I continue translating Śrī Jīva Goswami’s commentary on the definition of uttamā bhakti given in the Bhakti rasāmṛta sindhu by Śrī Rūpa Goswami. He concludes the previous topic by pointing out that all that discussion was about the inherent characteristics of bhakti:
tad etat svarūpa-lakṣaṇam – this was the svarūpa-lakṣaṇam.
He now explains the taṭastha-lakṣaṇa:
uttamātva-siddhy-arthaṁ tu taṭastha-lakṣaṇena viśeṣaṇa-dvayam |
To establish the uttamā-ness, two viśeṣaṇas are provided by means of taṭastha-lakṣaṇa.
The compound word uttamā-bhakti is being defined here. The term “bhakti” was already defined. Now, the uttamā part is being defined.
anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyam iti | atrānyeti bhakty-ekābhilāṣeṇa yuktam ity arthaḥ |
In the term “anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyam” meaning “devoid (śūnyam) of desire-ness (abhilāṣitā) for anything else (anya)”, the word anya conveys the sense of “[being] endowed with only one desire, which is for bhakti”.
Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravarti’s commentary is instructive on this topic, and so I will include it here.
anyasmin bhakty-atiriktatve phalatvenābhilāṣa-śūnyam |
[anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyam means] devoid of desire for a fruit other than [anya = anyasmin] bhakti.
He explains this further:
bhaktyā sañjātayā bhaktyā [bhā.pu. 11.3.31] ity ekādaśokter bhakty-uddeśaka-bhakti-karaṇam ucitam evety ato’nyasmin khalu bhakty-atirikta iti |
[By the logic that bhakti alone produces bhakti] as implied in bhā.pu. 11.3.31 “by bhakti born from bhakti”, only the performance of bhakti solely for the purpose of bhakti is appropriate. Therefore, the term anya [= anyasmin] indeed implies anything other than bhakti.
He now explains the reason for the suffix ‘tā’ on the word abhilāṣa:
yathātrānyābhilāṣa-śūnyatvaṁ vihāyānyābhilāṣa-svabhāvārthaka-tācchīlya-pratyayena kasyacid bhaktasya kadācid akasmāt maraṇa-saṅkaṭe prāpte « he bhagavan bhaktaṁ mām etad vipatteḥ sakāśād rakṣa » iti | kadācitkābhilāṣa-sattve’pi na kṣatiḥ | yatas tasya vaivaśya-hetuka-svabhāva-viparyayeṇaiva tādṛg-abhilāṣo, na tu svābhāvika iti bodhyam |
It is to be understood that [the purpose of] not stating anyābhilāṣa-śūnya, but instead, using a suffix that conveys the [absence of the] nature of anyābhilāṣa is [to convey] that having a temporary desire [for something other than bhakti], as when some devotee, due to a sudden danger of death, utters “O Bhagavan, please protect me, your devotee, from this danger”, is not a defect. This is because that type of desire is due only due to [a temporary,] contrary change in the [devotee’s] nature caused by helplessness; it is not in the devotee’s nature.
The point is that asking for anything from Bhagavān that is not bhakti, does not full under the definition of bhakti, even if it is a desire for protection from impending death. This is why Śrī Viśvanātha went to some pains here to justify why it is not a defect if someone prays to Bhagavān from the prospect of sudden death. Some people argue that surrender means to “quit one’s livelihood and depend on Bhagavān”. If even requesting protection from death is difficult to justify, how can depending on Bhagavān to provide one’s food and clothing meet the definition of bhakti? These proponents misinterpret a verse from the Gītā to support their argument – I will examine that verse in a a future article.
Śrī Jīva Goswami now explains the term “jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam”:
jñānam atra nirbheda-brahmānusandhānam
[In the term jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam], the term jñānam means cultivating knowledge of oneness with Brahman,
The word jñāna has a technical meaning here. It does not mean “study” or “knowledge”! He emphasizes this point here:
na tu bhajanīya-tattvānusandhānam api | tasyāvaśyāpekṣaṇīyatvāt |
and not cultivating knowledge of the nature of the worshippable, because that is compulsory [for bhakti].
Now he explains the term “karma” in the definition. Again, it has a technical meaning:
karma cātra smṛtyādy-uktaṁ nitya-naimittikādi,
And the term “karma” here refers to actions such as nitya and naimittika karmas that are explained in the smṛtis and other scriptures,
The term “karma” specifically refers to varṇa and āśrama duties. It does not refer to all actions, as he emphasizes:
na tu bhajanīya-paricaryādi | tasya tad-anuśīlana-rūpatvāt |
and not to actions such as service of the worshippable, because they fall under anuśīlana.
