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Friday, November 24, 2006

Sāmānya Bhakti

Bhakti Rasāmrta Sindhu 
with full commentary-translations by H.H. Bhānu Swāmi.

First installment of review, Chapter one, sāmānya bhakti.

Thanks to the generous donation of Mālati dāsī from Australia I am now the happy owner of the Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu translation of H.H. Bhānu Swāmi, which I promptly and enthusiastically started reading. It comes in two volumes, the first one, east and south sectors, 959 pages, because here the tīkās are much longer, and the second one, west and north sectors, just 542 pages. A whopping 1501 pages altogether!

In his commentary Bhānu Swāmī doesn't seem to skip over any of the commentaries and has made very pleasant breaks between the different topics in the commentaries, making them very readable and surveyable. Wisely, he has kept out the ṭīkās of Viśvanātha Cakravartī that are verbatim copies of Jīva's (I never understood why Viśvanāth did that copying - was it out of pure allegiance?). His own added footnotes seem to be in context and to the point. The ṭīkā of the first verse is very lengthy, no less than 15 pages, and Bhānu expertly discerns which Bhāgavat-quotation by Jīva Gosvāmī pertains to which attribute of Kṛṣṇa's found by him in the śloka, though this is not easy to discern in the Sanskrit ṭīkā.

In the pivotal verse 1.1.11, "anyābhilāṣita śūnyam", Bhānu Svāmī unfurls the secrets of Jīva's commentaries, which were only explained very briefly by Habermann (actually, all of Habermann's comment-translations are too brief). A single line in Jīva's ṭīkā becomes an entire paragpraph in Bhānu's English commentary, not including Bhānu's patient and impressive footnotes. Bhānu's translated ṭīkās look very impressive and credible too, though some of Jīva's original Sanskrit  ṭīkās are so cryptical we will just pray that Bhānu understood it properly. I could not tell either way. The simple Sanskrit line 'sattvāsattve tu parasparam upamardditvācceṣṭāntargata eva', for instance, carries this lengthy translation: "However, emotional states of sattva, and even non-sattva, are included in ceṣṭā rūpa anuśīlanam (active devotional service) because both are suppressed by action (sattvas are intense emotions, which overcome the heart, but under the pressure of a limited body, spontaneously manifest bodily transformations (action) called sāttvika bhāvas. Even though the action is unconscious and the origin is emotion, it is classed as ceṣṭā rūpa because of the consequent and obvious active element. Other emotions, which are not so intense, and are not classified as sattvas, if they are similarly eclipsed in favor of conscious actions, are called anubhāvas. Though the immediate cause is emotion, anubhāvas are classed ceṣṭā rūpa because of preponderance of conscious action." Footnote: "sāttvika bhāvas have a strong internal emotional component called sattva, which forcibly interacts with prāna, which in turn affects the elements earth, water, fire, ether and prāna (air) in the body, which causes external symptoms in the body, voice and mind. Because they are not conscious actions, though they involve action, they are distinct from anubhāvas." Speaking of 'hidden meaning in the śāstras/Gosvāmīs writings!! All I could read in the one-line Sanskrit ṭīkā was: 'Whether sattva or non-sattva, because they suppress each other, they are counted among ceṣṭā rūpa anuśīlana." Studying the whole book may take a long, dark winter!

Further on in the 1.1.11  ṭīkā Bhānu translates Jīva: 'Thus aṅgas of bhakti such as taking shelter of Guru's lotus feet may be included in bhakti, even in bhāva-rūpa anuśīlanam', to which he makes the footnote: "Though these other items are mentioned in preliminary stages of bhakti (ceṣṭā rūpa) the inclusion of service to things related to Kṛṣṇa in anuśīlanam applies even at a more advanced stage, in bhāva rūpa bhakti. This subclass of ceṣṭā rūpa bhakti on the advanced level is called kārya rūpa (perfectional stage) and such actions are called anubhāvas. This is explained in the commentary on BRS 1.3.1."

