Bhakti Sandarbha 309 : Atma-nivedanam

Anuccheda 309

Self-offering (ātma-nivedanam)

अथ आत्मनिवेदनम्। तच्च देहादिशुद्धात्मपर्यन्तस्य सर्वतोभावेन तस्मिन्नेवार्पणम्। तत्कार्यं चात्मार्थचेष्टाशून्यत्वं तन्न्यस्तात्मसाधनसाध्यत्वं तदर्थैकचेष्टामयत्वं च।

Now we will discuss ātma-nivedanam, self-offering or self-dedication. This limb of devotion entails offering one’s entire being to Bhagavān, beginning from the body up to the pure self. It is characterized by an absence of striving for one's own self, the offering of all one’s practices and attainments to Bhagavān, and concentration of one’s endeavors exclusively for Bhagavān.

इदं ह्यात्मार्पणं गोविक्रयवतो विक्रीतस्य गोर्वर्तनार्थं विक्रीतवता चेष्टा न क्रियते। तस्य च श्रेयःसाधकस्तं क्रीतवान् एव स्यात्। स च गौस्तस्यैव कर्म कुर्यात्, न पुनर्विक्रीतवतोऽपीति।

This self-surrender can be compared to selling a cow. Once a cow is sold, the seller makes no further effort to maintain the cow, the purchaser becomes solely responsible for the cow’s welfare and the cow works only for the new owner and no longer for the seller.

इदमेवात्मार्पणं श्रीरुक्मिणीवाक्ये (भा. १०.५२.३९) —

An example of this type of self-surrender is found in the words of Rukmiṇī:

तन्मे भवान् खलु वृतः पतिरङ्ग जायाम्
आत्मार्पितश्च भवतोऽत्र विभो विधेहि। इति।

Hence You, my beloved, have indeed been chosen by me as my husband, and this body has been offered to You. Please come here, my Lord, and accept me as Your wife. (SB 10.52.39)

अथ केचिद्देहार्पणमेवात्मार्पणमिति मन्यन्ते। यथा भक्तिविवेके—

Some people are of the opinion that self-surrender simply involves offering the body, as indicated in the Bhakti-viveka:

चिन्तां कुर्यान्न रक्षायै विक्रीतस्य यथा पशोः।
तथार्पयन् हरौ देहं विरमेदस्य रक्षणात्॥ इति।

One should not be concerned about the preservation of one's body; rather, one should regard it like an animal sold to another. Offering one's body in this manner to Bhagavān Hari, one should cease all effort to protect it.

केचिच्छुद्धक्षेत्रज्ञार्पणमेव। यथा श्रीमदालबन्दारुस्तोत्रे (स्तोत्ररत्नम् ४९) —

Others maintain that offering the self as a pure witness of the field of action is what is meant by self-surrender, as in the Śrīmad Ālabandāru-stotra:

वपुरादिषु योऽपि कोऽपि वा गुणतोऽसानि यथातथाविधः।
तदयं तव पादपद्मयोरहमद्यैव मया समर्पितः॥ इति।

Whoever resides within this body-mind continuum, and whoever is situated amidst the variable conditions arising under the influence of the three qualities of material nature, O Bhagavān, today I offer this "I" unto Your lotus feet. (Stotra-ratnam 49)

केचिच्च दक्षिणहस्तादिकमप्यर्पयन्तः, तेन तत्कर्ममात्रं कुर्वते, न तु देहादिकर्मेत्यद्यापि दृश्यते।

Still others offer the right hand or other limbs of the body to Bhagavān and use that limb strictly for Bhagavān's service, not for fulfilling bodily needs. Such a mood can be seen even today.

तदेतत् सर्वात्मकं सकार्यमात्मनिवेदनं, यथा (भा. ९.४.१८-२०)—

Self-surrender that involves offering one’s entire being [body, mind and soul] along with its corresponding functions is seen in the case of King Ambarīṣa:

स वै मनः कृष्णपदारविन्दयोर्वचांसि वैकुण्ठगुणानुवर्णने।
करौ हरेर्मन्दिरमार्जनादिषु श्रुतिं चकाराच्युतसत्कथोदये॥
मुकुन्दलिङ्गालयदर्शने दृशौ तद्भृत्यगात्रस्पर्शेऽङ्गसङ्गमम्।
घ्राणं च तत्पादसरोजसौरभे श्रीमत्तुलस्या रसनां तदर्पिते॥
पादौ हरेः क्षेत्रपदानुसर्पणे शिरो हृषीकेशपदाभिवन्दने।
कामं च दास्ये न तु कामकाम्यया यथोत्तमश्लोकजनाश्रया रतिः॥
He fixed his mind exclusively on the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, he employed his speech in describing the virtues of Bhagavān Viṣṇu, his hands in cleansing the temple of Śrī Hari and similar services, and his ears in hearing the meaningful stories of Bhagavān Acyuta. 
He employed his eyes in beholding the image and abode of Bhagavān Mukunda, his tactile sense in touching the limbs of Bhagavān’s devotees, his nose in smelling the fragrance of tulasī leaves offered to Bhagavān's lotus feet and his tongue in tasting what has been offered to Him.
He employed his feet in moving to the temples and holy places of Bhagavān Hari and his head in bowing down at the feet of Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa. His desire was wholly fixed in the servitorship of Bhagavān, not in any form of material enjoyment. He did all this in such a way that the love inherent in Bhagavān’s devotees might arise in him. (SB 9.4.18-20)
चकार अर्पयामास। कृष्णपदारविन्दयोरित्यादिकमुपलक्षणं तत्सेवादीनाम्। लिङ्गं श्रीमूर्तिः। आलयस्तद्भक्तस्तन्मन्दिरादिः। श्रीमत्तुलस्यास्तत्पादसरोजसम्बन्धि यत् सौरभं तस्मिन्। तदर्पिते महाप्रसादान्नादौ।

