Chapter 4: Pure and Mixed Devotion

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Nārada Bhakti Sūtra 69

tīrthī-kurvanti tīrthāni su-karmī-kurvanti karmāṇi sac-chāstrī-kurvanti śāstrāṇi


tīrthī — into holy places; kurvanti — they make; tīrthāni — the holy places; su-karmī — into auspicious works; kurvanti — they make; karmāṇi — works; satpure; śāstrī — into scriptures; kurvanti — they make; śāstrāṇi — the scriptures.


Their association makes holy places holy, works auspicious, and the scriptures authoritative.


A tīrtha is a place made sacred because the Supreme Lord performed His pastimes there. For example, Vṛndāvana is sacred because Śrī Kṛṣṇa spent His youth there, Navadvīpa because Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu began His sańkīrtana movement there. Places like Dhruva-ghāṭa or Naimiṣāraṇya, where mahā-janas performed devotional service, are also tīrthas. Devotees like to reside in tīrthas and perform their bhajana there, and pilgrims seeking purification go to bathe in the sacred rivers flowing through the sacred sites. But the tīrthas become burdened by the sins of visiting pilgrims, who sometimes commit new sins even while traveling on pilgrimage. In all the religions of the world, commercialism tends to spring up and pollute the famous shrines. Because of this, the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ācārya Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura stated that in the Kali-yuga going on pilgrimage creates bewilderment. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes:

In India it is still a practice that many advanced transcendentalists give up their family lives and go to Vṛndāvana to live there alone and completely engage in hearing and chanting the holy pastimes of the Lord. This system is recommended in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and the six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana followed it, but at the present moment many karmīs and pseudo devotees have overcrowded the holy place of Vṛndāvana just to imitate this process recommended by Śukadeva Gosvāmī. [Kṛṣṇa, p. 881]

To purify the tīrthas of the influence of the nondevotees, saints occasionally visit them. In fact, it is the presence of the saints that actually makes the places holy. If one visits a tīrtha and only does some shopping and takes a ritual bath there, without inquiring from saintly persons, his visit is useless.

When the sage Vidura went to the palace of the Kurus in Hastināpura, Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja praised him with the same words Nārada uses here: tīrthī-kurvanti tīrthānī. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes,

By their actions the pure devotees of the Lord can render any place into a place of pilgrimage, and the holy places are worth the name only on their account. Such pure devotees are able to rectify the polluted atmosphere of any place, and what to speak of a holy place rendered unholy by the questionable actions of interested persons who try to adopt a professional life at the cost of the reputation of the holy place. [Bhāg. 1.13.10, purport]

In a similar passage, the sage Bhagīratha praised the river Ganges and the saints who bathe in her waters: "When such pure devotees bathe in your water, the sinful reactions accumulated from other people will certainly be counteracted, for such devotees always keep in the core of their hearts the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who can vanquish all sinful reactions" (Bhāg. 9.9.6).

If the saints are so influential just by their presence, then we can just imagine how much their acts are worshipable and worth following. Most people's actions result in reactions (karma), but the acts of great souls convert karma into bhakti. Whoever serves a pure devotee gains a permanent spiritual asset, even if he does so unknowingly (ajñāta-sukṛti). Although we cannot expect to equal the deeds of pure devotees, we should not shy away from trying to emulate them. As Śrīla Prabhupāda used to say, "Do as I am doing."

Nārada states that the best devotees add spiritual authority even to the scriptures. A striking example of this is Śrīla Prabhupāda's fulfillment of a prediction of Lord Caitanya's recorded in the Caitanya-bhāgavata:

pṛthivīte āche yata nagarādi-grāma

sarvatra pracāra haibe mora nāma

"In every town and village of the world, My name [the holy name of Kṛṣṇa] will be preached." This statement used to puzzle Vaiṣṇava scholars; some said it was to be taken allegorically. How could mlecchas in Western countries take up the worship of Lord Kṛṣṇa and Lord Caitanya and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa in their towns and cities? But Śrīla Prabhupāda proved the skeptics wrong: On his spiritual master's order and by Lord Caitanya's grace, he created the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement, which quickly spread until newspapers and commentators proclaimed: "Kṛṣṇa Chant Startles London," and " 'Hare Kṛṣṇa' has become a household word."

Śrīla Prabhupāda's preaching of the Bhagavad-gītā provides another example of how the pure devotees give authority to the scriptures. For more than two hundred years before Śrīla Prabhupāda came to the West with Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, the Bhagavad-gītā had been known in Western countries as "the sacred gospel of the Hindus." And yet no one had become a devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa from reading Bhagavad-gītā, although Lord Kṛṣṇa teaches surrender to Him as the goal of the Gītā. But through his realized translations and purports Śrīla Prabhupāda brought life to the text of Bhagavad-gītā, and now thousands of non-Hindus throughout the world are recognizing Lord Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead and becoming His sincere devotees.

Nārada will now explain why saintly persons are so auspicious and influential.

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