Bhānu Swāmi also properly translates Jīva Gosvāmī's comment on BRS 1.1.22, writing: "Now it is a fact that the sinful person dissolves the prārabdha karmas producing bad birth and qualities which are unfavorable for conducing sacrifice. But since he does not have the second birth because of lack of virtuous behaviour (if he actually wants to perform sacrifices) he must take another birth in the future and then undergo the second birth-rites which will bestow the particular purity which will destroy the lack of qualification inherent even in sons of brāhmaṇas. In that sense, commenting on the words savanāya kalpate in BRS verse 1.1.21 (quotation from SB 3.33.6), Śrīdhara Swāmī says 'being immediately qualified for sacrifice means that he is given the respect due to a qualified person."

Jīva's  ṭīkā to verse 1.1.23 mentions that karma is anādi (beginningless, and thus we did not fall down from the spiritual sky), tat-tac-cānādi-siddham, and Bhānu not only neatly translates it, he even repeats it in a footnote (40:"The karma is anādi because the jīva's existence in the material world is anādi").

In the Bhāgavat 3.33.6 verse quoted in verse 21 sins are said to be destroyed at once (sadya), but in verse 23 it is said kramena, gradually. Jīva Gosvāmī explains that with the kamala-patra-śata-vedha nyāya: When one pierces 100 lotus petals it takes some time before all 100 leaves are pierced, though on the surface it seems they are all pierced at once. Similarly, in the eternal existence of the jīva, endless time, it is happening at once, though in our limited time-view it seems to be happening gradually. It is another good example of Jīva Gosvāmī rejecting literalism, and in the same Bhāgavata- ṭīkā (3.33.6) where he also rejects the notion that a chanting dog-eater can actually perform a fire sacrifice.

In verse 29, the famous yasyāsti bhaktir bhagavad akincana-verse, Jīva Gosvāmī gives another explanation of the words samāsate sura than the conventional 'all the qualities of the demigods are in him". He says that the word samāsate means vaśībhūta, controlling. Bhānu translates it as follows: "...bhakti puts at the command of the devotee all good qualities, the Lord and others as well. sura refers to the Supreme Lord and others (Jīva says that in the ṭīkā, surā bhagavadādayaḥ). samāsate means they remain under his control." In his footnote, Bhānu writes: "If bhakti gave only the qualities of the devatās that would not be remarkable. Even devatā-worshippers can obtain these qualities, which will be predominantly material sattva guna....."

The ṭīkā to 1.1.35 solves the mystery of how bhakti is rare in two ways, since it only says that it is rare if one continues with a huge amount of sādhana without attachment (such as pramāda japa). Jīva Gosvāmī says it is even rarely attained when one practises it with attachment, though there is then a delay instead of non-attainment. Jīva offers consolation in the following tīkā for those who may despair after reading this, quoting several Bhāgavat-verses that assure easy and quick success. After quoting SB 11.14.20, na sādhayati mām yogo, he explains that 'tad artha viniyukta karmādikam evocyate. ataeva sādhana śabda eva vinyasto na tu bhajana śabdaḥ'. "bhāva bhakti is rarely attained by those who employ karma and other such practises in their endeavour. That is why the word sādhana is used in verse 35, not the word 'bhajana.'

Thus ends the first installment of the review of Bhanu Swami's translation of Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, dealing with chapter one of the eastern sector.


  1. Karma has a beginning point in time.

    Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.2.32:

    ye 'nye 'ravindākṣa vimukta-māninas
    tvayy asta-bhāvād aviśuddha-buddhayaḥ
    āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraḿ padaḿ tataḥ
    patanty adho 'nādṛta-yuṣmad-ańghrayaḥ

    A person may attain liberation in brahman, attaining param-padam, or in other words sayujya mukti. In that state of liberation a soul has no karma, no material bondage. However, "patanty adho 'nādṛta-yuṣmad-ańghrayaḥ", the liberated souls absorbed in brahman may fall down into the material world and become caught in the networks of karma.

    Rising and falling, rising and falling, a soul may exist in sayujya mukti or in martya-loka, sometimes free, sometimes in bondage. This indeed is the situation for the souls presently existing in the material world.

