|Part of a series on|
Bhakti yoga (Sanskrit: भक्ति योग), also called Bhakti marga (भक्ति मार्ग, literally the path of Bhakti), is a spiritual path or spiritual practice within Hinduism focused on loving devotion towards any personal deity. It is one of the three classical paths in Hinduism which lead to Moksha, the other paths being Jnana yoga and Karma yoga.
The tradition has ancient roots. Bhakti is mentioned in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad where it simply means participation, devotion and love for any endeavor. Bhakti yoga as one of three spiritual paths for salvation is discussed in depth by the Bhagavad Gita.
The personal god varies with the devotee. It may include a god or goddess such as Ganesha, Krishna, Radha, Rama, Sita, Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati, Durga, and Surya among others.
The Bhakti marga involving these deities grew with the Bhakti Movement, starting about the mid-1st millennium CE, from Tamil Nadu in South India. The movement was led by the Saiva Nayanars and the Vaisnava Alvars. Their ideas and practices inspired bhakti poetry and devotion throughout India over the 12th-18th century CE. Bhakti marga is a part of the religious practice in Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism.
Devotion may also be impersonal as discussed in the book Narada’s Way of Divine Love written by Swami Prabhavananda.
The Sanskrit word bhakti is derived from the root bhaj, which means "divide, share, partake, participate, to belong to". The word also means "attachment, devotion to, fondness for, homage, faith or love, worship, piety to something as a spiritual, religious principle or means of salvation".
The term yoga literally means "union, yoke", and in this context connotes a path or practice for "salvation, liberation". The yoga referred to here is the "joining together, union" of one's Atman (true self) with the concept of Supreme Brahman (true Reality).
According to Samrat Kumar, bhakti yoga is an Indian tradition of "divine love mysticism", a spiritual path "synonymous for an intimate understanding of oneness and harmony of the eternal individual with the Divine (the universal Being) and all creatures, a constant delight". According to Yoga Journal, yoga scholar David Frawley writes in his book that bhakti yoga "consists of concentrating one's mind, emotions, and senses on the Divine."
Bhakti yoga is one of three yoga taught in Bhagavad Gita. Bhakti yoga is, according to Peter Bishop, a devotee's loving devotion to a personal god as the path for spirituality. The other two paths are jnana yoga, the path of wisdom where the individual pursues knowledge and introspective self-understanding as spiritual practice, while karma yoga is path of virtuous action (karma) neither expecting reward nor consequence for doing the right thing, or nishkama karma. Later, new movements within Hinduism added raja yoga as the fourth spiritual path, but this is not universally accepted as distinct to other three.
Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana)
The Bhagavata Purana is a popular and influential text in the Vaishnavism traditions, and it discusses Ishvara pranidhana (devotion to a personal god). The Sanskrit text presents various modes of bhakti specifically to incarnations of Vishnu, particularly in terms of "Narayana, Krishna". According to Edwin Bryant, and other scholars, the Bhakti yoga taught in this text is inspired by Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and Bhagavad Gita, and they focus on "the ultimate truths of the individual self and its loving relationship with a personal god". The presentation in the Bhagavata Purana is not in abstract terms, but through "charming and delightful tales that capture the heart and mind", the goal of Bhakti yoga, states Bryant.
Hinduism, in its scriptures such as chapter 7 of the Bhagavad Gita, recognizes four kinds of devotees who practice Bhakti yoga. Some practice it because they are hard pressed or stressed by anxiety or their life's circumstances and see Bhakti yoga as a form of relief. The second type practice Bhakti yoga to learn about god out of curiosity and intellectual intrigue. The third type seek rewards in this or in afterlife through their Bhakti yoga. The fourth are those who love god driven by pure love, knowing and seeking nothing beyond that experience of love union.
According to these Hindu texts, the highest spiritual level is the fourth, those who are devoted because of their knowledge of love. The Bhagavad Gita states that all four types of Bhakti yogi are noble because their pursuit of Bhakti yoga sooner or later starts the journey on the path of spirituality, it keeps one away from negativity and evil karma, it causes spiritual transformation towards the goal of Bhakti yoga, to "know god as the essence within themselves and their true self always with god".
