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Monday, July 28, 2008

Bhakti Sandarbha 173 in-depth

Recently one devotee probed me on the Bhakti Sandarbha text 173. I passed his inquiry on to Dr. Satya Nārāyan Dās of the Jiva Institute:

Revered Prabhuji,
Please accept my Rādhe Rādhe.
In Bhakti Sandarbha (173) it is said:

api cet sudurācāraḥ [gītā 9.30] ity-ādy-uktasyānanya-bhāktvena lakṣitā tu yā śraddhā sā khalu ye śāstra-vidhim utsṛjya yajante śraddhayānvitāḥ [gītā 17.1] itival loka-paramparā-prāptā, na tu śāstrāvadhāraṇa-jātā | śāstrīya-śraddhāyāṁ tu jātāyāṁ sudurācāratvāyogaḥ syāt | para-patnī-para-dravya- [vi.pu. 3.8.14] ity-ādi-viṣṇu-toṣaṇa-śāstra-virodhāt | maryādāṁ kṛtāṁ tena ity ādinā tad-bhaktatva-virodhāc ca | na tu sā durācāratā tad-bhakti-mahima-śraddhākṛtaiva | api-śabdena durācāratvasya heyatva-vyañjanāt | tathā kṣipraṁ bhavati dharmātmā ity-uttarāpratipatteḥ | nāmno balād yasya hi pāpa-buddhiḥ ity ādināparādhāpātāc ca |  tataḥ sā śraddhā na śāstrīya-bhakty-adhikāriṇāṁ viśeṣaṇatve praveśanīyā, kintu bhakti-praśaṁsāyām eva 

“The ananya bhak-ness (exclusive devotion) which is mentioned in the Gītā (9.30) verse: “Even if one commits very bad acts but is exclusively devoted to Me he is considered a saint” refers to popular faith which is attained through hearsay, as is referred to in the Gītā (17.1) verse: “Whoever gives up the rules of scripture and worships according to faith…” This, however, is not faith imbibed through the scriptures, because very bad behavior is impossible with such faith, and would contradict statements from Viṣṇu Toṣaṇa like "Lord Kṛṣṇa is never pleased by thieves or adulterers, or those who harm others." or Viṣṇu Dharmottara "One who does not follow the etiquette or protocol (maryādā) cannot be considered a devotee of Lord Viṣṇu. The Lord is worshiped only by they who act in a saintly way." Very bad conduct cannot be the result of faith in the glories of devotion to Kṛṣṇa. The word api in the text (even if he commits very bad things..) also indicates how contemptible it is to behave very badly. If it weren’t, then the following verse (Gītā 9.31), ‘He will soon become righteous and attain lasting peace’, would make no sense and the offense of commiting sinful activities on strength of chanting the holy name would be committed. So this adjective (api cet sudurācāra) should not be accepted as referring to a devotee who has scriptural devotion, rather this statement is a glorification (of the process of devotion).

One devotee, however, asked me: “What about the urges? Are they not exempt from śāstrīya śraddhā? Don't you think a very very bad conduct can be forced by an urge?” He then quoted Śrīmad Bhāgavata 11.14.18:

bādhyamāno’pi mad bhakto viṣayair ajitendriyaḥ
prāyah pragalbhayā bhaktyā viṣayair nābhibhūyate

spoken by Śrī Kṛṣṇa, about devotees who feel bad for their behavior but cannot avoid it. So we don’t understand what Śrī Jīva means with that no person with śāstrīya śraddhā would commit very sinful activities, which are glossed by the ācāryas as theft and adultery. These things seem not to depend on having either śāstrīya- or laukik śraddhā."

(SND) "Dear Advaita prabhuji
Dandavat. Jai Śrī Radha Madanagopal!
In this verse of Śrīmad Bhagavata, Bhagavan Śrī Kṛṣṇa clearly says that such a person is not overpowered (na abhibhuyate) by the sense objects. He is bādhyamana, i.e. troubled. The urges, because of prārabdha, appear in the mind but he is not subjugated by them because of the power of bhakti, which is more powerful than the urges (pragalbhayā bhaktyā). This is how I see the verse.
But if it is accepted that the verse means that such a devotee actually engages in sense pleasures then it is to be understood that these pleasures are not the sinful types, forbidden in the scripture i.e. himsa etc.
A devotee having śāstrīya śraddhā will not engage in such acts because it goes against his/her very śraddhā.
Satyanarayana Dasa

