"It is not what you do that matters, but how you do it – with what attitude and aim. The spiritual effect that a seemingly spiritual activity brings, can also be had by the domestic pursuit, provided you preserve a spiritual attitude and dedication."

The Guiding force of Narayanashrama Tapovanam & Center for Inner Resources Development

Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

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Bhakti is that supreme state of the mind, where the mind automatically turns towards the Lord and is firmly fixed at the lotus feet of the Lord – without any motivation, without any expectation, without wanting anything in return.” It is like the rivers flowing towards the ocean undaunted by anything on the way. Whether there are mountains or valleys or forests, the river always finds its way to the ocean. Bhakti is like that. Bhāgavatam says that such one-pointed devotion, where the mind becomes completely focused on God, is even higher than mokṣa (liberation).

Devotional Elixir in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam – I

[Summary of the talk given on 27th December 2006, during the fifth Śrīmad Bhāgavata Tattva Samīkṣā Satram]

Hariḥ Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru. I prostrate at the holy lotus feet of my Sri Gurudev and seek his blessings so that I may be able to express myself, share my thoughts and help everyone feel and experience the devotional elixir in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. I prostrate at the holy feet of Sri Krishna – who is none other than Sri Guru – and seek his blessings. I also prostrate at the feet of all the devotees who have assembled here to listen to this divine Text.

When I read Bhāgavatam, I feel I am completely identified with its characters. When I read about Dhruva, I become Dhruva; while reading about Prahlāda, I become Prahlāda. I become Pṛthu, Bali, Devahuti, and at the end I become Uddhava. If we have to taste the devotional elixir, the amṛta, we must identify ourselves with the characters and events in Bhāgavatam completely. This identification is most important.

I was thinking: what shall I say? The entire Bhāgavatam speaks only of devotion and devotional elixir. Wherefrom to start, where to end, and what are the episodes I can speak about? I am not a Bhaagavatite, but I find lot of delight in reading the Bhāgavatam. What is devotion or bhakti? And what is this elixir we are talking about? In the beginning, Bhāgavatam says: “Śuka-mukhāt amṛtadrava- saṃyutam – this amṛta, the nectarine juice is flowing from Śuka Muni’s words”. We must be able to receive it. We must taste it. But how? When we know how to drink it, only then we will be full of devotion. When we read the Bhāgavatam or listen to it, we may feel that we have become very devotional. But is that enough? What is the way to enjoy this devotional elixir even when we are in the midst of our so called worldly activities? Is it possible?

If it is possible, then how? What are the disciplines to be followed? What is the pursuit that will make us full of devotion? What will be our life like? What are the characteristics of such devotees? But first, let us see how bhakti is described in the Bhāgavatam (7.7.55):

एतावानेन लोकेऽस्मिन्पुंसः स्वार्थः परः स्मृतः ।

एकान्तभक्तिर्गोविन्दे यत्सर्वत्र तदीक्षणम् ।।

etāvān-eva loke’smin puṃsa: svārtha: para: smṛta: |

ekānta-bhaktir-govinde yat-sarvatra tad-īkṣaṇam ||

In this world, the supreme duty or objective of man is to develop exclusive devotion for the Lord. To see Him (not only in the heart, but) everywhere!

We have to see Him everywhere. He is in the heart of all. He is the Creator. Bhāgavatam also says: “Bhakti is that supreme state of the mind, where the mind automatically turns towards the Lord and is firmly fixed at the lotus feet of the Lord – without any motivation, without any expectation, without wanting anything in return.” It is like the rivers flowing towards the ocean undaunted by anything on the way. Whether there are mountains or valleys or forests, the river always finds its way to the ocean. Bhakti is like that.

Bhāgavatam says that such one-pointed devotion, where the mind becomes completely focused on God, is even higher than mokṣa (liberation). It says that, when a true devotee reaches that state, he does not want anything else – not even mokṣa! The devotee wants only to serve the Lord, to be a servant at His feet, and be in the association of devotees and holy people. Such a devotee has complete reliance on God. How to describe this bhakti?

अंकोलं निजबीजसंततिरयस्कान्तोपलं सूचिका

साध्वी नैजविभुं लता क्षितिरुहं सिन्धुः सरिद्वल्लभम् ।

प्राप्नोतीह यथा तथा पशुपतेः पादारविन्दद्वयं

चेतोवृत्तिरुपेत्य तिष्ठति सदा सा भक्तिरित्युच्यते ।।

aṅkolaṃ nijabīja-santatir-ayaskāntopalaṃ sūcikā

sādhvī naija-vibhuṃ latā kṣitiruhaṃ sindhuḥ sarid-vallabham |

prāpnotīha yathā tathā paśupateḥ pādaravinda-dvayaṃ

ceto-vṛttir-upetya tiṣṭhati sadā sā bhaktir-ity-ucyate ||

(Śivānandalahari 61)

This śloka is from Śaṅkarācārya’s Śivānandalahari. One-pointed devotion is defined here giving a number of similes. Aṅkola is the name of a tree. The specialty of the tree is that its seeds sprout only when they return to the mother-tree, not otherwise. Wherever they are, it seems their focus is always on the mother-tree. Similarly, an iron needle always gets attracted to the magnet irresistibly. A chaste woman always thinks of her husband. A creeper will always try to grow on a trunk of a tree. So too is a river that flows irresistibly towards the ocean. Like that, when our mind focuses on the holy Lotus Feet of the Lord leaving all other thoughts, it is called bhakti.

