Chapter 2: Defining Bhakti

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Nārada Bhakti Sūtra 20

asty evam evam


astiit is; evam evam — like each of these.


Bhakti is, in fact, correctly described in each of these ways.


The definitions of bhakti given above — by Śrīla Vyāsadeva, Garga Muni, Śāṇḍilya, and Nārada Muni — are not in conflict. While Nārada has given us his own definition, here he says that the others are also valid. Bhakti is in fact a universal principle present at least partially in all theistic religions. Indeed, within many religions one could find a definition of love of God that would not contradict the conclusions of Nārada Muni and the principles of Kṛṣṇa consciousness taught by the followers of Lord Caitanya.

Nārada has defined the highest form of bhakti. But is such a perfect state possible? The answer is yes. Unless devotees from time to time manifest pure bhakti, aspirants on the spiritual path would have nothing to emulate and strive for, and they might conclude that parama-bhakti is only an imaginary ideal. As Lord Caitanya says, dharma-sthāpana-hetu sādhura vyavahāra: "A devotee's behavior establishes the true purpose of religious principles" (Cc. Madhya 17.185).

Once Sanātana Gosvāmī pretended to be devoted to a sannyāsī named Mukunda Sarasvatī, rather than to Lord Caitanya. When Lord Caitanya's intimate servant Jagadānanda Paṇḍita saw Sanātana's behavior, he became very angry and threatened to beat Sanātana. Sanātana then revealed his purpose: "My dear Jagadānanda Paṇḍita, you are a greatly learned saint. No one is dearer to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu than you. This faith in Lord Caitanya befits you quite well. Unless you demonstrate it, how could I learn such faith?" (Cc. Antya 13.59).

We have seen the example of complete self-surrender and dedication of one's activities to Kṛṣṇa in the life of His Divine Grace

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda. Śrīla Prabhupāda's sanctity was not a private affair: he gave of himself profusely and was empowered to bring thousands of people to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Thus he perfectly fulfilled the criterion given by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura — that one can tell the quality of a Vaiṣṇava by how many persons he convinces to become Vaiṣṇavas. By his personal preaching, by his books, and by the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement he created and nurtured, Śrīla Prabhupāda showed the example of a life dedicated purely to pleasing Kṛṣṇa. The potency of his acts continues as an ongoing legacy, accessible to anyone interested in taking up the path of bhakti-yoga. We are assured, therefore, of finding examples of perfect bhakti in the past, at present, and in the future.

Here Nārada states that each authority he has quoted has described bhakti in his own authentic way. But in the next sūtra Nārada will say that the gopīs of Vraja are exemplars of bhakti. Of the brief definitions of bhakti given in Sūtras 16 through 19, we find that Nārada's own definition best fits the gopīs: "Bhakti consists of offering one's every act to the Supreme Lord and feeling extreme distress in forgetting Him."

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His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, Founder Ācārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
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