Dhanurdhara Swami November 14th, 2016
sā tv asmin parama-prema-rūpā
The first verse declares that bhakti is the subject of the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra. It also implied that bhakti is the culmination of all spiritual practices. This verse now defines the nature of such bhakti:
It is the topmost love for God.
The topmost love, also called uttama-bhakti, is classically defined as activities done with the exclusive intention to please Kṛṣṇa (God) that are not covered by any selfish desire.
Obviously, real devotion cannot be motivated by personal desire, but why does it have to be for God?
God by definition is the basis of existence, one inclusive of all reality. That means that nothing can be outside of Him. Truly loving God thus means to love everything and everyone, just as watering the root of a tree nourishes the whole tree.
Without loving God, however, one’s love becomes somewhat exclusive and narrow. Your love for someone excludes affection for another, just as watering the leaves of a tree excludes service for the whole tree.
Such love, however, is not restricted to just an immanent being. Loving exchanges with others are essential to the path of bhakti. In fact, one who claims to love God, but who has enmity towards others, is not actually a lover of God. At best, his devotion is of a low or mixed quality.
A true bhakta thus humbly serves those who are more advanced than him or herself in spiritual life, makes friends with his peers, and shows compassion to those in need. And although those relationships entail real affection, they are not limited. Whether as parent for a child or a wife or husband for their partner, the bhakta is united with others with a vision towards the eternal. Seeing the soul, the spark of God in everyone, the devotee naturally serves and loves others as intrinsic parts of God and they naturally satisfy that person’s needs so that they may have peaceful minds to eventually pursue the highest endeavor of awakening God consciousness. *
The nature of bhakti is thus the topmost love, selfless service to God, which is inclusive of his parts and parcels.
* After writing this and having it edited upon casually showing this to a friend I was asked, “Is at best our relationships in this world just a psychological boon. Is there any direct spiritual benefit at all?” In the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī defines Kṛṣṇa as Kṛṣṇa, His parts and parcels and his differentiated energies. So seeing someone as part of God and serving them in a particular relationship cognizant of that fact can also be worship of Kṛṣṇa.