In anything we do, we have an expectation. But bhakti is not like that. In true devotion, we want nothing from the Lord. When we have that kind of bhakti, the mind becomes full of elixir. Bhāgavatam, through all the episodes, talks only about this kind of bhakti, which wants nothing from the Lord. It only wants bhakti at His Feet and reliance on Him.

I said in the beginning that when we read Bhāgavatam, we must identify ourselves with its characters. Take the story of Dhruva. I will not go into the details of the episode. But I want to emphasize that part of the story where we can identify with him and drink the nectar of devotion that Dhruva had.

You know that Dhruva was denied his father’s lap by the stepmother. He went crying to his mother. She said: “My son, to sit on your father’s lap, the only thing you can do is to go to the forest and worship Lord Vishnu. May be by His blessings, you will get what you want.” So, this five year old boy went to Madhuvana. On the way, he met Devarṣi Nārada who asked the little boy where he was going. Dhruva told him that he was going to worship Lord Vishnu. He did not know how to worship the Lord. He did not know who this Lord was. Nārada taught him how to worship Lord Vishnu.

Dhruva started his tapasyā (penance). Day after day, his tapasyā was becoming more intense and severe. During the first month he ate only fruits. In the second month, he ate only dry grass and leaves. Then he drank only water. He controlled his breath. He was standing on one leg. Then, after a month or so he would shift to the other leg. While he was changing his position or shifting his leg, the whole world would start shaking. When, with his intense devotion and worship, he stopped his breath, every living creature felt breathless. All the beings were about to die.

When, in his heart, he thus captured the Supreme Lord, who is the refuge of the whole material creation, the three worlds began to tremble. The devas got perturbed. They went to Mahavishnu and appealed: “Please protect us”. Finally, Mahavishnu came to Madhuvana and stood in front of Dhruva. Right at that moment, Dhruva was deeply absorbed in meditation, in the vision of the Lord in his heart.

In every chapter, Śrīmad Bhāgavatam describes Lord Vishnu or Sri Krishna – His beautiful face, His colour, His nose, lips and the smile! And there is one sentence coming again and again: “darśanīyatamaṃ śāntaṃ mano-nayana-vardhanam – He is the one to be seen – composed, enchanting to the eyes and the mind!” Our aim and objective should be to see him, to have his darśan and then only we should be satisfied.

But we are craving for every other object. We want to see movies, we want to see different sights, we want this or that, but we do not have the urge to see the Lord who is darśanīyatamaṃ – the most important one to be seen, and mano nayana-vardhanam – seeing whom the mind and the eyes are ennobled.

That glorious Mahavishnu came and stood in front of Dhruva. And Dhruva suddenly lost the image he was meditating upon in his heart. He opened his eyes and was wonder struck to find the same figure standing in front! He became so overwhelmed with devotion that instantly he fell prostrate on the ground.

My dear devotees, I cannot tell you how I felt when I read this the first time. I think many of you also would have felt like this. It is described in a beautiful śloka. It says – mentally he was absorbing the Lord with his eyes. With his face, he was kissing the Lord and with his arms, he was embracing the Lord in his heart. He felt all that. Then he got up. He was still overwhelmed with delight and ecstasy. He wanted to chant some prayers; he could not. He was only a young boy, just five years old. He did not know anything. He had no scriptural knowledge. But he wanted to do some stuti in praise of the Lord. The compassionate Lord looked at him and understood his desire. What did He do? He took his conch – you know that Mahavishnu has śaṅkha-cakra-gadā-padma in His hands – and touched the conch on Dhruva’s cheek. Dhruva got enlightened. Words started flowing from his mouth in praise of the Lord:

योऽन्तः प्रविश्य मम वाचमिमां प्रसुप्तां

सञ्जीवयत्यखिलशक्तिधरस्वधाम्ना ।

अन्यांश्च हस्तचरणश्रवणत्वगादीन्

प्राणान्नमो भगवते पुरुषाय तुभ्यम् ।।

yo’ntaḥ praviśya mama vācam-imāṃ prasuptāṃ

sañjīvayaty-akhila-śakti-dhara-svadhāmnā |

anyāṃśca hasta-caraṇa-śravaṇa-tvagādīn

prāṇān-namo bhagavate puruṣāya tubhyam || 

(4.9.6)

This is the first śloka of Dhruva’s stuti. He is saying: “O akhila-śaktidhara – the All-powerful! Entering my heart, You have awakened my words! The words that I could not produce, You have manifested them! Similarly, You have enlivened my hands, feet, ears, skin and the vital forces. Tubhyam namaḥ – I do praṇām to you.”

Dear devotees, let us think for a while. We are reading this. We are hearing this. But do we ever think like this? We walk, we see, eat, smell and touch – we do so many different types of activities. How many of us remember that it is because of this Power that we are able to do all that we are doing? How many of us are remembering and feeling surrendered at His Feet? Do we feel that our whole being depends on Him, that without Him we do not exist? So, this is the devotional elixir that we can drink and feel, if we become like Dhruva.

(to be continued)