The Narada Bhakti Sutra is didactic and religious in spirit, but this new translation and interpretation by Dr Alka Tyagi is an attempt to elucidate bhakti in all its facets without the need for the religious paraphernalia. The focus of this text is to reveal bhakti as a methodical approach that can lead to an experience of Supreme Love by which it is defined.
There are two streams of thought that go hand in hand in the text. The first line of thought indicates bhakti (the Supreme Love) as a progressive path towards a goal. The second line of thought conveys bhakti as a path which is simultaneously the goal as well. For those who are clearly emotionally inclined, it is easy to choose the second line of thought where bhakti is the goal itself.
Those who are intellectually inclined might find it difficult in the beginning to exercise unconditional love. For them, the first line of thought will work better. They can consciously choose bhakti (the path of love) as a step by step progressive path towards fulfilment and joy in life. For them, the rules of truth, non-violence, non-duality along with the rituals of ekadagadha-bhakti (the elevenfold bhakti) as prescribed by Sage Narada could be helpful techniques.
Bhakti, whether it is adopted as a process or is taken up as a goal, is a means to direct the emotional energy in every human being in a positive direction in order to experience and attain fullness in life.
Dr Alka Tyagi, a bilingual poet, translator and critic, teaches English at Dyal Singh (Evening) College, University of Delhi. She has her doctoral degree from School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU on medieval Bhakti poets Andal and Akka Mahadevi. Her thesis was published as Andal and Akka Mahadevi: Feminity to Divinity (2014). She writes poetry in Hindi and English. The Hindi collections are Sun ri Sakhi (2009) and Amaltas (2014) and English collection is Whispers at the Ganga Ghat (2014). She has translated Bhavani Prasad Mishra's award-winning Hindi poetry collection A Woven Rope for Sahitya Akademi. Dr Tyagi has co-edited, Gendered Space, an anthology of short stories translated from Indian languages into English. She has co-edited Literary Aesthetics and Conflict Studies (2018). She has edited English translation of Kalidasa's Abhijnanasakuntalam. She has also collected and rewritten a collection of oral and folk tales of wisdom published as Healing Tales. Her areas of interest include Bhakti, Yoga and Kashmir Saivagamas.
She is trained in Satyananda Yoga from Bihar School of Yoga, Munger and teaches Yoga at various platforms in India and abroad, along with her academic engagements. email : firstname.lastname@example.org
TOWARDS the end of 1990s, I began to visit Sivananda Ashram of Divine Life Society at Rishikesh. I often got a chance to interact with resident smnyasins there on teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati. During one such visit, I met Swami Devbhaktananda, who used to work at the printing press of the Ashram. He followed the footsteps of his guru Swami Sivananda and used to distribute many Ashram publication texts free of cost. I was also fortunate to receive the Narada Bhakti Sutra along with many more books of Swami Sivananda Saraswati as prasada from him.
This slim, small, copy of the Narada Bhakti Sutra with coffee-coloured cover page was translated by Swami Sivananda Saraswati himself. For me, all the books of Swamiji carry his vibrations. I feel as if his compassion still flows through his writings. His words are alive with energy even though he left his mortal body long ago. The Mirada Bhakti Sutra began to speak to me through Swami Sivanandaji's little booklet.
Coincidentally, I had begun to revive my Sanskrit studies and was keen on reading texts in simple Sanskrit. In this regard also, the Narada Bhakti Sutra served my purpose as it is one of the easiest texts for a Sanskrit language learner from linguistic point of view. I was happy to read it as I could understand the sutras without looking at the English translation given below.
The second sutra - sa tvasmin paramapreamsvarupa (Bhakti is of the form of supreme love) - connected me to the whole text in a deeper way. I began to understand that bhakti is not merely worshipping the image of God in a temple, or fasting or conducting rituals. Bhakti is all about expanding the boundaries of loving space in our life.
In our routine existence, we consider love to be something that we shower over those who are related to us by blood relations, friendship, marriage, attachment, etc. Narada shows us that bhakti is a capacity to love everyone and everything in the creation without any human-made restrictions of caste, class, gender, species, genus and so on and so forth.
At first glance, the Narada Bhakti Sutra appears to be didactic and religious in spirit but another look at it reveals many more facets of the text that relate to personal experience of that supreme love by which the bhakti is defined. There are two streams of thought that go hand in hand in the text. First line of thought indicates bhakti, the Supreme Love as a progressive path towards a goal. The second line of thought conveys bhakti as a path which is simultaneously the goal as well. I understand that for those of us who are clearly emotionally inclined, it is easy to choose the second line of thought where bhakti is the goal in itself. Such people should just tune in to the love that flows from their heart and should just channel it in an egalitarian manner to all.
However, those of us who are intellectually inclined will find it very difficult to exercise unconditional love. For them, the first line of thought will work better. They can consciously choose bhakti, the path of love as a progressive path towards fulfilment and joy in life. For them, the rules of truth, non-violence, non-duality along with the rituals of ekadasdha-bhakti (the elevenfold bhakti) as prescribed by Sage Narada could be helpful techniques. These rules and rituals are nothing but practices to rouse the emotional energy present in every human being in its fullness and to direct it in a positive direction.
We get a glimpse of the nature of joy of full love in the description of ekantinn bhaktas or those who are completely soaked in love in the sutra 68 of the text. When such people meet others of their kind, it is like Rama meeting Bharata during his vanavasa or like Ramakrishna Paramahansa meeting Narendranatha, the future Swami Vivekananda, the first time.
With a wish that love prevails on the planet and the forces of hatred and violence are sublimated by dominance of egalitarian love, I humbly offer this translation to the seekers of Absolute Love.
**Contents and Sample Pages**