NBS 5: Attaining Perfection

NBS 74

vādo nāvalambyaḥ
Word for word: 
vādaḥ — debate; na — not; avalambyaḥ — to be resorted to.
Translation: 
One should not indulge in argumentative debate.
Purport: 

Nārada discourages the egotistic wrangling spirit. One who is proud of his debating skills and eager to defeat others will lose his humility, which, as Nārada says in Sūtra 27, is essential for pleasing Kṛṣṇa. The existence of God is not something to be proven or disproven merely by a battle of logical wits. The spiritual reality cannot be understood by material logic or the speculations of the material mind. As the Vedānta-sūtra (2.1.11) declares, tarkāpratiṣṭhānāt: "Logical reasoning is inconclusive."

However, when a Kṛṣṇa conscious preacher defends the Lord or the Vaiṣṇavas against blasphemy, that should not be taken as vain controversy. The devotee doesn't argue on his own account, but on Kṛṣṇa's. Also, a devotee's preaching is not based on mental speculation, which is always imperfect, but on the perfect process of receiving knowledge from the śāstra and the ācāryas. As it is said, "Mistakes, illusion, cheating, and defective perception do not occur in the sayings of the authoritative sages" (Cc. Ādi 2.86). Also, the Vaiṣṇava ācāryas have all argued against Māyāvāda interpretations. This kind of argumentation is not to be avoided but is rather one of the duties of the madhyama-bhakta, or preacher. Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja states, "A sincere student should not neglect the discussion of such conclusions [concerning the philosophy of Kṛṣṇa consciousness], considering them controversial, for such discussion strengthens the mind. Thus one's mind becomes attached to Kṛṣṇa" (Cc. Ādi 2.117).

But sometimes a preacher will avoid a fight if he sees that the challenger simply wants to argue for the sake of argument. Rūpa Gosvāmī once declined to debate a rascal who came to defeat him, but then Rūpa's nephew, Jīva Gosvāmī, took up the challenge. So a devotee may or may not choose to meet the challenges of the atheists and voidists, depending on the circumstances, but in any case he knows that debate and challenge do not lead to a true understanding of God.

Certainly the devotee himself has no challenging spirit when he approaches the scriptures or the ācāryas. He accepts them axiomatically, beyond argument. The best method for solving one's personal doubts is to inquire submissively from advanced Vaiṣṇavas, who will always be able to answer in terms of śāstra and reason.

NBS 75

bāhulyāvakāśatvād aniyatatvāc ca
Word for word: 
bāhulya — for excessiveness; avakāśatvāt — because of involving opportunities; aniyatatvāt — because of not being decisive; ca — and.
Translation: 
Such argumentation leads to excessive entanglements and is never decisive.
Purport: 

In the Mahābhārata, Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja describes the defect of argumentation as follows: tarko 'pratiṣṭhaḥ śrutayo vibihinnā nāsāv ṛṣir yasya mataṁ na bhinnam. "Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion does not differ from others is not considered a great sage. Simply by studying the Vedas, which are variegated, one cannot come to the right path by which religious principles are understood" (Mahābhārata, Vana-parva 313.117).

If you base your philosophical conclusions on logical arguments, a superior logician will eventually defeat you. This is the method of Western philosophers, and India also has its munis. A muni is not considered distinguished unless he defeats the arguments of previous thinkers. But then another muni comes and finds flaws in the arguments of the current champion and claims to replace him with "the latest philosophy." Those who study argumentation come to the conclusion that there is no final truth. This is skepticism, the fruit of mental speculation.

A bhakta should not take part in the tedious, inconclusive contests of logicians. The Vedic truths have been thoroughly researched since time beyond memory and are established conclusively. The ācāryas who guide the destiny of Vedic culture, such as Madhva, Rāmānuja, and Lord Caitanya, did not invent the Vedic siddhānta (conclusion), though they all presented it according to time, place, and recipients.

King Yudhiṣṭhira continues: dharmasya tattvaṁ nihitaṁ guhāyāṁ mahā-jano yena gataḥ sa panthāḥ."The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated self-realized person. Consequently, as the śāstras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the mahā-janas advocate."

The bhakti method of receiving truth is by paramparā, or disciplic succession. It is confirmed by a checks-and-balances system of hearing from guru, śāstra, and sādhu. On the other hand, one who rejects the paramparā system and persists in hearing argumentation will never understand the Absolute Truth. As Lord Kṛṣṇa states, bhaktyā mām abhijānāti: "One can understand Me only by devotional service" (Bg. 18.55).

When Lord Caitanya first came to Jagannātha Purī, a dispute arose between His followers and Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, who was at that time a mundane logician. The Bhaṭṭācārya and his students refused to accept that Lord Caitanya was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, although Gopīnātha Ācārya presented much evidence from Vedic scriptures. Finally the disciples of the Bhaṭṭācārya said, "We derive knowledge of the Absolute Truth by logical hypothesis." Gopīnātha Ācārya replied, "One cannot attain real knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead by such logical hypothesis and argument" (Cc. Madhya 6.81). Gopīnātha Ācārya further stated that only that person who has received the mercy of the Lord by rendering Him devotional service can understand Him. Logical hypothesis is not the way, but rather śabda-brahma, hearing from authorized sources. Lord Brahmā made the same point in his prayers to Lord Kṛṣṇa in Chapter Fourteen of the Tenth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam:

athāpi te deva padāmbuja-dvaya-
prasāda-leṣānugṛhīta eva hi
jānāti tattvaṁ bhagavan-mahimno
na cānya eko 'pi ciraṁ vicinvan

"My Lord, one who is favored by even a slight trace of the mercy of Your lotus feet can understand the greatness of Your personality. But those who speculate in order to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead are unable to know You, even though they continue to study the Vedas for many years" (SB 10.14.29).

