The Bhagavata Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 780,972 words | ISBN-10: 8120838203 | ISBN-13: 9788120838208

This page describes The Yoga of Active Service which is chapter 27 of the English translation of the Bhagavata Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas containing roughly 18,000 metrical verses. Topics include ancient Indian history, religion, philosophy, geography, mythology, etc. The text has been interpreted by various schools of philosophy. This is the twenty-seventh chapter of the Eleventh Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 27 - The Yoga of Active Service

Uddhava said:

1. Be pleased to explain to me the Yoga of active service (Kriyā-Yoga) consisting of the propitiation of your worship, O Lord I What type of votaries worship you? With what motive do they propitiate you? What is the procedure of their worship, O Lord of Sāttvatas.

2. Sages like Nārada, the worshipful Vyāsa and Bṛhaspati, the son of Aṅgiras, the preceptor (of gods), have repeatedly asserted that this course is conducive to the Final Beatitude to men.

3. The teaching that was issued from your lotus-mouth was the same which the glorious unborn god Brahmā communicated to his sons of whom Bhṛgu was the chief, and also what god Śiva imparted to his divine consort Pārvatī,

4. That teaching is approved as meritorious to persons belonging to all castes (Varṇas) and stages in life (Āśramas) I believe it is the best course conducive to emancipation from Saṃsāra even for women and Śūdras.

5. O Lord with eyes like lotus-petals! Be pleased to elucidate that course which unties the bondage of Karma (permanently) to me who am your beloved devotee, O Lord of the masters of this universe (the Trinity of gods—Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Rudra).

The Lord replied:

6. Limitless is the Karma-kāṇḍa (as courses and practices of ritualistic worship of the Lord are infinite). I shall, however, describe that to you succinctly and in proper sequence.

7. My worship is threefold—Vedic, Tantric and a synthesis of these two. But of these three modes, one should offer me worship according to the method of his choice (and suitability).

8. Learn from me the method how a person, having attained the status of a twice-born when he is invested with a sacred thread according to the injunctions laid down in the Vedas, should worship me, with faith and devotion.

9. With sincere devotion and without any fraudulent motive (of expecting some fruit or ulterior objective in return), a person should worship me, the preceptor (or the father of world) with the articles of worship (by offering these to me) through the medium of an image or an altar of a sacrifice or the fire or the Sun or the waters or (image enthroned in) his heart or of a Brāhmaṇa.

10. For bodily cleanliness, he should first brush his teeth and take his bath. While bathing he should use earth (and other materials) for washing, muttering all the while Vedic and Tāntric mantras (sacred formulae).

11. After the performance of the Twilight prayer (Sandhyā, Brahmayajña, etc.) and other duties which have been enjoined by me through the Veda, he should, with a pure, solemn determination (of propitiating me) perform my worship which sanctifies (i.e. relieves one from the bondage of) karmas.

12. An image is said to be of eight kinds: It may be made of stone or of wood or of metals (like gold, silver, etc.) or of earth or of sandal paste or may be a painting (on the wall) or of sand or a mental image or made of a precious stone.

13. An image which is the shrine of the Lord, is of two kinds—movable (e.g. a Śālagrāma pebble) or immovable. While adoring an immovable image, āvāhana (invoking the presence of the deity) and udvāsa (or visarjana, a farewell to the deity) are not necessary, O Uddhava.

14. In worshipping a movable image, one can exercise a choice whether invoking and evoking of the deity in the image should be done. But in the case of an altar of sacrifice both must be done. If the image be not of earth (or sandalpaste) or a painted picture, it may be bathed, but in the case of other material, it should be sprinkled with water.

15. My worship through the medium of images should be performed with excellent articles. But a sincere (guileless) devotee may worship me with whatever articles are available to him. In the case of worshipping me in the mind, it should be done with articles created by the mind with utmost devotion.

16. Bathing and decorating an image pleases me the most, O Uddhava. In the case of an altar, invocation of the specific deities at their respective places by means of mantras is desirable (or placement of twenty-five Tattvas—categories or principles by uttering twenty-five letters from ka to ma). In the case of sacred fire, oblations with ghee be offered.

17. In the Sun-god, worship with Arghya (respectful offering of water and other articles of reception) and prayers is the most pleasing to me; and in water, with libations of water and flower, etc. Even if mere water is offered with faith and devotion by my votary, it gives me the highest pleasure.

