Narada Bhakti Sutra-01

Narada Bhakti Sutra-01

अथातो भक्तिं व्याख्यास्यामः ।
Now, therefore, we will explain devotion.

  • The word अथ (atha) indicates the commencement of the discourse and implies that the subject matter is important and auspicious.
  • The word अतः (atah) means “therefore” and suggests that the discourse is based on some previous authority or reasoning.
  • The word भक्तिं (bhaktim) is the accusative case of भक्ति (bhakti), which means “devotion, love, or attachment” to God or the Supreme Self.
  • The word व्याख्यास्यामः (vyakhyasyamah) is the first person plural future tense of व्याख्या (vyakhya), which means “to explain, expound, or elucidate”.

The first verse of the Narada Bhakti Sutra sets the stage for the entire text, introducing the central theme of bhakti as the path to spiritual realization. The word “atha” signifies a new beginning, and “atah” indicates a connection to what has come before. Here, it can be interpreted as both an invocation for a smooth explanation and a recognition of bhakti’s significance within the larger spiritual context.

“Bhakti” is often translated as devotion, but it encompasses a range of emotions and practices directed towards a divine being. It includes surrender, selfless love, and a constant yearning for communion with the divine.

After having developed all the qualifications necessary for the practice of devotion (atha), the student feels no spiritual satisfaction, and therefore (ataḥ), he must now diligently walk the path of devotion.

According to Rāmānuja, the teacher of viśiṣṭādvaita, there are seven qualifications necessary in a seeker who plans to pursue devotion. They are:

(1) Discrimination in food (viveka),

(2) Freedom from desire (vimukha),

(3) Practice (abhyāsa),

(4) Habit of doing good to others (kriyā),

(5) Purity in thought, word and deed, non-violence, charity, and such other virtues (kalyāṇa),

(6) Cheerfulness (anavasāda), and

(7) Absence of excessive hilariousness (anuddharṣa).

In the Gītā while discussing Bhakti-Yoga, Kṛṣṇa enumerates in five waves what are the perfections, unavoidable for a true devotee of the Lord. Thus, here, the term ‘thereafter’ (ataḥ) should be taken to mean ‘after having developed at least to an extent, all the virtues enumerated by Lord Kṛṣṇa in the Gītā.’

The whole sentence conveys the intention of the author to present a systematic and authoritative exposition of the nature and practice of devotion, which is the highest means of attaining liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

Similar Vedic Verses:

Rigveda 10.161.2:

यस्य देवा परा भक्तिर्यथा देवे तथा गुरौ ।
तस्यैते कथिता ह्यर्थाः प्रकाशन्ते महात्मनः ॥

He who has supreme devotion to the gods, as well as to the Guru, To him alone these truths are revealed, for he is a great soul.

This verse praises the quality of devotion as the key to the realization of the Vedic truths.

  • The word देवा (deva) means “gods, divine beings, or shining ones” and refers to the various aspects of the one Supreme Reality that manifest in the cosmos.
  • The word गुरौ (gurau) is the locative case of गुरु (guru), which means “teacher, preceptor, or spiritual guide”.
  • The word अर्थाः (arthah) means “meanings, purposes, or objects” and refers to the teachings of the Vedas that reveal the Ultimate Goal of life.
  • The word प्रकाशन्ते (prakashante) is the third person plural present tense of प्रकाश (prakasha), which means “to shine, illuminate, or manifest”.
  • The word महात्मनः (mahatmanah) is the genitive case of महात्मा (mahatma), which means “great soul, noble person, or one who has Realized the Supreme Self”.

The whole verse implies that devotion to the gods and the Guru is essential for the aspirant who seeks to know the truth of the Vedas, and that such devotion leads to the revelation of the Vedic wisdom within the heart of the seeker.

Yogavashishta 6.2.1:

अथ वासिष्ठ उवाच ।
भक्तिरेव गरीयसी भक्तिरेव गरीयसी ।
भक्तिः परमया सिद्धिः भक्तिरेव परं गतिः ॥

Then Vasistha said:
Devotion alone is the greatest; devotion alone is the greatest. Devotion is the Supreme perfection, devotion alone is the Highest Goal.

This verse extols the supremacy of devotion as the ultimate means and end of spiritual attainment.

  • The word भक्तिः (bhaktih) is the nominative case of भक्ति (bhakti), which means “devotion, love, or attachment” to God or the Supreme Self.
  • The word गरीयसी (gariyasi) is the feminine singular superlative of गुरु (Guru), which means “heavy, weighty, or important”.
  • The word परमया (paramaya) is the feminine singular instrumental of परम (parama), which means “Highest, Supreme, or Ultimate”.
  • The word सिद्धिः (siddhih) means “accomplishment, perfection, or success” and refers to the attainment of the Highest State of Consciousness.
  • The word परं (param) is the neuter singular accusative of परम (parama), which means “Highest, Supreme, or Ultimate”.
  • The word गतिः (gatih) means “going, movement, or goal” and refers to the final destination of the soul.

The whole verse asserts that devotion is the most excellent, most effective, and most desirable way of reaching the Supreme State of Realization.

Bhagavad Gita 9.34:

मन्मना भव मद्भक्तो मद्याजी मां नमस्कुरु ।
मामेवैष्यसि सत्यं ते प्रतिजाने प्रियोऽसि मे ॥

Fix your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, worship Me, bow down to Me. You will surely come to Me, I promise you, for you are dear to Me.

  • The word मन्मना (manmana) is the vocative case of मन्मन (manman), which means “one whose mind is fixed on Me” and is derived from मन् (man), which means “mind”, and मन् (man), which means “Me”.
  • The word मद्भक्तो (madbhakto) is the vocative case of मद्भक्त (madbhakta), which means “one who is devoted to Me” and is derived from मत् (mat), which means “Me”, and भक्त (bhakta), which means “devotee”.
  • The word मद्याजी (madyaji) is the vocative case of मद्याजि (madyaji), which means “one who worships Me” and is derived from मत् (mat), which means “Me”, and याजि (yaji), which means “worshipper”.
  • The word मां (mam) is the accusative case of मत् (mat), which means “Me”.
  • The word नमस्कुरु (namaskuru) is the imperative singular of नमस्कृ (namaskr), which means “to bow down, salute, or pay homage”.
  • The word मामेव (mameva) is a compound of माम् (mam), which means “Me”, and एव (eva), which means “only, surely, or indeed”.
  • The word एष्यसि (eshyasi) is the second person singular future tense of इष् (ish), which means “to go, move, or attain”.

This verse is the concluding instruction of Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the ninth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, which deals with the most confidential knowledge of the Supreme Secret of devotion.