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The Universality of Bhakti - From Madhurya-kadambini
braja - Wed, 23 Mar 2005 20:54:50 +0530
Exalted mahajans have hence asserted that bhakti, or devotion to the Supreme Lord, is the highest duty, the topmost mystic path, and the supreme good. One of bhakti’s distinct features is its universality. Any person can perform Hari bhajan, anywhere and in any situation. Bhakti brings supreme auspiciousness for all, regardless of whether one is sinful, piously following Vedic principles (sadAcArI), intelligent or foolish, renounced or materially attached, desirous of liberation (mumukSu) or liberated (mukta), accomplished in devotion (siddha) or a failure, a new or eternal associate of the Lord (parSada). There is no obstacle for anyone to follow this universally accessible path of spiritual life, so everyone should accept it without fear.
(Piyusha-kana commentary of Ananta Das Baba)
braja - Wed, 23 Mar 2005 21:15:18 +0530
mUrkho vadati viSNAya dhIro vadati viSNave
ubhayos tu samaM puNyaM bhAva-grAhI janArdanaH
An illiterate person says viSNAya, while a learned person says viSNave. Both get the same result, since the Lord takes only the intention into account. (Cbh. 1.11.108)
Though a small child speaks to his parents in broken language, the affectionate mother and father relish this much more than their older children’s clear speech. So it is with devotion: the Lord appreciates even the illiterate devotee’s feelings of devotion and his intent to please, even though such a devotee may utter his prayers incorrectly.
braja - Wed, 23 Mar 2005 21:26:30 +0530
[And now to the section that I actually wanted to quote]
1.11 Material desires are not an unsurpassable obstacle to bhakti
TRANSLATION: Although lust is also considered a fault on the path of bhakti, one can still enter the devotional path, despite being still afflicted by it and other material desires. The Bhagavatam says: “Whoever faithfully hears and narrates the loving pastimes of Sri Krishna with the ladies of Vraja attains the topmost devotion for the Lord, then swiftly becomes steady and conquers over the senses, giving up lust, the disease of the heart.” (10.33.40)
In this text, the word parilabhya (“attain”) is a gerund, indicating that one’s attaining devotion precedes one’s becoming steady, etc. In other words, the topmost devotion first enters the aspiring devotee despite his having the disease of the heart; then, in its supremely autonomous manner, it subsequently removes his lusty desires.
Even if lusty desires continue to exist in someone practicing devotion, there are many verses that show he is not to be condemned: “Even if a most sinful person worships me with undivided commitment...” (Gita 9.30) and “Though obstructed by the sense objects, my devotee...” (11.14.18).
The messengers of Vishnu described Ajamila as a devotee in the Bhagavatam, “Ajamila uttered the name of the Lord, though he was calling his son’s name out of affection.” Though Ajamila and others were engaged in nothing more than facsimiles of devotion, they are still praised by everyone as devotees.
With karma yoga and jnana yoga, perfection depends on the proper conditions of heart, materials, place, and so on; lack of such purity obstructs the attainment of their respective fruits. Bhakti, however, infuses life into them. Karma, jnana, and yoga are thus always dependent on bhakti; their lack of independence means they are nourished by certain factors and obstructed by others.
Piyusha-kana explanation: At the end of his recital of the Rasa lila, the crown jewel of Krishna’s pastimes, Shukadeva Muni describes the most powerful glories of devotion—
... [HK needed]
Whoever faithfully hears and narrates the loving pastimes of Sri Krishna with the ladies of Vraja attains the topmost devotion for the Lord, then swiftly becomes steady and conquers over the senses, giving up lust, the disease of the heart. (BhAg. 10.33.40)
The finite verb in this verse is apahinoti, while parilabhya is a gerund, so “attaining the highest devotion to the Lord” is the first result of hearing and speaking about Krishna’s Rasa lila, and is followed and completed by “swiftly giving up lust, the disease of the heart.” Thus it is clearly established that the symptoms of topmost loving devotion are already present even while lust has not yet been conquered, and only later, by the powerful and independent force of bhakti, will the heart’s disease of lust be destroyed. Sanatan Goswami says in his VaiSNava-toSaNI commentary to this verse:
atra tu hRd-rogapahAnAt pUrvam eva parama-bhakti-prAptiM,
tasmAt parama-balavad evedaM sAdhanam iti bhAvaH.
Our normal expectation is that the heart would need to first be cleansed of its impurities before one could attain the topmost devotion. Since that order is reversed here, it is being announced to us that hearing or describing the Rasa lila is a supremely powerful spiritual activity.
Sanatan Prabhu further explains that the words parA bhakti (“topmost devotion”) in this verse refer to the most exalted prema bhakti, which exists in the Vraja gopis alone.
The single point is perhaps one of the most misunderstood. It is crucial, a life saver, both individually and institutionally. Besides which, it is simply beautiful!
Madanmohan das - Thu, 24 Mar 2005 17:35:55 +0530
Gaaaauuuura hari bol!
How very encouraging!