śīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamā
asyārthaḥ – anyābhilāṣa jñāna-karmādi-rahitā śrī-kṛṣṇam
uddiśyānukūlyena kāya-vāṅ-manobhir yāvatī kriyā sā bhaktiḥ.
“The cultivation of activities that are meant exclusively for the pleasure of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, or in other words the uninterrupted flow of service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, performed through all endeavours of the body, mind and speech, and through the expression of various spiritual sentiments (bhāvas), which is not covered by jñāna (knowledge aimed at impersonal liberation) and karma (reward-seeking activity), and which is devoid of all desires other than the aspiration to bring happiness to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is called uttama-bhakti, pure devotional service.”
Illumination of the meaning of Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu-bindu
Let me first of all offer repeated obeisances at the lotus feet of my spiritual master, nitya-līlā-praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda aṣṭottara-śata Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī; Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, who is the eternal associate of Lord Gaurāṅga; all the spiritual masters who are following in the line of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī; and Śrī Śrī Gaurāṅga Gāndharvikā Giridhārī Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Vinoda-bihārī. Praying for their causeless mercy and blessings, this insignificant and lowly person is beginning the translation and commentary named Śrī Bindu-vikāśinī-vṛtti of this sacred book Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu-bindu, written by the supreme teacher among the followers of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī (rūpānugas), Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura.
Symptoms of Uttama-bhakti
We are beginning hereafter by enumerating the symptoms of uttama-bhakti. The symptoms of uttama-bhakti, as described in this first verse, are of two kinds: (A) svarūpa-lakṣaṇa (intrinsic characteristic) and (B) taṭastha-lakṣaṇa (extrinsic characteristics). The svarūpa-lakṣaṇa is described in the second line of the verse: “ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānuśīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamā – uttama-bhakti involves the cultivation of activities favourable to Śrī Kṛṣṇa.” This is said to be the svarūpa-lakṣaṇa of uttama-bhakti because it acquaints us with the inherent nature or svarūpa of bhakti.
The taṭastha-lakṣaṇa are described in the first line of the verse: “anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṁ jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam – uttama-bhakti is devoid of all desires other than to please Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and it is not covered by jñāna and karma.” These are called the taṭastha–lakṣaṇa because they define those characteristics that are not part of the nature of bhakti.
(A) Svarūpa-lakṣaṇa – Intrinsic Characteristic
Anuśīlanam – Constant cultivation
Here the svarūpa-lakṣaṇa of uttama-bhakti will be described beginning with kṛṣṇānuśīlana. Just as all the various meanings of the verbal roots (dhātus), or in other words the constituent parts of words, can be understood by the ideas they express when applied as verbs (kriyā), all the meanings of the verbal root śīl, to do or practise, may be known by the word anuśīlana, to constantly practise or cultivate.
There are two meanings of any verbal root or dhātu: ceṣṭā-rūpa (in every verbal root some activity is implied) and bhāva-rūpa (inherent in every action, or accompanying every action, there is some particular sentiment). The meaning of ceṣṭā-rūpa is also of two kinds: (1) sādhana-rūpa – endeavours in the stage of sādhana leading to the manifestation of bhāva (comprising both vaidhī– and rāgānuga-sādhana) and (2) kārya-rūpa – endeavours that manifest as effects upon attainment of the stage of bhāva, or in other words the anubhāvas of bhāva-bhakti. Included within this category are the eight sāttvika-bhāvas, such as crying and standing of the hairs on end, and the anubhāvas such as singing and dancing. All these effects (anubhāvas) are expressions arising from the mind that is constituted of viśuddha-sattva.
Sādhana-rūpa is further divided into two parts: pravṛtti-mūlaka, that which is based on performance of positive action, and nivṛtti-mūlaka, that which is based on avoidance of negative action.
