Bhakti is the end of all inquiry

In the final verse of the Bhāgavata’s catuḥśloki, Bhagavān speaks about the fourth item, aṅga. The aṅga, Śrī Jīva Goswami explains in Anuccheda 96 of the Bhagavat Sandarbha, is sādhana bhakti or the means, to attain the rahasya, prema. Below, we present Śrī Jīva’s analysis of how the final verse of the catuḥśloki reveals sādhana bhakti.

The verse is as follows:

etāvad eva jijñāsyaṁ tattva-jijñāsunātmanaḥ
anvaya-vyatirekābhyāṁ yat syāt sarvatra sarvadā

One who is inquisitive to know the truth of Bhagavān should inquire all the way up to this very point (the rahasya), both through direct (anvaya) and indirect (vyatireka) means, so that it may be [experienced] everywhere and always. (SB 2.9.35)

Śrī Jīva notes that because the aṅga is the means to achieve the rahasya of prema, naturally it itself also is a rahasya. Therefore, the aṅga in the above verse is also spoken of an indirect manner because the verse does not explicitly specify what the aṅga is.

Śrī Jīva explains the phrases in the verse as follows.


= bhagavat-tattva-jijñāsunā

= prema-rūpam yāthārthyam anubhavitam icchunā

= one who wishes to experience the true mystery in the form of prema for Bhagavān.

The phrase

etāvad eva jijñāsyaṁ

= śrī guru-caraṇebhyah sikṣaṇīyam

= One should receive instruction in this matter from a spiritual teacher.

Putting this explanation together, we get the following meaning for the first line:

etāvad eva jijñāsyaṁ tattva-jijñāsunātmanaḥ= One who wishes to experience the true mystery in the form of prema for Bhagavān, should receive instruction in this matter from a spiritual teacher.

Because the verse says, etāvad eva: upto this point or upto this extent, bhakti is the end of all inquiry. Nothing else remains to be known once prema, the goal of bhakti, is obtained. Therefore, this verse is consistent with the instruction in the Vedānta sūtra,

athato brahma-jijñāsā: now [i.e. now that you have tried everything else], it is time to inquire into Brahman [i.e. Bhagavān].

What does the verse mean by affirmation or negation – anvaya-vyatireka (such anvaya-vyatireka is also mentioned in the first verse of the Bhāgavatam)? Further, what is the meaning of sarvatra sarvadā (everywhere and always) here?

Śrī Jīva answers by glossing the words anvaya-vyatireka in the verse as vidhi-niṣedha, positive injunctions/instructions and prohibitions. Then he quotes two verses from the 2nd canto, 2nd chapter to explain what these are. First, here is the negation or vyatireka:

na hy ato ’nyaḥ śivaḥ panthā viśataḥ saṁsṛtāv iha
vāsudeve bhagavati bhakti-yogo yato bhavet

There is no path more auspicious for the ātmās who have entered the world of cyclic existence than the one that leads to Bhagavān Vāsudeva’s bhakti. (SB 2.2.33)

And the affirmation, which also includes the words “everywhere and always”:

tasmāt sarvātmanā rājan hariḥ sarvatra sarvadā
śrotavyaḥ kīrtitavyaś ca smartavyo bhagavān nṛṇām

Therefore, O King, all human beings should hear about, glorify and remember Bhagavān Hari with their whole being, everywhere and always. (SB 2.2.36)

The phrase “everywhere and always” refers to the fact that one must be aware of Bhagavān in all situations. Even when in non-devotional external environments, one must bear in mind that everything is Bhagavān’s energy, and Bhagavān is all-pervading and in every living being.

To summarize, the final verse of the catuḥśloki reveals sādhana bhakti because of the following similarities with the limbs of sādhana bhakti outlined by Śrī Rupa Goswami:

  1. It instructs to take shelter of a guru and learn from him.
  2. By speaking indirectly about the sādhana, it affirms that sādhana is also a secret. This is in line with the fact that bhakti (prema) comes from sādhana bhakti, and therefore the characteristics of prema such as its confidential nature, are also present in sādhana bhakti.
  3. Further, it explains the sādhana to have positive injunctions and negative injunctions, which are presented only a few chapters before in the same 2nd canto in relation to Bhagavān.
  4. Its instructions to perform this sādhana everywhere and always is consistent with the positive injunction that Bhagavān is to be worshipped everywhere and always.
  5. Finally, its instruction that inquiry into this sādhana is the highest culmination of all other inquiry is consistent with the Bhāgavatam’s teaching that bhakti is the highest sādhana in all of existence.

In this manner, the catuḥśloki, the essence of the Bhāgavatam, which we have discussed in the last few articles, is directly focused on Bhagavān and His bhakti.

Categories: sādhanā

Tagged as:

Leave a Reply