M O V I N G F O R W A R D
“Prahlada Maharaja said: Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and pastimes of Lord Visnu, remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one’s best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind and words)—these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service. One who has dedicated his life to the service of Krishna through these nine methods should be understood to be the most learned person, for he has acquired complete knowledge.”
Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.35 Purport:
“The Lord, however, out of His causeless mercy, because He is more merciful to the suffering living beings than they can expect, appears before them and renovates the principles of devotional service comprised of hearing, chanting, remembering, serving, worshiping, praying, cooperating and surrendering unto Him. Adoption of all the above-mentioned items, or any one of them, can help a conditioned soul get out of the tangle of nescience and thus become liberated from all material sufferings created by the living being illusioned by the external energy. This particular type of mercy is bestowed upon the living being by the Lord in the form of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has elaborated on the Nine Angas of Bhakti In Jaiva-dharma Chapter 19 Prameya-Abhidheya-Tattva:
One should perform bhajana of the nine processes of vaidhibhakti, namely, hearing, chanting, remembering, offering prayers, worshiping, serving Krishna’s lotus feet, acting as Krishna’s servant, becoming Krishna’s friend, and surrendering oneself fully to Sri Krishna. One who with faith daily practices bhajana in this way certainly achieves pure Krishnarati.
Sravanam, kirtanam, smaranam, vandanam, pada-sevanam, arcanam, dasyam, sakhyam and atma-nivedanam: those who daily practice these nine limbs of vaidhi-bhakti with faith attain pure love of Sri Krishna. Hearing (sravana) takes place when the descriptions of Krishna’s transcendental holy name, form, qualities and pastimes come in contact with the ears. There are two stages of sravana. The first stage is hearing descriptions of Krishna’s qualities in the association of suddha-bhaktas before developing sraddha (faith). This type of sravana creates faith so that one develops a keen desire to hear sri-krishna-nama and His qualities. After one has developed such faith, one hears Krishna’s transcendental names and qualities with great eagerness from Sri Guru and the Vaisnavas, and that is the second kind of sravana.
Sravana is one of the limbs of suddha-bhakti, and sravana in the perfected stage is manifested as a result of hearing from guru and Vaisnavas in the stage of spiritual practice. Sravana is the first anga of bhakti.
Kirtana takes place when sri–hari–nama and the descriptions of His form, qualities and pastimes come in contact with the tongue. There are many different varieties of kirtana, such as discussions of Sri Krishna’s pastimes, describing sri–Krishna–nama, reading from scripture to others, attracting others to Krishna by singing about Him, uttering entreaties, (To make an earnest request of; to ask for earnestly; petition for), to invoke His mercy, proclaiming His glories to others, chanting bhajanas in praise of the Deity, offering prayers, and so on. Kirtana has been described as superior to all the other nine angas of bhakti, and this is especially true in Kali-yuga, when kirtana alone can bestow auspiciousness upon everyone. This is stated in all scriptures:
Padma Purana, Uttara-khanda (72.25)
“Whatever is achieved in Satya-yuga by meditation, in Treta yuga by the performance of yajna, and in Dvapara-yuga by worshiping Krishna’s lotus feet is also obtained in the age of Kali simply by chanting and glorifying Sri Kesava.”
No other method purifies the heart as effectively as hari-kirtana. When many devotees perform kirtana together, it is called sankirtana.
Remembering Krishna’s name, form, qualities and pastimes is called smaranam, of which there are five kinds. Smaranam means to contemplate some subject that has previously been heard of, or experienced.
Dharana means to fix the mind on a particular subject, withdrawing it from other objects. Dhyanam means to meditate on a specific form. When dhyanam is unbroken like the continuous flow of a stream of precious oil, it is called dhruvanusmrti, and samadhi is the state in which one is oblivious to outside reality, and only aware of the objects of meditation in one’s heart.
Sravanam, kirtana and smaranam are the three primary angas of bhakti, for all the other angas are included within them, and of these three angas, kirtana is the best and most important, because sravanam and smaranam can be included within it.
According to Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.23):
“Hearing and chanting about Sri Visnu’s transcendental name, form, qualities and so on; remembering them; serving His lotus feet; worshiping Him with sixteen types of paraphernalia; offering prayers to Him; becoming His servant; adopting a friendly mood towards Him; and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind and words) – these nine are accepted as suddha-bhakti.”
The fourth anga of bhakti is performing service (pada-seva or paricarya). Pada-seva must also be performed together with sravanam, kirtana and smaranam. One should perform pada-seva with a humble attitude, understanding that one is unqualified for the service. It is also essential to realize the object of service as sac-cid-ananda, the embodiment of eternity, knowledge and bliss. Pada-seva includes seeing the face of Sri Krishna’s Deity form, touching Him, circumambulating Him, following Him, and visiting holy places such as Sri Bhagavan’s temple, the Ganga, Jagannatha Puri, Dvaraka-Mathura, Navadvipa and so forth. Srila Rupa Gosvami has presented these in a very clear and vivid way in his description of the sixty-four angas of bhakti. Service to Sri Tulasi and suddhabhaktas is also included within this anga.
The fifth anga is worship (arcana). There are many considerations regarding qualification and methods of worship. If one is attracted to the path of arcana, even after being engaged in sravanam, kirtana and smaranam, then one should perform arcana after properly accepting diksa-mantra from Sri Gurudeva.
What is the difference between nama and mantra?
