Part 5: Narada's Bhakti Sutras of Spiritual Devotion Translation by Chester Messenger
The Bhakti sutras of Narada are the heart and soul of the path of spiritual devotion. This path allows the practioner to achieve oneness with Infinite Consciousness, the eternal awareness that already exists within every soul. This English translation has been rendered so that the text is self explanatory without the need for commentary. This has been accomplished by avoiding technical accuracy and focusing on accuracy of meaning. An example would be if someone was to read a scripture that said: Surrender to God is the Superbowl of devotion. Two thousand years from now the term superbowl may seem like the verse is saying that surrender to God is like a giant bowl. The cultural context is lost and so is the meaning. An example of this would be the verse in the Bhakti Sutra that technically should be translated as the gopis of Vraja. Technically correct but meaningless to the modern western reader. This is why the text is rendered as shepherdesses who were completely filled with love for Sri Krishna. When the sutras were first composed, everyone knew who the gopis were. This is why most translations need extensive commentary to insure that the original intent and the fullness of the teaching is maintained. This translation avoids technical accuracy in some places to insure accurate transmission of meaning.
It is very difficult to translate Sanskrit to English with a word for word literal equality. Many translations attempt to bypass this difficulty in two ways. One is to not translate certain words but to leave them in their anglicized spelling, whereas the reader is expected to learn the definition of the word. Another way the translator will transcend the problem will be to add commentaries further explaining each sentence or phrase. Both systems can be cumbersome to the reader.
This translation does not attempt word for word equality. Instead, it translates each sanskrit word compound to an equivalent English phrase or word pair. This prevents burdening the reader with unfamiliar words or cumbersome commentary. In some cases English phrases are used that bridge the cultural divide from the ancient east into the modern west.
The text has been rendered gender neutral wherever possible.
Narada Bhakti Sutras
With a favorable spirit we shall expound on the science of spiritual devotion which is supreme love.
The very essence of spiritual devotion is love from which immortality springs.
One who achieves pure spiritual devotion becomes a perfected one beyond death by becoming immortality itself.
Pure spiritual devotion is achieved when all desires drop away such as grief, hate, fleeting happiness or desire for personal gain. The result is the realization of ones true self. The spiritual devotee becomes intoxicated and overwhelmed with the bliss of union with the supreme. This bliss comes not from desire but from the true nature from within which is stillness.
This inner stillness makes sacred the required functions that arise from one's position in life. The blissfull inner stillness is a product of a total focus on God and the successful avoidance of anything that would deflect one from that focus.
To totally focus on God one must find security with God and only God. This does not mean one abandones ones duty in the world but that one does one's duty as an act of worship for God. During the performance of required duties and responsibilities the devotee must stay committed to ethics and righteous living. To do otherwise is to risk a fall from grace. In addition to performing one's required duties, the spiritual devotee should also do what is necessary to maintaining a healthy body.
There are different points of view on how one approaches spiritual devotion. The Sage Vyasa described it as spiritual worship through extreme longing for God. The Sage Garga taught it is accomplished through the discussion of spiritual subjects. Sage Sandilya explained it as the perpetual delight in knowing one's tru self. However, Sage Narada (the author of the Bhakti Sutras) teaches that spiritual devotion is truly expressed by sanctifying all activities and by experiencing total distress at forgetting God even for a moment.
There are examples of this such as the shepherdesses who were completely filled with love for Sri Krishna. (The gopis of Vraja). Total devotion is to be ever mindful of the Glory of God because forgetfullness weakens the relationship with God. To forget God is to sink into selfish love and to become alienated From God.
Pure spiritual devotion to God is superior to all other forms of yoga because their ultimate aim is to produce spiritual devotion. But Spiritual Devotion is superior becasue the Supreme Lord is attracted to humble love and repulsed by egoisim. Some teach that spiritual devotion is a product of wisdom. Others claim that wisdom and devotion are dependant on one another.
According to Narada the son of the creator, spiritual devotion is its own fruit. A king, food and a home can be used as examples. One is not made a king because of wisdom nor is ones hunger at home apppeased with it. Knowledge of itself is not a path to satisfaction. Liberation through spiritual devotion is the only goal worthy of attainment.
Great teachers sing of its attainment through non-attachment to the material world and its desires. Eternal non-ending worship while in the world as well as singing and listening to the attributes of God lead to the greatest of blessings.
