The Bhakti Sutras of Narada: Part 1

The divine sage Narada is credited with the composition of eighty-four sutras (aphorisms) on bhakti (devotion). In this four-part series, I provide simple English translations of the sutras. I will first present the original in Devanagari and then the translation.

अथातो भक्तिं व्याख्यास्यामः । १
1. Now thus we shall discuss in detail about bhakti.
[The word 'bhakti' is derived from the root ‘bhaj,’ which means ‘share,’ ‘participate,’ ‘divide,’ ‘partake,’ ‘belong to,’ etc. A person who is endowed with bhakti is called a ‘bhakta’.]

सा त्वस्मिन् परप्रेमरूपा । २
2. It (bhakti) is in the form of supreme love for this (Supreme).

अमृतस्वरूपा च । ३
3. And (it has) the form of amrta.
[amrta = elixir of eternal life, immortality, beloved, imperishable, etc.]

यल्लब्ध्वा पुमान् सिद्धो भवति अमृतो भवति तृप्तो भवति । ४
4. On attaining it, a person becomes accomplished, unafraid of death, and fulfilled.

यत्प्राप्य न किञ्चिद् वाञ्छति न शोचति न द्वेष्टि न रमते नोत्साही भवति । ५
5. Having attained it, one doesn’t crave for anything nor grieve nor harbor hatred; one doesn’t indulge nor has the urge (for sense pleasures).

यज्ज्ञात्वा मत्तो भवति स्तब्धो भवति आत्मारामो भवति । ६
6. Having realized this, one becomes lost in it (the Supreme), attains stillness within, and delights in the Self.

सा न कामयमाना निरोधरूपत्वात् । ७
7. It has no element of lust, (because it is in) the form of self-control.

निरोधस्तु लोकवेदव्यापारन्यासः । ८
8. Self-control means keeping aside worldly and spiritual transactions.

तस्मिन्ननन्यता तद्विरोधिषूदासीनता च । ९
9. (Focus) on nothing else but That (Supreme) and being indifferent to everything opposed to it (is also self-control).

अन्याश्रयाणां त्यागोनन्यता । १०
10. (Focus) on nothing else but That (comes from) renouncing dependence on everything else.

लोकवेदेषु तदनुकूलाचरणं तद्विरोधिषूदासीनता । ११
11. ‘Being indifferent to everything opposed to it’ refers to undertaking worldly and spiritual (actions) that are aligned with it (the Supreme).

भवतु निश्चयदार्ढ्यादूर्ध्वं शास्त्ररक्षणम् । १२
12. Even after there is firmness in decision (of faith), adhere to the shastras.

अन्यथा पातित्यशङ्कया । १३
13. If not, (there is) a risk of falling down.

लोकोऽपि तावदेव भोजनादि व्यापारस्त्वाशरीरधारणावधि । १४
14. (Carry out) worldly (actions) until (you are aware of it) but (in any case) as long as one possesses a body, food and other such transactions (continue to) exist.

तल्लक्षणानि वाच्यन्ते नानामतभेदात् । १५
15. Let us speak about its (bhakti’s) characteristics according to various divergent opinions.

पूजादिष्वनुराग इति पाराशर्यः । १६
16. (Bhakti is) a passion for worship and other (such activities) according to Vyasa.

कथादिष्विति गर्गः । १७
17. (Bhakti is) (hearing and narrating) stories (of the Supreme) and other (such activities) according to Garga.

आत्मरत्यविरोधेनेति शाण्डिल्यः । १८
18. (Bhakti is) that which is not opposed to the Self according to Shandilya.

नारदस्तु तदर्पिताखिलाचारता तद्विस्मरणे परमव्याकुलतेति । १९
19. According to Narada, however, (bhakti is) offering all activities to the Supreme and being extremely restless upon forgetting the Supreme.

अस्त्येवमेवम् । २०
20. It is so, it is so

यथा व्रजगोपिकानाम् । २१
21. It is akin to the cowgirls of Vraja
[The gopikas of Vrindavana were renowned for their bhakti towards Krishna. The Bhagavata Purana and Vishnu Purana narrate stories of Krishna and the gopikas. According to the Vaishnava school of thought, the gopikas are seen as symbols for the jivatma (human soul).]

I'm grateful to Shatavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh for his review of my translation.

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About:

Hari is a writer, translator, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in Vedanta, Carnatic music, education pedagogy design, and literature. He has worked on books like The New Bhagavad-Gita, Your Dharma and Mine, Srishti, and Foggy Fool's Farrago.