“We cannot bribe the Personality of Godhead. He is so great that our bribery has no value. Nor has He any scarcity; since He is full in Himself, what can we offer Him? Everything is produced by Him. We simply offer to show our love and gratitude to the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.29.24 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
Bhakti-yoga is love and devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Love involves sacrifice. You give of yourself. It’s difficult to get up in the morning without some motivating factor. If you have to be at a certain place at a specific time, then it’s easier to arise. If there is no pressing matter, it’s easier to remain in bed. Sacrifice in love is to work specifically for another’s benefit. And in the Supreme Lord, the beneficiary already has everything; therefore the sentiment is most appreciated.
It’s a common scenario. An officer is abiding by the letter of the law. They cannot grant your request. On a technicality, you missed qualification for the specific thing that you want. You know that the stipulation in the law preventing your progress is minor. The officer can make an exception this one time; they won’t get in trouble.
Ah, but you have to find a way to influence the officer first. If they help you this one time, they should do the same for everyone in a similar predicament. If they did that, then the law would have no meaning. To get what you desire, you try some flattery. You praise the officer for their adherence to the law. You tell them that the nation needs more people like them. Then you promise to never bother them again, that granting this one request will make you so happy.
This is the art of persuasion, and it is seen in many different areas. In the most egregious examples it turns into bribery, and in the innocent cases it is known as “buttering up.” The practice is seen in religious life as well. There is the famous example of Vrikasura. He wanted to please Lord Shiva, a powerful god of the Vedic tradition. As a person, Shiva is the greatest Vaishnava, or devotee of the personal form of God. Shiva is always in meditation, and he is a great speaker on God’s glories. If you were to invite him to your home to discuss the pastimes and qualities of the personal and original form of God, his words would move you to new heights of bliss.
Shiva’s occupation involves things seemingly outside of devotion. His work still qualifies as devotion since he takes up his duties at the behest of God. One of those duties involves giving material rewards to worshipers. In the material existence, there has to be potential for achieving the full limit of opulence. That is the nature of the area. Just like a person playing golf has the potential to win every tournament during the calendar year, the person living in the material world has the ability to get as much wealth, strength, power, fame, beauty and knowledge as there is to be found.
It is impossible to get these things without the help of higher authorities. The person rising to prominence in business had to be raised by parents. They had to have others helping them along the way. There had to be cooperation from the three sources of misery: mother nature, the body and mind, and other living entities.
Vrikasura knew that Lord Shiva is easily pleased. Shiva’s name of Ashutosha means that he doesn’t want to be bothered so much. He understands that material rewards aren’t so important. Whatever people want, he’ll generally give to them. So Vrikasura sacrificed so much, to the point of offering his entire body for Shiva’s pleasure. Mahadeva finally arrived on the scene and agreed to give Vrikasura whatever he wanted.
“On the seventh day, the demon Vrikasura decided that he should cut off his head and offer it to satisfy Lord Shiva. Thus he took a bath in a nearby lake, and without drying his body and hair, he prepared to cut off his head. ” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 33)
The worshiper in this case was ill-motivated; he wanted to be able to kill anyone simply by touching their head. Ashutosha granted this request and Vrikasura then proceeded to chase after the person he just worshiped. He wanted Shiva’s wife Parvati for himself. Eventually the Supreme Lord intervened and tricked the demon into placing his hand on his own head; thereby killing himself.
The Supreme Lord cannot be bribed in such a way. Bhakti-yoga is for pure devotion. The purity is in the motive. There is no desire for sense gratification, renunciation, or mystic perfection. The only desire is to please God. The entire process is for increasing devotion, which is what makes the individual happiest. And when the devotion is pure, there is no need to put on an act to persuade. The all-attractive Supreme Lord Krishna feels indebted to the devotee to the point that He will do anything for them. The ideal example of devotion is Shrimati Radharani. Krishna Himself admits that there is no way He can repay the love that Radharani offers.
Despite flattering words to make,
Your bribe Supreme Lord not to take.
For pure devotion bhakti is meant,
Not in chasing rewards to be spent.
To Krishna what offering can be?
Full of pleasure and opulence is He.
Benefit in devotion to come back to you,
Supreme rewarding a sincerity true.