(AD) Revered Prabhuji,
Radhe Radhe
Thank you for your reply. I also thought that the SB 11.14.18 verse had that meaning. I tried to understand Viśvanāth Cakravartī's ṭīkā to it, but my Sanskrit is not good enough. I am quizzed a bit because he does mention the api cet sudurācāro verse in this ṭīkā. Could you explain the purport of Viśvanāth please? Thank you.

visvanathah : api ca, āstāṁ tāvad utpanna-bhāva-bhakta-kathā, yato bhaktau prathama-vartamāno’pi bhaktaḥ kṛtārtha evety āha—vādhyamāna iti prāyaḥ-pragalbhayā prāyeṇaiva prabalī-bhavantyā kim punaḥ pragalbhayā | yad vā, jñāni-prakaraṇe yathā durācāro jñānī nindiṣyate, jñānitvaṁ ca tasya niṣidhyate, yas tv asaṁyata-ṣaḍ-vargaḥ [bhā.pu. 11.18.40] ity ādinā tathātra bhakta-prakaraṇe durācāro bhakto na nindyo bhaktatvaṁ ca tasya na niṣiddham ity āha—bādhyamāna iti | yad uktam—api cet sudurācāro bhajate mām ananya-bhāk |
sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ samyag-vyavasito hi saḥ || [gītā 9.30] iti |
kiṁ cātra viṣayair bādhyamāno’pi viṣayair nābhibhūyata ity ubhayatrāpi vartamāna-nirdeśāt viṣaya-bādhyatva-daśāyām api viṣayābādhyatvaṁ bhakti-ṣaḍ-bhāvāt, yathā vairi-kṛta-kiñcicchastrāghātam prāptasyāpi na parābhaviṣṇutā śaurya-ṣaḍ-bhāvād iti | yathā vā, pīta-jvaraghna-mahauṣadhasya tad-divase āyāto’pi jvaro bādhako’py abādhaka eva tasya vinaśyad-avasthatvāt dināntare ca samyaṅ nāṣṭībhāvitvācca ||18||

(SND) Dear Advaita Prabhuji,
Jai Sri Radhe Shyama
I am giving the meaning below:
Let alone a devotee who has attained bhāva bhakti, even a bhakta who has just begin on the path is surely an accomplished person (kṛtārtha) - to say this Lord Kṛṣṇa speaks the present verse. prāyaḥ pragalbhayā means which is certainly becoming stronger (even such bhakti helps a neophyte bhakta in not getting overpowered by the viṣaya) then what to speak of the advanced state of bhakti. In the section describing a jnani a durācārī jñānī will be criticised and will be not be accepted as a jñānī, as in the verse beginning with yas tvasamyata ṣaḍ-varga. But in the section describing a devotee, a durācārī bhakta is not criticised nor is it said that such a person is not a devotee. This is said in this verse. This is also said in the verse of the Gita, api cet.
Furthermore, even while being troubled by the viṣaya he/she is not overpowered by the viṣaya -the present tense in both parts means that by the presence of bhakti the devotee is not troubled or remains above the trouble even when facing the trouble (i.e. is not being absorbed in the situation, and is aware that it is wrong to enjoy viṣaya). (SVCT gives an example) Just as when a warrior is attacked by an enemy and gets hurt by a weapon does not feel defeated or subdued because of his chivalry. (another example) As a sick man suffering from fever after taking a powerful medicine to dispel fever may still have fever on the day of taking the medicine yet he does not become cowed down by it because he feels the recovery from fever and because he knows that the fever will be gone completely the following day .

(AD) Revered Prabhuji,
Thank you very much for the translation. My final question to get me convinced is this: Is the wound of the warrior and the fever of the sick man to be compared with the sensual desire or with the indulging in it? Thank you very much!!

(SND) This was already answered. Either it is to be taken as only in the mind and not actually indulging in it; or if it is to be taken as indulging then it is not the forbidden type such as eating meat, having illegal sexual relation etc.


  1. I think it's a cultural thing as well.

    In Satyanarayan's culture it may be considered durachar for two grown adults to have a mutually consenting sexual relationship without being religiously married to one another.

