The concept of Bhakthi has its origins in the Rig Veda, which preaches strong faith and devotion in God. It calls upon the devotees to establish a relationship with each Deva-Agni , Indra, Varuna and others , as one would do with a son , friend, father, mother etc. There is a faith that the Devas would in turn communicate with the men and women and fulfill their desires. “Instill in us a wholesome happy mind with goodwill and understanding. Then we shall ever delight in your friendship like cows who gladly rejoice in the meadows green.”
Rig Veda primarily follows Saguno _pasana. The Supreme Being in Rig Veda is the abode of all auspicious qualities. The Ultimate Supreme Reality is described (though He is beyond description) as Sat_Chit_Ananda.He is the one who created the world and sustained it. He is the Omniscient and the original cause of the world(tasyedu viva bhuvanadhi mrudani).He manifests himself as the world(visvarupaha).He is omniscient, compassionate and easily accessible to devotees(Niyanta sunrutanam).Rig Veda firmly believes in grace of God and preaches that a virtuous life in this world and the progression to Amrutatva , immortality, is possible only with complete surrender to God and with the grace of God. The seeds of the Bhakthi movement and the attitude of complete surrender to the Divine Will are in Rig Veda
The Vedic approach to worship led in due course to the path of devotion which revolved round the loving adoration of the Divine as the Supreme Person (Uttama Purusha) the infinitely superior Lord (Isha, Ishvara).Bhakthi here signified both devotion and most elevated pure love for God. The term Bhakthi, some say, is derived from its root Bhaj, meaning to participate or to partake. Bhakthi is essentially participation with the Divine.
Bhakthi Yoga, as a clearly delineated path, did not seem to flourish until the time of Svethashvatara Upanishad (c. older to sixth century BCE) which mentions Bhakthi and Sharanagathi (surrender) as modes of worship of the Ultimate in the form of Shiva (6.23 and 6.280). In Svethasvatara Upanishad, man is called upon to have Bhakthi in the divine, to resort to him who is the shelter to all.
Later, the Bhagavad Gita accorded prominent position to the path of Bhakthi. Here Bhakthi Yoga emerged as a formal spiritual path and declared Bhakthi as the ultimate form of religious expression. Sri Krishna declares in the Gita(6.47) : he who loves Me with faith and whose inner self is absorbed in Me , worshipping Me with love – him I deem to be united with Me in Yoga and is the highest of all.
The concept of Bhakthi fully matures and is given full exposition in Srimad Bhagavatha. Here, Bhakthi is termed as trayi-vidya the wisdom of the three Vedas; the highest good of man
Mere hearing, remembering, thinking, and meditating on the Lord were not therefore considered adequate. It called for an unquestioning faith, devotion and absolute surrender to God with love. Bhagavan Ramanuja says in his commentary on the Sutras in Athatho Brahma Jignyasa, Lord himself helps those who are constantly attached to Him, worship Him with love and surrender to him in devotion, He draws them to Him because such devotees are very dear to Him.
Bhakthi is seen as a series of earnest efforts beginning with worship and ending in a supreme intensity of love for the Ishwara.”one great advantage of Bhakthi is that it is the easiest and most natural way to reach the Divine; its greatest disadvantage is that its lower forms oftentimes degenerate into hideous fanaticism” Says Swami Vivekananda ”But the danger exists only in the lower stages of Bhakthi which is the preparatory (Gauni). When Bhakthi ripens and passes into the Supreme (Para) there is no more fear of these hideous manifestations of fanaticism. The soul overpowered by Bhakthi is too near to the Love of God to be affected by diffusion of hatred”.
Swami Maharaj says, there is not much difference between Bhakthi and Jnana (knowledge); and in the end they converge. The great preceptors Bhakthi Sri Ramanuja and yamunacharya amply demonstrated that the path of devotion need not be mindless and that Jnana and Bhakthi complement each other, fully.
[ BHAKTHI RASA
While talking about Rasa, we may take a look at the discussions on Bhakthi Rasa, as in Sanskrit Kavya.
