Looking for happiness in the air

Coexistence of Bhakti and the Spirit of Enjoyment

Question: Sādhana of uttamā-bhakti leads to bhāva and prema. If sādhana-bhakti has as its taṭastha lakṣaṇa the total absence of the desire to enjoy, what happens in the anartha-nivṛtti stage when there are no saṃskāras left to enjoy?

Answer: The very word sādhana means “a means to achieve a goal”. At the sādhana stage, one is not at the level of anyābhilāṣitā śūnyam and ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānu-śīlanaṁ, but one has the desire or resolve to achieve it. Otherwise, as you rightly wrote, there will be no sādhanabhakti.

Pāṇiṇi has a sūtratad adhite tad veda (4.2.29). It means that a student as well as one who has studied, both are called “knowers of the subject”—e.g., one who studies vyākaraṇa as well as one who knows it, both are called vaiyakaraṇa. So, one who performs sādhana for uttamā-bhakti is also doing uttamā-bhakti, albeit at the sādhana level. That is why Rūpa Gosvāmī makes three divisions of uttamā-bhaktisādhana, bhāva, and prema. In other words, the practice that leads to the perfection stage of uttamā-bhakti is also called uttamā-bhakti but at the sādhana stage. For example, in modern times, a person studying music, dance, or painting is called a musician, dancer, or a painter respectively.

So at the sādhana stage, one has the resolve to be anyābhilaṣitā śūnyam but has not achieved it yet. So that is where anarthanivṛtti fits in. 

Question: If in sadhana-bhakti one is allowed to have the desire to enjoy independently of Kṛṣṇa, what place does anyābhilāṣitā śūnyam have? Maintenance of body and bhakti coexist. Can the desire to enjoy and the desire to please Kṛṣṇa coexist?

Answer: It is not that one is allowed to enjoy, or one is allowed to have desire to enjoy. One does not desire to enjoy but one is not completely free from attachments. A practicing musician desires to be a perfect musician but is not perfect yet. Thus he will falter in his singing. This does not mean that he is desiring to falter.

Question: If one allocates an hour for chanting and ensures that it is done without any personal desire but only to please Kṛṣṇa, and the remaining 23 hours he works to gain pleasure (non-sinful), can this be called sādhana-bhakti and will this one hour of chanting help him to advance in uttamā-bhakti? In my opinion, the desire to enjoy and the desire to please Kṛṣṇa can never coexist.

Answer: One who is doing an hour of japa but enjoying his senses the remaining 23 hours of the day is not doing uttamā-bhakti sādhana. He must have the resolve to be an uttamā bhakta 24 hours a day. This question sounds hypothetical to me and is not a practical situation. Why would one do uttamā-bhakti for one hour and do material activities for 23 hours? This means that the person has not understood what uttamā-bhakti is. Moreover, I do not think that such a thing is possible.

Question: How can the desire to enjoy and detachment coexist?

Answer: This is called ambivalence. People have love-hate relationships. These generally do not manifest simultaneously. When love is manifest, hatred is unmanifest, and vice versa. This is explained in Sāṁkhya-kārikā (12,13).  

But attachment and detachment can coexist simultaneously. It is also possible that they both exist in a manifest state. We tend to think in black and white terms—e.g., “wherever there is light, there is no darkness”. But that is not always true. At dawn, both light and darkness are manifest. First, there is complete darkness, then light gradually appears and darkness gradually disappears. When the sun has fully risen, there is no darkness. So, you can think that the sum total of darkness and light is 100 percent. The extreme points manifest when darkness is 100 percent and light is zero percent, or light is 100 percent and darkness is zero percent. In between, there is a mixture of percentages.

Similarly, in the beginning, a sādhaka may have a strong desire for material enjoyment and a weak desire for detachment. As he progresses, the percentage of desire for enjoyment reduces and the percentage of desire for detachment increases. At the bhāva stage, he has 100 percent detachment and zero percent desire for enjoyment. Anyone who is actually practicing bhakti has experience of this.

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Question: In Bhagavat Sandarbha, it is explained that Bhagavān’s energies are divided into three parts: antaraṅga-, bahiraṅga-, and taṭasta-śakti. Each energy acts harmoniously in its own domain and does not interfere with the others. However, the inferior bahiraṅga-śakti, because of its proximity, imposes the illusory concept (identification with the body) on the jīva (taṭastha-śakti). Can’t this superimposition be interpreted as the intrusion of one energy onto the domain of another?

Answer: No. While influencing the jīva, the bahiraṅga-śakti still acts in its own domain. It does not enter into the taṭastha-śakti. It simply influences the taṭastha-śakti, like a magnet influences iron filings from afar.

Question: Did I understand correctly, that the bahiraṅga-śakti, the external potency of Bhagavān, is inferior because she cannot influence Kṛṣṇa in any way and is completely dependent on Him? I know that she is inert by nature and Kṛṣṇan energizes and infuses her with His intrinsic potential.

Answer: Being inert, the bahiraṅga-śakti is also inferior to the jīva.

3 thoughts on “Coexistence of Bhakti and the Spirit of Enjoyment”

  1. As the realisation of the fleetingness of material experience — physical or psychological — deepens, disinterest in it proportionately intensifies. Psychological temporariness of a romantic indulgence — the most powerful material high — is realised as sattva rises. The insight that love here in the material existence is so temporary and non-exclusive begins to consume the consciousness. Past karma is seen as meaningless meandering. Hope for attaining a
    spiritual universe, a dhām, where love truly exists remains the only meaningful enterprise. One turns to the Gītā, to the Yoga Sūtras, to the Bhāgvata. To a yogī. न तेषु रमते बुध:।

  2. ” In Bhagavat Sandarbha, it is explained that Bhagavān’s energies are divided into three parts: antaraṅga-, bahiraṅga-, and taṭasta-śakti. Each energy acts harmoniously in its own domain and does not interfere with the others. ”

    Dear Babaji, please clear up my confusion about the domain of taṭasta-śakti. The way I imagine these three energies, the taṭasta has no domain of its own, but could potentially exist via either of the other two.

    If the quote was inaccurate, please clarify that.

    🙏🏽

    1. Maybe the word “domain” is misleading. I do not remember the exact Sanskrit word used. But the sense is that the 3 energies are distinct.

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