Sri Hari’s name is the life and soul of mantra. The rsis have added words such as namah (‘obeisances’) to sri-hari-nama, and disclosed its specific power. Sri-hari-nama by nature has nothing to do with this material world, whereas the jiva, because of various bodily designations provided by maya, is entrapped by objects consisting of dead matter. Consequently, in order to detach the jiva’s mind from sense objects, different principles of arcana have been established on the path of regulated devotional service (maryada-marga). It is essential for materialistic people to accept diksa. When one chants the Krishna mantra, siddha-sadhya-susiddhaari are not considered.
Initiation into the exclusive chanting of the Krishna mantra is extremely beneficial for the jiva, for of all the different mantras in the world, the Krishna-mantra is the most powerful. A bona fide disciple receives strength from Krishna immediately when a bona fide spiritual master initiates him into this mantra. After initiation, Gurudeva educates the inquiring disciple concerning the performance of arcana. Briefly, arcana-marga includes the observance of Sri Krishna’s Appearance Day, fasting in Karttika month, observing Ekadasi, taking bath in the month of Magha, and other such activities. One should also understand that one must certainly worship Krishna’s bhaktas as well as Krishna Himself on the path of arcana.
The sixth anga of vaidhi-bhakti is offering prayers and obeisances (vandanam). This is included as part of pada-seva and kirtana, but it is still considered a separate anga of bhakti. Namaskara itself is also called vandanam. Ekanga-namaskara and paying obeisances with eight parts of the body touching the ground (astanganamaskara) are two types of namaskara. It is considered offensive to offer obeisances with only one hand touching the ground; to offer obeisances when the body is covered with cloth, to offer obeisances behind the Deity; to offer prostrated obeisances with the body pointing directly towards the Deity, or with the right side towards the Deity and to offer obeisances in the garbha-mandira (Deity room).
Performing service (dasyam) is the seventh anga of bhakti. “I am Krishna’s servant” – this ego or conception of the self is dasyam, and bhajana performed with the sentiment of a servant is the topmost bhajana. Dasyam includes offering obeisances, reciting prayers, offering all of one’s activities, serving, keeping proper conduct, remembering and obeying orders (katha-sravanam).
The eighth anga of bhakti is serving as a friend (sakhyam), which includes the mood of kinship towards Krishna with the endeavors for His well-being. There are two kinds of sakhyam: friendship in vaidhi-bhakti and friendship in raganuga-bhakti, but Sri Prahlada’s verse refers to vaidhanga-sakhyam; for example, the feeling of sakhyam while serving the Deity is vaidha-sakhyam.
The ninth anga is known as atma-nivedanam, which means offering the whole self – body, mind and pure atma – to Sri Krishna. The characteristics of atma-nivedanam are exclusive endeavor for Krishna, and lack of activity for one’s own self-interest. It is also characteristic of atma-nivedanam that one lives to serve the desire of Krishna, and keeps one’s own desire subordinate to Krishna’s desire, just as a cow that has been purchased does not care for its own maintenance.
Atma-nivedanam in vaidhi-bhakti is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (9.4.18–20): as follows:
“Ambarisa Maharaja engaged his mind in serving the lotus feet of Sri Krishna, his words in describing the qualities of Sri Bhagavan, his hands in cleaning Sri Hari’s temple, and his ears in hearing Acyuta’s blissful pastimes.
He engaged his eyes in seeing the Deity of Mukunda, different temples, and the holy places; all his bodily limbs in touching the bodies of Krishna’s bhaktas; his nostrils in smelling the divine smell of tulasi offered to Krishna’s lotus feet; and his tongue in tasting the prasada offered to Bhagavan.
His feet were always engaged in walking to Bhagavan’s holy places, and he would pay obeisances to Sri Krishna’s lotus feet. Ambarisa Maharaja would offer garlands, sandal, bhoga and similar paraphernalia in Bhagavan’s service, not with the desire to enjoy himself, but to receive the love for Sri Krishna that is present only in His suddha-bhaktas.”
Sri Isopanisad Mantra 7 Purport:
“Devotional service to the Lord consists essentially of nine transcendental activities:
- Hearing about the Lord,
- Glorifying the Lord,
- Remembering the Lord,
- Serving the lotus feet of the Lord,
- Worshiping the Lord,
- Offering prayers to the Lord,
- Serving the Lord,
- Enjoying friendly association with the Lord, and
- Surrendering everything unto the Lord.
These nine principles of devotional service—taken all together or one by one—help a devotee remain constantly in touch with God. In this way, at the end of life it is easy for the devotee to remember the Lord. By adopting only one of these nine principles, the following renowned devotees of the Lord were able to achieve the highest perfection:
(1) By hearing of the Lord, Maharaja Paréksit, the hero of Srimad-Bhagavatam, attained the desired result.
(2) Just by glorifying the Lord, Çukadeva Gosvamé, the speaker of Srimad-Bhagavatam, attained his perfection.
(3) By praying to the Lord, Akrüra attained the desired result.
(4) By remembering the Lord, Prahlada Maharaja attained the desired result.
(5) By worshiping the Lord, Påthu Maharaja attained perfection.
(6) By serving the lotus feet of the Lord, the goddess of fortune, Laksmé, attained perfection.
(7) By rendering personal service to the Lord, Hanuman attained the desired result.
(8) Through his friendship with the Lord, Arjuna attained the desired result.
(9) By surrendering everything he had to the Lord, Maharaja Bali attained the desired result.”