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The Real Mercy of Bhagavan

The Real Mercy of Bhagavan

[The following is a continuation of a class given on Anuccheda 134 of Bhakti Sandarbha]


If sattva was the cause of the realization of Bhagavān then it would not be possible for Vṛtra to have had such A realization. Actually, Vṛtra’s devotion was due to having obtained the association of Śrī Nārada in his previous birth. The misunderstanding of this very important point is the cause of a big controversy going on at present, namely whether bhakti is inherent or is attained.

Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī explains that the association of a highly realized devotee is the only cause for the appearance of bhakti, bhagavat-kṛpā-parimala-pātra-bhūtasya śrīmato mahata saṅga eva kāraṇam. He makes a very clear statement, eva kā raṇam – the only cause. Yet people still argue against it and twist its meaning to suit their understanding.

It is also stated clearly by Prahlāda that it is not possible to get bhakti unless one gets the grace (i.e., the dust from the feet) of a devotee:

naiṣāṁ matis tāvad urukramāṅghriṁ
spṛśaty anarthāpagamo yad-arthaḥ
mahīyasāṁ pāda-rajo-’bhiṣekaṁ
niṣkiñcanānāṁ na vṛṇīta yāvat

“As long as these people [of materialistic regard] do not bathe in the dust of the feet of exalted devotees, who have abandoned all sense of possessiveness, their minds cannot touch the feet of Bhagavān Urukrama [Śrī Kṛṣṇa] — the object of contacting which is the cessation of vitiated existence.” (SB 7.5.32)


In the case of Vṛtrāsura, we see someone who has bhagavadbhāva, even though he is situated in rajas and tamas, which means he may have had a non-veg diet, etc. This is a difficult point to grasp because generally it is thought that one needs to be sāttvika to become a devotee. Although this is generally the case, it doesn’t mean that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between sattva and bhakti.

For example, there may be a cook who rings a bell each day when lunch is ready. It is possible that someone may think that when the bell rings, it means the lunch gets cooked. However, there is no cause-and-effect relationship between the cooking of lunch and the ringing of the bell. When lunch is cooked, someone comes to ring the bell, but lunch is cooked without having to ring the bell. Although these are two independent events, if they happen together consistently, we can make a relationship between them in our minds. However, it is possible to ring the bell without lunch being cooked, and we can also cook lunch without ringing the bell. 

In a similar way, we see that devotees are mostly sāttvika. After all, Viṣṇu is the devata of sattva, and therefore his devotees are sāttvika, meaning they don’t eat non-sāttvika food, etc. Therefore, we naturally relate sattva and bhakti, but there is no cause-and-effect relationship between them. Of course, sattva helps one to understand bhakti, but still bhakti is independent of sattva. In the example of the bell, there is no relationship at all with the cooking of lunch, but at least in the example of sattva, one who is sāttvika will be able to grasp the meaning of śāstra, whereas one who is in rajas and tamas will have less ability to grasp it. But if bhakti wants to bless a person who is rājasika or tāmasika there is nothing that can stop it, and bhakti can manifest itself there because bhakti is self-illuminating. It is svayam-siddha and svayam-prakāśa.

However, devotees are prescribed a process to followlead a sāttvika lifestyle, eat sāttvika food, and wear sāttvika dress. Everything should be sāttvika, which aids their development, but bhakti is not dependent on that sattva. Therefore, Prahlāda prescribed that one must bathe in the dust of the feet of Vaiṣṇavas because bhakti comes even in the families of daityas (such as Prahlāda and Bali) due to sat-saṅga, even though they are tamasic. The Bhāgavatam is unique because of this perspective. The story of Vṛtrāsura’s killing also shows this defining characteristic of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, that bhakti is param-dharma. 


The next point raised in Anuccheda 134 regards saṅga. Jīva Gosvāmī has just explained that association with exalted devotees is nirguṇa, beyond the guṇas of nature, even beyond sattva. Now he takes it another notch up by stating that association with exalted devotees is not just nirguṇa, but paramanirguṇa, because it is beyond the nirguṇa state of liberation. As it is explained in the First Canto:

tulayāma lavenāpi
na svargaṁ nāpunar-bhavam
martyānāṁ kim utāśiṣaḥ

“We cannot equate even a moment’s association of a devotee who is deeply attached to Bhagavān, with the attainment of heaven or liberation, to say nothing of the petty blessings desired by mortal beings.” (SB 1.18.13)

Other than association with devotees (bhagavat-saṅgi-saṅga), all other association is in the guṇas, and therefore subject to change.


A person may argue that Bhagavān killed the demons for Indra’s sake, as though he were biased towards him:

samaḥ priyaḥ suhṛd brahman
bhūtānāṁ bhagavān svayam
indrasyārthe kathaṁ daityān
avadhīd viṣamo yathā

“O brāhmaṇa, of His own accord, Bhagavān is equal to all living beings, dear to everyone, and the well-wisher of all. So, why did He kill the demons for Indra’s sake, as though He were biased toward him?” (SB 7.1.1)

In this way, somebody may say that He gave His mercy to the devatas because they were in sattva-guṇa. But Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī explains that the favor shown to Indra is not His real mercy. The real mercy of Bhagavān is to give bhakti. When Bhagavān gives anything else, people may consider that to be mercy because it fulfills their desire, but such boons are temporary. That’s why it is said that devotees don’t compare even heaven or liberation to be equal to the association of a devotee. Going to heaven, or going to any other place, or even attaining mokṣa, are not equal to becoming a devotee. Thus, it is said that His favoring the devatas was not His real grace. His real mercy is given to devotees like Prahlāda. Because Bhagavan bestows His mercy on His exalted devotees, the nirguṇa quality is manifest in them. And for that reason, their association is also nirguṇa.


Because bhaktas are nirguṇa, their association is also nirguṇa. There is evidence in scripture that bhakti continues even after the guṇas have been thrown off.

tasmād deham imaṁ labdhvā
guṇa-saṅgaṁ vinirdhūya
māṁ bhajantu vicakṣaṇāḥ

“Therefore, the wise, having obtained this human body, in which knowledge and realization of the Absolute is accessible, should completely cast off all attachment to the guṇas and worship Me.” (SB 11.25.33)

If bhakti was also within the guṇas then it would not continue when one becomes free from the guṇas. In other words, if one becomes free from the guṇas, and bhakti is within the guṇas, then bhakti would also disappear at that time. But there are many statements in śāstra explaining that bhakti continues after liberation and that bhakti is also present in the spiritual world, both states beyond the guṇas.

This is a very clear statement, that one should dispel all association with the guṇas and worship Kṛṣṇa. Bhajantu means either that one should worship, or that one worships. This shows that bhakti is not within the guṇas of material nature.


1 Comment

  • Programmer November 21, 2023

    Totally agree on your views about guṇas. Nice article

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