Beach 7: The Art and Science of Spiritual Love
Wave 9: ADVAITA BHAKTI THROUGH CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE OF NARAYANEEYAM
Note: You may want to read the Introduction, if you have not already seen it.
Sloka No.3: (Ref. nAryaNIyaM: 94 - 10)
aikyaM te dAna-homa-vrata-niyama-tapas-sAnkhya-yogair-durApaM
tvat-sangenaiva gopyaH kila sukR^iti-tamAH prApurAnanda-sAndraM /
bhakteSh-vanyeShu bhUas-svapi bahumanuShe bhaktim-eva tv am-AsAM
tan-me tvad-bhaktim-eva dR^iDaya hara gadAn kR^iShNa vAtAlayesha //
That state of supremely blissful union with Thee, which is difficult to obtain
through (disciplines like) charity, (ritual) sacrifices, observance of vows,
self-control, austerities, knowledge (sAnkhya), and yoga, was attained by the
blessed gopikas (cowherdesses) of Brindavan, through just personal attachment
to Thee as their own beloved. Numerous are Thy other devotees, but it is this
loving personal devotion of the gopikas that has received Thy highest
appreciation. Therefore Oh
Comment. This underscores the importance of personal involvement with the Lord in intimate terms, from the heart of hearts. All the formalities of our religious observances pale into insignificance before such a personal relationship with God. So whatever we may do, we must strive to see that this innate feeling of love for the Lord is the undercurrent. This is the only thing He asks from us. More than intellectual understanding of the various nuances of scriptures and philosophy, what He expects from us is this self-negating love for Him and all that stands for Him, namely, the universe. One may recall here Gita Ch.IX – 34:
manmanA bhava madbhakto madyAjI mAM namaskuru /
mAmevaiShyasi yuktvaivaM AtmAnaM mat-parAyaNaH //
meaning, Saturate your mind with me; be devoted to me; work for me; bow down to me; having thus united your whole self with me, taking me as the supreme goal, you shall come unto me. This self-negating love has been defined by Narada in his bhakti-sutra, as follows.
guNa-rahitaM kAmanA-rahitaM pratikShaaNa-vardhamAnaM avicchinnaM sUkShma-taram anubhavarUpaM.
Meaning, (This pure love is) without attributes, without the poison of desire, every moment increasing, unbroken, subtlest, and of the nature of sheer immediate experience.
Sloka No. 4 (Ref. nArAyaNIyaM : 91 - 4):
bhakter-utpatti-vR^iddhI tava caraNa-juShAM sangamen-aiva pumsAM
AsAdye puNya-bhAjAM shriya iva jagati shrImatAM sangamena /
tat-sango deva bhUyan-mama khalu satataM tan-mukhAd-unmiShadbhiH
tvan-mAhAtmya-prakArair-bhavati ca sudR^iDA bhaktir-uddhUta-pApA //
Tr.: It is by association with Thy devotees that bhakti germinates and develops in men who have auspicious deeds to their credit, just as in this world it is the relationship with prosperous men in various ways that leads to the prosperity of people. Therefore Oh Lord, may I always have contact with holy men, and through their outpourings of narratives and hymns dealing with Thy excellences, may I, with all my sins effaced, become established in firm and whole-hearted devotion.
Comment. What is being prayed for is sat-sangh, the company of the noble and the holy, which is the first step on the ascent in the ladder of spirituality. Narada waxes eloquent on the mental attitudes of these noble souls: (Bhakti sutra 68) When (they) with choked emotion, body covered with horripulation and tears flowing down, converse with each other in broken words, they sanctify their family and tribe, nay the very earth itself they come to glorify. “kaNTAvarodha-romAnchAshrubhiH parasparaM lapamAnAH pAvayanti kulAni pR^ithivIM ca.”
Hearing the narratives and hymns dealing with God’s excellences is the ‘shravaNa’ regimen prescribed as No.1 of the nine manifestations of bhakti, enunciated long ago, by the greatest devotee of all times, Prahlada. ‘By hearing and singing the glories of the Lord, even while engaged in the activities of the world’, says Narada again in Sutra 37:
Sloka No.5 (Ref. nArAyaNIyaM : 91 - 5):
shreyo mArgeShu bhaktA-vadhika-bahu-matir-janma-karmANi bhUyo
gAyan kShemANi nAmAny-api tad-ubhayataH pradrutaM pradrutAtmA /
udyad-hAsaH kadAcit-kuhacid-api rudan kvApi garjan pragAyan
unmAdIva pranR^ityann-ayi kuru karuNAM loka-bAhyash-careyaM //
Tr.: Oh! Lord, Deign to bestow on me that state of mind, whereby, preferring the path of devotion as the best among the various paths for spiritual attainment, I fervently chant again and again Thy names and accounts of Thy achievements in Thy incarnations, so sanctifying and spiritually elevating, until with my mind melting with loving emotion, I shall sometimes laugh, sometimes cry, sometimes shout, sometimes sing aloud and sometimes dance in ecstasy, and move about like a mad man who has lost his link with society and its conventions.