Then he explains what the term ādi implies. It again has a technical meaning, referring specifically to other types of sādhana:
ādi-śabdena vairāgya-yoga-sāṅkhyābhyāsādayaḥ |
The word ‘ādi’ indicates items such as the practice of vairāgya, yoga and sāṅkhya.
I will again include Cakravarti-pāda’s commentary here because it is very instructive:
ādi-śabdena yajña-vairāgya-yoga-sāṅkhyābhyāsādayas tair anāvṛtam, na tu pūrvavat tac-chūnyam ity arthaḥ
The word ‘ādi’ indicates items such as the practice of yajña, vairāgya, yoga, sāṅkhya. The sense is [the bhakti is] uncovered by them and not necessarily devoid of them like before.
Above, he gives the identical meaning to the term ādi as Śrī Jīva Goswami except he includes an extra term ‘yajña’. Next, he explains that they are only excluded from the definition if they are coverings on bhakti:
tena ca bhakty-āvarakāṇām eva jñāna-karmādīnāṁ niṣedho’bhipretaḥ
By this, what is implied is that only jñāna, karma etc. that are a covering on bhakti are excluded [from the definition].
He now explains the meaning of the term “covering on bhakti”.
bhakty-āvarakatvaṁ nāma vidhi-śāsanān nitya-karmākaraṇe pratyavāyādi-bhayāc chraddhayā kriyamāṇatvam |
Covering of bhakti refers to the performance of karma with faith, out of fear of pratyavāya [sin] due to not performing the nitya karmas as per the rules of the vidhis,
This is the first type of covering: performing scriptural duties out of the knowledge that not performing them would accrue sin. This indicates a) faith in the path of karma, and b) lack of faith in bhakti.
tathā bhakty-ādi-rūpeṣṭa-sādhanatvāc chraddhayā kriyamāṇatvaṁ ca |
and performance of karma with faith thinking that they are a means to attaining the desired goal beginning with bhakti.
This is the second type of covering: thinking that performance of karma will produce bhakti. Bhakti can be only produced by bhakti, and not by karma.
tena loka-saṁgrahārtham aśraddhayāpi pitrādi-śrāddhaṁ kurvatāṁ mahānubhāvānāṁ śuddha-bhaktau nāvyāptiḥ |
By this, there is no avyāpti in pure bhakti of those great souls who perform śrāddha to the forefathers for teaching people, despite having no faith [in the ritual].
Why go to all this trouble? It is to prevent the defect of avyāpti: sometimes great bhaktas can perform rituals even though they have no faith in them. They only do so to not disturb society and thereby attract criticism to bhakti, which can in turn disturb their bhakti.
The overall point, again, is that no actions that are performed for supporting bhakti are excluded from bhakti. These actions may even include those that are common on the paths of vairāgya, yoga, or sāṅkhya. It is the purpose for which they are done that excludes them or includes them in bhakti. So if one renounces the world (vairāgya), that renunciation is not necessarily bhakti; the renunciation must be done explicitly for achieving bhakti. Therefore, the idea some propagate that uttamā bhakti only begins when one renounces the world is completely misguided.
Śrī Jīva concludes his commentary:
atra śrī-kṛṣṇānuśīlanaṁ kṛṣṇa-bhaktir iti vaktavye bhagavac-chāstreṣu kevalasya ca bhakti-śabdasya tatraiva viśrāntir ity abhiprāyāt tathoktaṁ, tathaiva hy agrima-vākyam iti
Here, if [one objects that] the term śrī-kṛṣṇānuśīlanaṁ is kṛṣṇa-bhakti [and not bhakti], [the reply is that the term bhakti alone] is stated to convey the idea that the meaning of the word ‘bhakti’ by itself culminates in kṛṣṇa-bhakti alone in the scriptures related to Bhagavān. This will be clarified in the next statement.
The meaning of bhakti is Kṛṣṇa-bhakti only, and not any other type of bhakti. Therefore, the word ‘Kṛṣṇa’ is not used before the word bhakti in the definition.
Collecting all these commentaries together, we arrive at a definition of uttamā bhakti:
anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṁ jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam |
ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānuśīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamā ||
Uttamā bhakti is action for the sake of Kṛṣṇa, or related to Kṛṣṇa, characterized by an absence of unfavorableness, devoid of the coverings of the cultivation of knowledge of oneness with Brahman, nitya and naimittika karmas, or vairāgya, yoga etc., and devoid of the tendency to desire any result other than bhakti.
Categories: bhāva, concepts, Definitions, sādhanā
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