Bhakti Sandarbha 218-221 : Karma Offered To Bhagavān Destroys Karma

The section on āropa-siddhā bhakti continues, with a description of karma that is treated therapeutically and therefore becomes a cure for the very bondage it has caused.

DISCLAIMER: These posts are not the final version of the Jiva Institute edition of Bhakti Sandarbha, which is still going to go through more editing before being published.

Anuccheda 218

Offering of Karma Never Goes in Vain

अथ वैदिककर्मार्पणस्य प्रशंसामाहुः (भा. ८.५.४७)—

क्लेशभूर्यल्पसाराणि कर्माणि विफलानि वा।
देहिनां विषयार्तानां न तथैवार्पितं त्वयि॥

Now we can examine the praise attributed to the offering of karma performed in accordance with Vedic injunctions, such as this statement of the celestials in their prayers to Bhagavān Ajita:
The activities of those who are attached to their bodies and who are thus tormented by desire for sense objects, yield little or no result, in spite of tremendous exertion. But such is not the case with those offered to You. (SB 8.5.47)

विषयार्तानां कर्माणि क्वचित् क्लेशो भूरिर्येषु तथाप्यल्पं फलं येषु तथाभूतानि भवन्ति, क्वचित् कृष्यादिवद्विफलानि वा भवन्ति, त्वय्यर्पितं कर्म तु न तथा।

The activities of people tormented by sense objects sometimes involve excruciating effort, yet the result is very meager, and sometimes they end in complete failure, such as in farming [in times of no yield]. But action offered to You is not like that.

किन्तु क्लेशं विना यथाकथञ्चित् कृतस्य कामनयाप्यर्पणे तत्कामस्यावश्यक-प्राप्तिः। सा च सर्वत उत्कृष्टा भवति। तथा तन्मात्रफलेन च पर्याप्तिर्न भवति, संसारविध्वंसादिफलत्वादित्यर्थः।

Rather, with little effort, if someone somehow does anything and offers it to You, even with a material motive, he or she certainly obtains the result of their desire, and this attainment is the best of all. This means that the result obtained is not limited to the fulfillment of their specific desire, because they are awarded release from bondage to the material world.

यान् आस्थाय नरो राजन्न प्रमाद्येत कर्हिचित्।
धावन् निमील्य वा नेत्रे न स्खलेन्न पतेदिह॥ (भा. ११.२.३५) इति।

This is stated by the sage Kavi:

O King, having taken to the path [of devotion], a person is never deviated. Even if he were to run along the path with eyes closed, he would neither slip nor fall. (SB 11.2.35)

"सत्यं दिशत्यर्थितमर्थितो नॄणाम्" (भा. ५.१९.२८) इत्यादि च।

The same idea is expressed in this verse:

It is true that Bhagavān grants the desires of those who pray to Him for material boons, but these are not the supreme award, because even after obtaining the object of their desire, they again beg for more. Consequently, Bhagavān offers His own lotus feet to those who worship Him, even though they don’t aspire for it, and this extinguishes all their desires. (SB 5.19.26)

यथैव नाभिः ऋषभदेवरूपं भगवन्तं पुत्रत्वेनापि लेभे।

How action offered to Bhagavān yields a greater result than expected is seen specifically in the case of King Nābhi. The King desired a son, and for this purpose he performed a sacrifice to worship Bhagavān. Not only did he receive a son, but Bhagavān Himself appeared in the form of Rṣabhadeva as his son.

श्रीगीतासु च—
नेहाभिक्रमनाशोऽस्ति प्रत्यवायो न विद्यते।
स्वल्पमप्यस्य धर्मस्य त्रायते महतो भयात्॥ (गीता २.४०) इति।

In the Gītā also Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa said:

No effort made along this path ever goes in vain, nor does it yield a contrary result. Even a little practice of this process delivers one from the terrible fear of birth and death. (Gītā 2.40)

॥ ८.५॥ देवाः श्रीमदजितम्॥२१८॥

Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaja

Most people in the world have some desire to fulfill. It is very rare that a person has no desire for anything material. Such people will not be interested in either jñāna or pure bhakti. Therefore, Veda prescribes karma for that so that they can fulfill their desires and ultimately become free from the bondage of material existence by getting bhakti. But karma by itself is inert and cannot give its fruit by itself. 

