Shandilya Bhakti Sutra Aphorism-1
अथातो भक्ति जिज्ञासा
Thereafter let us begin an inquiry into Devotion
Purport of Aphorism 1
Sri Narada begins the Narada Bhakti Sutra thus: अथातो भक्तिम व्याख्याम: which means let us now expound the doctrine of Bhakti. Thus the Narada Bhakti Sutra is the exposition of the Bhakti process which involves understanding the various mellows of Bhakti whereas the first aphorism of Shandilya Sutra tries to grasp the rationale of Bhakti and its very need. The Vedanta Sutras on the other hand tries to exposit the Varna-Ashrama Dharma by study of the Vedas and garnering the Vedic principles thereof. It is followed by a life of austerities and on purifying the heart, to recognize the transitory nature of ephemeral pleasures. Following this recognition, one prepares to know the cause of all causes, an inquisitiveness to enquire after the Nature of Brahman. On the other hand Bhakti, does not depend on any prior qualification. One, by the dint of association with pure devotees can earn Grace. Through association with devotees, the soul of an individual can suddenly be woken up to Bhakti. Bhakti is awakened by the Lord’s Swarupa Shakti, internal potency whereby the limited potency of the Jiva functions fully and wholly in reciprocity of Godhead. Bhakti does not follow a logical trail but is revealed to a seeker, in earnestness, when by the Grace of the Supreme Lord, his mind is stilled and infused with the potency of Bhakti, by the will of the Lord. Bhakti may not be considered to particular Vedic rituals, nor is dependent on an inquiry into the nature of Brahman, as needed in the case of acquisition of Knowledge or Jnana. One may find references in the Shastra in the form of the lowly-born Vidura, the elephant king Gajendra, the innocent child Dhruva, the Yadava king Ugrasena, the ugly looking Kubja. The Lord is captivated by fond devotion alone. Nothing else is required. Shandilya Rishi was a grand repository of secular knowledge and spiritual wisdom. He had studied Vedas and Vedanta and finally turned to Bhakti, having looked into the philosophy of Jnana and finally attained the desired subject in the Pancharatra, treatise of Bhakti which is very dear to Vaishnavas.
Shandilya Bhakti Sutra Aphorism-2
Bhakti means unshakeable attachment to the Supreme Lord.
Purport of Aphorism 2
Bhakti has only a single definition. Other than this definition, nothing else can qualify as Bhakti. It is the attachment or surrendered love of a Jiva on the Personality of Godhead. It has nothing to do with worldly things and also not born out of the world. It is not born out of mere philosophical knowledge. Such Bhakti is not mixed with an iota of aspiration of elevation or salvation. The one in Bhakti only has this desire that even though one may take ten thousand births on the material plane, the constant flow of the river of love from one’s heart to the Lord Supreme is retained under all conditions. The Beloved Self is retained only by the power of Bhakti and nothing else. Lord Krishna proclaims about the devotee that “My single-minded devotees knowing me as their only Supreme object of attachment, have their heart soaked in my glorious Nama (नाम Name), Rupa (रूप Form), Guna (गुण Qualities), Leela (लीला Pastimes) and Dhama (धाम Abode). Bhakti is the spontaneous inclination of the purified heart to God which is unconditioned, not influenced by Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The highlight of Bhakti is that the Lord infuses within the finite self of the devotee, to know the infinite directly without any intermediary. Bhakti passes through various stages such as Nishtha (निष्ठा Unshakeable faith on God), Ruchi (रुचि deep interest in God), Asakti (आसक्ति deep attachment to God) and Bhava (भाव transcendental emotions towards God).
Shandilya Bhakti Sutra Aphorism-3
तत् संत्सस्थस्या अमृतत्वो उपदेशात्
Unalloyed devotion to Godhead makes one immortal, beatific and eternally blissful
Purport of Aphorism 3
In the Chandogya Upanishad we understand that all other rites of Vedic lessons may lead one to some result but it is unalloyed devotion to the Personality of Godhead alone that helps one to attain immortality. Through unalloyed devotion to God, one transcends mundanity and attains final beatitude, so says the Kathopanishad.
Shandilya Bhakti Sutra Aphorism-4
ज्ञानमिति चेन्न द्विषतोपि ज्ञानस्य तदसंस्थिते
Some may be of the opinion that for culturing devotion to God, philosophical knowledge or Jnana is indispensable. Shandilya says that it is absolutely not. Even antagonists have a lot of knowledge about God but they do not have an iota of devotion and hence they do not get the state of highest blessedness.
Purport of Aphorism 4
One may thing that Jnana, relating to Brahman is necessary to attain immortality and thus attain a beatific and blessed state. The great demon Hiranyakashyipu had the complete philosophical knowledge about God. He had completely absorbed the concept of soul and also Maya. This is evident in his conversation that he had with his mother and sister-in-law after the loss of his brother Hiranyaksha. The talks were replete with the philosophy of Jnana. His understanding about the Brahman was impeccable. Having known about the Brahman, he only increased his enmity towards God and His dear devotee Prahalad, the demon’s own son. The Vedanta Sutra says “Emancipation accrues to him, who is devoted to Him”. The Bhagavatha says , “Those who abandon the path of unalloyed devotion to the Lotus feet of Godhead, the source of true well-being, labor for dry, arid knowledge for its own sake, toil in useless vain, like those who pound empty husks of paddy.” Sri Brahma says “O Lord, intelligence cannot be pure without devotion to Thee.” By possessing intuitive wisdom, one may still get the subjective realization of Godhead. This however, does not mean that philosophical knowledge is a pre-condition for Bhakti. However if steadfast devotion is aroused in the heart, there, one can never lack philosophical wisdom. A Jnani may have philosophical wisdom, but will not be able to taste the sweetness of Bhakti without surrender to Godhead. On the other hand, a Bhakta, having tasted the sweetness of Godhead, shall also simultaneously possess all the experiential knowledge that the Jnani lives by. A Bhakta is firmly established in Reality without the slightest trace of ambiguity. The Bhagavatha says “Those, who leaving aside all attempts of knowledge, listen only to your glorious transcendental pastimes, chanted by the God-realized devotees, those who live a life of pure devotion in thought, word and deed, shall hold sway over Thee, although Thou are inaccessible to all the three worlds.” Just as, cold, dismay and darkness disappear in the case of a man who stays by the side of fire, so do the fear of future birth and its root ignorance gets dissolved in the case of a man who renders loving service to the devotee. Blessings from the devotee of God is a panacea for worldly disease and it brings forth into one, the realization of God and the highest beatitude.
Are Bhakti and Jnana interwoven?
Some may opine that Bhakti and Jnana are interwoven. There is no doubt that a Bhakta has perfect Knowledge, Jnana. Wherever Tattva-Jnana is lacking or where the knowledge about God is eclipsed, how can pure Bhakti be rendered? On realization of God, one develops exclusiveness in his devotion to God. But when steadfast devotion appears in one’s heart, relationship between the Personality of Godhead and His devotee and the dispassion for other subjects not conducive to Bhakti go hand-in-hand. Mere knowledge of the king does not make the king pleased. There is no gain in such knowing. So also Jnana without Bhakti is comparable to the loose flesh hanging from the neck of the goat.