Cultivating Pure Bhakti

Question: My question has a few parts to it and ultimately it is about the nature of studying one’s own mind and inclinations. Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains that tattva bhrama (misconception about the Absolute Reality) is an anartha, since anarthas are impediments on the devotional path, presumably a lack of clarity in terms of siddhanta will dilute our absorption, is this correct?

Answer: Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura is very right in saying that tattva bhrama is an anartha. Anarthas obviously take us away from our goal; that is the very meaning of the word anartha. The simple process, which everybody knows, is that if you want to reach a destination, you have to be very clear about it. If you want to come to Vrindavan, you have to know the exact location and some land marks of Vrindavan, beside the proper road or highway leading to Vrindavan. This is common sense. If you have bhrama, which means having misconceptions or mistaking a wrong thing for the right, then you cannot expect to reach attain this object. If you mistake Koshi for Vrindavan, then you stop there and will not reach Vrindavan. If you mistake brass for gold, you will only have brass. Therefore, tattva bhrama must be uprooted if one is sincere to realize tattva. It is for this reason that acaryas wrote books. Truth is only one but bhramas can be unlimited. Thus there is always a need for the clarification of tattva.

Question: For someone who is intellectually inclined, how important is it to understand tattva and how does one, through gathering the knowledge of the science of devotion, affect his surrender?

Answer: If someone is intellectually inclined, I don’t think there is any need to answer this question. Such a person will not be satisfied with bhrama. The inclination of jijnasa, “desire to know the truth” will keep pushing him or her until the bhrama is removed. It may take a long time, but it is bound to happen. It is only those who are intellectually lazy that get stuck in bhrama.

Krishna and ArjunaCertainly, the better understanding one has of tattva, the deeper will be the surrender. In the very beginning of Bhagavad Gita (2.7), Arjuna surrenders to Krishna, but right after that, he says he will not fight ( 2.9). Then, in the 18th chapter of Bhagavad Gita, Krishna asks Arjuna to surrender (18.66). What was the need for that? Arjuna had already surrendered, but it was the type of surrender commonly seen in the modern day Arjunas. It is like a girl meeting a boy and telling him, “I devote myself to you for the rest of my life.” After hearing this, the boy says, “Surrender to me and I will take care of you.” That means the boy didn’t really believe that she surrendered.

Similarly, Krsna knew that Arjuna was not fully surrendered when Arjuna made that statement in 2.9. After hearing Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna repeats that he is surrendered (18.73), but there is a difference between these two types of surrender. In verse 2.7, Arjuna calls himself one who is bewildered by his duties, dharma-sammudha-cetah, while in verse 18.73, he says that he is free from bewilderment and devoid of any doubts and that he will do whatever Krsna asks him to do. He did not say that he will not fight, rather he fought. So you can see the difference in these two levels of surrender caused by the knowledge that Arjuna gained. Surrender in ignorance or confusion is not very deep.

Question: Secondly, the nature of the Absolute is unlimited. Hence the acaryas recommend absorption in the personal form of Krsna, which I always understood as the blue-hued Lord of Vraja, with a flute, feelingly calling out his loved ones to come and play with Him. However, without a sense of our own place in that lila, without any emotional content driving our remembrance of Krsna, from where will absorption come? Is it just a matter of hearing from the right sources and letting their bhakti flow into our own hearts, that will eventually make us gradually more absorbed?

Answer: The absorption will not come. This is not only your experience, but also the experience of many others. The reason is that as long as there are anarthas in the heart, and tattva bhrama is a big anartha, there is no possibility of absorption. Hearing from the right source is the first step, but not the last. Unless one is free from anarthas, there cannot be any absorption. Anarthas deviate the mind to material objects. The mind is material and thus it is naturally attracted to material objects and actions. It has no inclination to think of anything spiritual. Only when it is imbued with the internal potency, called bhakti, it naturally flows towards of Krsna. Kapila Deva gives the example of the flow of Ganga water towards ocean.

Question: Finally, what is a good balance between outreach and in-reach, because one might find much more absorption in Krsna through the in-reach but one may still be too full of anarthas for taking to such a path exclusively.

Answer: It is very important to understand one’s own mind and nature and then find a suitable balance of in-reach and outreach. Ultimately, spiritual practice is very individual. It is not like producing a product on the assembly line, with every raw material going through the same process. Shastra and the acaryas give basic guidelines, but ultimately one has to find one’s own notch. It is like curing a disease. You can read about it in a medical book. There may be many cures prescribed for it, but the patient has to know what is best suitable for him. For this he needs to consult a good doctor. These days, medical treatment has become very impersonal. You go to a doctor. He prescribes certain tests and bases his treatment on the tests. He may not even ask the patient anything. In spiritual life such impersonalism does not work, although in spirituality also the tendency is towards becoming impersonal. Nowadays disciples do not have much personal contact with the guru. They are given a standard sadhana and some basic guidelines but not much personal guidance. Unfortunately it has become like a manufacturing industry.

