Scripture and Bhakti

Without a foundational scripture, most Hindus don’t have the habit of reading any particular (sectarian) scripture as part of their (everyday) sadhana. Of course many will recite songs (bhajans) from their particular sectarian scriptures or common devotional books as a part of their ritual as well as sadhana.

But reading Muktiveda as part of everyday sadhana is often insisted, mostly by evangelical Christians.

About this H. L. Richard says: “The Bible itself contains no exhortations to regular reading of the sacred text, simply because that was not even an option for a few millennia before the invention of movable type and the printing press. Thus, the current Evangelical focus on personal Bible reading is not something that the Bible makes any reference to. (This is not to imply that it is a bad idea…)” [Scripture in Hindu Contexts]

Since I came from a tradition where reading scripture was not a part of everyday sadhana, reading Muktiveda to know the will and leading of God in everyday life looked bit strange in the early days of my bhakti. But my sojourn among the evangelicals helped me to adopt this good idea and even now I continue to do it. 

From a young age I used to recite from Hindu devotional scriptures as a part of my everyday sadhana, and most of the songs from Hindu scriptures that I remember now is because of that discipline. Even now, when I read Muktiveda, it doesn’t invoke a spirit of bhakti, but makes me focus on the teaching of the particular text, referring to the textual, theological and historical contexts. This I cannot avoid as my mind is trained and disciplined only in this line. Even though I was very inspired and wrote many of my bhakti songs (which strangely or [un]fortunately I call Bhakti Theological Songs) based on the Muktivedic verses, it was most of the time my own songs (and also songs written by others) that have enhanced my bhakti in the Lord.

So when I received this video, I watched it more than two times as I was very much impressed by the way it was produced and presented.

More than the song, the way Sabari responded to the song sung by Rama heavily invoked the spirit of bhakti in me. Then I immediately recalled another video I recently saw where two Christian girls use two paper cups to skilfully sing some Christian song. Though it is not fair to compare the videos, it will help us understand why the Sabari episode inspired me and even made me to write a poem that same evening (Bhakti song 668) while the other Christian song only made me appreciate the talents of those two girls.

The Sabari episode was artificial and was acted by that talent actor whereas the Christian song by those two girls is real and wasn’t produced in some artificial way. However while the Sabari video invokes the bhakti spirit within me, the Christian video only made me appreciate the talent of those two girls.  While I listened to the song sung by Rama to Sabari, I not only paid attention to the bhakti bhavana (feeling) of Sabari but also followed carefully each line. When I watched the Christian song I paid attention only to the talents of the girls and never even bothered to listen or understand the song. Of course it was not their mistake. I assume that the purpose of that Christian video was not to invoke any devotion to the viewers but to demonstrate the talents of those two young girls. Whereas the Sabari video was produced and shared not to show the talent of the actor who acted as Sabari but to invoke bhakti to the listeners.

The same is true when I read Muktiveda as part of my sadhana. I pay more attention to the meaning and context to know the teaching rather than to enhance my bhakti. In fact I often read each day’s portion just as mere routine without paying attention to the meaning or teaching. Though I sometimes also sing bhakti songs without paying attention to the meaning (particularly when I join with others in worship), yet in my personal sadhana when I sing any song, I am very much moved by the meaning and feel elevated in my bhakti. Particularly when I read or sing my own songs after I have written – I do it to express my bhakti than my talents.

So, though we should encourage new bhaktas to read and understand Muktiveda by reading it regularly, we should encourage them to sing more simple bhajans, particularly in their personal quiet time with the Lord. Of course in corporate worship (as I have pointed out above), several times we sing the songs as routine, focusing on the tune and beat (raga and thala) without paying any attention to the meaning. That is why in one recent message I encourage the bhaktas to overcome such routine not to sing the bhajans (particularly in their personal sadhana) but chant it or read it slowly paying attention the meaning and to sing Muktivedic verses than merely reading them.

We need to find some alternative sadhana not only following the traditional methods. And singing bhakti songs is one such method rather than forcing one to read Muktiveda as part of everyday sadhana.


Dayanand Bharati

Mathigiri, 17-06-2017