It is is like raising crops. Sometimes in the farming the expected result come, some less than expected and sometime there is no result. The reason is that the result of farming depends much on nature. If there is timely rain, sunshine and no natural calamity such as a hailstorm or hurricane then one can get the proper result of one's work, otherwise not. Farming is an example to make us understand that in reality every karma is like that. In most of our actions we feel as if we are in control of everything. The reality, however, is very different. Therefore, Kṛṣṇa says that there are five causes behind each action, the fifth being destiny, daiva. If daiva is not favorable then even if all other causes are present the action will not bear its fruit.

Therefore, there is a prescription to offer one's activities to Bhagavān. Bhagavān is the supreme controller and He can make an action give its result. Although every karma should be offered to Him, special praise is given to those karmas that are prescribed in the Vedas and then offered to Bhagavān. This is so because it is accompanied by an awareness of Bhagavān, since those duties are being recognized as His order in the form of the Vedic injunction. Even if one performs a karma with material motive and offers it to Bhagavān, it will bring about the ultimate welfare because He is not satisfied by merely giving a material boon. Furthermore, it is the nature of bhakti that it never goes in vain. Since the offering of karma is bhakti, it always bears fruit. This is the meaning of āropa-siddhā bhakti: though the action itself has no devotional quality, it has been superimposed with devotion through the act of offering it to the Lord.

Anucchedas 219 to 221

Karma Offered To Bhagavān Destroys Karma

तदेव कर्मार्पणमुपपादयति त्रिभिः (भा. १.५.३२)—

एतत् संसूचितं ब्रह्मंस्तापत्रयचिकित्सितम्।
यदीश्वरे भगवति कर्म ब्रह्मणि भावितम्॥

Śrī Nārada establishes this principle of offering karma in three verses beginning with this one:
O Brahman [Vyāsa], the offering of karma to Bhagavān, who is the Supreme Controller and the Absolute Truth, has been revealed as the medicine for the threefold miseries of material existence. (SB 1.5.32)
ब्रह्मन् ! हे वेदव्यास ! एतत् तापत्रयस्य चिकित्सितं चिकित्सा तैश्चातुर्मास्यवासिभिः परमहंसैः सूचितम्। किं तत् ? भगवति कर्म यत् समर्पितं भवति, तत्र कर्मसमर्पणमेवेत्यर्थः।

The word Brahman (brāhmaṇa) here is in the vocative and refers to Vedavyāsa. This medicine for the threefold miseries was indicated by the paramahaṁsa saints who were observing the vow of cāturmāsya [from who Nārada had received it]. And what is this medicine? It consists of offering one`s karma to Bhagavān. This means that it is only when karma is offered to Bhagavān that it becomes such medicine.

कथंभूते ? स्वयं भगवति पूर्णस्वरूपैश्वर्यादिमत्तया सर्वांशिन्येव, केनचिदंशेन जीवादिनियन्तृतया ईश्वरे परमात्मशब्दवाच्ये, स्वरूपभूतविशेषेण  विना केवलचिन्मात्रतया प्रतिपाद्यत्वेन ब्रह्मनि तच्छब्दवाच्ये॥

What are the characteristics of Bhagavān to whom this karma is offered? Bhagavān here refers to the original Supreme Bhagavān (svayaṁ bhagavān), who is the complete whole, the source of all other parts, His being replete with all opulences. He is the Supreme Controller (īśvara), which refers to Bhagavān’s expansion as Paramātmā, who controls the living beings and material nature by His various expansions. He is also called brahman here, referring to His feature as pure consciousness devoid of the attributes that are integral to His constitutional nature.

ननु, उत्पत्त्यैव तत्तत्सङ्कल्पेन विहितत्वात् संसारहेतोः कर्मणः कथं तापत्रयनिवर्तकत्वम् ? उच्यते—सामग्रीभेदेन घटत इति

A question may be raised about the claim made in the above verse. Karma is impelled by the resolve to enjoy some form of happiness, and as such it is the cause of material existence. So how can karma dispel the threefold miseries? The answer is that karma can do so when made up of different ingredients.

