Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Nārada Bhakti Sūtra,

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Nārada Bhakti Sūtra,


In 1967, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda translated and wrote purports for thirteen of the eighty-four aphorisms (Śrīla Prabhupāda called them "codes") of the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra. In 1989, at their annual meeting, the Governing Body Commission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) suggested that I complete the book. I was pleased to accept the assignment, especially because of my involvement with Śrīla Prabhupāda's initial writing of the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra.

I was part of the small group of seekers who joined Śrīla Prabhupāda in the latter part of 1966 at his storefront temple at 26 Second Avenue, in New York City. At one point we began passing around a Gita Press edition of Nārada's Philosophy of Love-Nārada-bhakti-sūtra. Some of us were attracted to the nectar and simplicity of the aphorisms. In those days it wasn't unusual for us naive followers to pick up all sorts of translations of Sanskrit Indian books. We tended to think that anything Hindu was salutary and within Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It wasn't long before Śrīla Prabhupāda made it clear to us that we had to discriminate. Many books, we learned, were the works of Māyāvādīs, a brand of atheists in the guise of svāmīs, gurus, and scholars. It was hard to break our attachments to some of these books, but we always did so once Śrīla Prabhupāda explained that a particular book or guru was not bona fide.

But when I showed Śrīla Prabhupāda the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra and told him I liked it, he encouraged me and said he might translate it.

In our edition of the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra was a beautiful color illustration of Śrī Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. They looked young, about eight years old, and stood gracefully by the edge of the Yamunā River with a cow behind Them. I took the illustration to a photography shop and had a dozen color copies made. With Śrīla Prabhupāda's approval, I gave a photo to each of his initiated disciples. It became like an ISKCON membership photo and was used by devotees on their personal altars.

When Śrīla Prabhupāda left our New York home early in 1967 and went to San Francisco, I wrote him to ask if he would translate the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra. Here is Śrīla Prabhupāda's reply, dated February 10, 1967:

Yes, please send me immediately one copy of Bhakti Sutra (with original Sanskrit text). I shall immediately begin the commentary.

At first Śrīla Prabhupāda's translation of the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra went quickly. He sent tapes of his dictation in the mail, and I transcribed them along with the tapes he sent for his major work, Teachings of Lord Caitanya. From the beginning it was understood that Nārada-bhakti-sūtra was a kind of "extra" for Śrīla Prabhupāda. But it had its own charm, and Prabhupāda approached it in his own inimitable way. I was surprised, on receiving the translation for the first aphorism, to see how Śrīla Prabhupāda translated the word bhakti. The edition he was using translated bhakti as "devotion" or "Divine Love." But Śrīla Prabhupāda translated bhakti as "devotional service." Even by this one phrase he indicated that bhakti was active and personal. He would not tolerate any hint that bhakti was a state of impersonal "Love."

It was significant that Śrīla Prabhupāda began his first purport with a reference to Bhagavad-gītā, the foremost scripture for teaching bhakti-yoga. The Nārada-bhakti-sūtra, or any other treatise on devotion to God, should be supported by Lord Kṛṣṇa's direct teachings in Bhagavad-gītā. By their nature, sūtras require explanation. As Lord Caitanya explained while discussing the Vedānta-sūtra, the aphorisms have a direct meaning, but their brevity allows devious commentators to distort the meaning through misinterpretation. How safe we were when reading the Bhaktivedanta purports to the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra, and how dangerous it is to read these aphorisms when interpreted by those who lack pure devotion to the Supreme Person!

As with his other works, Śrīla Prabhupāda's purports to the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra were completely in line with the teachings of the param-parā, or disciplic succession, and at the same time full of his own realizations.

One particular statement that attracted me was his reference to enthusiasm in bhakti. Commenting on Sūtra 5, Śrīla Prabhupāda compared enthusiasm to a powerful engine that has to be used properly. He wrote, "If one, however, becomes disappointed in his enthusiasm for serving the Supreme Lord, that disappointment must also be rejected." As a neophyte devotee, I was well aware of the danger of depression, which we sometimes refer to in ISKCON as being "fried." But just as a serious practitioner restrains his tongue and other senses, so one should not indulge in too much depression or disappointment. It was comforting to hear this from Śrīla Prabhupāda and to gain conviction that it is within our control-we are not helpless before unlimited waves of depression.

