"Self-realization is meant to ensure fulfilment for one’s own self. It is not reaching somewhere or getting at something external, like going to the peak of a mountain. The attainment is in dissolving the mind and intelligence, and getting into the very core of oneself. In other words, it is like multiplying everything with zero."

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

Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha


Articles for Saadhana

Devotional Elixir in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam - II

[In part – I, Mā discussed that when we read Bhāgavatam, we must identify ourselves completely with its characters. She narrated the story of Dhruva – how with intense tapasyā Dhruva gained the vision of the Lord and how blessed he was drinking the elixir of devotion. Mā said that when we hear the story of Dhruva, we should feel like becoming Dhruva; we must compare and find out why we do not feel that devotional ecstasy. Through these stories, Bhāgavatam beckons us to imbibe such devotion.]

Look at Prahlāda. You know that Prahlāda’s father, Hiraṇyakaśipu hated Lord Hari. But, Prahlāda had intense bhakti for the Lord. Hiraṇyakaśipu wanted to take him away from the Lord and teach him worldly things. He engaged special teachers for the purpose.

But Prahlāda did not waver. When the teachers would go away, he would call his classmates and talk to them about devotion. He used to tell them: “See, whatever our teachers are teaching us, is not what we should learn. They are dealing only with artha and kāma (worldly security and pleasures). This is not what we should learn. Instead, we should think of Lord Hari right from our young age. Let us fill our mind with devotion at His feet.” He said:


शरीरिणः संसृतिचक्रशातनम् ।

तद्ब्रह्मनिर्वाणसुखं विदुर्बुधाः

ततो भजध्वं हृदये हृदीश्वरम् ।।


śarīriṇaḥ saṃsṛti-cakra-śātanam |

tat-brahma-nirvāṇa-sukhaṃ vidur-budhāḥ

tato bhajadhvaṃ hṛdaye hṛdīśvaram || (7.7.37)

The wise people know that transcendental bliss is gained by the worshipful embrace of the Lord. By this, the entire worldliness (saṃsāra-cakra) will come to stop for the embodied. Therefore, worship in your heart the Lord of the heart.

When we embrace the Lord in the heart and feel the real touch of His presence, then what we get is the transcendental bliss, brahmanirvāṇa-sukham, by which we will be liberated from this worldliness, saṃsāra-cakra. So, Prahlāda said: “My friends, you must worship Him in your heart – hṛdaye bhajadhvaṃ. Whom should you worship? He, who is the Lord of the heart – hṛdīśvaram. He is everywhere. He is in every creature. He is inside me too. Let us worship Him. Let us fill our heart with devotion.”

When his father heard this, with a challenging note he questioned: “Where is your Lord Hari?” Prahlāda said: “Everywhere He is!” “Oh! Is it so? Is He in this pillar also?” “Yes, He is.” The father got very angry. He struck the pillar with the sword. I think all of you know the story; so, I am not going much into the story part; but I want to tell you about the devotional elixir that followed.

When Hiraṇyakaśipu struck the pillar with the sword, what happened? Narasiṃha-mūrti came out. It had a terrifying form – bhīṣaṇa or bhayānaka-mūrti. Why was it half-lion and half-man, Narasiṃha-avatāra? Because, Hiraṇyakaśipu had done a lot of penance and austerity, and had obtained a boon whereby he could not be killed by any human being or any other animal. A number of stipulations he had made to protect himself from death. So, the Lord had to take the form of Narasiṃha, which Hiraṇyakaśipu had not mentioned while asking for the boon. This Narasiṃha came out of the pillar and killed Hiraṇyakaśipu by ripping open his abdomen.

While Narasiṃha was showing his wrath, the whole world started shaking. The Gods, Goddesses and other beings became scared. They went to Brahmā. Even Brahmā felt that he could not go and pacify Narasiṃha. They sent for Lakshmi Devi, the consort of Mahavishnu. She also could not handle the situation. Finally, Brahmā told Prahlāda: “You go. Being a small child, he will not be angry with you.”

So Prahlāda went. He fell at the Lord’s feet and looked up to His face. Narasiṃha glanced at this young boy and became compassionate. He placed His divine palms on Prahlada’s head, lifted Prahlāda and said: “I am very pleased with you. Ask for some boon.” My dear devotees, just imagine the scene! When will we, who are also devotees of the Lord, get a touch of His divine palms on our head, protecting us and giving us fearlessness?

Prahlāda said: “No! A devotee should not ask for a boon from his Lord. I am your servant. A servant should not look for any incentive from his Master. With pure mind and uncorrupted heart, he should serve the Lord, always. Not only that. It is a mistake on the part of the Master too to tempt the servant with any kind of incentive. I do not want anything from you. If at all you want to give me a boon, I pray to you to give me a boon that no desire crops up in my heart.”

Just imagine! A seven-year old boy is saying that let not any desire crop up in his heart! If we want to be real devotees, we have to be like this. We should be completely desireless. There should not be any motive in our devotion. We should not ask for this or that. But what is it that we mostly do? We pray for name and fame! We want wealth and health! We ask Him to give us a house or a car! But if a devotee wants to become the foremost devotee, then he has to be totally desireless.

“Without any reason, O my Lord, let me love you, because I cannot but love you. I cannot but be devoted to you! I want to surrender completely at your feet. I want to be yours. I want to belong to you.” This should be our feeling.

