Ajnata Sukrti

By editor - 14.5 2020

That I have already explained. You are coming here, even though you are not initiated. That is also service. If you deposit one cent daily, one day it may become $100. So, when you get the $100, you can get the business. (Laughter.) So you come here daily, one cent, one cent. When it will be $100, you will be a devotee. (SP Lecture, Melbourne, May 22, 1975)

nrnam janma sahasrena bhaktih sukrtinam bhavet
kalau bhaktih kalau bhaktir bhaktya krsnah purah sthitah

Those persons who have accumulated sufficient sukrti (special pious activities) for thousands of births achieve bhakti because by execution of bhakti alone, one is able to situate himself in the abode of the Supreme Lord Krsna. (Padma Purana, Uttara Khanda 194.20)

svayam phala-rupeti brahma-kumarah

But the son of Brahma says that bhakti is its own fruit. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 30)

tasyah sadhanani gayanty acaryah

Standard authorities have described the methods for achieving devotional service. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 34)

tat tu visaya-tyagat sanga-tyagac ca

One achieves bhakti by giving up sense gratification and mundane association. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 35)


One achieves bhakti by worshiping the Lord ceaselessly. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 36)

loke 'pi bhagavad-guna-sravana-kirtanat

One achieves bhakti by hearing and chanting about the Supreme Lord's special qualities, even while engaged in the ordinary activities of life in this world. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 37)

mukhyatas tu mahat-krpayaiva bhagavat-krpa-lesad va

Primarily, however, one develops bhakti by the mercy of great souls, or by a small drop of the Lord's mercy. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 38)

mahat-sangas tu durlabho 'gamyo 'moghas ca

The association of great souls is rarely obtained, difficult to understand, and infallible. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 39)

labhyate 'pi tat-krpayaiva

The association of great souls can be attained - but only by the Lord's mercy. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 40)

tasmins taj-jane bhedabhavat

[One can attain bhakti either by the association of the Lord's pure devotees or directly by the Lord's mercy because] the Lord and His pure devotees are nondifferent. (Narada Bhakti Sutra 41)

SB 10.47.24 lists activities ranked among ajnata sukrti.

bhaktistu bhagavad-bhakta-
sangena parijayate
sat-sangah prapyate pumbhih
sukrtaih purvasancitaih

"Devotional sentiments are evoked by the purifying association of advanced devotees. The jiva can come into close contact with a pure devotee only by accruing the pious results of many previous births." (Brhan-naradiya Purana)

"Malyavan replied, 'Oh lord, it was by the extreme mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna (Vasudeva) and also by the powerful influence of the Jaya Ekadasi, that we were released from our suffering condition as pisacas. This is the truth, Oh master: Because we executed devotional service to Lord Visnu (even performed unknowingly - by ajnata sukrti) by observing the day most dear to Him, we have happily been restored to our former status." (Bhavisya-uttara Purana, on glories of Magha-sukla, or Jaya Ekadasi)

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his Jaiva Dharma elaborates on the topic of sukrti. In the discussion between Babaji and Vrajanatha, ch. 17, he makes the following statements:

Vrajanatha: Guruji, you say that sukrti brings a person in contact with a saintly soul; what is sukrti? Is it a part of karma (fruitive activity) or jnana (knowledge)?

Babaji: According to the scriptures, pious auspicious activities are called sukrti. They are of two varieties: bhakti-pravartaka (which invokes devotional service), and avantaraphala-pravartaka (which be gets irrelevant extraneous results). Fruitive activities enunciated in the naimittika-dharma or the quasi-permanent religious duties, the empirical knowledge of sankhya philosophy, etc. are examples of sukrti which brings extraneous results. Saintly association, visiting spiritually elevating pilgrimages (dhamas), observing devotional vows (Ekadasi, etc.) and so on, are bhakti-pravartaka sukrti. Bhakti-pravartaka sukrti, when accumulated, becomes a force and it generates devotion to Krsna; whereas the avantaraphala-pravartaka sukrti rewards temporary material results and then exhausts itself.