One simply has to follow the rules and regulations patiently "so that the day will come when he will achieve, all of a sudden, all the perfection of devotional service."

I have to admit that I acquired a personal attachment for Śrīla Prabhupāda's Nārada-bhakti-sūtra as I happily watched its progress. I noticed that some of the same material Śrīla Prabhupāda was putting into Teachings of Lord Caitanya also appeared in the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra, but I didn't think anything was wrong in that. Yet at some point Śrīla Prabhupāda began to think that perhaps Nārada-bhakti-sūtra was a bit redundant, at least while he was also working on Teachings of Lord Caitanya. I might have suspected this when he wrote in his purport to Sūtra 12, "There are many authoritative books of spiritual knowledge, but all of them are more or less supplements to the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Even the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra is a summary of the Bhagavad-gītā and the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Therefore the beginning of devotional service is to hear these two important transcendental books of knowledge."

Then, in March of 1967, while Śrīla Prabhupāda was still residing in San Francisco, he wrote me this letter:

Please accept my blessings. I have seen the typed copies of Narada Bhakti Sutras as well as Teachings of Lord Caitanya. Both of them are nicely made. I think let us finish first Teachings of Lord Caitanya and then we may take again Narada Bhakti Sutras. The subject matter discussed with Narada Sutras is already there in the Teachings of Lord Caitanya.

I have sent you matter for the second part of the Teachings and please go on sending me a copy of your typewritten matter. I shall be glad to hear from you.

And so Śrīla Prabhupāda's work on the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra stopped, and it was never resumed. It was a personal choice by the author, who wanted to concentrate on Teachings of Lord Caitanya. But we should not see it as a rejection of the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra. Śrīla Prabhupāda intended to "take again Narada Bhakti Sutras." And so more than twenty years later we are taking up the work again, on the authority of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Whatever we have written to complete the work we have done as Śrīla Prabhupāda's student, using his commentated translations of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the Bhagavad-gītā, and the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, and his summary studies of the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (The Nectar of Devotion) and the Bhāgavatam's Tenth Canto (Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead).

There is a particular charm to the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra in its brevity, universality, and emphasis on total surrender to Lord Kṛṣṇa. The aphorisms are strong and can be easily remembered and confidently quoted in devotional discussions and preaching. Śrīla Prabhupāda refers to the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra several times in his writings, as in this statement from Teachings of Lord Caitanya (p. 53-4): "In the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra it is said that one who is very serious about developing Kṛṣṇa consciousness has his desire to understand Kṛṣṇa fulfilled very soon by the grace of the Lord."

The major importance of the present publication is that another of Śrīla Prabhupāda's literary works is now available in book form for his growing reading audience. The GBC's request to Gopiparāṇadhana Prabhu and me to complete the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra is their mercy upon us. We pray that we have not deviated from Śrīla Prabhupāda's intentions and that this edition of the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra will bring pleasure and enlightenment to the hearts of everyone who reads it.

Satsvarūpa dāsa Goswami

Editor's note: Citations from Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and Teachings of Lord Caitanya are from "The Great Classics of India" editions (1985). Citations from The Nectar of Devotion are from the 1982 edition.

Chapter 1: The Value of Devotion

NBS 1: Now, therefore, I will try to explain the process of devotional service.

NBS 2: Devotional service manifests as the most elevated, pure love for God.

NBS 3: This pure love for God is eternal.

NBS 4: Upon achieving that stage of transcendental devotional service in pure love of God, a person becomes perfect, immortal, and peaceful.

NBS 5: A person engaged in such pure devotional service neither desires anything for sense gratification, nor laments for any loss, nor hates anything, nor enjoys anything on his personal account, nor becomes very enthusiastic in material activity.

NBS 6: One who understands perfectly the process of devotional service in love of Godhead becomes intoxicated in its discharge. Sometimes he becomes stunned in ecstasy and thus enjoys his whole self, being engaged in the service of the Supreme Self.

NBS 7: There is no question of lust in the execution of pure devotional service, because in it all material activities are renounced.

NBS 8: Such renunciation in devotional service means to give up all kinds of social customs and religious rituals governed by Vedic injunction.

