Śrī Rūpa Goswami defines uttamā bhakti, Part II

In a previous post, we examined the definition of uttamā bhakti and saw that

स्वरूप लक्षणम् (svarūpa lakṣaṇam) = अानुकूल्येन कृष्णानुशीलनम् (ānukulyena kṛṣṇānuśīlanam)


the essence of uttamā bhakti = continuous favorable service to Kṛṣṇa or persons related to him.

Here we examine the rest of the two qualifiers, which are the तटस्थ लक्षणम् (taṭastha lakṣaṇam) in the definition. According to Jiva Goswami’s commentary on this definition, these two qualifiers are necessary to establish the ‘uttamā’ nature of uttamā-bhakti.

For example, if someone does continuous favorable service to Kṛṣṇa, and then asks for mukti (liberation) at the end of it, Rupa Goswami does not include that under uttamā bhakti, because the person did bhakti to gain something from it, rather than for its own sake. Therefore the तटस्थ लक्षणम् is necessary to further qualify uttamā bhakti.

Rupa Goswami has used two qualifiers:

1. अन्याभिलाषिता शून्यम् (anyābhilāṣitā śūnyam) and
2. ज्ञानकर्माद्यनावृतम् (jñāna karmādy anāvṛtam)

The word अन्य (anya) means ‘other’. abhilāṣitā is derived from the root लष् which means ‘to desire’. The suffix ‘tā’ indicates desire-ness while śūnyam means zero. We therefore get the meaning

anyābhilāṣitā śūnyam = devoid of desire-ness for anything else

Jiva Goswami comments – भक्ति एक अभिलाषेन युक्तम् – that is, there is no desire for anything other than bhakti. The suffix ‘tā’ or ‘ness’ indicates an absence of any such desire in the very nature of this type of bhakti.

Couldn’t the same meaning have been conveyed by anyābhilāṣā śūnyam = devoid of desire for anything else? Why use the word ‘desireness’? This is because sometimes a person may get temporarily depressed and not have a desire for anything. Arjuna did not desire to fight, but that was just a temporary state of mind. Kṛṣṇa said to him ” मिथ्या एष व्यवसायस्ते प्रकृतिंस्तवां नियोक्ष्यति” – Arjuna, your nature will compel you to fight sooner than later. With passage of time, Arjuna’s mood would have changed and he would then want to fight. Temporary impulses for doing bhakti are not counted under uttamā bhakti. The more intense one’s mood, the faster it dies down. For example, if one gets extremely angry or furious, that anger cannot persist. That is because fury is not the nature of most people.

But surely it is not possible to have desire for only one thing! One may desire food when hungry, or a doctor when sick, or money to support needs, and these desires are perfectly reasonable. The sense therefore is that all other desires are secondary and assist the primary desire for bhakti. So an uttama bhakta eats so that the body can remain fit to do bhakti. It is not possible to have such thoughts when doing most actions, but it is useful to still have a clear understanding of what anyābhilāṣitā śūnyam actually means. These words imply that the उत्तम भक्त (uttama bhakta) has one singular, primary goal (संकल्प) – to get uttamā bhakti.  The uttama bhakta focuses or concentrates on this one thing instead of fragmenting the capacity to desire into too many different types of things.

The origin of desires is past संस्कार (samskāras), that is, the programs in our unconscious mind (चित्त) that are triggered by external stimuli. An uttama bhakta makes up the resolve to only desire for uttamā bhakti, and feeds only those desires that are favorable to the one primary desire, while starving other desires of attention1.

This slowly weakens and then gets completely rid of all other desires and deactivates the samskāras. This process is called अनर्थ निवृत्ति (anartha nivṛtti; anartha = not artha, that which is different from the desired goal, and nivṛtti means getting rid of).

  1. भक्ति रसामृत सिंधु lectures, Bhakti Tirtha II, Shri Satyanarayana dasa Babaji, Jiva Institute, Vrindavan. 2017. 

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