Unfolding the mystery of bhakti-yoga
Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana) – Canto 2: The Cosmic Manifestation – SB 2.9: Answers by Citing the Lord’s Version
etavad eva jijñasyam
yat syat sarvatra sarvada
Synonyms: etavat — up to this; eva — certainly; jijñasyam — is to be inquired; tattva — the Absolute Truth; jijñasuna — by the student; atmanah — of the Self; anvaya — directly; vyatirekabhyam — indirectly; yat — whatever; syat — it may be; sarvatra — in all space and time; sarvada — in all circumstances.
Translation: A person who is searching after the Supreme Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead, must certainly search for it up to this, in all circumstances, in all space and time, and both directly and indirectly.
To unfold the mystery of bhakti-yoga, as it is explained in the previous verse, is the ultimate stage of all inquiries, or the highest objective for the inquisitive. Everyone is searching after self-realization in different ways — bykarma-yoga, by jñana-yoga, by dhyana-yoga, by raja-yoga, by bhakti-yoga, etc. To engage in self-realization is the responsibility of every living entity developed in consciousness. One who is developed in consciousness certainly makes inquiries into the mystery of the self, of the cosmic situation and of the problems of life, in all spheres and fields — social, political, economic, cultural, religious, moral, etc. — and in their different branches. But here the goal of all such inquiries is explained.
The Vedanta-sutra philosophy begins with this inquiry about life, and the Bhagavatam answers such inquiries up to this point, or the mystery of all inquiries. Lord Brahma wanted to be perfectly educated by the Personality of Godhead, and here is the answer by the Lord, finished in four nutshell verses, from aham eva to this verse, etavad eva. This is the end of all self-realization processes. Men do not know that the ultimate goal of life is Visnu, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, due to being bewildered by the glaring reflection in the darkness, and as such, everyone is entering into the darkest region of material existence, driven by the uncontrolled senses. The whole material existence has sprung up because of sense gratification, desires based principally on the sex desire, and the result is that in spite of all advancement of knowledge, the final goal of all the activities of the living entities is sense gratification. But here is the real goal of life, and everyone should know it by inquiries put before a bona fide spiritual master expert in the science of bhakti-yoga, or from a living personality of Bhagavatam life. Everyone is engaged in various kinds of scriptural inquiries, but the Srimad-Bhagavatam gives answers to all of the various students of self-realization: this ultimate objective of life is not to be searched out without great labor or perseverance. One who is imbued with such sincere inquiries must ask the bona fide spiritual master in the disciplic succession from Brahmaji, and that is the direction given here. Because the mystery was disclosed before Brahmaji by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the mystery of all such inquiries regarding self-realization must be put before such a spiritual master, who is directly the representative of the Lord, acknowledged in that disciplic succession. Such a bona fide spiritual master is able to clear up the whole thing by evidence from the revealed scriptures, both direct and indirect. Although everyone is free to consult the revealed scriptures in this connection, one still requires the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, and that is the direction in this verse. The bona fide spiritual master is the most confidential representative of the Lord, and one must receive direction from the spiritual master in the same spirit that Brahmaji received it from the Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna. The bona fide spiritual master in that bona fide chain of disciplic succession never claims to be the Lord Himself, although such a spiritual master is greater than the Lord in the sense that he can deliver the Lord by his personally realized experience. The Lord is not to be found simply by education or by a good fertile brain, but surely He can be found by the sincere student through the transparent medium of the bona fide spiritual master.
The revealed scriptures give directions directly to this end, but because the bewildered living entities are blinded by the glaring reflection in the darkness, they are unable to find the truth of the revealed scriptures. For example, in the Bhagavad-gita the whole direction is targeted toward the Personality of Godhead Lord Sri Krsna, but for want of a bona fide spiritual master in the line of Brahmaji or the direct hearer, Arjuna, there are different distortions of the revealed knowledge by many unauthorized persons who just want to satisfy their own whims. Undoubtedly theBhagavad-gita is accepted as one of the most brilliant stars in the horizon of the spiritual sky, yet the interpretations of this great book of knowledge have so grossly been distorted that every student of the Bhagavad-gita is still in the same darkness of glaring material reflections. Such students are hardly enlightened by theBhagavad-gita. In the Gita practically the same instruction is imparted as in the four prime verses of theBhagavatam, but due to wrong and fashionable interpretations by unauthorized persons, one cannot reach the ultimate conclusion. In the Bhagavad-gita (18.61) it is clearly said:
hrd-dese ’rjuna tisthati
The Lord is situated in the heart of all living beings (as Paramatma), and He is controlling all of them in the material world under the agency of His external energy. Therefore it is clearly mentioned that the Lord is the supreme controller and that the living entities are controlled by the Lord. In the same Bhagavad-gita (18.65) the Lord directs as follows:
man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyam te
pratijane priyo ’si me
It is clear from this verse of the Bhagavad-gita that the direction of the Lord is that one should be God-minded, a devotee of the Lord, a worshiper of the Lord, and must offer all obeisances unto Lord Krsna. By so doing, the devotee will undoubtedly go back to Godhead, back to home.
