Long after the war in the Mahabharata ended, the Bhagavad-Gita has remained a fixed star in the Eastern sky, lighting the path of generations of devotees, including non-Hindus, and a growing number of non-sectarian thinkers around the world. But with hundreds of translations and essays about its philosophy the Gita is somewhat overcooked. One wonders what more can be said that has not been already said. By contrast, even though the religious mysticism of Narada Bhakti Sutra and of the Gita are indistinguishable, the former has not been widely read in the West. It is time to set both these holy texts side by side.
Who is Narada?
In The Secret Doctrine, “Narada is here, there, and everywhere; and yet, none of the Puranas gives the true characteristics of this great enemy of physical procreation.” 2 “ . . . Narada [is] the son of Brahma in MatsyaPurana, the progeny of Kasyapa, and the daughter of Daksha in the VishnuPurana . . . ” 3 Elsewhere, Narada is alleged to be “‘the first Adversary’ in individual human form, . . . ‘the Strife maker,’ . . . the great ‘Deceiver,’” 4 the prototype of Satan. These unflattering epithets do not imply ambitious or selfish motives. On the contrary, Narada is the Sage of sages. He serves and guides “universal progress and evolution.” 5 He is a “bundle of apparent incongruities, yet a wealth of philosophical tenets.”
[Narada] is a Brahmaputra, a son of Brahma, the male . . . in every old cosmogony and Scripture.7 . . . He is “one of the Greatest Rishis . . . a Devarishi; . . . shown in constant and everlasting feud with Brahma, Daksha, and other gods and sages.” 1 . . . Narada is the last of ten Prajapatis or eminent saints named by Manu, “in whom the Brahman theologians see prophets, ancestors of the human race, and the Pundits simply consider as ten powerful kings who lived in the Krita-yuga, or the age of good (the ‘golden age’ of the Greeks).”
Narada abridged the Laws of Brahma. “We read in the preface to a treatise on legislation by Narada,” says Jacolliot, “written by one of his adepts, a client of Brahmanical power: ‘Manu having written the laws of Brahma, in 100,000 shlokas, or distichs, which formed twenty-four books and a thousand chapters, gave the work to Narada, the sage of sages, who abridged it for the use of mankind to 12,000 verses, which he gave to a son of Bhrigu, named Sumati, who, for the greater convenience of man, reduced them to 4,000.’” 3 . . . Narada invented the Vina a lute-like ancient musical instrument that chants the middle in a “ladder of mystic sounds,” or one of seven manners of hearing the voice of the Higher Self that are mentioned in The Voice of the Silence, 4 where disciples are compared with “the strings of the soul-echoing Vina,” and mankind with “its sounding board.”
Narada thought of the apophthegm:
Never utter these words: “I do not know this — therefore it is false.” One must study to know, know to understand, understand to judge.
He is the Deva Rishi of Occultism
Narada is involved with occult doctrines. “Of all the Vedic Rishis, Narada, as already shown, is the most incomprehensible, because the most closely connected with the occult doctrines — especially with the secret cycles and Kalpas.”
Narada is the Deva Rishi of Occultism par excellence; . . . the Occultist who does not ponder, analyze, and study Narada from his seven esoteric facets, will never be able to fathom certain anthropological, chronological, and even Cosmic Mysteries. He is one of the Fires . . . and plays a part in the evolution of this Kalpa from its incipient, down to its final stage. He is an actor who appears in each of the successive acts (Root-Races) of the present Manvantaric drama, in the world allegories which strike the keynote of esotericism, . .
In Cis-Himalayan Occultism, Narada is Pesh-Hun, “the mysterious guiding intelligent power, which gives the impulse to, and regulates the impetus of cycles, Kalpas, and universal events.” 1 . . . “Pesh-Hun is credited with having calculated and recorded all the astronomical and cosmic cycles to come, . . . with having taught the Science to the first gazers at the starry vault. . . . [and for authoring] a work among the Secret Books, called the Mirror of Futurity, wherein all the Kalpas within Kalpas and cycles within the bosom of Sesha, or infinite Time, are recorded.”
Narada is a rebel against Brahma. “In Esoteric Philosophy, the Rudras (Kumaras, Adityas, Gandharvas, Asuras, etc.) are the highest DhyaniChohans or Devas as regards intellectuality. They are those who, owing to their having acquired by self-development the fivefold nature — hence the sacredness of number five — became independent of the pure Arupa devas. This is a mystery very difficult to realise and understand correctly. For, we see that those who were ‘obedient to law’ are, equally with the rebels, doomed to be reborn in every age. Narada, the Rishi, is cursed by Brahma to incessant peripateticism on Earth, i.e., to be constantly reborn. He is a rebel against Brahma, and yet has no worse fate than the Jayas — the twelve great creative gods produced by Brahma as his assistants in the functions of creation. For the latter, lost in meditation, only forgot to create; and for this, they are equally cursed by Brahma to be born in every Manvantara. And still they are termed — together with the rebels — Chhandajas or those born of their own will in human form!”