    Previously we were existing in the rays of effulgence emanating from the body of Narayana:

    Mundaka Upanishad: 2.1:
    This is the truth:
    as from a blazing fire thousands of flaming sparks come forth,
    so from the imperishable, my friend,
    various beings come forth and return there also.
    Divine and formless is the Spirit,
    which is outside and inside, unborn, not breath, not mind,
    pure, higher than the high imperishable.

  2. This is a long discussion, but that verse does not mean there is an original fall, rather the conditioned souls whose conditioning is beginningless, attain jivanmukti, fall down from that etc. It does not mean that karma is not anadi. For the details, please read Satyanarayan Das' 'From Vaikuntha not even the leaves fall'. Evidence and common sense provided there is rather overwhelming.

  3. Original fall, as in "falling from Vaikuntha", is of course not supported by shastra. But nevertheless it is an established fact that the jivas in sayujya-mukti existence have no karma. So if they re-enter the brahmanda and engage in karma, their karma begins again. The soul goes from a state where they have no karma into a new state of bondage. Again and again they do this:

    ye 'nye 'ravindākṣa vimukta-māninas
    tvayy asta-bhāvād aviśuddha-buddhayaḥ
    āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraḿ padaḿ tataḥ
    patanty adho 'nādṛta-yuṣmad-ańghrayaḥ

  4. I received this correcting comment from Nitai Das (USA):

    Hi Advaita,

    Radhe Radhe!

    Here is a passage that Bhanu mistranslates:

    (VizvanAtha Cakravartin, on Brs, 1.1.22)

    asya tu karmakaraNe pratyuta
    bhaktizAstrAnabhijJajanapravAdabhayamapi pratibandhakamastIti jJeyam|

    This Bhanu translates: "It should be understood that their reason for performance of sacrifice is only because of fear of rumors created by people ignorant of the devotional scriptures."

    Bhanu thinks this refers to the high-born householders who continue to perform their rites to teach common people not to abandon their duties.
    But that subject has been concluded with the quotation from the Gita (3.20). It has already been said that the reason those
    householders continue to perform such rites, though they no longer believe in them, is to set an example for the common people. Rather, the asya tu, "but this one" returns us to the dog-eater who somehow has heard and repeated the name of Krsna. Moreover, Bhanu's interpretation has ignored the word pratibandhakam, "obstacle, inhibitor." The correct translation is this: "It is to be understood that the obstacle to the dog-eater's performance of soma sacrifice is fear of the gossip of people who do not know the bhakti scriptures." To put it in plainer English: the dog-eater does /not/ perform soma sacrifices, though he is fully qualified to, because he fears the calumny of people who don't know the meaning of the bhakti scriptures. Haridas Das adds that such calumny directed at the dog-eater bhakta will send those people down to perdition. The bhakta dog-eater doesn't to do anything that will harm other people.

    So Visvanatha disagrees with Sri Jiva in that he thinks that the dog-eater immediately becomes qualified to perform soma sacrifices, not just that he becomes worthy of honor like one who performs soma sacrifices. But he says that the dog-eater bhakta would never dream of actually doing a soma sacrifice because of the harmful effect it would have on those who don't understand the power of the holy name, its ability to raise even the lowest to the highest position.

    Thus, Visvanatha is not in favor of bhakta dog-eaters acting like brahmanas.

    The idea of a dog-eater's merely becoming worthy of honor or worship is suggested by Sridhara Svamin with the statement: sadyaH savanAya kalpate anena pUjyatvaM lakSyate. "The words 'immediately becomes qualified for the soma sacrifice' [merely] imply that one becomes worthy of honor."
    Sri Jiva follows this interpretation, but Visvanatha says it is difficult to construe the verse in that way and that that interpretation does not fit into the context of its use in the Brs which is about the destruction of past karma, the karma that makes one unfit for the performance of soma sacrifice, not about becoming worthy of honor.

    Hope this makes sense. If you have questions, don't hesitate to write.
    Nitai Das