Cleansing the Mirror of the Mind
Published on July 18th, 2016 | by Harmonist staff8
By Swami Tripurari, from Siksastakam of Sri Caitanya.
Cetah is a Sanskrit word that eludes English translation. It is often rendered as heart, mind, or consciousness. It derives from the verbal root cit, which means to know or to become aware. Thus it refers to that internal faculty by which one becomes conscious of oneself. Here Gaura Raya compares this faculty to a mirror, the mirror of awareness. A mirror has no image of its own but reflects whatever image comes before it. If the mirror of our awareness is affected by material desire, it will project a material image or sense of identity. Sriman Mahaprabhu has compared such desire and the subsequent image it projects to dust covering the mirror of our awareness.
The jiva soul exists, it can be aware of its existence, and it exists for a purpose. The purpose of the jiva is to serve and thus love. When its existence is identified with matter (misra-sattva), its lack of awareness of its true self gives rise to a material identity (ahankara), and consequently its purpose remains unfulfilled by serving desires born of material identification (kama). This dust of material motivation can be wiped away, leaving the mirror of our awareness clean.
Cleansing the mirror of our consciousness is the goal of niskama-karma-yoga, the yoga of selfless action. By realizing this goal, the jiva is no longer identified with matter (suddha-sattva), it attains knowledge of the self as consciousness (brahma-jnana), and its purpose is partially fulfilled yet suspended in the joy of identifying with Brahman (brahmananda). However, cleansing the heart is only the initial effect of nama-sankirtana, not the end result. Furthermore, nama-sankirtana cleanses the mirror of our awareness in a way that involves using our head (su-medhasa) to soften our heart. It does so by placing the mirror of our awareness before Krishna nama, the perfect object of love. This results not only in cleansing the mirror of our awareness from the dust of material desire and identification but further in positioning us to experience a pure state of existence (visuddha-sattva), to become aware of our spiritual identity (samvit), and to fulfill our purpose in love (hladini).
As we shall see in the discussion of the second stanza of Siksastakam, association with Krishna nama entails coming under the influence of Krishna’s svarupa-sakti, for Krishna nama is filled with his sakti. It is only in this condition that the jiva can realize its full potential. The first step in this direction is sraddha, followed by sadhu sanga. After taking shelter of one’s guru in the context of sadhu-sanga, one receives directives from the guru (bhajana-kriya) that set this cleansing process (anartha-nivrtti) in motion. The stages of bhajana–kriya and anartha-nivrtti correspond with the initial effect of nama-sankirtana and are discussed further in verse two. Therein the stage of sadhu-sanga, which was implied in verse one, is also further indicated.
So this line of the first verse of Siksatakam is explained more fully in the second verse of Sri Caitanya’s astakam in that the initial cleansing of the heart mirrored in the mind is accomplished in the sadhana of nama sankirtana during the stages of bhajana kriya and anartha nivritti implied therein. These stages involve initiation and guru-guided spiritual practice aided by the association of other devotees. Initial spiritual practice is anistha or unsteady. So there is a learning curve, and one’s inevitable shortcomings are compensated for by the humility they foster in the sincere practitioner as he or she also realizes the magnaminity of Krishna nama, who stays with the practitioner despite his or her attachments and makes himself so readily available without consideration of time and circumstance.
Humility and the desire to overcome anarthas or attachments do not cause all them to immediately disappear, but because they attract the sympathy of Krishna nama, he stays with one despite one’s background of misdeeds, and thus one is gradually purified by his grace and one’s nama-bhajana gradually becomes steady.
I was thinking about this recently…How is it that sraddha or faith can come before sadhu-sanga or saintly association? It would seem that sadhu-sanga not only nourishes our faith but also initially spawns it. Even if we attribute our initial faith to sukriti or previous pious activities, those activities would likely involve saintly contact in some way (for instance, the story of Narada Muni in a previous lifetime taking the remnants of sadhus).
I think you have the right idea Amara; as discussed in “On Faith and Reason” comments, bhakti comes from bhakti and so initial faith is the result of some connection with an agent of bhakti.
