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Chapter 20: Discourse on Devotion as the Aim

[The Master continued His address to Sanatan thus]:

"The Vedas teach that Krishna is the sole Essence. Now let me speak of the signs of the aim (abhidheya), from which one can get Krishna and the treasure of Krishna's love. All the Shastras speak of faith in Krishna as the aim. Hence the sages declare,

'We know for certain that thou, O Lord, art our refuge, because the mode of thy worship that Mother Shruti lays down in answer to our questions, is also indicated by Sister Smritis and Brother Purans'.

"This truth is taught by the Monist school that Krishna is God Himself; He dwells in the form of the Swarup power; spreading out in the forms of swamsha and bibhinnamsha, He disports Himself in Ananta, Vaikuntha, and Brahmanda. The four-sided incarnations are His swamsha extension. The created world is the example of His bibhinnamsha power. Such creatures are of two classes, viz., one ever liberated, the other ever fettered to the world. The ever liberated are ever eager for Krishna's feet; they are named Krishna's followers and they enjoy the bliss of serving Him. The ever fettered are ever excluded from Krishna, and ever feel the sufferings of Hell; the Fury, Illusion, ever torments them for that reason; the three internal agonies scourge them; they are kicked at by Lust, Anger [and other deadly sins] whose slaves they are. If in the course of their life's wanderings they meet with a saint as their healer, his teaching like a charm exorcizes the demon (Illusion) out of them; then they feel bhakti for Krishna and come to Him. Faith in Krishna is the supreme end (abhidheya). Worthless are the fruits of other kinds of devotion, such as work, yog, and knowledge,--in comparison with the bliss of bhakti; the former cannot give us Krishna unless we have bhakti in Him. Vide Bhagabat I. v. 12 and II. iv. 16. Knowledge dissociated from bhakti cannot give salvation; but a man devoted to Krishna can gain salvation without knowledge. Vide Bhagabat, X. xiv. 4 and the Gita, vii. 14.

"Creation, the eternal slave of Krishna, forgot this fact; hence Illusion tied a rope round its neck. If a creature adores Krishna and serves his guru, he is released from the meshes of Illusion and attains to Krishna's feet. If, while observing the rules of his caste, a man does not adore Krishna, he will be plunged in hell in spite of his doing his caste-duties. Vide Bhagabat, XI. v. 2 & 3. The votary of knowledge imagines that he has attained to the condition of one liberated even in earthly life; but in truth his mind cannot be purified without faith in Krishna. Vide Bhagabat, X. ii. 26. Krishna is like the Sun, while Illusion is as darkness; hence Illusion has no power to remain where Krishna is. Vide Bhagabat, II. v. 13. Even if a man prays once saying Krishna I am thine, he is saved by Krishna from the bonds of Illusion. If the seeker after enjoyment, salvation and attainment (siddhi), is wise, he adores Krishna with deep bhakti. Vide Bhagabat, II. iii. 10. If a man adores Krishna in longing for other [material] gains, He gives the votary His own feet unasked, arguing, 'In adoring me he is soliciting for material joys. What a great fool is he, in thus begging for poison instead of nectar! I am wiser, why then should I grant this fool [his coveted] earthly pleasures? Let me give him the nectar of my feet, so that he may forget earthly joys'. Vide Bhagabat, V. xix. 28. If a man adores Krishna even for fleshly lusts, he [soon] longs to abandon his desires and become a slave of Krishna. In going through this worldly life, some are fortunate enough to gain salvation; just as a log of wood drifting down the current now and then lands on the bank. Vide Bhagabat, X. xxxviii. 4. By good luck some men's bondage to the world is about to be severed, [when] they are emancipated by the society of holy men, and are inspired with devotion to Krishna. Vide Bhagabat X. ii. 35. If Krishna favours any blessed man, He teaches him as his guru seated in the heart. Vide Bhagabat, XI. xxix. 6. If in the company of holy men a man feels inclined towards bhakti in Krishna, he gets love, the fruit of bhakti, and is freed from the world. Vide Bhagabat, XI. xx. 8. Save through the favour of the noble a man cannot feel bhakti in anything; not to speak of his gaining devotion to Krishna, he is not even freed from bondage to the world. Vide Bhagabat, V. xx. 12 and VII. v. 25. All Shastras recommend the companionship of the holy. As soon as such society is resorted to, it gives success in everything. Vide Bhagabat, I. xvii. 13. The gracious Krishna, in addressing Arjun [in the Gita], has laid down instructions for the salvation of mankind. Vide the Gita, xviii. 64 and 65.