Natyashastra mentions eight Rasas (not nine). These Rasas were basically related to dramatic performance; and Bhakthi was not one of those. Thereafter, Udbhata (9th century) introduced Shantha Rasa. After prolonged debates spread over several texts across two centuries Shantha was accepted as an addition to the original eight.
But, it was Abhinavagupta (11th century) who established Shantha Rasa as the Sthayi-bhava the basic and the abiding or the enduring Rasa form which all Rasas emerge and into which they all recede. His stand was: one cannot be perpetually angry or ferocious or sad or exited or erotic, at all the time. These eight other Rasas are the passing waves of emotions, the colors of life. But, Shantha, tranquility, is the essential nature of man; and it is its disturbance or its variations that give rise to shades of other emotions. And, when each of that passes over, it again subsides in the Shantha Rasa that ever prevails.
During the times of by Abhinavagupta and Dhanajaya, Bhakthi and Priti were referred to as Bhavas (dispositions or attitudes); but, not as Rasas. Even the later scholars like Dandin, Bhanudatta and Jagannatha Pandita continued to treat Bhakthi as a Bhava.
[Later, each system of Philosophy or of Poetics (Kavya-shastra) applied its own norms to interpret the Rasa-doctrine (Rasa Siddantha) ; and in due course several Rasa theories came up. Many other sentiments, such as Sneha, Vatsalya; or states of mind (say even Karpanya – wretchedness) were reckoned as Rasa. With that, Rasas were as many as you one could identify or craft (not just nine).]
It was however the Gaudiya School of Vaishnavas that treated Bhakthi as a Rasa. Rupa Goswami in his Bhakthi-Rasa-amrita–Sindhu; and the Advatin Madhusudana Sarasvathi in his Bhagavad-Bhakthi Rasayana asserted that Bhakthi is indeed the very fundamental Rasa. Just as Abhinavagupta treated Shantha as the Sthayi Rasa, the Vaishnava Scholars treated Bhakthi as the Sthayi, the most important and the abiding Rasa.
Their texts described twelve forms of Bhakthi Rasas – nine of the original and three new ones. Instead of calling each Rasa by its original name, they inserted Bhakthi element into each, such as: Shantha-Bhakthi-Rasa, Vira-Bhakthi-Rasa, Karuna-Bhakthi-Rasa and so on. They tried to establish that Bhakthi was not one among the many Rasas; but, it was the fundamental Rasa, the other Rasa being only the varied forms of it. The devotee may assume any attitude of devotion like a child, mother, master, Guru or even an intimate fiend. It was said “Bhakthi encompasses all the Nava-rasas”.
Bhakthi, they said, is the Sthayi (abiding) Rasa; and it is the original form of Parama-Prema (highest form of Love) as described in Narada Bhakthi Sutra. What constitutes this Love is its essence of Maduhrya (sweetness) and Ujjvalata (radiance).
Although, an element of individualized love is involved in Bhakthi, it is not confined to worship of a chosen deity (ista Devatha). The Vedanta Schools treat Bhakthi as a companion of Jnana in pursuit of the Brahman. They hold that Bhakthi guides both the Nirguna and the Saguna traditions. Just as Ananda is the ultimate bliss transcending the subject-object limitation, Bhakthi in its pristine form is free from the limitations of ‘ego centric predicament’ of mind. And, both are not to be treated as mere Rasas.
Bhakthi is that total pure unconditional love, accepting everything in absolute faith (Prapatthi).
Now, all Schools generally agree that Bhakthi should not be confined to theistic pursuits alone; it pervades and motivates all aspects human persuasions including studies, arts and literature. In the field of art, it would be better if the plethora of Rasa-theories is set aside; because, the purpose of Art, the practice of Bhakthi and the goal of Moksha are intertwined.
Therefore, it is said, it is not appropriate (an-auchitya) to narrow down Bhakthi to a mere Rasa which is only a partial aspect. Bhakthi is much larger; and it is prime mover of all meaningful pursuits in life.]
The ideal of devotion and establishing a close and a dear relationship with the God became the theme of a whole cultural movement and came to be known as Bhakthi Marga the path of devotion. Bhakthi became one of the constant themes of our sages. This movement flourished in the period 800 to 1100 AD.It advocated surrender to the will of God, dedication, worship, service and absorption in God. It was clearly the way of the heart and not much of the intellect.