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Comments ( 4 )
  1. Govinda Hari Das

    Dandavat Pranam babaji.
    In the Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana it is mentioned that the goal of this Sastra is to obtain realisation of the Supreme God ,by the removal of all false notions that prevent that realisation.Some persons of little intelligence,misunderstanding the sense of the Vedas,began to propound many mistaken theories.All these theories have been put forward as purvapaksa(Anti-thesis)and have been refuted with the proper siddhanta by Sri Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa.
    Baladeva mentions:-An objector may say,”by the mere study of the Vedas one can undestand Brahman; for the study of the Vedas means not merely parrot-like utterances of the Vedic mantras,but undestanding their sense also.Therefore,there is no necessity for the study of the Vedanta Sutras,as the study of the Vedas will refine the heart and incline the mind towards the knowledge of Brahman.’
    To this we reply,says Baladeva,true he will have the general understanding of the sense of the Vedas;but when doubts will arise in his mind,his intellect will be clouded and his faith will be shaken.
    Therefore,the study of the Vedanta Sutras is necessary,so that by proper arguments and reasoning,he may strenghten his position and be firm in his undestanding.Baladeva composed his commentary under the command of Sri Govinda.He recommends that after having studied all the Vedantas from his Guru and all the Upanisads one should study it after having read the Sankhya texts and the sâstras allied to them.Having bathed and performed the morning duties,the teacher and the pupil should study this Bhasya.Finally he says:-As through laziness men are not inclined to study voluminous books,therefore I have composed this concise gloss on the Govinda Bhasya called Suksma Tika.
    In Gita CH 16,23-24, Krishna says:-‘casting aside the ordinances of scriptures,one who acts under the impulse of one material desire,attains neither perfection,happiness,nor the supreme goal.
    Therefore only scripture is your authority in ascertaining what should be done and what should be avoided.You should perform action in this world only after knowing the injunctions of the scriptures.
    Therefore as Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Babaji says there sould be no Tattva Bhrama at all in the performance of a healthy shadana.

    • scooty ram

      Thank you for enlightening piece of information from Govinda Bhasya.

      ” Inquirer will have the general understanding of the sense of the Vedas;but when doubts will arise in his mind,his intellect will be clouded and his faith will be shaken.
      Therefore,the study of the Vedanta Sutras is necessary,so that by proper arguments and reasoning,he may strenghten his position and be firm in his undestanding”

      However in todays setup, we rarely find such kind of inquirer/inquiry. Finding a person who has learnt vedas is rare. Find such a person who has involved himself in karma is rarer and Finding such a person who strives for permanent happiness and perfect knowledge of veda is rarest. If we go by this sutra, not many will be eligible for studying brahma sutra. nevertheless the text definitely straightens the understanding of brahman , process, goal and obstacles in attaining the goal.

  2. Govinda Hari Das

    Thanks, Scooty Ram prabhuji for your words of appreciation.

    ‘bodhayantah parasparam’-enlightening each other-
    ‘With their minds attached to Me and considering Me as their very life,enlightening each other and ever talking about Me,My devotees feel satisfied and take delight in Me’.Gita: 10,9.
    Says Baladeva,’The Vedas,like a great philanthrophist,describe the Supreme Self,by first describing the non-self;this by constant approach towards the true Brahman,by words wich refer to something more and more interior and finer;and ultimately they show Brahman.
    It is something like a person trying to point out the small star Arundhati.He,points out at first some big star near it,and says this is Arundhati;and thus leads unto the true Arundhati.So the sruti first points out the various non-Brahmans,and ultimately points to the true Brahman,the Anandamaya,the inmost’
    Similarly Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa like a great philanthrophist defeated such mistaken doctrines as,that the Vedas teach that the performance of the ritualistic worship and sacrifices was the highest end of men;that Visnu was not the Supreme Entity but subordinate to karma,that the heaven and the fruits of karmas were eternal;that the Jiva and Prakriti were independent in their activities and not subordinate to Isvara;that Brahman itself was the Jiva,and its manifestation as Jiva was only a reflection,or limitation or illusive appearance;that the wheel of birth and death is of the Jiva who was not separate from Brahman itself in pure intelligence-the Jiva being nothing but portion of Brahman called Buddhi,and that release is attained by the meditation on this truth.And ultimately He established
    that the Supreme Visnu is independent,is the Creator of all,has lordship over the whole creation,is Omniscient,is the Highest Goal of men,and is Pure Consciousness.
    The Lord and his name are non-different.Attaining the name is the highest thing.It is mentioned that one who chants the holy name,he has already study all the vedas.Others philosophies exist because people do not want to follow bhakti.Krishna propagates different philosophies,because people do not want to practice Bhakti.The sad darsanas are imaginary,their purpose is to engage non-surrendered people.Knowing other philosophies is good for strengthen one’s faith and to discriminate what is right and what is wrong.
    The sutras of Vyasadeva are so concise and abstruse,that without a commentery they are hardly understood.It is a work of exegetics.
    Says one scholar:”the sage Badarayana intentionally constructed the Sutras in such a way that they may be of universal application,and may not be confined to the exposition of any particular religion or text.They contain universal principles of religion and philosophy,true for all times and ages,and not confined to the sacred literature of the Hindus alone.Baladeva based his commentary mainly on the teachings of the four Vaisnavas schools.No book is considered authoritative unless it belongs to some particular Sampradaya.Sri Chaitanya never wrote any commentary on the Vedanta Sutras,nor did his
    immédiates associates.According to them,the Bhâgavata Purana is the best commentary on the Vedanta Sutras.Baladeva has written many works on Vaisnavism and is perhaps the most learned among the followers of Sri Chaitanya.He has written out of compassion the suksma tika to the Govinda Bhasya to make easier such a complicated book.His explanations are in many places an impprovement upon those of his predecessors.He humbly says:’That Lord Govinda under whose command the Vidyabhusana composed this commentary,may He help me in this undertaking also.May the lovers of Vedanta and the worshippers of the lotus feet of Sri Krishna have their compassion on me.

    • scooty ram

      Thank you. Govinda bhasya definitely removes many tattva brahma. It would be nice to have sukshma tika translated so that it is easier to understand and it might give more deeper understanding

      Dasan

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