The greatest challenge in performing Sadhana Bhakti is our attempt to serve the Lord with only the cognizance of Him being an almighty God. The immense distance between us and the Lord during the clearing process (Anartha Nivrtthi) is such that most Sadhakas face difficulty in maintaining steady service. This misfortune can solely be attributed to a lack of Sambandha Jnana or in other words due to forgetting who we are.
Most of our energy during the clearing process goes into fighting our previously acquired Samskaras or subtle impressions and an insignificant proportion of our energy is offered to the Lord.
However, the Lord has sent His dear most servants and He stands ready to rescue us from this predicament as Sri Aniruddha, the Controller of the uncontrollable mind (HrisikesaIndriyatmane).
The focus of this write up is to share very potent prayers that can enhance our ability in meeting the number one challenge of fixing the Mind.
Definition of Sadhana Bhakti
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu offered a definition of Sadhana Bhakti to Srila Sanatana Goswami with the following verse (CC Madhya 22.105). Srila Rupa Goswami uses this verse as the definition of Sadhana Bhakti in the Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu.
kRti-sAdhyA bhavet-sAdhya-bhAvA sAdhanAbhidhA
nitya-siddhasya bhAvasya prAkaTyaM hRidi sAdhyatA
“When transcendental devotional service, by which love for Krishna is attained, is executed by the senses, it is called Sadhana-Bhakti, or the regulative discharge of devotional service. Such devotion eternally exists within the heart of every living entity. The awakening of this eternal devotion is the potentiality of devotional service in practice.”
The challenge of Sadhana Bhakti
The purpose of the process of Sadhana Bhakti is to fix our mind and senses in the service of the Lord. Not just the senses but also the mind. The word SadhanAbhidha in the above verse refers to the principle of Abhideya or action with a focused mind. There is no question of Abhideya without the mind being 100% focused on the Lord’s lotus feet.
The process of fixing the mind becomes second nature when the sadhaka becomes the recipient of Sambandha Jnana (knowledge of who we are, who is Krishna and our relationship with Him) at the stage of Nistha (being fixed) and progresses on to develop taste (Ruchi) which eventually leads to deep attachment (Asakti). At Bhava (devotional service in ecstasy), the details of the Sambandha are fully revealed although at Nistha there is an attraction to a Raga Atmika Bhakta or eternally liberated soul and his/her mellow. Nistha literally means being fixed in the mellow of an eternally liberated soul.
It is all about developing deeper Sambandha as we make progress. Higher the Sambandha Jnana and greater would be our ability to fix the mind.
It is natural for us to focus on and engage in the service of relationships that we are fully aware of and experience such as close family and friends. A mother does not have to be forced to serve her child with love or one does not have to be forced to serve his/her beloved. But we surely have to be forced to serve when we are not fully cognizant of a relationship.
The whole process of Vaidhi Sadhana Bhakti requires gentle force inspired by the relationship with our Guru .The process of purification of Vaidhi Sadhana Bhakti eventually leads one to the platform of spontaneity or Raga.
Weak Sambandha = Weak Faith = Weak Sadhana & vice versa
We are told to awaken at 4.00 AM and chant 16 rounds of the Maha Mantra calling out the name of the Lord who is almost unknown to us except for theoretical knowledge that we are His eternal servants. How much love can one express when full of doubts and on being forced? How much unmotivated, unconditional service can we offer to Someone who we unfortunately have not recognized as our only true love? There are some sadhakas who come to this world with very strong sukriti and take off like a rocket with very little ado. However, most sadhakas fall in the category of those with Komala Shraddha or weak faith.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna attributes the quality of our faith to the specific modes (Guna) that predominate the region of the heart. Faith is required when we only have a partial awareness of anything. The lower the modes, lesser would be our cognizance of Godhead and lower will be the quality of faith. The direct consequence of such a low degree of faith is the quality of our sadhana. Weak faith and poor sadhana go toghether .In the highest level, for a Bhava bhakta, there is no question of faith as he/she is already experiencing the Lord on the Vasudeva platform.
The Transcendental Director of the Mind and Senses
Krishna by His quadruple expansion of Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha is the ultimate controller of psychic action of Thinking, Feeling, Willing and Acting. Lord Aniruddha is the focus of this article as the expansion of the Lord who controls the psychic action of acting (Abhideya) with the senses and a mind fixed on the lotus feet of the Lord. He especially empowers us by fixing our mind in the service of the Lord by facilitating transcendental knowledge (Sambandha Jnana). There cannot be Krishna Sandhana or eternal service (Sat) without Krishna Sambandha or transcendental knowledge(Cit) and there obviously cannot be any Ananda or bliss without Sat and Cit.