Vain controversy may also include gossip and rumor (prajalpa). Nārada previously stated that a bhakta shouldn't hear from people who speak of women, wealth, and atheists (Sūtra 63). Even members of a religious movement have to be careful in their talks, or they too may become another association of harsh and idle talkers like the nondevotees. One has to distinguish between responsible dialogue on important issues and talk that leads nowhere. If we enter into controversial topics, we should do so with restraint, sincerely seeking the Vaiṣṇava siddhānta according to guru, śāstra, and sādhu. The śāstras are not to be researched merely as so much ammunition for our own opinions. When we enter debate with an egoistic zest to defeat the opposition, we miss the point and end up fighting with the Vaiṣṇavas. In the prayer known as the Haṁsa-gūhya, offered by Dakṣa to Lord Viṣṇu, Dakṣa concluded that the method of logical dispute is actually a product of illusion:

I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is full of unlimited qualities and whose different potencies bring about agreement and disagreement between disputants. Thus the illusory energy again and again covers the self-realization of both disputants. [SB 6.4.31]

NBS 76

bhakti-śāstrāṇi mananīyāni tad-bodhaka-karmāṇi karaṇīyāni
Word for word: 
bhakti — of devotional service; śāstrāṇi — the scriptures; mananīyāni — should be respected; tat — by them; bodhaka — made known; karmāṇi — prescribed activities; karaṇīyāni — should be executed.
Translation: 
One should respect the revealed scriptures of devotional service and discharge the duties they prescribe.
Purport: 

The most important bhakti-śāstras have been translated with paramparā purports by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "In our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement we have therefore limited our study of Vedic literature to Bhagavad-gītā, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Caitanya-caritāmṛta, and Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. These four works are sufficient for preaching purposes. They are adequate for the understanding of the philosophy and the spreading of missionary activities all over the world" (Cc. Madhya 22.118, purport).

The Vedas are vast, comprising millions of Sanskrit ślokas. And while the conclusion of all branches of Vedic literature is to render devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, some parts of the Vedic literature are addressed to materialistic religionists and therefore teach a gradual process of elevation. The sages at Naimiṣāraṇya, therefore, asked Sūta Gosvāmī to teach them the essence of the Vedas. In Kali-yuga most people do not have the time, energy, or interest to go through all the Vedas, nor is it advisable to try. The essence, selected by Sūta Gosvāmī, is Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which teaches bhakti-yoga as the supreme dharma and rejects all "cheating religion." To bring transcendental light into the age of darkness, Śrīla Vyāsadeva, the compiler of all the Vedas, gave the world the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as his mature contribution:

anarthopaśamaṁ sākṣād bhakti-yogam adhokṣaje
lokasyājānato vidvāṁś cakre sātvata-saṁhitām

"The material miseries of the living entity, which are superfluous to him, can be directly mitigated by the linking process of devotional service. But the mass of people do not know this, and therefore the learned Vyāsadeva compiled this Vedic literature, which is in relation to the Supreme Truth" (SB 1.7.6).

Bhakti-śāstras include contemporary works written in pursuance of the conclusions of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Bhagavad-gītā, and so on. The writing of commentaries and other bhakti literary works can continue for the edification of people in every age and create a movement away from mundane and speculative books.

Nārada states that a person should not only read bhakti-śāstras but also live by their instructions. The serious student should render service in terms of what he has heard from the spiritual master and the bhakti-śāstras. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "Without hearing such literatures, one cannot make actual progress. And without hearing and following the instructions, the show of devotional service becomes worthless and therefore a sort of disturbance on the path of devotional service. Therefore, devotional service is established on the principles of śruti, smṛti, purāṇa, and pañcarātra authorities. The make-show of devotional service should at once be rejected" (SB 1.2.12, purport).

NBS 77

sukha-duḥkhecchā-lābhādi-tyakte kāle pratīkṣamāṇe kṣaṇārdham api vyarthaṁ na neyam
Word for word: 
sukha — happiness; duḥkha — unhappiness; icchā — hankering; lābha — profiteering; ādi — and so on; tyakte — having given up; kāle — the time; pratīkṣamāṇe — being waited for; kṣaṇa — of a moment; ardham — one half; api — even; vyartham — vainly; na neyam — should not be wasted.
Translation: 
Patiently enduring till the time when one can put aside material happiness, distress, desire, and false gain, one should not waste even a fraction of a second.
Purport: 

Human birth is rare and one's life span brief. Why is human life so precious? Because we can use it for self-realization and get free of birth and death. But, as implied by this sūtra, much of our human lifetime is consumed in the struggle for existence. While instructing his young schoolmates on the urgency of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, Prahlāda Mahārāja made a calculation of how human life is wasted:

Every human being has a maximum duration of life of one hundred years, but for one who cannot control his senses, half of those years are completely lost because at night he sleeps twelve hours, being covered by ignorance. Therefore such a person has a lifetime of only fifty years.

In the tender age of childhood, when everyone is bewildered, one passes ten years. Similarly in boyhood, engaged in sporting and playing, one passes another ten years. In this way twenty years are wasted. Similarly, in old age, when one is an invalid, unable to perform even material activities, one passes another twenty years wastefully.

One whose mind and senses are uncontrolled becomes increasingly attached to family because of insatiable lusty desires and very strong illusion. In such a madman's life, the remaining years are also wasted because even during those years he cannot engage himself in devotional service. [SB 7.6.6-8]

Whenever we misspend time, it is an irretrievable loss. As Cāṇakya Paṇḍita states, all the gold in a rich man's possession cannot buy back a single moment of time.

A devotee uses his time well, and this is one of the symptoms of his advancement. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "He is always anxious to utilize his time in the devotional service of the Lord. He does not like to be idle. He wants service always, twenty-four hours a day without deviation" (The Nectar of Devotion, p. 138).

We cannot wait until after we complete our many duties before starting to remember Kṛṣṇa. If we give bhakti such a low priority, our practice will never be more than a formality, a hurried prayer stolen from our time for "real" business or a perfunctory visit to the temple once a week. Rather, as Nārada has observed, "One achieves bhakti by hearing and chanting about the Supreme Lord's special qualities, even while engaged in the ordinary activities of life in this world" (Nārada-bhakti-sūtra 37). Let us remember Lord Kṛṣṇa's advice in Bhagavad-gītā (8.7): "Remember Me and fight."

The voice of delusion says, "When I'm older, I'll be less occupied with the struggle for existence. Then I'll take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness." But we may die before old age ever comes, or we may be too feeble at that time. As King Kulaśekhara prays (Mukunda-māla-stotra 33),

kṛṣṇa tvadīya-pada-paṅkaja-pañjarāntam
adyaiva me viśatu mānasa-rāja-haṁsaḥ
prāṇa-prayāṇa-samaye kapha-vāta-pittaiḥ
kaṇṭhāvarodhana-vidhau smaraṇaṁ kutas te

"O Lord, at this moment let the royal swan of my mind enter the network of the stems of the lotus flower of Your feet. How will it be possible for me to remember You at the time of death, when my throat will be choked up with mucus, bile, and air?"

Nārada advises that one should "patiently endure." This is advice for the devotee. He should fully engage himself in Kṛṣṇa consciousness with the goal of going back to Godhead, and in the meantime he should tolerate the dualities of life. As Lord Kṛṣṇa advises Arjuna, "O son of Kuntī, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed" (Bg. 2.14). "Patiently endure" does not mean that one should stoically put up with life's dualities and not fully engage in Kṛṣṇa consciousness! The devotee spends all his days and moments wholeheartedly engaged in devotional service, but still he has to contend with material upheavals. So in the face of these inevitable changes, he should patiently endure and go on chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa.

NBS 78

ahiṁsā-satya-śauca-dayāstikyādi-cāritryāṇi paripālanīyāni
Word for word: 
ahiṁsā — of nonviolence; satya — truthfulness; śauca — cleanliness; dayā — compassion; āstikya — faith; ādi — and so on; cāritryāṇi — the characteristics; paripālanīyāni — should be cultivated.
Translation: 
One should cultivate such good qualities as nonviolence, truthfulness, cleanliness, compassion, and faith.
Purport: 

Throughout the Bhakti-sūtras, Nārada has taught the best, the ultimate. He has never given mediocre definitions of bhakti, but from his own realizations and from other Vaiṣṇavas he has taught parā bhakti. Similarly, Śrīla Prabhupāda would always give definitions containing the fullest Kṛṣṇa conscious substance.

The present verse, therefore, must be understood in the context of what has gone before. Far from cultivating the listed virtues for themselves, the aspiring devotee should understand that all virtues will remain within the framework of the material modes until they are dovetailed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The good man is the paragon of the sāttvika mode, but even he cannot attain liberation if he fails to surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As Lord Kṛṣṇa states, "Those situated in that mode [sattva-guṇa] become conditioned by a sense of happiness and knowledge" (Bg. 14.6).

Defining ahiṁsā, Śrīla Prabhupāda took it to its ultimate conclusion for the life of a devotee:

Nonviolence is generally taken to mean not killing or destroying the body, but actually nonviolence means not to put others into distress. People in general are trapped by ignorance in the material concept of life, and they perpetually suffer material pangs. So unless one elevates people to spiritual knowledge, one is practicing violence. One should try his best to distribute real knowledge to the people, so that they may become enlightened and leave this material entanglement. That is nonviolence. [Bg. 13.12, purport]

Śrīla Prabhupāda preached tirelessly against violence to animals, especially to the cow. Whenever he met a religionist or educated person, Śrīla Prabhupāda would test him on this point. He never conceded that it was permissible to kill God's creatures "because they have no soul," or for whatever reason the meat-eaters invented. To the followers of Lord Buddha Śrīla Prabhupāda challenged, "We are glad that people are taking interest in the nonviolent movement of Lord Buddha. But will they take the matter very seriously and close the animal slaughterhouses altogether? If not, there is no meaning to the ahiṁsā cult" (SB 1.3.25, purport; italics in original).

Lord Kṛṣṇa lists satya, "truthfulness," as one of the divine qualities. But truthfulness depends on recognizing the Absolute Truth to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Otherwise, no matter how strenuously one practices honesty, it remains relative and not fully pleasing to the Supreme Lord. But when a person recognizes that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the supreme embodiment of truth and thus dedicates his life to following the truth and distributing that truth, then he can begin to be an honest person.

Cleanliness refers to both inner and outer states. Both are important, but internal purity is more important. Lord Caitanya declared that the congregational chanting of the holy names is the best process for cleaning the mind. All material concepts—such as identifying the self as the body, seeing dualities in the world, and hankering for sense gratification—are "dirty things" in the heart. The bhakta is always busy cleaning and polishing, freeing himself from the accumulation of dust, by the practice of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.

As for dayā, there can be no better kindness than to attain pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness yourself and to share it with others.

The word āstikya, "faith," implies that we should not interpret the words of scripture but take it "as it is." When Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā "Surrender to Me," one should not think himself wiser than Kṛṣṇa and claim that it is not to the person Kṛṣṇa whom we have to surrender but to the spirit within Kṛṣṇa. "Faith" also means to practice devotional service without motivation and without interruption.

