Chapter 4: Pure and Mixed Devotion

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Nārada Bhakti Sūtra 56

gauṇī tridhā guṇa-bhedād ārtādi-bhedād


gauṇī — secondary, mixed with the material modes; tridhā — threefold; guṇa — of the material modes; bhedāt — by the differentiation; ārta — of the one who is distressed; ādi — and so on; bhedāt — by differentiation; — or.


Secondary devotional service is of three kinds, according to which of the three material modes predominates, or according to which material motivation — distress and so on — brings one to bhakti.


It may seem as if we have been suddenly dropped from the heights. Nārada has been describing the highest stage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and now he is discussing secondary devotion. But Nārada's course of instruction is well planned, practical, and realistic. He wants us to attain the higher stages, but, as Lord Kṛṣṇa says, vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ: "The great soul who can see Kṛṣṇa everywhere is very rare" (Bg. 7.19). Nārada is therefore bringing our attention to the anarthas within the minds and habits of aspiring bhaktas so that we can work toward the higher stages and not consider pure love of Kṛṣṇa an unattainable dream. On the other hand, if one tries to jump to the higher stages as if such a leap were easy, that is another mistake (committed by the prākṛta-sahajiyās), which causes a great disturbance to both oneself and society.

The preparatory stages of bhakti are called secondary devotion, and they are necessary for those who are still affected by the modes of nature. Lord Kṛṣṇa describes the motivations for such secondary devotion in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.16):

catur-vidhā bhajante māḿ janā sukṛtino 'rjuna

ārto jijñāsur arthārthī jñānī ca bharatarṣabha

"O best among the Bhāratas, four kinds of pious men begin to render devotional service unto Me: the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute."

This Bhagavad-gītā verse occurs just after Lord Kṛṣṇa describes the four kinds of persons who never surrender to the Lord. Those who are devoted to the Supreme Lord, even while seeking to fulfill material desires, are called sukṛtinaḥ, or pious souls. Their good qualification is that they have turned to God. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (2.3.10), Śukadeva Gosvāmī encourages everyone, no matter what his present condition, to take up kṛṣṇa-bhakti:

akāmaḥ sarva-kāmo mokṣa-kāma udāra-dhīḥ

tīvreṇa bhakti-yogena yajeta puruṣaḿ param

"A person who has broader intelligence, whether he be full of all material desire, without any material desire, or desiring liberation, must by all means worship the supreme whole, the Personality of Godhead."

The sukṛtīs who are not yet on the platform of unalloyed devotion can be purified by association with pure devotees. Of course, if one remains stuck in this lower stage, then he will be discontented. What prevents a devotee from advancing is the desire for bhukti (enjoyment of material objects) or mukti (liberation). In the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.22), Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī describes bhukti and mukti as two witches who haunt the conditioned souls and keep them from experiencing the bliss of bhakti. Actual devotional service is anyābhilāṣitā-śūnya, service rendered favorably to the Lord without desire for material profit or speculation (see Bhagavad-gītā 7.16, purport).

The devotees who serve Kṛṣṇa in order to satisfy selfish desires are called sakāma-bhaktas. Those who serve purely, without such desires, are akāma devotees. When a sakāma devotee continues to render devotional service, the Supreme Lord turns him from a sakāma- into an akāma-bhakta. The devotee begins to realize that the taste of serving Kṛṣṇa is the real goal and pleasure, and his desires for other things begin to dwindle. This auspicious change of heart occurs by the potency of Śrī Kṛṣṇa working through the process of bhakti. As stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (5.19.27),

The Supreme Personality of Godhead fulfills the material desires of a devotee who approaches Him with such motives, but He does not bestow benedictions upon the devotee that will cause him to demand benedictions again. However, the Lord willingly gives the devotee shelter at His feet, even though such a person does not aspire for it, and that shelter satisfies all his desires. That is the Supreme Personality's special mercy.

Lord Kṛṣṇa substitutes the nectar of His service for one's attraction to petty things. Who else could do this but the merciful and all-knowing Personality of Godhead? The stage of secondary devotion, therefore, is not meant for permanent residence; rather, it is an auspicious stage from which to go forward. Since any progress the conditioned soul makes toward the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord is favorable for him, secondary devotional service is not unimportant, just as the first steps a baby takes as he attempts to walk are crucial for his development.

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