All meritorious deeds such as: giving in charity, performing austerity, etc. dispenses sense-gratificatory boons. Realization of Brahman through monistic empirical knowledge is a sukrti which brings one liberation (mukti). However none of these sukrtis are capable of adding up to give attachment for devotional service. The company of pure devotees; observing vows conducive to devotional service like Ekadasi, Janmastami, Gaura Purnima; offering service to Tulasidevi, to Lord Visnu's temple; honoring mahaprasada (remnants of a pure devotee); circumambulating and worshiping the holy dhamas are all bhakti-pravartaka sukrti.

V: A person, afflicted by the pangs of material existence desires to end his suffering caused by nescience, earnestly approaches the shelter of Lord Hari's lotus feet, wanting to surrender himself; will he not be awarded devotional service?

B: If a person becomes conscious, through his power of discrimination, of the distress inflicted upon him by nescience, he comprehends that material life is unreal and contaminated. When he realizes that the Supreme Lord's lotus feet and His unalloyed, intimate devotees are his only sole sanctuaries and he single-mindedly endeavors to surrender to the Lord, first he finds the protective association of the saintly souls who are engrossed in love of Godhead. This sublime association results in acquiring the prime sukrti of human life, - which in turn rewards him the greatest benediction of attaining the lotus feet of the Lord.

His initial mood of renunciation and state of awakened consciousness act as indirect, secondary stepping stones toward his devotional goal. Saintly association (sadhu-sanga) is an indispensable hence a principle means to attain pure devotional service at the lotus feet of Krsna.

V: Even if we place karma, jnana, vairagya (renunciation) and viveka (awakened conscience) as the secondary causes for bhakti, why not call them bhakti-pravartaka sukrti?

B: We have strong reservations regarding this opinion. The results of these performances are extraneous to the real goal and most often, after awarding the results they become redundant and ineffectual. Karma, after pushing the jiva into the pool of material enjoyment, dries up and leaves. Vairagya and viveka (renunciation and empirical queries) often elevates jiva to realize non-dual Brahman and no further, due to their own inadequacy. The monistic, nondual Brahman realization usually deprives jiva from receiving shelter at the Supreme Lord's lotus feet. Therefore, they cannot be assertively termed bhakti-pravartaka sukrti; but in rare instances someone may be carried up by them to the portal of bhakti - these instances are exceptions, not the rule. Whereas sadhu-sanga has no irrelevant results as side effects, it elevates the person to the highest realization - love of Godhead (prema), as confirmed in the Srimad Bhagavatam:

satam prasangan mama virya-samvido
bhavanti hrt-karna rasayanah kathah
taj-josanad asv apavarga-vartamani
sraddha ratir bhaktir-anukramisyati

(In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Lord is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the heart. By cultivating such knowledge one gradually becomes advanced on the path of liberation, and thereafter he is freed, and his attraction (for the Lord) becomes fixed. Then real devotion and devotional service begins. SB 3.25.25)

V: Thus sadhu-sanga is established as being the only bhakti-pravartaka sukrti. About the procedure, is hearing spiritual topics from sadhus followed by attaining devotional service?

B: All right, I will explain to you the step by step development, listen carefully. While wandering through different life species a jiva is born as a human. He must perform, for whatever reasons, providential or otherwise, bhakti-pravartaka sukrti in the form of any one of the limbs of pure devotional service. For example - fasting on Ekadasi and other devotionally potent and important spiritual occasions; visiting and respecting holy places of the Supreme Lord's pastimes; hearing kirtana from the lips of a renounced and humble Vaisnava sadhu. But those persons who desire sense gratification (bhukti) and liberation (mukti) will not get the result of bhakti-pravartaka sukrti by participating in any of these.

If innocent persons, even devoid of philosophical understanding, perform these activities; either by accident, or by arrangement of circumstance or because of social etiquette, but without thinking of bhukti and mukti, then they will certainly obtain the result of bhakti-pravartaka sukrti. And when such sukrti accumulates over many lifetimes, they transform into sraddha, or faith in the process of pure devotional service. Sraddha then gives birth to the desire to associate with pure devotees. Pure association inspires steady cultivation of regulative devotional practices (sadhana), meditation and chanting (bhajana).

