The kaniṣṭha bhāgavata lacks knowledge of śāstra and hence śāstrīya-śraddhā

In previous articles, I discussed the characteristics of the uttama and madhyama bhāgavatas as explained in the Bhakti Sandarbha. Here, I examine Śrī Jīva’s explanation of the characteristics of the kaniṣṭha bhāgavata presented in the Bhakti Sandarbha Anuccheda 190. He writes:

atha bhagavad-dharmācaraṇa-rūpeṇa kāyikena kiñcin mānasena ca liṅgena kaniṣṭhaṁ lakṣayati—

Now sage Havi defines the kaniṣṭha bhāgavata in terms of his physical traits ( kāyika-liṅga ) — which take the form of the outward behavior he exhibits in the matter of bhagavat-dharma — and to a partial extent, in terms of his psychological disposition ( mānasa-liṅga ):

The definition of the kaniṣṭha bhāgavata is in this verse:

arcāyām eva haraye pūjāṁ yaḥ śraddhayehate |

na tad-bhakteṣu cānyeṣu sa bhaktaḥ prākṛtaḥ smṛtaḥ || [bhā.pu. 11.2.47]

One who offers worship to Hari with faith in the deity form alone but who fails to honor Him as present in His devotees or in other living beings is recognized as a prākṛta-bhakta , or a devotee whose nature [ prakṛti ] is in the very beginning stage of formation. ( SB 11.2.47 )

Now Śrī Jīva will explain that the kaniṣṭha bhāgavata does not have prema. This further supports my assertion in the previous article that the uttama and madhyama bhāgavatas are siddhas, as they both have prema. I will examine his explanation line by line:

arcāyāṁ pratimāyām eva,

[This verse states that the kaniṣṭha bhāgavata worships Bhagavān] only in the form of the deity.

na tad-bhakteṣu, anyeṣuca sutarāṁ na,

He does not perceive Bhagavān’s presence in His devotees and, consequently, certainly not in others either.

Perceiving Bhagavān’s presence in His devotees is a quality shared by both the uttama bhāgavata and the madhyama bhāgavata. Perceiving His presence in even non-devotees is a quality of the uttama bhāgavata. Both qualities are denied in the kaniṣṭha bhāgavata. Now he gives three reasons for this, out of which I have italicized the first one:

bhagavat-premābhāvad bhakta-māhātmya-jñānābhāvāt sarvādara-lakṣaṇa-bhakta-guṇānudayāc ca |

This is because, within his being, there is an absence of the appearance of love for Bhagavān, an absence of awareness of the glory of true devotees, and an absence of the appearance of a devotee’s fundamental quality, which is the attitude of reverence for all living beings

sa prākṛtaḥ prakṛtiḥ prārambho’dhunaiva prārabdha-bhaktir ity arthaḥ |

Such a person is a prākṛta-bhakta , “a devotee whose nature ( prakṛti ) is in the very beginning stage of formation (prārambha ),” meaning that his cultivation of bhakti has just recently begun.

Now he adds a crucially important point:

iyaṁ ca śraddhā na śāstrārthāvadhāraṇa-jātā |

Additionally, his śraddhā , or faith, is not the outcome of assimilating the import of scripture.

This person does not have śraddhā in śāstra because of ignorance of śāstra. His śraddhā is laukika – he may be a bhakta only because of being influenced by somebody’s preaching or may have become influenced by his social circle. Basically this person is a bhakta because of social conventions.

Śrī Jīva gives an example:

yasyātma-buddhiḥ kuṇape tri-dhātuke sva-dhīḥ kalatrādiṣu bhauma ijya-dhīḥ |

yat-tīrtha-buddhiḥ salile na karhicij janeṣv abhijñeṣu …[bhā.pu. 10.84.13] |

This attitude is characterized in the following statement:
One whose self-concept ( ātma-buddhiḥ ) is rooted in this corpse-like body, which is constituted of the three elements, mucus, bile, and air; whose sense of relation ( sva-dhīḥ ) is in his wife, children, and other kin; whose concept of divinity ( ijya-dhīḥ ) is in earthen images; and whose notion of the sacred ( tīrtha-buddhiḥ ) is in the water of a river; but who never cherishes the sense of self, of relation, of divinity, and of the sacred, in regard to those who have realized the Absolute, is indeed an ass among cows. ( SB 10.84.13 )

He emphasizes the reason for the above attitudes:

ity-ādi śāstrājñānāt

These attitudes are due to ignorance of the scriptural conclusions.

As such, the kaniṣṭha bhāgavata has faith due to other reasons:

tasmāl loka-paramparā-prāptaiveti pūrvavat |
Consequently, the faith of the neophyte arises only out of social conventions ( loka-paramparā ), as described earlier.

Therefore the kaniṣṭha bhāgavata should aspire to get śāstrīya-śraddhā:

ataś cājāta-premā śāstrīya-śraddhā-yuktaḥ sādhakas tu mukhyo kaniṣṭho jñeyaḥ ||

Thus, a spiritual practitioner ( sādhaka ) in whom divine love ( prema ) has not yet manifested but who is endowed with faith rooted in scriptural knowledge is to be understood as the primary standard of a novice devotee ( kaniṣṭha ).

