Thursday, 25 August 2011

Is Bhakti Predestined?

Answers by HH Romapada Swami

Question: Was it destined when I was born that I would one day become associated with ISKCON and do all these spiritual activities? If yes, then why do we preach? Won’t people destined to join ISKCON join it, and those not destined to join ISKCON not join it? If no, then does it mean that joining ISKCON is outside the influence of destiny?

Answer: Bhakti is supreme, causeless and fully independent - no material cause can either induce or impede bhakti from appearing in one’s heart. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarthi Thakura analyses this as follows: if material pious deeds, suffering, blind fortune or any such material condition could guarantee or give rise to bhakti, then that material cause would be considered more powerful than bhakti - this is contradictory and cannot be true.

It is therefore understood that bhakti is attained only by the mercy of bhaktas, who carry pure devotion for Krishna in their heart. In other words, bhakti (present in the heart of devotees) is the cause of bhakti.
Lord Caitanya taught that a rare and fortunate soul achieves the seed of bhakti through the mercy of a pure devotee.

brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva
guru-krishna-prasade paya bhakti-lata-bija
“According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krishna. By the mercy of both Krishna and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service.” (Cc Madhya 19.151)
Devotional service is thus not predestined. It is by the causeless mercy of devotees that one attains the opportunity for pure devotional service and to revive one’s forgotten relationship with the Supreme Lord. Therefore the pure devotees of the Lord move here and there out of great compassion, taking great troubles to create opportunities for people in general to render devotional service.

Even upon receiving the mercy of the devotees, and getting the seed of this devotional creeper (bhakti-lata-bija), it is the choice of the living entity to take up the process of devotion. In other words, it is a matter of individual freewill. At every point, the conditioned living entity has full freedom of choice to turn his misdirected attention back to the Supreme Lord or not - otherwise there would be no meaning to the term freewill at all. (We have previously discussed freewill and predestination at some length - please see Digest 4 and Digest 12 Q 117)

Thus, it is only by the causeless mercy of devotees, when received and accepted by a conditioned living entity by proper use of their freewill, results in their taking up pure devotional service.

It is sometimes seen that certain individuals take to the process of devotional service very quickly and effortlessly, upon coming in contact with devotees - just like dry wood catching fire. In such cases, it can be understood that they are continuing or resuming their spiritual progress from a previous life. One who takes up the path of spiritual realization, or devotional service, but does not achieve complete success in this lifetime is given a further chance in the next life - this is confirmed by Krishna in BG 6.41-44. The Lord arranges in the lives of such persons an environment or an opportunity that is conducive to once again take up the process from where they left. But even in such a case, it is not quite a matter of predestination - the individual still has the full freedom to choose or reject the opportunity given to them, to misuse or to properly utilize it.
Also, Krishna is fully independent, and so is Bhaktidevi - thus, it cannot be expected that bhakti is obliged to appear because of one’s previous devotional practices. Srila Prabhupada explains how the transcendental system of devotional service is fully independent — it may or may not develop in a particular person even after he undergoes all the detailed formulas. Similarly, the association of devotees is also free from material causes. One may be fortunate to have it, or one may not have it even after thousands of endeavors. Thus, freedom is the main pivot in all spheres of devotional service. (Cf. SB 1.6.37 p) By sincerely surrendering to the Lord through the transparent medium of the spiritual master, we can hope to attract His causeless mercy.


  1. Hare Krishna.
    Firstly, many congratulations for the blog.

    The fact that 'Bhakti' is supreme, causeless and fully independent is contrary to the beliefs that 'one remembers God during tough times' because as mentioned above, if such material conditions could guarantee or give rise to bhakti, then that material cause would be considered more powerful to bhakti.

    Good to learn from above that human tendency to remember God during difficult times is on material grounds and hence temporary.

    However, if one does remember God during material suffering, his devotion would only be limited to material enjoyment. But does this dovotion has the potential to rise up to transcedental "PURE devotion service" ?

  2. Hare Krishna,

    thank you for your comment.

    Remembering God for anything is a sign of a pious soul and is appreciated because atleast we are accepting the supremacy of the Lord over all that be unlike the atheists. Like Lord Krishna says in the Gita that four kinds of people approach Him. One of the four is the materially distressed so it is not condemned by Krishna for doing that as the devotee is getting ajnata sukriti which will serve as a favourabe impetus to reach to the level of uttama bhakti or pure devotional service, but it is not the highest and is a gradual process. Bhakti-yoga however is so potent that it does not require any previous qualifications but only the mercy of the devotees and a slight acceptance from the part of the seeker.
    Also there can be a possibility that the devotee gets attracted to material enjoyment again once he is out of the material suffering as the material nature is very strong to overcome. So the safest way is to bring God in the center of our life and start to link up all our activities for Him as then our activities become spiritual in nature.
    akamah sarva kamo va, moksha kama udara dhih, tivrena bhakti-yogena, yajeta purusam param
    This shloka from bhagvatm says that whether we have material desires or no desires, whether we want liberation or anything else, we should render loving devotional service unto the supreme personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna as this is the most suitable way for deliverance of the conditioned soul. Devotional Sevice by way of hearing and chanting and association with saintly persons is so strong that it burns up the seeds of material enjoyment from the heart of the sincere spiritual seeker and the Lord takes the responsibility of guiding and delivering that devotee.

    Hope this helped.
    Pls keep visiting the blog for more nectarian articles.
    Your Servant.

  3. Thanks a lot.
    I will for sure be visiting.

    Hare Krishna