Tag Archives: Bhakti yoga

The Boy Sees God

[1.6.16]

As I meditated upon his lotus-like feet, gradually all of my thoughts and emotions became enrapt in spiritual affection, I became very enthusiastic, tears rolled from my eyes, and Hari appeared within my heart.

[17]

O learned one, my body completely overwhelmed with ecstasies, an excess of incomparable divine love drowned me in a flood of spiritual bliss and I could not see a second thing.

[18]

The beauty of the All-Attractive charms the mind and makes everything else disappear. Suddenly losing sight of him, I stood up in distress like a person who has lost everything.

[19]

Desiring to find him, I again set my mind into my heart and searched. In spite of my effort, I could not see him and became tormented with dissatisfaction.

[20]

Seeing me struggling alone, he who is beyond reach spoke to me in a deep and delightful voice that pacified my sadness.

In 16 we see the six-year old boy’s spiritual practice begin and very soon attain bhāva, the eighth of nine stages of progress in bhakti-yoga. He began at this high stage because of his previous practice with the Kṛṣṇa Saṁkīrtanists during the previous rainy and autumn seasons, and his consequent contemplations and efforts.

In 17 we see bhāva maturing into prema, the final stage of progress. The nature of prema (divine love) is to completely submerge the consciousness in a deluge of ecstasy which is so all-consuming that one loses perception of anything and everything else.

In 18 we see that in the transition from bhāva to prema there are temporary perceptions of tangible spiritual reality. Losing touch with them causes extreme distress in the heart, which is the fire that finally burns off the last remaining impurities of self-centered ego.

In 19 we see the boy try to apply the same technique that previously worked, but this time it would not work. Text 20 answers the question of why it did not work: Godhead is beyond the boundaries of where our mind and senses can extend. Therefore by their own efforts they cannot directly perceive Godhead. The revelation of Hari’s divine beauty in text 17 came to the boy not directly as a result of his efforts to meditate, but as a result of those efforts invoking special mercy from Hari. In text 19 Hari is applying a different type of special mercy to prepare the boy for his full mercy. In text 20, merciful Hari feels compelled to speak to the child and explain all this.

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How to Acquire Divine Love

We pick up the story just after Suta explained why devotion to the Supreme Person, which is developed through hearing about and discussing him, is the most beneficial thing for humanity and brings complete joy to the soul. Suta’s conclusion [1.2.14] was, “one should therefore always hear about, glorify, remember and worship that Supreme Person.”

Some sages, who follow much more arduous and difficult paths for purification, must have felt incredulous towards Suta’s declaration that the supreme welfare can be achieved simply by loving discussion of the Supreme Person. “How could emotion and discussion alone liberate a person from the complex clutches of miserable karmic action and reaction?” They might have asked.

Suta replies [15]: “The meditation which arises spontaneously with a person who hears and discusses Godhead in a loving manner becomes like a sword, with which that wise soul slices to pieces all the hard knots of karmic bondage.”

Some of the sages expected some sort of difficult meditation and yoga and austerity to be required for liberation. Suta explained that by loving devotion, powerful meditation, intimate connection, and willingness to forego anything and everything for the sake of the beloved naturally and automatically arises. Therefore one need not cultivate such things individually. Merely by cultivating love of Godhead through hearing and chanting, such things automatically manifest in an uncommonly powerful form.

The vast majority of Suta’s audience is now back on board and ready to pursue the concept further. They are all agreeable that devotion to Godhead is the most beneficial and valuable thing for a human being. Now they would like to know how to do it; How does one acquire the yoga of devotion?

Suta begins with a rhetorical question: “So who would not be attracted and interested in such discussions about the Supreme?”

This is a reference to the first stage of developing devotion, bhakti-yoga. Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī divides the progress of a bhakti-yogi into nine stages. The first is śraddhā – which means that your heart naturally becomes interested in the topic. Suta enumerates this stage here in the 15th verse, with the words tasya ko na kuryāt kathā-ratim, “[Since the process of devotion, encapsulated succinctly in hearing and chanting about the beloved, is so delightful and efficacious] who in their right mind would not develop some interest in it?”

[16] “A person who does have significant interest in deeply hearing about Vasudeva’s Son (Krishna) is a great soul – a mahātmā. We should purify ourselves by pilgrimage to such purified persons, and should do whatever we can to care for and assist them.”

