Shraddha is an Attribute for the Adhikara for Shuddha-Bhakti

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura

(From "Bhakti Tattva Viveka" - click to read more from it.
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In Srimad Bhagavad-gita (18.66), after giving separate explanations of karma, jnana and bhakti, through a most confidential statement Bhagavan has given instruction on sharanapatti:

sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja

aham tvam sarva-papebhyo mokshayishyami ma shucah

We should understand the words “sarva-dharma” in this verse to mean dharmas which are obstacles to sharanapatti such as the pursuance of one’s occupational duties within the varnasrama system and the worship of demigods.

Sri Krsna is saying, “Rejecting all of these, one should perform sharanapatti unto Me, meaning one should develop exclusive shraddha towards engaging in My bhajana.

Don’t be fearful of the reactions which come to those who commit the sin of rejecting their occupational duties.

I assure you that I will free you from the reactions of all such sins.”

The doubt may arise that the word shraddha, meaning faith, actually refers here to respect.

The paths of karma, jnana and so forth also require shraddha.

Thus shraddha is not only the cause of bhakti, but of karma and jnana also.

The philosophical principal is that the word shraddha actually means feelings of faith in the injunctions of the scriptures, and included within this feeling another sentiment certainly exists which is called ruci or taste.

Despite possessing faith, one may not desire to participate in a particular activity unless he has developed ruci for it.

Shraddha in the paths of karma and jnana is always mixed with a particle of bhakti in the form of ruci.

Only through the influence of this fraction of bhakti are the paths of karma and jnana able to yield any result.

Similarly, the shraddha which develops for bhakti is endowed with ruci, and this shraddha is none other than the seed of the bhakti-lata or creeper of devotion which is sown in the heart of the jiva.

Shraddha in the paths of karma and jnana is mixed with ruci for the activities of karma and jnana respectively, but the nature of this shraddha is different.

Only the shraddha which is endowed with ruci for bhakti culminates in the symptoms of bhakti.

This is called sharanapatti.

Only when one’s ruci for bhakti advances through the progressive stages of sadhu-sanga, the performance of bhajana, anartha-nivritti and finally assumes the form of nishtha does it become shuddha-ruci.

Thus shraddha is a separate tattva or entity from bhakti.

Srila Jiva Goswami writes in Bhakti-sandarbha, “tasmac chraddha na bhakty angam kintu karmany asamartha vidvat tavad ananyatakhyayam bhaktav adhikari-visheshanam eva.” Hence, shraddha is not a limb of bhakti, but an attribute for the adhikara for shuddha-bhakti resulting from one’s having become indifferent to the activities of karma-kanda.

It says in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.20.9):

tavat karmani kurvita na nirvidyeta yavata

mat-katha-sravanadau va shraddha yavan na jayate

Sri Krsna says, “One should continue performing his occupational duties as long as he hasn’t become indifferent to them and hasn’t developed shraddha towards hearing the narrations of My pastimes.”

The purport is that one is qualified to renounce his occupational duties only when he develops shraddha in hearing the narrations of Krsna’s pastimes.

This is the conclusion of the scriptures.

To clarify a possible doubt here, we must note that if shraddha, which is the very cause of the qualification for shuddha-bhakti, is itself not a limb of bhakti, then how can jnana and vairagya, which in some instances manifest before the appearance of shraddha, be limbs of bhakti? Srila Rupa Goswami says (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.248):

jnana-vairagyor bhakti-praveshayopayogita

ishat prathamam eveti nangatvam ucitam tayoh

“In some particular instances jnana and vairagya may be useful while a devotee is in the initial stages of entering into bhakti-tattva, but they can never be said to be limbs of bhakti.”

Hence, it is an established fact that only that shraddha which is endowed with the symptoms of sharanapatti is the cause of the qualification for shuddha-bhakti.

Sometimes people are heard saying that faith in hearing the narrations of Krsna’s pastimes is developed by some through the strict performance of their occupational duties, by some through the cultivation of jnana and by others through renunciation of the objects of the senses.

But such statements are erroneous.

It is possible that these processes may have been cultivated just prior to the appearance of shraddha, but through a more detailed analysis it becomes apparent that somehow or another there must have been some sat-sanga or association with devotees just between the two instances; that is, between the cultivation of the above-mentioned processes and the appearance of shraddha.

In this context the following verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.51.53) is worthy of consideration:

bhavapavargo bhramato yada bhavej

janasya tarhy acyuta sat-samagamah

sat-sangamo yarhi tadaiva sad-gatau

paravareshe tvayi jayate matih

“O my dear infallible Lord! Becoming opposed to You, the living entity sometimes attains worldly sense pleasure by pursuing the path of karma and sometimes attains liberation through the cultivation of jnana.

Thus he is entangled in the repeated cycle of birth and death.

If while wandering in this way the jiva somehow becomes fortunate and receives the association of Your devotees, with great determination he fixes his intelligence at Your lotus feet, understanding You to be the only shelter of saintly persons, the origin of all creation, both material and spiritual, and the ultimate goal.”

Thus karma, jnana, vairagya and so on can never be the cause of the appearance of shraddha; only sat-sanga can cause the appearance of shraddha.