यथा (भा. १.५.३३)—
आमयो यश्च भूतानां जायते येन सुव्रत।
तदेव ह्यामयं द्रव्यं न पुनाति चिकित्सितम्॥

This is stated in the next verse:
O greatly virtuous one, is it not true that the same objects that produce disease in living beings can cure that disease if taken medicinally? (SB 1.5.33)
य आमयो रोगो येन घृतादिना जायते, तदेव केवलमामयकारणं द्रव्यम्। तमामयं न निवर्तयति, किन्तु चिकित्सितं द्रव्यान्तरैर्भावितं सत् निवर्तयत्येव॥ (भा. १.५.३४)

Edibles, such as clarified butter, can produce disease. So the disease cannot be cured if one continues to consume the same food which is its cause. If, however, one ingests the same food treated with a medicinal substance, it will have a curative effect.

Nārada concludes:

एवं नृणां क्रियायोगाः सर्वे संसृतिहेतवः।
त एवात्मविनाशाय कल्पन्ते कल्पिताः परे॥ 
Thus, although all karma performed by human beings is the cause of their material existence, the same action, when offered to the Supreme Transcendence, is able to eradicate one’s material existence. (SB 1.5.34)
परे भगवति कल्पिताः कामनयाप्यर्पिताः सन्तः संसारध्वंसपर्यन्तफलत्वादात्मविनाशाय कर्मनिवृत्तये कल्पन्ते॥

The implication of this verse is that when karma is offered to the transcendental Bhagavān, even with material desire, it eradicates the self’s entanglement in matter because the fruit of offering karma to Bhagavān extends up to the destruction of material existence.

[This means that the offering of karma to Bhagavān brings to an end the reactions of karma that keep the self bound in the same cycle of action.]

॥१.५॥ श्रीनारदो श्रीवेदव्यासम्॥२१९-२२१॥

Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaja

The three verses cited here are part of Nārada’s instruction to Vyāsa, on the basis of which the latter manifested Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. In these verses Śrī Nārada is explaining the importance of offering karma to Bhagavān. In the previous anuccheda it was said that if karma is offered to Bhagavān it always bears fruit, which is not the case if it is not offered. Here Śrī Jīva builds on that and says that it can even remove the very cause of material bondage. That, of course, is by leading one to bhakti because the true awareness of Reality happens only through bhakti.

Karma is considered to be the cause of bondage. Only jñāna and bhakti bring awareness of the Absolute, as Brahman, and Bhagavān respectively. Then how can karma cure the diseases of material bondage? The second verse responds to this doubt. Sometimes in Ayurveda, and more so in Homeopathy, an edible object that has caused a disease is used to cure the same disease. For example if one drinks milk more than one can digest, one can get diarrhea. This can be cured by taking yogurt, which is another form of milk, along with psyllium husk. If one gets burnt by fire one can reduce the pain by fomenting the burnt part of the body with a warm cloth. Similarly karma, which is the cause of bondage, can result in release if it is offered to Bhagavān. Kṛṣṇa thus instructs,

yajña-śiṣṭāśinaḥ santo mucyante sarva-kilbiṣaiḥ
bhuñjate te tv aghaṁ pāpā ye pacanty ātma-kāraṇāt

The saintly people who partake of the remnants of yajña are absolved of all reactions to misdeeds. But those wrongdoers who cook food just for themselves acquire only bad karma. (Gītā 3.13)

When an action is performed the activity remains in the agent, the effect of action is on the object (karma) of activity. Just as if one cooks the action of cooking is done by the agent and the effect of cooking is on the ingredients cooked. But the ultimate result of cooking is for the agent. Agents are of three types—independent, impelling and the impelled. If one performs the action with the understanding that it is an order of Bhagavān in the form of Vedic injunctions then the result will go to Bhagavān and not to the agent. This is the principle of karma stated by Jaimini (3.7.18) “The result of scriptural injunction applies to the impelling agent.” This is seen even in the practical life. If a person is working under the authority of an employer and does some act that may harm someone, then it is the employer who takes responsibility for that action, not the employee.

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


Prem Prakash said…
I find this to be an especially helpful verse as it transforms the feeling of the world being an endless cycle of bondage-producing activities into an opportunity to serve Bhagavan. Thank you for posting this.

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