Indirectly it is said that the whole Vedic social construction of human society is so made that everyone acts as a part and parcel of the complete body of the Lord. The intelligent class of men, or the brahmanas, are situated on the face of the Lord; the administrative class of men, the ksatriyas, are situated on the arms of the Lord; the productive class of men, the vaisyas, are situated on the belt of the Lord; and the laborer class of men, the sudras,are situated on the legs of the Lord. Therefore the complete social construction is the body of the Lord, and all the parts of the body, namely the brahmanas, the ksatriyas, the vaisyas and the sudras, are meant to serve the Lord’s whole body conjointly; otherwise the parts become unfit to be coordinated with the supreme consciousness of oneness. Universal consciousness is factually achieved by coordinated service of all concerned to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and that alone can insure total perfection. Therefore even the great scientists, the great philosophers, the great mental speculators, the great politicians, the great industrialists, the great social reformers, etc., cannot give any relief to the restless society of the material world because they do not know the secret of success as mentioned in this verse of the Bhagavatam, namely that one must know the mystery of bhakti-yoga. In the Bhagavad-gita (7.15) also it is said:
na mam duskrtino mudhah
asuram bhavam asritah
Because the so-called great leaders of human society are ignorant of this great knowledge of bhakti-yoga and are always engaged in ignoble acts of sense gratification, bewildered by the external energy of the Lord, they are stubborn rebels against the supremacy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and they never agree to surrender unto Him because they are fools, miscreants and the lowest type of human beings. Such faithless nonbelievers may be highly educated in the material sense of the term, but factually they are the greatest fools of the world because by the influence of the external, material nature all their so-called acquisition of knowledge has been made null and void. Therefore all advancement of knowledge in the present context of things is being misused by cats and dogs fighting with one another for sense gratification, and all acquisition of knowledge in science, philosophy, fine arts, nationalism, economic development, religion and great activities are being spoiled by being used as dresses for dead men. There is no utility in the dresses used for covering a coffin of a dead body save getting false applause from the ignorant public. The Srimad-Bhagavatam therefore says again and again that without attainment of the status of bhakti-yoga, all the activities of human society are to be considered absolute failures only. It is said:
parabhavas tavad abodha-jato
yavan na jijñasata atma-tattvam
yavat kriyas tavad idam mano vai
karmatmakam yena sarira-bandhah
As long as one is blind to inquiring after self-realization, all material activities, however great they may be, are all different kinds of defeat because the aim of human life is not fulfilled by such unwanted and profitless activities. The function of the human body is to attain freedom from material bondage, but as long as one is fully absorbed in material activities, his mind will be overwhelmed in the whirlpool of matter, and thus he will continue to be encaged in material bodies life after life:
evam manah karma-vasam prayunkte
pritir na yavan mayi vasudeve
na mucyate deha-yogena tavat
It is one’s mind that generates different kinds of bodies for suffering different kinds of material pangs. Therefore as long as the mind is absorbed in fruitive activities, the mind is understood to be absorbed in nescience, and thus one is sure to be subjected to material bondage in different bodies again and again until one develops a transcendental love for Godhead, Vasudeva, the Supreme Person. To become absorbed in the transcendental name, quality, form and activities of the Supreme Person, Vasudeva, means to change the temper of the mind from matter to absolute knowledge, which leads one to the path of absolute realization and thus frees one from the bondage of material contact and encagements in different material bodies.
Srila Jiva Gosvami Prabhupada therefore comments on the words sarvatra sarvada in the sense that the principles of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service to the Lord, are apt in all circumstances; i.e., bhakti-yoga is recommended in all the revealed scriptures, it is performed by all authorities, it is important in all places, it is useful in all causes and effects, etc. As far as all the revealed scriptures are concerned, he quotes from the Skanda Purana on the topics of Brahma and Narada as follows:
samsare ’smin maha-ghore
tarakam vadibhih smrtam
In the material world, which is full of darkness and dangers, combined with birth and death and full of different anxieties, the only way to get out of the great entanglement is to accept loving transcendental devotional service to Lord Vasudeva. This is accepted by all classes of philosophers.