The aspect of the verbal root that deals with the performance of positive action refers to favourable endeavours undertaken with the body (kāyika), mind (mānasika) and speech (vācika). The aspect of the verbal root that involves the avoidance of negative action is different in meaning from that which arises from engagement in positive activity. In other words nivṛtty-ātmaka-ceṣṭā-rūpa involves the avoidance of all activities, also performed with body, mind and speech, that give rise to offences in service (sevāparādha), offences to the holy name (nāmāparādha) and offences to the holy places (dhāmāparādha).
The meaning of bhāva-rūpa is also of two kinds: prīti, love, and viṣāda, despondency. Prīti refers to the manifestation of the sthāyibhāva, and viṣāda refers to the sañcāri-bhāvas (also known as vyabhicāri-bhāvas). Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura has explained this same thing in his commentary to Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.3.1). There he says that bhāva-rūpa may be divided into two aspects: (1) sthāyibhāva-rūpa – the permanent sentiment in one of the five primary relationships of śānta, dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya or mādhurya, and (2) sañcāri-bhāva rūpa – the internal transitory emotions, which arise like waves from the ocean of the sthāyibhāva, enhance it and then submerge once again into the sthāyibhāva. There are thirty-three sañcāri-bhāvas, such as viṣāda (despondency), dainya (depression) and nirveda (self-disparagement).
Sthāyibhāva-rūpa is again divided into two forms, which are (1) premāṅkura-rūpa – the sprout of prema, that is, rati or bhāva, and (2) prema-rūpa – prema, which is developed through the stages of sneha, māna, praṇaya, rāga, anurāga, bhāva and mahābhāva. All these states (bhāva and so on) are completely beyond mundane worldly sentiments. They are transcendental and fully situated in unalloyed goodness, viśuddha-sattva. These will be described later.
Of the sixty-four limbs (aṅgas) of bhakti that are described in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, the first ten beginning from śrī-guru-padāśraya, taking shelter of the lotus feet of a spiritual master, involve the cultivation of bhakti through endeavours (ceṣṭā-rūpa) arising from positive activity, pravṛtti-mūlaka. These ten limbs are the beginning forms of bhajana. After this the next ten limbs describe activities that are to be given up. These include renunciation of the association of non-devotees (avaiṣṇava-saṅga-tyāga), avoidance of sevāparādha and nāmāparādha, and so on. To refrain from such activities is what is meant by the cultivation of bhakti through endeavours arising from avoidance of negative activity, nivṛtti-mūlaka. One should act in such a way as to exclude these negative items.
The meaning of the word anuśīlana has thus been defined in terms of endeavours or ceṣṭā-rūpa of two kinds, pravṛttyātmaka and nivṛttyātmaka, and in terms of sentiments that arise in connection with such endeavours, bhāva-rūpa. When such cultivation (anuśīlana) is in relation to Śrī Kṛṣṇa or when it is performed for His pleasure, it is called bhakti.
The word kṛṣṇānuśīlana implies two kinds of endeavours or ceṣṭā – all varieties of anuśīlana that are related to Śrī Kṛṣṇa and all varieties of anuśīlana that are performed directly for Śrī Kṛṣṇa. This refers to the limbs of bhakti such as śrī-guru-padāśraya, accepting dīkṣā (initiation) and śikṣā (spiritual instructions) from Śrī Gurudeva, viśrambha-bhāva-guru-sevā (serving the guru with a feeling of great intimacy) and so on. In all these limbs of bhakti there is no possibility that the fault of avyāpti, under-extension of a definition, could occur. In other words there is no possibility that these limbs of bhakti could fail to be included within the definition of kṛṣṇānuśīlana.
Similarly the sthāyibhāva (including rati, prema, sneha and so on) and the vyabhicāri-bhāvas, which both come under the heading of bhāva-rūpa, are included within the word kṛṣṇānuśīlana. Consequently there is no possibility of the fault of avyāpti occurring in their case either.
