Chapter 1: The Value of Devotion

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Nārada Bhakti Sūtra 9

tasminn ananyatā tad-virodhiṣūdāsīnatā ca


tasmin — for Him; ananyatā — exclusive dedication; tatto Him; virodhiṣu — for those things which are opposed; udāsīnatā — indifference; ca — and.


Renunciation also means being exclusively dedicated to the Lord and indifferent to what stands in the way of His service.


The exclusive nature of devotional service has also been described by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.1.11):

anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaḿ jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam

ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānu-śīlanaḿ bhaktir uttamā

[Madhya 19.167]

"When first-class devotional service develops, one must be devoid of all material desires, knowledge obtained by monistic philosophy, and fruitive action. The devotee must constantly serve Kṛṣṇa favorably, as Kṛṣṇa desires."

Pure devotees are so exclusive in their intent to serve the Supreme Lord without any reward that they do not accept any kind of liberation, even though it may be offered by the Supreme Lord. This is confirmed in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.29.13).

There is also something called "mixed bhakti," which occurs before the stage of pure devotional service. It is sometimes called prākṛta-bhakti, or devotional service mixed with material desires. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "When one has even a tinge of personal interest, his devotion is mixed with the three modes of material nature" (Bhāg. 3.29.9, purport). Thus mixed devotion can occur in various combinations within the modes of ignorance, passion, and goodness. Śrīla Prabhupāda elaborately explains mixed devotion as follows:

Devotional service in the modes of ignorance, passion, and goodness can be divided into eighty-one categories. There are different devotional activities, such as hearing, chanting, remembering, worshiping, offering prayers, rendering service, and surrendering everything, and each of them can be divided into three categories. There is hearing in the mode of passion, in the mode of ignorance, and in the mode of goodness. Similarly, there is chanting in the mode of ignorance, passion, and goodness, etc.... One has to transcend all such mixed materialistic devotional service in order to reach the standard of pure devotional service. [Bhāg. 3.29.10, purport]

One kind of mixed devotional service is known as jñāna-miśra-bhakti, or devotional service mixed with empiric knowledge. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "People in general, who are under the influence of avidyā-śakti, or māyā, have neither knowledge nor devotion. But when a person who is a little advanced and is therefore called a jñānī advances even more, he is in the category of a jñāna-miśra-bhakta, or a devotee whose love is mixed with empiric knowledge" (Bhāg. 4.9.16, purport).

Nārada's definition of bhakti, being "exclusively dedicated to the Lord," refers to pure devotional service in the liberated stage. This has also been noted by Śrīla Prabhupāda in his commentary on the first sūtra of the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra, wherein he says that pure devotional service begins after the brahma-bhūta, or liberated, stage.

A pure devotee is akāma, free of material desire. He is conscious of his actual position and derives satisfaction only from serving the Supreme Lord. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has explained this desirelessness as bhajanīya-parama-puruṣa-sukha-mātra-sva-sukhatvam in his Sandarbhas. This means that one should feel happy only by experiencing the happiness of the Supreme Lord" (Bhāg. 2.3.10, purport).

In the present sūtra Nārada Muni states that a pure devotee is "indifferent toward what stands in the way of [the Lord's] service." If a devotee encounters some hindrance in his service to the Lord, he prays to the Lord to please remove it. A good example is Queen Kuntī:

atha viśveśa viśvātman viśva-mūrte svakeṣu me

sneha-pāśam imaḿ chindhi dṛḍhaḿ pāṇḍuṣu vṛṣṇiṣu

tvayi me 'nanya-viṣayā matir madhu-pate 'sakṛt

ratim udvahatād addhā gańgevaugham udanvati

"O Lord of the universe, soul of the universe, O personality of the form of the universe, please, therefore, sever my tie of affection for my kinsmen, the Pāṇḍavas and the Vṛṣṇis. O Lord of Madhu, as the Ganges forever flows to the sea without hindrance, let my attraction be constantly drawn unto You without being diverted to anyone else" (Bhāg. 1.8.41-42).

The supreme examples of devotees who let nothing stand in the way of their service to Kṛṣṇa are the gopīs of Vṛndāvana. And among all the gopīs, the best is Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Her determination to serve Kṛṣṇa is beautifully described in this verse from Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī's Vidagdha-mādhava (3.9):

hitvā dūre pathi dhava-taror antikaḿ dharma-setor

bhańgodagrā guru-śikhariṇaḿ raḿhasā lańghayantī

lebhe kṛṣṇārnava-nava-rasā rādhikā-vāhinī tvāḿ

vāg-vīcībhiḥ kim iva vimukhī-bhāvam asyās tanoṣi

"O Lord Kṛṣṇa, You are just like an ocean. The river of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī has reached You from a long distance — leaving far behind the tree of Her husband, breaking through the bridge of social convention, and forcibly crossing the hills of elder relatives."

Although pure devotion to Lord Kṛṣṇa is exclusive, it is not a narrow-minded, sectarian devotion. Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the source of all emanations; therefore love for Kṛṣṇa includes within it love for all living entities. Śrīla Prabhupāda explained this by the homely example of a girl who marries and joins with her husband's family. Just by the act of marrying one man, she automatically becomes intimately related with his family members, who now become her brothers-in-law, father-in-law, mother-in-law, and so on. Similarly, when we join with Kṛṣṇa by rendering Him loving service, we enter into His family, which includes all living beings. Śrīla Prabhupāda describes this in the preface to The Nectar of Devotion:

The basic principle of the living condition is that we have a general propensity to love someone. No one can live without loving someone else.... The missing point, however, is where to repose our love so that everyone can become happy.... The Nectar of Devotion teaches us the science of loving every one of the living entities perfectly by the easy method of loving Kṛṣṇa. We have failed to create peace and harmony in human society, even by such great attempts as the United Nations, because we do not know the right method.

At the conclusion of the Bhagavad-gītā (18.66), Lord Kṛṣṇa states,

sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaḿ śaraṇaḿ vraja

ahaḿ tvāḿ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi śucaḥ

"Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear." If one hesitates to take up exclusive devotion to the Lord because of obstacles or fear of being lax in other obligations, Kṛṣṇa assures us that there is nothing to fear. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "The particular words used here, śucaḥ, 'Don't fear, don't hesitate, don't worry,' are very significant. One may be perplexed as to how one can give up all kinds of religious forms and simply surrender unto Kṛṣṇa, but such worry is useless."

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