Regular bhajana destroys the unwanted, material desires in heart (anartha). When anarthas are uprooted the initial sraddha is transformed into unflinching faith (nistha). Nistha, through gradual purification increases taste for devotional service (ruci). Ruci reveals the sublime beauty of bhakti and it becomes converted to strong attachments for bhakti (asakti). When asakti fully blossoms, loving spiritual emotions (bhava, rati) floods the heart. All the different bhavas in concert creates spiritual humor (rasa), leading to love of Godhead (prema).

The point to note is, that from seeing a pure sadhu person person with sukrti develops the inclination to associate with him and emulate his examples. The conclusion is that the first time contact with a sadhu, immaterial of what brought it about, it created sraddha in the heart. Sraddha then inspired the person to approach a pure devotee seeing him in a new light - this is the second stage of sadhu-sanga. Another term for sraddha is surrender or saranapatti. The first stage of sadhu-sanga is characterized by the influence, due to proximity, of the Supreme Lord's favored place, festive days, objects, paraphernalia and recipient of mercy (pure devotee). The Bhagavad-gita describes the symptoms of saranapatti, which is the result of the first stage of sadhu-sanga, in the following verse:

sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah

(Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear. BG 18.66)

The purport of this verse is, that all varieties of religion include: smarta, astanga-yoga, sankhya, jnana, vairagya etc.(naimittika religion). The act of abandoning must be conducted on the basis of proper comprehension that the practice of these religions does not tantamount to the execution of the prime necessity of human existence (prayojana). Supreme Lord Krsna, the ever youthful hero of Vraja, the embodiment of eternality, absolute knowledge and bliss, is the sole goal of human existence. Knowing this the jiva must relinquish the desire for bhukti and mukti and surrender to Krsna - this is real sraddha. And when such a level of sraddha is enthroned in jiva's heart, he sheds tears of remorse (for lost time) and applies himself with gusto in following a pure Vaisnava sadhu. This time sadhu-sanga helps him to find the shelter of a spiritual master (guru).

"The soul travels through many lifetimes in different bodies and at last gets a chance at the rare human birth, which is auspicious in every respect. The soul has rotated through 8,400,000 different species. It is by ajnata sukrti or unintentional pious activities that the soul finally attains a human body. A birth in the human form is most uncommon, because only in that body are spiritual activities possible to perform, unlike any other species." (Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Harinama Cintamani, ch. 6)

Srila Prabhupada: "The beginning of contact with Krishna Consciousness is the beginning of good fortune. That some people may come and others may not, this is also due to association. Suppose a man accidentally comes in contact with our society and gives some service willingly or unwillingly, that is the beginning of his fortunate life. We go from door to door canvassing people to join Krishna Consciousness movement means that we are trying to make them fortunate. Anyone who gives some service to this Krishna Consciousness movement is fortunate proportionately. At least the seed of his fortunate life is sown there. Whether he gives service of some sort, willingly or even unwillingly, the seed is sown, and the fortune will come proportionately. Even if somebody looks shabby and unclean, if he simply says this Krishna Consciousness is very nice thing, even he is not able to take full advantage of it at the time, still he is far more fortunate than any Rockefeller." (Letter to: Tosana Krsna -- Los Angeles 13 November, 1968)

Morning Walk, Mayapur, March 14, 1976, 760314MW.MAY:

Panca-dravida: Srila Prabhupada, what is our fortune that we've come in contact with a qualified guru? What have we done to qualify to come in contact with you?

Revatinandana: In other words, why do some come and others not come?

Prabhupada: It is the ajnata-sukrti, say. Ajnata-sukrti. You might have done something, very pious activities, which you do not know, but on the effect of...

Madhudvisa: So it seems like it's up to chance, then.

