From The Jacket
Bhakti Sandarbha is the fifth book of the Six Sandarbhas. It offers a thorough analysis of Bhakti, or devotion, on the basis of Srimad Bhagavatam. Jiva Gosvami states that the Bhagavatam prescribes Bhakti as the most efficacious and universal process (abhidheya) for realizing the absolute. Bhakti has never been established as abhidheya so systematically and emphatically as in this book. Earlier Bhakti was generally considered as one among various spiritual processes. Including karma-yoga, jnana-yoga and Astanga-yoga. moreover it was usually regarded as a precursor to jnana, which ultimately leads to liberation. Rarely was Bhakti viewed as an independent process. In contrast to this. Jiva Gosvami asserts that Bhakti is the complete abhidheya, and as such all other processes become futile when bereft of devotion. Other practices have enduring significance only through contact with devotion. Even realization of Brahman is possible only by the grace of bhakti. Bhakti is the most blissful process both in practice and in perfection.
Dr. Satya Narayana Dasa earned his graduate degrees, B. Tech. & M. Tech. In engineering, from IIT Delhi, and worked as a software engineer in USA for a few years.
He gave up a promising career in this field to pursue the inner quest for truth. He studied Sanskrit and the six systems of Indian philosophy under various traditional Gurus in Vrndavana. He also studied the entire range of Gaudiya Vaisnava literature from his Guru. Sri Haridas Sastri. One of the eminent scholars and saints of India.
Dr. Satya Narayana Dasa (PhD. Sanskrit) founded Jiva Institute to promote Vedic culture, philosophy and Ayurveda through education. He regularly gives classes on Gaudiya Vaisnava literature and has authored many books on the subject. He has contributed to the twenty-five volume work brought out by the project of history of Indian science, philosophy and culture.
Bruce Martin has been studying the systems of Indian philosophy. Especially tha of the Chaitanya School for over twenty-five years. Besides English, he is conversant in French, Sanskrit, and Hindi. He has translated and edited several Vaisnava works, including Bhagavad-gita, Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu-bindu, Siksastaka and Manah-siksa.. He is well read in both modern and traditional systems of phi8losophy and is particularly concerned with bringing out the relevance of ancient wisdom tradition for modern practitioners.
Back Of The Book
This devotion of the Lord's associates, expressed in the form of hearing and so on, is itself sadhya, the state of perfection, because these actions arise like waves in the Ganga of devotion that is permeated by love in its perfectional state (sadhya-raga-bhakti). As such, the hearing and chanting of the Lord's associates [known as ragatmika-bhakti] does not come under the heading of sadhana, the practice of devotion.
For this reason we will now discuss discuss raganuga-bhakti, the practice of devotion following in the wake of the moods of natural affection. When a person develops a taste for the aforesaid specific raga, even though that raga itself has not yet arisen in her or him, the heart becomes like a crystal, shining as it reflects the rays of the mo on of that raga. By hearing about this raga from scripture of from one's teacher, one develops a taste for the actions of the ragatmika associates also that are expressions of this ragatmika bhakti. Then by adhering to the raga of a particular associate of the Lord according to one's taste, one executes devotion, which is called raganuga.
In the first two volumes we presented parts one and two
of Bhakti Sandarbha, "Bhakti is the Complete Methodology;'
and, "The Preeminence of the Lord's Devotees." In volume
one Jiva Gosvami defined the methodology to realize the
Absolute in basic terms, as sammukhye, turning one's gaze
to encounter the divine. He then offered objective criteria to
assess what characterizes a complete methodology. In ev-
ery instance, Jiva showed that bhakti alone meets the crite-
ria of completeness.
So after authoritatively establishing bhakti as the supreme
method throughout the first volume, Jiva ends with the sur-
prising disclosure that bhakti is in fact not a method at all in
the sense of generating something separate from itself, thus
reconfirming its complete nature. Bhakti is a self-manifest,
spontaneous flow of divine potency. As long as this flow re-
mains unmanifest within the aspirant, the practices outlined
on the path of devotion remain preparatory, seeking an open-
ing within the heart of the practitioner whereby bhakti can
infuse the consciousness with full awareness of the divine
and the bliss of direct communion through love.
This naturally brings up the question, where does this flow
originate? This is discussed in volume two. The sages im-
mersed in devotion are said to be the transmitters of the po-
tency of devotion and independent in the distribution of mercy.
Thus devotion is received from them.This confirms that bhakti
is a phenomena that descends directly from the spiritual plane,
permeating and transforming the individual consciousness.
Being an aspect of the internal potency, bhakti does not
emerge from the constitution of the soul, which has already
been stated to be the intermediary potency, distinct from the
internal and external potencies. The living beings, who are
conscious by nature and etemal parts of the complete whole
are perfectly suited, however, as receptacles of the elixir of
devotion, which allows for the highest integration of their be-
Since devotion flows from the sage, the entire path con-
sists of emptying oneself of all misidentification to create a
total opening, whereby the awareness of the sage can per-
meate one's being, thus establishing the eternal flow of devo-
tion within the individual soul. For this reason, Jiva has clearly
defined the characteristics of the neophyte, intermediate and
superlative devotees, with particular emphasis on the latter,
to help the aspirant identify the proper source from which this
flow can be received. Simultaneously, the depth of the
devotee's vision, who has captivated the Absolute through
love, clearly demonstrates that the receptacle of devotion is
as complete as bhakti itself.
After providing the foundational understanding of devo-
tion and devotees in the first two parts respectively, Jiva
discusses the practices of devotion in this volume, "Direct
Centering of Awareness through Worship," (Anu 214-340).
