SB 1.2 - The cause of pure bhakti
It is not that prema is caused by sādhana-bhakti. Dharma consisting of hearing and chanting about the Lord is called sādhana-bhakti, and in its mature state is called prema. Both are called bhakti. Just as an unripe mango is the cause of a ripe mango, we can say sādhana bhakti (para dharma) is the cause of prema bhakti (yato bhaktir adhokṣaje). Considering one the cause of the other because of difference in taste is simply a conception for understanding the different strengths of bhakti, though sādhana bhakti and prema are not actually different things. One cannot also say the cause of bhakti is association of devotees, for association of devotees is part of bhakti. It is the second stage as understood from ādau śraddha, tathaḥ sādhu-saṅga…
Charity, vows, austerity etc are to some degrees cause of bhakti in sattva-guṇa, practiced as an aṅga of jñāna. But they are not causes of pure bhakti. Nor can it even be said that the mercy of the Lord is the cause of pure bhakti, for it is a non-final cause, making one search out a further cause. If the Lord’s mercy is the cause of pure bhakti, then it would mean He is unjust and prejudiced in choosing to give mercy to some and not to others. However, if one says the cause of bhakti is the mercy of the devotee, it is not so incorrect. Though the uttama bhaktas do not make distinctions and are thus not prejudiced, the madhyama bhaktas make distinctions between the Lord, the devotee, the innocent and the demon. And because the Lord is dependent on the devotee, the Lord’s mercy follows after the mercy of the devotee.
But then how is bhakti said to be without cause? Because the Lord’s mercy is included in the mercy of the devotee, and because that mercy is included in the association with devotees, and because devotee association is an aṅga of bhakti, bhakti is said to be without cause (since an aṅga of bhakti causes bhakti). Moreover the cause of devotee’s mercy is but the bhakti present in the heart of the devotee, because without bhakti in his heart there is no possibility of his mercy arising. In all ways therefore, bhakti is the cause of bhakti. Therefore, bhakti is said to be without cause. From the point of view of bhakti, the devotee, bhakti, the Lord, and His mercy are not separate items. Even though bhakti appears by bhakti, it does not negate the fact that bhakti’s self manifesting nature comes from the Lord.
Bhakti is also apratihatā – cannot be prevented by anything. Bhakti is without destruction, though it is the cause of destruction of obstacles. Apratihatā can also mean that prema-bhakti is not contaminated by jñāna or karma. By that bhakti the mind becomes completely satisfied. Because of the impossibility of the mind being satisfied with material desires, it is evident that this bhakti is without any material desires.