Bhakti & Śrāddha

Bhakthi (Bhakti / Devotion) is to surrender oneself into an aspect of Divinity. It’s an exploration beyond a specific time frame or destination, other then Jīva Brahmāikyasiddhi (Jīva:brahmā:ikya:siddhi). Bhakti is one of the various approaches towards higher conscience, but among the rest, it’s considered the most simple, beautiful and flavorful approach. These flavors originate from various customs and sects with different expressions. It has a deep emotional longing leading to complete surrender to divinity, this servitude is called Iśvara:prapada (pranipada). Various approaches are generically categorized as Yoga and can be found in detail in Srimad Bhagavād Gita. Please note, this is not a simple topic to define or express opinions. So, in this article lets explore the following. What is bhakti or devotion and its flavors? How does one foster bhakti? Does bhakti require faith? What are the different types of ways of bhakti? Who is a Nasthik? We will see this, not through opinion, but through various references from Sanātana Ḍharma Literature (Hinduism).

Patañjali Yoga Sutras 23-26 explains Iśvara and Iśvara:pranipad as follows:

Iśvara:praṇidhānād vā (23)
Kleśa-karma-vipākāsayair aparāmṛṣṭaḥ puruṣa-viśeṣa Iśvaraḥ (24)
Tatra niratiśayaṃ Sarvajña-bījam (25)
Sa pūrveṣām api guruḥ kālenana-vacchedāt (26)

Meaning, The attainment of Kaivalya is possible by following another path in which the aspirant dose not being about the deliberate suppression of the citta-vṛttis by the force of will. On this path the aspirant simply surrenders (praṇidhānā) oneself to the will of Iśvara. He (Iśvara) is a special (viśeṣa) Puruṣa or the highest level of Puruṣa (Pārama:puruṣa) unblemished by the concepts of Karma (causality: the cause and effects within creation) and Klesa (afflictions). Among various levels (states of consciousness) of Puruṣa (like Adhikarika Puruṣa, Mukta Puruṣa and more), Iśvara is that state of consciousness that cannot be gauged, one only ponder as to the pinnacle leading to Pārabrahman. It’s in Him lies the highest (niratiśaya) seed of Jñana (omniscience), making Him the source or Principle. In Him lies the Sanskaras and information of limitless Brahmanda as He is beyond the concept of time (Kaal) and so is the Guru even to the Ancients.

Bhakti or Devotion is profoundly quoted by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev as:

“Devotion means, it is a solution, which slowly dissolves you, makes you less and less of yourself”
“Devotion means a single minded focus. Devotion means we are willing to do the same thing without any dam reward in our life, we are not doing a transaction, we are doing because we see it as something significant”

(Sadhguru. W.T. 2019, Sadhguru. P.P 2019)

Very few exceptional personalities with prior lives of Sādhanā (dedicated practice) inherit bhakti towards Ishwara (Iśvara), this is called Iśvara:Pranipada. And there are those, who are the very manifestation of Iśvara:jnana like Vedā Vyāsa, Śrī Adi Śankaracharya and more, for the rest of us, devotion is not something we can purchase in a store. Even if we wish to foster bhakti, we must have confidence in Iśvara’s existence. Śāstra says, except for few anomalies, for the rest bhakti is an act or a response to fear, uncertainty and desire, for some its a give and take the transaction. Does this mean we are Nasthik? Śāstra doesn’t depict one as Nasthik (closest meaning atheist) just because one doesn’t believe in Iśvara. Many of us don’t know or understand the concept of Iśvara by birth. Then who is a Nasthik? Śāstra claims the one who dismisses Vedā or Śāstra is a Nasthik. Vedā explains the construct of this creation and its constraints. It emulates the concept of Iśvara through various sub-concepts, its only through a Guru that we get to interpret these concepts. Hence, Śāstra proclaims Guru at a higher position than Iśvara. Vedā is not rules, and Vedā doesn’t expect one to follow blindly. Vedā is the breath of Iśvara heard as Śruti by sages/Maharśi during their tapasya. So, it’s our effort to explore Śāstra and understand its concepts that allow bhakti to evolve.

