Embodying the essence of honest devotion, love, and the purest faith, bhakti yoga fosters a spiritual journey for those seeking an organic path towards fulfillment and well-being. Out of all of the different yoga paths, including ashtanga, which is yoga of breathing and exercise, jnana, or yoga of knowledge, karma yoga, which is the path of detachment from the fruits of work, bhakti yoga is considered to be the most direct and sublime path. As Lord Krishna says of bhakti yoga in Bhagavad Gita, “it is ever joyful and easily performed.” Bhakti yoga offers a pure path for spiritual righteousness, with the term bhakti in Sanskrit is a term used to describe a devotional experience to an individual God that mirrors human relationships and interactions. The bhakti yoga path seeks out love of God simply for the sake of love, with no selfish desires or attachments.
Although the founding messengers of all world religions taught bhakti, with the advent of Golden Avatar Sri Krishna Caitanya (1486-1534) the philosophy became strong established. He described this most sublime monotheistic philosophy of bhakti yoga as he appeared in India as the divine messenger of love, destined to deliver this simple process for attaining spiritual perfection. He explained the practice as an “ inconceivable simultaneous oneness and difference” of the worshiper, bhakti, and the worshiped, or “the reservoir of Bhakti.”
The philosophy of Bhakti holds three important scriptures, including Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavata Purana, and Pranas, with the three major schools being Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism. The Srimad Bhagavadatm or Bhagavata Purana teaches nine forms of bhakti:
To hear about Sri Visnu’s transcendental name, His form, His characteristics, His possessions and His pastimes and to hear and chant about His pastimes, to remember them, to serve the lotus feet of the Lord, to respectfully offer service to the Lord, to offer prayers to the Lord, to become His servant, to consider the Lord one’s best friend and to offer Him everything. These nine processes are recognized as pure devotional service.
1. HEARING (sravanam):
Maharaja Pariksit (the last seven days of his life, he constantly heard the Srimad Bhagavatam).
2. CHANTING (kirtanam):
Sukadeva Goswami (spoke the Bhagavatam to Maharaja Pariksit)
3. REMEMBERING (visnu smaranam):
Prahlada Maharaja (never forgot Krishna despite constant tortures from his father- Hiranyakashipu)
4. SERVING THE LORD’S LOTUS FEET (pada sevanam):
Laxmi, the Goddess of Fortune, is always engaged in serving the lotus feet of the Lord.
5. DEITY-WORSHIP (arcanam):
Maharaja Prthu used all of his royal possessions in order to offer them in pure devotion to the Lord.
Akura offered prayers to Krishna when he was traveling to Vrndavana in order to see Krishna.
7. EXECUTING ORDERS (dasyam):
Hanuman, the intimate servant of Ramacandra executed all of Sri Ramacandra’s orders despite all kinds of difficulties.
8. SERVING AS A FRIEND (sakhyam):
Arjuna was so close to Krishna that the Lord offered Himself to become his chariot driver and serve Arjuna and his brothers in various ways.
9. COMPLETE SURRENDER (atma nivedanam):
Bali Maharaja gave Sri Vamanadeva his entire kingdom, his possessions as well as his own body, although his own spiritual master was against it.
It is through these practices of bhakti yoga that a devotee maintains a consistent connection to God throughout daily life.