"God had first commanded the Vedic religion, work, yog, and knowledge. After these had been observed, He finally commanded bhakti, which must, therefore, be superior [to the former]. If, in accordance with this [latest] dispensation, a devotee feels shraddha, he leaves all works and adores Krishna. Vide Bhagabat, XI. xx. 9. The term shraddha means firm and unquestioning faith. If one adores Krishna, it is equivalent to his doing all the prescribed ceremonies [of religion]. Vide Bhagabat, IV. xxxi. 12.

"Men who have shraddha are qualified for bhakti, and are ranked as superior, average, and inferior, according to the quality of their shraddha. He whose shraddha is confirmed by listening to the reasoning contained in the Shastras is a superior 'entitled to bhakti', and he is liberated from the world. He whose shraddha is strong in spite of his ignorance of shastric arguments, is an average 'entitled to bhakti'; he, too, is very fortunate. He whose shraddha requires a visible object [of adoration] is an inferior 'entitled to bhakti'; in time he will advance to the stage of a superior bhakta. There are different grades of bhakti, according to differences of ardour and passion, as has been described in the eleventh skanda of the Bhagabat, (XI. ii. 43-45).

"All the high attributes are found in the person of a Vaishnav, because Krishna's attributes spread to His bhaktas. (Ibid, V. xviii. 12). The following qualities mark a Vaishnav; they cannot be exhaustively named, I only take a rapid view: he is compassionate, spiteless, essentially true, saintly, innocent, charitable, gentle, pure, humble, a universal benefactor, tranquil, solely dependent on Krishna, free from desire, quiet, equable, a victor over the six passions (sharguna), temperate in diet, self-controlled, honouring others and yet not proud himself, grave, tender, friendly, learned, skilful and silent. Vide Bhagabat, III. xxv. 20, V. v. 2. The society of holy men is the root of the birth of devotion to Krishna (Bhagabat, X. li. 35, XI. ii. 28, xxv. 22). The principal limb that springs up from it is love of Krishna. It is proper conduct for a Vaishnav to abjure the society of the wicked. The man who consorts with women is one kind of sinner, while the man lacking in faith in Krishna belongs to another kind. (Bhagabat III. xxxi. 35, 33 & 34). Leaving these [temptations] and the religious system based on caste, [the true Vaishnav] helplessly takes refuge with Krishna. Vide the Gita, xviii. 66; Bhagabat, X. xlviii.

"If a learned man happens to sing Krishna's praise, he adores Krishna to the exclusion of all other deities, as is proved by the case of Uddhav. Vide Bhagabat, III. ii. The helpless and the refugee [among devotees] have the same characteristics. Then comes resignation in. After taking refuge in Krishna, the votary gives himself entirely up to Krishna, who then elevates him to His own nature. Vide Hari-bhakti-vilas, xi. 417 & 418; Bhagabat, XI. xxix. 32."

"Give ear, O Sanatan, while I turn to speak of the attainment (sadhan) of bhakti, which gives us the rich treasure of love for Krishna. Hearing [chant] and other acts [of the physical organs] are the swarup signs of it; while in the tatastha sign love is born. Love for Krishna is ever an end (siddha); it is never a means (sadhya). It is kindled in a pure heart by listening [to Krishna's praise], and other acts of the organs. The sadhan of bhakti is of two kinds: one following the ordinances of religion, the other following the [heart's] inclination. The man without a natural desire [for Krishna] adores Him in obedience to the bidding of the Shastras; such bhakti is called regular (baidhi).

'King! It is the duty of the men who seeks liberation to hear, to praise, and to meditate about God, the universal Soul, the supremely Beautiful, and the Liberator from bondage.' (Bhagabat, II. i. 5. and also XI. v. 2.)

