What is Bhakti Yoga ?

chaitanya pancha tattva bhakti yoga

According to the ‘Sandilya Bhakti Sutra’, Bhakti is the transcendental attachment to Krishna, the Supreme Lord. The process of reawakening this transcendental loving relationship between God and the living entity is called ‘Bhakti Yoga’. Bhakti or pure devotional service is free from all traces of Karma (fruitive activities) and Jnana (speculative knowledge). A devotee established in Bhakti Yoga, constantly serves Krishna, engaging his mind, intellect and all of his senses in the Lord’s service. Bhakti Yoga purifies one and frees one from all material designations. Upon attaining pure love of God, one neither hankers nor laments. He is freed from all attachments and detachments, and takes no pleasure in material things. Lord Krishna explains the exalted stature of Bhakti Yoga in Bhagavad Gita as follows –

tapasvibhyo ‘dhiko yogi
jnanibhyo ‘pi mato ‘dhikah
karmibhyas cadhiko yogi
tasmad yogi bhavarjuna
(Bhagavad Gita 6.46)

A yogi is greater than the ascetic, greater than the wise speculative thinker and greater than the fruitive worker. Therefore, O Arjuna, under all circumstances, be a yogi.

yoginam api sarvesam
sraddhavan bhajate yo mam
sa me yuktatamo matah
(Bhagavad Gita 6.47)

And of all yogis, he who always abides in Me (Krishna) with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service (bhakti), is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion.

Glories of Bhakti Yoga

#1 One who is firmly established in Bhakti Yoga, never returns to this material world

Jivan muktah prapadyante kvacit samsara vasanam
Yogino na vilipyante karmabhir bhagavat parah
(Vasana bhasyodhrta Sri Bhagavata parisista vacana)

Even those who have attained liberation might sometimes develop material attachment, but those who are fixed in the process of bhakti-yoga, who have dedicated themselves to Krishna, will never again suffer from repeated birth and death.

chaitanya mahaprabhu childhood pastimes

#2 Bhakti Yoga compared to Eightfold Yoga system

Yamadibhir yoga pathaih kama lobha hato muhuh
Mukunda sevaya yadvat tathatmaddha na samyati
(Srimad Bhagavatam 1.6.35)

By Yoga practice one may be able to control the senses and become relatively free from the disturbances of lust and greed, but this is not sufficient to satisfy the soul. Only devotional service to Krishna provides complete satisfaction of the soul.

#3 Bhakti Yoga compared to Karma and Jnana

Sva sukha nibhrta cetas tad vyudastanya bhavo
Py ajita ruchira lilakrsta saras tadiyam
Vyatanuta krpaya yas tattva dipam puranam
Tam akhila vrjina ghana vyasa sunum nato smi
(Srimad Bhagavatam 12.12.69)

(Suta Goswami said) Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto my spiritual master, the son of Vyasadeva, Sukadeva Goswami. It is he who defeats all inauspicious things. Although in the beginning he was absorbed in the happiness of the self, realizing the Brahman and was living in a secluded place, giving up all other types of consciousness, he still became attracted by the most melodious pastimes of Lord Krishna. He therefore mercifully spoke this Supreme Purana, Srimad Bhagavatam, which is the bright light of the Absolute Truth and which describes the activities of Lord Krishna.

vaishnava vaishnavism krishna bhakti yoga

#4 Bhakti Yoga is the only means to attain Krishna

Na sadhyati mam yogo na sankhyam dharma uddhava
Na svadhyayas tapas tyago yatha bhaktir mamorjita
(Srimad Bhagavatam 11.14.20)

I am not controlled by those who practice mystic Yoga, Sankhya Philosophy, pious work, study of the Vedas, penances and renunciation. O Uddhava, I am controlled by Bhakti. Those who have developed unalloyed devotion for Me control Me by their love.