NBS 9: Renunciation also means being exclusively dedicated to the Lord and indifferent to what stands in the way of His service.

NBS 10: Exclusive dedication to the Lord means giving up all shelters other than Him.

NBS 11: Indifference toward what stands in the way of devotional service means to accept only those activities of social custom and Vedic injunction that are favorable to devotional service.

NBS 12: One must continue to follow scriptural injunctions even after one is fixed up in determined certainty that devotional service is the only means for reaching the perfection of life.

NBS 13: Otherwise there is every possibility of falling down.

NBS 14: For as long as the body lasts, one should engage minimally in social and political activities and in such matters as eating.

Chapter 2: Defining Bhakti

NBS 15: Now the characteristics of devotional service will be described according to various authoritative opinions.

NBS 16: Śrīla Vyāsadeva, the son of Parāśara Muni, says that bhakti is fond attachment for worshiping the Lord in various ways.

NBS 17: Garga Muni says that bhakti is fondness for narrations about the Lord, by the Lord, and so on.

NBS 18: Śāṇḍilya says that bhakti results from one's removing all obstructions to taking pleasure in the Supreme Self.

NBS 19: Nārada, however, says that bhakti consists of offering one's every act to the Supreme Lord and feeling extreme distress in forgetting Him.

NBS 20: Bhakti is, in fact, correctly described in each of these ways.

NBS 21: The cowherd women of Vraja are an example of pure bhakti.

NBS 22: Even in the case of the gopīs, one cannot criticize them for forgetting the Lord's greatness.

NBS 23: On the other hand, displays of devotion without knowledge of God's greatness are no better than the affairs of illicit lovers.

NBS 24: In such false devotion one does not find pleasure exclusively in the Lord's pleasure.
NBS 25: Pure devotional service, on the other hand, is far superior to fruitive work, philosophical speculation, and mystic meditation.

NBS 26: After all, bhakti is the fruit of all endeavor.

NBS 27: Furthermore, the Lord dislikes the proud but is pleased with the humble.

NBS 28: Some say that knowledge is the means for developing devotion.

NBS 29: Others consider bhakti and knowledge interdependent.

NBS 30: But the son of Brahmā says that bhakti is its own fruit.

NBS 31-32: This is illustrated by the examples of a royal palace, a meal, and so on. A king is not really satisfied just by seeing a palace, nor can someone placate his hunger just by looking at a meal.

NBS 33: Therefore seekers of liberation should take to devotional service alone.

Chapter 3: The Means of Achievement

NBS 34: Standard authorities have described the methods for achieving devotional service.

NBS 35: One achieves bhakti by giving up sense gratification and mundane association.

NBS 36: One achieves bhakti by worshiping the Lord ceaselessly.

NBS 37: One achieves bhakti by hearing and chanting about the Supreme Lord's special qualities, even while engaged in the ordinary activities of life in this world.

NBS 38: Primarily, however, one develops bhakti by the mercy of great souls, or by a small drop of the Lord's mercy.

NBS 39: The association of great souls is rarely obtained, difficult to understand, and infallible.

NBS 40: The association of great souls can be attained — but only by the Lord's mercy.

NBS 41: [One can attain bhakti either by the association of the Lord's pure devotees or directly by the Lord's mercy because] the Lord and His pure devotees are nondifferent.

NBS 42: Strive, strive only for the association of pure devotees.

NBS 43: One should give up all kinds of degrading association.

NBS 44: Material association is the cause of lust, anger, confusion, forgetfulness, loss of intelligence, and total calamity.

NBS 45: Rising like waves from material association, these bad effects mass into a great ocean of misery.

NBS 46: Who can cross beyond illusion? One who abandons material association, serves the sages, and becomes selfless.

NBS 47: [Who can cross beyond illusion?] That person who stays in a secluded place, cuts off at the root his attachment to mundane society, becomes free from the influence of the three modes of nature, and gives up hankering for material gain and security.

NBS 48: [Who can cross beyond illusion?] That person who renounces material duties and their profits, thus transcending duality.

NBS 49: That person who renounces even the Vedas obtains exclusive and uninterrupted attraction for God.

NBS 50: Such a person, indeed, is delivered, and he also delivers the rest of the world.

Chapter 4: Pure and Mixed Devotion

NBS 51: The true nature of pure love of God is beyond description.

