Thus, prīti for Bhagavān is the highest objective of life. In Viṣṇu Purāṇa (1.20.19), Prahlāda uses an analogy which describes the intrinsic characteristic of prīti:
yā prītir avivekānāṁ viṣayeṣv anapāyinī
tvām anusmarataḥ sā me hṛdayān māpasarpatu
“The same irrevocable prīti which (yā) ignorant people have for sense objects, may that prīti for You not disappear from my heart while remembering You.”
The use of the relative pronouns yā (which) and sā (that), means that prīti for Bhagavān has some key characteristics that are the same as the prīti ignorant people have for sense objects, but it does not indicate that both types of prīti are absolutely the same. Later on, the distinctions between the two types of prīti will be clearly defined. One type of prīti is a manifestation of māyā and the other manifests from the svarūpa śakti of Bhagavān.
The word prīti means happiness (sukham), joy (mut), delight (pramoda), thrill (harṣa), bliss (ānanda), and so on. The word prīti also implies priyatā – which means devotion (bhāva), love (hārda), affection (sauhṛda), and so on. Thus there is a relationship between happiness (prīti) and love (priyatā).
Happiness is an experience that makes one delighted, thrilled, joyful, and so on. Love (priyatā) involves pleasing the beloved, desiring to do so, and experiencing the beloved. This also produces an experience that makes one delighted and so on. Therefore, love is superior to happiness, for love includes happiness automatically.
Happiness is an experience of elation. The object causing the happiness (viṣaya) does not experience it, only the subject perceiving the object (āśraya) experiences it. The same is true for the opposite of happiness, misery. Love, however, is experienced not only by the lover (āśraya), but also by the beloved (viṣaya). The same is true for the opposite of love, hatred.
Happiness and misery are experienced only by their subjects (āśraya), the fortunate and unfortunate living entities. Love and hate are experienced by their subjects (āśraya), lovers and haters, as well as by their objects: the beloved and the hated.
The activities of happiness (prīti) have the object (viṣaya) as their substratum (adhikaraṇa), like the meaning of the verb “to light”. The activities of hatred (dveṣa) have the object (viṣaya) as their target of action (karma) like the verb “to kill”.
In this regard, Sanskrit grammar describes the object of a verb (karma) as the aspired objective of an agent (kartā), the desired result from the verb-action. The means to achieve the result is of four types: generating, transforming, improving, and attaining. Some verbs have no object, grammar describes them as “intransitive” (akarmaka). Most other verbs have an object (indicated by having the ni-suffix inherent in their root). Grammar describes them as “transitive” (sakarmaka). For example, in the statement, “He makes the pot,” the word “makes” is the transitive verb with the sense of generating the object, the pot. In the statement, “He cooks rice,” the word “cooks” is the transitive verb with the sense of transforming the object; he transforms the rice from hard to soft. Examples of intransitive verbs without objects are “to exist,” or “to light.”
Prīti – the happiness of love – is doubtlessly an intransitive concept. Such is the nature of conscious experience, expressed in intransitive phrases like “to be alive.” Like consciousness, prīti is ever existent. It is not the effect of any cause. Thus it is not dependent on any injunction, like the knowledge of sacrifice, which generates results in the future.
Thus, the word prīti has two meanings: love (priyatā) and happiness (sukha). However, Prahlāda’s definition of it (in Viṣṇu Purāṇa 1.20.19, cited above) stresses the sense of love, not happiness, for as “happiness” prīti is experienced only in the experiencer, but as “love” prīti is experienced by both the lover and beloved. Prahlāda’s definition would be very hard to explain if we take prīti only in the sense of happiness.
Prīti for one’s son etc. has the same basic characteristic as prīti for Bhagavān, but the former is a manifestation of māyā, as has been explicitly declared by Kṛṣṇa:
“Desire, aversion, pleasure, pain, the physical body, material consciousness, firmness – this is the kṣetra described in brief along with its transformations.” (Gītā 13.6)
The later type of prīti is a manifestation of Bhagavān’s svarūpa śakti, as will be explained soon [in Anuccheda 65]. Therefore, it was rightly said that, “The use of the relative pronouns yā (which) and sā (that), means that the prīti for Bhagavān has the same characteristics as the prīti of ignorant persons for sense objects; not that both prītis are the same” (yā yal lakṣaṇā, sā tal lakṣaṇā).
Prīti for Bhagavān is also called bhakti because it is fixed in Bhagavān, just as the prīti for seniors, like the father. For this reason, in the preceding verse to the verse cited above, Prahlāda prayed for prīti while calling it bhakti (VP 1.20.18):
“O Bhagavān, in thousands of births, whatever form I may take, let me always have irrevocable devotion (bhakti) unto You, Acyuta.”
