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Sunday, March 25, 2018

Is love free?

It is often heard that if we cannot freely choose, then there is no question of love. Is love actually really 'free', however?

Let us look at the ācāryas' explanations of the famous sentence muktiṁ dadāti karhicit sma na bhakti yogam ("The Lord sometimes bestows mukti but not bhakti") from Śrīmad Bhāgavata 5.6.18. It is a most important and often quoted sentence, and it shows that

1. bhakti is greater than mukti.
2. bhakti is rarer than mukti.
3. love is a gift, it is not free choice - as we will see in the following commentaries.

This makes all the difference. 'sma na bhakti yogam' literally means 'He never bestows it', but it practically means that He hardly bestows it, otherwise I would not be writing this and no one would be reading this. 

Charity begins at home, so let us start in the family and first study the ṭīkā to this important sentence by Śrīnātha Cakravartī, the famous disciple of Advaita Ācārya and Guru of Kavi Karṇapura. He writes in his Caitanya Mata Mañjuṣā:

mukundo mokṣa-prado’pi bhajatāṁ karhicit kadācid api muktiṁ na dadāti tarhi kiṁ dadāti tatrāha—bhakti-yogaṁ bhaktau yogo yasya sa bhakti-yogaḥ premā tam 

"Although Mukunda is the bestower of liberation he never gives it to those who do His bhajan. Then what does He bestow? It is said here - He gives bhakti yoga and that bhakti yoga means prema."  

Śrīla Sanātana Goswāmīpāda comments on this sentence:

evaṁ bhagavat-prasādaika-labhyatā, anyathā ca parama-daurlabhyam iti darśitam 

"Thus it is only attained by the grace of the Lord, otherwise it is seen to be very rarely attained."

Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī confirms this in his Krama Sandarbha ṭīkā -

bhakti-yogam atra premāṇam 

"Bhakti yoga here means prema (which He bestows - rarely)."

Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda comments -

bhavadbhyo hy abhajadbhyo’pi parama-premādhikya-dānasya 

"That he gave the highest prema even to you, who do not worship him, is the highest position."

From all these explanations of Śrīmad Bhāgavata it is clear that prema or love is a gift and not a free choice or so, though this is the popular (mis-)conception based on material experiences.