Lord Siva, the preceptor
In the Srimad Bhagavatham 4.24.36-37, Lord Siva guides the Pracetas while they set out to engage in devotional service. To aid their Sadhana he gives them a set of beautiful prayers praising Lord Aniruddha. The two verses from the Srimad Bhagvatham request His mercy in being able to fix the mind and senses in the service of the Divine Couple.
Analysis of the verses
Srila Prabhupada in his purport of the above verses (SB 4.24.36-37) addresses the Lord as the Controller of the Mind. The mind is the director of the senses and the Lord is the director of the mind. In the next verse the Lord is praised by Lord Siva as One who sits within a purified heart (Suci Sade Namah). The Lord sits within a purified heart and directs our mind and engages our senses in the service of the Divine Couple.
Srila Prabhupada in his purport to SB 4.24.36 quotes the Bhagavad Gita 15.15 to reiterate the point that Lord Aniruddha sits within the heart and from Him come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. We have forgotten our eternal relationship (Sambandha Jnana) with the Lord and consequently are being forced in the process of Vaidhi Sadhana Bhakti to gradually recover from amnesia.
Further, Srila Prabhupada elaborates on the potency of Sri Aniruddha who is praised by Lord Siva as Namah Paramahamsaya (Likened to the sun-god) to remove all unwanted things from our heart (Anartha Nivritthi) just as the sun god sterilizes and purifies everything. He writes “just as fire sterilizes all unclean things, the sun-god also keeps everything sterilized, especially dirty things within the mind, thus enabling one to attain elevation to the platform of spiritual understanding.”
Lord Aniruddha purifies our heart by removing unwanted things (Anartha Nivritti) and paves the way to receive Sambandha Jnana (Nistha). Thus in the first verse S.B.4.24.36 He is compared to the Sun-god who purifies all unclean things. In the second verse S.B.4.24.37 He is praised as One who sits within a purified heart.
The form of Lord Aniruddha
According to the realized knowledge of the Acaryas in the Sri and Madhva Sampradayas, Lord Aniruddha is specifically worshipped as Lord Hayagriva or Sri Haya Sirasa (One with a Horse’s Head). There is substantial information on this form of Lord Aniruddha in the Sri and Madhva sampradayas. Lord Hayagriva is the Istadevata of Sri Vedanta Desikan and Sri Vathiraja Tirtha, two of the most prominent Acaryas in the Sri and Madhva lines after the Sampradaya acaryas.
A very prominent Acarya in the line of Sri Ramanuja, Sri Vedanta Desikan received the Hayagriva Mantra from Sri Garuda and achieved the perfection of the darsana of the Lord. It is said that the LaalAmritha or the nectarean saliva of the Lord fell on the tongue of the Swami Vedanta Desikan and blessed him to become the most prominent Acarya in the Sri Sampradaya after the time of Sri Ramanuja. In deep gratitude and ecstasy after the Darsana, the Acarya eulogizes Sri Hayagriva as Aadharam Sarva Vidhyanam (Foundation of all knowledge) in his first literary work in the form of the Hayagriva Sthothram or hymn praising Lord Hayagriva. He establishes the supreme position of the Lord by stating that all knowledge that Lord Siva and Mother Sarasvati possess is but a manifestation of His potency.
The devotion of Sri Vathiraja Tirtha of the Madhva sampradaya was such that the Lord used to accept his offering of horse gram with jaggery by personally appearing in the form of a horse every day.
Both Swami Desikan and Sri Vathiraja Tirtha were renowned for their outstanding ability to compose Sanskrit and local language prose and poetry. This is indicative of the specific blessing of Lord Hayagriva of transcendental knowledge or Sambandha Jnana. There is no hope of Abhideya or action with a fixed mind without Sambandha Jnana.
Prayers to the Lord as a daily practice to direct our Mana
I have personally experienced remarkable changes in the ability to focus the mind on the holy names after making the recitation of the prayers offered by Lord Siva (Srimad Bhagavatham 4.24.36-37) as a daily practice before the Japa session. Memorizing the prayers in the above link and begging for the mercy of the author i.e. Lord Siva to be able to recite the prayers in the same mood as he did is a must. We can only depend on our predecessor Acarya’s kripa shakti to be able to imbibe their mood before offering their composed work to the Lord.
The above article is an offering to the lotus feet of my Guru Maharaja Srila Bhakti Tirtha Swami humbly begging him for mercy to be able to serve the Lord and Vaishnavas.