True Devotion (was Re: Rituals)

Sankaran Kartik Jayanarayanan kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU
Tue Sep 25 12:23:17 CDT 2001

Sadananda wrote:

>>I agree that karma as enjoined by the Vedas alone does not include all
>>obligatory duty. But how does one know what one's obligatory duty is?
>Shree Karthik - I am not an expert in karma-s or rituals. Hence my
>answer is from what I understand based on logic,  nature and purpose
>of all karma-s and nature of bondage and means of liberation.  As
>Shankara rightly points out in his Bhaasya - role of karma -
>including the vedavihita karma - is only to gain the four-fold
>qualifications required for Brahman inquiry.  Cittasya suddhaye
>karma na tu vastuuapa labyaye| - it is meant for purification of the
>mind. If purity of the mind is the central purpose, then the
>response I gave is only from that perspective.  In the discussion of
>the first suutra - adhikaara for Brahman inquiry, sevearal aspects
>of the role of vedavihita karama-s are discussed - please seen my
>notes on the Brahmasuutra  related to suutra 1.
>Veda vihita karam-s are those actions that pertain to pitR^i-s and
>Deva-s.  If one does not understand them - then one should confirm
>to shaastra, it is better to confirm to traditions and culture than
>not to confirm.  If one understands them then one adopts them to
>suitability and availability of things, since one understands the
>purpose correctly.
>The question that was raised  was  since we cannot perform the
>agnihootra etc that are enjoined by Veda and therefore 'is Bhakti' a
>simpler approach than karma in kaliyuga.  Hence my answer was geared
>to this specific question raised by Shree Bharadwaj.

For those in the various stations of life in this world, ONLY karma can be
bhakti. For such people, there is no such thing as "bhakti" divorced from
karma. So the question of "is bhakti a simpler approach than karma" does
not even arise, because one who has bhakti will necessarily perform the
karma that is enjoned upon him.

>Hence what is karma and what is karma yoga and how iiswara comes in
>to the equation and how bhakti manifests even in karmayoga  is what
>I discussed - the whole B.G. is centered on this issue.

This was discussed by H.H. Chandrashekhara Bharati in the book "Dialogues
with the Guru" in the chapter "True Devotion", a small part of which I
shall reproduce here:

True Devotion

Another evening the conversation which was quite general at first
gradually turned on to the subject of bhajana, singing of devotional songs
to the accompaniment of music. A bhakta who belonged to the party in
attendance mentioined that such devotional exercises had an exhilarating
and soothing effect on our wayward minds and that it was pleasing to find
that bhajana parties were being formed in increasing numbers in every town
and village.

H.H.: I am glad to hear this. But I have oeard that at the same time the
observance of our religious rites is steadily going down. Why is it so?

B: It is mainly because the ordinary people lack faith in the efficacy of
religious rites that they resort to bhajana for pleasing God.

H.H: I suppose that many of the persons engaged in bhajana may not care
for or may even neglect their ordinary religious duties like the sandhya

B: Yes. They say that while engaged in bhajana they can give up the
sandhya worship, because bhajana being a higher kind of worship makes
sandhya unnecessary and redundant.

H.H: As a general proposition it is quite true that the greater includes
the less. But how do we know that bhajana is of greater efficacy than
karma in the matter of pleasing God?

B: Bhajana is a direct appeal to God while karma is but an indirect appeal
through the obsevance of rituals.

H.H: I suppose you concede that we have never met God personally.

B: I certainly do.

H.H: You must also concede that we can never of our own acord find out
what will please God and what will not, for we cannot ask him directly no
can He tell us in person.

B: It may be so, but we can easily ascertain it from the shruti, which
embodies his teachings.

H.H: You may also add the smritis, especially the Bhagavad Gita, which
record in no unmistakable terms His mind as divulged to those who have had
the rare fortune to hold direct communion with Him, both in the spirit and
in the flesh.

B: Certainly.

H.H: And what do they teach us?

B: They certainly do not discount bhakti.

H.H: Certainly not. But the question is, what is bhakti? Is it your
bhajana or is it karma?

B: How can karma be bhakti?

H.H: In fact, you will find that karma alone can be bhakti and certainly
not the bhajana, if it is inconsistent with or is divorced from karma.

B: How can that be?

H.H: The Lord tells us quite unambiguously: "Man attains perfection by
worshipping God by performing the karma enjoined for him". He clearly
enunciates here the proposition that the way to worship Him is to perform
one's assigned karma.

B: But such a performance of karma is not the only way in which devotion
can be shown to the Lord.

H.H: It is the only way for those on whom karma is enjoined.

B: Surely a person who spends his time in prayer and contemplation of the
Lord is as much a bhakta as, if not more, than the one who busies himself
with outward rituals.

H.H: Leave again comparing. He will not be a bhakta at all if he chooses
to neglect the karma enjoined on him in favor of mental prayers and

B: Why so?

H.H: Take the ordinary case of a master and his servants. Suppose one of
his servants is always standing before him and singing his praises. The
master may sometimes ask him to fetch something from another room. Suppose
the servant replies, "O Master, I cannot bear the thought of parting from
you even for a moment. I cannot forego even for a moment the pleasure and
privilege of looking at your handsome face. I like to be ever with you and
to praise you by recounting your inestimable qualities. Don't ask me to
leave your presence." Suppose again there is another servant who is always
away from the presence of the master, but is carrying out with scrupulous
care all the commands of the master personally or through his deputies.
Whereever the master turns, he finds that he has been most loyally obeyed
by this servant who nowhere seems to intrude on him. Which do you think is
the more devoted of these two servants and with whom in your opinion, will
the master be pleased more?