At the end, Sri Krishna tells Uddhava:

नैरपेक्ष्यं परं प्राहुर्निःश्रेयसमनल्पकम् ।

तस्मान्निराशिषो भक्तिः निरपेक्षस्य मे भवेत् ।।

nairapekṣyaṃ paraṃ prāhur-niḥśreyasam-analpakam |

tasmān-nirāśiṣo bhaktiḥ nirapekṣasya me bhavet || (11.20.35)

Non-expectation is said to be the supreme. It leads one to the ultimate auspicious and lofty goal. Therefore, one who has no craving and is without any expectation, will gain devotion to Me.

We are always expecting – expecting good behaviour and kind words from others, expecting recognition for whatever we have done, expecting favourable results from whatever we have done. Our life is always full of expectations. But in devotion, non-expectation is said to be the loftiest quality. It is niḥśreyasam – the real felicity. It is analpakam – makes us analpa, meaning great, not constricted. Desires and expectations make us constricted, make us a slave. We beg this, beg that. We are not able to say: “No! I want nothing. I will be happy with whatever life brings in. O my Lord, give me only devotion!” Bhāgavatam says that only that person who has no desires or expectations will gain supreme bhakti.

Wherefrom did I start? We should not miss the point. I wanted to emphasize that the whole of Bhāgavatam is full of devotional elixir. When we meet here in this Satram, listening to the talks one after another, we are full of devotion. But after the talks are over, and we leave the Satram, will the elixir still be with us? Is it possible for us to have this devotional elixir in day-to-day life, in the midst of all activities? This was the question. For that, Bhāgavatam says that we have to be desireless.

Now let us see whether we want to be desireless. Will we take up a pursuit to become desireless? Who will tell us what is that pursuit of becoming desireless? Who will tell us how to become nonpossessive? How to efface the ego? Who will show us the way?

In Bhāgavatam, you will find every episode in each chapter talking about holy and saintly people. Go to the saintly people. Prostrate at their feet. Take their guidance. They will help you. Live with them. Serve them. Listen to them. Get guidance from them. They are the ones who know the Truth, that “Lord alone is”. Learn from them how to develop this supreme bhakti in your life.

In particular, Bhāgavatam says: “Go to an enlightened Guru”. It is not enough if you only go to different Mahātmās. You have to sit at the feet of the Guru and listen to him. Otherwise, you will not have that one-pointed-ness. Ask him: “How can I grow supreme devotion in my mind? And to grow devotion, if I have to get rid of the ego, if I have to cut asunder my ‘I’- ness and mine-ness, then how to do it? Forgetting the fact that I am the Soul, I am now thinking that I am the body. How to get the right knowledge? Oh my Lord, my Guru, please tell me!” – Like this, the seeker must enquire humbly.

Who is a Guru? The Guru is one who has realized the Truth, who has experienced Brahman. He knows the Lord. In fact, he is the Lord. He and Brahman are the same. Bhāgavatam says so in many places. The Guru is calm and tranquil, and ever eager to give the knowledge to the disciple. He is also well versed in scriptures. He knows the essence of the scriptures very well. To such a Guru, the disciple goes. And, what does he ask?

को नाम बन्धः कथमेष आगतः

कथं प्रतिष्ठास्य कथं विमोक्षः ।

कोऽसावनात्मा परमः क आत्मा

तयोर्विवेकः कथमेतदुच्यताम् ।।

ko nāma bandhaḥ katham-eṣa āgataḥ

kathaṃ pratisṭhāsya kathaṃ vimokṣaḥ |

ko’sāvanātmā paramaḥ ka ātmā

tayor-vivekaḥ katham-etad-ucyatām || (Vivekacūḍāmaṇi 49)

“O my Lord, my Guru, I feel constricted, because I feel that this body is me. I do not feel that ‘I am the Soul, I am the Self, I am free’. I do not have devotion to the Lord. I have possessiveness, anger, hatred, irritation, anxiety and tension in me. And with all these, I feel that I am bound. I do not know how to get liberated. What is this liberation?

Ko nāma bandhaḥ – what is bondage? katham-eṣa āgataḥ – wherefrom has it come to me? Kathaṃ pratiṣṭhāsya – where lies the foundation of this bondage? Kathaṃ vimokṣaḥ – how can I get liberated from this? Ko’sāvanātmā paramaḥ ka ātmā – What is meant by anātmā, the non-Self, and who is the supreme Self? O Lord, mercifully teach me how to discriminate between the two!”

“O my Master, I understand that I am always running after the perishables. This world is futile, transitory. Every moment it is changing. And there is no permanent happiness at all. If I am happy today, tomorrow I am not. If something has happened today that has made me elated, next moment it may go leaving me depressed. Give me viveka so that I crave only for the permanent and not run after the impermanent. How can I become always contented – eternally delighted?”

Hearing this confession, the Guru will be pleased. But is this what we normally ask? We go to the Guru and say: “May my daughter get married. Let my son have a very good job. He wants to go to Dubai – so please bless him. I want to buy a house. My business is going down – please bless me.” Generally, these are the blessings people ask for!

But, the Guru will be most pleased when a disciple comes and enquires about the secret of bondage and liberation. To him, the Guru says: “Yes, I will teach you. I will tell you what you have to do.” And then he advises about the necessary disciplines to be followed.

(to be continued)

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