Srila Jiva Gosvami also quotes another common passage, which is found in three Puranas, namely the Padma Purana, Skanda Purana and Linga Purana. It runs as follows:
vicarya ca punah punah
idam ekam sunispannam
dhyeyo narayanah sada
“By scrutinizingly reviewing all the revealed scriptures and judging them again and again, it is now concluded that Lord Narayana is the Supreme Absolute Truth, and thus He alone should be worshiped.”
The same truth is also indirectly described in the Garuda Purana as follows:
param gato ’pi vedanam
yo na sarvesvare bhaktas
tam vidyat purusadhamam
“Even though one may have gone to the other side of all the Vedas, and even though one is well versed in all the revealed scriptures, if one is not a devotee of the Supreme Lord, he must be considered the lowest of mankind.” Similarly, it is also stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.18.12) indirectly as follows:
yasyasti bhaktir bhagavaty akiñcana
sarvair gunais tatra samasate surah
harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-guna
mano-rathenasati dhavato bahih
One who has unflinching devotion unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead must have all the good qualities of the demigods, and contrarily one who is not a devotee of the Lord must be hovering in the darkness of mental speculation and thus must be engaged in material impermanence. Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.11.18) says:
na nisnayat pare yadi
sramas tasya srama-phalo
hy adhenum iva raksatah
“One may be well versed in all the transcendental literature of the Vedas, but if he fails to be acquainted with the Supreme, then it must be concluded that all of his education is like the burden of a beast or like one’s keeping a cow without milking capacity.”
Similarly, the liberty of discharging loving transcendental service to the Lord is invested in everyone, even the women, the sudras, the forest tribes, or any other living beings born in sinful conditions.
te vai vidanty atitaranti ca deva-mayam
stri-sudra-huna-sabara api papa-jivah
tiryag-jana api kimu sruta-dharana ye
The lowest of human beings can be elevated to the highest stage of devotional life if they are trained by the bona fide spiritual master well versed in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. If the lowest can be so elevated, then what to speak of the highest, who are well versed in the Vedic knowledge? The conclusion is that devotional service to the Lord is open for all, regardless of who they are. That is the confirmation of its application for all kinds of performers of the service.
Therefore the devotional service of the Lord with perfect knowledge through the training of a bona fide spiritual master is advised for everyone, even if one happens not to be a human being. This is confirmed in the Garuda Purana as follows:
urdhvam eva gatim manye
kim punar jñaninam nrnam
“Even the worms, birds and beasts are assured of elevation to the highest perfectional life if they are completely surrendered to the transcendental loving service of the Lord, so what to speak of the philosophers amongst the human beings?”
Therefore there is no need to seek properly qualified candidates for discharging devotional service to the Lord. Let them be either well-behaved or ill trained, let them be either learned or fools, let them be either grossly attached or in the renounced order of life, let them be liberated souls or desirous of salvation, let them be inexpert in the discharge of devotional service or expert in the same — all of them can be elevated to the supreme position by discharging devotional service under the proper guidance. This is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita (9.30, 32) as follows:
api cet suduracaro
bhajate mam ananya-bhak
sadhur eva sa mantavyah
samyag vyavasito hi sah
mam hi partha vyapasritya
ye ’pi syuh papa-yonayah
striyo vaisyas tatha sudras
te ’pi yanti param gatim
Even if a person is fully addicted to all sorts of sinful acts, if he happens to be engaged in the loving transcendental service of the Lord under proper guidance, he is to be considered the most perfect holy man without a doubt. And thus any person, whatsoever and whosoever he or she may be — even the fallen woman, the less intelligent laborer, the dull mercantile man, or even a man lower than all these — can attain the highest perfection of life by going back home, back to Godhead, provided he or she takes shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord in all earnestness. This sincere earnestness is the only qualification that can lead one to the highest perfectional stage of life, and unless and until such real earnestness is aroused, there is a difference between cleanliness or uncleanliness, learning or nonlearning, in the material estimation. Fire is always fire, and thus if someone touches the fire, knowingly or unknowingly, the fire will act in its own way without discrimination. The principle is: harir harati papani dusta-cittair