To be clear though, “pious activities” do not award one with the association of the bhakta. Piety may award one with good karma, but not bhakti. Bhakti is not controlled by karma. Bhakti descends solely through mercy.
The association which spawns initial faith (sraddha) is a one way relationship; the bhaktas are in the world giving out mercy, or they are not able to contain it within themselves and it pours out onto others.
In the development of faith mentioned here (sraddha, sadhu sanga, bhajana kriya, etc.), sadhu sanga is a more “two way” active relationship. After initial faith, the sadhaka is taking shelter of the sadhu, inquiring, pleading for help and the sadhus are rewarding such endeavor with siksa.
Yes, your understanding is correct. Caitanya-caritamrta says, “The root cause of devotional service to Lord Krishna is association with advanced devotees. Even when one’s dormant love for Krishna awakens, association with devotees is still most essential.” So bhakti begins by the grace of a devotee, but at this point one is engaged in bhakti unknowingly (ajnata-sukriti). The sukriti matures into sraddha and then into a desire to associate with devotees, the stage of sadhu-sanga.
Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami also says, “By associating with a devotee, one awakens his faith in devotional service to Krsna. Because of devotional service, one’s dormant love for Krsna awakens, and thus one’s material, conditioned existence comes to an end.”
Then he cites the Bhagavatam to support his statement:
jata-sraddhas tu yah puman
na nirvinno nati-sakto
bhakti-yogo ‘sya siddhi-dah
“‘Somehow or other, if one is attracted to talks about Me and has faith in the instructions I have set forth in the Bhagavad-gita, and if one is neither falsely detached from material things nor very much attracted to material existence, his dormant love for Me will be awakened by devotional service.” [note: this is the BBT translation.]
By reading the above translations, it is not apparent how the Bhagavatam verse serves as support for Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami’s verse in terms of the genesis of bhakti being the association of a devotee. The connection that Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami is making between these verses is clarified by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura in his commentary on SB 11.20.8. He says, “The word yadrcchaya has been explained in the First Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. One develops faith in discussions of the Supreme Lord by the association of advanced devotees.” The verse that Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura is referring to is SB 1.19.25:
tatrabhavad bhagavan vyasa-putro
yadrcchaya gam atamano ‘napeksah
vrtas ca balair avadhuta-vesah
tatra — there; abhavat — appeared; bhagavan — powerful; vyasa-putrah — son of Vyasadeva; yadrcchaya — as one desires; gam — the earth; atamanah — while traveling; anapeksah — disinterested; alaksya — unmanifested; lingah — symptoms; nija-labha — self-realized; tustah — satisfied; vrtah — surrounded; ca — and; balaih — by children; avadhuta — neglected by others; vesah — dressed.
“At that moment there appeared the powerful son of Vyasadeva, who traveled over the earth disinterested and satisfied with himself. He did not manifest any symptoms of belonging to any social order or status of life. He was surrounded with women and children, and he dressed as if others had neglected him.” (BBT translation)
Literally the word “yadrcchaya” means whose (yat) desire (icchaya). It has been translated as “own volition.” A translation of the second line of the above SB verse that would better fit with VCT’s commentary would be, “who traveled over the earth indifferent to material desires, motivated by his own volition.” In other words, it is a devotee’s independent desire that gives us bhakti. Sukadeva was wandering the earth by his own whim, distributing bhakti.
In the above translation of 11.20.8, “Somehow or other, if one is attracted to talks about Me…” the “somehow or other” is a translation of yadrcchaya. From VCT’s comments, we can understand “somehow or other” more clearly. Whose desire (yadrcchaya) results in our attraction to talks about Krsna? The devotee’s.
Sorry for these long quotes, but there is some more clarification on this point by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, which is very interesting:
“Bhakti has been described by the word yadrcchaya, or “own volition.” Again, in Sridhara Svami’s commentary on this verse, he writes that bhakti is free to act at will. The dictionary meaning of the word yadrcchaya is “spontaneous and independent”. Some persons interpret the meaning of yadrcchaya as “a sort of luck or fortune”. But when explained in this way there are bound to be apparent fallacies. For example, is this fortune because of pious activities? or misfortune because of impious acts? or simply a lack of good actions? If we accept that good fortune as a result of pious activities creates bhakti then it makes bhakti dependent upon, and subservient to, pious activities. In other words, this explanation infringes upon the principle of bhakti’s free will.
