This article Utsāha (enthusiasm) is the seventh in a series of articles published in the 10th Volume of Sajjana Toṣaṇī which deals with the six things that are favourable to bhakti and the six things that are unfavourable according to the second and third verses of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Upadeśāmṛta. This seventh article deals with Utsāha – enthusiasm – Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura explains that without genuine enthusiasm (utsāha) one becomes negligent in bhakti.
(translated by Bhumipati Dasa)
In his Śrī Upadeśāmṛta, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has described atyāhāra, prayāsa, prajalpa, niyamāgraha, jana-saṅga, and laulya as detrimental to devotional service. We have already separately described these six items. Now, in the third śloka he mentions the six items favourable for devotional service:
utsāhān niścayād dhairyāt
saṅga-tyāgāt sato vṛtteḥ ṣaḍbhir bhaktiḥ prasidhyati
“There are six principles favourable to the execution of pure devotional service: (1) utsāha, being enthusiastic; (2) niścaya, endeavouring with confidence; (3) dhairya, being patient; (4) tat–tat-karma–pravartana, acting according to regulative principles [such as śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ smaraṇam-hearing, chanting and remembering Kṛṣṇa]; (5) saṅga–tyāga, abandoning the association of non-devotees; and (6) sato vṛtteḥ, or sādhu-vṛtti, following in the footsteps of the previous ācāryas. These six principles undoubtedly assure the complete success of pure devotional service.”
Now we should discuss these six items separately. Therefore, first I am speaking about the conclusions regarding utsāha.
Without utsāha, one becomes negligent in his worship. Negligence is born out of inactivity, apathy, or indifference. Laziness and inertia are called inactivity. When utsāha is generated, laziness and inertia cannot remain. The absence of desire to work is inertia. This inertia is opposite to the nature of spirit. If one allows this inertia to remain in his body or heart, then how can he perform devotional service? The state of apathy develops from carelessness. One should practice devotional service without deviation. This is instructed in the Bhagavad-gītā (6.23) in the following words:
taṁ vidyād duḥkha-saṁyoga-
sa niścayena yoktavyo yogo ‘nirviṇṇa-cetasā
“This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact. One should engage oneself in the practice of yoga with determination and faith and not be deviated from the path.”
In his commentary on this verse, Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa Mahāśaya has said: ātmanya yogyatva-mananaṁ nirvedas tad rahitena cetasā “one becomes indifferent to whatever work he feels unqualified for.” Devotional service should be performed in this mentality. Regarding bhakti-yoga, it is said in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.20.7-8):
nyāsinām iha karmasu
teṣv anirviṇṇa-cittānāṁ karma-yogas tu kāminām
yadṛcchayā mat-kathādau jāta-śraddhas tu yaḥ pumān
na nirviṇṇo nāti-sakto bhakti-yogo ‘sya siddhi-daḥ
“Among these three paths, jñāna-yoga, the path of philosophical speculation, is recommended for those who are disgusted with material life and are thus detached from ordinary, fruitive activities. Those who are not disgusted with material life, having many desires yet to fulfil, should seek perfection through the path of karma-yoga. If somehow or other by good fortune one develops faith in hearing and chanting My glories, such a person, being neither very disgusted with nor attached to material life, should achieve perfection through the path of loving devotion to Me.”
The purport is this: For those who have attained indifference for material activities but have not yet realized spiritual activities, what can remain in their hearts besides indifference? For them the undifferentiated brahma-jñāna is the topmost achievement. For those who have not attained indifference for material activities due to lack of spiritual realization, there is no way to cleanse the heart other than karma-yoga. Those who have realized spiritual activities and understood that material activities are insignificant attain indifference for all material activities. They accept some material activities as a support for their spiritual awakening, but they have no attachment for such activities. In proportion to the degree that they discuss spiritual topics in devotion, freedom from material association is awakened as an extraneous fruit. The symptoms of a devotee are given in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.20.27-8) as follows:
veda duḥkhātmakān kāmān parityāge ‘py anīśvaraḥ
tato bhajeta māṁ prītaḥ śraddhālur dṛḍha-niścayaḥ
juṣamāṇaś ca tān kāmān duḥkhodarkāṁś ca garhayan
“Having awakened faith in the narrations of My glories, being disgusted with all material activities, knowing that all sense gratification leads to misery, but still being unable to renounce all sense enjoyment, My devotee should remain happy and worship Me with great faith and conviction. Even though he is sometimes engaged in sense enjoyment, My devotee knows that all sense gratification leads to a miserable result, and he sincerely repents such activities.”