This volume is divided into five chapters: "Awareness in the
Form of Direct Worship" (Anu 214-216), " Three Types of
Bhakti" (Anu 217-234), "VaidhT Bhakti " (Anu 235-310),
"Raganuga Bhakti" (Anu 310-338), and the conclusion (Anu
The first chapter offers a brief introduction to the subject
of direct worship as well as defining the intrinsic and extrin-
sic nature of bhakti. In Anu 214 Jiva states that the stages of
the path discussed in Anu 202-213 of the previous volume,
beginning from initial liking up to the point of taking shelter of
a guru, are preliminary to the actual stage of worship Thus
he begins a new section to discuss his original concept of
sammuknye in terms of direct worship.
This shift in awareness can be of two types: that related
tq the unqualified Absolute and that related to the Absolute
with attributes. The first type refers to jnana, or nondual aware-
ness. The second is divided into ahangrahopasana, or wor-
ship of oneself as embodying the divine, and bhakti, or devo-
tion to the complete whole.
The methods on the path of jnana include hearing and de-
liberation on scriptural truth, as well as meditation, involving
an implosion of the gross elements into the subtle, leading
finally to mergence in Brahman. Ahangrahopasana involves
meditation on oneself as embodying the divine, by which the
potencies of God become manifest in the practitioner.
In Anu 216 Jiva Gosvami defines the intrinsic and extrin-
sic nature of devotion. The intrinsic character of a methodol-
ogy refers to that which is inseparable from its nature, that of
which it is constituted, whereas the extrinsic character re-
lates to that which comes about as a result of the practice.
Jiva pinpoints the very essence of bhakti in a single word, as
seva, which he defines as loving responsiveness to the Lord
with the faculties of body, mind and speech.
The extrinsic character of devotion relates to the fact that
it can bestow everything possible, up to complete realization
of the Absolute in its three prominent manifestations of Brah-
man, Paramatma and Bhagavan. In chapters three and four
Jiva will elaborate on the concept of seva, showing various
divisions of vaidhi and raganuga bhakti.
In chapter two (Anu 217-234) Jiva describes three types
of bhakti: attributive (aropa-siddha), associative (sanga-
siddha) and inherent (svarupa-siddha), as well as devotion
influenced by the three qualitative constituents of nature. In
reality, pure devotion is nothing other than svarupa-siddha
bhakti. The other varieties are discussed just to clarify what
is meant by pure devotion. These three types of bhakti may
also be classified as sakaitava, with ulterior motive, and
akaitava, without ulterior motive, or in other words, with the
sole intent of attaining pure devotion. This chapter provides
the basis for a discussion of the practices of devotion found
in the next two chapters.
In the first section of chapter two ( Anu 217-224), Jiva
discusses aropa-siddha bhakti, or action indirectly attributed
with the quality of devotion. This refers specifically to the of-
fering of karma, which includes both temporal action and du-
ties prescribed in scripture. In attributive devotion the per-
former remains distinct from the offering, because the self
remains unoffered. It is this sense of separateness from the
Absolute, from the entity who receives the offering, that is
the basis of the performer's identification with prescribed duty.
Without the sense of separateness no offering is possible,
because who will offer and who will receive?
In pure devotion, however, the individual being is offered
from the very outset and hence there is no need, and in fact
no possibility, of offering anything else separately. When the
concept of separateness from the whole is broken, all facul-
ties of the being naturally flow to the entity in whom the self is
offered. Thus the intrinsic character of bhakti has been de-
fined as seva, divine service arising out of the communion of
love, and not arpanam, an offering of the peripheral move-
ment of the being. The act of offering, however, is attributed
with the quality of devotion because of being directed towards
the Lord. Thus it is known as attributive devotion..
In this section Jiva shows that both temporal action im-
pelled by one's nature and the socio-religious duties outlined
in scripture (Vedic karma) both come under the heading of
attributive devotion when offered to the Lord. Thus even the
offering of temporal action can become a gateway to devo-
tion. Jiva goes as far as saying that even unwholesome
deeds should be offered to the Lord, especially for those
fraught with material desire. This is not a license to indulge in
unwholesome deeds but rather an avenue whereby the per-
former can connect everything without exclusion to the whole,
and through the purification that results through this intent,
the unwholesome will be released of its own accord.
This understanding is of essential importance to modern
practitioners who are not suited to live in a temple, asrama or
holy place, or to engage exclusively in prescribed acts of
devotion. The division of life into material and spiritual cre-
ates a sense of disconnection from the divine, wherein, only
those acts specifically designated as worship are seen to
nurture connectedness, whereas the remainder, encompass-
ing all normal functions of human life, becomes a source of
So, rather than integration of the self into the whole, the
individual becomes a collectivity of opposing forces and ex-
periences only division. Jiva does not support this type of
divergence. Rather, by bringing one's entire being to the altar
of sacrifice, excluding nothing, the connectedness established
thereby fills the being, creating an opening for the unobstructed
flow of devotion.
If even the offering of temporal action is beneficial, then
the offering of prescribed religious duties (Vedic karma) is
certainly so. At this point Jiva raises an interesting question:
Since karma is the cause of material bondage, how can the
same karma become the cause of liberation? Jiva answers
that it can do so because the offering to the Lord empowers
karma with a medicinal effect that can eradicate the original
cause of the disease.
This leads into a discussion about the result of offering
karma as it relates to the path known as karma-mimamsa,
which concerns itself chiefly with the proper execution of Vedic
rituals. Jiva raises the question that since the correct perfor-
mance of Vedic karma generates a corresponding result that
will manifest only at some point in the future, where does this
intangible result reside in the interim?
The mimamsakas claim that this intangible result lies ei-
ther within the performer or within the devas who administer
the results of sacrifice. Both ideas, however, reinforce the
sense of separateness from the whole, referred to above,
and hence the result achieved by such a performer is not
only limited but perpetuates the state of bondage.
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