Prahlāda begs for the same thing in the next verse, but there refers to it with the words “ya prīti,” and so on. It is not a repetition. These two (prīti and bhakti) are indeed one, because Bhagavān, while blessing Prahlāda, also spoke of them as one:
“You indeed have bhakti for Me, and let it be so again.” (VP 1.20.20).
If these two were different, Bhāgavan would have also blessed Prahlāda with prīti for Him.
One may propose to interpret the second line of VP 1.20.20 to mean that Prahlāda prays for lack of prīti for sense objects: “O husband of Lakṣmī (māpa), let that prīti for sense objects (viṣaya) disappear, or run away, (sarpatu) from my heart.” Such an explanation, which means praying for renunciation from sense objects, is also not befitting, because Bhagavān did not mention it in His blessings. Moreover, it is contrary to the popular reading nāpasarpatu instead of māpa sarpatu, which has been used in the above interpretation.
Although bhakti is a synonym for prīti, not all the words made from the root bhaj [which is the basis for the word bhakti] by applying different suffixes, convey the meaning of the verb prī (to love), which is the basis for the word prīti. When bhakti and prīti take the forms of bhajati [lit. “serves”] and prīṇāti [lit. “loves”], respectively, they are not entirely synonymous. Only the words bhakti and bhakta convey the meaning of the word prī (to love). Therefore, bhakti being synonymous with prīti, is also intransitive (requiring no object).
Prahlāda indicates that prīti for Bhagavān is the experience of favorable action for Bhagavān, and the desire to attain Bhagavān to execute that favorable action. By comparing it to prīti for material objects, Prahlāda indicates that, like the experience of the sweetness of a material object, the experience of the sweetness of Bhagavān is distinct from prīti itself. Thus, it is appropriate that the Bhāgavatam (11.2.43) describes that experience as somewhat distinct from bhakti itself:
“Bhakti, renunciation, and realization of Bhagavān appear simultaneously in a surrendered soul.”
And also in Gītā (11.54):
“Only through one-pointed bhakti, O Arjuna, can I be known in essence, seen in this form, and even be truly entered into.”
Śrī Kapila directly defines bhagavat prīti in one and half verses (SB 3.25.32):
“Causeless devotion to Bhagavān is the natural inclination of the senses of a person with mind singularly fixated towards Bhagavān – who is the personification of sattva. These senses are the means of perceiving objects and engage in activities enjoined by the Vedas. This bhakti is superior to mukti.”
Earlier it was said: “Śraddhā, rati, and bhakti will manifest in that order” (SB 3.25.25). In this statement, although rati and bhakti have only a difference of gradation, and thus are both a type of prīti, yet in bhakti that is called prema and characterized with excessive prīti, love (prīti) becomes more explicit. With this intention he defines prīti by using the word bhakti.
The meaning of the Kapila’s statement (SB 3.25.32) is as follows: Guṇa-liṅgānām means those who have the adjuncts (upādhis) of the tree guṇas. They are also called “ānuśravikam, which means that their character is understood from the śruti and Purāṇas.
Among these three devas (devānām), namely Śrī Viṣṇu, Brahmā and Śiva one who is called sattva here is Śrī Viṣṇu. The word sattva signifies one who empowers sattva by his mere proximity or it means one who is the personification of śuddha sattva, a specific manifestation of svarūpa śakti. The word sattva here as an indicator of Viṣṇu refers to any one of the unlimited forms of Bhagavān.
The meaning is [fixity of mind] in any one of them. The word eva categorically denies prīti in anyone else; and it also denies prīti in Viṣṇu and in someone else simultaneously. Eka-manasaḥ vṛtti means the consciousness of a person which is favorable to the worshipable. Animittā means devoid of any desire for fruits, svābhāvikī means naturally manifest on dint of the very quality, such as beauty of Bhagavān, without making an endeavor, not produced by force. This is bhāgavatī bhakti or prīti. Because of contact of prīti, the other bhakti is called natural. Therefore, the primary meaning of the word vṛtti in this verse (SB 3.25.32) should be only taken as prīti; and this is superior to siddhi or mokṣa, because it is said that:
“My devotee does not accept mukti – either in the form of sālokya, sārṣṭi, sārūpya, sāmīpya or sāyujya – even if I personally offer it; unless it can be utilized in My service.” (SB 3.29.13)
Therefore, if mokṣa, which is the goal of jñāna, is ridiculed, then it is improper to explain that the meaning of siddhi is jñāna in the verses under discussion. By stating that bhakti is superior to mokṣa, it is also shown that the vṛtti called bhakti is beyond the guṇas of nature. It is more dense bliss than mokṣa. Like the grace of Bhagavān, it manifests in the mind. Moreover, it is called vṛtti of the mind because it is superimposed on the mind.
People say to each other, ‘Let’s enjoy!’ or ‘Did you enjoy?’ Nobody says, ‘Did you think of God?’ ‘Did you learn something good?’ Better search the company of such people who will care for your spiritual well-being.
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