Thus anuśīlana that is undertaken for Kṛṣṇa both as ceṣṭā-rūpa (endeavours) and as bhāva-rūpa (both sthāyibhāva– and vyabhicāri-bhāva-rūpa) is possible only by the mercy of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and the devotees of Kṛṣṇa. Śrī Gurudeva is a parama-bhagavad-bhakta. Therefore the limbs of bhakti such as śrī-guru-padāśraya and so on are also within kṛṣṇānuśīlana. The sthāyibhāva and other sentiments associated with it, or in other words anubhāva, sāttvika-bhāva and vyabhicāri-bhāva, are related to Śrī Kṛṣṇa as well. Therefore they are also within kṛṣṇānuśīlana.
Kṛṣṇānuśīlana, or bhakti, is a special function (vṛtti) of the svarūpa-śakti or internal energy of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The body, mind and senses of conditioned souls (baddha-jīvas) are all unconscious. The function of svarūpa-śakti cannot manifest in the unconscious body, mind and speech of conditioned souls. But due to the causeless mercy of the ocean of mercy Śrī Kṛṣṇa or the parama-bhagavad-bhaktas, the function of svarūpa-śakti obtains identification with (tādātmya) and manifests in the body, mind and words (even though they are material) of the devotees who have taken shelter of the lotus feet of Śrī Gurudeva. This subject will be described more clearly ahead.
The meaning of the word tādātmya can be understood from the following example. When fire permeates an iron rod it burns other objects. The iron rod does not burn other objects. In this example the fire is said to have obtained oneness with the iron rod (tādātmya). Similarly, by the mercy of the Lord, the bhakti-vṛtti of svarūpa-śakti obtains tādātmya with the body, mind and words of the devotees and then acts through them.
In the verse under discussion, the word Kṛṣṇa has been used to indicate Svayam Bhagavān Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa and all other incarnations (avatāras) of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. However, there is a gradation in the cultivation of bhakti in accordance with its object – either svayam avatārī Kṛṣṇa, the original source of all incarnations, or other avatāras. This gradation in the cultivation of bhakti will be described later.
The svarūpa-lakṣaṇa of bhakti has been defined as the cultivation of activities in relation to Śrī Kṛṣṇa (kṛṣṇānuśīlana). Now in order to further qualify this definition, the word ānukūlyena will be explained. In order to establish the svarūpa or inherent nature of bhakti, the qualifying adjective ānukūlyena (favourably disposed) has been used, because bhakti is not accomplished by unfavourable behaviour.
Certain liberal-minded philosophers have defined the meaning of the word ānukūlya as behaviour or engagement that is pleasing. In other words they say that bhakti or the cultivation of activities in relation to Śrī Kṛṣṇa should be pleasing to Him. Such engagement that is pleasing to Kṛṣṇa is termed as ānukūlya-viśiṣṭa-bhakti, devotion that is favourable to the pleasure of Kṛṣṇa. But by accepting this kind of meaning, the faults of ativyāpti, over-extension, and avyāpti, under-extension, may become present in the definition of bhakti. Ativyāpti means that when a definition is too wide it encompasses things which are not to be included within the description. Avyāpti means that when a definition is too narrow it excludes things which should be included within the description.
When the asuras Cāṇūra, Mūṣṭika and others struck the limbs of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the wrestling match, it gave great happiness to Him. He began to taste vīra-rasa (heroism) with great enthusiasm in their company. In this example the asuras’ activity of striking the Lord appears to be pleasing to Kṛṣṇa. A doubt arises here as to how the activity of the asuras can be pleasing to Kṛṣṇa. In response to this doubt, a portion of a verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.13.30) is cited here: “manasvinām iva sat samprahāraḥ – although in the vision of ordinary persons a fierce battle with an enemy is the cause of great distress, for great heroes it is very pleasing.”
