“I shall now declare unto you in full this knowledge both phenomenal and noumenal, by knowing which there shall remain nothing further to be known.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.2)
jñānaṁ te ‘haṁ sa-vijñānam
idaṁ vakṣyāmy aśeṣataḥ
yaj jñātvā neha bhūyo ‘nyaj
The Sanskrit word dharma is the closest match for religion. It does not refer to a faith, however. It’s not like you accept one dharma on a particular day and then move on to something else the next. It’s not something you necessarily believe in, either. Dharma always exists, irrespective of outside viewpoint or popularity.
One example to help us understand is gravity. A famous scientist discovered the law of gravity, but this doesn’t mean gravity wasn’t there before. That law of gravity always remains; it is a foundational aspect of life in this world. In the same way, dharma is the essence of living. It only turns into religion for those who have somehow forgotten about that essence.
Dharma is the defining characteristic of something. The basic functional unit of living things is the soul. The dharma for the soul is service. This service can never be completely removed from the soul. It may manifest in different ways. One person thinks service is for their own pleasure and another views service as helping their fellow man. The definition of that aid is subjective, with economic improvement being the typical target.
But real service is to the Supreme Soul. This is the definition of dharma for the soul. In bhakti philosophy both the service and the object of service are more clearly defined. A less intelligent person may consider this to be a one-sided view.
“Well, that’s what you say about dharma, but people from different philosophies would disagree with you. They would say that there is no Supreme Soul, that every individual is part of the collective.”
There are many ways to tell that the bhakti philosophy does indeed cover everything.
1. It describes God, who is purna.
The Sanskrit word purna means “complete.” It is an apt description for God, since He is the sum total of everything. Bhakti philosophy, though at first glance resembling sentimentalism, is actually a science. It makes a distinction between matter and spirit. It also analyzes the properties of the origin of all spirit. The idea is that if you know God in truth, you will know everything that is needed to be known.
2. It gives the accurate definition to dharma.
You’ll find such terms as brahmana-dharma, sannyasa-dharma, and shudra-dharma when reading books on Hinduism. Dharma also translates to “duty” and “religiosity.” Whatever steps are taken to maintain the essential characteristic become dharma. An administrator has ideal behavior that will help them govern the state, their occupational duty. The same goes for a businessman, a wandering ascetic in the spiritual institution of renunciation, and even a laborer.
Bhakti philosophy goes beyond these temporary situations and gives the real definition to dharma, which was mentioned previously. Other philosophies limit their definition of dharma according to the objective. If the goal is to merge into the Absolute Truth that is Brahman, then dharma will be defined in that light. The service aspect is always missing or improperly defined even when the Supreme Lord’s existence is acknowledged.
3. It has no reason to cheat anyone.
The teachers of bhakti philosophy have no personal motive. They have nothing to gain by lying. They are not teaching in universities and releasing a new book every few years which costs the students hundreds of dollars. Rather, they are sacrificing practically everything in order to get others to awaken to their true essence. Their only objective is to get others to serve God in earnest, for that will make them truly happy. There is no reason for them to be one-sided. The idea is to give an honest presentation, lay down all the facts, and then let the listener make an informed decision. This was the route Krishna took when instructing Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
iti te jñānam ākhyātaṁ
guhyād guhyataraṁ mayā
yathecchasi tathā kuru
“Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.63)
4. It describes every mentality, every way of life.
Whatever your objective is in life, bhakti philosophy covers it. It deals with the fruitive workers, who are known as karmis. This is the default position for the human being, where the motto is to live so you can enjoy stuff. The philosophy also deals with the opposite group, the people who renounce everything. It deals with mystic yogis and it deals with those seeking knowledge. Since it describes God in so much detail, it ultimately gives precedence to love and devotion to the Supreme Lord. No other philosophy can claim to be as inclusive; they don’t know about every other philosophy.
5. It puts all options on the table.
Not only does bhakti philosophy know every mentality, but it is keenly aware of every reward possible. A fruitive worker has the chance to move up in the next life. And yes, there will be a future life. The soul never dies. The pious soul who engages in fruitive activity can ascend to the heavenly planets, where they get to enjoy for a long time. The overly sinful get sent to the hellish planets for punishment and then return in a lower species. The mystic yogis get amazing powers, things we couldn’t believe unless we saw them with our own eyes. The mental speculators get to merge into the light of Brahman, losing their identity.
Most importantly, bhakti philosophy describes the destination for the devotees of God. The pure devotees get to be with their worshipable form of choice. This is assured after death, but it comes before that time as well. They get the association immediately through something as simple as sound, for there is full potency in the holy name. Therefore, simply by accepting bhakti philosophy with a little humility and then chanting in a routine, they get a panoramic view of everything available in an existence. They then wisely choose to remain with the Supreme Lord and the sound that represents Him: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Putting all options on the table,
To describe all rewards bhakti is able.
No reason for the teacher to hide,
Every route ready in disciple to confide.
Then decision made with confidence,
With knowledge to material life indifferent.
To supreme destination in afterlife to stay,
With holy names already on their way.
Categories: the five