Let’s try to define bhakti. When we make an attempt to foster liking and admiration towards an entity, because of its significance, based on their traits, beauty, and marvel, with an ever growing zeal to understand and savor its essence, and in this process uplift ourselves towards higher consciences, then that is called bhakti. This leads us towards a trust in that entity, channeling our lives to progress towards it as our target and destiny, that is bhakti. (Srichaganti. B, n.d., p.1)

Well, its good to define it with few words, but how does bhakti foster? How does one cultivate bhakti? Let’s look at various ways in which bhakti can be understood.

1. The exploration of Śāstra with śrāddha is Bhakti.
2. Implementation of the wisdom of Śāstra
in our lives is Bhakti.
3. Eliminating fear and cultivating confidence in Iśvara is Bhakti.
4. Expressing ourselves to Iśvara
is Bhakti.
5. Reasoning with our identity, ego, pride and desire is Bhakti. Being honest to the self is Bhakti.

Srimad Bhagavād Gita has an entire chapter dedicated to the exploration of Bhakti called the Bhakti Yoga (one of four Yogas).

1. Exploration of Śāstra with śrāddha is Bhakti:

Trust in Śāstra is bhakti, sincerity in implementing Śāstra is bhakti, Shraddha (closest meaning is dedication) towards Guru and Śāstra is known as bhakti. Then what is a need for śrāddha and why is śrāddha important? In Vivekachudamani, Sloka 25, Śrī Śankaracharya says:

“शास्त्रस्य गुरुवाक्यस्य सत्यबुद्ध्यवधारणम्। सत्यबुद्ध्यावधारणा
सा श्रद्धा कथिता सद्भिर्यया वस्तूपलभ्यते॥”

“Shastrasya guruvakyasya satyabuddhyavadharanam |
sa sraddha kathita sadbhiryaya vastupalabhyate”

(Sanskrit Documents. V.C. 2017)

Meaning, trust in Śāstra and in the words of Guru with truthful behavior performed with śrāddha intern helps in the understanding of reality and the gain of desired results or objects.

Each day with śrāddha, bhakti evolves becoming a part of our lives, and finally becomes our very existence. For example, in the initial stages of our effort, we might perform some rituals like pūjā (pooja) during a specific time of the day, later we get involved into our daily lives. This state of bhakti is more part-time, but there comes a stage in life when bhakti assimilates into all aspects of life, making us progress towards a life of gratitude. At this stage when one wakes up in the morning, steps on the floor, touches one’s forehead to the floor expressing gratitude towards our Mother Earth (Bhūdevi) for bearing and allowing us to walk on Her, with similar gratitude during the course of our day, finally at night we rest thanking Iśvara for everything.

Let’s note that a ritual is not a substitute for bhakti, however, when bhakti assimilates as the fundamental entity in our lives then we crave to express gratitude and server Iśvara through a ritual, such a state takes us to a new level of conscience. A ritual without bhakti is called ‘Yantrikam’ meaning superficial, or an act, yet the effort is not in vain. Bhakti is a language to express our feelings, our limitations and our gratitude to Iśvara. (Srichaganti. B, n.d., p.1)

Let’s ask a question, can anyone stay without performing karmā? It’s not possible. Then will all who perform karmā get the same result? Say, ten people perform Satyanarayana Swamy Pooja (Kalpa-Ratham), do all ten get the same result? What about those out of the 10 who performed the Pooja (pūjā) with devotion, ignoring all distractions? Will Iśvara feel happy for the karmā alone, or the devotion and śrāddha (dedication) involved in performing Karmā? If performing karmā with śrāddha and devotion becomes a habit, then maybe, we will become conditioned not to act with ego and for self-gain.

Since we all have to face the inevitable effects of our karmā and receive its karmāphala (Fruit of our actions) by the same karmā-a:karmā-phala-pradhata (the bestower of the result of karmā, who is the Iśvara), no matter how tough, one cannot stop urging Iśvara for forgiveness and for devotion towards Him (yes to get devotion towards Iśvara, one must ask Iśvara to grant us that devotion, since there are no two entities, one to give and the other to take).

