Narada Bhakti Sutra

Sitting in his hermitage of Badarikashrama, one day Sri Ved Vyasa asked sage Narada, “ Man seeks freedom. This seeking without devotion is dry. Many paths lead to freedom but they have importance only in so far as they are auxiliary to devotion. I, therefore humbly ask you to me the virtue of devotion.”
The sage said, “You have discussed the problem of knowledge in the Uttaram Makasa. Now, you have taken the problem of devotion. Its full explanation will be given by you in ‘Srimad Bhagavatam’. I shall explain devotion to you in the form of sutra (aphorism). Saying so, the sage delivered a discourse on devotion in 84 aphorisms.
These aphorisms form the contains of the scripture entitled ‘Narada Bhakti Sutra’.

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Short Explanation For Important Concepts

Athato (Sutra no.1)

A combination of ‘Atha’ (now) and ‘Atah’ (therefore). Literally it means — ‘now therefore’.

Figuratively the word refers to the pre-conditions which should be fulfilled before the journey on the path of ‘Bhakti’ is begun. ‘Atha’ begins after the fulfillment of these pre-conditions.

These pre-conditions are feeling, thinking and realizing in a particular frame of mind.

Feeling — a sort of vacuum and restlessness without God.

Thinking — that life is meaningless without God.

Realizing — the futility of the way the life minus God has been lived so far.


A lively feeling of oneness with God; constantly living in the presence of God.

An experiential conviction that God abides inside, outside every being and thing and all around.

Experience of Bliss (which is an impersonal form of God) i.e. joy not mixed with or followed or preceded by sorrow.

Appearance of God in a tangible form which is actually perceived through the senses of eyes, ears, nose and skin.

Immersion in the Enjoyment of the Bliss of the Atman (Sutra no.6)

See God-Realization Sl. No.2.

Supreme Love of God (Sutra no.2)

See the definition of Bhakti

Karma, Jnana and Yoga (Sutra no.25 & 26)

Karma — the path of selfless action. Action done in a mental framework of

: performance of a duty

: serving others in the world

: serving God who appears in the forms of the world

Jnana — Actual realization that God is one without a second and is all-pervading.

Here the ‘Jnana’ refers to the various means to reach the goal of this realization — and not the realization itself. The means are — hearing , contemplating and remembering again and again the words of wisdom; control over the mind and the senses; tolerance of pairs of opposites; faith in and giving oneself entirely to the single chosen ideal; realization of the hollowness of the sense objects and a strong desire of final emancipation.

Yoga — Literally ‘Yoga’ means the union of the individual with God. Here the word ‘Yoga’ may refer to Raja Yoga (a spiritual practice of meditation). It may also refer to Bhakti Yoga confined to its Apara stage.

Secular (Worldly) and Sacred (Scriptural) Duties (Sutra no.8)

Secular Duties: all physical and psychological actions of man done by him in the context of his social environment and the entire world.

Scriptural Duties: all activities which aim at attaining God and which have for their motive Dharma (righteous way of living as enjoined by the scriptures).

Maya (Sutra no.46)

Maya is the illusory power of God which takes the aspirant away from God and attracts him to the sensual pleasures. It makes the unreal forms and names of the world look real and prevents from seeing the real ‘Formless’ behind them (the unreal forms and names).

Abandoning Sensual Objects and Abandoning Attachment to Sensual Objects (Sutra no.35)

Abandoning sensual objects means destroying your liking for objects perceived through the senses and finding defects in them (like their perishability, experience of pain which is mixed with the pleasure derived from them etc.).

Abandoning attachment to sensual objects means not allowing the mind to dwell on memories of those objects.

YogaKshema (Sutra no.47)

Yoga — acquisition to fulfill one’s needs

In spiritual sense — practice of spiritual Sadhana through which God is realized.

Kshema — Preserving of what is already in possession

In spiritual sense ­— maintaining one’s progress on the path of realization

Gunas (Sutra no.47)

Gunas are three in number — Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.

