Bhakti – An Introduction

The term “bhakti” originates from the word “bhaj” or pray. Bhakti is an act of worship, showing love, adoration, seeking grace, prayer, or other acts which are spiritually connected to one’s ishta devatah or deity. Each person can have a deity whom they love and wish to pray. That devatah in turn will bless the person in the capacity in which the person shows bhakti, what the person seeks, and how he seeks.

Bhakti in Vedanta can be of 2 types.

  1. Bahya bhakti – bhakti that is shown outside to any object that the person gets attached or associates as an altar for worship. In Hindu culture we have 33 crore deities that can be worshipped though most worshippers are shaivites and vaishnavites. I.e. Shiva or Vishnu devotees. This is also called dwaitam bhakti as there are 2 people involved. i.e. the praying person and the prayed. I.e. you as the person and Ishwara that is outside of you. This is the most common type of bhakti. This is also called Anya bhakti or the devotion, attachment shown to other deities other than 1 single Ishwara.

ye ‘py anya-devata-bhakta
yajante sraddhayanvitah
te ‘pi mam eva kaunteya
yajanty avidhi-purvakam
Meaning

ye—those; api—also; anya—other; devatā—demigods; bhaktāḥ—devotees;yajante—worship; śraddhaya-anvitāḥ—with faith; te—they; api—also; mām—Me; eva—even; kaunteya-O son of Kuntī; yajanti—sacrifice; avidhi-pūrvakam—in a wrong way.

Summary

Whatever a person may sacrifice to other gods, O son of Kuntī, is really meant for Me alone, but it is offered without true understanding.

yānti devavratā devān

pitṝn yānti pitṛvratāḥ

bhūtāni yānti bhūtejyā

yānti mad-yājino ‘pi mām

Meaning

yānti — godevavratāḥ — worshipers of demigods; devān — to the demigods; pitṝn — to the ancestors; yānti — gopitṛvratāḥ — worshipers of ancestors;bhūtāni — to the ghosts and spirits; yānti — gobhūtaijyāḥ — worshipers of ghosts and spirits; yānti — gomat — My; yājinaḥ — devotees; api — but;mām — unto Me.

 

 

Summary

Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship the ancestors go to the ancestors; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; and those who worship me will live with me.

 

  1. Antara bhakti – Bhakti that is shown by a person towards one’s own self or understanding of the fact that there is no lord or Ishwara outside of you. This is arrived only by gyanam or understanding gained by the vision of the universe, Vyashti and samashti concepts. Sravanam, mananam and nidhidhyasanam is involved in this. In the bahya bhakti one gets immersed in the beauty, and visualizes or imagines the lord in various forms and performs actions. In this type of bhakti the prayer is internal and no karma is performed, but the understanding is there in terms of who is the lord, how to know him. This is also called Ananya bhakti that is not centered towards any single object, but only internal or the understanding that the self is the revealing factor and in that everything gets illumined. This is advaitam and very rare to find or the people who understand are not that many. In Chapter 9 of the bhagavad gita, we see this as well.

ananyas cintayanto mam

ye janah paryupasate

tesam nityabhiyuktanam

yoga-ksemam vahamy aham

ananyāḥ—no other; cintayantaḥ—concentrating; mām—unto Me; ye—who; janāḥ—persons; paryupāsate—properly worship; teṣām—their; nitya—always abhiyuktānām—fixed in devotion; yoga-kṣemam—requirements; vahāmi—carry; aham—I.

But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form-to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.

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