Karma arises from lust, jñāna arises from indifference, and bhakti arises from faith in the Supreme Lord. The person who has attained faith is naturally disgusted with material activities. He accepts without attachment only those activities that are favorable for increasing his faith in the Lord. Without the material body one cannot cultivate devotional service. So there is no benefit if one renounces the activities that are needed to maintain the physical body, thinking them to be the source of misery and lust. The fruits of those activities, which are the source of misery for others, are therefore enjoyed by the devotees, who condemn them as insignificant. They worship Kṛṣṇa with devotion and firm faith while enjoying the fruits of their work as they fulfill the necessities of life. Those who enjoy the results of material activities with ardent affection are called attached. Those who neglect the results of karma, but accept only what is favourable to devotional service are called unattached. Although they are unattached to material activity, they work enthusiastically in devotional life. The process of advancement for the practitioner of devotional service is stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.20.29-30, 35) as follows:
bhajato māsakṛn muneḥ
kāmā hṛdayyā naśyanti sarve mayi hṛdi sthite
bhidyate hṛdaya-granthiś chidyante sarva-saṁśayāḥ
kṣīyante cāsya karmāṇi mayi dṛṣṭe ‘khilātmani
nairapekṣyaṁ paraṁ prāhur niḥ śreyasam analpakam
tasmān nirāśiṣo bhaktir nirapekṣasya me bhavet
“When an intelligent person engages constantly in worshiping Me through loving devotional service as described by Me, his heart becomes firmly situated in Me. Thus all material desires within the heart are destroyed. The knot in the heart is pierced, all misgivings are cut to pieces and the chain of fruitive actions is terminated when I am seen as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is said that complete detachment is the highest stage of freedom. Therefore, one who has no personal desire and does not pursue personal rewards can achieve loving devotional service unto Me.”
The purport is this: It is useless trying independently to destroy ignorance and lust in the heart. But ignorance, lust, fruitive activities, all doubts, and material bondage are destroyed by the mercy of the Lord in the course of cultivating devotional service. The endeavour of karmis and jñānīs does not yield such results. Therefore, when one becomes neutral by giving up other desires and hopes, he attains pure devotional service to Kṛṣṇa.
We should not lose enthusiasm because we have no strength to destroy the reactions of karma. In the very beginning of devotional service the sādhaka must have faith with full enthusiasm. One pure Vaiṣṇava ācārya has written that the process of bhajana-kriya, devotional practice, is of two types-niṣṭhitā, fixed, and aniṣṭhitā, flickering. With faith, one should learn devotional service under the merciful direction of a sadhu; and when he attains the stage of firm faith, he engages in niṣṭhitā, fixed, devotional service. Until he attains this fixed devotional service, his service remains flickering. In this stage of devotional service there are six symptoms: utsāha-mayī, false confidence; ghana-taralā, sporadic endeavor; vyūḍha-vikalpā, indecision; viṣaya-saṅgarā, struggle with the senses; niyamākṣamā, inability to uphold vows; and taraṅga-rangiṇī, enjoying the facilities offered by bhakti.
In Śrī Hari-bhakti-vilāsa carelessness is counted among the offenses against the holy name. In that scripture the word pramāda is described as inattentiveness. Śrī Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi has further divided this inattentiveness in three ways. Apathy, inactivity, and distraction are the three types of inattentiveness. Until one gets free from these three types of inattentiveness, one cannot perform devotional service at all. Even if one gives up all other nāmāparādhas, if he is still inattentive, he can never have attraction for the holy names. If one has enthusiasm in the beginning of devotional service, and that enthusiasm does not become cold, then one will never become apathetic, lazy, or distracted in chanting the holy names. Therefore enthusiasm is the only support for all types of devotional service. By enthusiastically performing devotional service one can give up aniṣṭhitā service in a very short time and thus attain niṣṭhā. Therefore, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has said:
ādau śraddhā tataḥ sādhu-
saṅgo ‘tha bhajana-kriyā
tato ‘nartha-nivṛttiḥ syāt tato niṣṭhā rucis tataḥ
By the awakening of faith, one becomes eligible for devotional service. When this eligibility is attained, one achieves the association of devotees. By the association of devotees, one is engaged in the execution of devotional service. In the beginning there is no niṣṭhā, or firm faith, in that service because various types of anarthas keep crushing the heart. All anarthas are vanquished, however, by performing devotional service with enthusiasm. The more anarthas are vanquished, the more niṣṭhā is awakened.
The word śraddhā is certainly faith, but enthusiasm is the life of śraddhā. Faith without enthusiasm is meaningless. Many people think they have faith in God, but because they have no enthusiasm, their faith has no meaning. Therefore, due to lack of sādhu-saṅga, they do not perform devotional service.
(Utsāha (Enthusiasm) is the seventh in a series of articles published in the 10th Volume of Sajjana Toṣaṇī by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. This article was translated by Bhumipati Dasa)