Devotees praying

Relation Between Shraddha and Bhakti

Question: Is it possible that one develops śraddhā in bhakti without hearing any śāstra at all? For instance, someone simply hears that there is a Supreme Person and by worshiping that person we can gain the ultimate goal of life. Just from hearing this statement, the person begins to have śraddhā in bhakti. In this case, the statement is not coming from śāstra.

Answer: It is coming from a devotee. The devotee may not be quoting śāstra but he is speaking the siddhānta. It is not necessary to quote śāstra, but the conclusion is coming from śāstra. The second thing is that this faith, viśvāsa, will come from the association of the devotee. It is not going to happen even if you read śāstra. Viśvāsa will come from mahat saṅga, it is not going to jump out from the book.

Question: Is it also possible that someone reads a book and gets śraddhā that way?

Answer: This means he already had that śraddhā from some prior association.  Otherwise, it is not possible. Śāstra is kindling that fire of śraddhā.

Question: So, the important thing is that they have faith in something that is siddhānta?

Answer: Yes, that is right. It begins with hearing kathā.  It doesn’t happen by just telling someone, “The Holy Name is transcendental and by chanting it, you will get love of God.”  It is very rare that you say only this much, and somebody will take it seriously and follow it. You have to explain many things with logic, stories, and examples. This is called kathā. Then that person may become interested and take to the process. One has to hear and if that hearing is done with respect, then by the mercy of the devotees śraddhā will manifest.

Question: When you say “śraddhā resides in the person,” does that mean śraddhā resides in the soul or is it in the mind or subtle body?

Answer: The śraddhā first manifests in the mind, which is part of the subtle body.´

Question: Is it part of Kṛṣṇa’s internal potency?

Answer: Yes, if it is based on śāstra, then it is guṇātīta.

Question: So, if śraddhā is the internal potency, how can we say that it is not part of the execution of bhakti? If the internal potency is bhakti, then śraddhā must also be part of bhakti.

AnswerBhakti is one of the internal potencies, just like śraddhāBhakti is when you perform an activity for the pleasure of Bhagavān.  So śraddhā is not doing service or anything, it is just the mentality you have by which you engage in bhakti.  It is not considered to be part of bhakti. If you have śraddhā and you don’t do anything, then that is not good enough to be called bhakti. Once you have śraddhā then you act on it. Your mind, body, and senses are engaged in service.  Śraddhā is the impelling force. So it becomes a qualification for engaging in bhakti. It’s like you are hungry, and then you eat food. The hunger is not part of eating food, but it is needed for you to eat food.  You can eat food even when you are not hungry, but that is not one-pointed, ananya, because you will not be as absorbed as when you were hungry.  So that hunger is the qualification you have, and that will impel you to engage in the eating process.  Śraddhā is like hunger, and eating is like the execution of bhakti.

Question: In one translation of Mādhurya-kādambinī, I read that in the progression from śraddhā to prema,śraddhā grows and grows, and that prema means maximum śraddhā and śraddhā means minimum prema. It was described as if it was the same substance at different levels of intensity. Was this description wrong, or was it a mistranslation?

Answer: You can take it like that. But it’s not exactly like that, because prema is not śraddhā

Question: Can we not say that one who has maximum bhakti also has maximum śraddhā?

Answer: Yes, he has śraddhā but śraddhā and prema are two separate things. It is not that śraddhā itself is prema in its maximum state, although sometimes it is described like that. Truly speaking, they are separate. They have different characteristics. It is like saying that the best form of sugarcane juice or the most concentrated form of sugarcane juice is sugar candy, and the most diluted form of sugar candy is sugarcane juice. But truly speaking they are two separate objects having different characteristics.

Question: Can someone practice bhakti without possessing śraddhā?

Answer: Why would one do so? What would be the motivation? There has to be some motivation to do an act. There has to be some śraddhā behind an action. An action is that which we perform to achieve something. Unless the agent believes that this particular action would bring the desired result, the agent would not be inspired to act. There is a saying, prayojanam vinā mando’pi na pravartate, “Even a fool does not act without any purpose.”

Question:  Are there certain pastimes or līlās that we should not hear until we are beyond the stage of anartha nivṛitti?

Answer: There is nowhere in śāstra that it says we as devotees should not hear certain pastimes. The restriction is for non-devotees. They are forbidden because they will misunderstand and find fault. But even a non-devotee who has an interest to hear and understand can hear. The important thing is that it has to be heard properly. This means that it must be heard from a qualified speaker, must be heard with respect, and not in a fault-finding or challenging mood. However, depending on the caliber and mood of a devotee, certain pastimes may not be conducive to their devotion. For example, for a dāsya bhakta, it is not conducive to hearing mādhurya līlā.

Question: Is śraddhā an aspect by which avadhāraṇa (ascertainment) takes place?

Answer:  It is an aspect, because you hear śāstra, and you may have doubts. Even if you understand bhakti logically and accept that it is right, śraddhā is that by which you hold this conclusion.  Since the topics explained in śāstra are not directly experienced by you at this stage, why will you trust them? Even if you explain them with some logic, it is not sufficient. Generally logic works with direct experience but here it is all only śabda pramāṇa. So, the only way you can have trust and hold the conclusions is by śraddhā, which comes from mahat saṅga, the mercy of devotees.

Question: Bhakti is independent, so it doesn’t need śraddhā to give its result, but to practice ananya (exclusive) bhakti one needs śraddhā. Does that mean that ananya bhakti is not independent?

Answer: You are mixing things here. Bhakti is separate, and śraddhā is separate. Śraddhā is in the practitioner and is needed by him to execute bhakti. I do not understand how this could be understood as bhakti not being independent. Bhakti and ananya bhakti are not two separate things. Bhakti is only one. The various divisions of bhakti, such as pure bhakti, mixed bhakti, etc., are determined by the basis of the purity or mixed motive of the practitioner. If one does not have śāstrīya śraddhā, one would not engage in ananyā bhakti. That does not make ananya bhakti less independent.