Bhakti Sandarbha 234 : Svarūpa-siddhā Niṣkāmā Bhakti

All these various divisions of bhakti have been enumerated simply to bring to light the preeminence of that devotion which we will now describe. This anuccheda in particular is the climax of the portion of Kapila's teachings that are being highlighted in the prakaraṇa from Anu. 231. The verses quoted here are truly among the deservedly outstanding and grandiose claims of the Bhāgavatam, which no monist would ever be able to fully accept, that devotion is beyond the guṇas of prakṛti.

The verses here form a small quartet or 
catuḥślokī summarizing the Bhāgavata-siddhānta on pure devotion and should therefore be memorized by everyone.

This bhakti is known as svarūpa-siddhā, because it is inherently of the nature of devotion, not requiring any superimposition of devotion to upgrade it; it is kevalā because it is not mixed with any other process. since the processes of karma and jnana are both within the guṇas of prakṛti. When performed exclusively with a desire for devotion, it is known as niṣkāmā, free from motive, and nirguṇā, beyond the influence of the material qualities. This same bhakti was previously described as the topmost process because it was defined as being akiñcanā, or without dependence on anything else.

The section concludes with a discussion of the words "ultimate" (ātyantika) and liberation (apavarga or naiṣkarmya). nirguṇā bhakti is the ultimate abhidheya and sādhya bhakti, i.e., bh
āva or prema, is the ultimate goal, beyond which there is no other goal.

Anuccheda 234

Svarūpa-siddhā niṣkāmā bhakti

अथ यस्या एवोत्कर्षज्ञानार्थमेते भक्तिभेदा निरूपिताः, सा भक्तिमात्रकामत्वान्निष्कामा निर्गुणा केवला स्वरूपसिद्धा निरूप्यते। इयमेवाकिञ्चनाख्यत्वेन सर्वोर्ध्वं पूर्वमप्यभिहिता।

All these various divisions of bhakti have been enumerated simply to bring to light the preeminence of that devotion which we will now describe. This bhakti is known as svarūpa-siddhā, because it is inherently of the nature of devotion, it is kevalā because it is not mixed with any other process; and when performed exclusively with a desire for devotion, it is known as niṣkāmā, free from motive, and nirguṇā, beyond the influence of the material qualities. This same bhakti was previously described as the topmost process because it was defined as being akiñcanā, or without dependence on anything else.

तामाह (भा. ३.२९.११-१५)—

मद्गुणश्रुतिमात्रेण मयि सर्वगुहाशये। मनोगतिरविच्छिन्ना यथा गङ्गाम्भसोऽम्बुधौ॥
लक्षणं भक्तियोगस्य निर्गुणस्य ह्युदाहृतम्। अहैतुक्यव्यवहिता या भक्तिः पुरुषोत्तमे॥
सालोक्यसार्ष्टिसामीप्य सारूप्यैकत्वमप्युत। दीयमानं न गृह्णन्ति विना मत्सेवनं जनाः॥
स एव भक्तियोगाख्य आत्यन्तिक उदाहृतः। येनातिव्रज्य त्रिगुणं मद्भावायोपपद्यते॥

Bhagavān Kapila depicts this devotion in these words:
The characteristic of causeless and uninterrupted devotion to the Supreme Person free from any influence of the material guṇas of nature is that when simply upon hearing of My qualities the mind stream flows without obstruction toward Me, the Supreme Being who lies in the cave of everyone's heart, just as the water of the Gaṅgā continuously flows to the ocean. 
[The five types of liberation are:] Living on the same planet as Me, enjoying similar opulence, having a corresponding form, being in My proximity, or attaining oneness with Me. Yet even if I offer any of these to My devotees, they do not accept it if it is not connected to My service. This alone can be called bhakti-yoga in its ultimate form whereby one transcends the three guṇas of material nature and attains love for Me. (SB 3.29.11-14)
मद्गुणश्रुतिमात्रेण, न तु तत्रोद्देश्यान्तरसिद्ध्यभिप्रायेण।

“Simply by hearing of My qualities” (mad-guṇa-śruti-mātreṇa) means that such hearing is performed without the intention of achieving any other goal.