api smrtah. The all-powerful Lord can purify the devotee of all sinful reactions, just as the sun can sterilize all sorts of infections by its powerful rays. “Attraction for material enjoyment cannot act upon a pure devotee of the Lord.” There are hundreds and thousands of aphorisms in the revealed scriptures. Atmaramas ca munayah:“Even the self-realized souls are also attracted by the transcendental loving service of the Lord.” Kecit kevalayabhaktya vasudeva-parayanah: “Simply by hearing and chanting, one becomes a great devotee of Lord Vasudeva.”Na calati bhagavat-padaravindal lavanimisardham api sa vaisnavagryah: “A person who does not move from the lotus feet of the Lord even for a moment or a second is to be considered the greatest of all Vaisnavas.” Bhagavat-parsadatam prapte mat-sevaya pratitam te: “The pure devotees are convinced of attaining the association of the Personality of Godhead, and thus they are always engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.” Therefore in all continents, in all planets, in all universes, devotional service to the Lord, or bhakti-yoga, is current, and that is the statement of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and allied scriptures. “Everywhere” means in every part of the creation of the Lord. The Lord can be served by all the senses, or even simply by the mind. The South Indianbrahmana who served the Lord simply on the strength of his mind also factually realized the Lord. Success is guaranteed for a devotee who fully engages any one of his senses in the mode of devotional service. The Lord can be served by any ingredient, even the most common commodity — a flower, a leaf, a fruit or a little water, which are available in any part of the universe and without cost — and thus the Lord is served universally by the universal entities. He can be served simply by hearing, He can be served simply by chanting or reading about His activities, He can be served simply by adoring Him and accepting Him.
In the Bhagavad-gita it is stated that one can serve the Lord by offering the result of one’s own work; it does not matter what one does. Generally men may say that whatever they are doing is inspired by God, but that is not all. One should actually work on behalf of God as a servant of God. The Lord says in the Bhagavad-gita (9.27):
yat karosi yad asnasi
yaj juhosi dadasi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kurusva mad-arpanam
Do whatever you like or whatever may be easier for you to do, eat whatever you may eat, sacrifice whatever you can sacrifice, give whatever you may give in charity, and do whatever you may undertake in penance, but everything must be done for Him only. If you do business or if you accept some employment, do so on behalf of the Lord. Whatever you may eat, you may offer the same to the Lord and be assured that He will return the food after eating it Himself. He is the complete whole, and therefore whatever He may eat as offered by the devotee is accepted because of the devotee’s love, but again it is returned as prasada for the devotee so that he can be happy by eating. In other words, be a servant of God and live peacefully in that consciousness, ultimately returning home, back to Godhead.
It is said in the Skanda Purana:
yasya smrtya ca namoktya
nunam sampurnatam eti
sadyo vande tam acyutam
“I offer my obeisances unto Him, the infallible, because simply by either remembering Him or vibrating His holy name one can attain the perfection of all penances, sacrifices or fruitive activities, and this process can be universally followed.” It is enjoined (Bhag. 2.3.10):
akamah sarva-kamo va
yajeta purusam param
Though a person be full of desires or have no desires, he may follow this path of infallible bhakti-yoga for complete perfection.” One need not be anxious to propitiate each and every demigod and goddess because the root of all of them is the Personality of Godhead. As by pouring water on the root of the tree one serves and enlivens all the branches and leaves, so by rendering service unto the Supreme Lord one automatically serves every god and goddess without extraneous effort. The Lord is all-pervading, and therefore service unto Him is also all-pervading. This fact is corroborated in the Skanda Purana as follows:
arcitah sarva-devah syur
yatah sarva-gato harih
When the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead, who carries in His hands a conchshell, wheel, club and lotus flower, is worshiped, certainly all other demigods are worshiped automatically because Hari, the Personality of Godhead, is all-pervading. Therefore, in all cases, namely nominative, objective, causative, dative, ablative, possessive and supportive, everyone is benefited by such transcendental loving service to the Lord. The man who worships the Lord, the Lord Himself who is worshiped, the cause for which the Lord is worshiped, the source of supply, the place where such worship is done, etc. — everything is benefited by such an action.
