Bhakti Sandarbha 266-269 : Rupa, Guna and Lila Kirtan, Glories of Kirtan
The section on different kinds of kirtan moves now from Harinam to other varieties of glorification. The kirtan section continues up to 274.
Singing About Bhagavān's Form
यच्छ्रीर्वाचां जनयति रतिं कीर्त्यमाना कवीनाम्॥ इति।
Now we will describe the practice of singing about the forms of Bhagavān, as King Parīkṣit said to the sage Śuka:
Young women are unable to withdraw their vision from the form of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, their eyes transfixed on it. When that form becomes established in the hearts of the sages, entering through the pathway of the ears, it never moves from there. When the splendor of Bhagavān’s form is glorified, it creates attraction for the poets speech, and so too brings about their fame. When the warriors on the battlefield of Kurukṣetra gave up their lives beholding that same form of Kṛṣṇa, who was seated upon the chariot of Arjuna, they attained liberation by merging into Him. (SB 11.30.3)
vācaś ca nas tulasivad yadi te'ṅghri-śobhāḥ
pūryeta te guṇa-gaṇair yadi karṇa-randhraḥ
Let us go to hell for the offenses we have committed, as long as our minds always delight in your feet, like bees that drink the nectar of lotuses. Let our speech become splendorous by glorifying You, as tulasī leaves are beautified by contact with Your feet; and let the holes of our ears be filled with the descriptions of Your qualities. (SB 3.15.49)
॥११.३०॥ राजा श्रीशुकम्॥२६६॥
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj
The discussion of vaidhī bhakti, begun in Anuccheda 236 , continues here. After explaining the principles of surrender and service to the devotees, Jīva Gosvāmī delineated the practice of hearing about the names, forms, qualities and pastimes of Bhagavān in Anucchedas 248-261. He then discussed the practice of singing Bhagavān’s names in Anucchedas 262-265. (See links below.) Now he describes singing or kīrtana about His form.
The verse spoken by King Parikṣit describes the unparalled beauty of Kṛṣṇa. His beauty is so captivating that anyone who sees Him is unable to turn his or her eyes away from it. That is why He is called Kṛṣṇa, the All-attractive. When Kṛṣṇa drove Arjuna’s chariot, the warriors who died seeing Him attained liberation. This is because their minds became fixed on His beauty. According to Kṛṣṇa’s statement in Gītā (8.6) one attains whatever one thinks of at the time of death.
Kṛṣṇa’s beauty is so great that even Maha Viṣṇu wanted to see Him. That is why He stole the new-born babies of a brāhmaṇa in Dvārakā, obliging Kṛṣṇa to go to Mahā Viṣṇu's abode to retrieve them. [This story is described in chapter 89 of the Tenth Canto, and has been discussed at length in Kṛṣṇa Sandarbha, Anuccheda 29] Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī writes that the sweetness of Kṛṣṇa’s beauty, rūpa-mādhuri, is unparalleled (BRS 2.1.43). His beauty is so wonderful that even He is amazed at it (3.2.12). He is specifically attractive to women, especially for gopīs (10.29.40).
Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī gives the example of the Kumāra brothers who went to Vaikuṇṭha to see Viṣṇu. They were stopped by Jaya and Vijaya, the gatekeepers at the seventh gate. This enraged the Kumāras and thus they cursed Jaya and Vijaya. At that time Śrī Viṣṇu came walking to the gate. Seeing His beauty, the Kumāras, who had been absorbed in the bliss of Brahman from their very birth, became devotees. They prayed that they should never forget Bhagavān even if they have to go to hell for their act of cursing His devotees. [For a detailed description of this story see Bhagavat Sandarbha, Anuccheda 79]. And the beauty of Kṛṣṇa is even more ravishing than that of Viṣṇu.
