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.
Crossing the ocean of Maya
The deluding potency, maya, is God’s own energy and can overcome even a powerful sage. One should not get flirt with maya, thinking that one can transgress a little and then pull back later if it gets too rough. Until we are completely liberated we maintain seeds of destruction within us, and we should not allow them to grow by bad association.
Crossing over maya is sometimes compared to crossing an ocean. At the time of death the conditioned soul has to transmigrate to another material body, and even if he is born in a higher planet, he still has to suffer repeated birth and death. To cross the limits of this ocean of Samsara, he has to go back to God. But this is very difficult, because any material desires, whether sinful or pious, will plunge the conditioned soul back into Samsara.
So ‘Who can cross the ocean of Maya or delusion?’ Narada gives us the answer:
- He who discards bad association
- He who serves great spiritual persons
- He who gives up the ego and possessiveness
- He who dwells in solitary and holy place
- He who overcomes bondage to the pleasures of the world
- He who has gone beyond the 3 Gunas – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas
- He who gives up the idea of acquisition and preservation of objects of enjoyment
- He who gives up the fruits of actions
- He who renounces all actions enjoined by scriptures.
- He who has uninterrupted hankering for God
Such a devotee, indeed, crosses the ocean of illusion, and he also helps the rest of the world.
How a Devotee Achieves Realization
When God is glorified, then He swiftly reveals Himself to His devotees and allows them to know Him as He is. When a devotee sings the glories of the Lord, meditates on Him, keeps himself absolutely pure, remains free from all other preoccupations, and constantly engages in the thoughts of God, realization is not long way off.
Devotion to the eternal Truth alone is the greatest. God is eternally true–in the present, in the past and in the future. He is never non-existent, ever present and eternal–that is the glory of the Lord. Devotion towards such a God is superior. The love of the absolute eternal Truth is the greatest. God alone is eternally existent, everything else exists only for a time; therefore God alone is worthy of our love.
Although bhakti itself is one, it becomes manifested in eleven forms of attachment: attachment to the Lord’s glorious qualities, to His beauty, to worshiping Him, to remembering Him, to serving Him, to reciprocating with Him as a friend, to caring for Him as a parent, to dealing with Him as a lover, to surrendering one’s whole self to Him, to being absorbed in thought of Him, and to experiencing separation from Him. This last is the supreme attachment. Narada has taught us that bhakti is the best of all processes for realizing truth, and he has described the rules and regulations leading to perfection. He has told us that we have to experience bhakti for ourselves, and that it is the highest bliss. Now he indicates in detail the liberality of bhakti by listing 11 ways in which one may render devotional service to realize God.
Narada concludes this is the unanimous opinion of the founding authorities of devotional service: the Kumaras, Vyasa, Suka, Sandilya, Garga, Vishnu, Kaundinya, Sesa, Uddhava, Aruni, Bali, Hanuman, Vibhisana, and others who have all spoken without fear of worldly gossip. Narada says he is not giving any new ideas of his own, different from the experience of other great teachers of bhakti .
Anyone who trusts these instructions spoken by Narada and is convinced by them will be blessed with devotion and attain the most dear Lord. Yes, he will attain the most dear Lord. Narada ends the Bhakti sutras by stating that one has to hear them with faith. Inquiries and even doubts may be placed before the guru, just as Arjuna expressed his doubts before Lord Krishna. But an attitude of disbelief will prevent us from understanding. As Lord Krishna states, “those who are not faithful in this devotional service cannot attain Me, O conqueror of enemies. Therefore they return to the path of birth and death in this material world” (BG. 9.3).
This concludes #6 and final part of Bhakti Yoga. A summary of the Sutras 46 to 50 on how one can cross the ocean of Delusion and Sutras 80 to 84 on how the devotee achieves Realization