B: Certainly the latter.

H.H: Is the father happy with the child who always prefers to sit on his
lap and declines to do anything or with the one who is going out on

H.H: With the latter, I should think.

H.H: Further, can you grant that the servant or the boy, who refuses to
leave the presence of his master or father and does not carry out his
orders, is really devoted at all?

B: Surely disobedience cannot go hand in hand with devotion.

H.H: Quite so. The primary test of devotion in any sphere of life is
obedience, unquestioning and loving obedience, not inquisitive or
grumbling obedience.

B: Certainly.

H.H: "The shruti and smriti are the commands of Myself", says the Lord.
Can you conceive of a devotion to the Lord side by side with a
disobedience of His commands?

B: I now see that bhajana can never be a substitute for karma.

H.H: It can never be.

B: What then is the function of bhajana?

H.H: A servant, when he finds leisure after discharging all his duties,
may certainly stand in the presence of the master, but not when he has got
duties to perform. Similarly a person, who after performing all the karma
enjoined on him still finds leisure, can spend it in prayer or in singing
the praises of the Lord and thus utilise the leisure to the best
advantage. Bhajana is thus intended only for the occassions of leisure in
the midst of karmic duties.

...[some conversation snipped, in the interest of saving time]

H.H: ..if a so-called bhakta prefers to sing to the accompaniment of
enchanting music the praises of the Lord, at the same time ignoring,
neglecting and disregarding His divine commands, can you call him a
"devotee" at all?

B: I fear not.

H.H: Again please consider for a moment that the so-called bhakta has a
conception of the Lord only as a very attractive object intended for his
enjoyment. What can be more absurd than dragging down the All-conscious,
Omnipotent Lord to the level of a toy intended for one's amusements? To
conceive of the Lord as an object of pleasure is sheer profanation, which
should never pass off under the name of devotion. Real devotion lies in
carrying out His dictates implicitly. To disobey Him in action and to
profess allegiance in words is blasphemy. It is not bhakti. By bhakti is
meant single-pointed devotion uniformly expressed in mind, speech and

>What are ones obligatory duties - These depend on what one thinks of
>himself to be.
>If I think I am father - I have fatherly duties.
>If I think I am a son - I have duties of a son.
>If I think I am a student - I have duties of a student.
>If I think I am an employee - I have duties of an employee.
>If I think I am a neighbor - I have duties to my neighbor.
>If I think I am a citizen - I have a duties to my nation
>If I think I am human being - I have a duties as a human being.
>One learns these values from parents, from friends from elders and
>from education.  These are universal and nothing to do with Vedas
>per sec. although Veda-s prescribe additional duties such as
>pitR^ikarma-s etc.  But obligatory duties go beyond these.

What I mean is:
If I think I belong to the Vedic religion - I have to perform my duties
prescribed by the Vedas.



>If I think I am mumukshu - then my role as mumukshu by passes all
>other since this is considered as the supreme - moksha is the
>highest purushaartha. For that only the inquiry of Brahman is needed
>and the four-fold qualifications and yoga shaastra as a means for
>>I understand that performing action in this world by going to the office
>>etc. and working with detachment may lead to purification of the mind,
>>this is certainly not what is commanded by the shastras, and cannot
>>compare with the purification of the mind that is acquired by simply
>>following the scriptural injunctions with devotion.
>Purification of the mind is purification of the mind.  How one
>achieves that is immaterial and that is what Shankara emphasizes in
>the discussion of first suutra.
>I was addressing the question as posed by Shree Bharadwaj in terms
>of superiority of bhakti over karma in kaliyuga.
>Since my knowledge of Veda vihita karma-s are close to zero, I will
>refrain any further discussion of this issue.
>Hari OM!
>>>  >Hi Everyone,
>>>  >
>>>  >I don't know if this kind of question is appropriate for this
>>>list, but I'll
>>>  >ask anyway :)
>>>  >
>>>  >Is there any relevance or benefit in observing rituals such as
Shraadh, or
>>>  >performing Yagnas in this age of Kali? I have heard from some
followers of
>>>  >Bhakti Yoga that the age for which these were prescribed was a
>>>different one
>>>  >and the only way to salvation in the Kali Yuga is Bhakti. They say
>>  > >there are so many things to be done if one follows the way of
>>the Vedas (?
>>>  >I'm not sure if that's the right way to put it) that he is bound to
>>>  >lost. If he undertakes Bhakti, everything is taken care of by the
>>>  >
>>>  >Thanks a lot,
>>>  >Sunny Bhardwaj
>>>  >
>>>  >_________________________________________________________________
>>>  >Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at
>>>  --
>>>  K. Sadananda
>>>  Code 6323
>>>  Naval Research Laboratory
>>>  Washington D.C. 20375
>>>  Voice (202)767-2117
>>>  Fax:(202)767-2623
>K. Sadananda
>Code 6323
>Naval Research Laboratory
>Washington D.C. 20375
>Voice (202)767-2117

K. Sadananda
Code 6323
Naval Research Laboratory
Washington D.C. 20375
Voice (202)767-2117

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