2. Implementation of the wisdom of Śāstra in our lives is Bhakti:

No matter how much we know about Śāstra, what matters most is its application in life and living by the path of Ḍharma. A good analogy is to have a lot of sticks in the house but unable to use them to protect oneself in a threat. Similarly, knowing Ḍharma is not sufficient, of course it’s a great step towards evolving, but the significance is in its implementation (aacharana) and practice (upāsanā) to move closer to Iśvara, otherwise, with such knowledge one might try to misuse it to cheat people or foster pride. Knowing how to perform Sandhya Vandanam or ability to beautifully recite Gayatri is to be fortunate, but not implementing it in one’s life is to have such a great opportunity go to waste. Ḍharma itself is what constitutes Sanātana Ḍharma (again it’s not a religion). Hence, Sanātana Ḍharma literature emphasizes aacharana (implementaion), without which one cannot declare to live the life Ḍharma:Sādhanā. Without acharana the chances of intertwining or unifying karmā with devotion are very slim. Why aacharana (implementation) is more important in Sanātana Ḍharma literature? Say, we don’t know the details of a car engine and its mechanics, but does it limit us from becoming a good driver? Does practice and attention make us a good driver or does the knowledge of the internal functioning of the engine make us a good driver? In the same way, many techniques and concepts were consciously embedded into various daily rituals and passed on as traditions. One might not be aware of the mechanics behind the act, but the very act when performed correctly will bear result. One might not have graduated in botany, but just by nurturing a seed in the right conditions will result it to sprout, grow and bear fruit.

3. Eliminating fear and cultivating confidence is Bhakti:

The motivator for any action is desire, and in many cases fear towards loosing a desire (which is also a desire), but if fear dictates a human to follow certain philosophy then where is the room for hope and gyana (jñana). Karmā and its understanding are not to induce fear or force one to perform, because the same actions when performed has different results for different individuals based on kālá(am) (time) and place (desham). Understanding this concept gives hope and removes fear, because without hope how can one learn to evolve, or learn karma and its karmaphala, or to compensate past karma. Without its understanding how can one bring out the strength to uplift oneself in their conscience or to repent and realize one’s own mistakes? Understanding karmā is not something that is forced upon a human, because karmā is, and will always be in play whether an individual makes an attempt to learn it or be ignorant about it. Karma will also be in play irrespective of which philosophy a person believes in, and no matter what name or definition karma is defined in that philosophy because karma is a concept that explains a kriya (action) with its associated result, making the one performing the karma as karta. It doesn’t require a person to understand in Sanātana Ḍharma to believe in an action and an associative result, which is based on the time and place the action was performed. No matter which philosophy one believes in, everyone is born in the same reality and must abide by its constraints. Not everyone is born with the complete understanding of any philosophy, not everyone sees or experiences Iśvara at birth or during the early stages of life. Not everyone has complete and un-shattering proof of Iśvara’s existence. Everyone, except few anomalies like Śrī Śankaracharya, the rest of us are born in this uncertain reality, and every action has its effects whether we like it or not. However, it’s our choice to either understand it through Śāstra or make up our own philosophy out of our life experiences. It’s to be noted that each person’s life and their experiences are different and so are it’s results, hence one person’s experience can’t necessarily be applicable to another, because each individual is unique in their own sense and interpretation. Understanding philosophy presents comprehension towards understanding the choices presented to us by this reality, hence without such an understanding and the hope that is derived from it, how can there be room for mistake and for us to learn from it. It’s from repentance and realizations that a human in many occasions evolves in conscience. Death comes ones to a man, but constant fear (Chinta, meaning fear in anxiety) kills a man each day, like Kamsa who under constant fear of Śrī Kṛṣṇa was dying each day, however was saved by death itself when Kṛṣṇa finally did come. If fear is the basis, then how and when will one enjoy the freedom with Iśvara and build confidence and hope towards Iśvara, like the poets who composed various poem both to praise Iśvara and also complain or scold Him. Without such freedom, the concept of Iśvara will become a ferocious entity that one must worship to survive and to bear comfort.

Does this mean fear is bad? No, fear like kama should be uttama, meaning positive or rather call it healthy fear. Healthy fear keeps one’s actions in check making sure not to perform A:Ḍharma. It helps us to draw a line placing Ḍharma as former giving us the ability to check ourselves and pull back on our thoughts and decisions. A human being without such a check can lower oneself to any level of insanity and discrimination under the name of free-will and liberty. Without such a check, one can seek endless power and wealth in whatever means necessary in the name of self-preservation and prosperity disregarding the preservation of resources for others and the future generation. Human beings without such a check will forget that human are social beings and must rely on one another to foster culture and civility, because no matter what we believe, all our prosperity has one source, which is Earth, hence the title Vasundhara, meaning the Mother who gives us all wealth and riches and is the single abode for our existence.

