Bhakti-the oldest form of Dharma

Sharanagati and Power of Bhakti

What is the most powerful form of Sadhana? | Yaksha Prashnam-14

The next question that the Yaksha posed to Dharmaraja Yudhishthira was: “What is the oldest form of Dharma?” This question has subjective answers.

It is just like, inhabitants of various regions having customized traditions which were generations after generations. Similarly, there arises differences in Dharma with the change in Yugas. The Dharma applicable in Satya Yuga does not stand relevant for Kali Yuga. But, Yaksha seeks from Yudhishthira a standard answer which is applicable to all people irrespective of caste, region, creed and gendre.

To this Dharmaraja replied: “The Dharma that seeks Moksha is the oldest and most relevant form of Dharma while rituals and activities observed to fulfil desires does not qualify as the oldest form of dharma (Sanatana Dharma).”

Activities done to fulfil a desire may not be equal for everybody as someone else’s desire might conflict with that of mine. What one likes, might end up being a dislike for others. My tastes would have changed over the passing years. The fleeting likes and dislikes are prone to change but our tendency to like something remains constant. This liking when directed selflessly towards God transforms into Sadhana. The path taken by the seeker to attain the ultimate Goal of life Bhagawan is called Sadhana.

What are the different paths to attain Bhagawan ?

In the first 9 chapters of the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna explained the paths of Karma, Jnana and Bhakti Yoga as means to attain Him. From chapter 2 to 6, He elaborated on Karma and Jnana. “Subsequently with these two paths devotees can attain Bhakti, and through Bhakti one can attain Me.” Krishna says. He clarifies these facts in chapters 7 to 9. Now let us suppose that we are ineligible for these practices and lessons.

Qualities of a true Bhakta

I am asking to assume this because this is a proven fact that today people do not qualify for the path of Bhakti which was originally preached by the Lord in the Gita. If one wants to attain the pedestal of a true Bhakta one must bear no other thought but of Sri Krishna alone. If he sings, he must sing the glories of Him and thoughts shall always revolve around Him alone.

One’s entire life shall epitomize devotion. If one walks, it must head towards the temple. If one bows, it shall be only for God and none other. Also, one’s thought, word and deed should necessarily revolve around Bhagawan. The best example of such exalted state, Bhakti is indeed King Ambarisha.

The Azhvars, propound these characteristics of true devotees in their works. Kulashekhara Azhvar has done this, in his Mukundamala and Andaal too in her Paushurams (Compositions relating to the Lord usually in the Tamil language- The Works of Azhvars). Three things remain constant in the path of devotion. Bhagawan himself, devotee’s love for God and the path chosen by the devotee to attain Him.

What is Sharanagati?

Now a true devotee does not entirely accept his effort invested to attain Bhagawan. He is surrendered to the process laid by Him and accepts the position of a person merely following the path. Such a devotee does not credit himself for treading the path of Sadhana but in turn appreciates the involvement of Bhagawan in His life. This is Sharanagati.

His mood is like this: “I have no power to attain you, my Lord. But, instead You have to show me the process which can subdue You, which can please you.” A person who has surrendered totally to the Lord makes no differentiation as “This is Karma Yoga”; “This is Jnana Yoga” or “This is Bhakti”. A surrendered being is totally dependent on the Lord and has even surrendered his deepest intelligence to the Lord. Now it is for the Lord to decide, what liberation is, what is karma or Jnana for His surrendered devotee.

This state of being of the devotee who dives in Sharanagati. Noting else can qualify as Sharanagati.

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Does Sharanagati mean freedom from performing Karma?

No, Never. There can be no moment in life where work is not performed. One has to work and work hard, even struggle. However, one can never claim ownership of any activity performed.  You cannot bargain with the Supreme Being thus “I have worked all my life on your behalf, now grant me Moksha.” Such an act or state of being is opposed to the very construct of Moksha or Liberation.

If Sharangati meant liberation from Karma/work then life of Acharyas like Vedanta Desika and Ramanuja becomes futile for they have spent their entire life composing hymns in praise of Bhagawan and documenting numerous works on spirituality.  In this context it is important to understand the definition of Kainkaryam (கைங்கர்யம்) or Servitude to the Lord.

If someone promises a garland to the Lord for Rs 50, 000 because he is going to sign a contract of Rs 5 million for a road contract, this cannot be service. It can only be another business deal, which only makes the Lord smile. On the other hand, there is a daily wages worker who hands over to the Lord, a simple garland that costs Rs 5. He affords the garland that could be accommodated in his budget.

But, here the mood is to cause pleasure to the Lord, to see the Lord happy. Buying the garland becomes a gesture to display his love for the Lord. Such a mood is indeed Kainkaryam of the highest order.

What should be the Mood of devotional Service?

There is a very important Paushuram from one of the Azhvars. He sings thus, “If you want to worship My Lord, it is the easiest thing in the world.  Do not worry of His elevated position, as the Master of the Universe. Remember, how much ever you give Him, He is beyond satisfaction. You cannot give to Him, considering His most elevated position as compared to all the beings of this world put together.”

Another Paushuram of Andaal goes something like this “I have arranged 100 pots of butter for my Beloved and 100 pots of sweet-meats made of pure clarified butter for Him.”  In relation with this line in the Paushuram, a student of Parashara Bhatta known as Anjiyar, asked his preceptor this question.  “Oh, it seems that the Lord only gets happy if such elaborate arrangements are made for His meal. But I am a poor man. I have no capacity to please Him thus.

Parashara Bhatta smiled and replied “You think that the 100 pots of butter is too much?” To this Anjiyar shot back “Is it not too far-fetched for a puny man like me, to be able to make such elaborate arrangements?” His precetor explained “For the amount of butter, sweets and other eatables that Lord Krishna has seen in Gokula, this is miniscule, negligible. Even if you were to collect all the sweets of the universe, it will mean nothing for the Lord, considering His position and capacity. But there is a fix for this”.

What is the greatest offering to Bhagawan?

He continues: “Just add Bhakti, to whatever little you offer to the Lord. Offer your inner purity to the Lord as part of your offering. Whatever little one does for the Lord, one should take a humble position and feel that , it is not I who is doing this, but it is the Lord who is getting things done out of me, extending His causeless mercy on me. You should have this unshakeable faith that you are incapable of even trying for Liberation. It is the Lord alone who has taken up your responsibility. This should reverberate in all your thoughts, words and actions.

This alone, is Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Law, Parashara Bhatta convinced Anjiyar. Whatever that we do out of our limited will or fantasy is short-lived and non-eternal. However, when the load is transferred entirely to the Lord, all of our actions become Sanatana or eternal, difficult for the Lord to repay.