Why does Prabhupada translate bhakti in Bhaktirasamritasindhu as ‘devotion’ instead of ‘devotional service’?

by Chaitanya Charan dasMay 16, 2014

Answer Podcast

Transcription by- Keshav Gopal Das and Ambuj Gupta

Question: Why does Prabhupada translate the word “bhakti” in bhaktirasamritasindhu as devotion and not devotional service as he does everywhere else?

Answer: Firstly the word “devotion” as a translation of bhakti is not wrong. Bhakti is an emotion and that emotion is called as devotion. Now Prabhupada when he wants to counter some specific misconception that bhakti is merely an emotion or it’s just a sentiment then Prabhupada to emphasize the practical dynamic aspect of bhakti translates bhakti as devotional service. So “devotion” is also and accepted translation, but to counter the prevailing misconceptions created by sahajiyas that we just start to think about Krishna and it does not have any practical transformational effect, Prabhupada translate bhakti as devotional service. First of all its not a wrong translation. “Devotion” is also a valid translation.

Prabhupada himself has not, as far as I know, specifically responded to this question anywhere but if you look at the context and the content of “Nectar of Devotion” it starts with glory of bhakti and it goes into various activities of bhakti but specially Nectar of Devotion, along with the sixty four limbs of bhakti the later chapters of Nectar of Devotion are talking about emotions. There is elaborate analysis of emotions and the distinctive contribution of Nectar of Devotion, to not just our tradition, but to the world’s understanding of relationship with the God, is the extra ordinary level of emotions that are talked about in it. Because the bhaktirasamritasindhu focuses on emotions so much, so Nectar of Devotion is an appropriate translation.

In fact, if we want to go more and more technically in bhaktirasamritasindu, there are two words rasa and amrita– i.e. nectarean mellow, when they could have it as ocean, so then we could have the translation as a “nectarean mellow of the ocean of devotional service” which would be quite a clumsy translation, so big and unwieldy. So Nectar of Devotion is concise and it also in a significantly precise way conveys the essence of the content of the book. Thank you. Hare Krishna.

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Chaitanya Charan das

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