In discussing a similar list of virtues in the Bhagavad-gītā (13.8-12), Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "The process of knowledge terminates in unalloyed devotional service to the Lord. So if one does not approach, or is not able to approach, the transcendental service of the Lord, then the other nineteen items have no particular value. But if a person takes to devotional service in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the other nineteen items automatically develop within him."

By listing prominent virtues and using the word ādi, indicating that there are many others, Nārada reminds us that bhakti has to be situated on a foundation of good behavior. A bhakta cannot be a coarse fool or rascal. Śrīla Prabhupāda was once asked by a TV interviewer, "How would I be able to tell a devotee of Kṛṣṇa?" Prabhupāda replied, "He would be a perfect gentleman."

NBS 79

sarvadā sarva-bhāvena niścintair bhagavān eva bhajanīyaḥ
Word for word: 
sarvadā — always; sarva-bhāvena — with all one's feeling; niścintaiḥ — by those who are free from doubt; bhagavān — the Supreme Lord; eva — indeed; bhajanīyaḥ — should be worshiped.
Translation: 
Those who are free of doubts should constantly worship the Supreme Lord with all their hearts.
Purport: 

In his purport to Sūtra 12, Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "The Nārada-bhakti-sūtra is a summary of the Bhagavad-gītā and the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam." Here again we see the truth of that statement, since this sūtra is very similar to Lord Kṛṣṇa's confidential statements in the Bhagavad-gītā. For example, at the end of Chapter Fifteen He says,

yo mām evaṁ asammūḍho jānāti puruṣottamam
sa sarva-vid bhajati māṁ sarva-bhāvena bhārata

iti guhyatamaṁ śāstram idam uktaṁ mayānagha
etad buddhvā buddhimān syāt kṛta-kṛtyaś ca bhārata

"Whoever knows Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, without doubting, is the knower of everything. He therefore engages himself in full devotional service to Me, O scion of Bharata. This is the most confidential part of the Vedic scriptures, O sinless one, and it is disclosed now by Me. Whoever understands this will become wise, and his endeavors will know perfection" (Bg. 15.19-20). And again in the Eighteenth Chapter:

sarva-guhyatamaṁ bhūyaḥ śṛṇu me paramaṁ vacaḥ
iṣṭo 'si me dṛḍham iti tato vakṣyāmi te hitam

man-manā bhava mad-bhakto mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru
mām evaiṣyasi satyaṁ te pratijāne priyo 'si me

"Because you are My very dear friend, I am speaking to you My supreme instruction, the most confidential knowledge of all. Hear this from Me, for it is for your benefit. Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend" (Bg. 18.64-65).

There is no difference between Lord Kṛṣṇa's instruction to "think of Me always" and Nārada's instruction to "always think of Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa." And indeed, any follower of Nārada's in disciplic succession can repeat his words: "The Supreme Personality of Godhead alone should always be worshiped wholeheartedly." But our words must be uttered with the conviction born from a life dedicated to the practices Nārada has given in the Bhakti-sūtras.

Our words and acts in devotional service cannot be mechanical. To qualify as bhakti, they must be done with loving feelings. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says, "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, I will accept it" (Bg. 9.26). And again, "To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me" (Bg. 10.10).

The wholehearted, exclusive devotion to Kṛṣṇa Nārada recommends is echoed in Bhīṣma's definition of love: "Love means reposing one's affection completely upon one person, withdrawing all affinities for any other person" (The Nectar of Devotion, p. 147). This stage was attained by all great devotees, such as Prahlāda, Uddhava, Nārada, and the residents of Vṛndāvana.

We must remember that constant, ecstatic absorption in Lord Kṛṣṇa is the goal of bhakti, and that bhakti includes the approach to that goal. In the Twelfth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa recommends the topmost stage, spontaneous love, but He also encourages us by saying that undertaking the practices of bhakti-yoga will bring one to the ultimate stage:

mayy eva mana ādhatsva mayi buddhiṁ niveśaya
nivasiṣyasi mayy eva ata ūrdhvaṁ na saṁśayaḥ

atha cittaṁ samādhātuṁ na śaknoṣi mayi sthiram
abhyāsa-yogena tato mām icchāptuṁ dhanañjaya

"Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt. My dear Arjuna, O winner of wealth, if you cannot fix your mind upon Me without deviation, then follow the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga. In this way develop a desire to attain Me" (Bg. 12.8-9).

Hearing from mahā-janas who are in the spontaneous stage of bhakti is itself one of the most important services of the practicing devotee. Even Lakṣmaṇā, one of Lord Kṛṣṇa's wives, confided that her attraction to the Lord had been evoked by hearing the words of Nārada: "My dear queen, many times I heard the great sage Nārada glorifying the pastimes of Lord Kṛṣṇa. I became attracted to the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa when I heard Nārada say that the goddess of fortune, Lakṣmī, was also attracted to His lotus feet" (Kṛṣṇa, p. 708).

Let us always keep Nārada and his representatives as our worshipable preceptors. They will lead us to Lord Kṛṣṇa.

NBS 80

sa kīrtyamānaḥ śīghram evāvirbhavaty anubhāvayati bhaktān
Translation: 

When He is glorified, the Lord swiftly reveals Himself to His devotees and allows them to know Him as He is.

Purport: 

The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam describes how Nārada attained direct perception of Lord Kṛṣṇa. After Nārada heard about Kṛṣṇa from sages who were visiting his house, he continued living with his mother, since he was only a five-year-old boy. But his mother suddenly died, and Nārada took to wandering. Once, as he sat under a banyan tree and began to meditate upon the Supersoul, the Lord appeared to him. Nārada relates, "As soon as I began to meditate upon the lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead with my mind transformed in transcendental love, tears rolled down my eyes and without delay the Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, appeared on the lotus of my heart" (SB 1.6.16).

