A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 4

Indian Pluralism

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1949 | 186,278 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of the joy of bhakti: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the seventh part in the series called the “the philosophy of jiva gosvami and baladeva vidyabhushana”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Joy in God may be of a twofold nature. By an extension of meaning joy may be that attachment to God which produces the realization of the true conception of God (bhagavad-viṣayānukulyā - tmakas tad-anugata-spṛhā dimayo jñāna-viśeṣas tat-prītiḥ). But there is a more direct experience of joy in God which is directly of an intensely emotional nature; this type of bhakti is also called rati. This is also described as bhakti as love (preman). Just as one is attracted to physical objects by their beauty, apart from any notion of utility, so one may also be attracted by divine beauty and the diverse qualities of God, and fall into intense love with Him. It has already been said above that the joy of God manifests itself in the hearts of His devotees and produces their joyful experience of God. This may be regarded as an active phase of God’s joy as distinguished from His nature as pure joy. God’s joy is said to be of two kinds: His nature as pure joy (svarūpānanda), and His nature in the active phases of the joy of His own powers (svarūpa-śaktyā-nanda). This last is again of two kinds, viz., mānasānanda and aiśvaryānanda, i.e., joy as the active operation of bhakti, and joy in His own majesty[1]. When a devotee is attached to God by a sense of His greatness or majesty, such a state of mind is not regarded as an instance of joy or prīti; but, when the bhakti takes a purely emotional form as the service of God, or as immediately dependent on Him, or as attached to Him through bonds of intense love (like those of a bride for her lover, of a friend for his friend, of a son for his father or of the father for his child), we have bhakti as prīti. Prīti or “joy” manifests itself in its most intense and elevated form when the attraction has all the outward appearance of physical love, and all the well-known exciting factors and modes of enjoyment of that emotion; but, as this emotion is directed towards God and has none of the biological or physiological accompaniments of physical love, it should be sharply distinguished from that love; but it has all the external expressions of erotic love. For this reason it can be properly described only in terms of the inward experience and the outward expressions of erotic love. Joy (prīti) is defined as an emotional experience constituting an inclination and attraction towards its object[2].

In ordinary emotions the objects to which they have reference are worldly objects of sense or ideas associated with them, but in godward emotions God is their only object. Such a joy in God flows easily (svābhāvikī) through God’s grace, and is not the result of great efforts; it is superior to emancipation[3]. This joy may grow so much in intensity that the devotee may forget himself completely and feel himself as one with God; this is technically called mahābhāva[4]. In a general sense bhakti may be said to produce a sense of unique possession (mamatā), and consequently great attachment of heart; this emotion may express itself in various forms. But there is also the other quieter form (śānta) of devotion, in which the devotee feels himself to be of God, but not that God is his, like Sanaka and other devotees of his type[5]. Here also there is a remote sense of God’s possession, i.e., as master—as looking forward for His grace as a master (bhṛtyatva), protector (pālyatva), or as a fond parent (lālyatva). One may also enjoy God in himself, assuming the role of a parent and looking upon God as a dear child; this kind of emotion is called vātsalya. But, as has been said above, the most intense joy in God takes the conjugal form; the difference between eroticism (kāma) and this type of love (rati) is that the former seeks self-satisfaction, while the latter seeks the satisfaction of the beloved God; yearning is the common element in both. These devotees, through their dominant emotion of love, restrict their relation to God solely to His aspect of sweetness (mādhurya), as a great lover. The affection of Rādhā for Kṣrṇa is said to illustrate the highest and intensest form of this love. The Vaiṣṇava writers frequently explain this love in accordance with the analysis of ordinary mundane love current in books of rhetoric (alaṃkāra-śāstra).

In treating of the subject of bhakti it is impossible not to make a short reference to the well known work of Rūpa Gosvāmī, Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. This work is divided into four books, pūrva, dakṣiṇa, paścima, and uttara, and each of these is divided into chapters called laharīs. In writing out the chapters of the Bhakti-sandarbha and the Prīti-sandarbha Jīva Gosvāmī, the nephew of Rūpa, was much indebted to the above work of the latter, on which he had also written a commentary, Durgama-saṅgamana, after the completion of the Bhāgavata-sandarbha. Superior (uttama) bhakti is here defined as the mental state and the associated physical actions for yielding satisfaction to Kṛṣṇa (ānukūlyena kṛṣṇā-nuśīlanam) without any further desire, motive or object of any description; such a bhakti must not be associated with any monistic philosophical wisdom, such as that of extreme monists like Śaṅkara, or the philosophical wisdom of Sāṃkhya, Yoga and other systems, nor with the performance of any obligatory or occasional duties as enjoined in the sṃrti literature[6]. Such a bhakti has six characteristics. First, it destroys sins, their roots and ignorance. Sins are of two kinds, those which are not in a state of fruition (aprārabdha), and those which are (prārabdha); and bhakti removes them both. The roots of sins are evil tendencies of the mind, otherwise called the karmāśayas, and these too are destroyed by bhakti, which, as it is concrete wisdom, also destroys ignorance (avidyā). Secondly, it is described as holy or good (śubhada). Through bhakti one renders happiness to the world and is attached by bonds of friendship and love to all people; as a devotee is a friend of all, all beings are also his friends. Thirdly, a devotee is so much satisfied with his joy in bhakti that emancipation has no attractions for him. Fourthly, the attainment of bhakti is extremely difficult; for even with the utmost effort one may not attain it without the grace of God. Fifthly, the joy of bhakti is infinitely superior to the joy of emancipation through Brahma-knowledge. Sixthly, bhakti overcomes God to such an extent that He is completely drawn to the service of His devotee. Even a little bhakti is superior to much philosophical learning; philosophical and logical discussions lead to no certainty, and the thesis established by an able reasoner may easily be disproved by another who is abler; such logical discussions are only barren and ineffectual for true realization.

