Bhakti Yoga #5

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.

Different ways of attaining Bhakti

The great teachers describe in hymns and songs the following as the means of attaining devotion:-

  • The attainment of devotion is through the renunciation of objects of enjoyment and attraction towards them
  • By Continuous practice of worship
  • By listening to the sports of God and singing about the same even during the ordinary activities of life.
  • By the grace of the great souls or through a little grace of God.

Thus, devotion can be attained through renunciation, detachment, unbroken worship and continuous remembrance of God. One should remain engaged in hearing and singing the glory of God and keep the mind occupied with the thought of God during the daily activities of life. Even then, one attains devotion mainly through the grace of Holy men, or with a little grace from God Himself.

Importance of Holy Company

The devotion is attained mainly through association of great souls. However, this association of holy persons is rarely obtained and difficult to understand. Among millions of pious followers of the scriptural injunctions, one may be actually wise. Out of many such wise souls only one may become liberated from birth and death, and out of many such liberated persons, it’s very difficult to find a great devotee. Krishna says the same thing in Bhagavad Gita, “Out of many thousands of men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth”. The great souls may be rare on this earth but by God’s mercy one can attain the association of such souls. One must always strive to attain that holy company alone. Because such association and communion with great souls never fails to transform the devotee.

Staying away from unholy company

Further, Narada stresses that the company of the unholy should be avoided by all means, because it brings in its train, lust, anger, infatuation, loss of remembrance of God, loss of the power of reasoning and complete ruin. Even a devotee who is practicing devotional service in the renounced order can fall down due to bad association. Krishna also says this in Bhagavad Gita “While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises. From anger complete delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost one falls down again into the material pool”.

With bad association, wrong habits begin like a ripple but eventually turn into an ocean leading to endless suffering and ultimately complete destruction. Until we are completely liberated we maintain seeds of destruction within us, and we should not allow them to grow by wrong association. A devotee’s desires may seem to be entirely subdued,
but it is actually present in a very reduced state. If given a fresh opportunity, his material desires will strike again. Therefore a devotee should avoid bad company at any cost and immerse himself in listening to and singing the glory of God in the company of Holy men.

This concludes #5 of Bhakti Yoga. A summary of the Sutras 34 to 45 of Narada Bhakti Sutras that describes the ways of attaining devotion and the importance of keeping right company.

Coming up Next: #6 – Crossing the ocean of Delusion (NBS 46 to 50)

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