So, if it’s not fear then what? One can always claim that one’s own self-conscience to be is the basis for choosing the right approach, if that’s the case, then each individual’s experience and understanding towards this creation is both different and limited, since a human lacks a holistic vision or a collective notion of all entities and factors that define our reality. A human also lacks the ability to feel exactly what other human feels, nor can one visit or comprehend events beyond kālá(am) (time) (both from past and foresee future). Each event can foster different experiences and different perspectives in a human, and each era allows same or different events to occur providing even more possibilities or experiences. This approach will become a trial method. If conscience evolves from knowledge and information and this in return helps us make better choices, than illiterates, the poor, the less fortunate, children and many others are doomed to fall into a spiral of mistakes and misfortune. Even after that, it’s very likely for a person to provide a justification for their actions that seem valid to them, and thus each person will end up creating one’s own philosophy to justify their actions. This the very reason for one to seek a Guru, because a Guru is the conduit for comprehending Iśvara. A Guru is not a promoter of Śāstra, nor a representative or a proxy for Śāstra. A Guru is not bestowed by any responsibility or duty to teach or share Śāstra. A Guru is the one who has passed beyond the comprehension of this reality by understanding the tatva. A Guru is like a tree which doesn’t advertise its shade nor its fruits, similarly, a Guru doesn’t advertise his wisdom. For such a gyani (jnani), materials and comforts have no meaning, because a Guru always reminiscence in joy (Brahmā:nandam) by understanding this reality and by overcoming all fear.

How does one overcome all fear? When one realizes that there is but one Iśvara and that oneself is that Iśvara, hence there is no duality or a secondary entity to fear. One doesn’t have to struggle in identifying such jnani since they are very few in numbers. Such gyani are anomalies created by this reality (or rather the Divine Mother) in comparison to those who self-proclaim such a title making it a profession or a business with Kashayam as a dress code.

The tatva of Shasta is not to abide by fear but to lose the very flavors of fear that many constantly dwell in both acquiring and preserving what has been acquired. If an action no matter how good the intention, leads to a choice, made of one’s conscience and if that results in an outcome causing much pain and suffering to both nature and others, will such action bear satisfaction or guilt? This is the reason why attma Shakti/śakti (attma means soul or in this case refers to the conscience of a Jīva and Shakshi means witness) is the last option laid out by Śāstra towards making a choice. Then what is the primary option that one can always choose? Sanātana Ḍharma in its very name has the answer, which is Ḍharma, which takes the precedence among all towards making a choice towards choosing an action (which becomes karmā). This Ḍharma is illustrated by Śāstra hence Śāstra takes first preference, but the same Śāstra doesn’t enforce its choice on the will of man, it just presents that option for our choosing.

Not everyone is well versed in the comprehension of Śāstra by birth, in that case one must seek the teaching of a gyani as a Guru, if one is not fortunate to find such a Guru, then one must understand the stories and accounts that Iśvara Himself has faced and illustrated in various Puráńa like Sri Ramayana. If one doesn’t know such stories, then one should read and follow the footsteps and the behavior of great and compassionate personalities that history and time have given birth to. Finally, if an event arises that one is unable to choose an action and is not aware of any of the above, then one must choose bearing one’s own Ātman as a witness (attma shakshi). Before we do any of the above, one must ask Iśvara to help us comprehend Him. If one is yet to believe in Iśvara, then one must ask the universe itself to help us understand it, this is the very essence of Gayatry Mantra. But if a person who doesn’t place an effort towards any of the above, for this a sloka from Mahabharata making a reference to Ramayana:

“न भूतपूर्वं न कदापि वार्ता हेम्नः कुरंगः कदापि न दृष्टः
तथापि तृष्णा रघुनन्दनस्य विनाशकाले विपरीत बुद्धिः”

“Na bhootpoorvah na kadaapi vaartaa hemnh kurangh kadaapi na drushtah
Tathaapi trushna Raghunandanasya vinaashkāláe vipreet buddhih”

Rama shooting Maricha with an arrow (Prambana Templa, Indonesia) (1928).