After this initial darśana, the Supreme Lord withdrew Himself in His personal form but spoke to Nārada: "O virtuous one, you have only once seen My person, and this is just to increase your desire for Me, because the more you hanker for Me, the more you will be freed from all material desires" (SB 1.6.22). The Supreme Lord further told Nārada that he would eventually "become My associate in the transcendental world after giving up the present deplorable material worlds."

And so Nārada's life is a personal testimony to his own instruction given in this sūtra. Nārada went on to become one of the twelve authorities on Kṛṣṇa consciousness known as mahā-janas, and he is the spiritual master of such stalwarts as Prahlāda, Dhruva, and Vyāsadeva.

Nārada once came to Vyāsadeva when Vyāsa was feeling despondent, even after having compiled most of the Vedic scriptures. Nārada quickly diagnosed his disciple's depression and spoke to him:

You have not actually broadcast the sublime and spotless glories of the Personality of Godhead. That philosophy which does not satisfy the transcendental senses of the Lord is considered worthless. Please, therefore, describe the transcendental pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, more vividly. [SB 1.5.8, 21]

Vyāsa took Nārada's instructions to heart and began composing the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which is filled with the glories of Lord Kṛṣṇa in His many incarnations, as well as narrations of the Lord's pure devotees. Vyāsadeva later expressed his profound gratitude by glorifying Śrī Nāradadeva in various verses of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam:

aho devarṣir dhanyo 'yaṁ yat kīrtiṁ śārṅga-dhanvanaḥ
gāyan mādyann idaṁ tantryā ramayaty āturaṁ jagat

"All glory and success to Śrīla Nārada Muni because he glorifies the activities of the Personality of Godhead, and in so doing he himself takes pleasure and also enlightens all the distressed souls of the universe" (SB 1.6.38).

NBS 81

tri-satyasya bhaktir eva garīyasī bhaktir eva garīyasī
Word for word: 
tri — in three ways (by his mind, body, and words); satyasya — for one who is truthful; bhaktiḥ — devotional service; eva — alone; garīyasī — most dear; bhaktiḥ — devotional service; eva — alone; garīyasī — most dear.
Translation: 
Devotional service is the most precious possession of a person who honestly uses his mind, body, and words.
Purport: 

The word tri-satya may refer to the three ways of expressing truth—with one's thoughts, actions, and words. Then again, tri-satya may be taken to indicate that bhakti is the best way of realizing the truth in all three phases of time—namely, past, present, and future. Lord Kapila told His mother, Devahūti, "I shall now explain unto you the ancient yoga system, which I explained formerly to the great sages. It is serviceable and practical in every way" (SB 3.25.14). In his purport Prabhupāda writes, "When we have a superexcellent process already present in the Vedic scriptures, there is no need to concoct a new system to mislead the innocent public. At present it has become a fashion to reject the standard system and present something bogus in the name of a newly invented process of yoga" (SB 3.25.14, purport). Bhakti is ancient wisdom, an immediate practical program, and the vision of the future. It is tri-kāla-jñāna, knowledge of past, present, and future.

As the best use of body, speech, and mind, bhakti is the best happiness, the best action, and the best meditation. When Lord Caitanya asked Rāmānanda Rāya to explain the very best thing, Rāmānanda Rāya described bhakti in many ways:

The Lord inquired, "Of all types of education, which is the most important?" Rāmānanda Rāya replied, "There is no education that is important other than the transcendental devotional service of Kṛṣṇa."

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu then inquired, "Out of all liberated persons, who should be accepted as the greatest?" Rāmānanda replied, "He who has love for Kṛṣṇa has attained the topmost liberation."

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu asked, "Out of all topics people listen to, which is the best for living entities?" Rāmānanda Rāya replied, "Hearing about the loving affairs between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa is most pleasing to the ear." [Cc. Madhya 8.245, 249, 255]

In this sūtra Nārada says the same thing as Rāmānanda Rāya did, but in condensed form: Bhakti is the best in every category. Why should we doubt it? And why should we dilute bhakti with other truths, as if bhakti is in need of help? Bhakti itself confers all knowledge and renunciation. It offers the most courageous action, as well as the best art, science, and recreation. Most important of all, only bhakti is pleasing to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says, "One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of Me by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God" (Bg. 18.55). Even if we think that we may be able to accomplish something just as well by a non-bhakti method, our effort would still fail to please the Lord, and thus we would not find self-satisfaction.

Bhakti is best, and bhakti means devotional service to the Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Once Nārada visited Lord Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana and praised His unique position:

My Lord, let me offer my respectful obeisances unto Your lotus feet.... Your unlimited potency cannot even be measured by anyone. My dear Lord, You are the supreme controller. You are under Your own internal potency, and it is simply vain to think that You are dependent on any of Your creations.... Your advent on the surface of the earth in Your original form of eternal blissful knowledge is Your own pastime. You are not dependent on anything but Yourself; therefore I offer my respectful obeisances unto Your lotus feet. [Kṛṣṇa, p. 303]

Let us keep Nārada's spirited words in our hearts so that we may practice bhakti-yoga without doubt. And let us proclaim the glories of Kṛṣṇa joyfully, as Nārada does. Nārada is a space traveler, and wherever he goes he sings the Lord's glories to the accompaniment of his vīṇā:

nārada muni bājāya vīṇā
rādhikā-ramaṇa nāme

"Playing his vīṇā, Nārada Muni chants the names of Lord Rādhikā-ramaṇa." As followers of Nārada Muni, we may also select a "vīṇā," or method of bhajana, and use it to please the Lord. Playing our vīṇā like Nārada, we may tell everyone we meet, "Bhakti is the best path, bhakti is the best!"

