Chapter 3: The Means of Achievement

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Narada Bhakti Sutra 49

yo vedan api sanyasyati kevalam avicchinnanuragam labhate


yah -- who; vedan -- the Vedas; api -- even; sanyasyati -- renounces; kevalam -- exclusive; avicchinna -- uninterrupted; anuragam -- loving attraction; labhate -- obtains.


That person who renounces even the Vedas obtains exclusive and uninterrupted attraction for God.


By "renouncing the Vedas" Narada means renouncing the fruitive sacrifices recommended in the Vedas' karma-kandiya portions, which are for those pursuing fruitive results. Lord Krishna advises Arjuna, "The Vedas deal mainly with the subject of the three modes of material nature. O Arjuna, become transcendental to these three modes.... All purposes served by a small well can at once be served by a great reservoir of water. Similarly, all the purposes of the Vedas can be served to one who knows the purpose behind them" (Bg. 2.45-46). The karma-kandiya instructions are for gradual development, but the ultimate goal is to know Lord Krishna, the cause of all causes (see Bhagavad-gita 15.15). If one is attached only to the rituals and not the goal, then he cannot rise to the transcendental stage.

Similarly, the study of the Vedanta-sutra is meant for understanding Lord Krishna. Srila Prabhupada writes, "Vedanta is the last word in Vedic wisdom, and the author and knower of the Vedanta philosophy is Lord Krishna; and the highest Vedantist is the great soul who takes pleasure in chanting the holy name of the Lord" (Bg. 2.46, purport).

Srila Vyasadeva begins the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.1.2) with the declaration that no lesser forms of religion will be taught: dharmah projjhita-kaitavah. Only pure devotional service is taught in the Bhagavata Purana. Lord Krishna also concludes His instructions to Arjuna by advising him, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me." (Bg. 18.66)

Still, although a pure devotee ignores the karma-kandiya portion of the Vedas and gives up all forms of dharma save bhakti, he never defies the bhakti-sastras or gives up following their injunctions. In fact, liberated souls always relish hearing the pastimes of the Personality of Godhead from transcendental books like the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Caitanya-caritamrita, and the works of the six Gosvamis of Vrindavana. Srila Prabhupada writes, "The Srimad-Bhagavatam. .. is purely transcendental literature which can be understood only by the pure devotees of the Lord who are transcendental to competitive sense gratification" (Bhag. 1.1.2, purport). Srila Vyasadeva says, "O thoughtful devotees, as long as you are not absorbed in transcendental bliss, you should continue tasting the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and when you are fully absorbed in bliss you should go on tasting its mellows forever" (Bhag. 1.1.3). The sages at Naimisharanya declare, "We never tire of hearing the transcendental pastimes of the Personality of Godhead, who is glorified by hymns and prayers. Those who enjoy association with Him relish hearing His pastimes at every moment" (Bhag. 1.1.19).

Even great souls who were liberated in Brahman realization became attracted to the narrations of Krishna in Srimad-Bhagavatam. As Sukadeva Gosvami told Maharaja Parikshit, "My dear King, although I was fully situated in the transcendental position, I was nonetheless attracted to the pastimes of Lord Krishna. Therefore I studied Srimad-Bhagavatam from my father." (Bhag. 2.1.9) And Lord Caitanya, though God Himself, constantly relished hearing the Bhagavatam and other Vaishnava literatures, as well as the poetry of Vaishnava saints, which He discussed among His intimate devotees. So renouncing the karma-kandiya rituals of the Vedas does not mean giving up the eternal pastimes of Lord Krishna.

For those who are striving for perfection, certainly the relevant part of the Vedas is not to be rejected. But sometimes devotees in the spontaneous stage appear to come into conflict with Vedic customs. Once Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya had to explain this stage of spontaneous love to King Prataparudra. The king had observed the devotees of Lord Caitanya arriving in Puri without following some of the customary rules. The king asked Sarvabhauma, "Why have they not observed the regulations for visiting the pilgrimage place, such as fasting and shaving the head? Why have they first eaten prasadam?" Sarvabhauma replied to the king, "What you have said is right according to the regulative principles governing the visiting of holy places, but there is another path, which is the path of spontaneous love. According to those principles, there are subtle intricacies involved in the execution of religious principles" (Cc. Madhya 11.111-12). Because Lord Caitanya was personally present and distributing prasadam from His own hand, His intimate devotees neglected the regulative principle of fasting.

Narada uses the word kevalam, which indicates that one's love for Krishna must be undivided and unalloyed. Bhakti as taught by Narada is not part-time service, or devotion only up to a certain point. In the spontaneous stage, all considerations except bhakti are unimportant, as in the gopis' rejection of family and social considerations. The gopis did not disregard their duties consciously, but they were simply unable to think of anything but going to Krishna.

When a devotee reaches the stage Narada describes here, his devotional service flows uninterruptedly. Queen Kunti aspired for that stage: "O Lord of Madhu," she prayed, "as the Ganges ever flows to the sea without hindrance, let my attraction be constantly drawn unto You without being diverted to anyone else" (Bhag. 1.8.42). Srila Prabhupada describes Narada Muni's own flow of devotional service:

Such a flow of devotional service cannot stop. On the contrary, it increases more and more without limitation. The flow of devotional service is so potent that any onlooker also becomes liberated from the influence of the modes of passion and ignorance. [Bhag. 1.5.28, purport]

Neophyte devotees complain of sporadic enthusiasm. They are sometimes eager to chant and hear of Krishna, but at other times they are troubled by thoughts of sense pleasure and a lack of taste for Krishna consciousness. This up-and-down syndrome is not unusual for beginners. Every soul's original state is to experience a spontaneous flow of love of God, but this love has been covered by countless millions of years of conditioning in the material world. This conditioning is not easy to overcome. In the early stages of bhakti, therefore, determination is of the utmost importance. At the same time, we may be inspired by the reality of spontaneous love as described by Narada and exhibited by devotees who serve the Lord in prema-bhakti.

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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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