“If we agree to the other suggestion that lack of good fortune gives birth to bhakti then we admit that such fortunes are capricious, unpredictable, and therefore imperfect. How can the imperfect produce anything that is perfect? And if one says that the Supreme Lord’ mercy is the ultimate cause of bhakti then one has to again undergo tedious research to pinpoint the cause of His mercy. It is certain that after much probing and speculation a single irrefutable cause will not be established. In following this line of thought, confusion reigns. On the other hand, if we agree that bhakti impregnates the devotee’s heart as a result of Krsna’s causeless mercy, then understanding this become easier. Yet one may raise the question as to why the Lord’s mercy often seen to be unequally dispensed. Is the Supreme Lord guilty partiality? If the Lord’s grace is causeless then He must shower it everywhere without consideration, but it is seen that His mercy is not freely given to all. Should we blame Krsna for being biased, or even unfair? The open discrimination the Lord practices against the demons by killing them, and the favor he shows towards His devotee does not tarnish the Lord’s reputation, but rather becomes an embellishment in His character. Krsna’s quality of bhakta-vatsalya; His protective affection towards the devotees, surpasses His other transcendental excellences. (The Eighth Chapter will deal with this point in detail.)
“It is frequently pointed out that the pure devotee’s mercy is also the cause of devotion. Just as the Lord’s mercy is known to be causeless, so His devotees who possess the same qualities as the Lord also shower their causeless mercy. Hence, when we declare that the devotee’s causeless mercy is the reason which inspires bhakti but that bhakti is not being equally distributed, naturally this will be criticized as partiality. Though it is wrong to say that the causeless mercy of both the Lord and the pure devotee is prejudiced, we read in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.46), The madhyam adhikari offers his love to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is a sincere friend to all the devotees of the Lord, shows mercy to ignorant people who are innocent and disregards those who are envious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
“These characteristics clearly indicate that the madhyam adhikari devotee does not distribute his mercy equally to everyone. The truth is that the Supreme Lord is subservient to His devotee’s wishes; therefore He emulates His devotee in disbursing mercy. Based on this fact it is easy to see that if the madhyam devotee is merciful to someone the Lord automatically showers His mercy on that recipient. This conclusion is sound in all respects.
“The single cause that attracts the mercy of the Lord is the bhakti that permanently resides in the pure devotee’s heart. In other words, Krsna’s mercy will not be invoked without that bhakti within the heart of His devotee which attracts His mercy to appear in the first place. Therefore, because bhakti is completely independent, even from previous piety and good fortune, it is undisputedly confirmed that bhakti is self-manifest. As mentioned earlier, devotion is the only cause of devotion; Bhakti-devi does not require any cause or reason to appear other than her own sweet will.” (Madhurya Kadambini)
Good answers to Amara’s question. I also discussed this in brief here in lesson one on param vijayate sri krsna sankirtanam.
Thanks for all the great answers! It is truly a miraculous event when devotion for Krsna manifests in the heart of any conditioned soul. How careful we must be to respect that devotion, no matter how small, and help nourish it to grow more and more.
I was long time thinking about this and i have an additional question that i guess is born from my envy…
Previously before taking to devotional life one devotee might have had good “social skills” and a great determination that made his material life successfull in various fields etc etc. When starting off in spiritual life these qualities seems to also help him alot to gain more mercy. He can easier make the more important services of taking charge of projects and takes more responsibility and thereby also seemingly he comes closer to the Guru because of this service.
But another devotee might not have those qualities and therefore seemingly have more difficulty to approach a sadhu or to please the devotees since he is not so staightforward and lacks the determination. He lacks the qualitites that could bring him closer to the Guru in responsibility.
I suppose that these qualities, sukriti, when in connection to bhakti, was gained in connection to bhakti. Bhakti is not fostered by material sukriti but by bhakti itself if i have understood things right.
I anyhow wanted to ask.