Comment. It is by such devotion one comprehends ‘Who is He? What is He?’ (cf. Gita XVIII – 55). Usually when one asks God for something, that is what is meant by petitional prayer and most of our prayers are petitional prayers. But that prayer itself has to be supported by intense devotion. We never ask of God to give us that intensity of devotion; because we think we have it. This is where our free will comes in the way, without our knowing that it does so. We never ask God to give us bhakti. Bhakti means the decision to go back to the source, knowing full well that it is the royal road to the goal of spirituality. And He waits and waits (-- this is the ‘agony of God’, talked about in Christianity --) until we ourselves, by our own free willl, decide to go back to Him. In the meantime He gives us some petty things we have always wanted, so that in due time we may begin to want what He wants to give us. It is in this context, one asks for bhakti to be granted to us by Himself.
The mind that attaches to God automatically liberates. The thesis here is that such a mind is already in the transcendental experience of bliss, it need not wait for the so-called mukti. Listen to Adi Sankara: (Sivananda-lahari: Verse no.81). It appears Narayan Bhattadri has echoed this sloka of Sankara.
kamcit-kAlam-umAmahesha bhavataH pAdAravindArcanaiH
kamcit-dhyAna-samAdhibhishca natibhiH kamcit kathA-karNanaiH /
kamcit-kamcid-avekshaNaishca nutibhiH kamcid-dashAmIdR^ishIM
yaH prApnoti mudA tvad-arpita-manA jIvan sa muktaH khalu //
Sometime in worshipping Your lotus feet, sometime in meditation and concentration sometime in offering obeisance, sometime in listening to stories about You, sometime in looking at Your form, sometime in singing Your praise - he who gains such a state in exhultation, having surrendered his mind to You, O Lord, he is verily liberated even when alive.
Sloka No.6 (Ref. nArAyaNIyaM : 2 - 10):
tvad-bhaktistu kathA-rasAmR^ita jharI nirmajjanena svayaM
siddhyantI vimala-prabodha-padavIM akleshatas-tanvatI /
sadyas-siddhikarI jayaty-ayi vibho saivAstu me tvat-pada-
prema-prouDhi-rasArdratA drutataraM vAtAlayAdhIshvara //
Tr. For, Devotion to Thee stands (as a unique path) in that it bestows purity and enlightenment directly and immediately, without any pains, by submerging one in the flood of delight generated by hearing and remembering Thy deeds and excellences. Oh Lord of Guruvayoor! May I soon attain that tenderness of heart produced by intense love for Thy feet!
Comment. The two attributes of bhakti, namely ‘svayam siddhyantI’ (= leads to the goal by itself) and ‘sadyas-siddhikarI’ (= immediately successful), -- these two are what made Tulasi, one of the greatest exponents of bhakti as a philosophy, to extol it above jnAna or yoga, or vairAgya (detachment or dispassion). We may recall and enjoy his powerful metaphor in this connection. JnAna, yoga and vairAgya are all masculine in conception (according to the grammar of the language) and so they cannot ultimately succeed as bhakti can, over the enchantments of mAyA which is feminine. mAyA, says the poet of the Rama-carita-manas, is only a nartakI (dancer) whereas bhakti is the beloved of his hero Sri Ram. The ‘feminine’ bhakti can conquer mAyA whereas the ‘masculine’ jnAna, yoga,and vairagya, etc. however powerful they may be, tend to succumb to her charms!
Sloka No. 7 (Ref. nArAyaNIyaM : 91 - 1):
shrI-kr^iShNa tvat-padopAsanam-abhaya-tamaM baddha-mithyArtha-dR^iShTeH
martyasy-Artasya manye vyapasarati bhayaM yena sarvAtmanaiva /
yat-tAvat-tvat-praNItAn-iha bhajana-vidhIn-Asthito moha-mArge
dhAvan-napy-AvR^itAkShaH skhalati na kuhacid-deva devAkhilAtman //
Comment. This thought is an exact echo of Srimad Bhagavatam 11th Canto, 2nd chapter Slokas 33-35. The confidence that one has in the Lord becomes the foundation for all spiritual growth. The purpose of including this sloka among the chosen 36 is to strengthen that foundation for oneself.
There is an interesting keyword here which is full of meaning. It is ‘sarvAtmanA’ at the end of the second quarter of the verse. It means ‘with heart and soul’. It has been translated, in the context, as ‘completely and for ever’. When the Lord removes our fears there is no half-hearted work there. It is total and complete. This word and this context should be aligned with ‘sarva-bhAvena’ in Gita XVIII – 62. He says there:
‘tameva sharaNam gaccha sarva-bhAvena bhArata’
meaning, Seek only Him for refuge, with all your being.
‘sarva-bhAvena’ means here: ‘convert all your emotions into devotion and direct that to God. Love Him as your master, your friend, your parent and your lover; seek Him in all these attitudes (bhAva).’ Cf. Gita IX – 18:
gatir-bhartA prabhus-sAkshI nivAsaH sharaNaM suhR^it /
prabhavaH praLayaH sthAnaM nidhAnaM bIjam-avyayaM //
meaning, ‘I am the goal, the supporter, the lord, the witness, the abode, the shelter, the friend, the origin, the dissolution, the foundation, the treasure-house, and the seed imperishable.’ Thus when we surrender to him ‘with all our being’ (sarva-bhAvena), He removes our fears ‘totally and completely’ (sarvAtmanA eva).