Two aphoristic works in Sanskrit codifying the features and recommendations of the Bhakthi Marga viz. Bhakthi Sutra of Narada and the Bhakthi Sutra of Shandilya were among the significant products of these times.
NARADA’s BHAKTHI SUTRAS
Narada is a name that occurs very often in the ancient texts. Down the several centuries, there have been many scholars who went by the name of Narada.
:- To start with, the SarvapAnukramika (a sort of Index of Vedic personalities) said to have been compiled by Katyayana describes Narada as a Rishi who was the descendent of sage Kanva and as the author of several Riks in Rig-Veda. It is said; the mantra sukhaya nividata was revealed to Narada and to another Rishi Parvata. He was the founder of a long line of distinguished scholars, all of whom adopted the name Narada.
:-There is a mention of a Narada Atharva Veda too (5.19.9:12.4.16).
The Chandogya Upanishad (7.1.2) mentions that Narada was well versed in Vako-vakya (Logic or Nyaya?) .
The Chandogya Upanishad, under Bhumavidya, refers to Narada as a disciple of the sublime quartet of Sanath kumaras.
:- Narada and Sama Veda have a close relationship. Naradiya Shiksha, a treatise on Music, which deals mainly with the musical notes and the pronunciation of the words in the Vedic language, is ascribed to a Narada. Some believe that Naradiya Shiksha might pre-date Bharatha’s Natyashastra (second century BCE) by several centuries. Naradiya Shiksha is a work of seminal importance in Indian Music. It redefined the concepts and terms of the Sama Gana; recast the descending order of the Sama scales as it did not offer much scope for flexibility and elaboration in music; and , restructured the music notes (Svara) into the natural ascending order as we know today. We all owe a debt of deep gratitude to this Narada.
:- In the Sabha-parva of Mahabharata, a sage named Narada appears as an expert in Nyaya Shastra. He was said to be skillful in distinguishing unity and plurality; conjunction and co-existence; genus and species etc. He had mastered the art and science of deciding questions through evidence (Pramana)
:- Nārada-smṛti (100 BC – 400 CE), a text of the Nyaya-shastra, ascribed to a Narada, is hailed as the “juridical text par excellence”. It is the only Dharma-śāstra text which deals solely with juridical matters. This Narada is also credited with another text: Narada Pancha ratra.
:- Another well-known text on Music, Sangita Makaranda (7th -9th century) is ascribed to Narada. It is an interesting work which brings in philosophical, Tantric and religious interpretations into Desi Music. It also introduces the concept of associating sets of Music notes (Grama) with seasons (Rtu) in the year ; as also with the hour of the day. For instance; Sangita Makaranda associates Hemanta (winter) with Shadja Grama; Grishma (summer) with Madhyama Grama; and, Varsha (rains) with Gandharva Grama. As regards the time of the day for rendering the Gramas, Narada allots forenoon to Shadja; midday to Madhyama; and afternoon to Gandharva Grama.
:- In several Puranas, Narada is a very popular and an endearing character , though a bit too clever and ever busy in igniting disputes. He is described as the Manasa-putra (born out of the will) of Brahma. He is well versed in traditional learning and in Music (Samgita shastra). He is depicted invariably carrying a Veena and singing the praise of Lord Hari, Vishnu. He is revered as the propagator of Bhakthi-marga , the path of devotion.
:- Narada in the Puranas is the guide and mentor of young devotees like Dhruva and Prahlada.
:- Srimad Bhagavatha narrates the life of Narada in detail (1.5, 23-31; 1.6.5-36).
:- The Matsya Purana (dated around second century AD) reckons Narada as one among the eighteen ancient Master architects (vastu-shatropadeshkaha) : Brighu, Atri, Vashista, Vishwakarma, Brahma, Maya, Narada, Nagnajit, Visalaksa, Purandara, Kumara, Nanditha, Shaunaka, Garga, Vasudeva, Aniruddha, Shuka and Brihaspathi.