Rūpa distinguishes three kinds of bhakti : sādhana, bhāva and preman[7]. The sādhana-bhakti stands for the different means whose adoption enables the mental emotion to emerge in a natural way as bhāva-bhakti (also called sādhya-bhakti). But Rūpa further adds that the natural devotional emotion cannot be produced by any course of conduct or any effort; for bhakti is the highest good and as such is eternal. Nothing that is eternal can be produced; the true devotional emotion therefore cannot be created—it already exists in the heart, and the function of the sādhana-bhakti is merely to manifest it in the heart in the enjoyable form[8]. This sādhana-bhakti is of two kinds, vaidhī and rāgānuga[9]: these have already been described above. One is within the sphere of vaidhī-bhakti only so long as natural attachment to God does not reveal itself within one’s heart. It is said that one who has a logical mind and is well read in the śāstras, and is also a man of firm conviction with a great faith in the Vaiṣṇava religion, is best fitted for vaidhī-bhakti[10]. Desire for worldly happiness or for emancipation is the greatest obstacle to the rise of bhakti. One following the path of bhakti incurs no demerit if he does not perform the obligatory and other duties as enjoined in the Vedas; but he is at fault if he does not perform the true duties of a Vaiṣṇava; but even in such cases a Vaiṣṇava need not perform any expiatory duties; for the mere recital of God’s name is sufficient to remove all his sins. No injunctions of the śāstras have any reference to a devotee. The complete code of moral virtues and many ritualistic duties are counted as preliminary conditions for a person following the path of bhakti[11].

In many undeserving pupils too much learning or indulgence is regarded as a great obstruction of the path of bhakti[12]. A devotee of the vaidhī type should meditate upon the beauty of God and all His qualities and glories, and learn to regard himself as His servant; one of the conditions of meditation upon God as master is to train oneself in dedicating all one’s actions to God. He should also try to generate in himself the firm conviction that God is the greatest friend of His devotees; one should try to look upon God as one’s best friend. The Śāstrīc duties should be performed only so long as there is no real inclination of the mind towards God, to recite His name, to listen to His glories, and to say them with joy. As soon as this stage comes, one is on the path of vaidhī-bhakti and must follow its specific duties, so that it may continually grow into a truly natural and irresistible emotion. Here begins the stage of sādhya-bhakti with bhāva. Even before we come to this there is another stage of sādhana-bhakti, the rāgānuga. It is only when one transcends this stage that one can come to a still higher stage of the sādhya-bhakti with its successive developments. Rāgānuga-bhakti is said to be an imitation of the rāgātmikā[13]. The rāgātmikā-bhakti is the bhakti as natural attachment; rāga means “attachment”.

This rāgātmikā-bhakti may be of the type of erotic emotion (kāma) or the assumption of other relationships[14], such as friendship, parenthood, etc. The rāgānuga-bhakti is that where there is no natural attachment, but where there is an effort to imitate the forms of natural emotional attachment, and it may be associated with the diverse steps taken for the furtherance of vaidhī-bhakti. The distinction of prema (spiritual love) and kāma has already been explained above. Though kāma is often used in connection with the intoxicating love of God, yet it is used in the sense of prema[15]. The rāgānuga-bhakti thus following the two kinds of subdivision of rāgātmikā-bhakti is itself also of two kinds, kāmānuga and sambandhānuga.

