Ways of Divine Love - Narada's Aphorisms on Devotion

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Developing Bhakti (Sutra 34-50)                                         
In these Sutras  Narada mentions various Sadhanas or means for developing devotion. It should be  borne in mind that these means are only accessories because we had already seen  that Bhakti is its own means. Devotion to God is attained by abandoning all  sensual pleasures and attachment to external objects. Success is achieved in  the practice of devotion by uninterrupted worship. Bhakti develops from  listening to and singing of the attributes and glories of the Lord, even while  engaged in the ordinary activities of life in the world.

In spite of all  these self-efforts, devotion can be obtained mainly by the grace of great men  and through a little Divine Grace. The company of the great souls is again  difficult to attain. Such company is hard to make out but infallible in its  effect. It is difficult because the seeker himself must be qualified and  suitably equipped to receive the grace of the sages and it is hard to get  because good things are always rare in this world. But with the grace of God,  the teacher and disciple are brought together in a mysterious way. The Divine  Grace may dawn in the form of concentration, serenity, devotion, vision of the  Lord etc., when the distinction between the lover and the loved is annihilated  and the devotee becomes a part of the Lord. Hence Narada advises to strive for  the love of God alone.
   
The other Sadhana suggested by Narada is giving up of evil company which is the  cause of lust, anger, delusion, loss of memory, loss of intellect and total  ruin. Though the evil tendencies like lust, anger, etc. rise only in the form  of ripples in the beginning they become like an ocean as a result of evil  company.

Narada now tells  us about those who cross Maya or the world of senses. Maya is that illusory  power of God that takes us away from reality and attracts us to the fleeting  sensual pleasures. The influence of Maya is subtle and undetectable,

The sage says  that he who
1. Avoids all contacts with sense objects which  inflame passions and resorts to a great spiritual teacher and serves him and is  free from mine ness (mamakara).
2. Resorts to a solitary and holy place rooting out  worldly desires and bonds, transcends the three Gunas and gives up all ideas of  acquisition and preservation. 
3. Renouncing the fruits of his actions and avoiding  selfish actions goes beyond the pairs of opposites like pleasure and pain, love  and hatred etc. 
4. Renounces even the rituals prescribed in the  Vedas and obtains undivided, undiluted, and uninterrupted flow of love towards  God verily crosses Maya, the ocean of Samsara. 
5. He overcomes all limitations and becomes a true  saviour of the world and sanctifies the entire universe.

Nature of Love (Sutra 51-67)
These aphorisms  speak of the identification marks of devotion. Narada at the outset declares  that the nature of love is incapable being described or defined in precise  words. His statement to this effect “Anirvachaniyam Premasvarupam” is  very powerful. Just like a blind man can not enjoy or understand the beauty of  sun set or moon light or as it is impossible to explain the sweetness of a  fruit to one who had not eaten it, the sweetness of Bhakti is indescribable to  another.

Devotion is a  feeling to be experienced and not a thing to be described. Written language or  spoken word can deal with external objects but internal emotion like Bhakti is  beyond the realm of tongue or pen. But for our day to day purposes there is no  other way but to employ language to indicate the nature of Bhakti.

Narada says that  love of devotion manifests itself in a qualified person some time or the other.  Divine love is devoid of all attributes (gunarahitam), ever expanding,  continuous, and most subtle and is of the nature of inner experience (anubhavarupam). Having attained that, the devotee sees, speaks, hears and thinks only about the  object of his devotion.
   
So far we have dealt with Para Bhakti or primary type of devotion whereby the  devotee attains his beloved Lord. Narada now takes up a discussion on Gauni  Bhakti or Apara Bhakti which is secondary or initial stages of devotion. 

Secondary  devotion is of three types according to the three attributes or Gunas viz.  Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas and based on the distinctions of the aspirant like  those afflicted, the seeker of knowledge and the self-interested. The first  classification is based on the traditional division of the mental qualities and  dispositions of the devotee while the second type of categorization is based on  the difference in the motives that impel the Bhakta.
   
While repeating that  the path of Bhakti is easier than any other methods for attaining salvation,  that devotion is in the nature of absolute peace and supreme bliss, Narada  assures that the devotee should feel no anxiety about the miseries of the world  as he has consecrated himself, the world and everything else to the Lord. At  the same time he advises that till Bhakti is developed one must not neglect to  observe one’s own social customs and ceremonies.

One should  certainly perform them, but the fruits thereof are to be surrendered to the  Lord. Such obstacles to devotion as women, wealth, atheism, enmity, egoism,  hypocrisy and other vices should be totally annihilated. Love and love alone  which transcends the three forms mentioned above should be practiced with single  pointed devotion to God.

Glories of Devotees (Sutra 68-73)
Narada now  describes the glories of the Bhaktas. He says that the devotees are always full  of emotions and intense feelings. They purify their families and the land which  gave birth to them. They are the beacon lights to the whole universe. Such  devotees impart sanctity to the already sacred places of pilgrimage, render  actions righteous and bestow spiritual authority to the scriptures. They are  ever filled with the presence of God; merged or absorbed in Him.

The advent of a  true devotee heralds happiness all around. The forefathers of a true devotee rejoice  and the celestials dance on the arrival of the saviour.
There exists no distinction among them based on caste, learning, form, birth,  wealth and the like e.g. Kabir was a common weaver, Raidas a sweeper, Nandanar  an untouchable, Ashtavakra, a physically cripple and yet they were great  spiritual luminaries.
All devotees belong to the Lord. They are all the objects of His special love  and care on account of their devotion.

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