The definition of pure devotion explained.

By Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj

Straight Road


sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam tat-paratvena nirmalam
hrsikena hrsikesa-sevanam bhaktir uchyate
(Sri Narada-pancharatra)

Devarsi Narad has given a definition of pure devotion (suddha-bhakti). Sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam: the atma [self] is within, but there are so many covers (upadhis) over it: the annamaya-kosa, pranamaya-kosa, manamaya-kosa, and jnanamaya-kosa—the body, the vital energy, the mind, and the intelligence. Devotion must be independent of all these covers. Devotion’s purity depends on the extent to which it is uncontaminated by the interest of these covers. Furthermore, Tat-paratvena nirmalam: how much is one’s devotion dedicated towards the centre? Tat means the centre, Krishna, the Absolute. How much is one’s devotion in the interest of the Centre? The purity of one’s actions will be measured by this criterion. Hrsikena Hrsikesa-sevanam: whatever you do outwardly—with the hands, eyes, ears, mind, or any other channel or acquired means—must be meant for the satisfaction of the Centre and not for any agency within the covers over the self.

This definition has been quoted when Srila Rupa Goswami gives his definition of pure devotion:

anyabhilasita-sunyam jnana-karmady-anavrtam
anukulyena krsnanusilanam bhaktir uttama
(Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu: 1.1.11)

Krishnanusilanam: culture Krishna in any way; contact Him by any means and culture: speak about Him, hear about Him, and serve Him. What you do does not matter. But whatever you do must be anyabhilasita-sunyam, free from the fleeting desires that come along at any and all times without rhyme or reason. Then jnana-karmady-anavrtam. Karma means systematic, moral, ‘God-touching’ activity. Jnan means knowledge that encourages us to be aloof, to be free from the material atmosphere’s mortal contact. Karma and jnan are both negative, undesireable engagements [they do not bring satisfaction to the Lord]. Krishnanusilanam must be independent of these interests. No representation of the covers over the soul should remain within it.

Another important thing is last: “Anukulyena Krishnanusilanam: try to withdraw from the camp of those who are opposed to the Lord’s pleasure. There is a party that is satisfying, trying to satisfy, Krishna. To make Krishna’s service more intense, an opposite is necessary, and there is competition against them. Try to avoid that opposition camp and follow the direct service camp.

Elimination is necessary there also [in the spiritual world]. First you are to eliminate anyabhilas, karma, and jnan. Then, when you enter Vaikuntha, you are to eliminate the opposition party. You will have to be careful that you will not be taken by the opposition party. Try to stay on the side of the direct service party, the direct current. This warning is also given by Rupa Goswami: anukulyena, not pratikulyena [be favourable, not unfavourable, to the Lord’s desires].

Sisupal, Kamsa, and others are a part of Krishna’s Pastimes, but such a part is not desirable for us. We shall try to enter into the positive service party, not the indirect camp. This is suddha-bhakti. Rupa Goswami has given us this warning.

In Bhagavatam, it is generally mentioned:

gopyah kamad bhayat kamso dvesac chaidyadayo nrpah
sambandhad vrsnayah snehad yuyam bhaktya vayam vibho
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 7.1.30)

“We can get out of this mundane world by accepting any connection with Krishna.”

It is true. Fear, jealousy, or lust to enjoy Krishna and His form can get you relief from this mundane world. But in the upper stage, there is consideration of good or bad in this regard.

yad-arinam priyanam cha prapyam ekam ivoditam
tad brahma-krsnayor aikyat kiranarkopama-jusoh
(Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu: Purva-vibhaga, 2.278)

It is said in the scriptures many times that the demons killed by Krishna get liberation. But that liberation and the liberation attained by a devotee are not one and same. Those whom Krishna kills go to Brahmaloka; they do not reach Krishna Himself. Kiranarkopama-jusoh: the difference between these attainments is like the difference between the sun and its rays. Fear, enmity, lust, and so on, in connection of Krishna, lead one to Brahmaloka. Also, to be killed by Krishna has some advantage and leads one up to Brahmaloka, but no further. Only Krishna’s service takes us higher; only by service can we go higher than Brahmaloka.

Yad-arinam means enemies, and priyanam means devotees. Prapyam ekam ivoditam: their attainment is almost one and the same. This is said in many places in sastra: “Come into any connection with Krishna, and you will get salvation.” But prapyam ekam ivoditam is a rough statement. It refers only to a general similarity. Tad Brahma-Krishnayor aikyat kiranarkopama-jusoh: if you scrutinise the gain of the Lord’s enemies and devotees, then you will find that there is a great difference. One group goes to Brahmaloka, which is compared to a ray of the sun, and the other group enters the domain of the sun. In this way we are to adjust.

So anukulyena Krishnanusilanam bhaktir uttama gives us a warning: try to side with the positive line of service, and not go to the other camp, the camp of those who are posted in the opposition party. Your inner temperament will be such. Sevonmukhata [the intention to serve] and anukulya [adjusting to what is pleasing to the Lord] should be our guides always. We shall always keep this in mind: the straight way. Not this party, that party, or any subsidiary parties, but the main party, the main road. We shall go straight; we shall always try to go straight.


Spoken on 10 May 1982.


kamad dvesad bhayat snehad yatha bhaktyesvare
manah avesya tad agham hitva bahavas tad gatim gatah
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 7.1.30)

“As many souls attain liberation by absorbing their minds in the Lord with devotion, so many other souls attain liberation by absorbing their minds in the Lord out of lust, enmity, fear, or affection.”

gopyah kamad bhayat kamso dvesach chaidyadayo nrpah
sambandhad vrsnayah snehad yuyam bhaktya vayam vibho
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 7.1.31)

“The gopis by their lust, Kamsa by his fear, Sisupal and other kings by their enmity, the Vrsnis by their familial relationship, the Pandavas by their affection, and the rsis by vaidhi-bhakti, attained liberation (though more specifically, the gopis attained prema, Kamsa attained sayujya-mukti, Sisupal attained sayujya-mukti and later sarupya-mukti, and the Vrsnis, Pandavas, and rsis attained salokya-mukti).