:- There is also a Narada Purana said to have been recited by Narada himself. It deals with a vast range of subjects such as, origin of the universe, , training of the mantras, worship rituals and tales related to various incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
:- It was Sage Narada who urged Valmiki to script the epic Ramayana.
He also inspired the Rishi Vyasa to write Mahabharata.
:- In Ramayana , there is a mention of another Narada . It is said; the Apsaras danced to the songs of Gandharvas, such as Narada the king of Gandharvas (Gandharva-rajanah), Tumbura, Gopa, Gargya, Sudhama, Parvata, and Suryamandala (R.VI .92.10). Tumbura sang in divine Taana (divya-taaneshu).
: and, again , in Mahabharata , the sage Narada imparts instructions, delivers discourses to Yuddhishtra, the eldest of the five Pandavas
It is obvious that all these Narada-s do not refer to a single individual. There might have been many more persons , over the centuries, all sharing the name of Narada,.
The Narada, to whom the text Bhakthi Sutras of Narada is ascribed, could not have been anyone of the above Naradas. The text belongs to around 11th century. An ardent devotee or an admirer of the venerable sage might have published his work under the name of Narada, as an act of devotion and submission.
Narada Bhakthi Sutra is a brief work of 84 Sutras. Its language is simple, beautiful and direct .It claims to be a collection of the sayings of the sage Narada. The main subject of the text is the practice of pure devotion. Narada Bhakthi Sutra predates Shandilyas Bhakthi Sutras, another treatise on the subject of Bhakthi which appeared around the same time. While talking of Bhakthi Sutras it is customary to mention both the texts and compare their treatment of the subject
Narada’s is a simple and a direct presentation addressed to the practitioners; while Shandilya’s work is in the nature of philosophical treatise and is addressed to the scholarly. It is in terse language, containing arguments and counter arguments. Shandilya’s approach is intellectual; Narada approach is through the heart and humility of a devotee. Shandilya is more into philosophy and metaphysics of devotion.
Narada ignores all those philosophical arguments and plunges straight into the practical aspects. Apart from defining devotion and describing its forms, he classifies various types of Bhakthi, the stages of development and the process required to achieve the state of pure devotion. He also quotes from Vedas in support. He gives various suggestions and hints useful for practice. He warns against things to be avoided while practicing. Finally, he explains the different forms of adoration (attachment) to the Supreme Person, the nature of selfless love, and the ideal state of a liberated one living in the presence of God
The following are broadly the subjects dealt in the Narada Bhakthi Sutras and its views thereon. They are presented in summarized form:
ISVARA: The objective of human life is God realization. God exists in everyone’s heart as the innermost self (su .2) .He dislike egotism and hypocrisy. He appreciates love and humility (su.27). When devotees sincerely love God and adore Him, He receives the adulation with grace and blesses them. He is full of love (Su.37, 38, 40, 80). The true nature of pure love of God is beyond description. But this does not restrict God from revealing it to those who are qualified. When once you realize God; it is the fulfillment of your existence and being.
BHAKTHI: The easiest (su.58) and the best instrument of God realization is Bhakthi (Su.25, 26, 30, 59, 60). It is superior to Jnana (knowledge), Yoga (meditation), Karma (rituals) and other spiritual practices. In fact, Bhakthi is the summation of all such practices. Bhakthi is the embodiment of peace and supreme ecstasy.
Bhakthi is complete in itself. It is not dependent on anyone or anything for nourishment. Bhakthi is independent of the paths of knowledge and other modes. Bhakthi is its own fruit (su.30). Bhakthi is the most precious of all possessions.
Once pure love is obtained, the person looks only at lord, hears only about Him, speaks only of Him and thinks only of Him.
Bhakthi is classified into Para_bhakthi and Apara Bhakthi.The latter is sub-classified as Gauni_bhakthi and Mukhya _bhakthi.These are seen as stepping stones to Para_bhakthi(Su.57).
Para_bhakthi is the aim while Apara_bhakthi is the means to it.
APARA_BHAKTHI: It has two stages, Gauni and Mukhya (Prema).