प्राकृतगुणमयकरणानां सर्वेषां गुहा करणागोचरपदवी, तस्यां शेते गुह्यतया निश्चलतया च तिष्ठति यः, तस्मिन् मयि अविच्छिन्ना विषयान्तरेण विच्छेत्तुमशक्या या मनोगतिः, सा।

Bhagavān is described as “He who lies in the cave of everyone's heart” (sarva-guhāśaye), meaning that He abides secretly and immovably in the cave formed by the senses, which are made of the guṇas of nature, i.e., a place where He is imperceptible to them. It is unto that Bhagavān that the mind stream flows without interruption, meaning that it cannot be cut off by any other object.

अविच्छिन्नत्वे दृष्टान्तः—यथेति। गतिरिति पूर्वस्मादाकृष्यते नित्यापेक्षात्वात् छान्दसत्वात् । लक्षणं स्वरूपम्।

He then gives an example to illustrate this unobstructed flow, comparing it to the flow of the Gaṅgā to the sea. Although the word gati, “flow,” appears as part of the compound mano-gatiḥ, “the flow of mind,” to make sense it has to be extracted from the compound and applied also to the flow of the Gaṅgā by poetic license. In the second verse the word lakṣaṇam, “definition,” means “the nature" [of pure devotion].

ननु तस्या गुणश्रुतेः का वार्ता, उद्देश्यान्तराभावेन मनोगतित्वाभावेन च द्विधापि निर्देष्टुमशक्त्यत्वात् ?

A doubt may be raised here. How can one speak of hearing the qualities of Bhagavān, because it was already explained above that such hearing serves no other purpose, and hence, what would be the motivation for doing so? Furthermore, the stream of mind does not flow towards Bhagavān’s qualities, because such qualities are beyond the scope of mind. Thus on two accounts, it would appear that one is unable to direct the mind towards such hearing.

तत्राह—अहैतुकी, फलानुसन्धानरहिता। अव्यवहिता स्वरूपसिद्धत्वेन साक्षाद्रूपा, न त्वारोपसिद्धत्वेन व्यवधानात्मिका। तादृशी या भक्तिः श्रोत्रादिना सेवनमात्रं, सा च तस्य स्वरूपमित्यर्थः।

In answer to the first part of this problem, the second verse in this group states that devotion is "causeless" (ahaitukī), i.e., without desire for fruit, and as such hearing Bhagavān’s qualities is an end unto itself—it requires no other motivation. In answer to the second part, the verse describes devotion as "uninterrupted" (avyavahitā). This means that this devotion is direct in nature, being inherently constituted of the quality of bhakti. Consequently, there is nothing that can interrupt it, unlike āropa-siddhā bhakti, action which is superimposed with devotion. Such devotion is nothing other than service, merely making use of the ear or any of the other senses; i.e., service is its constitutional nature

मात्रपदेनाविच्छिन्नेत्यनेन च मनोगतेरहैतुकीत्वादिसिद्धेः पृथग्योजनानर्हत्वात्, "सात्त्विकः कारकोऽसङ्गी" (भा. ११.२५.२५) इत्यादिषु, "निर्गुणो मदपाश्रयः" (भा. ११.२५.२५) इत्यादिभिस्तदाश्रयक्रियादीनां निर्गुणत्वस्थापनात् (भा. ११.१३.४०)—

