Glories of Bhakti Devi
Nobody is ever-unfit for Bhagavati Bhakti. Dharma only purifies the able, subtle, and alert human beings. The foundation of Yoga itself stands on Yama-niyama. A serious practice of Yoga devoid of Yama and Niyama will make one diseased. Gyana (knowledge) devoid of the 4 paths might make one a sense gratifier, it can also cause illusion and make one wander in the cycle of materialism. Jnana without Discrimination (विवेक), renunciation (वैराग्य), earnestness to know the self (मुमूक्षा) and the six kinds of wealth (षट्सम्पत्ति) becomes mere information but Bhagavati Bhakti is Bhuvana Pavani, she purifies creation. The living entities have a place on her lap. Not just creatures of the crawling species but even inert trees and mountains, with her grace attain the lord. Patita Pavani Bhagavati (redeemer of the sinful) is Bhakti. By purifying the filth in the heart, Bhakti alone has the potential to manifest the blissful pastimes of Akhilesh (Eternal Lord). Hence Bhakti Devi is the greatest of all refuge. This is why saints and scriptures have categorized bhakti into 2 sections- 1) Sadhanaatmika (secondary) and 2) Saadhya or (Primary). But bhakti is never secondary. Her Sadhanatmika form is also fully potent to uplift the devotee and take him to the Lord’s spiritual abode.
The limbs of Bhakti
Of the 9 types of Bhakti- 1) Shravan 2) Kirtan 3) Smaran 4) Paad Sevan 5) Archan 6) Vandan and 7) Dasya, there is not one, on sincerely following which, the Jiva fails to attain supreme well-being. Shri Hanumanji is the greatest admirer of listening to Sri Ram Katha. King Parikshit was endowed supreme welfare through the medium of Shravana alone in a short span of 7 days. Devarshi Narada doesn’t get tired praising the glories of Kirtana. He says- “When I start singing the glories of those supreme verses, they appear so strongly in my heart as if I have called them. Smarana is Bhajan. Though Bhajan would mean Seva, but Bhagavat seva can happen either through deity worship, or through the medium of Smarana (remembrance). Won’t Shi Krishna Smarana soak the heart in Krishna (कृष्णाकार)? Archana happens through the medium of deity worship. The deity who is worshipped is the Lord himself. Several devotees have witnessed the Supreme lord Himself in the deity form. The physical self of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Meerabai have merged in the deity form itself. Can Vandana happen without Samaran? Vandana is special compared to Smarana. Because you can even remember an enemy or an indifferent, unconnected person but Vandana will always be mixed with devotion.
Dasya Bhava- The universal mood
Dasya is present on both sides. Dasya is Sadhan Bhakti and it is also Sadhya Bhav. Actually, Dasya Bhava is the universal mood. Dasya is also concealed within Sakhya, Vatsalya and Madhurya Bhava. Jiva is the eternal servant of the Lord. Hence Prapatti or Sharanagati (surrender) is his innate duty. During times of crisis, the gopis, Nanda Baba everybody accept the Dasya Bhava and surrender unto Shri Krishna. The Eternal friend Arjun right at the beginning of the Gita calls out- शिष्यsस्तेहं शाधि मां त्वां प्रपन्नम्. The advocate of Advaita Philosophy, Bhagavan Shankaracharya too says-
सत्यपि भेदापगमे नाथ तवाह न मामकीनस्त्वम् |
सामुद्रस्य तरंगः क्वचिदपि नहि तारङ्गस्य समुद्रः ||
The illusion of duality has gone. Even on this being true, Oh Lord I am yours, you are not mine. The ocean has waves, but waves can never claim affinity over the ocean. The Shruti says- “Aham Brahmasmi” (I am Brahman), but “Brahma Ahameva (Brahman is me)” doesn’t follow the dictum of the Shruti. Merging or non-duality, works only when the seeming personality, the insignificant merges into the Mahat. The merging of Mahat into the insignificant is not possible.
Can one experience Madhurya Bhav?
