Cause and effect in uttamā bhakti

In Indian philosophy1, साधन (sādhana) and साध्य (sādhya) refer to cause and effect, or ingredient and product. Say for example, we are preparing soup. Before the soup comes into existence, only its separate ingredients exist – vegetables, tomatoes, some masala, water, salt etc.. Mixing the ingredients together and cooking them in a pot results in the manifestation of soup. The ingredients are the cause, sādhana, and the soup is the product, sādhya.

In the Bhagavad-Gitā, Kṛṣṇa explains that all actions on the karma mārga ultimately result in jñāna (सर्वम् कर्माखिलम् पार्थ ज्ञाने परिसमाप्यते). Thus, on the karma mārga, karma is the sādhana (cause) and jñāna is the sādhya (effect). Or putting it another way,

karma is the means, साधन, and jñāna is the object of attainment, साध्य.

The definition of uttamā bhakti is continuous favorable service to Kṛṣṇa, devoid of desire for anything else, and not covered by the effects of jñāna and karma. This defines the state of perfection. Naturally, the question arises: how do we get there?  What do we have to do to get there? Is there a sādhana or means by which one can attain uttamā bhakti?

If uttamā bhakti is sādhyā (object of attainment), what is the corresponding sādhanā?

This question is examined in some detail by Rupa Goswami in the भक्ति-रसामृत-सिंधु (1.2.1), and commented upon extensively by Jiva Goswami and also Visvanatha Cakravati Thakura. We will examine their commentaries in this series of articles.

The first concept to bear in mind is that the sādhanā (the last letter ā in the word is because bhakti is feminine) for uttamā bhakti is bhakti itself, and not any other method. So karma yoga does not lead to bhakti, although this misconception abounds in a large number of bhaktas. As already stated above, the sādhya of karma yoga is jñāna. Nor can jñāna act as the sādhana (means) that leads to bhakti. Jiva Goswami supports this point by quoting a phrase from the भागवत पुराण ११.३.११:

भक्त्या संजातया भक्त्या ..  – by bhakti (sādhyā) that comes through bhakti (sādhanā)..

As we saw in the definition, bhakti is an independent path. Uttamā bhakti comes from uttamā bhakti. Therefore,

uttamā bhakti is the means (sādhanā), and uttamā bhakti is the object of attainment (sādhyā).

However, this does not mean that sādhanā uttamā bhakti and sādhyā uttamā bhakti are identical. We will explore this difference in the next article.


  1. भक्ति रसामृत सिंधु lectures, Bhakti Tirtha II, Shri Satyanarayana dasa Babaji, Jiva Institute, Vrindavan. 2017-10-16. 

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