Bhagavān, Grace and Material Suffering – Part 2

By Satyanarayana Dasa

Continuation from Paramātmā  Sandarbha, Anuccheda 93.4

Devotees are Self-Satisfied


[An objection is raised] It is not to be conjectured that since the Lord gives bliss to His devotees and they to Him, He [or His devotees] must not be self-satisfied; nor that since He gives pleasure to His devotees while neglecting others, He must be subject to another form of bias.

The answer to the first objection is that although the sages have bodies endowed with the power of pure sattva and have thus attained the very heights of self-satisfaction, when we see the Lord’s affection towards these devotees it can be understood that this quality is a consequence of His self-satisfaction and not opposed to it.

As Śrī Parīkṣit said to all the sages:

You have no purpose to fulfill in this world or the next other than bestowing mercy upon others, for that is your innate disposition. (SB 1.19.23)

Similarly, in the story of Jaḍa Bharata:

The highly realized Jaḍa Bharata explained the true nature of the self out of supreme compassion to the ruler of Sindhu, even though he had been offended by him. (SB 5.13.24)

And also in Nārada’s previous life:

The sages, though equal to all, showed special mercy to me, who was engaged in their service and spoke but little. (SB 1.5.24)

And also in the prayers of Kuntī:

I bow down to You who are the only wealth of those who possess nothing else (akiñcanāḥ), who are free from the functions of the three guṇas, who delight in Your own Self, who are peaceful and the Lord of liberation. (SB 1.8.27)

Śrīdhara Svāmī comments: “The compound akiñcana-vitta means ‘You who are the all-in-all for those who have no possessions, namely the devotees.’”

Should He not do so, the flawless Lord would incur the defect of ungratefulness.


One may raise an objection to the above conclusion that the Lord acts solely for the pleasure of His devotees and claim that this would indicate that they are not self-satisfied. Moreover, because His devotees also give Him pleasure, it would mean that He Himself is not self-satisfied. What is more, He must be biased because He acts only for the devotees’ benefit and not for others.

Śrī Jīva replies that the Lord’s devotees are fully satisfied, having completely transcendental bodies. The Lord has love for His devotees as His devotees have love for Him. This mutual love, which manifests as a desire to please the object of love, is not a sign of personal dissatisfaction, but is actually an outcome of the quality of self-satisfaction or love. Only a person who is satisfied within himself can love and serve another without any motive. One who is lacking self-satisfaction will seek personal fulfilment through his actions. Thus, the quality of self-satisfaction and service to the object of love go hand-in-hand.

In fact, if the Lord did not act to please His devotees, if He were not inspired by their love for Him, it would be a greater defect as it would show ingratitude to those who have dedicated everything for His sake. This answers the first objection raised by Śrī Jīva.


Bhakti Exists Both in the Bhakta as well as in Bhagavān


It being proven that Bhagavān, though self-satisfied, is affectionate to His devotees, it naturally follows that He feels delighted by the removal of His devotees’ pains or by their attainment of happiness. Moreover, the energetic aspect called hlādinī (the potency of bliss) is the essence of the intrinsic potency (svarūpa-śakti), even though the latter is the ultimate essence [of all the potencies of Bhagavān]. And the essence even of that hlādinī aspect is a very special energy called bhakti. This bhakti, also called rati, ever resides in both the Lord and the devotees, spreading her functions on both sides. Thus it is said, “Bhagavān who has devotion for His devotees” (bhagavān bhakta-bhaktimān, 10.86.59).

Consequently, Bhagavān’s satisfaction stemming from the devotion existing in the devotee is in no way incompatible with His quality of being self-satisfied. Rather, bhakti, being one of Bhagavān’s potencies, is both different and non-different from the svarūpa of the Lord, according to the principle, “As they surrender unto Me, so do I also serve them” (ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham, Gītā 4.11). Because bhakti appears as if it were a separate energy due to manifesting in the heart of a devotee, the Lord experiences extreme unprecedented bliss in the form of, “His devotion is giving Me delight.”

Even in the doctrine of those who consider the potency and the Potent to be different, the essential nature of Bhagavān is understood to be qualified with potency.

