No Bhakti Without Surrender

Question: I understand that there are two ways to practice rāganugā-bhakti:

1) sādhaka-rupa-sevā – Chant, serve guru. 

2) siddha-rupa-sevā – Serve Sri Radha, Sri Lalita, but only if and when guru wishes to give knowledge of siddha-rupa

Rāgānugā bhakti begins at point 1) above after dikṡā. One may not ever get to point 2) in this life. Am I correct in my understanding? 

Answer: Yes, but note that 2. is not compulsory. 1. is sufficient to attain the goal. There is too much hype made by some people about 2). I think the psychological reason for this is maintaining independence. But people do not understand that without sādhaka-rupa-sevā, siddha-rupa-sevā  will not work. 

Question: I would appreciate your perspective on whether līlā-smaraṇam destroys material desires and if so, can we practice it?

Answer: First try to grasp what bhakti is. Bhakti means changing your awareness from your body (gross and subtle) to Kṛṣṇa. This is not possible without the grace of guru. I have no doubt about it. No amount of līlā-smaraṇam can help without surrendering to guru and getting his grace. Without surrender to guru, līlā-smaraṇam or any other sādhana will fortify your ahaṅkāra. This may not be visible immediately. Māyā is very tricky. Mām eva ye prapadyante …. One may feel that one has advanced, lost desires, but the desires will strike back in a very powerful manner. Look at Saubhari Muni. I am sure he thought he has no desires. He was able to sit in the Yamunā for months. No sense pleasure. But then one day he lost it completely.

The very word “rāgānugā” has the word “anugā” in it. So if you do lilā-smaraṇam without guru, whose anugā are you? How do you think you will get prema? You are already disregarding śāstra guru-pādāsrāyas tasmāt…., tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta….  So how can this be called rāgānugā? People read śāstra selectively, pick what suits them and leave the troublesome part. It does not work that way. 

17 thoughts on “No Bhakti Without Surrender”

  1. Greetings to all!

    Kindly address the following queries.

    What would happen to one who chants the Mahamantra without accepting a guru in this life? Would such a person take another birth in a manner that facilitates association of a guru? Or the person may still attain krishna-prema on the strength of the Name? Otherwise, what is meant by “the Name is all powerful”? Is the potency of the Name a function of one’s accepting a guru?

    To me it seems that to recognize a guru is very difficult. A potential guru might be in front of eyes and one may not recognize him, because of either skepticism or lack of purity of one’s heart (maybe they mean the same). Or one may accept an unqualified person as the guru. Is there a solution to this?

    Thank you!

    1. Although the name is all-powerful, it does not reveal its power to a person who is not free of offense, niraparādha. There are ten major offenses against the name and one of them is śruti-śāstra-nindanam – criticizing śruti and smṛti. Criticizing is not just a verbal thing. It also includes not respecting what is stated in them. Accepting a guru is one of the important instruction of the śastra. In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmi lists accepting guru as the primary step on the path of sādhanā bhakti which leads to prema. So if one chants the name without accepting a guru avoiding offenses then the name will guide such a  person to a guru. This is the verdict of Śri Viśvanatha Cakravarti Thakur in his commentary on the story of Ajāmila in SB. This makes sense if you understand the meaning of Kṛṣṇa-prema and its process of attainment.

  2. My Pranams,

    This article did strike a chord with me. I can very much relate to this Q&A because I am familiar with this sort of thinking. The mentality is to treat Bhakti activities like “To Do Lists” in the hope to gain something for oneself. When I desire to know glories of Naam Smarana, hearing Bhagavatam, visiting Vrindavana, Sadhu seva, Lila Smarana, Radha Kunda snana, etc the unspoken desire is to know how I can benefit from doing these things activities and then I can feel good about myself having done them. And then the question is asked why bhakti is not working, why there is no taste etc despite ticking all the To Do Lists. Clearly such thinking is due to material samskara and has nothing to do with bhakti.

  3. Dear Babaji,
    Hare Krsna. Dandavats. The following question is not related to Raganuga bhakti but a general question.