Singing About the Qualities of Bhagavān
स्विष्टस्य सूक्तस्य च बुद्धदत्तयोः।
Now we will give an example of singing Bhagavān's virtues, as Śrī Nārada said to Vyāsa:
Scholars have concluded that the description of the attributes of Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa, who is glorified in chosen verses, is the unfailing goal of a human being’s austerities, education, sacrifice, mantras, wisdom and [the giving of] gifts. (SB 1.5.22)श्रुतं वेदाध्ययनम्। स्विष्टं यागादि। सूक्तं मन्त्रादिजपः। बुद्धं शास्त्रीयबोधः। दत्तं दानम्। एतेषां भगवदर्पितानां सतामेव अविच्युतोऽर्थः नित्यं फलम्।
"Education" (śrutam) means study of the Vedas; sacrifice (sviṣṭam) means fire sacrifices, etc; "mantras" (sūktam) means the recitation of mantras, etc.; "wisdom" (buddham) means realization of scriptural knowledge; and the giving of gifts (dattam) refers to charity. When these acts are offered exclusively to Bhagavān, they have unfailing goal (avicyuto’rthaḥ) or eternal result.
किं तत् ? उत्तमश्लोकस्य गुणानुवर्णनं यत्। जातायामपि गुणानुवर्णनसाध्यायां परमपुरुषार्थरूपायां रतौ गुणानुवर्णनस्य प्रत्युत नित्यनित्योल्लासादविच्युतत्वमुक्तम्। तस्मादविच्युतत्वेन रतिमेवास्य फलं सूचयति॥
And what is that eternal fruit? Regular recitation of the virtues of the glorious Bhagavān. Even after attaining the supreme goal of reciting Bhagavān’s qualities in the form of love, one experiences ever-fresh delight by continuing to describe those qualities. It is for this reason that the adjective "unfailing" (avicyuta has been used, which means that this result does not come to an end. Thus because of its quality of “unfailingness” (avicyuta) it is indicated that love for Bhagavān is the actual fruit of the recitation of His virtues.
Form and qualities are interrelated. Form is the substratum for qualities. They exist together. If one is enamored of the form of Bhagavān, one would be naturally be in love with His qualities. Therefore, this limb of bhakti follows the previous one.
Singing About The Pastimes Of Bhagavān
कालेन नातिदीर्घेन भगवान् विशते हृदि॥
नातिदीर्घेन स्वल्पेनैव। विशते स्फुरति॥
Now, an example of singing Bhagavān's pastimes, as King Parīkṣit said:
When a devotee regularly hears and recites the activities of Bhagavān with faith, Bhagavān in not a very long time enters into his or her heart. (SB 2.8.4)"Not a very long time" (nāti-dīrgheṇa kālena) means that Bhagavān enters the devotee’s heart without delay. “He enters” (viśate) means that Bhagavān directly appears in the devotee’s heart.
According to the Nyāya school there are three real entities in this world: substances, qualities and actions. Qualities reside in a substance and actions also happen there. From their point of view, the form of Bhagavān is a substance and is therefore the substratum for His qualities and actions. Thus these two, qualities and pastimes, naturally follow the descriptions of His form. In the case of Bhagavān, everything is Absolute. There is no difference between His form and His qualities or pastimes.
The verse describes the result of reciting the pastimes of Bhagavān. He himself becomes manifest in the heart of such a reciter. That also implies that the devotee attains love for Bhagavān.
Glories of Singing About Bhagavān
तदेव सत्यं तदु हैव मङ्गलं तदेव पुण्यं भगवद्गुणोदयम्॥ इत्यादि,
"यदुत्तमःश्लोकयशोऽनुगीयते" (भा. १२.१२.५०) इत्यन्तम्।
Śrī Sūta also spoke about the importance of speech related to Bhagavān:
Speech unrelated to Bhagavān Adhokṣaja is indeed vain, false and connected with the mundane. Only that speech in which Bhagavān’s attributes are revealed is real, auspicious and virtuous. Only that speech in which the glory of Bhagavān Hari is constantly sung, is delightful, begets newer and newer bliss, produces an endless festival of joy for the mind, and dries up the ocean of sorrow for human beings. (SB 12.12.49-50)असतीरसत्यः। असतां भगवतस्तद्भक्तेभ्यश्चान्येषां कथा यासु ताः। यद्यासु गीःषु न कथ्यते। उत्तमश्लोकस्य यशोऽनुगीयत इति तु यत्, तत् तदीयलीलामयानुगानमेव सत्यमित्यादि। कथं सत्यत्वं मङ्गलत्वं च ? तत्राह—भगवद्गुणानामुदयो गायकहृदि स्फूर्तिर्यस्मात् तत्, तदीयरतिप्रदमित्यर्थः।
The word asatīḥ here means false, and asat-kathā refers to speech about people other than Bhagavān and His devotees. These adjectives describe speech that is unrelated to Bhagavān. On the other hand, that speech in which the fame of the glorious Bhagavān is sung, is alone real and endowed with the other virtues mentioned in these two verses. This refers specifically to recitations of Bhagavān’s pastimes. And why is this speech true and auspicious? In answer to this, Sūta says that this speech causes Bhagavān's qualities to be revealed in the heart of the speaker. This means that such discussions generate love for Bhagavān.