‘Raghunandanasya’ meaning Rama who chased the golden deer wherein His mind worked against Him towards imminent danger. This part of the sloka ‘vinaashkāláe vipreet buddhih’ is used in various slokas, what this means is, in the times of one’s own imminent demise brought upon by one’s own ego, then that person’s buddhi (knowledge and decisions) will always make choices towards one’s own destruction. A good example was Ravana, though a great scholar, kept making bad choices to please his own pride and ego, even till the very end, when Ram offered to show mercy and asked him to surrender and to seek forgiveness.

Sri Ram never performed actions based on His personal like and desire. He always abides by Ḍharma no matter how tough the situation became. In case of Him chasing the golden deer, He know there was something wrong with the scenario on how a deer could be that majestic and mysterious and agreed with Lakshmana (His brother) that no deer exists on Earth, but said that as a Shatreya (born in the family of Kings) its His Ḍharma to eliminate such demons. This information can be found in Sri Vakmiki Ramayana, Aranya Sarga, chapter 43, sloka 38.

“यदि वा अयम् तथा यत् माम् भवेत् वदसि लक्ष्मण |
माया एषा राक्षसस्य इति कर्तव्यो अस्य वधो मया ||”

“yadi vaa ayam tathaa yat maam bhavet vadasi lakShmaNa |
maayaa eShaa raakShasasya iti kartavyo asya vadho mayaa ||”

(Vālmīki Ramayana. A.K. n.d.)

Exploring Śāstra by reading or listening, and discussing this very concept is a uttama kama, without which this instance of reading so far would not have been possible.

The quintessential of Santana Ḍharma is that Devotees dictate Iśvara and can bind Him. Numerous magnificent kṣhetra (holy sites) are a result of devotees who urged Iśvara to manifest. Many Maharśi and sages commanded Iśvara to reside in few places and bestow His anugraham (grace) and console mankind. When we say ‘commanded Iśvara to reside’, doesn’t mean to have a physical presence, but more a manifested form, because we discussed that Iśvara is a concept, not limited to a specific form or shape. What it means is, to help create a kṣhetra (a divine site) or a sanctuary for people to congregate and foster devotion by performing various karmā, like pooja, upacharas, Dhyāna, cultural events and more to seek Iśvara in a physical sense though our indriya (sense organs), because not every one can comprehend Iśvara at the Ātman level. This is the reason why time and again Iśvara manifested into various forms to uplift humanity. It also means that Maharśi asked Iśvara to create new karmā (acts and events) through which one can counter and reduce the effects of our dush:karmā and gain sat:karmā. This is the reason why each kṣhetra in Santana Ḍharma has a unique significance and a unique set of rituals presenting various unique results. It’s also said that, when a student with interest and a good listener meets a Guru from whom Śāstra flows like a dhara and who is eager to pass on his/her tatvam, then that place becomes a kṣhetra.

Iśvara underwent abuse from His devotees, like in the story of Purandara Das who got angry and punished Panduranga, who came to him as his Servant. Another example was when Sri Anantacharya and his pregnant wife were digging a pond ‘teert(am)’ for Sri Venkateshwara in Tirumala, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. Seeing Sri Anantachaya’s wife getting exhausted, Sri Venkateshwara manifested in the form a young boy and started helping Her without Anantacharya’s permission. Anantacharya who got frustrated seeing him with his wife threw his shovel that scared the boy’s chin. Even today sandalwood is applied to the chin of Sir Venkateshwara in Tirumala.

Another devotee named Surdas always used to sit in Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s temple singing bhajans (rhythmic songs praising Iśvara). On the day nearing his daughter’s wedding he requested the groom to wish for a gift along with the items needed for the wedding. The groom was surprised knowing his father-in-law’s poverty, and so modestly hesitated to ask. Surdas insisted and so the groom prepared a list based on his family’s desires. Upon submitting this list, Surdas further insisted the groom for his personal preference. The groom was even more surprised on how he would manage to arrange these items, but with sarcasm asked for a grinding stone. Surdas took this list and went to the temple, kept that list the feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa went back to his bhajans. A deliveryman in a cart approached the in-laws place and delivered each item on that list including the grinding stone asked by the groom. Everyone was surprised and asked the deliveryman as of who the sender was, to which he replied it being Surdas. Everyone rushed to the temple and confronted Surdas who was deeply in his bhajan. Surdas unaware of the event urged his in-laws to patiently wait for few more days, and that he will arrange all the items demanded by them. To his surprise they confirmed to have received all the items, Surdas asked how and who delivered it but his in-laws were uncertain. Surdas realized it to be Śrī Kṛṣṇa himself who has delivered them and wept at his feet washing them with his tears. Such was the devotion that made Iśvara servile.

