Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

bhakti - part 3

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Definition: Cdr.B. Vaidyanthan


Rare indeed is the human birth. Having attained it, one should know its goal and reach it. Our ancient seers and sages have shown us the path. They have revealed to us that realisation of the Supreme One; the Father of the universe is the Purushartha or the prime aim of human life.

There are different paths for achieving it. First is Bhakti, to stand clinging to God. Next is the path of Yoga of desireless action, which leads to Bhakti. Third comes Gnana, culmination of the pursuit along the path of desireless action and clinging to Him- in being one with Him in Bliss. Each of them again follows three courses determined by three Gunas or modes of Prakriti or Nature.

There are nine ways in which Bhakti can be cultivated. They are: hearing the glories of God (Sravana); reciting His names and glories (kirtana); constant remembrance of Lord's names, forms and glories (smarana); service to all living beings seeing Him in all (pada sevanam); worshipping His image (archanam); saluting His image (vandanam); devotion to His servant (dasyam); love as a friend (sakhyam); and surrender to Him of one's all from the body to the soul (Atma nirvedanam). These nine are the means and hence called "sadhana Bhakti". They lead to nine `Bhakti rasas'. By performance of `sadhana Bhakti as above, the mind assumes the form of God.

In bhakti, Para Bhakti or higher Bhakti is considered the noblest; in yoga, Para Yoga or higher Yoga is the best; untrammeled Bliss in the self is the great height of Gnana or Knowledge.

By Bhakti is meant the clinging to the supreme one, giving up all attachments to the body, life and worldly objects. Shining as the inner light of conciousness in all beings and illuminating the entire phenomenal universe, the Supreme Lord is its One Support and Power behind it. To stand clinging to Him, knowing Him and seeing Him as immanent in and fully pervading all beings, like ghee in milk, fire and heat in wood, oil in sesame is called Para bhakti or higher Bhakti. Outer and external bhakti or devotion is evidenced in nine well- known forms such as hearing, singing, and constant remembrance of Lord's names, forms and glories, service to all living beings seeing Him in all, image worship, prostration, devotion as a servant, love as a friend and surrender to Him of one's all from his body to the soul.

To those who have climbed to the height of Para Bhakti, the Supreme reveals itself by itself and this phase is known as Para Yoga or higher Yoga.

To one who is steeped in Bhakti, the world and its teeming life appear as God Himself in His Infinite forms. To him all happenings in the world appear as the sport of the Lord. Worshipping the Lord in His manifested form within one's heart will efface all thoughts welling up in one's mind. You should first integrate your mind, word and thought, make it one- pointed and visualize your Istadevata as standing before you. Having done this, you should perform japa by repeating the mantra, which signifies the particular Devata. It is advisable to do this in solitude in a room. To attain divine grace, meditation is more important than prodigious learning. Yearning is more important than skill in discussion; tears flowing from eyes are more important than verses recited by the tongue and worship is more beneficial than research into books.

Return to the Contents page for the Terms and Definition.

Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012