Bhakti Sutras are the ripened fruits of the tree of Vedas
One of the imminent works in the Vaishnava world is that of the Pancharatra literature. The work called Shandilya Upanishad is dedicated to the author of Shandilya Bhakti Sutra, namely sage Shandilya. In this Upanishad, the sage exhorts that anyone who tries to delink the Pancharatra from the Vedas, is demeaned by the Vedas themselves. The Pancharatra is the ripened fruit of knowledge or the ontological aspect of the Vedas. The Pancharatra forms the basis of the Shandilya Bhakti Sutras. Hence these Bhakti Sutras can be considered directly as the ripened fruit of the Vedas. The Sutras convey the concept of Bhakti and in unambiguous terms state that Jnana is the loose flesh hanging from the neck of the goat and hence do not qualify to be the udders. Knowledge which does not ripen is compared to this piece of flesh, which can serve no purpose at all. Bhakti is the natural characteristic of a free soul, who has ripened. By dint of one’ sukriti (सुकृति blessed actions done consciously or unconsciously towards the Lord or His devotees) and by Satsanga (सत्संग holy association with pure devotees of the Lord), Bhakti becomes manifest in a Jiva.
Hate cannot be considered as Bhakti
The work begins with the sutra Athato Bhakti Jijnasa (अथातो भक्ति जिज्ञासा), which means, after having philosophized on other works, the author now takes delight to illustrate the philosophy, science and ontology of Bhakti. Very soon in the holy document, the author emphasizes this Truth that, Bhakti means unshakeable attachment to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that is the only way, for oneself becoming immortal and eternally blissful. There is no other way. He however says that Jnana is never dispensable. When Jnana about the Lord becomes matured, fully ripe, it turns into intense and irrevocable attachment to Him. In the heat of this attachment, knowledge sinks back into such attachment and not a trace of knowledge remains. What remains is the innocence and purity of Bhakti alone. Sri Narada considered that another way to remember God is hate, which appears to be useful. One can attain the abode of Godhead even with this feature of emotion. Ravana, Shishupal, Kamsa, Dantavakra, all attained the Lord through this emotion. Nonetheless, Sri Shandilya does not consider this emotion to be Bhakti, because Bhakti requires only loving attachment and the tendency to serve owing to this attachment. Hence, in Bhakti, Remembrance of Godhead should be done only through the loving mood. Only then shall it qualify itself as Bhakti. In hatred, there is no rasa, no mellow, it is dry arid and parching. However, Bhakti is rasa, nectar, fluid and full of ambrosia.
Jnana and Karma are subservient to Bhakti
Jnana may be a precondition to Bhakti, it is. Yet Jnana diverts itself from Bhakti in certain ways. Jnana requires endeavor, hard work and applied cultivation. But when Jnana matures, it transforms itself into Bhakti. Bhakti is causeless, it simply manifests. Jnana is induced while Bhakti is deduced. Complete God realization can occur only through Bhakti. Jnana may be useful in knowing the Self, the nature of the world and all that is unreal or temporary. But through Bhakti alone, one can connect with Absolute Reality, God. Sage Shandilya insists that even attainment of Nirvikalpa Samadhi (निर्विकल्प समाधि), is a secondary aspect to Bhakti. Without Bhakti, even Samadhi is of no avail. Attachment to asat (असत) is the gateway to transmigration whereas attachment to sat (सत) is rewarded with the reward of Anurag (अनुराग), deep loving attachment to Uttama Purusha (उत्तम पुरुष), the Supreme Personality. In the Sutras, the second chapter begins with “The path of Jnana and Karma (Yoga) are to be followed till one’s heart is still sullied with materialism, the belief that one needs to work and earn, that the material world is real and the belief that one needs to maintain oneself through activities related to the material world. However with the dawn of Shraddha, a pre-requisite of Bhakti, this fear of the material world starts disappearing. Then Karma and Jnana may still remain as a vestige, but they happen under the auspices of Bhakti alone. When Bhakti takes root, Jnana and Karma remain completely subservient to Bhakti.
Bhagawan is Vibhu while Jiva is Anu
Bhakti is the unbreakable relationship of the Jiva with Godhead. This is established in the Vedas and also by the Parama Bhagavatha (परम भागवत Pure Devotees). The philosophy of sage Shandilya establishes that the Jiva is qualitatively similar to Bhagawan (भगवान, God, Master of 6 opulence.) but quantitatively Bhagawan is Vibhu (विभु infinite) while Jiva is Anu (अणु infinitesimal). If Jiva is a drop, then Bhagawan is the ocean. Jiva is liable to be captivated by Maya, but having taken recourse to Bhakti Devi, he becomes free of transmigration. Jiva is the separated part and parcel of the Supreme Being, Vishnu. This being the case, the Jiva is entitled to Bhakti and has the option of striving for its emancipation through devotional practice. When the Jiva is in the bound state, its actions are dictated by Maya, the knowledge that the Jiva possesses in this state is perverse and propelled by Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The Supreme Being creates the universe through His external potency of Maya but He still maintains His eternal identity as Sat Chit Ananda and there is not an atom of change in Him. Neither Jiva nor Maya can Create or Procreate without the Supreme Being’s superintending.
Chanting the Holy Names of the Lord
The Descents or Avatarhood of the Supreme Being is non-material. When the Lord descends, he does so by His own sweet will appears as He is, with His spiritual body. There is not atom of difference between His body and his soul. For the living entity, the body is material while the soul is spiritual. The Lord enters the Universe by dint of his Swarupa Shakti (स्वरूप शक्ति internal potency) while man is forced into taking birth because of Karma. One need not observe severe penances for purification of body and mind, based prescriptions of Vedic texts in relation to the bygone Yugas. Based on time, place and circumstances the Vedic scriptures have made provisions for body and mind purification for changing times. The Bhagavatha Purana recommends the constant chanting of the holy name as the only resort for the Jiva of Kaliyuga. There is simply, no other better means to salvage the fall in Kaliyuga. As one takes to the chanting of the Holy name, a devotee is saved of offences. The Lord’s names cleanses the heart and establishes Him in the heart, if the intention of the chanter is to become free of the implications of the material world, if he eager and greedy enough to qualify himself to the Spiritual Abode.
Destruction and the Abode of Peace
Every man, down to the most downtrodden, has a right to the path of devotion. When man surrenders his entire mental and emotional weight on the Lord and ardently calls out to Him, through dedicated chanting, mercy from the Lord is bestowed on him gradually and he attains the abode of peace, if his faith and dedication in unwavering. Without the attainment of Truth, God, one is steadily heading towards distress and destruction. About this, there should be no doubt. It is to be understood that it is not due to lack of knowledge, but due to being devoid of unalloyed devotion to the Lord, that one is recycled through the process of transmigration.