NBS 52: [Trying to describe the experience of pure love of God] is like a mute's effort to describe what he tastes.

NBS 53: Nonetheless, from time to time pure love of God is revealed to those who are qualified.

NBS 54: Pure love of God manifests as the most subtle consciousness, devoid of material qualities and material desires, increasing at every moment, and never interrupted.

NBS 55: Having obtained pure love of God, one looks only at the Lord, hears only about Him, speaks only of Him, and thinks only of Him.

NBS 56: Secondary devotional service is of three kinds, according to which of the three material modes predominates, or according to which material motivation — distress and so on — brings one to bhakti.

NBS 57: Each earlier stage should be considered better than the one following it.

NBS 58: Success is easier to attain by devotional service than by any other process.

NBS 59: The reason devotional service is the easiest of all spiritual processes is that it does not depend on any other authority for its validity, being itself the standard of authority.

NBS 60: Furthermore, bhakti is the embodiment of peace and supreme ecstasy.

NBS 61: After consigning to the Lord all one's mundane and Vedic duties, one no longer need worry about worldly loss.

NBS 62: Even after one has achieved devotional service, one should not abandon one's responsibilities in this world but should rather continue surrendering the results of one's work to the Lord. And while still trying to reach the stage of pure devotion, one must certainly continue executing prescribed duties.

NBS 63: One should not find entertainment in news of women, money, and atheists.

NBS 64: One should put aside false pride, hypocrisy, and other vices.

NBS 65: Offering all one's activities to the Lord, one should feel desire, anger, and pride only with regard to Him.

NBS 66: After breaking through the aforementioned coverings of the three modes of nature, one should act only in pure love of God, remaining perpetually in the mood of a servant serving his master, or a lover serving her beloved.

NBS 67: Among the Lord's devotees, the greatest are those who are dedicated to Him solely as His intimate servants.

NBS 68: Conversing among one another with throats choked, hair standing on end, and tears flowing, the Lord's intimate servants purify their own followers and the whole world.

NBS 69: Their association makes holy places holy, works auspicious, and the scriptures authoritative.

NBS 70: The intimate servants of the Supreme Lord are fully absorbed in loving Him.

NBS 71: Thus the pure devotees' forefathers become joyful, the demigods dance, and the world feels protected by good masters.

NBS 72: There are no distinctions among such pure devotees in terms of social class, education, bodily beauty, family status, wealth, occupation, and so on.

NBS 73: Pure devotees are not distinguished by externals like social class, for they belong to the Lord.

Chapter 5: Attaining Perfection

NBS 74: One should not indulge in argumentative debate.

NBS 75: Such argumentation leads to excessive entanglements and is never decisive.

NBS 76: One should respect the revealed scriptures of devotional service and discharge the duties they prescribe.

NBS 77: Patiently enduring till the time when one can put aside material happiness, distress, desire, and false gain, one should not waste even a fraction of a second.

NBS 78: One should cultivate such good qualities as nonviolence, truthfulness, cleanliness, compassion, and faith.

NBS 79: Those who are free of doubts should constantly worship the Supreme Lord with all their hearts.

NBS 80: When He is glorified, the Lord swiftly reveals Himself to His devotees and allows them to know Him as He is.

NBS 81: Devotional service is the most precious possession of a person who honestly uses his mind, body, and words.

NBS 82: Although devotional service is one, it becomes manifested in eleven forms of attachment: attachment to the Lord's glorious qualities, to His beauty, to worshiping Him, to remembering Him, to serving Him, to reciprocating with Him as a friend, to caring for Him as a parent, to dealing with Him as a lover, to surrendering one's whole self to Him, to being absorbed in thought of Him, and to experiencing separation from Him. This last is the supreme attachment.

NBS 83: Thus say the founding authorities of devotional service: the Kumāras, Vyāsa, Śuka, Śāṇḍilya, Garga, Viṣṇu, Kauṇḍilya, Śeṣa, Uddhava, Aruṇi, Bali, Hanumān, Vibhīṣaṇa, and others — speaking without fear of worldly gossip and sharing among themselves one and the same opinion.

NBS 84: Anyone who trusts these instructions spoken by Nārada and is convinced by them will be blessed with devotion and attain the most dear Lord. Yes, he will attain the most dear Lord.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.