तत्र तत्र हरिर्याति गौर्यथा सुतवत्सला॥
In the Skanda Purāṇa it is said:
O King, Bhagavān Hari goes wherever stories about Him and His devotees are sung, just as a cow follows her calf out of great affection.
विष्णुधर्मे स्कान्दे च भगवदुक्तौ—
मत्कथाप्रीतिमनसं नाहं त्यक्ष्यामि तं नरम्॥ इति।
In the Viṣṇu-dharma and Skanda Purāṇa (184.108.40.206), Bhagavān says:
I never abandon a person who always narrates My stories, one who is intent on hearing them, or one whose mind is captivated by My stories.
अत्र च अनुगीयत इत्यनेन सुकण्ठता चेद्गानमेव कर्तव्यं, तच्च प्रशस्तमित्यायातम्। एवं नामादीनामपि।
The verb anugīyate, “is repeatedly sung,” in verse 12.12.50 implies that if one has a melodious voice, she should sing the pastimes of Bhagavān. This implies that singing the pastimes of Bhagavān is superior to hearing and recitation. The same is true about singing the names, forms and qualities of Bhagavān.
उक्तं च (भा. ११.२.३९) —
It was said earlier:
Hearing of the auspicious births and activities of Bhagavān Hari, the wielder of the disc, and singing His names, which are famous throughout the world, denoting His birth and activities, one should move through life free from attachment and inhibition. (SB 11.2.39)
यस्त्वङ्ग गायति शृणोत्यनुमोदते वा
भक्तिर्भवेद्भगवति ह्यपवर्गमार्गे॥ इति।
Elsewhere it is said:
O King, one who sings, hears or approves of the inimitable exploits performed by Kṛṣṇa, the cause of the creation, maintenance and dissolution of the cosmos, attains loving devotion to Bhagavān, the bestower of liberation. (SB 10.69.45)
The import of this verse is that one can hear the pastimes of Bhagavān if unable to sing them, or if one finds a person who can sing them better. Furthermore, if one is not personally attracted to hearing or singing Bhagavān’s pastimes, one can at least approve of them.
मयि बुद्धिं समास्थाय गायेथा मम सत्कथाः॥ इति।
In the Viṣṇu-dharma, we find this statement of Śrī Viṣṇu:
If one's mind is naturally lyrical and thus captivated by melodies, she should fix her mind on Me and sing My virtuous stories.
पाद्मे च कार्त्तिकमाहात्म्ये श्रीभगवदुक्तौ (प.पु. ६.९२.२१,२३) —
मद्भक्ता यत्र गायन्ति तत्र तिष्ठामि नारद॥
तेषां पूजादिकं गन्धधूपाद्यैः क्रियते नरैः।
तेन प्रीतिं परां यामि न तथा मम पूजनात्॥ इति।
In the Kārtika-māhātmya of the Padma Purāṇa Bhagavān said:
I reside neither in Vaikuṇṭha nor in the hearts of the yogīs. O Nārada, I am present wherever My devotees sing [my pastimes]. I am not as pleased with those who worship Me directly, as with those who worship such devotees by offering them scents, incense, and other articles.
ते च प्राणिमात्राणामेव परमोपकर्तारः, किमुत स्वेषाम्। यथोक्तं नारसिंहे श्रीप्रह्लादेन—
ये नृसिंह भवन्नाम गायन्त्युच्चैर्मुदान्विताः॥ इति।
By singing the glories of Bhagavān, such devotees are supreme benefactors of all living beings, so what to speak of the benefit they bring to themselves. Prahlāda makes this point in the Nṛsiṁha Purāṇa:
O Nṛsiṁha, those saints who loudly sing Your names in bliss are the selfless friends of all beings.