If the asuras’ activity of violently striking the Lord in the wrestling match, due to its being pleasing to Kṛṣṇa, is accepted as bhakti, then the fault of ativyāpti or over-extension enters into the definition of bhakti. In other words the asuras’ activity of maliciously striking the Lord is completely opposed to bhakti, but because it is pleasing to Kṛṣṇa, it appears to be included within the description of bhakti.
Another example is when Yaśodā-maiyā seated Śrī Kṛṣṇa in her lap and began to breast-feed Him. At that time the milk on the stove boiled over and was falling into the fire. Yaśodā-maiyā left Kṛṣṇa unsatisfied and went to rescue the milk. This was not pleasing to Kṛṣṇa. His tiny lips began to tremble with anger – sañjāta-kopaḥ sphuritāruṇādharaṁ (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.9.6)). In this example, because the activity of Mother Yaśodā was displeasing to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, it would seem to be excluded from the definition of bhakti. Therefore here the fault of avyāpti or under-extension appears to be present in the definition of bhakti.
The faults of ativyāpti and avyāpti, respectively, seem to appear in the cited examples of the activities of the asuras and those of Yaśodā-maiyā. The word ānukūlya has been used here with the intention of prohibiting these kinds of faults. The real meaning of ānukūlya is to be completely free of any attitude that is unfavourable or hostile to the Lord.
Without the complete absence of any attitude that is unfavourable to the Lord, bhakti is not established. According to this definition of bhakti, the fault of ativyāpti cannot be applied to the asuras (in other words the definition of bhakti does not extend to them), because they are always possessed of a malicious attitude towards the Lord. Consequently, because they are not devoid of a hostile attitude, their activities are not counted as bhakti. Here the meaning of anukūlya is to be devoid of any attitude unfavourable to the Lord.
On the other hand the activity of Yaśodā-maiyā, from the external point of view, appeared to be unfavourable because it was seen to be displeasing to Kṛṣṇa. But Yaśodā-maiyā has no trace of any attitude that is displeasing to Kṛṣṇa. She is always permeated with an attitude that is completely agreeable towards Kṛṣṇa, being constantly attentive to rearing Him and looking after His welfare. Therefore the definition of bhakti has no contact with the fault of avyāpti in regard to Yaśodā (in other words the definition of bhakti does not exclude her example).
The devotees naturally display even greater love towards those things that are favourable towards the service of Kṛṣṇa than towards Kṛṣṇa directly. Kṛṣṇa was to be nourished with the milk that was boiling on the stove. It was only with the idea of Kṛṣṇa’s future benefit that Yaśodā-maiyā left Him aside to tend to the milk; therefore this action is also bhakti.
Someone may raise the contention that if a favourable attitude (ānukūlya), or in other words the absence of any inimical attitude (prātikūlya), is defined as bhakti, and if bhakti involves some kind of activity that is favourable or pleasing to Kṛṣṇa, then what need is there to further qualify bhakti by use of the word anuśīlana (attentive study or practice)? Why has this word been used if it is without meaning? It is with the purpose of responding to just such a doubt that the word anuśīlana has been employed.
The true nature of bhakti is not established by the mere absence of an inimical attitude, for even within a clay pot there is an absence of animosity. Can the pot then be said to possess bhakti? It never can. It is true that there is no animosity in the pot; however, because there is no activity of the kind implied by the word anuśīlana, the existence of bhakti cannot be admitted. Therefore the use of the word anuśīlana is not without meaning.
(B) Taṭastha-lakṣaṇa – Extrinsic Characteristics
Having thus described the svarūpa-lakṣaṇa of bhakti, the taṭastha-lakṣaṇa or extrinsic characteristics are described in order to establish the exclusivity of uttama-bhakti. The taṭastha-lakṣaṇa are pointed out in the beginning of this verse by the use of two terms: anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyam and jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam.
