Sri Kamakoti Mandali  
shrImAtre namaH  
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Bhakti Mimamsa


[Query] Harshaji, what is the difference between bhakthi and meditation?

bIjairjaptA dashabhiratulA pa~nchamishraistanoti
taj~nAnAM yA h^idayavishadAkAshakoshe samantAt |
kA~nchidharShaprathamalaharIkaumudIM sevyate sA
lopAmudrA kathamiha paraM mudritaswAntamartyaiH ||

shrImadAchArya hints at bhakti while commenting on the sUtra AvR^ittirasakR^idupadeshAt. A devoted disciple or a loving wife thinks
of the beloved all the time and longs for him. Similarly, when one repeats bhagavannAma with autkaNThya without any distractions and is immersed in thoughts of the divine, such a state may be termed as bhakti. Bhakti is also illustrated through the word praNidhAna in the yoga sUtra, IshwarapraNidhAnAdvA, where praNidhAna means to offer to Ishwara all actions with devotion, renouncing the fruits of the action. shANDilya describes bhakti through the sUtra, sA parAnuraktirIshware iti. That intense love, devotion or attachment to the divine, which arises in a being after the cognition of the divine form, greatness, glory etc. of the Lord, is Bhakti. Sage nArada describes bhakti as: sA tvasmin parama premarUpA. Prema means love. Love for the Supreme, which is limitless and unconditional, is termed as bhakti. Here, the great Guru nArada does not prescribe devotion to any particular form of Lord like shiva, shakti or nArAyaNa or to something that is distant and different from the self. The reference here is to sAdhya bhakti and not sAdhana bhakti. The final word on the definition of bhakti seems to be that of shANDilya, who simply describes it as Atmarati or reveling in the Self, Atmaratyavirodheneti shANDilyaH. It can thus be safely concluded that the parA bhakti described here is non-different from jnAna. Bhakti is the sAdhana and parA bhakti is the sAdhya or the goal. Bhakti can never really be expressed in words [anivarchanIyam premaswarUpam], similar to the experience of taste by a dumb person.

What is generally known as Bhakti, where devotee expresses devotion to the Lord as a distinct entity separate from himself, is technically sAdhana bhakti. The usefulness of this form of devotion is to lead towards sAdhya bhakti, where the former "that" Ishwara, considered as separate from oneself, is then realized as "this" or the self. It is by the realization of this sAdhya bhakti alone that one is freed from every desire. He experiences no more grief, hatred, happiness or excitement. It is this bhakti that Shuka Brahman describes as shAnta bhakti in bhAgavata. The same is expressed in the sUtra, yatprApya na kinchit vAnchati, na shochati, na dveShTi, na ramate, notsAhI bhavati. The true form of this bhakti is accomplished by nirodha or renunciation [nirodharUpatvAt] which in other words is karma sanyAsa [nirodhastu loka veda vyApAra nyAsaH]. Two key concepts that characterize nirodha are ananyatA and udAsInatA. ananyatA means relinquishing all external support machinery and udAsInatA means indifference to all worldly affairs and karma.

The extremely useful sAdhana bhakti is again classified into two, mukhya and gauNa. That devotion which is free of attributes [guNarahitam], free of desires [kAmanA rahitam], increasing every moment [pratikshaNa vardhamAnam], avicchinnam [uninterrupted], sUkShmataram [extremely subtle, due to guNarAhitya], and most importantly, of the form of an actual experience [anubhavarUpam] is called mukhya bhakti. gauNI bhakti, classified into three, is based on sattva, rajo and tamo guNas of the aspirant. These three directly map to the three kinds of bhaktas, jijnAsu [who seeks knowledge or the realization of the supreme], arthArthI [who seeks specific worldly goals] and Arta [who seeks divine intervention to rid himself of distress].

The practical directives for a bhakta are described below:

1. lokahAnau chintA na kAryA – A bhakta never worries about worldly affairs as he is always immersed in the love of the divine. This does not necessarily mean that one should give up every interaction and karma but it only means that the fruits of such actions should be renounced.

2. abhimAna DambhAdikam tyAjyam – pride, pretense etc should be given up

3. Every activity should be directed towards the Lord, including emotions such as desire, anger, pride etc. Instead of suppressing these emotions, one should surrender these to the Lord which is the easiest way to overcome them.

4. Scriptures that teach Bhakti should be studied and the teachings therein should be contemplated upon. And not just that, but also one should engage in activities that evoke and sustain Bhakti.

5. Without thinking of pain, pleasure, gain, loss etc. for even a minute, one should engage in the contemplation of the divine [through any of the nine forms of Bhakti: shravaNa, kIrtana, smaraNa, pAdasevana, archana, vandana, dAsya, sakhya, Atmanivedana] without wasting a single minute.

6. Non-violence, truth, internal and external purity, compassion for all beings and other such qualities should be developed.

7. Every moment, the Lord should be contemplated on, uninterrupted by thoughts and worries.

The various ways in which bhakti can manifest are described in the scriptures:

1. guNamAhAtmyAsakti: love to the divine expressed through the glorification of the ananta kalyANa guNas of the Lord, like that expressed by nArada, vyAsa etc.
2. rupAsakti: love of the mesmerizing beauty of the Lord, like that expressed by the gopis of vrndAvana
3. pUjAsakti: love to the divine expressed through worship, like that expressed by ambarISha
4. smaraNAsakti: love to the divine expressed by constant remembrance, like that expressed by prahlAda
5. dAsyAsakti: love to the divine expressed through service, like that expressed by Anjaneya
6. sakhyAsakti: love to the divine expressed through friendship, like that expressed by arjuna
7. kAntAsakti: love to the divine expressed like that of a wife towards her husband, like mahAlakShmi
8. vAtsalyAsakti: love to the divine expressed like the mother's love for her son or daughter, like that expressed by yashodA and kausalyA
9. paramavirahAsakti: love to the divine manifested as the pain of separation from the Lord, like that experienced by rAdhikA
10. AtmanivedanAsakti: love to the divine expressed through complete self-surrender, like that expressed by vibhIShaNa
11. tanmayAsakti: love to the divine experienced through complete absorption in the divine, where the Lord and the Devotee cease to exist as different entities, like in the case of sanakAdayaH, shuka Brahman etc.

That said, in general, bhakti indeed is a meditative state but without effort or parishrama. In dhyAna, there is a conscious effort on the part of the sAdhaka but bhakti is sahaja and without parishrama.

brahma smarAmi kamalekShaNamabhranIlam