Sri Chaganti Koteshwar Rao garu once with many other devotees traveled to Sringeri Peetam, Karnataka, India, one of the four establishments founded by Śrī Śankaracharya. At that time the current inheritor of that that Matt (peetam) was Sri Bharathi Tirtha Swami. Sri Chaganti had the opportunity to meet the mother of Sri Bharathi Tirtha Swami and conveyed his devotion by bowing down to Her feet. She returned a namaskar back for which Sri Chaganti requested Her not to, as she was blessed being the mother of Sri Bharathi Tirtha Swami and it was her womb that gave birth to such great personality. Though true, she replied with modesty saying that she was no special. Sri Chaganti urged Her to explain the karmā to be the reason behind such great fortune. Though hesitant in the beginning, upon further requests, she explained that during Her childhood where in each day she would get ready by taking bath and applying turmeric to Her feet and tag along with her father in joy to visit Kotappakonda temple in Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh. Eventually, she said to have realized the temple’s significant deity was Dakshina Murthy who being Śiva’s manifestation as a Guru. This karmā had the potential for which she had the great opportunity of being the mother of such significant personality.

(Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.13)

4. Expressing ourselves to Iśvara is Bhakti.

Ishwari or Devi has a title known as “Bhavana Matra Santustayai Namaha”, meaning She (the Divine Mother/Devi/Pāraśakti) feels happy just by we expressing our devotion by feeling and imagination. Nothing in this creation is ours, but when we offer as Nivedana to Iśvara like fruits, flowers, deep (and many other upacharas) we are actually expressing our love towards Iśvara by presenting items from the His/Her own creation. We can’t really feed Iśvara or give holy bath to Iśvara, or any other Upachara (offering service to Iśvara during pooja) directly. However, we through these upacharas, imagine and visualize as if Iśvara is with us and we as His children are serving Him with items from His own creation. Just with our imagination of service and love, Iśvara feels happy and proud. For example lets say a father gives his child something nice to eat, the child before eating offers it back to their parents to be tasted first with love, this gesture itself makes them feel happy and proud, same goes for Iśvara.

Path to Devotion

In Lalitha Sahasranama Stotram, Sloka 2 and 3, Devi is called:

“उद्यद्भानु-सहस्राभा चतुर्बाहु-समन्विता ।
रागस्वरूप-पाशाढ्या क्रोधाकाराङ्कुशोज्ज्वला ॥
मनोरूपेक्षु-कोदण्डा पञ्चतन्मात्र-सायका ।
निजारुण-प्रभापूर-मज्जद्ब्रह्माण्ड-मण्डला ॥”

“Udyadbanu saha-srabha chatur-bahu saman-vita
Raga-svarupa pashadya krodha-karanku-shojvala
Mano-rupekshu kodanda pancha tanmatra sayaka
Nijaruna prabha-pura majabhramhanda mandala”

(Hindu Temple of Hong Kong. S.L.S.S. n.d., Sanskrit Documents. S.L.S. 2013)

Meaning we who live chasing behind materials with the notion of ‘mine’, the Divine Mother, in a glimpse, like a lightening, can wipe off that illusions and free us from our own bondage, showing us the path to devotion. Without Her luminescence, one cannot take even a single step towards Iśvara, and so will continue to dwell aimlessly in the illusion of desire in this materialistic reality. It’s the Divine Mother who creates the illusions among prakruti /Prakṛti(nature and its reality) making a man chase these illusions in the concept of desire. One day those curtains of illusion are brought down opening paths to realizing the omniscience and the compassion of the supreme singular conscience. The Divine Mother unties the bonds of illusion and tethers us with a rope of devotion pulling us closer to Iśvara. It’s similar to realizing that all gold ornaments are nothing but gold as it’s base metal, and all earthen pots with different shapes are all actually earth. When this notion is realized, man will be released from the illusion, which creates the limitations on the shape and form.