How should the cultivation of activities favourable to Kṛṣṇa be undertaken? One should act only in such a way that bhakti may be augmented, giving up laukika-abhilāṣa (worldly desires), pāralaukika-abhilāṣa (other-worldly pursuits such as elevation to the heavenly planets and acquisition of mystic perfections in yoga) and any other kind of aspiration. This same idea has been expressed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.3.31): “bhaktyā sañjātayā bhaktyā – bhakti is produced only by bhakti.” According to this statement bhakti (śravaṇa, kīrtana and other forms of sādhana) is to be done only for the sake of bhakti. The meaning of this is that sādhana- and bhāva-bhakti should be done only with the objective of attaining prema-bhakti. Therefore to be devoid of all desires other than bhakti is uttama-bhakti.
It is especially noteworthy here to consider why it is that the term anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyam has been used rather than anyābhilāṣa-śūnyam. A very deep and confidential idea of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmipāda has been concealed in this statement. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has used the term anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyam after giving a great deal of consideration to this matter. The term anyābhilāṣa means a desire for other objects. To this word the Sanskrit suffix in has first been added. This suffix indicates the natural or acquired way of living or acting. When used in conjunction with the word anyābhilāṣa, it means the innate tendency to act under extraneous desires. To this the suffix tā is added, which indicates the quality or state of being of anything. This means that in his natural condition a sādhaka should have no desires other than for bhakti. But if on the appearance of some unexpected calamity (in an unnatural condition) a sādhaka prays, “O Bhagavān, I am Your devotee. Please protect me from this calamity,” then in spite of this desire, no damage is done to his bhakti. It is only due to some calamity that there is a reversal of his natural condition. Therefore he becomes compelled by circumstances to pray in an unnatural way. It should be understood that this desire is not his innate condition.
The second extrinsic characteristic is now being explained. The term jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam means that the cultivation of bhakti should be free from the covering of jñāna, karma and so forth. There are three divisions of jñāna: (1) tat-padārtha-jñāna, (2) tvaṁ-padārtha-jñāna and (3) jīva-brahma-aikya-jñāna.
Knowledge of the constitutional identity of Bhagavān
Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the absolute truth, parama-tattva. He is the nondual Parabrahma. He is the origin of all, yet He is without origin. He is the cause of all causes. He is the supreme repository of all the qualities of aiśvarya (majesty) and mādhurya (sweetness). He is completely bereft of inferior material qualities (prākṛta-guṇa). He is replete with all transcendental qualities (aprākṛta-guṇa). He is sac-cid-ānandamaya-vigraha, the embodiment of existence, cognisance and bliss. He is acintya-sarva-śaktimān, the inconceivable possessor of all potencies. He is the very identity of both rasa and rasika. In other words He is the abode of all rasa, and He Himself is fully adept in enjoying such rasa in the company of His devotees. He is Svayam Bhagavān, the ultimate object to be ascertained by the Vedas and all śāstras. He alone is the person to be designated by the term Svayam Bhagavān. This kind of knowledge is called tat-padārtha-jñāna.
Knowledge of the constitutional identity of the jīva and his relationship with Bhagavān
The jīvas, as atomic particles of living spirit (cit-paramāṇu-svarūpa), are but infinitesimal rays of the supreme existential spirit, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Although non-different from Lord Hari, they are eternally distinct from Him. The jīvas are infinitesimal consciousness (aṇu-caitanya), whereas the Lord is the all-pervading consciousness (vibhu-caitanya). The jīvas are subjugated by māyā, while the Lord is the controller of māyā. Even in the liberated condition, the jīva, in accordance with his nature as the marginal potency (taṭastha-śakti), is capable of falling under the sway of material nature (māyā-prakṛti). The jīva is represented both as knowledge (jñāna-svarūpa) and as the knower (jñātā-svarūpa). Although the potentiality for action (kartṛtva) is present in him, he nonetheless remains atomic spirit (aṇucit).
