Śrī Rūpa defines sādhanā bhakti, Part I

There is a method to Śrī Rūpa Goswami’s presentation in the भक्तिरसामृत सिंधु which is borrowed from न्याय. It has three elements to it: उद्देश्य, लक्षण and परीक्षा. उद्देश्य means listing items, लक्षण means defining the items, and परीक्षा is testing the definition- that is explaining it in detail1. In the भक्तिरसामृत सिंधु १.२.१, Śrī Rūpa Goswami first lists the three types of uttamā bhakti. Later he defines each of them. Next, he elaborates on their meaning. १.२.१ goes like this:

सा भक्तिः साधना भावः प्रेम चेति त्रिधोदिता ||

sā bhaktiḥ sādhanā bhāvaḥ prema ceti tridhoditā ||

That bhakti (defined in the previous section i.e. uttamā bhakti) is of three types: sādhanā, bhāva and prema

We saw the concept of sādhana (cause) and sādhya (effect). But instead of these customary two items, Śrī Rūpa Goswami lists three items. Śrī Jīva Goswami’s commentary reconciles this by subsuming bhāva and prema into sādhyā (thus making three into two). Śrī Vishwanatha Chakravarti disagrees with Śrī Jīva Goswami and argues for three. We will examine each of their viewpoints later. But first, we will take a look at Śrī Rūpa Goswami’s definition of sādhanā uttamā bhakti. The first line goes like this:

कृति-साध्या भवेत् साध्य-भावा सा साधनाभिधा |

kṛti-sādhyā bhavet sādhya-bhāvā sā sādhanābhidhā

This is an all-important definition for bhaktas, and needs to be understood fully. Note the use of the words sādhya and sadhanā. Lets dissect this line word-by-word.

The subject of this line is the word sadhanā. The word abhidhā means name. The words kṛti-sādhyā and sādhya-bhāvā are both qualifiers for the word sadhanā.

kṛti is a technical term in Indian philosophy. It refers to an internal movement in the mind or the will to act, as well as an external action through the senses (चेष्टा). kṛti is of different types: mental, physical (bodily) or verbal. Then,

kṛti-sādhyā =  that [bhakti] which is accomplished through kṛti.


sādhya-bhāvā = that [bhakti] whose sādhya (effect) is bhāva

Thus, the translation is:

That is named sādhanā which is accomplished through movement in the mind or senses, and whose effect is bhāva.

There are two aspects to the definition. One is that sādhanā bhakti is that which results in bhāva. But this part alone would make it difficult to identify sādhanā bhakti unless one saw its result. Therefore, the word kṛti-sādhyā is used- that it is bhakti performed through the senses.

This definition makes it clear that the effect of sādhanā bhakti is bhāva. And yet, there is a third type, prema. We will postpone discussion of this point to another article, but here it is useful to examine the concept of bhāva. Śrī Jīva Goswami in his commentary on this verse qualifies bhāva as hārda-rupā [hārda is cognate with heart]. When one has bhāva, uttama bhakti has become the person’s very nature or personality. Bhakti fills the person’s heart, and is naturally performed. A conscious effort is not required as in sādhanā. By analogy, a conscious effort is not required for an ordinary person to pursue material pleasure because that is the person’s nature. bhāva is the sādhya, that is the goal of a sādhaka (sādhaka is one who performs sādhanā).

In sādhanā, bhakti manifests in the senses, but has not become ingrained in a person’s personality. sādhanā bhakti is also uttamā bhakti, which is why its effect is bhāva. Both sādhanā and bhāva are Kṛṣṇa’s स्वरुप शक्ति – internal energy. If sādhanā bhakti is not uttamā bhakti, then uttamā bhakti would be an outcome of a simple act of the material senses, which is not possible because uttamā bhakti is Kṛṣṇa’s स्वरुप शक्ति.

In the next article, we will look at the second line in Rupa Goswami’s definition of sādhanā bhakti.

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

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