Narada is the leader of the Gandharvas, the celestial singers, and musicians; esoterically, the reason for it is explained by the fact that the latter (the Gandharvas) are “the instructors of men in the secret sciences.” It is they, who “loving the women of the Earth,” disclosed to them the mysteries of creation; or, as in the Veda — the “heavenly Gandharva” is a deity who knew and revealed the secrets of heaven and divine truths, in general. If we remember what is said of this class of Angels in the Book of Enoch and in the Bible, then the allegory is plain: their leader, Narada, while refusing to procreate, leads men to become gods. Moreover, all of these, as stated in the Vedas, are Chhandajas (will-born), or incarnated (in different Manvantaras) of their own will; they are shown in exoteric literature as existing age after age; some being “cursed to be reborn,” others, incarnating as a du ty.1 . . . [Finally, Narada is] this virgin ascetic whom one finds in every age in the Puranas.
[Narada is the leader of human affairs] . . . the “Messenger,” or the Greek Angelos — is the sole confidant and the executor of the universal decrees of Karma and Adi-Budha: 3 a kind of active and everincarnating Logos, who leads and guides human affairs from the beginning to the end of the Kalpa.
He is Karma’s visible adjuster on a general scale; the inspirer, and the leader of the greatest heroes of this Manvantara. In the exoteric works he is referred to by some very uncomplimentary names; such as “KaliKaraka,” strife maker, “Kapi-vaktra,” monkey-faced, and even “Pisuna,” the spy, though elsewhere he is called Deva-Brahma. Even Sir W. Jones was strongly impressed with this mysterious character from what he gathered in his Sanskrit studies. He compares him to Hermes and Mercury, and calls him “the eloquent messenger of the Gods.”
It is he who has charge of our progress and national weal or woe. It is he who brings on wars and puts an end to them.
He impelled animal man towards intellectual freedom
HP Blavatsky is rather elusive, if not tantalising, about the real identity of this ubiquitous figure:
What Narada really is, cannot be explained in print; nor would the modern generations of the profane gather much from the information. But it may be remarked, that if there is in the Hindu Pantheon a deity which resembles Jehovah, in tempting by “suggestion” of thoughts and “hardening” of the hearts of those whom he would make his tools and victims, it is Narada. Only with the latter it is no desire to obtain a pretext for “plaguing,” and thus showing that “I am the Lord God.” Nor is it through any ambitious or selfish motive; but, verily, to serve and guide universal progress and evolution.
Here is a clue to the seemingly indicting statement above, “Narada was cursed by Brahma to incessant peripateticism on Earth.”
Narada belongs to that class of Brahma’s, “first-born,” who have all proven rebellious to the law of animal procreation, for which they had to incarnate as men.
While elaborating upon the “informing principle in Man,” Blavatsky reveals the mystery of the “Rebels” that surrounds the GREAT SACRIFICE of protogonos Narada and other Saviours of Man. Protogonoi 1 or “The ‘First-Born’ are the LIFE, the heart and pulse of the Universe; the Second are its MIND or Consciousness.”
This shows that not all men became incarnations of the “divine Rebels,” but only a few among them. The remainder had their fifth principle simply quickened by the spark thrown into it, which accounts for the great difference between the intellectual capacities of men and races. Had not the “sons of Mahat,” [the quickeners of the human Plant] speaking allegorically, skipped the intermediate worlds, in their impulse toward intellectual freedom, the animal man would never have been able to reach upward from this earth, and attain through self-exertion his ultimate goal. The cyclic pilgrimage would have to be performed through all the planes of existence half unconsciously, if not entirely so, as in the case of the animals. It is owing to this rebellion of intellectual life against the morbid inactivity of pure spirit, that we are what we are — self-conscious, thinking men, with the capabilities and attributes of Gods in us, for good as much as for evil. Hence the REBELS are our saviours. Let the philosopher ponder well over this, and more than one mystery will become clear to him. It is only by the attractive force of the contrasts that the two opposites — Spirit and Matter — can be cemented on Earth, and, smelted in the fire of self-conscious experience and suffering, find themselves wedded in Eternity.
Narada’s standing among the great benefactors of Humanity will become more apparent when His aphorisms on Devotion are compared with those of Krishna in the main section of this chapter.
Narada’s aphorisms on Devotional Love and Krishna’s precepts to Arjuna are impossible to tell apart
God is not in need of any one, And the wise man is in need of God alone. — Porphyry 1 The King of Love my shepherd is, whose goodness faileth never; I nothing lack if I am his, and he is mine for ever. — Sir Henry William Baker
Our “too great dependence upon physical facts led to a growth of materialism and a decadence of spirituality and faith” 2 says HP Blavatsky. Another drawback of materialism is the lack of a suitable vocabulary that can impart spiritual ideas. The Sanskrit term Bhakti, for example, which is the theme of this chapter, is variously interpreted as: Devotion, Devotional Service of God, Divine Grace, Divine Love, Lord’s Mercy, Love of God, Mercy, Worship, and so on. Bhakti will be understood better if its triune hypostasis is conceptualised not statically but dynamically as “movement” and “direction” of Consciousness. Namely,
• Divine Love is the Truth of Unity and First Principle, Immutable, Eternal, beyond space, time, and speculation.