Babaji notes that the ‘standard’ for the kaniṣṭha bhāgavata mentioned above is actually the kaniṣṭha adhikāri defined in the Bhakti rasāmrta sindhu.


The kaniṣṭha bhāgavata

  1. is a sādhaka
  2. does not have prema
  3. does not have knowledge of śāstra
  4. does not have śāstrīya-śraddhā
  5. offers worship to Hari with faith in the deity form but does not respect others

Categories: concepts, Definitions, sādhanā

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12 replies »

  1. In this case is it fair to say that every sadhaka is a kanishta bhagvata by definition until they get to sadhya bhakti?

    • I think the madhyama adhikari or uttama adhikari classification of vaidhi bhaktas would not fit into kanisthatva. Uttama adhikaris who are still sadhakas ought to be able to see Bhagavan in devotees at the very least. So the definition probably does not apply to all sadhakas.

  2. Jai radhe shyam! Hello Dada, I have two questions, can you post a commentary on the last verse of 3rd Chapter to defeat Lust. Then also Sri Krishna says to control the mind Sattva Buddhi is needed. How can we Reach Sattva Buddhi?

    • Radhe Radhe Hiro. Please visit Download the Gita by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti. Find the last verse, and post the Sanskrit here. I can translate it for you if you need it.

      One can reach sattvika buddhi by practicing viveka, by practicing a sattvika lifestyle in terms of diet, association, etc.

      But the goal should really to go beyond sattva, rajas and tamas. That can only be achieved by bhakti.

      • Thank you dada. And yes PLEASEE translate this, “ viśvanāthaḥ : upasaṁharati evam iti | buddheḥ paraṁ jīvātmānaṁ buddhvā sarvopādhibhyaḥ pṛthak-bhūtaṁ jñātvā ātmanā svenaivāmānaṁ svaṁ saṁstabhya niścalaṁ kṛtvā durāsadaṁ durjayam api kāmaṁ jahi nāśaya ||43||

        adhyāye’smin sādhanasya niṣkāmasyaiva karmaṇaḥ |
        prādhānyam ūce tat-sādhya-jñānasya guṇatāṁ vadan ||

        iti sārārtha-darśinyāṁ harṣiṇyāṁ bhakta-cetasām |
        tṛtīyaḥ khalu gītāsu saṅgataḥ saṅgataḥ satām ||3”

      • Sri Visvanatha concludes:
        Understanding the jivatma to be superior to the buddhi, that is, understanding that [the jiva] is distinct from all upadhis [of body, senses, mind, buddhi], making oneself unwavering by one’s own self, destroy this kama which is [otherwise] difficult to overcome.

        In this chapter, the sadhana of niskama karma has been primarily spoken, while mentioning secondarily the goal of the sadhana, which is jnana.

    • Dear T. Krsna Dasa
      By the above mentioned prema of madhyama adhikari devotee is meant prema in general (liking, respecting others, seeing them as parts of Bhagavan) or it means that he attained bhava, prema as prayojana?

  3. Dada, I’ve been practicing many various ways to control the mind and to stop sexual desire but I see myself in short coming, I follow Babaji’s teachings to improve a new habit. But instead of cutting it off, it makes it worse. I’ve noticed the root cause is to enjoy lust with women. I’ve been using Krishna’s advice as you helped translate for me. But in order for my intellect to be firmly convinced I want to ask you some questions.
    1. How does me understanding “I am distinct from the buddhi.” Help control the mind? I try to do it but I do not understand how this Sankhya Yog knowledge can control the mind. And I fail to control the mind.
    2. The root cause is women and wanting pleasure with them. How can I get pleasure in an other way?
    3. I see my mind forgetting knowledge when lust comes, how can I remember ?

    • The goal is not to stop desire but to perform seva to Bhagavan and His devotees. If you do this, desire will go away on its own. On the path of bhakti, one should serve advanced devotees- who are far more advanced than oneself. Then the mind will gradually come under control.
      Viveka between mind and body etc., is not strictly speaking part of bhakti. The first step is to take shelter of and to serve a genuine guru, and all this will gradually fall away. As we advance in bhakti, the vision that others are also seats of Bhagavan and therefore devotees starts to develop.
      Women are not the root cause of lust. The root cause of kama is raja guna.

      • Yes thank you. Babaji says in his Vivek post, “A person with strong viveka sees the mind’s inclinations (likes and dislikes, fears and desires) as transitory, and sees the self as permanent.” How does the Yogi understand, “I am the soul, and everything else is transitory.” What happens to his mind? When he uses Vivek where does he divert his mind towards? How does he remain in the soul? What happens?

      • He observes the mind and body like they are things separate from him. He is not perturbed by sensory input. He remains absorbed in awareness of himself as the atma. See fifth chapter in Gita; naiva kincit karomi iti group of verses. Also see second chapter where Sri Arjuna asks a similar question about the sthita prajna and how Sri Krsna answers it.

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