    A devotee of Sri Sampradaya who seems to be well versed in shastra was stating with respect to bhakti vs surrender. I quote: “Bhakti and all is a HiFi word and we cannot do at all. What we should do is to beg and take shelter under a guru. This is called prapatti. After this is done, naturally you are supposed to follow the rules and regulation, the most important one is avoiding sadhu ninda. They also quote various examples like great persons like Sri Viswamitra, Saubhari rishi, Bharata Maharaja etc who had difficulties because they followed bhakti Marg. So, do prapatti. One more example was that there was one great devotee named Sri Thirukachi Nambi who was like a teacher to Sri Ramanuja. He used to talk with Lord Sri Kanchi Varada about various issues. Sri Ramanuja requested him to get some answers (for his questions) from Lord Varada through Sri Thirukachi Nambi. One day when Thirukachi Nambi was asking about going back to Godhead to Lord on some other persons and himself, the Lord said you have to take shelter under Sri Ramanuja!!!!!!

    I was thinking what bhakti term they are saying is “indirect devotional principles”. What Sriman Mahaprabhu giving to us is “direct devotional principles (DDP). This DDP when we do, it will lead us to surrender to Guru. Is this correct? Please reply when you find time.

    Thank you.

    1. When comparing the philosophy of different schools, we have to understand the use of the terminology by them very carefully. The same words can have very different meanings in different schools. Prapatti and bhakti in the ŚrI Sampradāya are not indirect devotional principles. But they make a difference between prapatti and bhakti. For us, prapatti is the first step of bhakti – guru-pāḍāśrayas tasmāt kṛṣṇa-dīkṣādi-śikṣaṇam (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.74) The word pādāśraya here means the same as prapatti and this is listed as the first limb of bhakti by Śri Rūpa Gosvāmī. So for us, prapatti is not different from bhakti.

  4. The very word “rāgānugā” has the word “anugā” in it. So if you do lilā-smaraṇam without guru, whose anugā are you?

    The whole article could have been edited to just this! =)
    It is absolutely brilliant! =)

  5. Thank you for the article Babaji! It’s another wonderful one! I’m grateful to be on your mailing list. Jai Sri Radhe!

  6. Hare Krsna. My humble obeisances to you. Thank you Babaji for explaining the subtle understanding of Prapatti and bhakti as followed by different sampradayas. I myself do not like to ask the following question which I think is against the concept of gratitude, love etc in the process of Vaishnavism. But let me ask for clarification. Supposing if I take Prapatti under Sri sampradaya and want to follow the beautiful process of Gaudiya sampradaya by associating with a Siksa Guru of Gaudiya samparadaya, is it wrong on my part or am I committing deliberately an aparadh to any Guru? The only solace of this (if I do) is I think, I am following the prescription of Krsna. Please help me.

    L.S. Vaidhyanathan

    1. If you understand the meaning of prapatti, you would not ask me this question. I am sure that even without going into any philosophical connotation of the word, you would know the answer, Prapatti means that you are not independent to take any such decision but follow your guru. Accepting a siksa guru without the consent of your guru under whom you have taken prapatti is a violation of prapatti and a big offense. You write, “I am following the prescription of Krsna.” Can you please tell me where Krsna says that you take prapatti under one guru and then you follow and associate with another guru of a different sampradaya. If you accept siksa-guru without the consent of your prapatti-guru, it is tantamount of rejection of your prapatti-guru.

  7. Pranams Babaji.

    “Note that 2. is not compulsory. 1. is sufficient to attain the goal.”
    Is this point made specifically by Sri Jiva or Sri Visvanatha anywhere in their commentaries on Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu or elsewhere? I have yet to come across it.

    If not, could BG 12.10 (abhyāse ’py asamartho ’si mat-karma-paramo bhava, mad-artham api karmāṇi kurvan siddhim avāpsyasi) be accepted as a pramana for this conclusion?