Major traditions include the Shaiva who worship the god Shiva; the Vaishnava who worship the god Vishnu (or his avatars such as Krishna and Rama); and the Shakta who worship the goddess Shakti (or her avatars such as Durga, Kali, Lakshmi, and Parvati). These are all considered manifestations or aspects of the same metaphysical reality called Brahman in Hinduism.
Panchayatana puja is a form of bhakti found in the Smarta tradition of Hinduism. It consists of the simultaneous worship of multiple deities: Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti, Surya and an Ishta Devata such as Ganesha or Skanda or any personal god of devotee's preference.
Philosophically, the Smarta tradition emphasizes that all images (murti) are icons of saguna Brahman, a means to thinking about the abstract Ultimate Reality called nirguna Brahman. The five or six icons are seen by Smartas as multiple representations of the one Saguna Brahman (i.e., a personal God with form), rather than as distinct beings. The ultimate goal in this practice is to transition past the use of icons, then follow a philosophical and meditative path to understanding the oneness of Atman (soul, self) and Brahman – as "That art Thou".
The Śaivasiddhānta tradition favors Bhakti yoga, emphasizing loving devotion to Shiva. Its theology presents three universal realities: the pashu (individual soul), the pati (lord, Shiva), and the pasha (soul's bondage) through ignorance, karma and maya. The tradition teaches ethical living, service to the community and through one's work, loving worship, yoga practice and discipline, continuous learning and self-knowledge as means for liberating the individual soul from bondage.
The historic Shaiva Siddhanta literature is an enormous body of texts. The Shaiva Siddhanta practices have focussed on abstract ideas of spirituality, worship and loving devotion to Shiva as SadaShiva, and taught the authority of the Vedas and Shaiva Agamas.
Bhakti of goddess is another significant tradition, one found in Shaktism. The theology of oneness and unity of "the divine Goddess and the devotee", their eternal fearless love for each other is a theme found in Devi Gita, a text embedded inside the Devi-Bhagavata Purana. The specific Bhakti yoga practices amongst Shakta are similar to those in other traditions of Hinduism. The Shakta devotion is common in eastern states of India, particularly West Bengal. The personal god here varies, and includes Durga, Tara Ma (Buddhist influence), Kali and to a lesser extent Saraswati, Lakshmi, Bharat Mata (land goddess), according to June McDaniel.
The Bhakti yoga tradition has been historically most associated with Vaishnavism. The personal god here is Vishnu or one of his avatars. In many regions, the loving devotion is either to Vishnu-Lakshmi (god-goddess) together, or through Lakshmi who is considered the shakti of Vishnu. The specific avatar varies by the devotee and region, but the most common are Krishna and Rama.
In the Krishna-oriented traditions of Vaishnavism, the Chaitanya Charitamrita by Krishnadasa Kaviraja interprets the section 7.5.23-24 of Bhagavata Purana to teach nine types of bhakti sadhana, in the words of Prahlada. David Haberman translates them as follows:
(1) śravaṇa ("listening" to the scriptural stories of Krishna and his companions), (2) kīrtana ("praising"; usually refers to ecstatic group singing), (3) smaraṇa ("remembering" or fixing the mind on Vishnu), (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).
A movement led by Meher Baba states that "out of a number of practices which lead to the ultimate goal of humanity – God-Realisation – 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". Pashayan concurs that Bhakti Yogis are found on the mat, delivering pizza, in academia, and in politics and international relations. Where you least expect it, there's a Bhakti Yogi in the room with you whereby common ground can be actualized into productive solutions of today's salient issues, and problems can be resolved.
- Karen Pechelis (2014), The Embodiment of Bhakti, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195351903, pages 19-24
- Cutler, Norman (1987). Songs of Experience. Indiana University Press. pp. 1–2. ISBN 978-0-253-35334-4.
- Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, page 326
- Max Muller, Shvetashvatara Upanishad, The Upanishads, Part II, Oxford University Press, page 267
- John Lochtefeld (2014), The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Rosen Publishing New York, ISBN 978-0823922871, pages 98-100, also see articles on bhaktimārga and jnanamārga
- Klostermaier, Klaus (1989). A survey of Hinduism. SUNY Press. pp. 210–212. ISBN 978-0-88706-807-2.
