Hindu culture is full of stories narrating how love and devotion has won the mighty gods. Hindu gods are known to met away in the bhakthi of their devotee.
Shiva grant the boon to ‘Bhasmasura’ for his bhakthi. What happened next is an interesting story! Meera’s bhakthi won krishna, Tulasidas was blessed by Rama, Tulaja Bhavani blessed Shivaji, the stories are innumerable. Hindu dharma says Bhakthi Yoga or Bhakthi marga is the easiest to reach divine knowledge ‘Brahma’, and to be one with God-Paramatma.
Bhakti Yoga is one of the four main yogic paths to enlightenment. Bhakti means “devotion” or “love” and this path contains various practices to unite the bhakta (Bhakti Yoga practitioner) with the Divine. Bhakti Yoga is considered the easiest yogic path to master and the most direct method to experience the unity of mind, body, and spirit.
While Hatha Yoga requires a strong and flexible body, Raja Yoga requires a disciplined and concentrated mind, and Jnana Yoga requires a keen intellect, the only requirement for Bhakti Yoga is an open, loving heart.
But Bhakti Yoga complements other paths of yoga well, and it is said that jnana (knowledge or wisdom) will manifest by itself when you engage in the devotional practices of Bhakti Yoga.
There are nine main practices of Bhakti Yoga that can be practiced independently or together. Each of these limbs creates a specific bhava (feeling) that appeals to different inner constitutions of the devotee.
The Nine Limbs of Bhakthi:
- Shravana – “listening” to the scriptures, especially told by a saint or recited by a bhakta.
- Kirtana – “singing” devotional songs, usually practiced in a group format.
- Smarana – “remembering” the Divine by constantly meditating upon his name and form.
- Padasevana – “service at the feet” of the Divine, which incorporates the practice of karma yoga (selfless service) with bhakti (devotion).
- Archana – the “ritual worship” of the Divine through practices such as puja (worship), and havan or homa.
- Vandana – the “prostration” before the God.
- Daasya – the “unquestioning” devotion towards the God. And to never let ego of oneself take over bhakthi.
- Sakhya – the “friendship” and relationship established between the Divine and the devotee.
- Atmanivedana – the “self-offering” and complete surrender of the self to the Divine.
Hindu culture also describe different types bhaktha- the devotee:
There are Four Kinds of Bhaktas, Aarta, Jijnasu, Artharthi and Jnani.
Aarta is the distressed devotee who is suffering very much and who craves for the grace of God, in order to get himself relieved from pain and sorrow.
Jijnasu is the seeker of knowledge, who feels that he is ignorant, and seeks the grace of God in order to have Wisdom. Artharthi is the seeker of wealth, who longs for earthly possessions, money, land, etc., in order to enjoy a happy life, and who propitiates God to get his grace to achieve wealth.
Jnani is the wise, the sage who is satisfied with the Self, who is contented in the Self, who has no desires, who is freed from desires, who has fulfilled all desires, whose only desire is the knowledge of Self, who considers his own Self as the All-inclusive God.
Draupadi and Gajendra are examples of Arta-Bhaktas. When Dusshyasana dragged her before the court of the Kauravas, Draupadi cried for Krishna in order to guard her respect. Gajendra called on Narayana when a crocodile was dragging him into the water.
Uddhava was a Jijnasu. He was dissatisfied with the world and got wisdom from Sri Krishna. His tale is recorded in the Bhagavata.
Sugriva and Dhruva were Artharthi-Bhaktas. Sugriva wanted to drive away Vali and get his kingdom. Vibhishana wanted to put an end to Ravana and wanted to established peace and prosperity at Lanka. Dhruva wanted a kingdom where his step mother would not trouble him or ill treat him.
Shuka-Maharshi was a Jnani-Bhakta. He was a Brahma-Jnani of the highest type. He realised that everything was his own Self. He taught the Srimad-Bhagavata to Parikshit.
There is another type of Bhaktas, called Vaira Bhaktas. They have negative attitude. They do not have positive devotion for God. They hate God and thus remember Him always.
Hatred also requires a constant remembrance of the enemy. So these also are a kind of Bhaktas only. They attain salvation through Vaira-Bhakti.
Kamsa, Sisupala and others thought of the Lord constantly on account of their deep hatred for Him. Thus they attained Salvation.
What we understand by this is, nothing matters in bhakthi, what one wishes to achieve or his behaviour, or his caste he is born into, he is doing pooja, homa, havana or not, even remembering God to curse him too will help achieve Moksha.
Hindu dharma explains divinity in the simplest form. It doesn’t tell you to be a certain way to achieve oneness with God. In fact God comes looking for his bhaktha when his devotion is strong enough. In Hindu culture God punishes only bad deeds, whether a devotee or an atheist, everyone will achieve the salvation only requirement is to take the path of righteousness in life.
Dr Sindhu Prashanth