Intending all this, Lord Viṣṇu stated the following to sage Durvāsa:

1. O Brāhmaṇa, My heart is possessed by My saintly devotees. I am under the control of such devotees as if I have no independence. I am beloved to them.

2. I have no desire to enjoy My transcendental bliss or My supreme opulences without My saintly devotees for whom I am the only goal in life, O Brāhmaṇa.

3. How could I dare abandon those who have taken refuge in Me after renouncing all attachments to wife, house, children, relations, life, wealth, and even their own ultimate welfare in this world and the next?

4. The saintly devotees whose hearts are bound to Me and who view everyone equally, control Me by their devotion, just as a chaste wife controls her virtuous husband.

5. Fully satisfied by their service to Me, the devotees do not desire even the four types of liberation attained through such service. How then can they covet any other thing that will only be lost with the passage of time?

6. The saintly devotees are My very heart, while I am the very heart of the saints. They know nothing more lovable than Me, and I know nothing at all other than them. (SB 9.4.63-68)

In this series of six verses, verses 3-5 deny that the Lord is ungrateful; verse 6 negates the opinion that the Lord lacks self-satisfaction, and verses 1-2 show that bhakti is the essence of hlādinī, which is in turn the essence of the svarūpa-śakti. The state of the devotees, when this potency enters into them in the form of bhakti, is described in verse 5. Therefore, Bhagavān does not have the first flaw, that of not being satisfied in His own Self.


Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī does not deny that Bhagavān derives bliss by favoring His devotees. Still, this is not incompatible with His nature of being self-satisfied. The reason for this is that it is Bhagavān who bestows His own bhakti on His would-be devotees. Bhakti is the very essence of Bhagavān’s intrinsic energy. Bhagavān grants this energy to His would-be devotee and that devotee is then guided by it. Thus, the reciprocation between Bhagavān and the devotee is impelled by that intrinsic energy called bhakti or love, which belongs to Bhagavān.

The intrinsic energy is non-different from Bhagavān, and thus the Lord derives pleasure from His own energy, not from something external to His svarūpa. This does not make Him subject to any lack of self-satisfaction, which would be a defect. Bhagavān is devoted to His devotee, just as His devotee is devoted to Him. Both of them are self-satisfied, yet continuously yearn to serve each other, being impelled by love. This indeed is the nature of love, which will be discussed in much greater detail in Prīti-sandarbha.

Although Bhagavān is complete in Himself, He yet derives unprecedented bliss by serving His devotee. He becomes completely controlled by the love of the devotee. In fact, this love can even make Him forget that He is Bhagavān and cause Him to experience extreme delight in being controlled by the bhakta. This behavior of the Lord is beyond the ordinary conception of God as creator and controller of the universe, i.e., one who rewards piety and metes out punishment for wrongdoing.

The verses cited here were spoken by Śrī Viṣṇu when approached by the sage Durvāsā for protection from the Sudarśana-cakra. Durvāsā had offended the great devotee, King Ambarīṣa. In anger at a perceived slight, he had wanted to kill the king by creating a murderous phantom. Bhagavān’s disc Sudarśana immediately came to the rescue of the innocent king, burned Durvāsā’s apparition to cinders and then began chasing Durvāsā, who had to run for his life. The sage went to great personalities like Śiva and Brahmā for help, but they were powerless against the Supreme Lord’s discus. Finally, Durvāsā was obliged to take shelter of Śrī Viṣṇu, the wielder of the disc. With these verses, Bhagavān explained how He feels an obligation to protect His devotees.

Śrī Viṣṇu says that He is dependent on His devotees because they have captured His heart by their love. Love is the most powerful charm that can bring even the Supreme Person under control. In Krama Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī writes that the bliss of Bhagavān is of two types–Svarūpānanda and Svarūpa-śaktyānanda. Out of these, the second is superior to the first. The second is further of two types, called Mānasānanda and Aiśvaryānanada. The first one is related to His devotees. With these verses Bhagavan implies that the bliss of His loving exchange with His devotees is superior to Svarūpānanada as well as Aiśvaryānanada. He says that without His devotees, He does not want His own Self or His opulence. In the following verse He gives the reason for this – these devotees have sacrificed everything for Bhagavān. Bhagavān is not an ungrateful person, therefore He cannot afford to forget His devotees. The implication of all this is that Bhagavān acts only for the sake of His devotees. Even the acts of creation and so on are done for devotees.