- Karen Pechelis (2014), The Embodiment of Bhakti, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195351903, pages 14-15, 37-38
- Bhakti, Encyclopedia Britannica (2009)
- Karen Pechelis (2011), Bhakti Traditions, in The Continuum Companion to Hindu Studies (Editors: Jessica Frazier, Gavin Flood), Bloomsbury, ISBN 978-0826499660, pages 107-121
- Embree, Ainslie Thomas; Stephen N. Hay; William Theodore De Bary (1988). Sources of Indian Tradition. Columbia University Press. p. 342. ISBN 978-0-231-06651-8.
- Flood, Gavin (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge University Press. pp. 131. ISBN 978-0-521-43878-0.
- Rinehart, Robin (2004). Contemporary Hinduism: ritual, culture, and practice. ABC-CLIO. pp. 45, 51. ISBN 978-1-57607-905-8.
- Michael C. Brannigan (2010). Striking a Balance: A Primer in Traditional Asian Values. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 18–22. ISBN 978-0-7391-3846-5.
- Samrat S Kumar (2010). Bhakti – The Yoga of Love: Trans-Rational Approaches to Peace Studies. LIT Verlag Münster. pp. 35–37 with footnotes. ISBN 978-3-643-50130-1.
- Pechilis Prentiss, Karen (1999). The Embodiment of Bhakti. US: Oxford University Press. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-19-512813-0.
- Werner, Karel (1993). Love Divine: studies in bhakti and devotional mysticism. Routledge. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-7007-0235-0.
- See Monier-Williams, Sanskrit Dictionary, 1899.
- Prabhupada, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. "Bhagavad Gita Chapter 14 Verse 27". vedabase.io. Retrieved 25 July 2020.
- Prabhupada, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. "Bhagavad Gita Chapter 18 Verse 54". vedabase.io. Retrieved 25 July 2020.
- Samrat S Kumar (2010). Bhakti – The Yoga of Love: Trans-Rational Approaches to Peace Studies. LIT Verlag Münster. pp. 12–13. ISBN 978-3-643-50130-1.
- "What Is Bhakti Yoga". Retrieved 17 September 2018.
- Gordon S. Wakefield (1983). The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality. WJK Press. pp. 46–47. ISBN 978-0-664-22170-6.
- Roderick Hindery (1978). Comparative Ethics in Hindu and Buddhist Traditions. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 26–27. ISBN 978-81-208-0866-9.
- George D. Chryssides (2012). Historical Dictionary of New Religious Movements. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 285. ISBN 978-0-8108-6194-7.
- Edwin F. Bryant (2017). Bhakti Yoga: Tales and Teachings from the Bhagavata Purana. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. pp. 1–7. ISBN 978-0-374-71439-0.
- Lloyd Pflueger (2008). Knut A. Jacobsen (ed.). Theory and Practice of Yoga : 'Essays in Honour of Gerald James Larson. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 36–44. ISBN 978-81-208-3232-9.
- Gregor Maehle (2011). Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy. New World Library. pp. 160–163. ISBN 978-1-57731-986-3.
- John A. Grimes (1996). A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy: Sanskrit Terms Defined in English. State University of New York Press. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-7914-3067-5.
- Varghese Malpan (1992). A Comparative Study of the Bhagavad-gītā and the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola on the Process of Spiritual Liberation. GBP. pp. 147–152. ISBN 978-88-7652-648-0.
- Jack Hawley (2011). The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners. New World Library. pp. 71–73. ISBN 978-1-60868-057-3.
- Brant Cortright (2010). Integral Psychology: Yoga, Growth, and Opening the Heart. State University of New York Press. pp. 177–178. ISBN 978-0-7914-8013-7.
- Stephen Phillips (2009). Yoga, Karma, and Rebirth: A Brief History and Philosophy. Columbia University Press. pp. 148–156. ISBN 978-0-231-14484-1.
- Winthrop Sargeant (2009). Christopher Key Chapple (ed.). The Bhagavad Gita: Twenty-fifth–Anniversary Edition. State University of New York Press. pp. 332–347. ISBN 978-1-4384-2842-0.
- Gudrun Bühnemann (2003). Mandalas and Yantras in the Hindu Traditions. BRILL Academic. p. 60. ISBN 978-9004129023.
