Bhakti Yoga #3

Sage Narada’s ‘Bhakti Sutras’ is a comprehensive guidebook for all the seekers on the path of Bhakti Yoga. Narada’s wisdom takes an aspirant from the first steps of his spiritual ascent, till he reaches the summit. Sri Ramakrishna has said that the best and easiest path to attain Self Realization in this age is the path of Bhakti as taught by Narada. I’m humbly making an attempt to write down my understanding of the Sutras from the discourses and commentaries of great masters and swamis.

Interpretations and Examples of Supreme Devotion (NBS 15 to 24)

Narada narrates the characteristics of devotion according various schools of thought and also gives examples of such devotion. Many great sages have interpreted devotion differently in the light of their knowledge and understanding. Bhakti can only be experienced, it’s not easy to define or describe it in words. But for the benefit of large majority of people, the sages have tried to explain it in simple terms.

According to Sage Vyasa, the author of Puranas, devotion means attraction to worship as prescribed by scriptures. In the scriptures, ritualistic form of worship is given importance to nurture and grow devotion. For a beginner, these ritualistic observances are of great assistance as he may not grasp the higher expressions of love.

According to Sage Garga, devotion is the attraction for stories of avatars of God. Love of God is increased through singing of God’s praise, through hearing of various forms of divine play and the life-stories of various avatars. One should have single minded and constant devotion in listening to the glories of God to attain supreme devotion.

According to Sage Sandilya, Bhakti is devotion to God as one’s Self, and renouncing everything prejudicial to the path of devotion. Sandilya puts forward his point of view in a philosophical way and says that attachment or love for the Self is Bhakti. God is the Self of all; therefore, love of the Self, or love of God is what is devotion. Our love of God will show in our conduct. Our actions and conduct should be conducive to the attainment of supreme love, then we become true lovers of God.

According to Narada, devotion is surrender of all activities to God and extreme anguish if God is forgotten. In Bhakti, all actions are dedicated to God, any moment the mind deviates from that dedication, the devotee suffers intense agony.

Examples of Supreme devotion

Narada says dedication of gopikas of Vrindavan was a perfect example of supreme devotion. Their lives were totally dedicated and devoted to Krishna; if they took their minds off from Him even for a moment, they suffered in pain owing to the feeling of separation.

Narada also addresses a possible criticism that the gopikas love was uninformed. Some philosophers think the gopikas were attracted to Krishna as a beautiful young boy, and did not know the greatness of the Lord. This accusation against the gopikas is false, says Narada. They knew Krishna’s greatness as a Supreme being, but in their intimacy with Him they put aside the awe and reverence usually offered to God.

On the other hand, displays of devotion without knowledge of God’s greatness are no better than the earthly love affairs. The gopikas loving exchanges with Krishna have nothing to do with mundane passion, but because they resemble lusty activities in the material world, those with confused minds mistake them for such.

Narada adds further, in the baser form of love there is no idea of being happy in the happiness of the beloved. The desire to gratify one’s own senses is lust, but the desire to please the senses of God is love. Pure selfless love exists only in relation to God. One cannot precisely analyze this love in intellectual terms, but one can experience it with a purified heart. The secret driving force for the devotees is the all-attractive nature of Krishna and the fact that He is the Self of all selves.

This concludes #3 of Bhakti Yoga. A summary of the Sutras 15 to 24 of Narada Bhakti Sutras that describes interpretations of devotion by various sages

Coming up Next: #4 – Bhakti and other paths of enlightenment (NBS 25 to 33)

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