The Garuda Purana
Chapter CCXXXVI - Vishnu Bhakti
Suta said:—Now I shall discourse on Vishnu-Bhakti (loving devotion to Vishnu) by means of which a man obtains all that he desires. Nothing is more pleasing to Hari than devotion. Contemplation of the god, Hari is the only palatable fruit of human life, the progenitor of supreme bliss, and the root of the increase of one’s animals and progeny. The term Bhakti (devotion) is derived from the root Bhaj to serve; hence the wise shall serve the god, as service strengthens devotion to his Self. The devotees of the lord of the universe weep and shed tears at the time of singing his name and glory, and the hairs of their bodies stand on their roots at the time. Verily they are the real Vaishnavas, the loving servants of God for all eternity, who devote their lives to the daily excution of his divine commands. He, who even without knowing the Pranava, or. the commands of God (without any knowledge of religion or theological works), bows down before His all pervading presence, and humbly offers Him the homage of love and and affection, is a true Vaishnava. He, whose love overflows to the servants of god. he who readily approves of His worship, he whose highest joy is in listening to discourses on His love and goodness, he whose voice trembles and eyes look moist at hearing of His all-abiding love; he who has devoted his whole self to the all-pervading divinity and looks upon a Brahmana as His prototype, is a superb servant of of God (Maha Bhagavata). He, who daily worships Vishnu, and offers him cooked rice, every day, in a spirit of true humility, is a Bhagavata. There are eight forms of devotion, and even a Mlechcha may be a true devotee of God. A truly god loving Mlechchha, a true devotee, is the foremost of Brahmanas; he is a Muni (holy sage), a seer, and is an heir to the hghest bliss. To him should be given, from him should be taken (food), he is adorable as the God Himself. O thou foremost of Brahmanas, a true, god-loving, devotional Chandala, a true servant of god, remembered, spoken to, or adored by a Brahmana, sanctifies him to any extent he pleases. To say “I am thine” to one who seeks protection, or to one who is oppressed or tyranised, and to say “dread not” to all creatures are the vows sacred to Hari. An expert in the Vedanta is greater than a thousand reciters of Mantras, a devotee of the all-pervading God is greater than a million of such Vedantins. By dint of an unswerving and all-absorbing faith and devotion men attain to the region of highest bliss. It is for this oneness of purpose that god, though impartial and equally kind to all, is lovingly fond of these persons. Hence these devoted servants of God are called Ekantins (single-purposed ones). He, whose devotion remains unflinching even in moments of peril, is the most favourite, among the favoured ones, with the god of gods. May that kind of pleasure which the ignorant find in the things of the world, be mine on divine contemplation, and may a pleasure of similar intensity not leave my heart, when I meditate upon the Self of the all-pervading one (Vishnu). A reader of all the Vedas, a knower of all the philosophies is but the worst of fools, if he is not devoted to Vishnu. He, who has faith in Him and is devoted to His service, has practised all pieties, even without studying the Vedas or celebrating any religious sacrifice.
The foremost of the holy sages do not attain to that elevated status by the study of all the Vedas, or by celebrating the most meritorious of religious sacrifices, as they do through the merit of simple faith in, and unflinching devotion to, Vishnu. Even a man, who is not true to the duties of his social order, or misbehaves himself, if he becomes a Vaishnava, purifies all the regions, like the full-risen, thousand-rayed sun. Even miscreants, who are addicted to vice and wicked acts, come by the highest bliss, if they become devoted to Vishnu. Pleasures of celestial life appear insignificant and inglorious to one, who has a strong and loving faith in Janardana, inasmuch as such a faith is but the precursor to one’s emancipation (Mukti). To persons, who wander about in this dreadful valley of life, where each act spins out a new destiny for man, the only thing, which can be easily caught hold of with the hand, is the faith-appeased Janardana. He, who does not hear of the glories of the discus-wielding deity, is really deaf and is a spiritual outcast. He, whose bodily hairs do not stand On their roots in ecstacy while engaged in singing the psalms of Janardana, is indeed a carcase. O thou foremost of the twice-born ones, what wonder that sins of a man will be extinguished by contemplating Vishnu, when by such a contemplation he comes by emancipation. Yama, the lord of death, seeing his emissaries ready to bind the Souls of Vaishnavas with their nooses, says to them: “Leave them alone, O my emissaries, I have power over all men except those who are devoted to Vishnu.” Even if the worst of miscreants worships him (Vishnu) alone in exclusion of all other deities, he should be regarded as a holy person. O thou foremost of Brahmanas, one, who is devoted to Vishnu, soon becomes holy and comes by the highest bliss; a devote of Vishnu never perisheth. What does he care for (fruits of) virtue or (objects of) desire and opulence whose mind is absorbed in the root-cause of the universe (Vishnu)? His Salvation is in his own hands. Verily insurmountable is the Nescience or illusion (Maya) of Vishnu, which is composed of the three qualities (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas); he, who is fondly devoted to him, alone sails across this occean of phenomena. Of what good is the celebration of a religious sacrifice to a man, who performs, every moment, the sacrifice of (contemplates) Hari? It is faith and devotion alone by which a man can attain to Vishnu and by no other means. Neither the various forms of gifts, offered in due form and to worthy recipients, nor the offerings of flowers and scents unto the god, so much lead to his satisfaction, as the homage of heart-felt love and devotion to him. This poison-tree of worldliness bears two ambrosial fruits, one is the service of the Lord and the other is the company of His servants. Inspite of so many easily available offerings to god, such as water, flowers, fruits and vegetable leaves, why should not a man strive for the emancipation of his self by placing absolute confidence in the oldest of Beings, who is attainable through love and faith? Ancestors rebound in joy, and grand-fathers dance in delight (in consideration of the fact that) “a Vaishnava is born in our line and he will succour us all.” The ignorant and proud souls, like Shishupala and Suyodhana, who abused and looked down upon the foremost of the celestials, obtained their emancipation by once thinking of him and were absolved of all sin; what wonder is there that men, who are fondly devoted to him, will be liberated from the trammels of rebirth? Even they, who, devoid of contempla tion and communion, are fondly devoted to him, shall overcome death and attain to the blissful region of Vishnu- Control, O Madhava, the horse of my mind, who, lashed with the stripes of worldly misery, madly dashes out in the path which is seen through the apertures of my cognitive organs (path of passion), by restraining them with, and fastening them to, thy conch-like white feet. Vishnu is same as the supreme Brahma, this is the conclusion which the Vedanta has arrived at with the help of incontrovertable proofs (argument). This is what the ignorant do not know. He, in whose heart dwells that eternal Purusha, becomes a favourite with the whole universe. His whole heart, filled with the honey of the love of the world, conveys its message of love back to it.