Unintentional Pious Deeds and the Nature of Bhakti

Question: I heard that the term “ajnata sukriti” is an invention and doesn’t exist. Bhakti comes by the mercy of the Lord and His devotee and is based on knowledge and proper understanding.

However, the stories in Bhakti Sandarbha of the mouse dying while offering ghee-lamp to the deities with its burning tail, and of the bird getting killed by the dog after doing parikrama of the mandir – if they are to be taken literally that means there would be something called ajnata sukriti. Are these stories just meant to glorifyand its various angas, or are they literal facts?

Answer: These stories are not examples of ajnata-sukriti (lit. pious deed done unintentionally). They are examples of svarupa-siddha bhakti. Sri Jiva Gosvami cites them to show the independent nature of bhakti. Bhakti does not depend upon anything but on bhakti itself. Bhakti is potent enough to purify a person of all sins without caring for his/her status. But if a person is endowed with past offenses then bhakti does not manifest its power. When the offense is removed then bhakti’s potency becomes manifest. That is why it is said that one holy name can liberate a person (if the person is free of offense). In fact even a namabhasa (which means bhaktyabhasa) can give liberation, as in case of Ajamila. Ajamila’s chanting the name of Narayana is not ajnata-sukriti. The proponents of ajnata-sukriti should consider this also as such.  If it were a  case of ajnata sukriti the result would come later.

Just as when a hay stack is dry and one unintentionally throws a  burning match stick on it, the hay will burn. Burning match stick is like svarupa siddha bhakti. It does not depend whether the person throwing it wants to burn the hay or not. If it was ajnata sukriti then result should come later, not immediately.

Question: Thank you, it is very clear. Please let me illustrate my exact question with an example –
in the 1970s I used to sell things for Iskcon on the street in full disguise. There was no way anyone could see I was a Vaishnava. So if someone gave me money for a book or so, they actually supported Vaishnavas, but they were not aware of it. So we know this cannot be called ajnata sukriti, because such a thing does not exist in shastra. But will those persons who unknowingly gave me money get the benefit of, like the mouse and the bird that got killed after doing some bhakti, i.e. ascend to the spiritual sky?

Another pressing issue is, how they can get bhakti at the last moment of life, if they did not have it in the rest of

Answer: The difference between money given for books and the stories of Bhakti-sandarbha is that the stories are illustaration of svarupa siddha bhakti. The other is only an act of book purchase. That is not an act of devotion on the part of purchaser. The benefit may be only because of having the spiritual book in the house.

Regarding the second question, these people did not get bhakti directly but had another birth. For example the mouse became a queen in the next life. As a queen she was very fond of offering ghee lamps in Vishnu’s temple, especialy arranging the sahasradeep – thousand lamp ceremony – , which is still popular in South Indian temples. After giving up the queen body, she went to Vaikuntha. In case of Ajamila also, after meeting the Visnudutas he went to Haridvara where he engaged in  Nama Japa.