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First Stage of Bhakti | Shraddha | Sri Vinod Babaji Maharaj

Shri Shri Binod Bihari das Babaji is my Shri Gurudev. His satsangs are like the sweet extraction of all shastras and Gaudiya theories. On request of some devotees, I have tried to translate some of his sweet nectarine since those are in hindi and many devotees from outside India do not know this language. Although. I am a great fool and have no right to make meaning of his satsang, I am just translating his satsang as he said it so that the devotees who don't understand hindi can themselves extract the meaning out of his satsang. I am sure there will be many grammatical mistakes as well as other mistakes in translating the satsang as Baba wanted it to be understood, but I hope you all will forgive me :) - Yashoda Gurucharan Dasi

There are three phases of bhakti i.e., Sadhan Bhakti, Bhava Bhakti and Prem Bhakti which in totality have nine stages in ascending order: Shraddha, Sadhu-sanga, Bhajan-kriya, Anartha-nivritti, Nishtha, Ruchi, Asakti, Bhava and Prem. Sadhan Bhakti consists of the stages from Shraddha till Asakti. After Asakti comes Bhava Bhakti and finally, Prem Bhakti.

A sadhak can find out how much he has progressed in the path of Bhakti by comparing the characteristics observed in his devotional life with those mentioned in these stages of Bhakti. Although Krishna does not let the sadhak know how much he has progressed in Bhakti and the sadhak does not believe he has Bhakti at all due to humility, such illustration of the various characteristics of each stage of Bhakti indicate how our Bhakti must evolve.

Firm faith in Sadhu (saints), Guru (spiritual mentor) and Shastras (scriptures) is called Shraddha. Faith is born from either the mercy of enlightened souls or the Samskaras (psychological impressions of innumerable previous births) of the sadhak (the practising devotee). The mercy of enlightened souls cannot be influenced or coerced by any means. When they bestow their causeless mercy on an absolutely materialistic person, the seed of Bhakti gets sown in his heart in the form of Shraddha. Then that person realizes that the human body and the world are temporary; that the sole purpose of this human birth is to worship Krishna and attain His divine Prem Bhakti.

There are three types of Shraddha: Sadharan Shraddha, Vishesh Shraddha and Atyantiki Shraddha.

  1. Sadharan Shraddha: A sadhak with Sadharan Shraddha visits Sadhus and his Guru occasionally and tries to serve them according to his convenience. He listens to Their lectures and tries to perform devotional services a little. He gets entangled in worldly matters most of the time, but sometimes, remembers that he must associate with enlightened Sadhus to develop Bhakti for Krishna. Thus, he visits Them for a few days but again gets entangled in Maya when he comes back.
  2. Vishesh Shraddha: A sadhak with Vishesh Shraddha tries to remain in association with Sadhus/Guru as much as possible and pleases Them through Their service. He tries to follow Their instructions with determination in his life. Such sadhaks must keep in mind that if they start finding faults in Sadhus/Guru, their Shraddha will get destroyed and they will end up committing Guru/Vaishnav Aparadhas instead of deepening their faith in Them.
  3. Atyantiki Shraddha: A sadhak with Atyantiki Shraddha considers Sadhus/Guru indifferent from Krishna and follows Their instructions with complete devotion. He tries to please Them in every way possible and even surrenders his own will/intellect at Their lotus feet. If, occasionally, he feels there is a conflict between his will/intellect/attitude and what They instructed him to do, he becomes worried and prays to his Guru, “O Gurudev, I have developed my independent will and I am unable to surrender completely myself at Your lotus feet. Please bestow Your mercy upon me so that I can do so.” The sadhak develops such love for his Guru that he is unable to stay calm without seeing his Guru or being near Him. Such great Shraddha for Guru is rare in this world and it cannot be developed artificially. This kind of Shraddha is possible only through the Samskar of devotion to Guru through many previous lives

The sadhak must have deep Shraddha in Krishna-Bhaktas and Sadhus to progress in the path of Bhakti. Are Krishna-Bhaktas and Sadhus not same? Let us understand who is a Sadhu and who is a Krishna Bhakta.

"Sadhavah sa sadhu" One who has done sadhana, that is, practiced devotional services is called a Sadhu.

There are five sensory organs: eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin. One who has done such sadhana so that he can control his senses, which constantly drag one's mind to material pleasures, is called a Sadhu. One who controls his mind is called a Sadhu. Some special traits appear naturally in such a person:

"Titiksavah karunikah suhridah sarva-dehinam,

Ajata-satravah santa sadhavah sadhu-bhusanah"  

(Srimad Bhagvatam 3.25.21)

  • Titiksha: It means to endure and be equally unaffected by happiness & unhappiness, honour & dishonour, cold & warmth, pleasures & miseries, profit & loss, good & evil. Neither do they become very happy on gaining pleasures, nor do they become unhappy on losing pleasurable things. If someone praises them, they do not start considering themselves as very honourable. Neither is it that they feel disgraced if someone disrespects them. They don't become distressed whether in cold or hot weather. This is because they know these are rules and ways of Prakriti (nature). This is called Titiksha

  • Karunika: It means to be compassionate. The Sadhu acknowledges that his beloved God resides in every living being and therefore, he becomes happy on seeing others' happiness and sad on seeing others' sadness. Such a Sadhu has a heartfelt desire to alleviate their miseries according to his capacity. He prays to God, "O Prabhu, please free this man of his miseries!" Even if that person is an adamant enemy and constantly agonizes the Sadhu in various ways, still the Sadhu prays for his happiness, "Hey Radharani, he should not be sad. Please free him from his sadness." This is Karunika. 