“He employed” (cakāra) means, “he offered up" [his various limbs in corresponding devotional services]. The specific mention of Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet as the focus of meditation for the mind indicates the attitude of service. The word "image" (liṅgam) means the deity forms, and “abode” (ālayaḥ) refers to His devotees and temples, etc. The reference to tulasī implies that it has been offered to the lotus feet of Bhagavān and has thus taken on its fragrance. “What has been offered to Him” (tad-arpite) refers to the remnants of food, etc., offered to Bhagavān,

कामं सङ्कल्पं च दास्ये निमित्ते। कथं चकार ? यथा येन प्रकारेण उत्तमःश्लोकजनाश्रया रतिः सा भवेदिति।

“Desire” (kāmam) means resolve, which was specifically directed to the servitorship of Bhagavān. In what manner did he do all of this? This question is answered in the final line of the verse. He did everything in such a way that the love inherent in Bhagavān’s devotees might arise in him.

अत्र सर्वथा तत्रैव सङ्घातात्मनिक्षेपः कृत इति वैशिष्ट्यापत्त्या स्मरणादिमयोपासनस्यैवात्मार्पणत्वम्।

Mahārāja Ambarīṣa surrendered his entire being to Bhagavān—his body, mind, senses, desires and so on. From this unique demonstration of surrender, the devotional limb known as self-offering can be understood to refer specifically to worship of Bhagavān that consists of offering all functions of the self such as remembrance [and the other faculties outlined in this group of verses].

एवमेवोक्तम्—"श्रद्धामृतकथायां मे शश्वन्मदनुकीर्तनम्" (भा. ११.१९.१९) इत्यारभ्य, "एवं धर्मे मनुष्याणां" (भा. ११.१९.२२) इति।

This type of surrender is exactly what Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa described to Uddhava in the section of verses from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam beginning from 11.19.20 and concluding in 11.19.24:

O Uddhava, devotion to Me develops in the hearts of those who dedicate their being to Me through eagerness to hear the ambrosial stories related to Me, by regular recitation of My pastimes, by resolute faith in My worship, by glorifying Me with beautiful prayers, by regard for My service, by salutations to Me performed with all limbs of the body, by emphasizing the worship of My devotees, by perceiving My presence within all living beings, by employing the limbs of the body for My sake, by describing My virtues with one’s speech, by fixing the mind on Me, by abandoning all desires, by spending wealth for My worship, by giving up sensual enjoyment and self-centered happiness for My sake, by sacrifice, charity, offering oblations into the sacrificial fire, uttering mantras, observing fasts and other sacred vows, and by undergoing austerity for My sake. For such people, what more remains to be achieved? (SB 11.19.20-24)

यथा स्मरणकीर्तनपादसेवनमयमुपासनमेव आगमोक्तविधिमयत्व-वैशिष्ट्यापत्त्यार्चनमित्यभिधीयते, ततो नाविविक्तत्वम्। स्नानपरिधानादिक्रिया चास्य भगवत्सेवायोग्यत्वायैवेति, तत्रापि नात्मार्पणभक्तिहानिरित्यनुसन्धेयम्।

If upāsanā or worship consisting of remembrance, singing Bhagavān’s glories and serving Bhagavān’s feet acquires the special characteristic of being executed according to the injunctions outlined in the Āgamas, it is called arcanam. This is so because when worship in the form of remembrance and singing is performed in adherence to scriptural injunctions, it is not separate from the path of arcana, or worship of the deity, in which there is a prominence of rules and regulations. In self-surrender bodily functions, such as bathing and putting on clothes, are done only for the sake of being fit for Bhagavān's service, and hence such actions are not detrimental to the devotion of self-offering.