This is now a reference especially to the second stage of bhakti-yoga: Keeping the company of excellent devotees, sādhu-sanga. The summary of this stage is that, once we have some interest in divine devotion (śraddha) we would then naturally seek out those who have more experience with and accomplishment in it. Seeking such persons, who have more interest in divine love of Krishna than we do, is the second step in bhakti-yoga. How shall we associate with them? We must try to be helpful in a humble manner and assist and serve them in whatever capacity they might want or need. That will quickly make us as pure as they are.

[17] “When you yourself begin to feel the urge to hear Krishna’s words and virtues, you will become even more purified. Such words will carry Krishna, your dear friend, into the core of your heart, which will therefore become cleansed of all impurities, illusions, and inauspiciousness.”

Here Suta refers to the third and fourth stages of bhakti-yoga. The third stage is to execute devotional practices (bhajana-kriyā). The fourth is to become purified of all inauspicious undesirable impurities (anārtha-nivṛtti). The way to actually practice bhakti-yoga is to eagerly hear and discuss Krishna’s own words and words about him. Purification takes place next, on a more profound scale than before. One becomes pure from the inside out, because those words of Krishna carry him into the heart, and all inauspicious and undesirable things flee therefrom.

[18] “When almost all impurities have been cast out from your being, you will become very firmly fixed in bhāgavata-seva – hearing the messages about the all-fortunate and all-attractive Krishna, and humbly serving those who hear such messages. The beautiful poetry describing all-attractive Krishna will then cause very extreme devotion to manifest in you.”

Now Suta refers to the fifth and sixth/seventh stages of bhakti-yoga. The fifth stage is niṣṭhā, “fixation on bhāgavata-seva.” This steady engagement in hearing about Krishna and serving those discussions comes about my way of being purified via more occasional engagement in the same. Once we attain steady engagement in bhāgavata-seva we begin to experience serious glimpses of extreme bhāgavata-bhakti, devotion. These initial extreme stages of bhakti-yoga as a practice are the sixth and seventh stages according to Śrī Rūpa’s way of looking at it: ruci (taste) and āsakti (addiction).

[19] “As a result of extreme devotion to poetic descriptions of Krishna, the contaminating facets of material illusion – ignorance and ambition and their concomitant anger and greed will be unable to affect your mind. Instead only the pure facet of existence will caress your being.”

Existence has three facets: tama, rajas, and sattva – darkness of ignorance, coloration of passionate ambition, and the crystal purity of awareness. Extreme devotion to hearing and chanting about Krishna form an impenetrable shield around one’s mind and perception. One can no longer perceive a situation in a way that gives rise to anger or greedy desires, because the selflessness and understanding of pure loving devotion encapsulates and caresses him. Therefore only the sattva facet of existence continues to affect the bhakta-yogi at this level.

Here, Suta has described the eighth stage of devotional yoga: bhāva. At this stage only pure sattva affects our existence and in that crystal clarity our true nature as a spiritual individual in relationship to the all-attractive Godhead begins to become tangible and empirically real.

[20] “Your being thus caressed by this pure energy of existence manifest due to your union with pure and selfless love for the all-attractive Krishna, the next development is that you become emancipated entirely from all material bondage and directly experience, face-to-face, your divine all-attractive beloved.”

Now Suta comes to the ninth and final stage of progress in bhakti-yoga. It is called prema. The characteristic of Prema is direct tangible perception of Godhead via the delightful bond of love, which of course cannot be had without incidentally destroying all bonds to selfishness and illusion.

[21] “The knots tied around your pure heart are no now sliced to shreds and you are free from all confusions and misgiving. The chain of your destiny has come to an end, completely fulfilled as karma terminates once and for all. Your self is now directly seen with your master.”

Here glorious Suta completes his explanation of how hearing and discussing Krishna causes the most desirable and auspicious outcome and destroys the knots of inauspiciousness. He now describes what occurs after the nine stages of development in bhakti-yoga. The fulfillment of bhakti yoga occurs after it destroys all the ropes binding our inner soul, blows away the haze and thick fog of all our confusions and delusions, and terminates the cycle of destiny we have created by selfish actions and their inescapable reactions. The fulfillment of bhakti yoga is to attain direct interactive relationship with the beloved, Krishna. “The self is seen now only in terms of the beloved master. The self exists to be seen nowhere else.”