NBS 82

guṇa-māhātmyāsakti-rūpāsakti-pūjāsakti-smaraṇāsak ti-dāsyāsakti-sakhyāsakti-vātsalyāsakti-kāntāsakty-ā tma-nivedanāsakti-tan-mayāsakti-parama-virahāsakti-rūpai kadhāpy ekādaśadhā bhavati
Word for word: 
guṇa — of the (Lord's) qualities; māhātmya — to the greatness; āsakti — attachment; rūpa — to His beauty; āsakti — attachment; pūjā — to worship; āsakti — attachment; smaraṇa — to remembrance; āsakti — attachment; dāsya — to service; āsakti — attachment; sakhya — to friendship; āsakti — attachment; vātsalya — to parental affinity; āsakti — attachment; kāntā — as a conjugal lover; āsakti — attachment; ātma — of one's self; nivedana — to the offering; āsakti — attachment; tat-maya — to being full of thought of Him; āsakti — attachment; parama — supreme; viraha — to separation; āsakti — attachment; rūpā — having as its forms; ekadhā — onefold; api — although; ekādaśakhā — elevenfold; bhavati — becomes.
Translation: 
Although devotional service is one, it becomes manifested in eleven forms of attachment: attachment to the Lord's glorious qualities, to His beauty, to worshiping Him, to remembering Him, to serving Him, to reciprocating with Him as a friend, to caring for Him as a parent, to dealing with Him as a lover, to surrendering one's whole self to Him, to being absorbed in thought of Him, and to experiencing separation from Him. This last is the supreme attachment.
Purport: 

Nārada has taught that bhakti is the best of all processes for realizing truth, and he has described the rules and regulations leading to perfection. He has told us that we have to experience bhakti for ourselves, and that it is the highest bliss. Now he indicates the liberality of bhakti by listing the various ways one may render devotional service.

There has been nothing to suggest that Nārada is presenting a theoretical treatise. Thus we should not conclude our reading of the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra without deciding how we shall render practical service to Kṛṣṇa. Once a college student came to visit Śrīla Prabhupāda and told him that he had already read the Bhagavad-gītā. Śrīla Prabhupāda asked, "So, what is your conclusion?" The student admitted that he had not reached any particular conclusion after his study of the Gītā. Prabhupāda explained that the conclusion of the Bhagavad-gītā is that Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that one should give up all other processes of religion and serve Him. An intelligent reader of the Bhagavad-gītā should know this and take up devotional service. Similarly, here at the end of the Bhakti-sūtras Nārada is telling us how we may serve the Supreme Lord.

Of course, the rasas with Kṛṣṇa are for the liberated devotees and cannot be taken up arbitrarily. Our service to Kṛṣṇa should be guided by our spiritual master. He will help us to serve according to our psychophysical nature, in a way that is most effective for our purification. But from the beginning we can at least know that Lord Kṛṣṇa is served by His liberated associates in many ways and that our own perfection will be to discover how we are meant to serve Him eternally to our heart's content.

A devotee appreciates the many services the Lord's devotees engage in, and he studies how to become perfect in his particular relationship with the Lord. Nārada's eleven ways of bhakti appear to be a combination of the nine process of bhakti taught by Prahlāda Mahārāja and the five main rasas with Lord Kṛṣṇa described by Rūpa Gosvāmī in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. Examples of devotees who achieved perfection by practicing one of the nine processes of bhakti are as follows:

(1) Mahārāja Parīkṣit became perfect by hearing about Kṛṣṇa; (2) Śukadeva Gosvāmī became perfect by speaking the glories of the Lord; (3) Prahlāda Mahārāja became perfect by remembering the Lord; (4) Lakṣmīdevī became perfect by serving the lotus feet of the Lord; (5) Mahārāja Pṛthu became perfect by worshiping the Lord; (6) Akrūra became perfect by offering prayers to the Lord; (7) Hanumān became perfect by serving the Lord; (8) Arjuna became perfect by befriending the Lord; and (9) Bali Mahārāja became perfect by offering everything to the Lord.

As for the five rasas, they are: (1) adoration of the Lord (śānta), (2) servitude (dāsya), (3) friendship (sakhya), (4) parental love (vātsalya), and (5) conjugal love (mādhurya). Prominent examples of devotees in each of these rasas are as follows: the four Kumāras in śānta-rasa; Hanumān and Kṛṣṇa's various servants in Dvārakā and Mathurā in dāsya-rasa; Śrīdāmā, Sudāmā, and Stoka-kṛṣṇa in sākhya-rasa; Kṛṣṇa's parents in vātsalya-rasa; and the gopīs of Vṛndāvana and the queens in Dvārakā in mādhurya-rasa.

All liberated devotees are situated in absolute transcendence, and one devotee does not hanker for the perfection of another. But the Vaiṣṇava ācāryas have analyzed the rasas to show that there is a progression in affection—and a diminishing in feelings of awe and reverence toward the Lord—from dāsya-rasa up to mādhurya-rasa. All the qualities of the other rasas are fully contained in conjugal love. As for love in separation, which Nārada mentions as the eleventh and highest stage of attachment, that was especially demonstrated by the gopīs of Vṛndāvana, and also by Lord Caitanya. Lord Caitanya's demonstration of viraha, or transcendental anguish in separation from Kṛṣṇa, is the highest of all possible expressions of love of God.

