|Chapter 2: Defining Bhakti|
Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Narada Bhakti Sutra 18
atma -- in relation with the Supreme Soul; rati -- of pleasure; avirodhena -- by freedom from obstruction; iti -- so; sandilyah -- Sandilya.
Sandilya says that bhakti results from one's removing all obstructions to taking pleasure in the Supreme Self.
Sandilya speaks of atma-rati, "taking delight in the self." But what does "taking delight in the self" mean? According to the science of bhakti, that which delights the individual self (jivatma) is devotional service unto the Supreme Self, the Personality of Godhead. Srila Prabhupada comments in The Nectar of Devotion (p. 288), "The devotees and self-realized persons who are engaged in preaching the glories of the Lord always maintain an ecstatic love for the Lord within their hearts. Thus they are benefited by the rays of the ecstatic moon, and they are called saintly persons." The state of brahma-bhuta, or the joy of discovering one's eternal nature, is only the beginning of spiritual life. Mukti, or liberation, when conceived of as impersonal liberation from birth and death, is also not the ultimate goal. As stated in the Adi Purana, "A person who is constantly engaged in chanting the holy name and who feels transcendental pleasure, being engaged in devotional service, is certainly awarded the facilities of devotional service, and never given just mukti" (The Nectar of Devotion, p. 104). There are many other statements in the Vedic scriptures that prove devotional service surpasses all other forms of liberation. In the Damodarashtaka, part of the Padma Purana, a devotee prays,
varam deva moksham na mokshavadhim va
na canyam vrine 'ham varesad apiha
idam te vapur natha gopala-balam
sada me manasy avirastam kim anyaih
"O Lord Damodara, although You are able to give all kinds of benedictions, I do not pray to You for the boon of impersonal liberation, nor for the highest liberation of eternal life in Vaikuntha, nor for any other, similar boon. O Lord, I simply wish that this form of Yours as baby Gopala in Vrindavana may ever be manifest in my heart, for what is the use to me of any other boon besides this?" (Damodarashtaka 4).
A transcendentalist may seek atma-rati in impersonal realization before he hears the glories of devotional service from pure devotees. For example, the four Kumaras and Sukadeva Gosvami were all Brahman-realized -- but they were never offensive to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As soon as the Kumaras and Sukadeva were introduced to pure Krishna consciousness, they at once gave up their impersonal conceptions and became eager to render devotional service to the Lord. But stubborn Mayavadis who deride devotional service are in a different category. Lord Caitanya declared that the Mayavadis are great offenders to the Lord and that one should avoid their association.
A typical example of Mayavadi poison is their interpretation of the word atma-rati in this sutra. The Mayavadi claims that the worship (puja) and talking of the Lord (krishna-katha) mentioned in the two previous sutras are meant to lead one beyond the Personality of Godhead to the atma. This is the impersonalist's timeserving attitude toward bhakti. He will worship the Lord and hear His lila, but with the aim of finally denying the Personality of Godhead. He mistakenly thinks his meditation will lead him to realize that he is the all-pervading Brahman: "I am everything."
But if, as the Mayavadis claim, the ultimate bliss is to know that "I am God," then why has that bliss been missing up until now? If my identity is actually one in all respects with the all-pervading Godhead, then how did that identity become covered? What force has overcome the supreme atma? The fact is that the individual atmas, being tiny, are prone to be covered by maya, while the supreme atma, the Personality of Godhead, is never covered by maya or separated from His sac-cid-ananda-vigraha [Bs. 5.1], His spiritual form of eternity, bliss, and knowledge. So while the individual soul can never become God -- because he never was God -- he can strive for his constitutional perfection as the eternal loving servant of God.
The Mayavadis are consistently defeated by the direct statements of Vedic scriptures. In the beginning of the Bhagavad-gita (2.12), Lord Krishna makes it clear that both He and the individual atmas eternally exist as distinct entities. On the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, where two huge armies had massed for war, Krishna said to Arjuna,
na tv evaham jatu nasam na tvam neme janadhipah
na caiva na bhavishyamah sarve vayam atah param
"Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings, nor in the future shall any of us cease to be." Krishna reiterates this idea later in the Bhagavad-gita (15.7): mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah. "The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts." Also, the Rig Veda and the Upanishads state that the individual atma and the Paramatma both reside in the heart of the living being, just as two birds sit in a tree. By the mercy of the Paramatma, or "God in the heart," the individual atma may come to realize his eternal, blissful state of loving service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Attempts at concocting a bhakti devoid of eternal service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead are the works of demoniac minds. For genuine bhakti to exist, there must always be three factors: Bhagavan (the Supreme Lord), the bhakta (the eternal, subordinate servitor), and bhakti (loving exchanges between Bhagavan and the bhakta).
The Mayavadis ignore or distort the direct statements of the scriptures, as well as the words of the maha-janas. We need not discuss their interpretations here, except to note that the Mayavadis are often attracted to the bhakti-sastras because they find their own meditations too dry. Thus they approach books like the Bhagavad-gita, the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the Narada-bhakti-sutra, but with an intention opposed to the aims of bhakti. By preaching that the forms of Lord Vishnu and His incarnations are material, the Mayavadi commits a severe offense against the Lord. As Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (9.11-12),
avajananti mam mudha manushim tanum asritam
param bhavam ajananto mama bhuta-mahesvaram
moghasa mogha-karmano mogha-jnana vicetasah
rakshasim asurim caiva prakritim mohinim sritah
"Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature as the Supreme Lord of all that be. Those who are thus bewildered are attracted by demoniac and atheistic views. In that deluded condition, their hopes for liberation, their fruitive activities, and their culture of knowledge are all defeated."
We can experience true atma-rati only in the context of our eternal loving relationship with Krishna, the reservoir of all pleasure. Even when we seek happiness with our material senses, we are indirectly seeking atma-rati. We derive pleasure with the eyes or tongue or ears only because the atma is present within the living body. Therefore bodily pleasure depends on the existence of the atma. Furthermore, the atma's pleasure is dependent on the Paramatma. And the Paramatma is an expansion of Sri Krishna, the original form of the Personality of Godhead. So in all circumstances we are looking for our blissful relationship with Krishna. Self-satisfaction actually means the satisfaction of serving and loving Krishna, the Supreme Self.
Copyright (c) The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
Gopiparanadhana dasa Adhikari