5 thoughts on “Bhagavān, Grace and Material Suffering – Part 2”

  1. the concept of shakti explains all these phenomena. therefore one feels bliss some times while chanting.

  2. Question from Scooty Ram:

    The article explains how Lords ananda in interaction with His devotees becomes Topmost.

    It is mentioned “This behavior of the Lord is beyond the ordinary conception of God as creator and controller of the universe, i.e., one who rewards piety and metes out punishment for wrongdoing.”

    In my understanding , there is another aspect in the Lord with relation to creation, rewarding piety or punishing that is more appreciable. They are glorious since they are steeped in his nature of posessing Daya – Compassion/Mercy.

    It is natual for likes to attract likes. It is obvious that Lord loves the devotees since both are pure at heart. It is mentioned “the quality of self-satisfaction and service to the object of love go hand-in-hand.” This is natural.

    The charm is when the same Lord loves the sinners too inspite of their unlimited sins and engages Himself in constantly redeeming each jiva with its karma for its own benefit. All through the creation , jivas sin and accumulate more sins giving no hope for upliftment. Still , Lord does not wind up his creation and stop. He creates the world again to give the jivas another chance to correct themselves and approach Him. This gesture of the Lord to create and await for the jivas is more stunning, in my understanding.
    The purest comes in contact with the sinful through Daya. The joining of these incompatibles is made possible by Daya.

    Also , I guess the dealings between lord and His devotees are rooted on their personal character like tolerance, friendliness to all beings and more specifically in a quality called Daya.

    While vibhiseena approached Lord Rama after Ravana kidnapped Sitadevi , everyone objected Rama in giving vibheesana shelter. This is obvious because He is Ravana’s own brother. Rama however said “Anayainam hari shreShTha! dattamasyAbhayam mayA, vibhIShaNo vA sugrIva! yadi vA rAvaNa: svayam”
    Be it vibheesana or even Ravana Himself, BRING HIM! I will accept them! – Such is the quality which is the cause of creation and redeeming jivas its karmic result.

    Similarly Lord is attracted to devotees who are friendly to all beings and have compassion to others. Devotees express topmost Daya.

    Hence I feel the gesture of the Lord in creating the world and doing jagat vyapara continuosly , is beyond ordinary than the loving dealings between like minded beings(Lord and Devotees).

    However I understand personal opinions have not much a room in sastriya vichara. Please let me know your thoughts.
    Even though we do our utmost to push Him to the limit of His
    patience by our repeated violations of all that is laid down in the
    Sastra-s, His dayA keeps Him under control, and He patiently stands at
    the top of the venkata giri, hoping that He will win in the end and lies down in milky ocean to not get up until He redeems the last jiva from the material ocean.

    1. Babaji’s reply:

      You have asked my thoughts on your view of the Lord’s daya. My thoughts are in the form of the following questions.

      If God is full of daya on sinners, then why do sinners continue to sin, and suffer as a consequence?
      Why does He not redeem them all, and once for all?
      Why continue this material creation which is full of suffering, dukhalayam, as Shri Krishna says in the Gita?

  3. Any act be it sin or piety is permitted by Him in the first place. Permission to let us act is a sign of mercy.Without letting action God doesn’t not judge. Giving one more chance is His mercy.Hence mercy plays a role in permitting an action of Jiva.

    God is not a dead ATM machine to despatch what’s in the account. He chooses to ignore certain sins. He chooses to redeem the sins after a long time giving one a good birth for ones good deed.he could put one to hell first and make onw suffer for all sins or heaven first. Instead he gives mixed results. Jagat vyapara is an act of mercy not a sadistical or dictatorship kind of rule.he continuously strives to find a way to save us.

    Instead of asking why god doesn’t redeem us and save us I would ask why god doesn’t put us in eternal hell for the kinds of sins committed?

  4. Lila and vaisamya nairgrinya are the technical terms to justify creation and such questions.

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