Although there is a progression in intimacy in the rasas from dāsya-rasa to mādhurya-rasa, all are based on the ecstasy of service to the Lord. Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja writes, "Love for Kṛṣṇa has this one unique effect: it imbues superiors, equals, and inferiors with the spirit of service to Lord Kṛṣṇa" (Cc. Ādi 6.53). Kṛṣṇa's friends in Vṛndāvana feel pure fraternal affection for Him, yet they too worship His lotus feet in a spirit of servitude. Kṛṣṇa's mother and father sometimes chastise the Lord, thinking that He is their little son, and yet they always think of themselves as His servants. Kṛṣṇa's father, Nanda Mahārāja, once said to Uddhava, "May our minds be attached to the lotus feet of your Lord Kṛṣṇa, may our tongues chant His holy names, and may our bodies lie prostrate before Him" (Cc. Ādi 6.60). Even the gopīs of Vṛndāvana regard themselves as Kṛṣṇa's maidservants. Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī prays, "O My Lord,... reveal Yourself to Your maidservant, who is very much aggrieved by Your absence" (SB 10.33.9). Being a servant of the Supreme Lord is so auspicious and blissful that even Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself descended as Lord Caitanya to accept the emotions and form of His own servant. Therefore all devotees can best cultivate their loving relationship with Lord Kṛṣṇa by becoming the servant of other Vaiṣṇava devotees. If we fix ourselves in steadfast and spontaneous loving service to the Lord's devotees, Kṛṣṇa will reveal Himself to us and indicate new, intimate ways in which we may serve Him.

NBS 83

ity evaṁ vadanti jana-jalpa-nirbhayā eka-matāḥ kumāra-vyāsa-śuka-śāṇḍilya-garga-viṣṇu-kauṇḍilya-śeṣoddhavāruṇi-bali-hanūmad-vibhīṣaṇādayo bhakty-ācāryāḥ
Word for word: 
iti — thus; evam — in this way; vadanti — they speak; jana — of ordinary people; jalpa — of the gossip; nirbhayāḥ — unafraid; eka — of one; matāḥ — opinion; kumāra-vyāsa-śuka-śāṇḍilya-garga-viṣṇu-kauṇḍilya-śeṣa-uddhava-aruṇi-bali-hanūmat-vibhīṣaṇa-ādayaḥ — the Kumāras, Vyāsa, Śuka, Śāṇḍilya, Garga, Viṣṇu, Kauṇḍilya, Śeṣa, Uddhava, Aruṇi, Bali, Hanumān, Vibhīṣaṇa, and others; bhakti — of devotional service; ācāryāḥ — the founding authorities.
Translation: 
Thus say the founding authorities of devotional service: the Kumāras, Vyāsa, Śuka, Śāṇḍilya, Garga, Viṣṇu, Kauṇḍilya, Śeṣa, Uddhava, Aruṇi, Bali, Hanumān, Vibhīṣaṇa, and others—speaking without fear of worldly gossip and sharing among themselves one and the same opinion.
Purport: 

Nārada previously gave definitions of bhakti according to sages like Vyāsa and Garga, and now he gives a longer list. He also adds that there are many other authorities who could also be cited. In this way, although Nārada's word is sufficient, he increases the authority of his conclusion that bhakti is the best of all paths.

While praising Lord Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Brahman and the God of gods, Arjuna also referred to great sages in order to support his statement:

paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān
puruṣaṁ śāśvataṁ divyam ādi-devam ajaṁ vibhum

āhus tvām ṛṣayaḥ sarve devarṣir nāradas tathā
asito devalo vyāsaḥ svayaṁ caiva bravīṣi me

"You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest. All the great sages such as Nārada, Asita, Devala, and Vyāsa confirm this truth about You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me" (Bg. 10.12-13).

Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, "It is not that because Kṛṣṇa is Arjuna's intimate friend Arjuna is flattering Him by calling Him the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth. Whatever Arjuna says in these two verses is confirmed by Vedic truth" (Bg. 10.12-13, purport). When Yamarāja wanted to impress upon his messengers, the Yamadūtas, that Lord Viṣṇu is the supreme authority and that bhakti is the supreme path, he also quoted an impressive list of names. These teachers are known as the twelve mahā-janas, or authorities in Kṛṣṇa consciousness:

svayambhūr nāradaḥ śambhuḥ kaumāraḥ kapilo manuḥ
prahlādo janako bhīṣmo balir vaiyāsakir vayam
dvādaśaite vijānīmo dharmaṁ bhāgavataṁ bhaṭāḥ
guhyaṁ viśuddhaṁ durbodhaṁ yaṁ jñātvāmṛtam aśnute
[SB 6.3.20]

"Lord Brahmā, Bhagavān Nārada, Lord Śiva, the four Kumāras, Lord Kapila [the son of Devahūti], Svāyambhuva Manu, Prahlāda Mahārāja, Janaka Mahārāja, Grandfather Bhīṣma, Bali Mahārāja, Śukadeva Gosvāmī, and I myself know the real religious principle. My dear servants, this transcendental religious principle, which is known as bhāgavata-dharma, or surrender unto the Supreme Lord and love for Him, is un-contaminated by the material modes of nature. It is very confidential and difficult for ordinary human beings to understand, but if by chance a person fortunately understands it, he is immediately liberated, and thus he returns home, back to Godhead" (SB 6.3.20-21).

In his purport, Śrīla Prabhupāda stresses not only the importance of the individual sages but the fact that they are representatives of Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas:

There are four lines of disciplic succession: one from Lord Brahmā, one from Lord Śiva, one from Lakṣmī, the goddess of fortune, and one from the Kumāras. The disciplic succession from Lord Brahmā is called the Brahmā-sampradāya, the succession from Lord Śiva (Śambhu) is called the Rudra-sampradāya, the one from the goddess of fortune, Lakṣmījī, is called the Śrī-sampradāya, and the one from the Kumāras is called the Kumāra-sampradāya. One must take shelter of one of these four sampradāyas in order to understand the most confidential religious system. In the Padma Purāṇa it is said, sampradāya-vihīnā ye mantrās te niṣphalā matāḥ: "If a person does not follow the four recognized disciplic successions, his mantra or initiation is useless." [SB 6.3.20-21, purport]

Nārada states that the ācāryas of the Absolute Truth were not afraid of criticism. In bygone ages fools criticized pure devotees and even the Supreme Lord Himself. Once the powerful progenitor Dakṣa cursed Nārada because he had convinced Dakṣa's sons to reject marriage and remain celibate. Dakṣa called Nārada a sinful rascal posing as a devotee. Nārada tolerated Dakṣa's curse without retaliation, but he continued his preaching.