  • Suhrida Sarvadehinaam: Suhrida means one who desires another's welfare. Sarvadehinaam means ‘of all living beings'. The Sadhu desires the welfare of all living-beings. 
  • Ajata shatru: The Sadhu never engages or even think of having enmity with anyone. But does he not think of even that person who constantly engages in enmity with him as his enemy? No! Why? Because he thinks that all the good and bad events occurring to him are results of his own doings (whether in this birth or previous births). The Jivatma (a living being) has to bear the fruits of all his actions in his present and previous lives. Nobody else is the cause of his happiness and sadness. His enemies and friends are only the medium through which the fruits of his actions are reciprocated to him. These results of our actions are called fortunes or misfortunes in the language of the laymen.

Suppose someone studies very hard before examinations while another fellow doesn’t study at all. Therefore, the first person passes in examinations while the second person fails. So, when results come, one can say that the first person is very fortunate because he passed with first division marks. Here the ‘fortune' is nothing but the result of his efforts throughout the year.

God doesn't make anyone happy or sad. We receive the result of our own actions. When we receive pleasures, we appreciate ourselves for our intelligence, while we throw all the blame on others when we face unhappiness. But the truth is that all happiness and sadness are results of our own doings!

  • Shanta: The Sadhu remains calm in any kind of situation. Why? Because profit, loss, joy, sadness, etc are mundane and materialistic subjects. In our hearts, we must not let in anybody except our Thakurji. No external wave/vibe shall enter in our hearts! We must perform worldly actions with detachment but not give any worldly matter any space in our hearts. Worldly subjects like what somebody said, what loss I incurred due to someone, who gave me unhappiness, etc. - these matters should not enter our hearts. Mental restlessness is caused due to ignorance. These worldly matters will continue to occur as is their nature. Why should one be influenced by these? What have you brought with yourself in this world that you are afraid of losing? And if something is lost, you become sad?! You haven't lost anything!

Once a thief robbed a Sadhu of everything, he had in his kutir (Hut). The Sadhu came out of his kutir and started dancing and jumping! He said, "You have not been able to take everything that I had. I still have more! You couldn't take what is really mine! And whatever you have taken, among that too I have something left!" The thief came back. He was astonished. He caught the Sadhu and said, "Hey Baba, I have taken everything I found in your kutir and still you say you have something left? Tell me quickly, what else you have and where it is?"

The sadhu said, "Look brother, I'm telling the truth. I didn't come with anything in this world, so how can you take anything that is really mine? Why should I be afraid of losing anything? And OK, you have taken all the worldly things that was inside my kutir. But still something is left!" "Tell me quickly what is it?" asked the thief. "See, this Kaupina (cloth a sadhu wears as an undergarment on taking renunciation) is still left, I didn't bring even this with myself!" said the Sadhu.

See, this is a Sadhu. Becoming a Sadhu is very difficult. Becoming a Sadhu doesn’t mean keeping beard and dreadlocks. Wearing large-sized Tulasi mala doesn't mean you have become a Sadhu. Yes, it's good, it indicates your mentality. The appearance and clothes of a Sadhu must be offered obeisance. But the essence of being a Sadhu lies in his Bhakti for God and detachment from Maya (the illusory power of God).

There are two ways to recognize a Sadhu: Swarup Lakshan and Tatastha Lakshan. Swarup Lakshan means attributes of one's appearance. Tatastha Lakshan means one's character traits. By seeing that someone is wearing Tilak, Kanthi (tulasi beads garland) and chanting on a Japa mala, we offer our obeisance’s to him, believing that he is a Sadhu. We don't know whether he does bhajan or not, but this appearance itself is fit to revere and that's why we revere the Sadhu. But this is not the complete definition of a Sadhu. The important part of being a Sadhu is that whether he really has all the traits of a bonafide Sadhu.
  • Sadhavah means such a person is called a Sadhu.
  • Sadhu-bhushanah: One meaning of this is that the Sadhu is adorned by (above mentioned) pious traits. Another meaning is that a Sadhu believes that other Sadhus are his adornments, that is, Sadhus' mercy, the dust of their lotus feet, association, Darshan (sighting), touch, Seva (service) and Sannidhya (presence).

So, these are the traits of a Sadhu. It has nothing to do with Sampraday (the religious sect). It has nothing to do with whether a person is wearing tilak, kanthi or not, or whether he is wearing dhoti or full pants! One must associate with such a Sadhu only. We need not see his Sampraday.

Who is a Krishna bhakta? The one who has ‘Krishna-ras bhavit chitta vritti', that is, the mind is saturated with only intense mellow-sweet love for Krishna. On association of a Krishna Bhakta, gradually, Prem (divine love) arises in the hearts of even materialistic people.

At first, Sadhu-sanga is essential for creating the foundation for your Krishna Bhakti and then, association of Krishna Bhaktas for acquiring Prem Bhakti.

There are 18 main flaws in the human body:

  1. Moha (disillusionment),
  2. Tandra (the state between sleep and wake),
  3. Bhrama (misunderstanding),
  4. Ruksha-ras (inclination towards material pleasures),
  5. Parishram (stress),
  6. Asatya (untruth),
  7. Krodh (anger),
  8. Akanksha (desire),
  9. Aashanka (fear),
  10. Vishwa vibhrama (big, worldly ambitions),
  11. Ulvan kaam (extreme desires),
  12. Vaishyamya (the sense of differences amongst people),
  13. Lolata (hankering),
  14. Mada (pride),
  15. Matsarya (jealousy),
  16. Hinsa (ill will),
  17. Khed (regret) and
  18. Para-apeksha (expectations from others)"

With so many flaws how will one reach God? What should we do to become free of all these flaws? We must associate with such (above described) Sadhus with Shraddha.


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