- James C. Harle (1994). The Art and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. Yale University Press. pp. 140–142, 191, 201–203. ISBN 978-0-300-06217-5.
- Gavin D. Flood (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge University Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-521-43878-0.
- Diana L. Eck (1998). Darśan: Seeing the Divine Image in India. Columbia University Press. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-231-11265-9.
- The Four Denominations of Hinduism, Basics of Hinduism, Kauai Hindu Monastery
- Mariasusai Dhavamony 1971, pp. 14–22, 257–258.
- P. Arunachalam (2004). Polonnaruwa Bronzes and Siva Worship and Symbolism. Asian Educational Services. p. 22. ISBN 978-81-206-1929-6.
- Shaiva Siddhanta, Encyclopedia Britannica (2014)
- S Parmeshwaranand (2004). Encyclopaedia of the Śaivism. Sarup & Sons. pp. 210–217. ISBN 978-81-7625-427-4.
- Sanderson 1988, pp. 668–669.
- Hilko Wiardo Schomerus 2000, pp. 1–7, 29–37, 44–49.
- Constance Jones; James D. Ryan (2006). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Infobase Publishing. pp. 375–376. ISBN 978-0-8160-7564-5.
- Rohan A. Dunuwila (1985). Śaiva Siddhānta Theology: A Context for Hindu-Christian Dialogue. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 29–30, 66–73. ISBN 978-0-89581-675-7.
- SM Pandey (1965), Mīrābāī and Her Contributions to the Bhakti Movement, History of Religions, Vol. 5, No. 1, pages 54-73
- Laura Amazzone (2012). Goddess Durga and Sacred Female Power. University Press of America. pp. 45–51. ISBN 978-0-7618-5314-5.
- C. Mackenzie Brown (11 September 1998). The Devi Gita: The Song of the Goddess: A Translation, Annotation, and Commentary. State University of New York Press. pp. 208–210. ISBN 978-0-7914-9773-9.
- June McDaniel (2004). Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls: Popular Goddess Worship in West Bengal. Oxford University Press. pp. 11–13, 209–221, 265–266. ISBN 978-0-19-534713-5.
- Sabapathy Kulandran (2004). Grace in Christianity and Hinduism. James Clarke & Co. pp. 174–177. ISBN 978-0-227-17236-0.
- Barbara A. Holdrege (2015). Bhakti and Embodiment: Fashioning Divine Bodies and Devotional Bodies in Krsna Bhakti. Routledge. pp. 51–59. ISBN 978-1-317-66910-4.
- Samrat S Kumar (2010). Bhakti – The Yoga of Love: Trans-Rational Approaches to Peace Studies. LIT Verlag Münster. pp. 35–43. ISBN 978-3-643-50130-1.
- June McDaniel (2012), The Role of Yoga in Some Bengali Bhakti Traditions: Shaktism, Gaudiya Vaisnavism, Baul, and Sahajiya Dharma, Journal of Hindu Studies, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp. 53-74
- Haberman, David L. (2001). Acting as a Way of Salvation. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 133–134. ISBN 978-81-208-1794-4.
- Baba, Meher: The Path of Love, Sheriar Press, 2000, pp. 57-58.
- Pashayan, A. R. (20 May 2014). Stories of a Bhakti Yogi. ISBN 978-1625635075.
- Mariasusai Dhavamony (1971). Love of God according to Śaiva Siddhānta: a study in the mysticism and theology of Śaivism. Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-19-826523-8.
- Jeaneane D. Fowler (2012). The Bhagavad Gita: A Text and Commentary for Students. Sussex Academic Press. ISBN 978-1-84519-520-5.
- Jeaneane D. Fowler (2002). Perspectives of reality: an introduction to the philosophy of Hinduism. Sussex Academic Press. ISBN 978-1-898723-93-6.
- Sanderson, Alexis (1988). "Saivism and the Tantric Traditions". In S Sutherland; et al. (eds.). The World's Religions. Routledge.
- Hilko Wiardo Schomerus (2000). Śaiva Siddhānta: An Indian School of Mystical Thought : Presented as a System and Documented from the Original Tamil Sources. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-1569-8.