Shandilya Bhakti Sutra Aphorism – 23
The Supremacy of Devotion without any contradiction is established.
Purport of Aphorism 23
In the 12th Chapter of the Gita, Arjun asks Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, those that constantly worship You devotedly as Your devotees and those that meditate upon the formless and attributeless Brahman- of these two classes whose excellency predominates?” In answer the Lord says, “My devotee alone is on the real path, he is Yuktatma (युक्तात्मा Connected with God). He attains the highest blessedness in rendering eternal service unto Me, the Supreme, with his mind intent on Me, ever harmonized and instilled with Supreme faith. So, I deem it that My single minded devotee alone stands foremost among the yogis. Others that seek me, realize Me as the Abstract, attributeless Brahman, the nameless, the unmanifest, unthinkable, unchangeable, one keeping one’s senses under control, with equality of vision everywhere, no doubt attains oneness with My Brahman aspect. However they shall experience a lot of difficulties, that path of attaining Me is beset with dangers. Bhagawan says that contemplation on the unqualified Brahman for an embodied soul is a reckless path, beset with loads of impediments. Furthermore the Bhagavatha confirms that “Intelligence can never be pure and unsullied without devotion to the Supreme Being.”
Shandilya Bhakti Sutra Aphorism – 24
नैव श्रद्धा तु साधारण्यात्
The idiomatic use of Shraddha, Faith or surrendered attention in the Philosophy of Bhakti cannot be taken in an ordinary sense.
Purport of Aphorism 24
Shraddha in the path of Bhakti, is a constituent of the soul and not of the fickle mind, as it is in the field of psychology. Shraddha does not comply with physical or mental exuberance. Shraddha is an edifice to the other-worldly, to the spirit. It is the basis of Prema or Divine Love, unknown in the world of mortals. In his great book that discusses the transcendental mellows, the Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, Sri Rupa Goswami has recognized Shraddha, surrendered faith as the starting point of Bhakti, which the devotee develops on account of hearing the philosophy and transcendental Pastimes of the Supreme Lord, in the association of pure devotees or elevated beings. This Faith is with respect to being surrendered to the infallible teachings of scriptures with regards to the Supreme Being, the individual soul or Jiva, the universe, Maya, the cosmic illusion, their inter-relationship and final conclusion. One can never equate surrendered faith to belief which is spoken of, in man-made religions. Just like when a girl steps into her youth, her side glances hunts for her mate, so also when a Jiva attains Shraddha or surrendered faith, he searches for the cherished object of Love in the most unadulterated manner, free of self-indulgence or for one’s own sense-gratification.
Shandilya Bhakti Sutra Aphorism – 25
तस्यां तत्वे चानवस्थानात्
If Shraddha, surrendered Faith is not considered as fundamental, there shall be a regression in the process and further development cannot happen. This would be sacrilegious.
Purport of Aphorism 25
Bhakti is causeless. It is the means as well as the end. Therefore Shraddha is also considered as the rising feature of Bhakti. It is the ascending as well as rudimentary phase of Bhakti. The value and intensity of a man’s faith lies in being devoted to God as the only Object of his Love. Such a faithful and truthful lover of God, is perfected and considered best among Yogis even by the Supreme Lord. To know God, to have unswerving faith in Him, to be whole-heartedly devoted to Him, are the things which build up to perfection. In this growing stage, the devotee thinks and feels that he has to merely serve as the instrument in the hands of God and carry out His will. Shraddha is the bud and Prema is the fully blossomed flower which transmits its fragrance far and wide. To separate Shraddha from Bhakti, is to ascertain a flower without its bud.
Shandilya Bhakti Sutra Aphorism – 26
ब्रह्मकाण्डं तु भक्तौ तस्यानुज्ञानाय सामान्यात्
For the Brahma Kanda or the theory of Brahman to manifest within, Bhakti is an essential ingredient without which even the Knowledge aspect or Brahma Jnana shall not have any standing.
Purport of Aphorism 26
Generally the Vedas are classified as Purva Mimamsa or Purva-Kanda. These deal with ritualistic worship for fruitive benefits. The Uttara mimamsa or Uttara-kanda is also known as Vedanta or Jnana Kanda, dealing with the knowledge of the Brahman or God. It talks about 3 major topics which are Jiva, Maya and Bhagawan. It talks about the inter-relationship between these eternal entities. The understanding of the Jnana Kanda was promulgated by Adi Shankaracharya through his philosophy of Neti-Neti (नेति-नेति) or “Not this-Not this”. This was the concept of Monism or Kevala Advaita. His approach was a negative one or a deductive approach by elimination. But the Brahma Sutras of Badrayana said “ Athato Brahma Jijnasa” (अथातो ब्रह्म जिज्ञासा), which means let us now deal with the enquiry into Brahman. How could we step forward into something positive when we have edged out everything saying “Not this-Not this”. All forms of enquiry is in the positive direction, to discover the reality, rather than stopping half way saying “Not-this Not-this”. Brahman is completely realized through the positive aspect of God. Again, can Brahman that is placid, reveal itself? Brahman cannot move although it pervades everything. Brahman has to be realized by one’s own effort without any external support, because the external is “That which is not” (Maya). So we want that aspect or form of Brahman which will reveal itself or Himself, when pleaded to, when requested to, when prayed to. This is Brahman that is animated and full of attributes known as Bhagawan. The Lord says that I am fully available only through devotional service and by no other means. Therefore only Bhakti can be the basis of Vedanta-proper.
Shandilya Bhakti Sutra Aphorism – 27
The path of Jnana or Knowledge and path of Karma or Rituals are to be followed till one’s heart becomes untinted at the dawn of Shraddha as the threshing the paddy is to be continued till grains are husked.
Purport of Aphorism 27
Bhagawan says “I have prescribed in Vedas three Yoga(s) that of Jnana, Karma and Bhakti Yoga(s), there is no fourth proposition. Shraddha which is the seed of Bhakti is compulsorily the preliminary stage. It is during this stage that one develops taste for listening to the transcendental pastimes of the Lord. During the stage of Shraddha, one develops distaste for mundanity and Karma not directed towards the satisfaction of the Lord. One practices Karma Yoga at this initial stage of Bhakti, whereby the bonds of worldly attachment and interests start weakening and breaking one-by-one. The Bhagavatha states, “Those abandoning the path of unalloyed devotion to the Lotus feet of the Lord, resort to the dry abstract knowledge path or Jnana for its own sake, toil in vain like those who pound empty husks of paddy. The Ishavasyopanishad says He who is addicted to the path of abstruse knowledge based on empirical observation, enters a dark region, than he who is without knowledge. Even the Gita says “Exceedingly great is the toil of those whose mind toil to attain the Nirguna Brahman.” Without taking recourse to Bhakti, Jnana cannot be purified. Therefore, unless one follows the path of unalloyed devotion, due to eclipsed knowledge one may take oneself to either the path of pure Karma Yoga or Jnana Yoga; but without Bhakti no purification of the heart is really possible. In the culturing of Jnana and Karma, the traces of the individual ego still operate, because there is no direct surrender to the Supreme Personality. Bhakti is the natural state of being, his state as the eternal servitor of the Lord, totally free and clean of the quagmire of Maya.