Even during the annihilation of the material world, the process of bhakti-yoga can be applied. Kalena nasta pralaye vaniyam: the Lord is worshiped in devastation because He protects the Vedas from being annihilated. He is worshiped in every millennium or yuga. As it is said in Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.3.52):
krte yad dhyayato visnum
tretayam yajato makhaih
kalau tad dhari-kirtanat
In the Visnu Purana it is written:
sa hanis tan mahac chidram
sa mohah sa ca vibhramah
yan-muhurtam ksanam vapi
vasudevam na cintayet
“If even for a moment remembrance of Vasudeva, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is missed, that is the greatest loss, that is the greatest illusion, and that is the greatest anomaly.” The Lord can be worshiped in all stages of life. For instance, even in the wombs of their mothers Maharaja Prahlada and Maharaja Pariksit worshiped the Lord; even in his very childhood, at the age of only five years, Dhruva Maharaja worshiped the Lord; even in full youth, Maharaja Ambarisa worshiped the Lord; and even at the last stage of his frustration and old age Maharaja Dhrtarastra worshiped the Lord. Ajamila worshiped the Lord even at the point of death, and Citraketu worshiped the Lord even in heaven and in hell. In the Narasimha Purana it is said that as the hellish inhabitants began to chant the holy name of the Lord they began to be elevated from hell towards heaven. Durvasa Muni has also supported this view: mucyeta yan-namny udite narako ’pi. “Simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord the inhabitants of hell became released from their hellish persecution.” So the conclusion of Srimad-Bhagavatam, as given by Sukadeva Gosvami to Maharaja Pariksit, is:
yoginam nrpa nirnitam
“O King, it is finally decided that everyone, namely those in the renounced order of life, the mystics, and the enjoyers of fruitive work, should chant the holy name of the Lord fearlessly to achieve the desired success in their pursuits.” (Bhag. 2.1.11)
Similarly, as indicated indirectly in various places in revealed scriptures:
1. Even though one is well versed in all the Vedas and scriptures, if one is not a devotee of the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead, he is considered to be the lowest of mankind.
2. In the Garuda Purana, Brhan-naradiya Purana and Padma Purana, the same is repeated: What is the use of Vedic knowledge and penances for one who is devoid of devotional service to the Lord?
3. What is the comparison of thousands of prajapatis to one devotee of the Lord?
4. Sukadeva Gosvami said (Bhag. 2.4.17) that neither the ascetic, nor one who is greatly munificent, nor one who is famous, nor the great philosopher, nor the great occultist, nor anyone else can achieve the desired result without being engaged in the service of the Lord.
5. Even if a place is more glorious than heaven, if there is no glorification of the Lord of Vaikuntha or His pure devotee, it should at once be quitted.
6. The pure devotee refuses to accept all the five different types of liberation in order to be engaged in the service of the Lord.
The final conclusion, therefore, is that the glories of the Lord must be always and everywhere proclaimed. One should hear about His glories, one should chant about His glories, and one should always remember His glories because that is the highest perfectional stage of life. As far as fruitive work is concerned, it is limited to an enjoyable body; as far as yoga is concerned, it is limited to the acquirement of mystic power; as far as empiric philosophy is concerned, it is limited to the attainment of transcendental knowledge; and as far as transcendental knowledge is concerned, it is limited to attainment of salvation. Even if they are adopted, there is every chance of discrepancies in discharging the particular type of functions. But adoption of the transcendental devotional service of the Lord has no limit, nor is there fear of falling down. The process automatically reaches the final stage by the grace of the Lord. In the preliminary stage of devotional service there is an apparent requisite for knowledge, but in the higher stage there is no necessity of such knowledge. The best and guaranteed path of progress is therefore engagement in bhakti-yoga, pure devotional service.
The cream of Srimad-Bhagavatam in the foregoing four slokas is sometimes squeezed out by the impersonalist for different interpretations in their favor, but it should be carefully noted that the four slokas were first described by the Personality of Godhead Himself, and thus the impersonalist has no scope to enter into them because he has no conception of the Personality of Godhead. Therefore, the impersonalist may squeeze out any interpretations from them, but such interpretations will never be accepted by those who are taught in the disciplic succession from Brahma, as will be cleared up in the following verses. Besides that, the sruti confirms that the Supreme Truth Absolute Personality of Godhead never reveals Himself to anyone who is falsely proud of his academic knowledge. The sruti-mantra clearly says (Katha Upanisad 1.2.23):
nayam atma pravacanena labhyo
na medhaya na bahudha srutena
yam evaisa vrnute tena labhyas
tasyaisa atma vivrnute tanum svam
The whole matter is explained by the Lord Himself, and one who has no approach to the Lord in His personal feature can rarely understand the purport of Srimad-Bhagavatam without being taught by the bhagavatas in the disciplic succession.