Chapter 4: Pure and Mixed Devotion

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Nārada Bhakti Sūtra 59

pramāṇāntarasyānapekṣatvāt svayaḿ pramāṇatvāt


pramāṇa — means of valid knowing; antarasya — another; an-apekṣatvāt — because of not being dependent on; svayamin its own right; pramāṇatvāt — because of being a valid authority.


The reason devotional service is the easiest of all spiritual processes is that it does not depend on any other authority for its validity, being itself the standard of authority.


Pramāṇa means proof. Vaiṣṇava philosophers condense all the different types of pramāṇas into three: pratyakṣa, anumāna, and śabda. Pratyakṣa means direct evidence by the senses. But since the senses are imperfect, pratyakṣa often has to be corrected by higher knowledge. Anumāna refers to deductive and inductive logic, which depends on the validity of its premises and reasons, and so cannot prove anything with final certainty. Śabda means receiving knowledge from authoritative sources. Vedic knowledge is śabda-pramāṇa. This is particularly applicable to transcendental subject matter, which cannot be understood by the empirical and theorizing methods. Even in ordinary affairs, there are many things we have to accept on authority. We can learn the identity of our father from our mother, the only foolproof authority. Aside from the mother there is no way to know for sure who our father is. When the source of information is perfect, as in Vedic knowledge, then śabda-pramāṇa, or śabda-brahma, becomes the ultimate proof. As Śrīla Prabhupāda states, "As far as the soul's existence is concerned, no one can establish his existence experimentally beyond the proof of śruti, or Vedic wisdom" (Bg. 2.25, purport).

Aside from the proof of śāstra and guru, Nārada has taught that the truth of bhakti is proven by one's directly experiencing its fruits in one's own life. In Sūtras 31 and 32, Nārada gives the analogy of how a man's hunger cannot be appeased just by looking at a meal. It is not enough to hear that a particular food preparation has a very sweet and delicious flavor. Even if you know all the dish's ingredients, that knowledge will not satisfy your hunger. In the same way, mere theoretical knowledge of God does not bring pleasure — either to God or to the individual soul. Bhakti has to be directly perceived. Śrīla Prabhupāda used to say that when you become Kṛṣṇa conscious no one has to give you a certificate or diploma saying, "You are now Kṛṣṇa conscious." You'll know it for yourself.

The potency of bhakti to purify one's heart is proved by the loss of material desires. Those who come to Kṛṣṇa consciousness after years of sinful life know this proof very well. Their renunciation of meat-eating, intoxicants, and illicit sex is not an act of repression but is based on tasting a higher pleasure. And so bhakti is its own proof.

Nondevotees may ask for empirical proof: "Show us your Kṛṣṇa. Prove that He is God. We want to see Him lift Govardhana Hill." But their demand for proof cannot be satisfied in that way. Lord Kṛṣṇa reveals Himself in His original form only to His devotees:

nāhaḿ prakāśaḥ sarvasya yoga-māyā-samāvṛtaḥ

mūḍho 'yaḿ nābhijānāti loko mām ajam avyayam

"I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My internal potency, and therefore they do not know that I am unborn and infallible" (Bg. 7.25).

To the atheists, God gives proof of His existence when He appears as death and takes everything away. But God does not manifest His internal potency to the faithless. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "Even if one is perfected by realization of impersonal Brahman or localized Paramātmā, he cannot possibly understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, without being in Kṛṣṇa consciousness" (Bg. 7.26, purport).

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