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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Doership in sādhanā

In Śrīmad Bhāgavata (12.8.40) Mārkaṇḍeya Ṛṣi said:

kiṁ varṇaye tava vibho yad-udīrito 'suḥ saṁspandate tam anu vāṅ-mana-indriyāṇi
spandanti vai tanu-bhṛtām aja-śarvayoś ca svasyāpy athāpi bhajatām asi bhāva-bandhuḥ

“O Almighty Lord, how can I possibly describe you? You propel the vital air, which impels the mind, senses and power of speech to act. This is true for all embodied souls including Brahmā and Śiva and even me. Still, you become the intimate friend of those who worship you.”

This verse jams the post of non-free-will and non-doership again deeper into the ground. It shows that even our sādhana is not done by us, but also by Kṛṣṇa. The mind is remembering Kṛṣṇa’s rūpa-guṇa-līlā, the senses perform active devotional service to Kṛṣṇa and the speech chants the holy name in japa or kīrtan. They are all propelled, pulsated, by Kṛṣṇa however, as is clear from this verse. You are chanting the holy name because the holy name, which is non-different from Kṛṣṇa (abhinnatvān nāma-nāmino), allows you to chant it. Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmīpāda quotes the Padma-purāṇa in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhuḥ (1.2.234) -

ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi na bhaved grāhyaṁ indriyaiḥ
sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ

“Kṛṣṇa and His names cannot be grasped by the material senses, but when a person develops a service-attitude, or the tendency to accept the Lord’s name and form, Kṛṣṇa spontaneously appears on the tongue and in the other senses.”

In his commentary on this Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu-verse, Śrīla Jīva Goswāmīpāda quotes examples of even animals to whom the holy name appeared. There is a description of Bharata as he gave up the body of a deer. This illustrates this spontaneous appearance of the Lord’s name.   

nārāyaṇāya haraye nama ity udāraṁ hāsyan mṛgatvam api yaḥ samudājahāra

“He gave up his body of the deer while smiling broadly saying, “All respects to Lord Nārāyaṇa Hari.” (Śrīmad Bhāgavata 5.14.45)

There is also the case of Gajendra:

evaṁ vyavasito buddhyā samādhāya mano hṛdi
jajāpa paramaṁ jāpyaṁ prāg-janmany anuśikṣitam  

“Thereafter, the King of the elephants, Gajendra, fixed his mind in his heart with perfect intelligence and did japa of a mantra which he had learned in his previous birth as Indradyumna and which he remembered by the grace of Kṛṣṇa.  (Śrīmad Bhāgavata 8.3.1)

So the holy name isn’t chanted by us, it descends to the surrendered soul.

The description of ‘the mind and speech being pulsated or propelled by Kṛṣṇa’ should serve as consolation for any devotee who is nervous before having to give a class. I experienced many times while giving class that Kṛṣṇa was speaking through me, and, after he gave class, Sādhu-bābā used to say ‘āmi ki bollām? Āmi ki bollām?’ ‘What did I say? What did I say?’ It was like he came back from another planet. He was not aware of any control that his own mind or speech had had on the lecture. 

Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī comments on this verse in the Bhakti-sandarbha (144), quoting Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad (4.4.18): prāṇasya prāṇam uta cakṣuṣaś cakṣur uta śrotasya śrotraṁ manaso manaḥ “He is the life of the vital air, the sight of the eye, the audibility of the ear, and the mental discernment of the mind.” The fact that the life air, mind and senses function only on the inspiration of the Lord is true not only for materially conditioned beings but for Brahmā and Śiva also. Therefore, Mārkaṇḍeya Ṛṣi acknowledges that it is certainly the case for himself as well. Thus, although nobody is independent in any respect, the Lord is the bhāva-bandhu, or the loving friend, of those who serve Him. The significance of the Lord being referred to as bhāva-bandhu is that even devotees have no independent power to serve the Lord. But the Lord is their friend because He gives them bhāva, meaning that He gives them bhakti by which they are able to serve Him. Furthermore, the speech and other senses with which they serve Him are also impelled by Him. Thus, the devotee is like a wooden puppet moved by the strings of the puppeteer.”

Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda comments – “By you, the life air is made to move, and the voice, mind and senses.  Śruti says śrotrasya śrotram:  "The Lord is the ear of the ear." (Kena Upaniṣad 1.2) yadyapyevaṁ tathāpi bhajatām janānāṁ bhāvena premṇā bandhur bandhur iva vaśyo'si. prāṇa buddhīndriyādibhis tvam eva sva bhajanaṁ kārayasi punas tādṛśa bhajanasya pratyupakāre'samartho ṛṇīva bhūtvā tat prema vaśyo bhavasītyadbhutaṁ tava kṛpā vaibhavam iti bhāvaḥ.  “Like a friend, you are controlled by the love of those who worship you. You alone enable them to worship you by enlivening their minds and senses, yet you feel unable to repay the debt of their worship and become indebted and controlled by their love. That is most astonishing. That is the greatness of your mercy.“

It once again confirms there is no such a thing as minute independence. It reveals why souls take to bhakti, why they leave bhakti, why they may be weak and why they may be strong devotees. 

One should also understand that spiritual advancement cannot be planned, scheduled or forced down. It all happens at its own pace.


  1. Prabhu, dandavat pranam. Kindly please see Govinda bhasya 2.3.31-40.

  2. Thank you for that. Can you reconcile the apparent meanings of these sutras with the evidence I quoted in this blog and my 3 Free-will blogs of 2016 and 2015?

  3. Please carefully re-read Baladeva's comment to sutra 40, especially the last point. For me this is the reconciliation.

  4. Perhaps Śrīla Vidyābhūṣaṇapāda wants to protect Kṛṣṇa from getting the blame because he also quotes the Kauśitaki text I quoted in my first 'Free will blog' in May 2015. Not that free will is actual siddhānta....vaiṣamyādi-doṣa-parihāraś ca na syāt