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Prīti Sandarbha (continued) - By Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa
Vaiśeṣika Sūtras of Kaṇāda with Praśastapāda Bhāṣya - By Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa
Sanskrit for Beginners by Gururaja
:star2: Bhakti-Ratna Course 4 - (Registration open) :star2:
Prīti Sandarbha (continued) - By Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa
Vaiśeṣika Sūtras of Kaṇāda with Praśastapāda Bhāṣya - By Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa
Sanskrit for Beginners by Gururaja
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The Most Essential Principles of Bhakti
Bhakti Questions & Answers

The Most Essential Principles of Bhakti

Question: Were Jaya and Vijaya, by definition, practicing uttamā-bhakti by their original decision to take on these roles despite their manifested aggression towards Kṛṣṇa?

Answer: Technically speaking yes, because if you consider their original decision and take the fight as a play then it is bhakti. However, the way it is depicted in śāstra, it appears as if they were truly inimical.

Question: Further, were Hiraṇyakaśipu’s insightful thoughts into the nature of permanence vs. impermanence, shared with his relatives in Canto Seven of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, born from his enlightened original position as gatekeeper, or did he take a guru at some point in the līlā?

Answer: He was also educated; otherwise, why would he do tapas to please Brahmā? Even asuras had knowledge. Rāvaṇa even wrote commentary of Vedas. Śukrācārya is the guru of asuras just as Bṛhaspati is the guru of the devas.

Question: Can you please clarify whether performing service according to one’s nature is in alignment with uttamā-bhakti according to the definition given in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu? For example, I choose a service activity that is well-suited to my conditioned nature, intending to do that as a service. Can this still be considered free from desire since I have chosen the service without considering if it is ānukūlya? Is it that this is within the parameters of uttamā-bhakti as ceṣṭā-rūpa for a sādhaka bhakta (obviously not for those at the stage of bhāva or prema)?

Answer: It all depends on your own internal awareness. It depends upon which is prominent, the choice to follow your nature or the wish to do ānukūlya. If you dig a little deeper, then you will find that it is the first one that is prominent. The human mind is very tricky. It does not want to give up its likes and dislikes. Yet with our buddhi we understand that there is something higher than just following my mind. So, we feel discomfited but at the same time we have our attachmentslikes and dislikes. Some of these attachments are not conducive to bhakti, some are neutral and if we are lucky, some attachments may be favorable. We try to give up the unfavorable ones and try to adjust the others within the fold of bhakti.

However, bhakti is a different process. It cannot be secondary to one’s favorable attachments. The very first step of bhakti is surrender, śaraṇāgati. Everything else is founded on the surrender. This is the beginning of bhakti:

guru-pādāśrayastasmāt kṛṣṇa-dīkṣādi-śikṣaṇam
visrambheṇa guroḥ sevā sadhu-vartmānuvartnam 

“Therefore, [to follow the process of bhakti] one should take shelter under the feet of a guru, study [the bhakti dharma] from him after taking dīkṣā, render service to the guru with great respect and follow the path of the devotees.” (BRS 1.2.74)

These are the most essential principles of bhakti. Everything else is based upon these. Among these, taking shelter of a guru is the first step. Taking shelter includes performing actions that are pleasing to guru and avoiding those that are displeasing. Its essence is to be obedient to him.

Similarly, one can consider the famous definition of bhakti given by Śri Rūpa Gosvāmi. The gist of that definition has two parts to itprescriptive and prohibitive. The first is to perform favorable action to Kṛṣṇa, and persons and objects related to Kṛṣṇa. the second is  to be devoid of any other desire except the desire to act favorably to Kṛṣṇa and things related to Him.

In the light of these, there is no room to choose actions that are well-suited to one’s conditioned nature. It is guru who would direct what service should be done. If he engages in service that is in accordance with one’s conditioned nature, that is well and good. Otherwise, one must follow his diction. If he allows you to choose, that is his will. But if you chose independently, then it is not śaraṇāgati. This must be understood properly. Otherwise, we deceive ourselves in the name of bhakti. That is better than being a materialistic person, but it should not be confused with uttamā-bhakti.

Question: Having heard and mostly understood your lectures on this definition, I find it hard to understand how vaidhī-bhakti aligns with the lakṣaṇa given in the verse. To me, it appears that this verse points to the path of rāgānuga as what is pleasing to Kṛṣṇa is the primary consideration for service, and not śāstric injunctions.

Have I misunderstood what is vaidhī-bhakti? If so how does vaidhī align with the points in the definition?

Answer: The culmination of vaidhī is also in bhāva, which means to do ānukūlya. The difference between vaidhī and rāgānuga is the inspiration to do bhakti. If the inspiration comes from śāstric injunction, then it is vaidhī. If, however, the inspiration is due to a natural liking, then it is rāgānuga.