In Sadhya or Prematmika Bhakti, the emotional dimensions of Dasya, Sakhya, Vatslya and Madhurya, these 4 forms are present. These emotions are totally independent and eternal. It is not necessary that there ought to be changes in them. Like in the incarnations of the Lord, none is high or low. Just due to emergence of the pastimes, and powers, this emotion of Ansha (part), Kala (mystical attributes) and Purnavataar (Complete incarnation) sets in. Similarly in the loving moods of Bhakti, no mood is big or small. In them, Madhurya is said to be the topmost just because of the closeness in solitude. Those people who accept Madhurya Bhava, do they really attain Madhurya? The Madhurya Bhava present in the eternal couple of Shri Lakshmi-Narayana, Shri Videha-nandini-Rama and Shri Radha and Nanda nandan is ripe and mature. Among the practitioners of Kinkari, Dasi, Sakhi and Manjari bhava worship of Shri Lakshmi, Shri Janaki, and Shri Radha, is Dasya the central mood or Madhurya, this is worth pondering. In Shri Lakshmi and Narayan, Sita and Rama and Sri Radha and Krishna there is total non-duality, this is universally acclaimed. Then towards Shri Krishna it is Dasya and the same Dasya Bhav towards Shri Radha is Madhurya, this belief doesn’t have a solid basis. It is called Madhurya only because it comprises the contemplation of the eternal couple Kishora and Kishori’s confidential pastimes and get entry into their Nitya Nikunja and gain the right to serve them. The Madhurya Sampradayas are functional in this context. In all the Vaishnava Sampradayas in the country, Dasya Sampradaya exists as a default.
Sampradaya for Dasya and Madhurya Bhav
The Shri Sampradaya of Shri Ramanujacharya and the Vaishnava Sampradaya of Shri Ramanandacharaya are fundamentally the Sampradaya’s for Dasya Bhava. It is a different thing that Madhurya bhava is also amply present in them. In Shri Ramananda Sampradaya, Sakhi Bhava or Sakhi Sampradaya has become widespread and most popular. The sentiments of the devotees of these Sampradayas is no less intense than Krishna devotees. All Sampradayas that worship Shri Krishna, worship Shri Radha-krishna and all are suffused with Madhurya Bhav. Just the Pushti Marga of Shri Vallabhacharya states that following Vatsalya Bhava is the greatest for Sadhan. The worship of Bala Krishna, and devotion towards Him are the key features of this Sampradaya. But even this Sampradaya considers Madhurya bhava as the final goal. Hence this cannot be called a pure Sampradaya for Vatsalya Bhava. Here, in Krishna devotees, the Varkari Sampradaya of Maharashtra is worth a mention. The Varkari Sampradaya mainly worships Sri Dwarikadheesh Shri Krishna (The kingly form of the Lord). Rukmai Vitthal means mother (आई) Rukmini and Vitthal Shri Krishna are the prominent deities. Apart from this difference, in terms of philosophy, it accepts Bhakti integrated with Advaita Vedanta. In the mood of worship Dasya Bhava is prominent because, if the deity is the all opulent Shri Dwarika Naath, then Dasya can be most approachable towards him.
No Sampradaya for Sakhya and Vatsalya
There are no Sampradayas for Sakhya and Vatsalya Bhava. However, great devotees with Sakhya and Vatsalya Bhavas are no less in number, their tradition was being passed from the ancient times, but their Sampradaya didn’t do well. In widespread Sampradays too, great personalities have always come with Sakhya and Vatsalya Bhava developed in them. In Rama worship, there is this Samapraday of “Ramsakhaji Maharaj”, but there too Sakhya bhav couldn’t purely remain. In Shri Valabhacharya’s Sampradaya during the times of his son Goswami VitthalNaathji and grandson Goswami GokulNaathji, the famous groups of 8 poets (अष्टछाप), were present, in them Soordas, and many other pioneers absorbed in Sakhya and Vatsalya Bhava were present. In them the Vatsalya of Chacha Vrindavandasji is already well-known. The famous Sindhi saint Kokil Sai, the saint of Vrindavan, Anandi Mai are the embodiments of Vatsalysa Bhava. Such names and examples are many. Being in the traditional Sampradaya of Madhurya Bhava, the renowned saint Gwariya Babaji was the friend of Shyamasundara. In this manner, saints who have nurtured Sakhya and Vatsalya Bhava keep coming, but Sakhya and Vatsalya Sampradayas didn’t run. In Dasya the tradition of Dasanudas, servant of servants prevails. Hence, there is no difficulty for a Dasya Sampradaya to run. Even in Madhurya, the Manjiris, Sakhis and Dasis follow commandments and are obedient. Hence even in Madhurya, the tradition of Guru and Shishya can last. Although there is no pure Sampradaya for Vatsalya, Guru-shishya Parampara cannot be deemed impossible here. Because parents have Das and Dasis (servants), and even they have Vatsalya. Even the servants get the full opportunity of parenthood but those who subscribe to Sakhya Bhava, they are also Sakhas. There is very less difference of big and small in them. There is no room for the position of Guru-Shishya in them. Though one Sakha might learn something from another Sakha, but both are kept at an equal pedestal. Hence it is not natural for a Sakhya Bhava Sampradaya to run.