Bhakti yoga

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Bhakti yoga (Devanāgarī: भक्ति योग) is a spiritual path or spiritual practice within Hinduism focused on the cultivation of love and devotion towards God. It has been defined as "devotional service to Bhagavan (God) with no other motivations than simply to please the Supreme Lord."[1] Bhakti yoga is a means to realize God (i.e. attain spiritual liberation and enlightenment)[2] and has often been taught as the easiest way for the common person because it doesn't involve extensive yogic practices.[1]

The Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavata Purana and Puranas[2] are important scriptures which expound the philosophy of Bhakti.[3] Hindu movements in which bhakti is the main practice are called bhakti movements—the major schools of which are Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism.[4]


Main article: Bhakti

Bhakti is a Sanskrit term that signifies an attitude of devotion to a personal God that is similar to a number of human-human relationships (difference is that in bhakti relationships is soul-Supersoul, soul-God) such as beloved-lover, friend-friend, parent-child, and master-servant.[3]

The Bhagavata Purana teaches nine primary forms of bhakti, as explained by Prahlada:[5]

(1) śravaṇa ("listening" to the scriptural stories of Kṛṣṇa and his companions), (2) kīrtana ("praising," usually refers to ecstatic group singing), (3) smaraṇa ("remembering" or fixing the mind on Viṣṇu), (4) pāda-sevana (rendering service), (5) arcana (worshiping an image), (6) vandana (paying homage), (7) dāsya (servitude), (8) sākhya (friendship), and (9) ātma-nivedana(complete surrender of the self). (from Bhagavata Purana, 7.5.23-24)

These nine principles of devotional service are described as helping the devotee remain constantly in touch with God. The processes of japa and internal meditation on the aspirant devotees's chosen deity form (ishta deva) are especially popular in most bhakti schools. Bhakti is a yoga path, in that its aim is a form of divine, loving union with the Supreme Lord. The exact form of the Lord, or type of union varies between the different schools, but the essence of each process is very similar.

The Indian spiritual teacher Meher Baba states, "Out of a number of practices which lead to the ultimate goal of humanity – God-Realization – Bhakti Yoga is one of the most important. Almost the whole of humanity is concerned with Bhakti Yoga, which, in simple words, means the art of worship. But it must be understood in all its true aspects, and not merely in a narrow and shallow sense, in which the term is commonly used and interpreted. The profound worship based on the high ideals of philosophy and spirituality, prompted by divine love, doubtless constitutes true Bhakti Yoga.[6]

The Bhagavad Gita[edit]

Main article: Bhagavad Gita

While it has an extensive list of philosophical and religious associations, the Bhagavad Gita is also seen as a cornerstone for Hindu Bhakti theism, especially within Vaishnavism. However, it has been interpreted by many as being a manual not limited just for devotees of Krishna. Whatever be the case, it is adamant, in Krishna's words, that love and innocent pure intention is the most powerful motive force in a devotee's spiritual life. It is a very succinct and comprehensive statement on the mindset of the Bhakta (loving devotee) of Krishna, Svayam bhagavan:

Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me. (B-Gita 9.34)[7]

One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of Me by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God. (B-Gita 18.55) [8]


Main article: Bhakti movement
A large statue in Bangalore depicting Shiva meditating

There are three main groups of bhakti practitioners in Hinduism: the Shaivas who worship Lord Shiva and his family, including Lord Ganesha and Lord Murugan; the Vaishnavas, who worship forms of Vishnu, his avataras such as Lord Krishna and Lord Rama, and others associated with Him; and the Shaktas, who primarily worship Goddess forms, such as Goddess Durga, Goddess Kali, Goddess Lakshmi, and Goddess Parvati.

All these groups have great respect for each other's primary deities, while considering their own paramount in their own religious worship. The most advanced practitioners in each group, as well as the scriptures of each group, recognize that each God or Goddess is so closely related to the others as to be essentially the same being, even though each is perceived from a human perspective as having a slightly different form and somewhat different primary and secondary qualities. In the same way, a mountain, when seen from different directions, may appear to look different; yet it is the same mountain, and each person must approach the mountain from the place in which they happen to find themselves.

Notable proponents of Bhakti[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Miracle of Konark. Asia Press, 1967.
  2. ^ a b Paliwal, B.B. 2005. Message of the Purans. Diamond Pocket Books.
  3. ^ a b Cutler, Norman (1987). Songs of Experience. Indiana University Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-253-35334-4. 
  4. ^ Rinehart, Robin. Contemporary Hinduism: ritual, culture, and practice. ABC-CLIO. pp. 45, 51. ISBN 978-1-57607-905-8. 
  5. ^ Haberman, David L. (2001). Acting as a Way of Salvation. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. pp. 133–134. ISBN 978-81-208-1794-4. 
  6. ^ Baba, Meher: The Path of Love, Sheriar Press, 2000, pp. 57-58.
  7. ^ B-Gita 9.34
  8. ^ B-Gita 18.55