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Translations of various devotional texts.

Obstacles on the Path of Bhakti - PBC 27

Madhava - Sat, 15 Jun 2002 17:20:32 +0530
In the quest for prema, overcoming obstacles is a vital necessity. Sometimes there are seemingly small things we disregard, which results in being blocked from the path of progress.

The following is an excerpt from Pandit Ananta Das Baba's commentary on Narottama Das Thakur's Prema Bhakti Candrika, verse 27.
Madhava - Sat, 15 Jun 2002 17:24:39 +0530
Prema Bhakti Candrika, verse 27

asat kriyA kuTinATI, chADo anya paripATI
anya deve nA koriho rati
Apana Apana sthAne, pIriti sabhAya TAne,
bhakti pathe paDaye vigati

“Give up false activities such as lying, cheating and committing cruel and violent deeds. Give up all other skills and do not become attached to other gods. Love for any individual will pull you to the abode of that individual (demigod) and will cause you to fall from the path of pure devotion.”
Sudha kanika vyakhya

In this tripadi, Srila Thakura Mahasaya mentions some obstacles to the path of bhakti or bhajana which are not easily understood by the sadhaka, but which are practically blocking the path to devotional advancement. First of all he says: asat kriya kutinati, chado anya paripati -- bhakti sadhakas who wish to attain prema must give up all conniving such as asat kriya and kutinati. Lying, acting cruelly, stealing and committing violence are called asat kriya. We will try to discuss here to some extent how the life of a sadhaka gets involved with asat kriya and culminates into powerful obstacles in the form of aparadha. The main result of bhagavad bhakti is bhagavat prema, which arises in the heart of the devotee after removing the contamination of ignorance from the heart through the pure devotional process of hearing and chanting etc. -- this is the conclusion of the bhakti scriptures.

The most terrible obstacle to the attainment of that prema is aparadha. The bhakti scriptures repeatedly tell us that prema cannot be attained as long as this obstacle is still present, even if the devotional limbs like hearing and chanting are being performed. Hence aparadha is a strong consideration amongst vaishnavas. Generally the scriptures describe offences as the 32 sevaparadhas and the ten namaparadhas, but apart from this there are many ordinary sins that are condemned by the scriptures and that result in grave offences to the holy name or to the Deities, and which block the attainment of prema.

Offences committed while having discussions, dealing in buying and selling or joking, offences committed by relentlessly speaking lies, taking others’ property (scriptures and so) without telling, or not returning properties even if they are taken in knowledge, thinking: “He has forgotten that I have taken it, so I won't return it”, relentlessly killing flies, mosquitoes, ants and mice, speaking harsh words while dealing in giving and taking, acting cruelly -- all these things are called asat kriya. These are tiny sins for the ordinary people, but for the sadhakas they result in grave offences, that will be powerful obstacles to obtaining prema. Therefore the diligent bhakta sadhakas must be vigilant about them and proceed on the path of bhakti by giving them up.

In the same way kutinati must be given up. Kutinati means deceitfulness and absorption in other things. Externally commencing the worship of the sadhus, Guru, Vaisnavas and Sri Bhagavan, without having internal faith in them is called kapatata or deceitfulness. In his Bhakti Sandarbha,  Srimat Jiva Gosvamipada has written that this deceitfulness is generated by vaishnava-aparadhas committed both in this life and in previous lives. This duplicity is a powerful obstacle to bhakti. This duplicity must be given up by taking shelter of the saints and by acting in an attractive way to the Guru and the Vaishnavas, so that their grace is attained. Synonyms of duplicity are: chala, caturi, pratarana, vancana, sathata, dhartata and so on. When they are applied to Sri Guru and Vaishnavas, it culminates into a terrible offence. Still repentance never comes to the heart of such a person, but rather he is very satisfied with himself, thinking: “Well done so”. As a result of this, the path to removal of this vice is also blocked. Therefore the sadhaka should always beware that these faults will be no

t be able to find some slit to enter into his heart.

Ulterior desires also cause the practitioner's mind to become absorbed in different mundane things that have nothing to do with Krishna. The minds of those who are thus disturbed by sensual thoughts can never meditate on God. The practitioner should know all worldly, material objects to be perishable and temporary and he should give up his absorption in these disgusting and trifle mundane objects to try to delight his mind with the flavor of the Supreme Lord’s holy names, attributes and pastimes. Another meaning is that the practitioner should give up false activities, such as duplicity -- this can be another explanation.

In the same way the practitioner also has to give up other habits. It is absolutely necessary for the practitioner to give up all pursuits of personal, bodily happiness other than the worship of Sri Krishna, for when there is absorption in bodily happiness the absorption in bhajana will gradually diminish. The practitioner should eat, sleep and seek shelter only in as far as it is favorable for bhajana, both in quality and quantity. If a practitioner takes more than necessary he will become attached to and immersed in these things and his bhajana will be diminished. And if he takes less than required, the body and mind will dry up and that may also harm his bhajana. It is seen in a verse from the Naradiya Purana, quoted in Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu:
yavata syat sva nirvahah svikuryat tavad arthavit |
adhikye nyunatayatm ca cyavate paramarthatah ||

“The knower of necessities accepts only enough bodily sustenance to be able to continue his bhajana. Spiritual life is diminished by taking either too much or too little.”
Many times we imagine missing some bodily facility -- “I cannot live without this, I cannot do without that, if I don't get this I won't manage”. Speaking in this way and running around preaching the surrender-principle of anukulyasya sankalpa (accepting what is favorable) I am busy collecting all kinds of unnecessary facilities for my bodily comfort and pleasure on the pretext of maintaining this body for bhajana. Actually this eagerness for bodily comforts creates a mundane consciousness that diminishes bhajana and that will halt progress on the path of bhajana.