18. What need be said if sandal-paste, incense, flowers, lamp, food, etc. are presented to me as offerings. On the contrary, even if rich gifts in abundance be offered to me, by a non-devotee, it does not contribute to my pleasure and joy.

19. Purifying oneself (by taking a bath) and collecting together all the requisite articles of worship, seated on a seat of Darbha-grass with the Darbha’s pointing to the cast, one should face the East or the North or face the image of the god, if it was immovable.

20. Consecrating his person by Nyāsa (which consists of assignment of the various parts of the body to different deities accompanied with prayers and corresponding gesticulations) and the respective parts of the image, he should touch

it with his hand and clean it (by removing sandal-paste, flowers etc. of the previous worship) and should also duly consecrate the pitcher (kalaśa) containing water for bathing the deity and other vessels for sprinkling water.

21. He should sprinkle that consecrated water from the Kalaśa) and sanctify the shrine of the deity, the articles of worship and one’s own person and also fill the three vessels with water and articles of worship[1].

22. The worshipper should consecrate the three vessels containing water for washing the feet (pādya), hands (Arghya) and sipping (Ācamana) of the deity, with the Mantras[2] called Hṛdaya (heart), śīrṣan (head) and śikhā (Tuft of hair on the head) respectively, and then pronounce the Gāyatrī Mantra[3] over them all.

23. One should contemplate on my transcendental atomic (subtle) aṃśa (part) of Paramātman which abides in the ‘Lotus’ of the heart in one’s body, which is dried up by the (gastric) wind, and parched up with fire at the Ādhāra cakra (a spiritual nerve-plexus presumed to be located at the navel), but revived by the sprinkling of nectar issuing from the moon located in the forehead. It is beyond the ‘un-struck’ (spiritual) sound (anāhata nāda) which is the fifth part of Praṇava (the remaining four being A, U, M, Bindu or nasal sound) and it is meditated upon by Siddhas (who have attained spiritual perfection).

24. When his own body is permeated by that divine particle (aṃśa) or contemplated as his ātman (like a house illumined by the light emanated from a lamp, the worshipper should be (himself) full of my presence and invoke me and worship me with mentally created articles. He should then invoke my presence in the image (to be worshipped), perform the Nyāsa (assigning the various syllables of the Mantras to the part of its body) and then adore me that way.

25-26. After constructing mentally a throne[4] (seat) for me, and with the nine powers[5] attending upon it, he should conceive that there is (on the seat-cover designed over it) a shining lotus of eight petals beautified with a pericarp and filaments. With a view to secure success here and emancipation from saṃsāra hereafter, he should, according to Vedic and Tāntric procedure of worship, offer me water for washing feet (pādya), washing hands and rinsing the mouth.

27. He should duly worship in the serial order the discus the Sudarśana, the conch Pāñcajanya, the mace Kaumodakī, the sword Nandaka, the bow Śārṅga as well as the arms of Saṅkarṣaṇa, viz. the plough and the pestle, in the eight quarters and the Kaustubha gem, the Vaijayantī garland and the śrīvalsa mark (all the three on the chest of the Lord in their respective places).

28. Similarly, he should worship the eight attendants (Pārṣads) of the Lord, viz. Nanda, Sunanda, Pracaṇḍa, Caṇḍa as well as Mahābala, Bala, Kumuda and Kumudekṣaṇa, standing around the Lord in eight directions and Garuḍa facing Him in front.

29. He should also adore by the usual offering of water to wash hand, etc., Durgā, Vināyaka, the sage Vyāsa and Vīṣvaksena [Viṣvaksena?] (all these surrounding the Lord in the four corners). His own spiritual guide (standing to the left of the God), and the guardian deities of the eight quarters, each in his respective position, all of them facing the Lord.

30. If he can. financially afford to do so, he should every day give me (and my attendants) bath with water fragrant with sandal paste, Uśīra (a fragrant root of the plant Andropogon muricatus), camphor, saffron and aloe-wood chanting all the while Mantras during the bath.

31. He should chant (while bathing the deity) the svarṇagharmānuvāka (the section of the Taittarīya Āraṇyaka beginning with the mantra: suvarṇaṃ gharmaṃ pariveda venam (T. A. 3. the Mahāpuruṣa Vidyā[6], the Puruṣa sūkta (Ṛg Veda Saṃhitā. X.90) and texts of the Sāmaveda known as Rājan-sāma[7] (and Rauhiṇa sāma).

