have a negative aspect or a positive one, so one should be careful.

There is a "spiritualistic" tendency in modern society that sees spirituality as so individual that any grouping around spiritual values is "religion" and therefore suspect. But this is not true. Human beings need association at every level of their spiritual development. And such spiritual development can never be devoid of spiritual language and symbolism which may differ from those used by other equally advanced spiritual individuals. One may be a poet in Russian or Chinese. This does not mean one will be a poet in Swahili.


भगवद्भक्तिहीनस्य जातिः शास्त्रं जपस् तपः ।
अप्राणस्यैव देहस्य मण्डनं लोकरञ्जनम् ॥

jātiḥ śāstraṁ japas tapaḥ
aprāṇasyaiva dehasya
maṇḍanaṁ loka-rañjanam
One may possess high birth and learning; and he may meditate on his mantra and perform austerities. Nevertheless, if he is devoid of devotion to the Lord, these things are as useless as beautiful decorations on a dead body. (HBS 3.11, CC 2.19.75)
This is one of those unequivocal statements about bhakti that makes non-devotees feel uncomfortable about sectarian leanings. Devotees can indeed be sectarian, especially when the truth of such a statement first dawns on them. But in fact, statements about the uselessness of a life without spiritual realization are rife in all transcendental literature. What is the point of living like a cat or dog, with only material survival or pleasure as the goal? This body is a lump of dead flesh, the animating spirit is what is of true value. We must learn how to "add value" to what is truly of importance. Otherwise, it is all useless decoration of a lifeless body.


अक्ष्णोः फलं त्वादृशदर्शनं हि तन्वाः फलं त्वादृशगात्रसङ्गः ।
जिह्वाफलं त्वादृशकीर्तनं हि सुदुर्लभा भागवता हि लोके ॥

akṣṇoḥ phalaṁ tvādṛśa-darśanaṁ hi
tanvāḥ phalaṁ tvādṛśa-gātra-saṅgaḥ |
jihvā-phalaṁ tvādṛśa-kīrtanaṁ hi
sudurlabhā bhāgavatā hi loke ||

The goal of the eyes is to see someone like you; the goal of the skin is to embrace the body of one such as you. The goal of the tongue is to sing the glories of one such as you, for great devotees of the Lord are rare in this world. (HBS 13.2, HBV 10.287, C 2.20.61)
This verse is spoken by the Earth Goddess to Prahlada Maharaj. She had just finished catching him when Hiranyakashipu had the poor boy thrown off the palace roof.

I really like this verse and have quoted it several times on my blog. Let us just say that it is one of the most delightful glorifications of sadhu-sanga that I know of. Indeed, the glorification of devotional association is one of the primary features of the entire book. This could easily have been my number one.


स्थानाभिलाषी तपसि स्थितो’हं
त्वां प्राप्तवान् देवमुनीन्द्रगुह्यम् ।
काचं विचिन्वन्न् अपि दिव्यरत्नं
स्वामिन् कृतार्थो स्मि वरं न याचे ॥

sthānābhilāṣī tapasi sthito'haṁ
tvāṁ prāptavān deva-munīndra-guhyam |
kācaṁ vicinvann api divya-ratnaṁ
svāmin kṛtārtho smi varaṁ na yāce ||

“O my Lord, I took up the practice of penance and austerities out of a wish to become a great ruler. Now that I have attained you, who remain hidden to even great demigods, saintly persons and kings, I feel like someone who had been searching for fragments of glass but has found instead a most valuable jewel. I am now so fulfilled that there is no benediction left for me to request.” (HBS 7.28; quoted at CC 2.22.42 and 2.24.213).
This verse is spoken by Dhruva after experiencing direct realization of Vishnu and realizing the insignificance of his previous desires. So here you have devotion as superior to artha and kama.


त्वत्साक्षात्करणाह्लादविशुद्धाब्धिस्थितस्य मे |
सुखानि गोष्पदायन्ते ब्राह्माण्य् अपि जगद्गुरो ||

viśuddhābdhi-sthitasya me |
sukhāni goṣpadāyante
brāhmāṇy api jagad-guro ||

O Lord ! O guide to the world! For one like me, who is completely merged in the pure ocean of bliss that comes from seeing you directly, the pleasures of Brahman realization appear to be as tiny as a cow’s hoofprint. (HBS 14.36, BRS 1.1.39, CC 1.7.97)
Another delightful verse, quoted by Rupa Goswami to support the idea that bhakti is mokṣa-laghutā-kṛt, capable of making even liberation seem insignificant.

The HBS evidently teaches pure bhakti to Vishnu, so is of limited usefulness to ekanta Radha-Krishna bhaktas, but nevertheless, these glorifications of devotional association and pure devotion are very valuable and attractive, showing why this book was held in high esteem by Rupa and his followers.

There are some other verses from the HBS quoted in Hari-bhakti-vilasa, but I have not been able to find them all. Maybe this edition is incomplete.


Anonymous said...

These are beautiful thoughts in a world gone mad.

Radhe Radhe

dr.jaya said...

Yes, my favorite verse has always been:
jAtiH zAstraM japas tapaH
aprANasyaiva dehasya
maNDanaM loka-raJjanam

- especially, the word 'loka-raJjanam', and 'jAtiH zAstraM japas tapaH' - which are compared to the decorations on a lifeless body!
Jaya Sri Radhe!

Tinkerbell said...

There is a "spiritualistic" tendency in modern society that sees spirituality as so individual that any grouping around spiritual values is "religion" and therefore suspect. But this is not true ...

It all depends on how you observe what religion is and what spirituality is. From one perspective you're right -- spirituality is meant to be shared and thus cannot be isolated and entirely individual experience. Religion is also shared experience. But on the other hand, what is the intricate quality of those experiences? What the underlying quality of the experience that qualifies it to be a religious affair or to be a spiritual rapture? It's not the quantity that matters, but quality.

There's another point: spirituality indeed starts as an individual affair -- isn't Bhagavat-gita itself a proof to that? There's Arjuna talking intimately to Govinda, not an army preached to by Govinda. But individual spiritual affair can live and grow only as a mutual feeling. A true friendship and understanding is needed. Perhaps that's the trick with it.

Thus I think your conclusion needs a further elaboration because it's not complete. Perhaps a good starting point would be to examine religion from the perspective of Gita itself (sarva dharman parityajya, etc.) because it's a good one, and also compared to what modern theologists and existential philosophers say about it (modern thought 2,500 years after Bg; Tillich comes to mind). And to make an even broader and better definition, you can also involve a third perspective, or the qualitative level of symbolism and aesthetic rapture found in both.

Alberto De Rivero said...

Dandavat pranams Jagat Prabhu,
thank you very much for this post. Do you have the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya translated in english in PDF format? I would love to read Prahlad and Druva Maharaja's Prayers. Thank you in advance Prabhu.

Receive all blessings from Hari, Guru and Vaishnavas!

Your servant,
Amal Krsna das.