The limbs of bhakti

The don’ts of bhakti, Part 1

Limbs eleven to twenty are prohibitions or the dont’s of bhakti. They are as important 1 as the previous ten prescriptions. Here are the first five with comments.

  • saṅga-tyāgo vidūreṇa bhagavad-vimukhair janaiḥ – giving up from far the company of those who are turned away from Bhagavān.
    • This is to be understood in its implied sense, that one should not develop an admiration for those who are opposed to Bhagavān. This does not mean that one becomes fanatical and criticizes or insults others who do not follow one’s own path. Vaiṣṇavas should not dis-respect others, including those they disagree with (this is the eighth ‘don’t’, which we will take up in another article).
  • śiṣyādy-ananubandhitvaṁ : not making (unqualified) disciples.
    • The problem with making unqualified disciples is that they  may misunderstand bhakti, and thereby propagate misconceptions. In this way, the path of bhakti can become polluted by the confusion caused by unqualified and stubborn persons – satām mārga stabdhena dūṣitaḥ. That is why one has to be very judicious and cautious in choosing disciples. The modern trend of making tens of thousands of disciples seems at odds with Rupa Goswami’s instructions. One subtle point here is that these are injunctions for sādhakas, but how would a sādhaka make disciples? The answer, of course, is that sādhaka includes someone on the bhāva stage, which we have examined in another article.
  • mahārambhādy-anudyamaḥ: not taking on big projects.
    • These days, it is common for spiritualists to have a big vision, like building the tallest or biggest temple in the world; the temples already existing must not be good enough! Everything has to be big, and everything has to be international because the whole world has to be saved. However, if we cant save ourselves, we cant save others, because our motives are impure. Aspiring devotees can sometimes end up being exploited or psychologically scarred by the very devotees that were supposed to save them. Some smarter devotees are able to move up the ladder of mass movements, just like any corporate organization. There is the concept of ‘transcendental competition’ – which can become just a euphemism for one-upmanship between devotees. It is difficult with such a mentality to have a frame of mind in which one is humble and gives others all respect as Mahaprabhu has recommended.
  • bahu-grantha-kalābhyāsa-vyākhyā-vāda-vivarjanam : not studying many books with the purpose to debate with others.
    • It is not uncommon to see people relentlessly arguing with each other, quote mining the scriptures and even phrases and sentences from letters/lectures of devotees on internet forums. The quote wars seem to have no end. Because of the internet, practically everyone is now a philosopher. However, debate is not the purpose of studying scripture, which is well-illustrated in a famous story of Rupa Goswami. Sanatana and Rupa Goswami just acknowledged defeat to a Pandit, without even engaging in debate. Jiva Goswami defeated the person later, to the displeasure of Rupa Goswami who thought Jiva Goswami was too proud. The defeated person had to leave Vrindavan as was the custom, which saddened Rupa Goswami.
  • vyāvahāre’py akārpaṇyaṁ  – not being engaged in petty dealings or avoiding false humility.
    • Humility is the trait of not being proud when one has something that others dont. Some devotees tend to pass themselves off as the ‘most fallen’ etc., but that is not recommended by Rupa Goswami here. A Vaiṣṇava represents Kṛṣṇa as His servant, and therefore has to behave with dignity and self-respect worthy of the master.

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

 

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