From the second stage of sādhana-bhakti as rāgānuga we come to the stage of bhāva-bhakti, which also evolves itself into ever more intense forms until it reaches the stage of mahā-bhāva already described. It is regarded as the manifestation of the pure transcendent sattva (the blissful nature of God). Bhakti has already been defined as behaviour that is intended to please God and which has no further object or end in view; as such it would involve some kind of effort (ceṣṭā-rūpa) on the part of the devotee. But here the meaning is modified to denote only the emotional condition of mind, including physiological and physical changes produced in the body by it, and as roused by emotive conditions such as the object of love, excitants of love, the feeding emotions, external manifestation determining and increasing the original dominant emotion[16]. The first stage of natural attachment to God as love is called bhāva and is associated with slight physiological effects like shedding tears or the rising of the hair on the body and the like[17]. This emotion is of a transcendental nature and of the nature of the power of God, involving consciousness and bliss; therefore it is on the one hand self-revealing (svaprakāśa) and self-enjoying, and on the other hand it reveals the nature of God, whose power it is, and to whom it refers. Being a power of God it appears in the mental states of the devotee, becomes identified with them, and manifests itself in identity with them. Bhakti, as it appears in the devotee, is thus an identity of the transcendent and the phenomenal, and reveals the dual function of enjoying the sweetness of the nature of God and the self-revealing sweet enjoyable nature of its own. It is thus cognitive with reference to its object, and involves a dual enjoyment of God’s sweet nature as well as the sweet nature of bhakti itself. It is the root of all rati (or enjoyment) and is therefore also called rati[18]. An inferior amount of it is generally common to all, but the superior appearance which continues to grow is rare and comes only through the grace of God or His devotees. So even in the vaidhī and the rāgānuga also there is, no doubt, some amount of bhāva of the inferior type. The natural attachment to God of the superior type which arises without going through the ordinary prescribed path of bhakti (the sādhana-bhakti), is generally due to the grace of God.

In the first stage of the bhāva-bhakti the devotee manifests in himself a nature which remains absolutely unperturbed, even though there may be causes of perturbation; he always spends his time in reciting God’s name with strong emotion; he is unattached to sense-objects, and, though great, he is always extremely humble, and has always the strong conviction of attaining the ultimate realization of God. He is also always extremely anxious to attain his end and always finds pleasure in the name of God[19]. The internal characteristic of bhāva, as rati, is extreme smoothness and liquidity of heart, but, wherever such a state is associated with other desires, even be it of emancipation, it should not be regarded as signifying the true state, and is called ratyābhāsa; for this is a state of absolute self-contentment, and it cannot be associated with any other desire of any kind.

When bhāva deepens, it is called prema\ it is associated with a sense of possession in God and absolute detachment from all other things. This may rise from a direct development of bhāva, or through the immediate grace of God; it may be associated with a notion of the greatness of God or may manifest itself merely as an enjoyment of the sweetness of God. The development of bhakti depends on a special temperament derived in this life as a result of previous good deeds, and also on the efforts of this life. There is an elaborate description of the various characteristics of different kinds of joyous emotion with reference to God, and the various kinds of relationships on the assumption of which these may grow, but these can hardly be treated here.

Rūpa Gosvāmī wrote another work, Saṃkṣepa-Bhāgavatāmṛta which is a well recognized book in the Vaiṣṇava circle. It has at least two commentaries, one by Jīva Gosvāmī, and another, a later one, by Bṛndāvana Candra Tarkālaṅkāra; the latter was the pupil of Rādhācaraṇa Kavīndra. In this book Rūpa describes the various types of God’s incarnation in accordance with the testimony of the Purāṇas : Kṛṣṇa is, of course, regarded as the highest God. His elder brother Sanātana also wrote a work, Bṛhad-bhāgavatā-mṛta, with a commentary on it, the Dig-darśana, in which he narrates the episodes of certain devotees in quest of God and their experiences.

Footnotes and references:


Ibid. p. 722


tatra ullāsātmako jñāna-viśeṣaḥ sukham; tathā viṣayānukūlyātmakas tad-ānukūlyānugata-tat-spṛhā-tad-anubhava-hetukollāsa-maya -jñāna-viśeṣa-priyatā.
p. 718.


The yearning implied in bhakti is almost a distressing impulse and is not only erotic in type. Thus it is said:

ajāta-pakṣā iva mātaraṃ khagāḥ
stanyaṃ yathā vatsatarāḥ kṣudhārtāḥ
priyaṃ priyeva vyuṣitaṃ viṣaṇṇo
mano’ravindākṣa didṛkṣate tvāṃ.
p. 726.

Two stages are sometimes distinguished according to the intensity of the development of joy, viz., udaya, īṣad-udgama ; the latter has again two stages. The culminating stage is called prakaṭodayāvasthā.


