Chapter 2: Defining Bhakti

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Nārada Bhakti Sūtra 24

nāsty eva tasmiḿs tat-sukha-sukhitvam


na — there is not; eva — indeed; tasminin it; tat — His; sukhain the happiness; sukhitvam — finding happiness.


In such false devotion one does not find pleasure exclusively in the Lord's pleasure.


As already explained, lust is as different from love as iron is from gold. Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja states,

ātmendriya-prīti-vāñchātāre bali 'kāma'

kṛṣṇendriya-prīti-icchā dhare 'prema' nāma

"The desire to gratify one's own senses is kāma [lust], but the desire to please the senses of Lord Kṛṣṇa is prema [love]" (Cc. Ādi 4.165). Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī expresses Her pure love for Kṛṣṇa in this way:

"I do not mind My personal distress. I only wish for the happiness of Kṛṣṇa, for His happiness is the goal of My life. However, if He feels great happiness in giving Me distress, that distress is the best of My happiness" (Cc. Antya 20.52).

Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja informs us, "The gopīs have no inclination for their own enjoyment, and yet their joy increases. That is indeed a contradiction." The solution to this contradiction is that "the joy of the gopīs lies in the joy of their beloved Kṛṣṇa" (Cc. Ādi 4.188-89). Although the gopīs are the leaders in this selfless love for the Lord, all Vaiṣṇavas share in this sentiment. When Lord Nṛsiḿhadeva wanted to offer a benediction to Prahlāda Mahārāja, who had undergone so much suffering on the Lord's account, Prahlāda declined. He said he had not performed his devotional service in the mood of a merchant seeking profit in exchange for service: "O my Lord, I am Your unmotivated servant, and You are my eternal master. There is no need for our being anything other than master and servant. You are naturally my master, and I am naturally Your servant. We have no other relationship" (Bhāg. 7.10.6).

In a similar mood, Mādhavendra Purī underwent difficult austerities in order to carry a load of sandalwood for the sake of his beloved Gopāla Deity. Mādhavendra walked thousands of miles through territory governed by Muhammadans and filled with thieves and watchmen. Describing Mādhavendra's service, Lord Caitanya said, "This is the natural result of intense love of Godhead. The devotee does not consider personal inconveniences or impediments. In all circumstances he wants to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead" (Cc. Madhya 4.186).

Like the gopīs, all pure devotees feel great happiness when serving Kṛṣṇa, even when that service entails severe austerity. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "It is said that when one sees apparent unhappiness or distress in a perfect Vaiṣṇava, it is not at all unhappiness for him; rather it is transcendental bliss" (Cc. Madhya 4.186, purport).

We may ask, Why does a devotee approach Lord Kṛṣṇa with pure selfless love, seeking only to please Him? To understand the answer to this question, one has to personally experience such love. There are glimmers of such love even in the material world, as in the love a mother feels for her child. Even within the animal kingdom a mother sometimes risks her life to protect her offspring. But pure selfless love exists only in relation to the all-attractive Personality of Godhead. One cannot precisely analyze this love in intellectual terms, but one can experience it with a purified heart.

The secret driving force for the devotees is the all-attractive nature of Kṛṣṇa and the fact that He is the Self of all selves. Śukadeva Gosvāmī explains this in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.50-57), after he relates how Kṛṣṇa expanded Himself into all the calves and cowherd boys of Vṛndāvana. When Kṛṣṇa expanded Himself in this way, the parents of the boys and calves felt increased love for their offspring. Upon hearing the account of this miraculous pastime, Mahārāja Parīkṣit asked, "When Kṛṣṇa expanded Himself, why is it that the boys' parents became more loving toward Him than toward their own sons? Also, why did the cows become so loving toward the calves, more so than toward their own calves?" Śukadeva replied that since what is most attractive to the living being is his own self, and since Kṛṣṇa, as the Supersoul, is the Self of all selves, He is the all-attractive center for everyone. Therefore, when He expanded Himself as the calves and boys of Vṛndāvana, the calves' and boys' parents were more affectionate toward Kṛṣṇa's expansions than toward their own offspring.

By loving Kṛṣṇa, a person realizes his love for all living beings. In other words, universal love is a part of God consciousness. This is expressed in two great commandments of the Bible: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deuteronomy 6:5); and "Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 19:19). Prabhupāda would give a homely example to show how love of God implies universal love: When a man marries a woman, he also gains a relationship with her whole family and may quickly develop affection for his new in-laws. Similarly, if one develops love for Kṛṣṇa, the father of all living beings, one immediately becomes aware of one's loving relationship with all Kṛṣṇa's children. A devotee who even partially realizes his love for Kṛṣṇa wants to work to fulfill Kṛṣṇa's mission in this world, which is to help all living beings end their suffering and go back to Godhead. When one does this not for fame as a preacher and not as a professional business — but as a humble servant meeting all difficulties for the sake of spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness — he becomes the dearmost servant of the Lord. This is the perfection of happiness in spiritual love, and it is completely unlike lust, the desire for one's own pleasure.

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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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