This is shown by the use of word "simply" (mātra) ["simply upon hearing my qualities" (mad-guṇa-śruti-mātreṇa, indicating that such hearing has no other purpose, confirms the causeless nature of the flow of mind towards hearing Bhagavān’s qualities. Similarly, the word "without interruption" (avicchinnā), implies that there can be no obstruction in the mind’s flow towards such hearing. Thus the use of the words "causeless" (ahaitukī) and "unobstructed" (avyavahitā) is superfluous.] Yet these words have been mentioned separately just to emphasize the transcendental nature of bhakti as established in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam where it is said: “A person who acts without attachment for the result is situated in sattva guṇa, whereas one who takes shelter of Me is beyond the influence of the guṇas.” (SB 11.25.26)

मां भजन्ति गुणाः सर्वे निर्गुणं निरपेक्षकम्।
सुहृदं सर्वभूतानां साम्यासङ्गादयोऽगुणाः॥

इत्यत्र तद्गुणानामप्यप्राकृतत्वश्रवणात्

Furthermore, the qualities of Bhagavān are also described as being beyond the material qualities in verses such as this:

All virtues, such as even-mindedness and detachment, which are not products of the three guṇas, find shelter in Me, who am transcendental to matter and free from desire, the friend and well-wisher of all living beings. (SB 11.13.40)

अहैतुकीत्वमेव विशेषतो दर्शयति—जना मदीयाः सालोक्यादिकमप्युत, अपि दीयमानमपि न गृह्णन्ति मत्सेवनं विनेति। गृह्णन्ति चेत्, तर्हि मत्सेवनार्थमेव गृह्णन्ति, न तु तदर्थमेवेत्यर्थः।

Kapila then specifically expands on the unmotivated nature of this bhakti by saying "those persons" meaning "My devotees." His devotees do not accept even the five types of liberation, beginning with living on the same planet, even if offered to them, if devoid of service to Bhagavān. Even if they do accept them, then they do so only for the sake of Bhagavān’s service, and not for those benefits in themselves.

सार्ष्टिः समानैश्वर्यम्। एकत्वं भगवत्सायुज्यं ब्रह्मसायुज्यं च। अनयोस्तल्लीनात्मकत्वेन तत्सेवनार्थत्वाभावाद-ग्रहणावश्यकत्वमेवेति भावः।

The word sārṣṭi means to attain opulence like that of Bhagavān. "Oneness" (ekatvam) means either to merge in Bhagavān or in Brahman. Because these two forms of ekatvam involve merging in Him, they are not suitable for His service, and therefore they are not to be accepted.
तस्मात् स एव निर्गुणभक्तियोगाख्य आत्यन्तिकः, स एव चात्यन्तिकफलतया भवतीत्यपवर्ग इत्यर्थः, "नात्यन्तिकं विगणयन्ति" (भा. ३.१५.४८) इत्यादेः, आत्यन्तिकप्रलयतया तत्प्रसिद्धेश्च।

Therefore this which alone is known as bhakti-yoga beyond the material qualities is its ultimate (ātyantika) form. That is, that it alone verily is the ultimate result, it is the true import of the word apavarga, or liberation from material existence. That bhakti is the ultimate (ātyantika) goal [beyond liberation] is implied in this verse:

nātyantikaṁ vigaṇayanty api te prasādaṁ
ki v anyad arpita-bhayaṁ bhruva unnayais te
ye’ṅga tvad-aṅghri-śaraṇā bhavataḥ kathāyāḥ
kīrtanya-tīrtha-yaśasaḥ kuśalā rasa-jñāḥ

O Beloved Lord, Your fame is worthy of praise and purifies one from material contamination. Devotees under the shelter of Your lotus feet and expert in relishing the taste of Your stories, think nothing of Your mercy in the form of ultimate liberation, what to speak of any other awards, all of which are rife with fear from the mere lifting of Your brow. (SB 3.15.48)

From verses such as this, bhakti is also understood to be the ultimate stage of the dissolution of material existence.

ननु गुणत्रयात्ययपूर्वकभगवत्साक्षात्कार एवापवर्ग इति चेत्, तस्यापि तादृशधर्मत्वं स्वतः सिद्धमेवेत्याह—येनेति।

One may make the point, however, that apavarga should be defined as the state of direct realization of Bhagavān attained only after transcending the three guṇas. In this case also, nirguṇa-bhakti-yoga can be termed as apavarga, because it naturally transports one beyond the material guṇas and grants direct perception of Bhagavān. This point was made in the last line of the fourth verse of the series spoken by Kapila: “by which bhakti-yoga one transcends the three guṇas of material nature and attains love for Me.”

येन कदाचिदप्यपरित्याज्येन मम भावाय विद्यमानतायै साक्षात्कारायेत्यर्थः। उपपद्यते समर्थो भवति।

"By which bhakti-yoga" here refers to that state of devotion which is never given up. The verse states that by such devotion, one attains love for Bhagavān. The word bhāva, “love,” also means existence or presence. Thus, the words "attains love for Bhagavān" (mad-bhāvāyopapadyate) mean that by such devotion, one is able to see Bhagavān directly.

यथोक्तं पञ्चमे, यथा "वर्णविधानमपवर्गश्च भवति" (भा. ५.१९.१९), "योऽसौ भगवति" (भा. ५.१९.२०) इत्यादिकम्, अनन्यनिमित्तभक्तियोगलक्षणो नानागतिनिमित्ताविद्याग्रन्थिरन्धनद्वारेण (भा. ५.१९.२०) इत्यन्तम्।

That bhakti is equated with apavarga, or liberation, is also evident from the following two verses from the Fifth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, beginning with this statement:

By carrying out one’s prescribed duties according to caste, one eventually also attains apavarga. (SB 5.19.18)

And what is meant by apavarga, is specified in the next verse:

By destroying the knot of ignorance, which is the cause of innumerable births, such a person attains bhakti-yoga for Bhagavān, free from any other motive. (SB 5.19.19)

अतो निर्गुणापि बहुधैवावगन्तव्या। एवमेवोक्तमेतत्प्रकरणारम्भे (भा. ३.२९.७) —

भक्तियोगो बहुविधो मार्गैर्भाविनि भाव्यते।
स्वभावगुणमार्गेण पुंसां भावो विभिद्यते॥ इति।

Therefore nirguṇa-bhakti is also understood to be of various types. This fact was stated by Bhagavān Kapila in the beginning of the section [in which this discussion of bhakti in the material qualities and ending with this statement of bhakti's transcendence, Anucchedas 231-234]:

O mother, human beings have various intentions according to the nature of their devotion, the particular qualitative influences that affect them, and the practices they are drawn to. Hence, according to the various methods practitioners may adopt, bhakti-yoga manifests in many ways. (SB 3.29.7)

मार्गैः प्रकारविशेषैः। अतः स्वस्य भक्तियोगस्यैव मार्गेण वृत्तिभेदेन श्रवणादिना भावस्याभिमानस्य तद्भेदेन दास्यादिना गुणानां तमआदीनां च तद्भेदेन हिंसादिना पुंसां भावोऽभिप्रायो विभिद्यत इत्यर्थः।

The word mārgaiḥ signifies that bhakti-yoga is of many specific types in accordance with the specific methods practitioners may adopt.

[The verse also states that human beings have different intentions according to the nature of their devotion, the influence of guṇas they are subject to and the practices they are drawn to. This is expressed in the compound sva-bhāva-guṇa-mārgeṇa. In this compound...]

...the possessive pronoun sva means “one's own.” A person’s intention (bhāva) in relation to devotion is influenced by three factors: (a) by the path indicated by one's own devotional yoga, meaning its functions like hearing and so on, (b) by differences in one's bhāva or identity [in relation to Bhagavān, either as a servant, a friend, or so on], and (c) by differences in one's situation in the qualities of nature like goodness, passion or ignorance that affect a person’s devotion and] taint it with corresponding traits such as violence in the case of ignorance.

अत्र मुक्ताफलटीका च—"अयमात्यन्तिकः, ततः परं प्रकारान्तराभावात्। अस्यैव भक्तियोग इत्याख्या। अन्वर्थेन भक्तिशब्दस्यात्रैव मुख्यत्वात्। इतरेषु फल एवानुरागो न तु विष्णौ फललाभेन भक्तित्यागात्॥" (मु.फ. ५.१४) इत्येषा।

In commenting on Muktā-phala (5.14) , [i.e. 3.29.14], Hemādri says: “The bhakti-yoga described in this verse is the ultimate stage of devotion, because there are no other varieties of devotion beyond it. Bhakti-yoga, as defined specifically in this verse, conforms to the etymological meaning of devotion, because the word bhakti is used primarily in this sense. In the various forms of mixed devotion, the attachment is to the fruit and not to Bhagavān Viṣṇu, because once the practitioners obtain the fruit, they abandon the path of devotion.”

श्रीगोपालतापनीश्रुतौ च—"भक्तिरस्य भजनम्। तदिहामुत्रोपाधिनैरास्येनैवामुष्मिन् मनःकल्पनम्। एतदेव च नैष्कर्म्यम्" (गो.ता.उ. १.१४) इति।

The Gopāla-tāpanī-śruti also says:

Bhakti means service to Bhagavān, which means to fix the mind exclusively on Him, by giving up all designations related to this world and the next. This alone is naiṣkarmya, i.e., freedom from karmic action or liberation. (GTU 1.18)

शतपथश्रुतौ—"स होवाच याज्ञवल्क्यस्तत् पुमान् आत्महिताय प्रेम्णा हरिं भजेत्" इति। प्रेम्णा प्रीतिमात्रकामनया यदात्महितं तस्मै इत्यर्थः॥

And the Śatapatha-śruti says:

Yājñavalkya said, "For the welfare of the self, a person should worship Bhagavān Hari with love.”

This verse indicates that one’s true welfare lies simply in the aspiration for love of God. One should worship Bhagavān for that purpose only.

॥३.२९॥ श्रीकपिलदेवः॥२३१-२३४॥

Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaja

Śrī Jīva now begins the explanation of pure devotion, śuddhā bhakti, also known as niṣkāmā, nirguṇā, akiñcanā, ananyā and aikāntikī. This is the heart of Bhakti Sandarbha. The whole effort was made to come to this point. This bhakti is the true abhidheya of the śāstra. Although various prescriptions are found, the real intention of śāstra is only in pure bhakti. Other prescriptions are made for people who are not qualified for pure bhakti because of their other desires. The intention, however, is still to bring them to pure devotion gradually.

The analysis of bhakti done in the preceding anucchedas is very important. This will aid us in differentiating pure bhakti from the impure. If one has to buy pure golden jewelry, then one must have the knowledge to be able to distinguish the different varieties of imitation and mixed golden ornaments. Otherwise one can be cheated. The various tendencies discussed in relation to the divisions of bhakti exist in our hearts. Some of them may be in an active state and others in seed form. When one begins performing sādhana these seeds also sprout, like the seeds of weeds that come up when we plant something in our garden. Usually the weeds grow faster than the crop planted. If we are not careful, they will choke up the crop and devour all the nutrients in the soil. Therefore, sādhakas have to be very careful to take notice of these tendencies in their own heart. If one commits offenses then they grow especially quickly.

The different varieties of bhakti discussed so far are summarizes in the chart below. [NEED TO MAKE THE CHART].

Bhagavān Kapila has defined pure bhakti to His mother in the verses cited here. The basic difference this bhakti and those defined before is that of bhāva or awareness. In all other bhaktis the executor has bhinna or pṛthag bhāva, a separatist mentality. He or she wants something for himself or herself without God. A pure devotee does not want even the five types of liberations if they are not helpful in service to Bhagavān. A pure devotee does not want even Bhagavān . He or she only wants service to Bhagavān. The desire to have Bhagavān without the desire to serve means one wants to use Bhagavān for himself. It is like people who want have make acquaintance with some famous person so that they can take advantage of it. They are not concerned for that person's welfare, but only about the potential the relation gives them for their own benefit.

