BHAKTI SUTRAS OF NARADA
The Spiritual Path of Endless Love
Narada was a great sage who appears frequently and prominently in the ancient spiritual texts of India. The story goes that when the Creator made the universe, he also simultaneously created a number of beings who would be eternally enlightened. It would be their task to serve the rest of us by showing us the path to the Divine. Narada is one of these eternally free souls. He is a master musician and is often shown holding or playing a Veena which is a classical Indian stringed instrument. He appears throughout the epics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
His favorite activity is singing devotional songs to the Lord and it is said his spirit is present when others sing to God with devotion. He is known for being a cosmic traveler going far and wide from the earth to celestial realms.
Writing the Bhakti Sutras is a fulfillment of Narada’s mission to help and serve humanity. These sutras, any sutras, are a collection of short phrases each designed to express the essence of a topic and are like the flowers of a garland strung together on a common thread. In this case, the topic is love for God expressed in 84 sutras.
Bhakti is a Sanskrit word which literally means attachment, devotion, and love to or for God. Narada explains simply and powerfully how to merge in the Divine through the path of love and devotion.
The path of Bhakti, can be practiced by persons of any faith. Jesus said he had two commandments for us to follow:
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:35-40, NIV
In the first commandment, Jesus asks us to take up the path of Bhakti. He says this is his first and greatest commandment. Jesus was a bhakta or a person who teaches or follows the path of love and devotion for the Beloved.
Bhakti is one of two paths to salvation. The other is the path of jnana or knowledge. In this case “knowledge” is like the Greek word gnosis which means a direct, intuitive knowing. Jnanis dive deeply into the source of their own awareness - the Self – the I AM THAT I AM. The God of bhaktas and the Self of jnanis are the same in the end. Both reside within us.
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:20-21, KJV
When the Supreme is realized within, it is then experienced as being the entire universe with all distinction between inner and outer having been completely evaporated.
There are many reasons why one might want to read and contemplate the Bhakti Sutras of Narada. At the core of all these reasons, we are searching for happiness or contentment. There is nothing more satisfying than love. Love and love alone gives life meaning and beauty. Without love we are lost.
Everyone is capable of love and so it is the easiest, fastest and most enjoyable path to the Divine. Even if one does not become an enlightened saint in the foreseeable future, practicing bhakti is still worth the effort even if we only get small packets of bliss every now and then. The slightest whiff of love for the Divine is intoxicating beyond measure. Nothing can compare with the sweetness of devotion. Amma comments on this by comparing the path of jnana (knowledge) with the path of devotion. She uses the word “mukti” to represent the path of jnana. Those who pursue this path covet their pending liberation (mukti) from the confines of the illusory ego.
Mother showed the tip of one of Her fingers. “In front of bhakti (devotion for God), mukti (liberation from the cycle of birth and death) is no more than this.” Amma, Eternal Wisdom, book 2, page 194
A bhakta (one who practices devotion to God) is not primarily interested in liberation or salvation but only that he or she continues to love the Lord with all their heart, mind and soul. It is to this end that Narada has given us these beautiful Bhakti Sutras. If contemplated deeply, the reader will discover many buried treasures.
The author of this book began with Swami Vivekananda’s translation of the Bhakti Sutras as a base camp. This was compared with several other translations. In addition, a word-for-word study was made of the Sanskrit transliterations. From these was derived the translation in this book. Swamiji’s original text is 95% intact. In only a few instances did it seem to deviate from the Sanskrit enough to merit minor modifications.