5. Reasoning with our ego, pride and desire is Bhakti. Being honest to the self is Bhakti:

‘Pancha Tanmatra Saayaka’, till now these eyes saw the glitters of the material word and since this creation is an illusion, these glitters and its mysteries are endless, making us forever in bondage with these materials. However, the path of devotion will lead to us seeing Iśvara in the same beauty of Prakṛti (nature and material creation). These ears, which once wished to seek joy in listening to meaningless and purposeless compositions, now will seek to listen to the glorified accounts of Iśvara and those magnificent poems and slokas passed on to us by extraordinary sages. The mouth and tongue, which only ate seeking taste and pleasure, will now eat with gratitude considering everything as Iśvara’s prasad(am). These hands will now wish to touch the flower at the feet of Iśvara. Only a path of devotion will allow us to enjoy the same creation and its beauty with our five senses considering everything as Iśvara’s creation. And as we discussed earlier, to get devotion one needs to urge Iśvara to bless us with devotion. Devotion and faith are not commodities that can be purchased nor are they a formula or routine. Devotion is a change in one’s perspective that arises when one’s conscience seeks to reason with one’s ego and pride. This attempt to reason with ego will help us realize the reality from illusion (māyā) and helps us realign our priorities in life. It gives us focus on the important things like Parents, Guru, family, compassion, and realizes one’s potential. Sri Ramana Maharshi once said, the highest form of devotion and karmā is the introspection and self examination of one’s own Ātman. The manas of a Guru is like a sugar cane, no matter where we cut or squeeze or chew we get the same sweetness. Similarly, when all the five ‘tanmatras’ (human senses) are surrendered to Iśvara (Iśvara:pranipada) and walk the path of Ḍharma, then one day it will lead to realizing that Iśvara is everywhere and everything and that He has always been within the self and the notion of ‘I’ or ‘mine’ will disappear becoming one with Iśvara. When we said ‘surrendering tanmatra to Iśvara’ it does not mean to forcefully subjugate one’s desire, it means to enjoy desires in line with Ḍharma and cherish them as Iśvara’s prasad. It’s when the soil is rich and fertile, allows a seed to sprout when the rain wets the soil, similarly a person should first strive this host body to be rich and fertile by performing karmā inline with Ḍharma and one day under the rays Iśvara, the seed of devotion will sprout. Moving forward we will see how Śrī Śankaracharya explains on how the devotion like a flower should bloom in our hearts under the light of Kanakadhara, because this very effort is for the light of this dhara to fall on us. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.15)

At this state of mind, the person is untouched or rather unblemished by desire, hate, fear, sadness or pleasure. One becomes a witness to the existence and the creation around. Such a state is like viewing creation through the eyes of Iśvara, not that Iśvara has physical eyes like us, but metaphorically to see creation beyond the limitations of a human who is but an entity within the fabric of this reality.

Forcefully subjugating desires is like holding a snake’s head under the feet just to get bitten the moment it’s removed. Suppressing desires, when in despair and desperation, will overthrow our logic and reasoning and makes us submit to weakness and fear, which will consume us, pushing us deeper into the abyss of darkness and hate. So how does one attain a state of unification with Iśvara? This happens when knowledge unifies with devotion through the exploration of Śāstra and listening and reading the accounts and stories of Iśvara, similar to the efforts we are making now. For a human mind to even think in this direction, the Divine Mother must nurture us, because to get devotion one has to urge Iśvara for devotion. One who realizes the creation to be Iśvara’s illusion and proclaim Him the creator, then such person moves closer and closer towards the unification with Iśvara.

Please note, not everyone at every state can understand Iśvara, but one can always clear their mind of predefined conclusions or self-proclaimed justification and explore the vastness of this reality being truthful to oneself. With such an exploration if one can relinquish ego and pride even for a moment and accept that we are not it’s creators and that we don’t know anything, and ask the universe itself for its knowledge so as to understand it, such submission leads to the exploration of things and its comprehension without prejudice. This statement is the very essence of Gayatri mantra. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.1-19)

Please continue your reading of Nava:veda Bhakti in continuation of this topic.


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