• Worldly Love issues first in Space and Time when The One Consciousness begins disintegrating into The Many, empowering them to unfold and evolve individually in the darkness of matter.
• Devotional Love, or Bhakti, is Worldly Love’s U-turn, 3 which is aroused when Consciousness reaches the nadir of the cycle. The Many (not operating in unison, of course, but individually) begin defragmenting, in-volving, re-integrating, thus spearheading Consciousness’ ascending arc.
Worldly and Devotional Love are the twin arcs of a Cycle of Necessity.
. . . a constant cyclic motion from within outwardly and back again, an out-breathing and in-breathing of the ONE LIFE, or Jiva, the synonym of the Absolute and Unknowable Deity.
It was for the benefit of those who are ready to rise to wider possibilities and responsibilities that Krishna asked Narada to explain Bhakti.
The following is an expanded view of the ternary nature of Love:
1. Divine Love or Compassion is the Great Law of Universal Sympathy and Sacrifice, or the Homogeneity of the Unmanifested about to be thrown into the Heterogeneity of Manifestation by the same Law: It “dies” periodically so that Its ideation can “live.” The crowning achievement of that Great Sacrifice is Self-Consciousness embodied in humanity at large, the “Love of Gods.” Divine Love is the Spirit, Heart, and Soul of the Universe, Love of The One for All — and the LAW of Laws.
2. Worldly Love or Selfishness is the Path of Action: the “descending arc of Consciousness” to plurality and materiality, or Love of self apart from All.
Worldly Love is synonymous with engagement in, and attachment to, a proud, isolated life imprisoned in flesh and clay. It may appear blazing and exuberant (as in “la joie de vivre”) but it has nothing to do with Bhakti’s poised and self-sacrificing Devotion. Yet, since Love rules all, even Selfishness is Love but misdirected to, and jealously kept for, one’s self. Self-Love is False Devotion of course but Love, nevertheless.
Alienation from The One is the upshot of egocentricity, whether expressed as Love 2 and a wish to be united with an object of pleasure, or as Hate and a wish to be dis-united from an object of pain. In the mayavic world of duality, Love and Hate, Virtue and Vice, are ever commingling and converting into each other; 3 and in the process they shackle us, hands and feet, on this planet,
. . . the greatest of all Hells.
3. Devotional Love or Bhakti is the Path of Renunciation: the “ascending arc of Consciousness” toward ever higher realms of universality and spirituality, or Love of All for The One.
Metaphysically, Bhakti is the ardent desire of a self-conscious individuality to resume its original condition of Unconscious Homogeneousness, to be reabsorbed in Oneness from whence it came, and where unalloyed love and joy subsist.
Ethically, Bhakti is total commitment to, and Devotional Love of, the authentic Brotherhood of Man that embraces all fellow beings and Divine Nature in her entirety. Bhakti’s sole precondition is the surrender of I-ness and Me-ness, the false individuality; or, at least, a solemn pledge to do so.
The objectives are total and unswerving dedication:
To LAW 1 in its transcendental aspect;
To Humanity at large being LAW’s manifested aspect, and;
To Nature in her tireless efforts to accomplish the Divine Plan.
The pledge is to one’s own Higher Self.
Mystically, Bhakti frees the Spiritual Soul from the clutches of the Psychic, and consigns It to the Universal Self, i.e., Plato’s Good, for the common good.
Bhakti is diametrically opposed to the servile worship of the imaginary gods of the mystics who, even though they are completely surrounded by Divinity, cannot see the wood for the trees.3 When self identifies with all selves and vows to live for them, gratitude for The One kindles the embers of Divine Compassion and summons Devotion to action. Only then, can true love for each other blossom and save us from ourselves. Bhakti cannot be “cultivated,” “developed,” or circumvented by any other means.
About Narada Bhakti Sutra
There have been several attempts to render Narada Bhakti Sutra from Sanskrit to English. In the 1st ed. of Compassion (2005), IK Taimni’s translation was adopted. Following a four-year comparative study of this and several other metaphrases with the original text, we felt it necessary to present a fresh recension of the Doctrine of Devotion from the prism of Theosophy.
The first eighty-one aphorisms 4 are set side by side, where possible, with Krishna’s precepts to Arjuna; the latter are from WQ Judge’s recension of the Bhagavad-Gita. The numbers on the left correspond to Narada Bhakti Sutra and double as reference points. The text in square brackets and footnotes is ours. Some but not all aphorisms are self-explanatory; together with Krishna’s precepts, they require and deserve profound reflection.
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