#5 God takes control of His surrendered devotees

Tesam satata yuktanam bhajatam priti purvakam
Dadami buddhi yogam tam yena mam upayanti te
(Bhagavad Gita 10.10)

To those who are constantly devoted, serving Me with love, I give them the understanding by which they can attain Me.

krishna accessories ornaments articles

#6 Ultimate destination of a Karma Yogi, Jnana Yogi and Bhakti Yogi

Yogasya tapasas caiva nyasasya gatayo malah
Mahar janas tapah satyam bhakti yogasya mad gatih
(Srimad Bhagavatam 11.24.14)

Those who practice mystic yoga, who perform great austerities and accept sannyasa, may attain the sinless realms of Maharloka, Jnanaloka, Tapaloka and Satyaloka, but those who practice Bhakti Yoga, devotional service unto Me (Krishna), attain My abode.

How to Practice Bhakti Yoga ?

To the extent a devotee surrenders and dedicates his life to Krishna, to that extent he is said to be firmly established in Bhakti Yoga. The life of a Bhakti Yogi is dedicated to the service of Krishna and it is by serving Him, that he derives great bliss and satisfaction.

Mac-citta mad gata prana bodhayantah parasparam
Kathayantas ca mam nityam tusyanti ca ramanti ca
(Bhagavad Gita 10.9)

The thoughts of My pure devotee dwell in Me (Krishna), their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great pleasure and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me.

A devotee dedicates all his work and activities unto Krishna –

yat karosi yad asnasi
yaj juhosi dadasi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kurusva mad-arpanam
(Bhagavad Gita 9.27)

O son (Arjuna) of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, do that as an offering unto Me (Krishna).

nama hatta holy name hare krishna bhakti

It must be understood at this point that Devotion unto God driven by fear, hope, or duty cannot be considered pure. Devotees practicing them are inferior to those who render devotional service unto God driven by spontaneous love (Raga). However, hope, fear, and duty ultimately makes way for spontaneous love, as one gradually evolves in his/her devotional life.

Tantra seva vina jivera na yaya samsara
Tanhara charana priti – purusartha sara
Moksadi ananda yara nahe eka kana
Purnananda prapti tanra charana sevana
(Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya, 18.194-195)

No conditioned soul can get out of material bondage without serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Loving His lotus feet is the ultimate goal of life. The joy of liberation, whereby one merges into the Lord’s existence cannot even be compared to a fragment of the transcendental bliss obtained by serving the Supreme Lord’s lotus feet.

So how can we revive our lost love for Krishna? 

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The Bhagavad Gita teaches how this material world is exceedingly difficult for a living entity to overcome (mama maya duratyaya). But this incredibly challenging objective is easily accomplished by those who surrender unto the Supreme Lord and seek His divine shelter (mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te). Such a person can control his mind, transcend material nature, and even his material desires. Such a perfect devotee rejoices in boundless spiritual bliss and is not shaken even amidst the greatest of difficulties. This certainly is actual independence – freedom from all miseries (anxiety, depression, fear, etc) arising out of material contact.  Now, one might question as to how one can take shelter of the Supreme Lord practically and revive this state of spiritual consciousness. Does it only demand an adjustment of intellectual perception or does it also require certain spiritual practices?

The ancient Vedic scriptures proclaim that chanting the holy Name of the Supreme Lord is the only practical and effective means of cultivating spiritual realization (devotion) in this present day and age (Harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam kalau nasthyeva nasthyeva nasthyeva gathir anyatha – Brhan Naradiya Purana). Nothing else is as powerful. Love of the Supreme Lord is not something that can be achieved artificially from an external source. It is eternally existing within the hearts of all living entities. When the heart is purified by the process of regular hearing and chanting the holy names, glories of the Supreme Lord, this eternal love awakens and reveals itself once more.

nitya-siddha Krishna-prema ‘sadhya’ kabhu naya,
sravanadi suddha chitte karaye udaya
(Chaitanya Charitamrta, Madhya, 22.107)

Pure love for Krishna is eternally established in the hearts of the living entities. It is not something to be gained from an external source. When one’s heart is purified by the regular hearing and chanting of Krishna’s holy name and glories, this love naturally awakens.

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