एतदात्मार्पणं श्रीबलावपि स्फुटं दृश्यते। उदाहृतं चेदमात्मार्पणं "धर्मार्थकामः" (भा. ७.६.२६) इत्यादिना श्रीप्रह्लादमते।

This self-offering is clearly visible in Bali also. This offering up of the self is typified in verses such as this, in accordance with the view of Prahlāda:

Scripture makes reference to the three goals of dharma, artha and kāma, as well as to knowledge of the self, goal-oriented action, logic, the penal code and various means of sustenance. But I consider them meaningful only if they assist in surrender of the self to the Supreme Person, who is the well-wisher of everyone. (SB 7.6.26)

"मर्त्यो यदा त्यक्तसमस्तकर्मा निवेदितात्मा" (भा. ११.२९.३४) इत्यादिना श्रीभगवन्मतेऽपि।

In the opinion of Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa as well, self-offering is described in verses like this:

When a mortal being offers himself unto Me, relinquishing all duties, I desire to bless such a soul. Attaining immortality, such a person becomes eligible to attain the state of complete identification with Me. (SB 11.29.34)

तदेतदात्मनिवेदनं भावं विना भाववैशिष्ट्येन च दृश्यते। पूर्वं यथा "मर्त्यो यदा" (भा. ११.२९.३४) इत्यादि। उत्तरं यथैकादश एव "दास्येनात्मनिवेदनम्" (भा. ११.११.३५) इति। यथा च रुक्मिणीवाक्ये "आत्मार्पितश्च भवतः" (भा. १०.५२.१) इति॥

Self-dedication is seen to be of two types—one without a temperament of love, the other imbued with such specific feelings. An example of the first is found in the self-surrender described by Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa in the above verse; one of the latter is also found in the Eleventh Canto where Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa mentions self-surrender endowed with the attitude of a servant (dāsyenātma-nivedanam, 11.11.35). Another example of the second type of self-surrender [imbued in this case with conjugal feelings] is seen in the words of Rukmiṇī Devi, cited earlier:

Hence You, my beloved, have indeed been chosen by me as my husband, and this body has been offered to You. Please come here, my Bhagavān, and accept me as Your wife. (SB 10.52.49)

॥ ९.४॥ श्रीशुकः॥३०९॥

Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj

Offering up of the self to Bhagavān is the ninth and last limb of vaidhī bhakti. It is a type of self-identification in which one thinks that one belongs to Bhagavān. The distinction between servitorship and self-surrender is that in the first one has the ego of a servant while in the second one feels as if one is Bhagavān's property. Just as an object belonging to someone does not have independence to act for its own benefit, so it is with a devotee surrendered to Bhagavān. Such a devotee does nothing for his own maintenance or protection. The example of a cow is very appropriate. A cow does nothing for herself and remains fully dependent on her master. If the master sells the cow to another person, the cow leaves the first master and becomes dependent on the new one. Then she does not benefit the earlier master in any way.

The other example is of Rukmiṇī. She accepted Kṛṣṇa as her husband in her mind and after that she did not think of any other man as her protector. This was the usual tradition in Vedic society: once a girl accepted a boy as her husband she became fully surrendered to him. She had to leave the house of her father, transfer her allegiance from her father to her husband, and even change her family name to that of her husband.

There are some varieties of self-dedication. Some people give up only a particular part of their body. They may offer their right hand, for example. Then they will not use their right hand for themselves, but only for the service of Bhagavān. There are others who consider only offering up the body or mind as self-dedication. In reality, however, it means offering everything: one’s body, mind, speech and one's very soul to Bhagavān. King Ambarīṣa is a good example of this.

One may object that the person who has given himself to Bhagavān also takes care of his body by cleaning it, feeding and giving rest to it. Then how can this be called complete surrender? Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī replies that he takes care of this body so that he can execute his service properly. It is like a car which is fed with gasoline and taken to the garage for maintenance so that it can perform its function properly.

Prahlāda's grandson Bali is another example of self-dedication. He had promised to give three steps of land to Śrī Vāmanadeva. After Vāmana got the promise from Bali He expanded His form and measured the three worlds in two steps only. When Vāmana demanded the third step, Bali offered himself to Him. Bali’s thinking was that the owner of an object is more valuable than the object he owns. Therefore, if it took Vāmana two steps to measure his kingdom, then he is worth at least two steps. Vāmana had Bali tied up just as one would bind an animal after purchasing it. Bali surrendered himself along with his kingdom to Bhagavān Vāmana.

DISCLAIMER: All the posts related to Bhakti Sandarbha are not the final product. This version will be refined by other readers and editors, including Babaji himself. Please do not use this material without reference to this disclaimer. This material is copyrighted by the Jiva Institute.

Bhakti Sandarbha 304-308 : Dasyam and Sakhyam
Bhakti Sandarbha 300-303 : Offenses in Deity Worship, Vandanam
Bhakti Sandarbha 296-299 : More on Arcana and Eligibility for It
Bhakti Sandarbha 295 : Adhiṣṭhānas of the Deity
Bhakti Sandarbha 287-294 : Eligibility for Honor
Bhakti Sandarbha 286 : Other Important Aspects of Arcana
Bhakti Sandarbha 285 : The Gods Named in Āvaraṇa-pūjā are Bhagavān's Associates
Bhakti Sandarbha 284 : The Difference Between Mantra and Name
Bhakti Sandarbha 283 : Pāda-sevā (Concluded) and Arcanam
Bhakti Sandarbha 280-282 : Service to Bhagavān (Pāda-sevanam)


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