Gauni_bhakthi: This is at a lower stage and is easier. This can be practiced according to Gunas –Sattva, Rajas and Tamas (su.56).It arouses the natural love that resides in ones heart and directs it towards the Lord. It needs to be practiced and honed regularly (su.58-60).It gradually leads to peace and Mukhya_bhakthi.
Mukhya_bhakthi: This is also called Prema_bhakthi or Ekantha_bhakthi.This is a step away from Para_bhakthi. The devotee here is experiencing joy but unable to express it; like a dumb person eating a tasty dish (su.51-52).
It finds expression only in advanced practitioners (su.53). The emotions, thoughts, words and actions of this fortunate person are beyond description in words. His experience is beyond the three Gunas. Devoid of desires and attachments, he exudes love (su.54, 56).
SADHANA: This is an important part of Narada’s Bhakthi Sutras. Various instructions, suggestions and hints on the practice of devotion are given in the text.
The Sutra suggests that practitioners must pay greater attention to devotional scriptures, study them and reflect on them. One should not needlessly get into argument with others over devotional texts (Su.74-76).
Give up activities that come in the way of Sadhana; and perform the rest as a service to the Lord (su.8-11).
Give up social customs and religious rituals that come in the way of Sadhana and focus purely on service to God with excusive dedication (su.9).
Body is the instrument of your Sadhana; protect it, take good care of it without undue attachment (su.14).
Cultivate company of good persons. Strive; strive only for the association of pure devotees. Be regular in your prayers and remembrance of God (su.35-42).
Inculcate habits of: praying in solitude; detachment; surrendering the fruits of action to God etc. (su.46-50).
Keep away from wickedness and vulgar (43-45, 63).
Practice truth, non violence and such other virtues (su.77-79).
Bhakthi consists in offering ones every act to God and feeling extreme distress in forgetting Him.
Cultivate attachments in relation to God: attachment to the Lord’s qualities , attachment to His beauty, attachment to worshiping Him, attachment to remembering Him, attachment to serving Him, attachment to dealing with Him as a friend, attachment to surrendering one’s self completely to Him, attachment to being absorbed in thoughts of Him,
Redirect your emotions like desire, anger, cravings and such towards God; just as the Gopis did and got rid of baser emotions .Else, you would be destroyed (su.64).
Keep a watch on the constant conflict going on in your heart and mind. Do not get involved. Pray to god while you watch the internal play.
Never lose faith in God. Never let go your practice. Practice devotion without anxiety or expectation. Be always in the blissful presence of God, internally. Live as if he is with you at your every breath. Live for Him.
PARABHAKTHI: ignites desire to listen to and praise the Lords name and His glory; to surrender the fruits of all work at the feet of the Lord; to experience a longing to be near Him (Su.16, 19).
Mercy of great souls or a small drop of the Lord’s mercy is important for progressing in this devotion (Su.38).
Bhathi is intense love for God. When a devotee gets it, he hates none, loves all.
It is the manifestation the great bliss and joy that result from God realization. It is full of grace, joy and fulfillment. It is the sweetest and the noblest experience. Those who obtain it attain immortality and liberation (su.2, 3).It is the end of all desires (su.7).
CHARACTERISTICS of the LIBERATED:
He who attains Para_bhakthi, the liberated person, is ever in the presence of God and blissful. He is free from cravings and attachments. He is not affected by dualities of loss or gain. He is content for ever. He is full of love and free from hatred.
When he is awake he loves to listens to the words about God, he thinks of God and meets others devoted to God, shedding tears of joy (su.68).
When he is engaged in worldly or religious activities to help, guide others; he does it with detachment as a service to God and is never away from presence of God (su.4-6, 55, 61, 32, 68).
He is beyond the pale of the society and its restrictions. He does not differentiate his fellow beings on the basis of caste or wealth or high and low. He sees the presence of God in all beings (su.72).
The place he resides is holy. Gods dance with joy when he is happy (su.69-71).
The last verse (su.84) of the text gives the message that: “Anyone who trusts these instructions spoken by Narada and is convinced by them will be blessed with devotion and attain the dearest Lord. Yes, he will attain the dearest Lord.”
Narads Bhakthi sutras by Swami Harshananda