Ṣaṭ-satidarbha, p. 732. There occurs here a quotation from Ujjvala-nīla-maṇi to illustrate the situation:

rādhāyā bhavataśca citta-jatunī svedair vilāpya krnmād
yuñjann adri-nikunja-kuñjara-pater nirdhūta-bheda-bhramam
citrāya svayam anvaranjayad iha brahmāṇḍa-harmyodare
bhūyobhir nava-rāga-hiṅgula-phalaiḥ śṛngāra-cāruḥ kṛtiḥ.


saty api bhedāpagame nātha tavāhaṃ na māmakīnas tvaṃ samudro hi taraṅgaḥ kvacana samudro na tāraṅgaḥ.
p. 735.

harer guṇā dvividhāḥ bhakta-citta-saṃskāra-hetavas tadabhimāna-viśeṣya-hetavas’cānye ...
      (p. 733).

jñāna-bhaktir bhaktir vātsalyam maitrī kānta-bhāvaśca
      (p. 738).

Though all these different varieties of bhakti are mentioned, it is admitted that various other forms may arise from these simply by their mutual mixture in various degrees.


anyābhilāsitā-śūnyaṃ jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam
ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānuśīlanaṃ bhaktir uttamā.
      Bhakti-rasāṃrta-sindhu, I. i. 9.


Ibid. I. 2. 1: sā bhaktiḥ sādhanaṃ bhāvaḥ premā ceti tridhoditā.

In commenting upon this passage Jīva Gosvāmī says that bhakti is of two kinds, sādhana and sādhya; of these the second is of pure emotionalism and consists of five varieties: bhāva, prema, praṇaya, sneha and rāga. The author of Ujjvala-nīla-maṇi adds three more, māna, anurāga and mahā-bhāva. Rūpa has not mentioned these last because they are but variant forms of prema.


kṛti-sādhyā bhavet sādhya-bhāvā sā sādhanābhidhā
nitya-siddhasya bhāvasya prākaṭyaṃ hṛdi sādhyatā.
, I. 2. 2.


Ibid. I. 2. 4.


śāstre yuktau ca nipuṇaḥ sarvathā dṛḍha-niścayaḥ
prauḍha-śraddho’dhikārī yaḥ sa bhaktāvuttamaḥ mataḥ.
I. 2. 11.


Ibid. I. 2. 42, etc.


na śiṣyān anubadhnīta granthān naivābhyased bahūn
na vyākhyām upayuñjīta nārambhān ārabhet kvacit.
I. 2. 52.


virājantīm abhivyaktāṃ vraja-vāsi-janādiṣu
rāgātmikām anusṛtā yā sā rāgānugocyate.
I. 2. 131.


It is said that in the case of natural attachment, even when it takes the form of an inimical relationship to God, it is superior to any type of vaidhī-bhakti where there is no such natural attachment.

Thus it is said in Jīva’s Durgama-saṅgamana, 1. 2. 135:

yathā vairānubandhena martyas tanmayatām iyāt na tathā bhakti-yogena iti me niścitā matiḥ tad api rāgamaya-kāmādy-apekṣayā vidhima-yasya cittāveśa-hetutve’tyanta-nyūnatvam iti vyañjanārtham eva. yeṣu bhāva-mayeṣu nindito’pi vairānubandho vidhimaya-bhakti-yogāc chreṣṭhāh.

The natural feeling of enmity towards God can be regarded as bhāvātmikā (or emotional) but not as rāgātmikā. It cannot also be regarded as bhakti, for there is no desire here to please God; it therefore stands on a separate basis; it is inferior to rāgātmikā-bhakti but superior to vaidhī-bhakti.


premaiva gopa-rāmāṇāṃ kāma ityagamat prathām.
      Ibid. I. 2. 142, 143.


śarīrendriya-vargasya vikārāṇāṃ vidhāyikāḥ
bhāva-vibhāva-janitāś citta-vṛttayaḥ īritāḥ.
, I. 3. 1.


premnas tu prathamāvasthā bhāva ity abhidhīyate
sāttvikāḥ svalpa-mātrāḥ syuryatrāśru-pulakādayaḥ.
I. 3. 3.


asau śuddha-sattva-viśeṣarūpa-rati-mūla-rūpatvena mukhya-vṛttyā tacchabda-vācyā sā ratiḥ śrī-kṛṣṇādi-sarva-prakāśakatvena hetunā svayaṃ-prakāśa-rūpā’pi prapañcika-tat-priya jananaṃ mano-vṛttau āvir-bhūya tat-tādātmyaṃ vrajantī tad-vṛttyā prakāśyavad bhāṣamānō brahmnvat tasyāḥ sphurantī, tathā svasatkṛtena purvottarāvasthābhyām kāraṇa-kāryya-rūpeṇa śrī-bhagavadādi-mādhuryyānubhavena svāṃśena svāda-rūpā’pi yāni kṛṣṇādirūpāṃ teṣām āsvādasya hetutāṃ saṃviduṃśena sādhakatamatāṃ pratipadyate hlādinyaṃśe tu svayaṃ hlādayantī tiṣṭḥati.
      Durgama-saṅgamana, I. 3. 4.


Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, I. 3. 11-16.

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