Chapter 3: The Means of Achievement

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Narada Bhakti Sutra 38

mukhyatas tu mahat-kripayaiva bhagavat-kripa-lesad va


mukhyatah -- primarily; tu -- but; mahat -- of great souls; kripaya -- by the mercy; eva -- indeed; bhagavat -- of the Supreme Lord; kripa -- of the mercy; lesat -- by a trace; va -- or.


Primarily, however, one develops bhakti by the mercy of great souls, or by a small drop of the Lord's mercy.


Narada has outlined the main practices for a devotee-in-training (sadhaka). Now he emphasizes that the devotee cannot succeed simply on the strength of his own endeavor, but only when he receives the mercy of Krishna's representative or a drop of the Lord's direct mercy.

Unless one seeks out the association of a sadhu, bhakti will remain distant. But who is a sadhu? Srila Prabhupada explains:

A sadhu is not just an ordinary man with a saffron robe or long beard. A sadhu is described in Bhagavad-gita as one who unflinchingly engages in devotional service. Even though one is found not to be following the strict rules and regulations of devotional service, if one simply has unflinching faith in Krishna, the Supreme Person, he is understood to be a sadhu. ... If one associates with a sadhu, the result will be that the sadhu will teach him how to become a devotee, a worshiper and sincere servitor of the Lord. These are the gifts of a sadhu. [Bhag. 3.25.20, purport]

The Caitanya-caritamrita and the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu state that the acceptance of a spiritual master is absolutely essential for advancement in devotional service. Srila Prabhupada writes:

Without the attentive service of his parents, a child cannot grow to manhood; similarly, without the care of the spiritual master one cannot rise to the plane of transcendental service.... One should always remember that a person who is reluctant to accept a spiritual master and be initiated is sure to be baffled in his endeavor to go back to Godhead. [Cc. Adi 1.46, purport, and 1.35, purport]

And so by the grace of the spiritual masters, all the aforementioned practices taught by Narada -- the chanting and hearing of the holy names, avoiding sense gratification, and so on -- will come naturally to one who serves and inquires from devotees.

Conditioned souls are brought to the path of bhakti by the help of the Vaishnavas, and also by the direct guidance of the Supreme Lord. Harim vina naiva sritim taranti: "Without the blessings of Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one cannot stop the continuous chain of birth and death within this material world." Lord Krishna, as the Supersoul within everyone's heart, directly gives us guidance. When a soul cries out for spiritual guidance, the Lord as the caitya-guru, or the spiritual master in the heart, gives direct inspiration. Krishna states,

tesham evanukampartham aham ajnana-jam tamah

nasayamy atma-bhava-stho jnana-dipena bhasvata

"To show them special mercy, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance" (Bg. 10.11).

In the purport to the previous verse (Bg. 10.10), Srila Prabhupada explains, "A person may have a bona fide spiritual master and may be attached to a spiritual organization, but still, if he is not intelligent enough to make progress, then Krishna from within gives him instructions so that he may ultimately come to Him without difficulty."

The Lord's mercy is therefore available both in the form of the instructing spiritual masters and the Supersoul within the heart. The appearance of the spiritual master within the life of the conditioned soul is the direct mercy of the Lord. Prabhupada writes that "the great sage Sukadeva Gosvami was certainly inspired by Lord Krishna to appear voluntarily before Maharaja Parikshit, the great devotee of the Lord, just to give him the teachings of Srimad-Bhagavatam" (Bhag. 1.19.36).

It is truly a sign of the Lord's mercy when one meets His pure representative, the bona fide spiritual master. But how effective this mercy is depends on one's sincerity. As soon as the Lord finds that a soul has developed eagerness to go back to Godhead, the Lord sends a bona fide spiritual master, and if one takes full advantage of the instructions of such a spiritual master, one is guaranteed success. Srila Prabhupada writes, "The conclusion is that to get the... help of a bona fide spiritual master means to receive the direct help of the Lord Himself" (Bhag. 1.19.36, purport; italics in original).

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His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
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