Chapter 2: Defining Bhakti

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Nārada Bhakti Sūtra 28

tasyā jñānam eva sādhanam ity eke


tasyāḥ — of it (bhakti); jñānam — knowledge; eva — alone; sādhanam — the means; iti — thus; eke — some.


Some say that knowledge is the means for developing devotion.


In this and the following two sūtras Nārada discusses the relation between knowledge and bhakti.

Is bhakti based on knowledge? Acquiring knowledge is certainly an important part of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. In the beginning of the Bhagavad-gītā, Kṛṣṇa reprimands Arjuna for "speaking learned words" but acting like one in ignorance. Kṛṣṇa thus becomes the guru of Arjuna and begins by teaching him about the immortality of the soul. Indeed, throughout the Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa gives Arjuna essential knowledge concerning devotional service. Lord Caitanya also took the role of teacher in His pastimes with Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī, and Rūpa and Sanātana Gosvāmīs.

Kṛṣṇa conscious knowledge is not jñāna in the impersonal sense but is rather knowledge of the soul, God, and God's energies, with a bhakti conclusion. It is obvious, therefore, that knowledge helps one practice bhakti. Sometimes Śrīla Prabhupāda was asked, "How can a person without knowledge know if a spiritual master is bona fide?" Śrīla Prabhupāda replied that to know who a bona fide spiritual master is, one must first have some idea of what a spiritual master is. He gave the example that if someone wants to buy gold, he had better learn about gold and the gold market. Otherwise, he will be easily cheated. Or if someone wants to attend a college, he has to research the qualifications of various universities, their entrance requirements, and so on. So knowledge is certainly an important component of bhakti. Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote his books with the aim of distributing transcendental knowledge, and in his Bhagavad-gītā he wrote, "Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation."

Yet although knowledge is important, it is not an absolute requisite for bhakti. If Kṛṣṇa likes, He can immediately bestow enlightenment upon any person, regardless of his education. And in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.2.7), Sūta Gosvāmī declares,

vāsudeve bhagavati bhakti-yogaḥ prayojitaḥ

janayaty āśu vairāgyaḿ jñānaḿ ca yad ahaitukam

"By rendering devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, one immediately acquires causeless knowledge and detachment."

Therefore, while knowledge may help one to take up and prosecute bhakti, the contention that knowledge is the source of bhakti is false.

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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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