32. My votary should lovingly decorate me appropriately with clothes, sacred thread, ornaments, decorative drawings on my body (on cheeks, chest, etc.), garlands of Tulasī leaves and sandal pigments.

33. My worshipper should offer to me with faith and reverence various articles (of worship) such as water for washing feet and rinsing the mouth (for sipping), sandal-paste, flowers, Akṣatas (grains of unbroken rice), scented fumes, light and articles of food.

34. If he can afford it financially, sugar and milk preparations, ghee and butter, cakes) pastes and sweet-meats, porridge made of wheat flour with ghee and raw sugar, curds and soup of pulses should be offered to me.

35. Every day or (if that is not possible due to financial stringency) at least on holy days (like the eleventh day both in the bright and dark half of the month, etc.) or in the birthday celebrations of the incarnations of God, perfumed oil, paste of saffron and camphor (for massaging my body), a mirror (to show me my reflection), tooth brush for cleansing the teeth, bathing with pañcāmṛtas or five articles like milk, curds, ghee, honey and sugar, to be finally washed clean with, pure fresh water), sweet food for eating should be offered to me and music and dance should be presented on these days.

36. (To those who wish a higher type of fruit, worship of sacrificial fire is recommended as. follows: A sacrificial receptacle sufficiently hollow in the middle prepared as per prescribed rules, in the earth along with three zone-like constructions and platforms around it be prepared and fire be deposited in it and when sufficiently kindled, he should collect it with his hand.

37-38. After spreading the Kuśa grass on all sides (as per usual procedure), he should sprinkle water on all the four sides of the receptacle of fire and after performing the procedure of Anvādhāna (depositing fuel[8] and other things in the sacred fire), the worshipper should contemplate me in the fire, as being brilliant in complexion like red-hot molten gold, with four beautiful arms equipped with a conch, a discus, a mace and a lotus, gracious and serene in appearance, clad in raiments of golden colour like pollens of a lotus flower.

39. (He should contemplate me as) adorned with a lustrous crown, with bracelets and a girdle and excellent armlets; with śrīvatsa mark on the chest, and shining Kaustubha gem (round the neck), and a garland of forest flowers (Vanamālā)

40. Having contemplated me (as such), he should offer the sacrificial sticks soaked in ghee into the fire. He should then pour into the fire two offerings of ghee specifically called Āghāra[9] and ājyabhāga[10] and should offer other oblations soaked in ghee.

41. A wise person (knower of these technicalities) should pour the offerings into the fire, uttering the fundamental Mantra.[11] (Om namo Nārāyaṇāya) and some portion of the oblations with each of the sixteen verses of puruṣa sūkta. He should then give oblations (through the sacrificial fire) to Dharma and other gods according to the sequence given above (vide verse 25 above), uttering the name of the deity (in the Dative case and adding the word Svāhā every time. Finally, at the end of the sacrifice a thanks-giving oblation to fire with the Mantra Agnaye sviṣṭakṛte svāhā is to be offered.

42. Having worshipped me and paying me obeisance, he should offer worship to the attendant deities (Nanda, Sunanda, etc.) muttering all the while the Mūla Mantra (Om namo Nārāyaṇāya) meditating on the Supreme Brahman, viz. Nārāyaṇa.

43. Having offered water for sipping, he should hand over the remnants to viṣvaksena. Then he should offer betel leaves containing spices and aromatic substances making the mouth sweetsmelling. He should conclude by mantra-puṣpa (showering flowers on me).

44. After singing and extolling my excellences, dancing before me, imitating my past līlās (sportive actions), recounting and listening to my stories, he should remain immersed in that blissful state for a while.

45. Eulogizing me by singing various hymns found in ancient texts as well as those in the current language (of the masses), he should lay himself prostrate before me with the prayer, “may you be propitious unto me, O Lord.

46. Placing his head on my feet and clasping them (my feet) by both of his hands (he should pray) “protect me, O Lord. Afraid of the sea of saṃsāra full of alligators in the form of death, I have sought protection in you.”

47. He should then reverentially place on his head some flowers, etc. from my worship as a gracious gift from me. If withdrawing of the spiritual light invoked in the image is necessary, he should contemplate that the divine light in the image, is now withdrawn and merged in the Supreme Light in the lotus of his heart.

48. One may worship me at any time and in any form (image, picture, etc.), in which one entertains devout faith. For being the Soul (Inner Controller) of all I abide in all beings as well as in the Self of the worshipper.