Prabhupada: No chance. Just like a sinful man. Some saintly person comes to him and he gives some money to him. He does not know that "I am doing very pious activity," but because he has given, he becomes pious.

Revatinandana: If not even a blade of grass moves unless Krsna sanctions it, then why does someone have the opportunity to perform such ajnata-sukrti, another person not?

Prabhupada: Yes, Krsna wants... Suppose a saintly person comes to a very sinful man. He needs some money. Immediately Krsna says, "Give him some money. He requires." So he says, "All right, sir, take it." So Krsna's desires, he gives. Unless Krsna dictates from within, how he can give?

Harisauri: So then where is the question of free will? If I want to give or not give...

Prabhupada: No, no, free will under Krsna. You can become free will and become a big man immediately. Your free will sanctioned by Krsna. You are not so free that whatever you like, you can do.

Madhudvisa: So even if I want to perform some ajnata-sukrti, it is only by Krsna's mercy that I will do it.

Prabhupada: Yes. That is stated by Caitanya Mahaprabhu. (CC Madhya 19.151)

brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva
guru-krsna-krpaya paya bhakti lata bija

As soon as he gives to a saintly person, bhakta, he immediately acquires some asset of future development. Immediately.

Acyutananda: If someone gives to a person for spiritual..., consciously for spiritual improvement...

Prabhupada: There is no question of...

Acyutananda: ...and the person misuses the money, does he benefit?

Prabhupada: Eh?

Acyutananda: If a man says, "I am giving you this donation because it is a spiritual organization," but if the money is misused, does that man benefit?

Prabhupada: If money is misused, then both of them become implicated. If it is not used for Krsna, then both of them becomes under the laws of karma.

Acyutananda: But that man is sincere.

Prabhupada: Well, this word sincere, there is no meaning unless he is a devotee. Ei bala ei manda sab mano dharma: "These are all mental concoction." There is no meaning. "This man is good. This man is sincere. This man is bad. This man is..." They are all mental concoction. Only good is he who is Krsna conscious. Others all rascals.

Harisauri: So if Krsna has given the dictation, then is He dictating every sinful man to give?

Prabhupada: Hm?

Harisauri: Is he dictating every sinful man to give?

Prabhupada: Why do you question like that? Krsna is so foolish that He will dictate to give to a foolish, er, sinful man? It is odd question.

Harisauri: This is that point that does one come to..., does one get contact with a pure devotee and advance like that from his own free will, from accepting the mercy of the spiritual master or not?

Prabhupada: What does he say? Hm?

Harisauri: The point.... The point...

Prabhupada: Somebody answer.

Jayadvaita: Not every sinful man is dictated to give money; otherwise they'd all be giving us money. They're all sinful. We'd be getting money from everyone.

Revatinandana: But then the question is why some and not others also?

Trivikrama: Krsna is in everyone's heart.

Gurukrpa: But some are innocent.

Prabhupada: That is Krsna's dictation.

Revatinandana: Yes.

Prabhupada: Yes. And you cannot bind Krsna to dictate in a similar way. If He likes, He can ask a sinful man, "Do this." If He doesn't like, He may not act. That is Krsna.

Revatinandana: So ultimately it is simply by the mercy of Krsna...

Prabhupada: Yes.

Revatinandana: ...that he comes back to Krsna.

Prabhupada: Yes. So it is Krsna's business where to show mercy, where not to show. You cannot oblige Him that "You show mercy everywhere." No. Naham prakasah sarvasya yoga-maya-samavrtah. Krsna.... You cannot oblige Krsna, "You do this." That is not Krsna. That is not Krsna. If one is obliged to act to your dictation, then he is not Krsna. Therefore whatever Krsna likes, He'll do. You cannot oblige Him that "You have to do it." No. That is karma-mimamsa, that "If good work gives good result, so why should we care for Krsna? We shall do the good work." That is... Ordinary people, they think like that. Karma-mimamsa. "If I do good work, Krsna will be obliged to give me good effect. Why shall I care for Krsna?" That is karma-mimamsa. "Work is final. Do good work, that's all." They say like that. But we say, even if you do good work, if Krsna does not want it, then it will not produce good result. That is Krsna.