He has minute independence; therefore he is by nature the eternal servant of the supreme absolute truth, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. He also possesses eternal separate existence. In other words he is both independent and dependent. On account of being a product of the taṭastha-śakti of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the jīva’s relationship with Śrī Kṛṣṇa is one of inconceivable, simultaneous oneness and difference (acintya-bheda-abheda). Apart from this, because he is a portion of the Lord and because the tendency to serve the Lord is inherent in his nature, the jīva’s relationship with Śrī Kṛṣṇa is that of the eternal servant and the served. This type of knowledge is called tvaṁ-padārtha-jñāna.
Knowledge of the oneness of the jīva and Brahman
There is no difference between the jīva and Brahman. When ignorance is dissipated the jīva becomes identical with the svarūpa of Brahman. At that time the jīva has no separate existence. This kind of knowledge is called jīva-brahma-aikya-jñāna.
The word jñāna, which is used in the verse under discussion, refers only to this knowledge of the oneness of the jīvas and Brahman. This knowledge is called nirviśeṣa-jñāna, knowledge of non-distinction, or impersonalism. Nirviśeṣa-jñāna is opposed to bhakti. But the other two forms of knowledge mentioned before – tat-padārtha-jñāna and tvaṁ-padārtha-jñāna – are not opposed to bhakti. When one adopts the path of bhakti, these two types of knowledge are essential. But upon entering the path of bhakti, devotion mixed with empiric speculative knowledge (jñāna-miśra-bhakti) is labelled as external. This type of knowledge must be given up.
There is no possibility that the jīva’s natural relationship with the Supreme Lord as servant and served could ever arise in jīva-brahma-aikya-jñāna. This attitude of servant and served, sevya-sevaka-bhāva, is the very life of bhakti. Therefore to remain fully purified of any taint of nirviśeṣa-jñāna is part of the second extrinsic characteristic of uttama-bhakti.
Three types of bhakti
One should also remember that bhakti is of three types: (1) āropa-siddhā (those activities which, although not consisting of pure bhakti, are designated as bhakti due to their being offered to the Supreme Lord); (2) saṅga-siddhā (those endeavours that are associated with or favourable to the development of bhakti but not of themselves purely composed of bhakti); and (3) svarūpa-siddhā (those endeavours that are purely constituted of uttama-bhakti).
Endeavours indirectly attributed with the quality of bhakti
Endeavours which by nature are not purely constituted of bhakti – that is, ānukūlya-kṛṣṇānuśīlana – and in which the performer, in order to fulfil his own purpose, offers his activities and their results to the Lord so that He may be pleased, are called āropa-siddha-bhakti. In other words because his activities are assigned (āropa) to the Supreme Lord, bhakti is attributed (āropita) to them.
That bhakti which is mixed with karma or desires for material enjoyment is called sakāma-bhakti or saguṇa-bhakti. Without the assistance of bhakti, karma cannot yield any fruit. Knowing this, many persons offer their prescribed duties for the satisfaction of the Lord, in order that He might fulfil their extraneous desires. The activities of such persons are not svarūpa-siddha-bhakti. Nonetheless, because they offer the fruit of their activity to the Lord, it is considered as a type of bhakti. Although their activities are offered for the satisfaction of the Lord, their motivation is that by pleasing Him, He may fulfil their extraneous desires. In this case their activities are attributed with the sense of bhakti. Therefore such endeavours are known as āropa-siddha-bhakti.
Endeavours associated with or favourable to the cultivation of bhakti
There are other endeavours which, although not purely constituted of bhakti (i.e. anukūlya-kṛṣṇānuśīlana), acquire a likeness to bhakti due to their being established as assistants to bhakti. Such endeavours are known as saṅga-siddha-bhakti. An example of this is found in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.3.23–5) in the statement of Śrī Prabuddha Muni to Mahārāja Nimi: “One should cultivate compassion towards others, friendliness, offering respect to others, cleanliness, austerity, tolerance, silence, study of the Vedas, simplicity, celibacy, non-violence and so on. One should consider heat and cold, happiness and distress to be the same. One should perceive the presence of the Lord everywhere. One should live in a secluded place, renounce family attachments and remain satisfied with gain that comes of its own accord.”