49. He who worships in the manner described above, according to the course of active yoga as taught in the Vedas and the Tantras, receives from me accomplishments of his desired objectives, both here and hereafter.

50. After installing my image, he should get a fine durable temple or shrine built for it; (he should get) beautiful flower-gardens laid out for it, and establish foundations (or endowments) for the regular performance of my daily worship as well as for celebration of festivals and for pilgrimage.

51. He who makes formal grants of lands, markets, villages and towns for the perpetual continuation of my worship etc. every day as well as on specially sacred or festive occasions, attains to that divine state in which he can enjoy lordly blessings similar to mine.

52. By installing rṇy image, one attains the sovereignty of the entire globe (in future); by building a temple or a shrine, he is sure to get dominion over the three worlds; by performing worship and rendering other services, he can attain to the region of god Brahmā. But he who serves me in all the above-mentioned three ways, attains a state of (blissful) equality with me.

53. A person who follows the path of disinterested devotion to me, directly attains to me only. He who worships’ me in the manner described above, is blessed with the Bhakti Yoga (the path of real devotion to me).

54. He who confiscates the endowment founded either by himself or by others for the sake of the deity or Brāhmaṇas, is destined to be born as a feces-eating worm for ten crores of years.

55. Whatever fruit is destined for the actual agent of a deed, awaits also his colleague, his director or the appreciator of it, as all these are the collaborators in that act. And in the next world, everyone of them shares the reward or retribution in proportion to their contribution to that deed.

Footnotes and references:


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā gives the following details. The three vessels with water arc meant for washing the feet (pādya), hands (arghya) and for sipping (ācamanīya) water for the deity. The water for washing the feet of the deity should contain small grains of Śyāmāka rice, blades of Dūrvā grass, lotus flower and a herb called Viṣṇukrānta or Aparājita. The water for washing the hands of the deity should contain the following eight articles: sandalpaste, flowers, unbroken grains of rice (akṣata), of barley, blades of Kuśa grass, sesamum seeds, mustard seeds and blades of Dūrvā grass. The water for sipping or rinsing the deities’ mouth should contain nutmegs, cloves, berries called Kakkola or Kankola. The list is commonly given by all commentators with a few additions. Siddhāntapradīpa states that if any article is wanting- Tulasī leaves should be substituted.


Anvitārthaprakāśikā. gives them as follows:

hṛdā namaḥ, sīrṣṇā svāhā, and śikhāyai vaṣaṭ.


It is as follows:

tat-savitur vareṇyam bhargodevasya dhīmahi dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayā


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā gives the following concept of this seat. It has Dharma or Righteousness, Jñāna or Knowledge, Vairāgya or Renunciation and Aiśvarya or Rulership as its legs in the South-east, South-west, North-west and Northeast corners and the opposites of the above viz. Unrighteousness, Ignorance, Attachment and lack of rulership as its four sides and the three guṇasSattva, Rajas and Tamas as the planks at the base.


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā enumerates the following nine potencies of the Lord, Vimalāpurity, Utkarṣiṇī—exalted state, Jñāna—Knowledge, Kriyā—activity, Yoga—Yogic Supernormal powers, Prahvī—modesty, Satyā—truthfulness Īśānā—Sovereignty and Anugraha—Grace.


It contains the following Mantra:

jitaṃ te puṇḍarīkākṣa namaste viśva-bhāvana /
subrahmaṇya namste'stu mahāpuruṣa-pūrvaja //


It begins thus:

indraṃ naro nemadhitā havante

Ṛg Veda Saṃhitā. 7.27.1a, TS., SV 1.318a

Padaratnāvalī includes the recitation of Viṣṇu Sūkta, Samudra Sūkta, Pavamāna Sūkta in addition to the above.


The sacred fuel and articles to be offered arc to be placed to the north of the fire. They are to be sprinkled with consecrated water taken in a spoon before offering them to the fire.


In this, ghee is to be sprinkled across the sacrificial pit from the north to the south and vice versa, muttering the sacred formulae prajāpataye Svāhā, Indrāya Svāhā.


Offering ghee to the sacrificial fire uttering the sacred formulas Agnaye Svāhā, Somāya Svāhā.


This being the Pāñcarātra Sādhanā, they won’t use the mantra Om Namo Vāsudevāya, though some modern commentators do so.

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