Trivikrama: We don't have the mercy of Krsna yet, so...

Prabhupada: No, no. Everyone has got the mercy, but that mercy is not obligatory. If He likes, He can give you mercy; if He does not like, He may not.

Trivikrama: But everyone has it.

Prabhupada: Everyone... He is giving mercy. That is general. But if He does not like, He may not give you. You cannot make Him obliged.

Panca-dravida: So why is it, then, if it's a question of ajnata-sukrti... The Indians, from their birth they're watering Tulasi, they're chanting Hare Krsna, they're doing so many activities, but mostly your disciples are foreigners?

Prabhupada: So that... No, means that is temporary. They may come again. It will never go in vain. Just like this cloud. Cloud is meant for raining. Now it is not raining, but when there is sufficient cloud, it will rain. You cannot say there is no rain. There is, but it is not sufficiently collected. When it is sufficiently collected, then.

Giriraja Swami, Nectar of Devotion course, Vrindavan 1994(?):

Well, there's something called ajnata-sukrti, which means some activity that's favorable to Krsna consciousness in which the person is not aware of the fact that he is doing devotional service. So, in a broad definition of bhakti, just like someone sees a devotee and he just appreciates that the devotee is nice, so that appreciation... one makes advancement by that appreciation, but he doesn't know that the person is a devotee and that he is engaged in devotional service, but he just appreciates the person, so the person makes advancement. Now whether we want to say that's devotional service or something preliminary to devotional service, it would depend, because definitions can be more broad or more narrow and when Srila Prabhupada is in a more generous mood, he may call it devotional service, but when he's discussing in a more strict way, it becomes like a preliminary activity and when enough of such preliminary activities accumulate, then one can engage in devotional service. But you see it can't be considered pious activity, because devotional service isn't caused by anything material, so no amount of pious activity can cause devotional service to manifest. But these activities, they're like devotional service, but they're not exactly devotional service.

...they're favorable to the devotee, the devotee is related to Krsna, so therefore they're favorable to Krsna and Krsna will be pleased, that "O, he's appreciating My devotee..."

Bhaktivinoda Thakura has said that there are two types of fortunate activities. One which leads to bhakti and one which doesn't lead to bhakti and the type that doesn't lead to bhakti is not really fortunate. So activities like giving in charity may help or they may not help, but ajnata-sukrti, which means activities favorable to Krsna consciousness done without knowledge, that will definitely lead to Krsna consciousness. Just like when Srila Prabhupada went to New York - at one of the programs he wanted to sell his books after the program, so he asked someone in the audience to help him sell his books. So the person didn't know what is Krsna consciousness, who is Srila Prabhupada, what is devotional service, but he did unknowingly something. So that's ajnata-sukrti and when such ajnata-sukrti accumulates, then one becomes very open to Krsna consciousness.

Pious activity, especially in relation to pure devotees, makes one fortunate. But we cannot say that... I'll give an example: the same topic was discussed with Srila Prabhupada. And Srila Prabhupada was saying, that you cannot say that bhakti is caused by karma, because that would mean that bhakti is subservient to karma; that means that Krsna has to give bhakti. So this is the karma-mimamsa theory: that everything is karma and if one does good karma, God has to give the result. So don't care for God, just care for karma. So that's the karma-mimamsa theory. So if bhakti were, if one could get bhakti by karma, then where is Krsna, where is Krsna's independence. So Srila Prabhupada gave the example that ajnata-sukrti, it accumulates. Like sometimes we see many pious people in India, people who are more pious than we were. They chant, they pour water on Tulasidevi and they're vegetarian and so many things. But they don't actually take to devotional service. But Srila Prabhupada said "Yes, but whatever they are doing is not going in vain. It's all

So Raghubir Prabhu also made a good point, that with a moment's association, you can get some ajnata-sukrti and ultimately the ajnata-sukrti could lead to bhakti.