    In our culture it's called "partnership".

    So what is "durachar" may change from place to place, culture to culture.

  2. Visvanatha Cakravarti says in his comments on the verse about the four principles (SB 1.17.38)
    striyo'vivAhitAH, which means that it is a sin to have sex outside marriage. Incidentally, that is condemned within Christianity (Americas, Australia, Southern Africa and Europe), Islam (S. Asia and N. Africa), Hinduism (S. Asia) and Buddhism (S.E and E.Asia). Speaking of time place and circumstances.

    In our culture it's called "partnership".

    Which is 'our culture' if I may ask? Pick any of the above if you can....

  3. Married in what sense?

    For devottees from the west, a legal marriage may or may not take place, and they may or may not be ok with having a religious wedding in the style of their parents (church or synogogue for most western devottees), and westerners doing Indian style marriages of walking around fires and the rest, well, we may not feel comfortable with that as it is not part of our cultures and we may not understand what is being said by the priest and it just may not be attractive or inspiring to us.

    But a mutual agreement based on shared values between two adults... that is a realistic and honorable commitment.

  4. For devottees from the west, a legal marriage may or may not take place,

    It is therefore quite astonishing that all these western devotees adorn themselves with brahmin threads while even the sweepers in India get decently married.
    Commitment and responsibility are universal values, there's no time or place-factor in it.

    But a mutual agreement based on shared values between two adults... that is a realistic and honorable commitment.

    If you do not marry in church synagogue or temple it means you are not willing to make a commitment in the face of God. A spoken agreement has no witnesses.

    well, we may not feel comfortable with that as it is not part of our cultures

    Oh but it is. The west has a Christian culture in which marriage is as sacred as in Hinduism. They all get married too.
    But explain why living in sin was wrong before the 1960s and now suddenly it is not wrong anymore? Do you perhaps claim there is an evolution going from wrong to right or so? Values are temporary or so?

    and we may not understand what is being said by the priest

    You can ask for a translation.

    and it just may not be attractive or inspiring to us.

    But a Vaishnava just wants to surrender, take responsibility and sacrifice. Our scriptures say human life is not meant for enjoyment. There is no human culture that does not have the institution of marriage. That is one of the differences between dogs and monkeys on the one hand and human beings on the other, let alone qualified brahmins....

  5. > But a mutual agreement based on
    > shared values between two adults...
    > that is a realistic and honorable
    > commitment.

    Commitment and mutual agreement are not the same. Commitment is not a contract, not a mutual agreement based on shared values. Commitment implies permanence, "until death do us part", regardless of shared values or any other circumstances which may change during the course of life.

    Traditional marriage ceremonies, with sworn commitment and prayers to gods or ancestors, are also done before the community, for reasons that are fairly obvious. It's also a declaration of commitment to the shared values of the society. If there is not real commitment, in time, then at least the ceremonial commitment before gods or ancestors and the community is there.

    This works better in homogenous societies and where there is a sense of community. It's understandable that in this kali yuga, with heterogenous "diverse" societies with less sense of community, that people will tend to invent their own ceremonies.

  6. Brain babaji, I don't know what definition for "commitment" you are reading, but my dictionary does not use words like "permanant", "lifelong" or "forever".

    A commitment is when you give your word that you are going to honor something, an event, a vow (most of which have time periods such as mantra purushcharans), or the like.

    If two adults commit to spending their time together for as long as they are helping, not hindering, each other in their life goals, of which a major one may be spiritual advancement, I do not see how either staying together for an entire lifetime or separating at some point, would either effect their bhakti positively or negatively.

    Of course when children are involved then there are more issues to consider, but in the case of two childless adults???

    I know several devottees who have committed just as described above. Some are still together and others are not, because the couples grew in different directions. I do not however see any particularly outstanding spiritual qualifications amongst the ones that are still together compared to the ones that are not.

  7. "Our scriptures say human life is not meant for enjoyment. "

    Can you provide a reference for that?

    If human life is not meant for enjoyment, then what is it meant for - depression?

    Yet bhakti is full of ananda.

  8. SB 5.5.1. This verse also does mention the pursuit of a higher joy than the sensual one. Human life is certainly not meant for depression, but also not for sensuality because that is also available in the body of a pig or a dog. It is all in that one verse of SB. All glories to that Bhagavata!