Gunas are component traits (or aspects) of cosmic energy or are the forces that bind the soul to the world. They play an important role in the creation of the world. They project the relative appearance of God as the universe.

In each soul one or the other Guna is predominant.

Characteristics of these Gunas are as follows:

Sattva — purity, goodness, harmony or peace

Rajas — dynamism, restlessness

Tamas — ignorance, inertia, anger, excessive egoism, excessive sleep

These Gunas should be transcended to attain God.

Qualified Person (Sutra no.53)

A rare person fit to receive the grace of God.

Method to acquire such fitness are: abandoning sensual objects and attachment to them, constant remembrance of God, singing the names and glories of God, hearing the stories of God and His attributes etc.

Three kinds of Bhakti (Sutra no.56)

Based on division of the Gunas:

1. Sattvic Bhakti — Predominance of Sattva Guna; practised in order to destroy one’s sins and obtain God’s love

2. Rajasic Bhakti — Predominance of Rajas Guna; practised in order to obtain power, wealth and pleasures.

3. Tamasic Bhakti — Predominance of Tamas Guna; practised to seek divine help with a view to injure others.

Based on the types of Bhaktas:

1. Bhakti of Artharthi (the self-interested) — practiced to obtain money or worldly pleasures. Example: Dhruva

2. Bhakti of Jijnasu (the seeker after knowledge) Bhakta — practised to obtain knowledge of the Supreme Truth to purify the mind and intellect. Example: Uddhava

3. Bhakti of Arta (the afflicted) Bhakta —practised to seek the help of God to overcome personal problems. Examples: Draupadi, Gajendra, Uttara.

Ananyata (no-otherness) (Sutra no.9 & 10)

Ananyata is single minded devotion to God. The devotees attribute everything to the grace of his Ishtadeva (the deity chosen as the only object of love) alone; entertains in his heart the picture of his Ishtadeva alone; thinks of his Ishtadeva as his sole refuge, his only strength and his only hope and lives for and depends on him alone. He ignores all pleasure-centres of the world. His mind finally rests in his Ishtadeva.

Bhakti is of the nature of nectar (Sutra no.3)

(Bhakti is nothing less than immortal Bliss of Mukti)

Nectar bestows immortality. A Bhakta lives constantly in the presence of God. He is blessed by God with the freedom from the wheel of births and deaths and from the bondage of the world. In this way, he attains immortality or Bliss or Freedom after realizing God (i.e. after he is one with God).

Immortality, Bliss, Freedom and God are synonymous terms.

Social Customs and Ceremonies (Sutra no.62)

All Social rules/customary injunctions for the safety of society should be observed and all (righteous) activities for the benefit of society should be undertaken selflessly for and on the attainment of Bhakti.

Eleven Forms in which Bhakti manifests Itself (Sutra no.82)

Gunamahatmayaasakti: love for glorifying the attributes of God.

Examples: Narada, Vyasa, Sukadeva, Bhishma, Parikshit

Rupasakti: love of God's enchanting beauty

Examples: Gopis of Vraja.

Pujasakti: love of God's worship

Examples: Ambarisha, Bharata

Smaranasakti: love of God's remembrance

Examples: Prahalada, Dhruva

Dasyasakti: love of service to God

Examples: Hanuman, Vidura

Sakhyasakti: love of God as a friend

Examples: Uddhava, Arjuna, Sudama

Kantasakti: love for God as that of a wife for her husband

Examples: Rukmini, Satyabhama

Vatsalyasakti: love of God as a son or child

Examples: Kaushalya, Dasharatha, Devaki, Nanda, Yashoda, Manu,


Aatmanivedanasakti: love of self-surrender to God

Examples: Vibhishana, Hanuman, Ambarisha

Tanmayatasakti: love of complete absorption in God

Examples: Sanatkumar, Sukadeva, Yajnavalkya.

Paramvirahasakti: love of pain of separation from God

Examples: Uddhava, Gopis of Vraja, Radha