Chapter 4: Pure and Mixed Devotion

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Nārada Bhakti Sūtra 68

kaṇṭhāvarodha-romāśrubhiḥ parasparaḿ lapamānāḥ pāvayanti kulāni pṛthivīḿ ca


kaṇṭha — of the throat; avarodha — with blockage; roma — with bodily hair (standing erect); aśrubhiḥ — and with tears; parasparam — among one another; lapamānāḥ — conversing; pāvayanti — they purify; kulāni — their communities; pṛthivīm — the earth; ca — and.


Conversing among one another with throats choked, hair standing on end, and tears flowing, the Lord's intimate servants purify their own followers and the whole world.


One may ask, "Does Nārada expect me to also become a great devo-tee and experience such ecstasy?" The answer is yes, the ecstasy of devotional service is open to all. But a humble devotee may think himself unfit to experience the advanced stages of Kṛṣṇa consciousness for many lifetimes. We may respond best to a sūtra like this by trying to appreciate, at least slightly, the wonderful influence of the great souls who have come to this earth. This will inspire us to seek the association of the servants of the servants of such great souls, to assist them in their mission, and to receive shelter from them against the world of māyā.

The symptoms of ecstasy should not be imitated, but it is not wrong to aspire to experience them. In The Nectar of Devotion, Rūpa Gosvāmī encourages us to develop a spontaneous attachment for serving the Lord without any desire for profit. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes,

In other words, one should learn how to cry for the Lord. One should learn this small technique, and one should be very eager and actually cry to become engaged in some particular type of service. This is called laulyam, and such tears are the price for the highest perfection. [The Nectar of Devotion, p. 84]

The absence of warm or spontaneous feelings for the Lord may indicate that we are still committing one or more of the ten offenses against the holy name, or that we are indulging in some of the vices mentioned in the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra. As Lord Caitanya, taking the role of the neophyte, laments in His Śikṣāṣṭaka (2), "I am so unfortunate that I commit offenses while chanting the holy name, and therefore I do not achieve attachment for chanting."

Although the bodily transformations symptomatic of ecstatic love of God (bhāva) are sometimes exhibited by great souls, pretenders may imitate them. Real bhāva, however, is manifested by steady symptoms:

Bhāva is definitely displayed in the matter of cessation of material desires (kṣānti), utilization of every moment in the transcendental loving service of the Lord (avyartha-kālatvam [Cc.Madhya 23.18-19]), eagerness for glorifying the Lord constantly (nāma-gāne sadā ruciḥ), attraction for living in the land of the Lord (prītis tad-vasati-sthale [Cc.Madhya 23.18-19]), complete detachment from material happiness (viraktiḥ), and pridelessness (māna-śūnyatā). One who has developed all these transcendental qualities is really possessed of the bhāva stage, as distinguished from the stonehearted imitator or mundane devotee. [Bhāg. 2.3.24, purport]

The influence of pure devotees of the Lord is very great. Their conversations are entirely Kṛṣṇa conscious, and that is why they purify everyone who hears them, and even the place they inhabit. When bona fide devotees perform kṛṣṇa-kīrtana or discuss topics concerning Kṛṣṇa, the Lord is personally present:

The topics of Lord Kṛṣṇa are so auspicious that they purify the speaker, the hearer, and the inquirer. They are compared to the Ganges waters, which flow from the toe of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Wherever the Ganges waters go, they purify the land and the person who bathes in them. Similarly, kṛṣṇa-kathā, or the topics of Kṛṣṇa, are so pure that wherever they are spoken the place, the hearer, the inquirer, the speaker, and all concerned become purified. [Bhāg. 2.1.1, purport]

The practical effect of a devotee's influence is that people take up spiritual life and abandon their sinful habits. Without devotional reform in society, humanity will degrade to a barbaric species. Prabhupāda writes, "Men face each other in enmity just like cats and dogs snarling. Śrī Īśopaniṣad cannot give advice to the cats and dogs, but it delivers the message of Godhead to man through the bona fide ācāryas, or holy teachers" (Īśopaniṣad 1, purport).

At least on an individual basis every sane person should save himself by coming forward to render service and to hear from Vaiṣṇavas of the caliber Nārada describes in this sūtra. If one is under the protection of a pure devotee and sincerely renders service to him in bhakti-yoga, one will be able to counteract all sinful reactions, including the accumulated sinful karma of the whole world population. Nārada praises the influence of devotees, but Lord Kṛṣṇa praises the influence of Nārada:

If someone is able, by chance, to see face to face a great saintly person like Nārada, who is always serene and merciful to everyone, then immediately that conditioned soul becomes liberated. This is exactly like being situated in the full light of the sun; there cannot be any visionary impediment. [Kṛṣṇa, p. 97]

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