Monday, January 27, 2020

Bhakti and Why It is Important

In this post let us look at the question of what is Bhakti and why it is important in spiritual growth.

bhakti and why it is important

What is Bhakti?

In the Indian spiritual tradition Bhakti means devotion – to God primarily but also to a guru or a master.

Bhakti relates to the heart as against the mind. In Bhakti the devotee’s heart melts and merges with the one devoted to.

The another most important aspect of Bhakti is love – divine, unconditional and desire less love for God.

First of the Four Paths to Salvation

The Hindu school of spirituality lays down four paths to salvation – liberation from the eternal cycle of birth and death.

Bhakti is the first of the four. The four paths are:

  1. Bhakti - Devotion
  2. Karma – Righteous Action
  3. Yoga – Various techniques including breath control and meditation
  4. Jnana – Wisdom – reaching the Ultimate Truth through introspection, discrimination – essentially through an intellectual means

 God cannot be attained through Any Path without Bhakti

Even though four distinct paths to salvation have been given a practitioner cannot attain God without Bhakti.

Being of an intellectual type and following the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Jnana Marga, initially, I totally rejected Bhakti. I used to think that Jnana was superior to all other paths. I also thought that there is no need for Bhakti on the path of wisdom. Of course, I was ignorant. Ramana Maharshi himself was a great devotee of Lord Shiva and composed many beautiful poems on Him.

So is the case with Adi Shankara. Though he was the tallest proponent of Vedanta and Jnana marga, he invariably exhorted the seekers to approach God through Bhakti. The song, “Bhaja Govindam…” he composed is a perfect example. In that song, he addresses people as, “Moodha Mate”, meaning, “Oh Ignorant” and strongly and even harshly advises to seek God instead of going after mere knowledge for a livelihood.

In Karma or the path of Action the seeker should surrender all the fruits at the feet of the Lord and carry on the duties with total devotion in His name and as His instrument. Therefore Bhakti is an integral part of Karma Yoga. Swami Vivekananda an outstanding example of Karma Yoga was a great devotee of the Divine Mother Kali.

In the Yoga path too, Parama Hansa Yogananda in his famous book, “The Auto Biography of a Yogi”, narrates how one of his masters reminds him as follows:

“You go often into the silence, but have you developed anubhava?” He was reminding me to love God more than meditation. “Do not mistake the technique for the Goal.”

All these examples clearly prove that there is no substitute for Bhakti or devotion.

The Nine Limbs of Bhakti

The Bhagavata Puranam the ultimate text on Bhakti prescribes the following nine limbs of the Bhakti Yoga:

  1. Sravana – listening to stories and songs praising God
  2. Kirtanam – Singing the glories of God
  3. Smaranam – Remembering or Chanting the Lord’s Name
  4. Pada Sevanam – Doing service to the lotus feet of the Lord. We can see Sri Maha Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu, massaging the feet of Lord Vishnu.
  5. Archana – Worship or doing Pooja with flowers or Kum-kum.
  6. Vadanam – Saluting the Lord with folded hands.
  7. Dasyam – Be the servant or slave to God – Lord Hanuman, the great devotee of Sri Rama, calls himself a Dasa or servant of the Lord.
  8. Sakhayam – Making God your friend.
  9. Atma Nivedana – Complete sacrifice or surrender.

bhakti and why it is important
Source of the picture is and the credit is hereby duly acknowledged

Today, in the modern and fast-paced world, elaborate poojas and rituals are difficult. Making God your friend or as a slight variation, your parent is the simplest and effective. While chanting, I visualize myself as a six-month infant, completely naked and chewing the thumb at Divine Mother’s lotus feet. I also see her lifting me up high and kissing me on my cheeks, putting me to sleep in Her lap, etc. Tears invariably roll down my cheeks in emotion.

At the end of my brief post I repeat that Bhakti is the easiest and direct path to God. Any other path, on its own, without Bhakti cannot lead us to the Lord.

1 comment:

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Bhakti and Why It is Important

In this post let us look at the question of what is Bhakti and why it is important in spiritual growth. What is...