In his purports, Śrīla Prabhupāda compares the criticism Nārada received to the criticism he himself received from his disciples' parents. Their accusation was the same as Dakṣa's—that the spiritual master has unreasonably caused young boys (and girls) to give up the normal life of sense gratification and take to extreme forms of renunciation and devotion to God. The criticism of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement has taken organized shape as part of the "anti-cult movement," but Śrīla Prabhupāda assured his followers not to be afraid of attacks:

We have no business creating enemies, but the process is such that nondevotees will always be inimical toward us. Nevertheless, as stated in the śāstras, a devotee should be both tolerant and merciful. Devotees engaged in preaching should be prepared to be accused by ignorant persons, and yet they must be very merciful to the fallen, conditioned souls. If one can execute his duty in the disciplic succession of Nārada Muni, his service will surely be recognized.... Preaching can be a difficult, thankless task, but a preacher must follow the orders of the Supreme Lord and be unafraid of materialistic persons. [SB 6.5.39, purport]

Critics deride the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement as a concocted new cult. But just as the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra is supported by venerable authorities and mahā-janas, so the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, created by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, is also authoritative. In fact, the same authorities Nārada has cited also back up the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. Śrīla Prabhupāda comes in the disciplic line of the Brahma-Madhva-Gauḍīya-sampradāya, a line that includes Brahmā, Nārada, Vyāsadeva, Madhva, and Lord Caitanya. In the praṇāma-mantra Śrīla Prabhupāda's followers chant, the phrase gaura-vāṇī-pracāriṇe means that Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches the message of Lord Caitanya. The saṅkīrtana movement, the congregational chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa, was begun by Lord Caitanya Himself, and so the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement now spreading around the world is not a new religion but a continuation of the original sampradāya. As Śrīla Prabhupāda says, "Actually the original father of this movement is Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself, since it was started a very long time ago but is coming down to human society by disciplic succession" (Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, preface).

NBS 84

ya idaṁ nārada-proktaṁ śivānuśāsanaṁ viśvasiti śraddhate sa bhaktimān bhavati sa preṣṭhaṁ labhate sa preṣṭhaṁ labhata iti
Word for word: 
yaḥ — one who; idam — this; nārada-proktam — spoken by Nārada; śiva — auspicious; anuśāsanam — instruction; viśvasiti — trusts; śraddhate — is convinced by; saḥ — he; bhakti-mān — endowed with devotion; bhavati — becomes; saḥ — he; preṣṭham — the most dear (Supreme Lord); labhate — attains; saḥ — he; preṣṭham — the most dear; labhate — attains; iti — thus.
Translation: 
Anyone who trusts these instructions spoken by Nārada and is convinced by them will be blessed with devotion and attain the most dear Lord. Yes, he will attain the most dear Lord.
Purport: 

Nārada ends the Bhakti-sūtras by stating that one has to hear them with faith. Inquiries and even doubts may be placed before the guru, just as Arjuna expressed his doubts before Lord Kṛṣṇa. But an attitude of disbelief will prevent us from understanding. As Lord Kṛṣṇa states,

aśraddadhānāḥ puruṣā dharmasyāsya parantapa
aprāpya māṁ nivartante mṛtyu-saṁsāra-vartmani

"Those who are not faithful in this devotional service cannot attain Me, O conqueror of enemies. Therefore they return to the path of birth and death in this material world" (Bg. 9.3). And as stated in the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (6.23),

yasya deve parā bhaktir yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ prakāśante mahātmanaḥ
[ŚU

"Unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master, all the imports of the Vedas are automatically revealed."

This final sūtra declares that if a person hears the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra with faith, then Nārada blesses him with devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This means that Nārada Muni is present and acting through the teachings of the sūtras. The same potent blessing Nārada has given to many persons enabling them to become staunch bhaktas are available even now through his vāṇī, or teachings. As the Skanda Purāṇa states, "My dear Nārada, of all the saintly persons, you are so great and glorious that simply by your good wishes a lowborn hunter also has become a great, elevated devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa" (The Nectar of Devotion, p. 137).

Let us gratefully receive this benediction and repeatedly hear the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra for our transcendental pleasure and benefit. Nārada wishes to bless us that we shall attain the parāṁ gatim, the ultimate goal of life, the most cherished desire. But we must ask ourselves, "What do I desire?" If we desire to attain kṛṣṇa-bhakti and if we lead our life in accordance with the teachings of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then Nārada promises we will attain the ultimate in this life and the next: we will render devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa, the supreme beloved. As Rūpa Gosvāmī states in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, the goal of bhakti is very rarely attained. The Supreme Lord doesn't grant devotion as easily as He grants liberation, because when He gives devotion one gets an opportunity to serve Him directly. Śukadeva Gosvāmī tells Mahārāja Parīkṣit, "Those engaged in getting the Lord's favor attain liberation from the Lord very easily, but He does not very easily give the opportunity to render direct service unto Him" (SB 5.6.18).

Nārada assures us twice, so there should be no doubt about it: although bhakti is very rare and hard to attain, with the blessings of Nārada and his representatives we will attain the supreme beloved, we will attain the supreme beloved.

—Completed on Unmīlanī Mahā-dvādaśī, November 24, 1989, in Jagannātha Purī, as desired by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda