Is bhakti what the bhaktas do, or are people bhaktas because they ‘follow’ (bad choice of words, but there is no other way to put it) the ‘bhakti marga’, or is bhakti neither of the two? I mean: is the bhakta moved because, for example, the child who stole the butter happens to be the Kannan, or because the child, who also happens to be the Lord, stole the butter? If it is the first, it is worthless: it is the same as being a sycophant (as the Americans would put it: one sucks up to …). If the second, it is false: surely, we are not moved to tears when our children steal and the lie about it. When the mother gets to hear from a child: “‘I’ did not steal” and, as proof, gets to see the ‘vishwarupa’ (in the mouth where the speech manifests itself) and ‘sees’ the Cosmos (all that ever was, is and shall be) in an ‘I’ — what is the question, and what the answer?
Could we, that is, ordinary human beings that the most of us are, experience (or achieve the state of) bhakti? Why is it that the more one searches for it, the more distant and unreachable it becomes? (The analogy with finding ‘the true love’ does not work here because one does not know what ‘true love’ is, where to find it, and it uniquely varies from person to person. Our traditions (a) teach us about Bhakti, tell us that (b) with the help of a teacher, and (c) in the company of the dAsas, any person could find or achieve bhakti.)
While a profoundly deep emotion appears to accompany Bhakti, the latter is not identical to the former. Why do I say this? In their search for Bhakti, and before they find it, most Bhaktas constantly lament — with deep anguish — that ‘the karunAmayi’ does not appear to show ‘karuna’ to them. Surely, during this phase, their emotions for the Lord (if this is what Bhakti is) is not (a) any less (quantitatively speaking) or (b) inauthentic or fake (c) or any different. If it was an emotional deficiency, why do these teachers not state this very obvious and simple truth about their own emotions (that both you and I seem to know)? The imagery of love is used to describe an emotional state (mostly of those who are searching for bhakti), but bhakti itself does not appear to fall together with a particular emotion.
Here is yet another formulation of the above problem. One of the impediments to Bhakti, the enlightened seem to say, are our emotional attachments and entanglements in the world. They do not say that we are merely attached to the wrong objects and people, and that shifting the locus (or the focus) of these attachments is what bhakti is. However, they do say that bhakti shifts these emotional bonds from the worldly things onto the Lord. Does it not follow from this Bhakti cannot be an emotion but is accompanied by one?
What amazes me (cognitively speaking) and drives me to despair and beyond (existentially speaking) is the singular absence of an issue of overriding importance. You see, our traditions tell us what it is to be in a state of ignorance (where most of us find ourselves in), how one is when one is searching, and what it is like when one has found it. (Call the ‘it’, the truth, bhakti, enlightenment, or whatever else you feel like.) What they do not tell us is also what all of us need to know: how did those who were successful make the transition from one state to the other? What helped them? Why do none of them speak about these, once they reach whatever they reached? Why do they merely tell us that the truth is staring us in our face, what that truth is, but not how they came to realize it? I mean, all of us ‘know’ — in some sense — what they say. ‘Knowing’ this does not help us; even ‘believing’ in this truth does not bring us closer to whatever they were close to or united with. They too knew this truth while they were searching, and it was not adequate for them either. At some stage or another, they made the transition from a state of utter anguish to that of total ‘bliss’. What enabled them? Did they simply wake up one day with a profound realization, did a miracle occur, or is it something like the lottery? If none of these, why are all of them so quiet on this utterly, utterly crucial issue?
- What exists in India, given ‘Hinduism’, ‘Buddhism’, etc. do not exist
- The Saint, The Criminal and The Terrorist—S.N.Balagangadhara