"The modes of cultivating bhakti are many; I shall only tell you briefly of the chief of them: [they are] taking refuge at the feet of the guru, initiation, service of the guru, inquiry into the true religion, following the path of saints, renunciation of enjoyment out of love for Krishna, residence at holy places associated with Krishna, accepting alms no further than suffices [for one's sustenance], fasting on the tenth day of the moon, reverence to foster-mothers, fig trees, kine, Brahmans and Vaishnavs, shunning from a distance all offences against adoration and the holy name, abjuring the company of non-Vaishnavs, taking only a few disciples, avoiding the study and exposition of too many books and arts, looking at loss and gain as alike, control of grief and other passions, abstention from abusing other gods and scriptures, never listening to scandal about Vishnu or Vaishnavs nor to village gossip, giving no shock by thought or speech to any creature that lives, listening [to chant], hymn-singing, keeping God in remembrance, worship, adoration [in words], attendance [on idols], assuming the attitudes of servant and comrade [to Krishna], dedication of one's own self [to God], dancing, singing, petitioning and prostration before [Krishna's image], rising to welcome [His image], and following it as a mark of respect, visiting shrines at tirthas, walking round shrines, hymning, reading scriptures, reciting the holy name, sankirtan, enjoying incense garlands perfumed essence and the maha-prasad, witnessing the grand celebration of arati and the divine image, giving up whatever is dear to one's own self, meditation, and serving Him.

"The service of the following four is approved by Krishna:--the Tulsi plant, Vaishnavs, Mathura, and the book Bhagabat.

"Direct all your efforts to [the service of] Krishna, witness His mercies, celebrate His Nativity and other days in the company of bhaktas. Ever fly to him for refuge, celebrate Kartik and other bratas.

"These are the sixty-four modes of cultivating bhakti. The five chief of them are (1) the society of holy men, (2) kirtan of Krishna's name, (3) listening to the reading of the Bhagabat, (4) dwelling at Mathura, and (5) reverential service of His image. Even a little of these five creates love for Krishna.

"Some bhaktas pursue only one of these modes, some many. When the mind has become steady, the wave of love surges up [in it]. Many bhaktas have attained to success by following one mode only. Ambarisha and other bhaktas cultivated many modes. (Vide Bhagabat, IX. iv. 15-17)-The man who by renouncing desire adores Krishna in obedience to the injunctions of the Shastras, is not indebted to the gods the Rishis or the manes of his ancestors. (Bhagabat, XI. v. 37). He who adores Krishna's feet rejecting shastric rites, feels nevertheless no temptation for forbidden sins. Even if he commits a sin unwittingly, Krishna purifies him and he need not practise penance for it. (Bhagabat, XL v. 38). Theological knowledge and monachism are not at all necessary means of cultivating bhakti; Krishna's society gives inoffensiveness and discipline. Vide Bhagabat, XI. xx. 31.

"Hitherto I have held forth on the cultivation of bhakti in accordance with the shastric teaching. Now, let me tell you, Sanatan, about bhakti in compliance with natural inclination. This latter kind of bhakti is chiefly found in the people of Brindaban, and those who cultivate it are called raganuga ('inclination-led'). A passionate longing for the object of desire is the swarup characteristic of inclination (rag); absorption in the object of desire is its tatastha feature. The nature of an 'inclination-led' bhakta pays no heed to shastric reasoning.

"Its two types are external and internal. In the external, the devotee through his physical organs performs listening (to chant) and chanting, while in his mind he imagines himself to be identical with his ideal [such as any sakhi or cowherd mate of Krishna], and thus [in fancy] serves Krishna at Brindaban day and night. With drawing himself into his own mind, such a votary ever remains close to his object, the dearest Krishna, and thus serves Him incessantly. In the path of inclination (rag), he takes Krishna as the object of his chief emotion, viz., as master, comrade, child or sweetheart. (Bhagabat, III. xxv. 35)

"From the sprout of love (prem) issue two things, rati (addiction) and bhab (emotion). These two conquer the Lord for us. Thus have I expounded ebhidheya, from which we gain the treasure of love for Krishna." [Text, canto, 22.]