In this regard Srila Rupa Goswami has composed lines such as, “yah kenapy ati-bhagyena jata-shraddho ’sya sevane.” Thus only persons endowed with shraddha are the adhikaris or rightful candidates for shuddha-bhakti.

There is another consideration here.

Sadhana-bhakti is of two types, vaidhi-sadhana-bhakti and raganuga-sadhana-bhakti, as confirmed in this verse from Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.2.5): vaidhi raganuga ceti sa dvidha sadhanabhidha.

It is essential to understand the difference between vaidhi-sadhana-bhakti and raganuga-sadhana-bhakti because without this understanding there may remain many suspicions which can harm the development of one’s bhakti.

Concerning vaidhi-bhakti, Srila Rupa Goswami has written:

yatra raganavaptatvat pravrittir upajayate

shashanenaiva shastrasya sa vaidhi bhaktir ucyate

Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.6

Bhakti is the jiva’s natural inclination and the inseparable occupation of his intrinsic nature.

In the conditioned stage, the jiva is opposed to Bhagavan and becomes attached to the worldly enjoyment presented by the illusory energy.

As the jiva becomes immersed in worldly pleasure, his natural inclination to render loving devotional service unto Krsna becomes dormant.

The jiva is fully satisfied only when by some good fortune his intrinsic raga or strong loving attachment for Krsna reawakens, however it may happen.

When prema appears, raga naturally appears alongside it.

But the raga or attachment for material sense objects which is visible in the conditioned soul is distorted raga, not shuddha-raga.

In that stage the inborn raga of the jiva remains covered or dormant.

To awaken this inherent raga, the acceptance of spiritual instruction is essential.

The Vedas and their subordinate literatures are storehouses of such instructions.

The bhakti which is performed within the framework of the instructions of the scriptures is called vaidhi-bhakti.

Now I will give a brief review of raganuga-bhakti.

Srila Jiva Goswami writes in Bhakti-sandarbha, “tatra vishayinah svabhaviki vishaya-samsargecchatishaya-mayah prema ragah.

yatha cakshur adinam saundaryadau, tadrisha evatra bhaktasya sri-bhagavaty api raga ity ucyate.” The powerful loving affection which naturally develops within a materialistic person by his affiliation with the objects of sense pleasure is called raga.

Just as eyes become excited upon seeing any beautiful form, the similar inclination of a devotee towards Krsna is also called raga.

The taste which develops from following in the footsteps of a personality who possesses natural ruci or taste for such raga is called raganuga-bhakti.

Regarding the qualification for raganuga-bhakti, Srila Rupa Goswami writes:

ragatmikaika-nishtha ye vraja-vasi-janadayah

tesham bhavaptaye lubdho bhaved atradhikaravan

tat-tat-bhavadi-madhurye shrute dhiryad apekshate

natra shastram na yuktim ca tal lobhotpatti-lakshanam

Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.291-292

“The vraja-vasis’ sentiments for Krsna are the most exalted and exceptional example of ragatmika-bhakti.

Such sentiments cannot be seen anywhere other than Vraja.

The fortunate soul who develops the greed to attain sentiments for Krsna such as those displayed by the vraja-vasis is the adhikari or rightful candidate for raganuga-bhakti.

Despite having heard about the sweetness of such sentiments, one cannot enter into them until he becomes ‘greedy’ for them.

The sole cause of the qualification for the practice of raganuga-bhakti is this spiritual greed, not careful study of the scriptures and the skilful use of logic.”

Thus we understand that just as shraddha is the only cause of the adhikara for vaidhi-bhakti, similarly greed is the only cause of the adhikara for raganuga-bhakti.

Here a doubt may arise concerning whether the shraddha which has been previously established as the cause for the eligibility for shuddha-bhakti is incomplete.

If that shraddha is the cause of the eligibility only for one type of bhakti, then why has it been said to be the cause of the eligibility for all types of bhakti? To dispel such a doubt, it is again stressed that shraddha is the only cause of the adhikara for shuddha-bhakti.

In the absence of shraddha, no variety of shuddha-bhakti can ever appear.

The conclusion is that shastra-vishvasamayi-shraddha or shraddha derived from faith in the injunctions of the scriptures is the only cause of the adhikara for vaidhi-bhakti and bhava-madhurya-lobhamayi-shraddha or shraddha derived from intense greed to experience the sweet sentiments of the vraja-vasis is the only cause of the adhikara for raganuga-bhakti.

Only shraddha — whether it be vishvasamayi or lobhamayi — is the cause of the eligibility for both types of shuddha-bhakti.(from Part 4 – "An Analysis of the Qualification for Bhakti")

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Natural Brotherhood (Bhaktivinoda Thakura):

BhaktiVinoda Thakura

"Gradually, when the offensive portions of the established religions are destroyed, there will be no more differences in the bhajana performed by the various Sampradayas nor any quarrel between them.

Then as brothers, the people of all castes and countries will spontaneously chant the Holy Names of the Supreme Lord together.

At that time, no one will hate anyone or consider others dogeaters; nor will anyone be overwhelmed by the pride of high birth.

The living entities will not forget the principle of natural brotherhood."

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