अत्र च बहुभिर्मिलित्वा कीर्तनं सङ्कीर्तनमित्युच्यते। तत् तु चमत्कारविशेषपोषात् पूर्वतोऽप्यधिकमिति ज्ञेयम्।
When many people gather together and sing the glories of Bhagavān, it is called saṅkīrtana, or congregational singing. This congregational singing is superior even to kīrtana [performed alone], because it produces such extraordinary feelings.
अत्र च नामसङ्कीर्तने यथोपदिष्टं कलियुगपावनावतारेण श्रीभगवता (पद्या. ३२) —
अमानिना मानदेन कीर्तनीयः सदा हरिः॥ इति।
Bhagavān Śrī Caitanya, the avatāra who delivers the living beings of kali-yuga, has given the following instruction about congregational singing of names:
Considering oneself to be even lower than grass, being more tolerant than a tree, being prideless, and offering respect to all others, one should continuously sing the name of Hari.
Ater describing the singing of Bhagavān's pastimes, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī explains the importance of singing in general, be it of His name, form, qualities or pastimes. The essence of devotional practice is remembrance of Kṛṣṇa. This is stated in Padma Purāṇa: “One should always remember Kṛṣṇa and never forget Him. The purpose of all rules and regulations is to achieve these aims” (PP 6.71.100). Śrī Nārada also instructs King Yudhiṣṭhira, “One should absorb one’s mind in Kṛṣṇa by whatever means possible” (SB 7.1.31). Fixing of mind in Kṛṣṇa or remembrance of Him, however, is not possible if the mind is unstable. To control one’s speech is a powerful means to make the mind stable. In this respect Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī advises:
vāg-indriyaṁ syād yadi saṁyataṁ sadā |
cittaṁ sthiraṁ sad-bhagavat-smṛtau
tadā samyak pravarteta tataḥ smṛtiḥ phalam ||
The sense of speech is the regulator of all the senses, external as well as internal. If it can be controlled then mind becomes stable and can be engaged in remembrance of Bhagavān. One who engages properly in this way will attain the fruit of remembrance. (Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛtam 2.3.149)
Speech can be controlled either by being silent (mauna) or by engaging it in japa or kīrtana. The first option is followed by yogīs and jñānīs, while the second by devotees. The second is superior because it engages one’s whole being in the service of Bhagavān and purifies one’s existence. It is also the prescribed process for the present age, as pointed out earlier. Moreover, it should be noted that the saṅkīrtana is not just a means to achieve remembrance and then it should be given up. It continues even at perfected stage. A perfected devotee naturally engages in kīrtana as an anubhāva of love (11.2.40, 1.6.27).
Good music has special power to attract our mind. Singing attracts the mind of singer as well as that of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, Kṛṣṇa says that He is present wherever His devotees sing about Him. He is a musician Himself and thus loves to hear singing done out of love. When many devotees come together and sing with the proper rāga, tāla and laya, it creates a very enchanting and beatific atmosphere. This has a powerful influence on those who sing as well as those who listen to it. Therefore, Śrī Jīva recommends that if one has a melodious voice one should sing. If possible, then sing in the company of devotees who have good knowledge of music, have sweet voices, and the same devotional mood as one’s own.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu specifically recommended and propagated saṅkīrtana for the present age. He demonstrated it by his own life. In the verse cited at the end of this Anuccheda He gives the proper mood to do sankīrtana. This will bring peace and harmony in society. At present there is strife (kali) in life at all levels, be it family, society, or country. There is no love among members of family, society or country. The only solution is sankīrtana in the mood recommended by Mahāprabhu. This will purify the heart of envy, jealousy, hatred, greed and anger.
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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
Bhakti Sandarbha 251-253 : Hearing About Bhagavan's Attributes and Pastimes
Bhakti Sandarbha 248-250 : Introduction to Śravaṇam
Bhakti Sandarbha 246-247 : Honor Should be Given to All Vaiṣṇavas
Bhakti Sandarbha 243-245 : More Benefits of Sat-sanga