Or, to give another example, people work in an office or for a company. They serve the company but their interest is in their own home or family. Their interest is not one with that of the company. Their real motivation to join and serve in the company is not that they want to see the company grow; they want to see themselves grow. Therefore, they feel happy when it is time to go home at the end of the day. They are happy as long as they get their salary, even if company goes into the red. And if they find better opportunities elsewhere, they will quit.

The pure devotee does not have a pṛthag-bhāva. He does not have a separate agenda. He does not have separate home or family, or plan to enjoy without Bhagavān. That is why bhakti is ahaitukī, causeless. There is no external or separate cause motivating it. Thus it is uninterrupted. There is nothing that can interrupt it. The bhakta does not have anything else to do or a place to go where he can live without bhakti and Bhagavān. Bhagavān belongs to him and he belongs to Bhagavān. He is part of Bhagavān’s family, the acyuta-gotra. Therefore, his mind cannot go to any other object or activity or person. Just as the water of the Gaṅgā flows day and night from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, without any external force being applied and without any interruption, the mind of a bhakta flows to Bhagavān. The Gaṅgā becomes stable after reaching the ocean, it does not make any effort to move from there. If there are any movements in it in the form of waves they remain within the ocean only. Like that, the mind of a bhakta remains stable on Bhagavān. Even if the mind is enticed by the five types of mukti, he does not leave Bhagavān. He can accept them if they facilitate his service to Bhagavān. That is like waves within the ocean. But a devotee never accepts sāyujyā mukti because there is no possibility of service therein. Just as the water of the Gaṅgā is considered very pure, so too is the mind of a bhakta. Gaṅgā water has the power to purify others; so it is with the mind of a bhakta.

A doubt may be raised here. bhakti is called causeless. But we earlier studied that it is caused by sādhu-saṅga. The reply to this is that sādhu-saṅga is not different from bhakti. Sādhus are impelled by bhakti to give association or bhakti to those who are bereft of it. When it is said that it is causeless, it means that there is no external cause. Thus it is said that bhakti is caused by bhakti (11.3.31).

A further doubt may be raised that one performs bhakti to attain prema, so how can it be called causeless. The reply for this is that prema is nothing but a higher stage of bhakti. It is the stage when bhakti becomes the natural state of a devotee’s existence .

In the last verse (3.29.31) the word ātyantika should not be misinterpreted to mean sāyujyā mukti. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī explains that this word is also used for pure bhakti.

The next point which he makes is that the nirguṇā bhakti is also of various types. There are two basic items that bring variety to it. The first is the type of activity belonging to bhakti such as hearing, singing and remembering. The other factor is the mood of the devotee, such as servitorship, friendship. The third factor stated by Kapila (3.29.7), i.e., the influence of the guṇas, does not apply to nirguṇā bhakti, as the very name itself suggests. Two further divisions of bhakti based on the initial inspiration to begin bhakti are stated in the next anuccheda.

Bhakti Sandarbha 231-233 : Svarūpa-siddhā Bhakti and the Three Gunas
Bhakti Sandarbha 228-230: Mixed Bhakti desiring only pure bhakti
Bhakti Sandarbha 226-227 : Kaivalya-kāmā Bhakti mixed with karma and jnana
Bhakti Sandarbha 225 : Three Divisions of Saṅga-siddhā Bhakti
Bhakti Sandarbha 224 : Three Motives Behind the Offering of Karma
Bhakti Sandarbha 222-223: The Result Of Karma is Under the Control of Bhagavān
Bhakti Sandarbha 218-221: Karma Offered To Bhagavān Destroys Karma
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


Prem Prakash said…
I find the phrase "sarva-guhāśaye" to be especially beautiful and clarifying. The monist seeks his own atma, or a construed experience of Brahman. The bhakta seeks He who is in the heart of all. I feel sorry for the monist.

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