Monday Morning Greetings 2022 #17 – How Bhakti Works Part 2

April 25th, 2022

How Bhakti Works Part 2 [1]

Analogies are a great way to communicate an idea. I just made up one. Just as a piece of paper burns only when the rays focused upon it through a magnifying glass are concentrated without break for a prolonged time, similarly the practices of bhakti, such as japa meditation, only bear the full fruit of realization when concentration is prolonged over a period without interruption.


Śrī Caitanya exemplified this principle by spending the last years of His life with protracted and uninterrupted focus on the holy name. He showed, however, that such focus on the holy name, like absorption on any object, is best achieved not just by will power alone, but when there is an emotional connection with that object. In the case of Śrī Caitanya, His absorption in the holy name was nourished by the most consummate emotion—a relationship in love—specifically the highest love, which manifests in relationship to God. To develop that relationship with the holy name He basically did two things: Visit the temple and worship Lord Jagannatha, the form of the person whose name He was chanting, and sit in His bhajan kuṭīra in Puri listening to the stories and songs of the person whose name He was chanting based on the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam from His most confidential associates, Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya and Śrī Svarūpa Dāmodara.


In fact, it was so important for Śrī Caitanya’s full absorption in nama bhajan to properly hear the appropriate poetic songs and stories to deepen His relationship with the holy name, that many well-wishing scholars worked diligently writing compositions to inspire Him.


Śrīla Prabhupāda also stressed that although of all the nine items of devotional service chanting is the best, it must be accompanied by hearing about Śrī Krishna, especially from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, to ensure that one’s chanting has some feeling and efficacy.


“When we speak of hearing and chanting, it means that not only should one chant and hear the holy name of the Lord as Rama, Krishna (or systematically the sixteen names Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare) but one should also read and hear the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in the association of devotees.” (Bhag. 2.2.30, Purport)


In summary, to the extent our focus is concentrated on God, especially in the form of the holy name, is the extent to which we begin to feel the energy of devotion between us and God, which is called prema.[2] Concentration is most pronounced, however, when there is sambandha, a relationship between us and God, which awakens or is inspired by hearing the philosophy and stories of Krishna. And that is how bhakti works!


“When one reaches the lotus feet of Lord Krishna at Goloka Vrindavan, the watering process of hearing and reading, as also chanting of the holy name in the pure devotional stage, fructifies, and the fruits grown there in the form of love of God are tangibly tasted by the devotee, even though he is here in the material world.” (Bhag. 2.2.30, Purport)


[1] Part 1 can be found here – https://wavesofdevotion.com/2020/03/30/how-bhakti-works/

[2] I am using the term “prema” here not for the highest stage of devotion, but in general to indicate devotion, the natural energy of affection between two people in a relationship.

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