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.
Dhanurdhara Swami August 1st, 2016
Dhanurdhara Swami has started to write his commentary on Nārada-bhakti-sūtra again and we will occasionally on Mondays post one of his commentaries starting today with first one.
A New Commentary by Dhanurdhara Swami
athāto bhaktiṁ vyākhyāsyāmaḥ
Now, therefore, I will try to explain the process of bhakti.
A sūtra is a condensed phrase codifying a larger body of thinking. Most Indian schools of thought systematize their teachings into a series of sūtras to help their students memorize and understand the teachings. Since volumes of meaning have been condensed into very terse aphorisms, sūtras are also accompanied by suitable commentaries to unpack the sūtras meaning. In this way, a student can retain and understand a concise version of an entire philosophical system.
Such sūtras traditionally begin with “atha” (now) to indicate the significance of the school that will be discussed and the urgency to undertake its study. By the word “now” the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra points to the importance and urgency of practicing bhakti-yoga.
By endorsing the path of bhakti, the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra follows the same conclusion as Bhagavad-gītā: After summarizing the various paths of yoga in six chapters, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Gītā’s speaker, concludes, “Of all yogis, one who worships Me with devotion is the highest of all.”
Why do the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra and the Bhagavad-gītā both promote the preeminence of bhakti? Yoga practice revolves around controlling the mind through fixing it on an intended object of meditation. The more efficiently a practice helps such focus, the more effective that practice is said to be. Emotion is by far the most powerful means to fix the mind on a subject. Bhakti-yoga is meditation powered by the emotion of one’s loving relationship with the Divine, usually centered on mantras composed of the beloved names of the Divine. As the mind focuses so naturally on what one loves, bhakti is thus the most powerful form of yoga.
This relationship between the meditator and the object of meditation is not found in other paths, where the object of meditation serves only as a means to achieve something else, and yogis are thus forced to focus the mind by willpower alone: “I must do this if I wish to achieve my goal.” But even the strongest resolve cannot compare to the spontaneous, primal pull of emotion – especially the most powerful emotion of all: consummate devotion (“bhakti”). Thus bhakti-yogis are spontaneously and relatively effortlessly drawn to the focus of their meditation, the singing of the names of their Beloved Lord.
There is another reason bhakti-yoga is considered superior to all other schools. According to yoga philosophy, concentration on any object anchors and steadies the mind. By choosing to meditate on God rather than an inert object, bhakti practitioners have chosen an object that is alive and all-powerful – a being who can reciprocate with their efforts and who has the power to grant success beyond their own capacity. Bhakti is thus often called the path of grace.
Lastly, bhakti is the highest yoga because it alone goes directly to the root cause of karmic bondage: egocentrism and selfishness. Devotion by definition is the antithesis of selfishness; we are not truly devoted if personal motives stain our affection. Bhakti is therefore the soul of selflessness, and as such, it strikes at the heart of our karmic bondage more directly and powerfully than any other path.
Yogic teachings often encourage practitioners to develop a sense of urgency in their spiritual practice because of the value and rarity of human life. The soul transmigrates through millions of species, but only when we take birth in the human species do we have the ability to inquire why we are suffering and rise above our instincts to find a spiritual solution. One who understands this becomes serious about using the gift of human life for spiritual transformation.
Therefore, let us now inquire into bhakti.
admin October 16th, 2012
Narada Bhakti Sutra
yat prāpya na kiñcid vāñchati na śocati na dveṣṭi na ramate notsāhī bhavati
Achieving it, desire and regret, repulsion and attraction, such fervors are no more.
After describing in the previous verse that upon attaining Divine Love one is fully satisfied, Sri Narada now describes the result: “All fervors are no more.”
All passions are naturally caused by a sense of lacking within. And although we seek to fill that void with the passions of wealth, romance, and adoration, we remain unfulfilled because we have failed to realize what is our actual deficiency. Our real need is selfless love. Without it no one, even those at the height of power and opulence, can claim that their deepest yearnings have been fulfilled. On the other hand, if one is filled with selfless love, what more can anyone desire? That is the crux of Sri Narada’s message here in text five.
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