Even though the behaviour or practices of bhāgavata-dharma described in this verse are not by nature purely constituted of bhakti, they are assistants to bhakti. Thus they are considered to be like associates or parikaras of bhakti. If bhagavad-bhakti is removed from the twenty-six qualities alluded to above by Prabuddha Muni, then Bhagavān has no direct relationship with them. Only when these qualities exist as assistants to or associates of bhakti is their likeness to bhakti effected. Therefore they are known as saṅga-siddha-bhakti.
Endeavours purely constituted of uttama-bhakti
All favourable endeavours (ceṣṭā) such as śravaṇa, kīrtana, smaraṇa and so on, as well as the manifestation of the spiritual sentiments which occur beginning from the stage of bhāva, which are completely devoid of all desires separate from Śrī Kṛṣṇa and which are freed from the coverings of jñāna and karma, are known as svarūpa-siddha-bhakti. In other words all endeavours of the body, mind and words that are related to Śrī Kṛṣṇa and that are performed exclusively and directly for His pleasure without any intervention are known as svarūpa-siddha-bhakti.
Therefore in rāmānanda-saṁvāda, the conversation between Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Rāya Rāmānanda found in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, both āropa-siddha- and saṅga-siddha-bhakti have been described as external.
By the word karma used in this verse, all smārta-karma or in other words all nitya-naimittika-karma (daily and occasional duties) mentioned in the smṛti-śāstras as well as all types of karma-miśra- and jñāna-miśra-bhakti have been forbidden. Karma as activities that are undertaken as sevā-paricaryā (service and attendance upon the Lord) and that are helpful to the performance of bhajana are not forbidden. Because all activities of sevā-paricaryā related to bhajana fall within the jurisdiction of kṛṣṇānuśīlana, they can never be prohibited.
In the phrase jñāna-karmādi, the word ādi (which means “and so on”) refers to phalgu-vairāgya (renunciation that is not helpful to bhakti), aṣṭāṅga-yoga (the eightfold yoga system), the practice of abhyāsa-yoga (frequent and repeated meditation on abstract spirit) as cited in sāṅkhya-śāstra, and other practices. All these are also prohibited.
One other topic is worthy of consideration here. Why is it that the word anāvṛta (uncovered) has been used in relation to jñāna, karma and so on instead of the word śūnya (completely devoid of)? This has been done to signify that only jñāna and karma that cover bhakti have been prohibited and not jñāna or karma that gives nourishment to bhakti. By a complete absence of karma and jñāna, a sādhaka would not even be able to maintain his life.
The coverings of bhakti are of two kinds: (1) the fear that by not performing the nitya-karma (daily obligatory rituals) in conformity to the injunctions of the śāstras, one will incur sin; and (2) the conviction that by carrying out the nitya-naimittika-karma (daily and occasional duties) set down in the smṛti-śāstras, one will obtain the desired fruit in the form of bhakti. If one is impelled by such a conviction and faithfully performs all the nitya-naimittika-karma thinking that bhakti cannot be attained without them, then such karma will obscure bhakti.
If, however, an advanced devotee sometimes performs Vedic rituals like the śrāddha offering to the forefathers, with no regard for them and merely for the instruction and restraint of people in general, there will be no harm done to his bhakti. Because he performs such activities without the faith that bhakti is dependent on such performances, there is no hindrance to or covering of śuddha-bhakti.
Here the phrase kṛṣṇānuśīlana refers simply to kṛṣṇa-bhakti. This phrase has been used in the verse to point out very clearly that bhakti is to be directed exclusively towards Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Wherever the word bhakti is mentioned in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Nārada-pañcarātra and all other bhakti-śāstras, it refers only to bhagavad-bhakti. The purport of this is that the word bhakti should be used only for the Lord’s incarnations in the category of viṣṇu-tattva.