By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Bhagavata-dharma, BhAgavata-dharma, Bhaagavata-dharma
Origin of Bhāgavata-dharma
Bhakti or love towards God is a very ancient religious sentiment. Its origin can be traced even in the Rgveda. It's reference also appears like a flash of lightning in the Upaniṣads; Even during the period of the epics and the purāṇas it grew to voluminous proportions.
Growth of Bhāgavata-dharma
Gradually, bhakti was developed into a doctrine or a religion or even a philosophy. This has been christened as ‘Bhāgavata-dharma.’ The term ‘Bhāgavata-dharma’ has been derived from the word ‘Bhāgavat’ or God. It has been endowed with ‘bhaga’ or the six divine attributes like :
- Aiśvarya - Lordship
- Dharma - Righteousness
- Yaśas - Celebrity
- Śrī - Wealth and splendor
- Jñāna - Knowledge
- Vairāgya - Detachment
Alternative Names of Bhāgavata-dharma
Since the God is identified with Nārāyaṇa, this religion is also called ‘Nārāyaṇīya-dharma.’ It was also called ‘Sātvata-mata’ since it was current among the people of the ‘satvat’ tribe to which Kṛṣṇa belonged. It teaches ekānta-bhakti or single-minded devotion, hence it became popularly known as ‘Ekāntika or Aikāntika mata.’ Other names of this system are :
- Pāñcarātra mata - Religion as taught in the Pāñcarātra Āgamas
- Vaiṣṇava-dharma - Religion of the followers of Viṣṇu
Sources of Bhāgavata-dharma
The sources of the Bhāgavata-dharma are :
- The Nārāyanīya section of the Mahābhārata
- Pāñcarātra Āgamas
- Bhaktisutras of Sāṇdilya and Nārada
Different Names of God as per Bhāgavata-dharma
The Bhāgavata religion has adapted the impersonal Brahman of the Upaniṣads to a personal God. Some of the most commonly names used to respect him are :
Representation of God as per Bhāgavata-dharma
- He cannot be apprehended by the senses nor by logic.
- Śrutis or scriptures describes about him to the best.
- His grace is the supreme factor in realizing him.
- Ekānta-bhakti or single-minded devotion is the only mode by which his grace can be obtained and he can be apprehended.
- Though He is ‘sarvatantra- svatantra’ or supremely independent, he is ever fond of those that are devoted to him and reveals himself to them.
- He is always ‘bhakta- parādhīna’ or subject to the will of the devotees.
- Prapatti or śaraṇāgati (complete resignation) is another means of attaining him.
Different Aspects of Bhāgavata-dharma
The Caturvyuha doctrine is another speciality of this Bhāgavata-dharma. The four vyuhas or emanations of the Lord Viṣṇu are:
They are different aspects of the manifestation of the six qualities known as ‘bhāga’ mentioned earlier. While Vāsudeva has all the six qualities in full measure, the other three have two each in greater measure than the others. Followers of the Bhāgavata-dharma are called ‘bhāgavatas.’
- Rgveda 1.156.3; 8.98.11
- Katha Upanisad 2.23; Svetāśvatara Upanisad 6.23
- Śāntiparva chapter 334 onwards
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore