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Samanya-bhakti, Bhakti-yoga and Sharanagati
Bhakti Gaudiya Vaishnavas Questions & Answers

Samanya-bhakti, Bhakti-yoga and Sharanagati

Sri Vaishnava sadhus

Question: I heard you say that sāmānya-bhakti can be attained without dīkṣā and that it would grant one sālokya. How does sāmānya-bhakti manifest in this world and where does it bring the sādhaka who practices it? Is there any diversity in it?

Answer: The word sāmānya means general. The word meaning itself implies that it is not any specific type. “Specific” means any particular kind of relation with Bhagavān. Sāmānya also means common or basic. In that sense, it signifies the common or basic characteristic of bhakti, which is surrender.  

Question: Can it also be dāsya or is it only śānta?

Answer: Sāmanya is not dāsya. Among the five types of primary bhakti, it can be only śānta.

Question: If sāmānya-bhakti can be attained without dīkṣā (which presupposes receiving a particular bhava from a guru), how can one become genuinely inspired to perform bhakti, to begin with?

Answer: Inspiration for bhakti primarily comes by the association of a devotee. Inspiration for sāmānya bhakti comes from the association with other sāmānya-bhaktas.

Question: This implies that there are various types of bhakti, yet they are grounded in the svarūpa-śakti of Kṛṣṇa. Is this correct?

Answer: Yes. All types of bhakti are the antaraṅgā-śakti of Bhagavān. Even when Bhagavān Kapilā describes bhakti as sāttvikī, rājasī or tāmasī, it is not that bhakti is sāttvikī, rājasī or tāmasī, but the intention of the person who executes it. Because the intention of the person is a product of sattva, rajas or tamas, the bhakti takes the corresponding appellation. Otherwise, bhakti by its very nature is beyond guṇas of prakṛti.

Question: Then, what is the adhikāra for this type of bhakti

Answer: Śraddhā is the adhikāra for it.

Question: Is it correct to think that even for this type of bhakti, one should have śāstriya-śraddhā?

Answer: It is not necessary.

Question: Are there śānta-bhaktas in Vrindavana who attained perfection through sāmānya-bhakti? Or does it apply exclusively to Vaikuṇṭha?

Answer: Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī defines it in Bhakti-rasāmrta Sindhu and gives the example of young girls of three or four years of age. I do not know of any example who attained it by sādhana. However, it primarily applies to Vaikuṇṭha.

Question: How then does one attain śānta-rasa in Vrindavan?

Answer: By association with other śānta-bhaktas of Vrindavan and by practicing bhakti under their guidance.

Question: Are there examples in śāstra of those who attained Vaikuṇṭha through sāmānya-bhakti?

Answer: The Kumaras are given as examples of śānta bhaktas. I think examples of people such as Ajāmila in the sixth canto of the Bhāgavata will apply to sāmānya-bhakti. Many of the kings described in the Ninth Canto may also belong to this category.


Question: I have a question regarding bhakti-yoga and śaraṇāgati. In the Śrī-sampradāya, the bhakti-yoga and śaraṇāgati paths are separated. It is also said in Śrī-sampradāya that only brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, and vaiśyas, not śūdras, can perform bhakti-yoga. Śrī-sampradāya similarly says that women are ineligible to perform bhakti-yoga. Śaraṇāgati is the only path through which everyone can attain mokṣa, according to Śrī-sampradāya.

But in the Gauḍīya-sampradāya, it is said that bhakti-mārga or bhakti-yoga is open to all. I have also never seen Gauḍīyas separate bhakti from śaraṇāgati.

Answer: No, Gauḍīyas do not separate śaraṇāgati and bhakti. For us, śaraṇāgati is part of bhakti. We also do not discriminate on the basis of birth, gender, or social status. Everyone is eligible to execute bhakti. The essential qualification is śraddhā or trust in the meaning of śāstra. Anyone who has śraddhā can take to bhakti.

The reason for distinguishing bhakti from śaraṇāgati in the Śrī-sampradāya is that bhakti is only for those who are part of the varṇāśrama system. For them, it is not recommended to give up their varṇāśrama duties. Those who are not part of varṇāśrama can take to śaraṇāgati. From their point of view, bhakti practiced by Gauḍīyas is not bhakti-yoga but śaraṇāgati.


  • Mukunda das February 22, 2023

    Dandavat Maharaji

    in the above discussion it was stated:

    Question: Then, what is the adhikāra for this type of bhakti?

    Answer: Śraddhā is the adhikāra for it.

    Question: Is it correct to think that even for this type of bhakti, one should have śāstriya-śraddhā?

    Answer: It is not necessary.

    If the sraddha is not necessarily sastriya then what type of sraddha would it be ?

    • Babaji February 22, 2023

      There are two types of sraddha – sastriya and social.
      Sastriya sraddha comes by studying sastra from a qualified teacher, deliberating on it, and getting rid of doubts by posing questions to the teacher.
      Social sraddha comes by social convention, such as being born in a family of devotees, or being with such people.

  • Mukunda das February 23, 2023

    Thank you for your response Maharaji
    I have a further question.
    If Samanya Bhakti is constituted with svarupa shakti, how can social sraddha be the adhikar for it?

    • Babaji February 23, 2023

      Bhakti is independent of anything else. It has inherent śakti in it. Even those who have no śraddha can get benefit of bhakti if they are devoid of offenses.
      Ajamila is an example of it. He did not even engage in bhakti but bhakti-ābhāsa – a semblance of bhakti.

  • Mukunda das February 25, 2023

    Dear Maharaji,
    Sraddha is the adhikar for bhakti but even those without sraddha can benefit from bhakti if they are free from offence, then would it be the correct understanding to think that the process adau sraddha up to nistha is the clearing stage of anartha/offences to a large degree and that is accomplished through the mercy of svarupa shakti/guru padasraya (and that Ajamila would of gone through this clearing of offence stage in a previous life)
    Then at the stage of nistha one is fit to receive bhakti but still Bhakti devi remains independent to appear in our hearts at her discretion. At the stage of nistha, Bhakti devi by her own sweet desire would make her FIRST appearance in our lives although it has been a development of svarupa shakti on our sadhana under the guidance of Srila Gurudeva that has gained us the adhikar for bhakti ?

    • Babaji February 26, 2023

      1. Yes, anyone who engages in bhakti gets benefitted. But those who have śraddha will get more benefit because they will execute bhakti properly, will avoid offenses, and be enthusiastic and sincere.

      2. Bhakti already begins to act as soon as one takes guru-pādāśraya. Anarttha-nivṛtti happens by the grace of Bhakti. As one becomes clear of the offenses, one starts feeling the presence of Bhakti. Therefore, it is a gradual process, although for some it can happen quicker than for others, or even instantly. Every case is different. The adau śraddha verse gives the general guideline.

  • Mukunda das February 26, 2023

    Thank you

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