Question: Does ajnata-sukrti only come in the association of devotees or ...the Deities in the temple.

GS: That also counts.

GS: Well, there are degrees of benefit in ajnata-sukrti, but if one performs one of the 64 items of devotional service, even by accident, he gets ajnata-sukrti. So if he by accident performs one of the five potent forms of devotional service, then he'll get more benefit. But although one can get ajnata-sukrti without association with the pure devotee, one can't get the seed of bhakti without the mercy of the pure devotee except in rare cases where one gets it directly from Krsna.

Question: The seed then sprouts into the creeper of devotion. Isn't that the idea of the bhakti-lata? But then if one commits offenses, serious offenses, then the creeper may be vanquished, then what about the seed or the root, sort of at its most basic level of existence?

GS: If we commit offenses, then the growth of the plant can be curtailed. If we commit the mad elephant offense, then all of the growth can be completely trampled and destroyed, but the seed is not destroyed.

Domanda: Qual'e' il primo passo verso il servizio devozionale?

Risposta: Usualmente il primo passo si chiama ajnata-sukriti, o l'atto di pieta senza conoscere che fai qualcosa pio. Questo non c'e la pieta normale che la gente generalmente fa (nutrire gli infamati, aprire i ospedali e cosi via) pero gli atti conneti con il servizio devozionale come l'apprezzazione delle attivita dei devoti, visitare il tempio e partecipare nella programma, partecipare nel varii festivali, sentire e cantare la mahamantra, dare la offerta, mangiare il prasadam, leggere il libro, qualunque aiuto a devoti, venire in contatto con il pure devoto, ascolto e rispetto verso puro devoto.

Tutto questo sono risultati di misericordia di Krishna e i Suoi devoti che offrono queste possibilita alle anime condizionate. Krishna nel nostro cuore ci da la idea di comportarsi appropriamente nelle queste situazioni e dipende da noi se Li ascolteremo...

Influence of sin and aparadha on ajnata-sukrti

Jayapataka Swami: Sukrti is quite esoteric and not a lot is written about it. However, in CC Madhya-lila Vaisnava aparadha has been termed as "matal-hati" or the mad-elephant offense. IN CC it states: "upare va cinde tar sukhe jai pata" - that the creeper of devotional service is pulled out of the ground or torn to shreds and as a result the leaves dry and fall of the tree in due course (my literal translation). Whereas a weed only competes or stunts the growth of the devotional creeper, a Vaisnava aparadha talks about uprooting it! Wouldn't you consider uprooting to be a serious diminishment due to aparadha? Taking the words literally it seems like an almost total sukrti bankruptcy.

You are certainly correct in saying that due to sin or "papa" one can't destroy sukrti, but only cover it. I don't find anything contradictory by that statement.

In CC it states that after one accepts a bona fide spiritual master if one commits the great offense of rejecting him, one cannot get another bona fide spiritual master for 10 million births! Isn't that an extraordinary amount of time to be covered for? The point is that aparadha can seriously affect our sukrti.

Whether sukrti is diminished or covered, the point is that aparadha is what does it. I don't want to split hairs. There isn't a lot spoken about sukrti as compared to karma (pious and impious reactions). Even though we may have accumulated a lot of sukrti we should never think that we can commit aparadha against any Vaisnava, the guru, the holy name, the Deity, etc. with impugn, i.e. that nothing can affect us. It can seriously affect us and therefore we should be careful.

Karma-unmukhi-sukrti - virtue or merit from pious acts
Jnana-unmukhi-sukrti - virtue or merit from the cultivation of knowledge
Bhakty-unmukhi-sukrti - virtue or merit from devotional activities

Jan: The difference between papa (material sin) and aparadha (spiritual sin) is dealt with in chapter 2.4 of the well-known book Le Matin des Magiciens (The Morning of the Magicians) by Pauwels and Bergier (approximately in the middle of the book). It's a passage quoted from the introduction to the novel The White Nation by Arthur Machen, member of the English esoteric society Golden Dawn founded in 1867 and linked to Rosicrucians and Freemasons.