    The reasoning for this would be as follows:

    (1) Sri Visvanatha comments on mat-karma-paramo: mat-karmāṇi paramāṇi yasya saḥ; karmāṇi madīya-śravaṇa-kīrtana-vandanārcana-man-mandira-mārjanābhyukṣaṇa-puṣpāharaṇādi-paricaraṇādi kurvan vināpi mat-smaraṇaṁ siddhiṁ premavat-pārṣadatva-lakṣaṇāṁ prāpsyatīti. Paricaraṇādi could be taken to refer to the collective of bhaktyaṅgas given in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, and Śrī Rūpa states that guru-pādāśrayas, kṛṣṇa-dīkṣādi-śikṣaṇam, and viśrambheṇa guroḥ sevā are the foremost of them and the doorway to all the others (Brs 1.2.83: asyās tatra praveśāya dvāratve ’py aṅga-viṁśateḥ, trayāṁ pradhānam evoktaṁ guru-pādāśrayādikam).

    (2) Sri Visvanatha reads mayy eva mana ādhatsva in BG 12.8 as smarana (mana ādhatsva mat-smaraṇaṁ kurv ity arthaḥ).

    (3) Sri Visvanatha later (in his tika on BG 12.11) contrasts these two as follows: bhakti-yogo dvividhaḥ— bhagavan-niṣṭho ’ntaḥ-karaṇa-vyāpāro, bahiṣkaraṇa-vyāpāraś cha. He states the first is manda-dhiyāṁ durgamaḥ but dvitīyaḥ śravaṇa-kīrtanātmakaṁ tu sarveṣāṁ sugama evopāyaḥ.

    1. In Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, Śrī Rupa Gosvami says that there are two types of siddhas, sadhana-siddha and kṛpā-siddha. Truly speaking, on the path of bhakti, even a sadhaka attains perfection only by kṛpā. It is not a matter of doing specific devotional activities for a certain period of time that brings perfection. Ultimately it is only grace, as is depicted by Krsna in dāma-bandhana-lila. Krsna became bound by His own grace after seeing the effort of Mother Yaṣodā – dṛṣṭvā pariśramaṁ Kṛṣṇaḥ kṛpayā āsīta sva-bandhane. He was not bound by ropes but by kṛpā. So from this, we can understand that if Kṛṣṇa or Guru is pleased then all perfection can come.

  8. @KT I am not sure I understand the comment of Sri Visvanatha in point (1). Does he say either
    a) even without doing listening, kirtan, cleaning the temple, etc. one will attain all the things mentioned in the second case
    b) when doing all the activities – even without mat-smaraṇam – one will attain perfection.

    Could you please help me understand by translating it?

    1. @Willi To my knowledge, he means b): one who takes to engagement with the external instruments [the senses] (bahiṣkaraṇa-vyāpāraḥ) in the way (upāya) based on the activities of śravaṇa, kīrtana, and other services for Kṛṣṇa (madīya-śravaṇa-kīrtana- … paricaraṇādi), as opposed to engagement with the internal instrument [the mind] (antaḥ-karaṇa-vyāpāraḥ), will attain (prāpsyati) success (siddhiṁ) in the form of being a companion (pārṣadatva) [of Kṛṣṇa] endowed with prema (premavat) even without (vināpi) [engaging in] remembrance of Kṛṣṇa [mat-smaraṇaṁ].

      Could ‘mat-smaraṇaṁ’ here, as drawn from mayy eva mana ādhatsva in BG 12.8, be equated with the practice of līlā-smaraṇa as described in BRS 1.2.294–295 (kṛṣṇaṁ smaran … sevā sādhaka-rūpeṇa siddha-rūpeṇa chātra hi …) and elsewhere in the works of the gosvāmīs?

      This is the query I pray our revered Babaji Maharaja can enlighten us about.

    2. “mayy eva mana ādhatsva” in BG 12.8 can mean nama-smarana, lila-smarana, rupa-smarana or guna-smarana.

  9. I think “#2 is not compulsory, #1 is sufficient” is not because you can erase siddha-rūpena seva and still call it rāgānugā. Rather it’s just bacause doing #2 without #1 is mithyācāra, a facade. But doing #1 of a person with rāga will organically include #2 in a deep, true and natural way – which becomes more and more clear and obvious over time, as the practice improves.

    That’s my guess. XD

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