Oneness with the seed of all existence is difficult to attain for it is incomprehensible and without fault or error. Only by God's grace is it attainable. But the grace of God allows the devotee to achieve oneness and to understand their is no separateness from God only the illusion of separateness. Cultivate that grace. Cultivate the grace of oneness and avoid the illusion of separateness from God.
Separateness from God is the root cause of selfish desire, anger, forgetting the true self and the loss of all that truly matters. What begins as a small wave of delusion becomes an ocean of illusion. Who can cross this great ocean? Only the one who can forsake all attachments to others can cross the great ocean of illusion and become a servant of the great source of all souls. When one embraces inner solitude with God and breaks free from the threefold bondage of the world (impurity, lust and laziness), only then can one be free from the delusion that owning things causes happiness.
By avoiding attachment to personal gain and the bondage of the ego, the devotee becomes free from the illusion of dualities. Breaking free from the limited view of organized religion is the key to total and unceasing longing for God. Only then can he cross the great ocean of illusion and help the world to cross also.
The very nature of love surpasses description. It is like a person who cannot speak but can taste fine foods. The Love of God abides where it us made welcome. Impurity, lust and laziness crowds out true love. By removing earthly desires, the devotee makes room for the unlimited love of God to rush in as an exquisitely subtle experience that expands forever. After achieving the boundless love of God, the devotee sees love, hears love, speaks of love and is consumed by the love of God
There are three types of devotion that appear to be real but result ultimately in distress. The first is the selfishness of organized religion. It has a form of godliness but leads to conflict. A better path, but still inferior, is the passionate ones who battle evil for God. They seek to right wrongs but ultimately they are frustrated. Better still is the devotion of the compassionate ones who seek peace and happiness for all. But the ultimate devotion is the total submission to God. Its superiority is self-evident for it is free from all distress and is filled with supreme joy.
A devotee can be in the world but not of it. This is accomplished by performings ones social duties as acts of devotion to God. In this way the anxiety produced by worrying about loss or gain is avoided. The devotee does not become anxious free by forsaking duties but by performing duties without attachment to results. It has been said; Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. The devotee is in the world but in order to remain undefiled by the world, the devotee must avoid being entertained by stories of sex, power and wealth. Additionally, egoism, pride and impure thoughts must be avoided. Surrender to God involves rising above all of these as one performs social responsibilites. The devotee must constantly battle anger, ego and selfishness. The devotee must rise above the three inferior forms of devotion mentioned before and worship God as an eternally devoted wife or servant would.
The most successful devotees are those who are totaly focused on God. They purify themselves and their communities by their tear-choked conversations. So devoted are they that their hair stands on end and tears coarse down their cheeks. Their righteousness establishes sacred sites and inspire holy scripture. They are full to overflowing with the Love of God. Their forefathers rejoice, angels dance and the world is blessed by a Master of Truth. Since they belong to God they transcend racism, bigotry, sexism, intolderance and the need for worldly status.
Logic should not be relied on to achieve oneness with God. Logical discussion can go on forever and achieve nothing definate. Sacred scripture should be consulted and meditated opon. The purpose of spiritual texts is to inspire the student to spiritual practice. Knowledge of the scripture is not to be considered a substitute for dedicated devotion to God.
Non-attachment to happiness or sadness, pleasure or pain, worldly gain or personal concerns with inspired contancy will cause the devotee to never experience a useless moment. Non-violence, truthfulness, purity, compassion, faith in inspired scripture and righteous character are to be developed rigorously. One can be free of anxiety by worshipping God alone.
Respectful awe of God results in God awareness to swiftly manifest within the devotee. In the physical, astral and causal realms, spiritual devotion is of the greatest significance. Pure spiritual devotion manifests as eleven types of cherishment. Cherishing God's qualities, cherishing spiritual forms, cherishing ritual worship, cherishing constant remembrance of the beloved, cherishing selfless acts of service, cherishing God as a friend, cherishing God as a parent, cherishing God as a spouse, cherishing the knowledge of the true self, cherishing oneness with the Supreme Lord, cherishing the supreme surrender to God. There are thirteen teachers who have taught the Bhakti path of spiritual devotion without fear of ridicule. Those who believe and follow these divinely inspired teachings as taught by Narada will achieve the goal of being one with the Beloved. Follow these teachings and become one with the Beloved.