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Bhakti Is More Powerful
Philosophy Questions & Answers

Bhakti Is More Powerful

Tiruvanamalai - Arunalesvara

Question: In Bhakti Sandarbha (173) it is said:

“The ananya bhak-ness (exclusive devotion) which is mentioned in the Gita (9.30) verse: ‘Even if one commits very bad acts but is exclusively devoted to Me he is considered a saint’ refers to popular faith which is attained through hearsay, as is referred to in the Gita (17.1) verse: ‘Whoever gives up the rules of scripture and worships according to faith…’ This, however, is not faith imbibed through the scriptures, because very bad behaviour is impossible with such faith, and would contradict statements from Vishnu Toshana like ‘Lord Krishna is never pleased by thieves or adulterers, or those who harm others,’ or Vishnu Dharmottara, ‘One who does not follow the etiquette or protocol (maryada) cannot be considered a devotee of Lord Vishnu. The Lord is worshipped only by those who act in a saintly way.’ Very bad conduct cannot be the result of faith in the glories of devotion to Krishna. The word api in the text (even if he commits very bad things) also indicates how contemptible it is to behave very badly. If it weren’t, then the following verse (Gita 9.31), ‘He will soon become righteous and attain lasting peace’, would make no sense and the offense of committing sinful activities on strength of chanting the holy name would be committed. So this adjective (api cet sudurAcAra) should not be accepted as referring to a devotee who has scriptural devotion, rather this statement is a glorification (of the process of devotion).”

What about the urges? Are they not exempt from shastriya sraddha? Don’t you think a very very bad conduct can be forced by an urge?” In Srimad Bhagavata 11.14.18, Sri Krishna speaks about devotees who feel bad for their behaviour but cannot avoid it: bAdhyamAno’pi mad bhakto viSayair ajitendriyaH / prAyah pragalbhayA bhaktyA viSayair nAbhibhUyate. So we don’t understand what Sri Jiva means by stating that no person with shastriya sraddha would commit very sinful activities, which are glossed by the Acaryas as theft and adultery. These things seem not to depend on having either shastriya– or laukik shraddha.

Answer: In this verse of Srimad Bhagavata, Bhagavan Sri Krishna clearly says that such a person is not overpowered (na abhibhuyate) by the sense objects (vishaya). He is bAdhyamana, i.e. troubled. The urges, because of prarabdha, appear in the mind, but he is not subjugated by them because of the power of bhakti, which is more powerful than the urges (pragalbhaya bhaktya). This is how I see the verse.

But if it is accepted that the verse means that such a devotee actually engages in sense pleasures, then it is to be understood that these pleasures are not the sinful types, forbidden in the scripture i.e. himsa etc.  A devotee who has shastriya shraddha will not engage in such acts because it goes against his/her very sraddha.

Question: I also thought that the SB 11.14.18 verse had that meaning. I tried to understand Visvanath Cakravarti’s tika to it, but my Sanskrit is not good enough. I am quizzed a bit because he does mention the api cet suduracaro verse in this tika. Could you explain the purport of Visvanath, please?

Answer: Here is the meaning: “Let alone a devotee who has attained bhava bhakti, even a bhakta who has just begun on the path is surely an accomplished person (kritartha)”. To say this, Lord Krishna speaks the present verse. Prayah pragalbhaya means which is certainly becoming stronger (even such bhakti helps a neophyte bhakta in not getting overpowered by the vishaya)  – then what to speak of the advanced state of bhakti. In the section describing a jnani, a durachari jnani will be criticized and will not be accepted as a jnani, as in the verse beginning with yas tvasamyata SaD-varga. But in the section describing a devotee, a durachari bhakta is not criticised, nor is it said that such a person is not a devotee. This is said in this verse. This is also said in the verse of the Gita, api chet.

Furthermore, even while being troubled by the vishaya he/she is not overpowered by them. The present tense in both parts means that by the presence of bhakti the devotee is not troubled or remains above the trouble, even when facing the trouble (i.e. is not being absorbed in the situation, and is aware that it is wrong to enjoy vishaya). Sri Vishvanath Cakravarti Thakur gives an example: Just as when a warrior is attacked by an enemy and gets hurt by a weapon, he does not feel defeated or subdued because of his chivalry.  Another example: As a sick man suffering from fever after taking a powerful medicine to dispel fever may still have fever on the day of taking the medicine, yet he does not become cowed down by it, because he feels the recovery from fever and because he knows that the fever will be gone completely the following day .

Question: Thank you very much for the translation. My final question to get me convinced is this: Is the wound of the warrior and the fever of the sick man to be compared with the sensual desire or with the indulging in it? Thank you very much!!

Answer: This was already answered. Either it is to be taken as only in the mind and not actually indulging in it; or if it is to be taken as indulging, then it is not the forbidden type such as eating meat, having illegal sexual relation, etc.

1 Comment

  • Scooty Ram May 10, 2012

    I see there are 2 major points explained in this Q&A

    1.adjective (api cet sudurAcAra) should not be accepted as referring to a devotee who has scriptural devotion.It indicates a worship without rules of scripture and with random personal faith.

    2.su duracara indicated is to be taken as only in the mind and not actually indulging in it; or if it is to be taken as indulging, then it is not the forbidden type such as eating meat, having illegal sexual relation, etc.

    However at the end of srila vishvanath’s commentary to BG 9.31 , we see:

    And thus, after hearing about ananya bhakti and the descriptions of the ananya bhakta, one should not accept the statements of the unlearned who think that this declaration does not apply in cases where attachment to others wives and children, sinful acts, lamentation, illusion, lust, anger and other despicable qualities manifest.

    From this it implies
    1.the ananya bhAk is the ananya bhakta who has sAstriya sraddha and nirapeksha(exclusively takes up the process of bhakti leaving karma and jnana).
    2.su duracara can indeed be the abominable acts including adultery.

    By a simple logic that “one can not hold conflicting desires” and hence if one desires krishna one can not desire things averse to krishna is evident. However I am not sure if there is something different srila vishvanath is indicating than what is indicated in sandarbhas.Please kindly explain.

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