NAVAVIDHA BHAKTHI

Bhaktyamaamabhijaanaatiyaavaanyaschasmitattvatahatatomaamtattvatojnaatvavishate tad-anantaram  (Bhagavad Gita 18.55)

By Dhanalekshmi, Muscat

INTRODUCTION :

Lord Shri Krishna makes a beautiful statement about the significance of bhakti or devotion in chapter 18 of the Bhagavad-Gita as: 

bhaktyamaamabhijaanaatiyaavaanyaschasmi       tattvatahatatomaamtattvatojnaatvavishate tad-anantaram            (Bhagavad Gita 18.55)

How can we cultivate this true bhakti for the lord?

 Bhakti is not a conditional state of mind. Bhakti has no pre-conditions or pre-qualifications. There is no prescribed method or formula in bhakti. On the contrary a devotee surrenders everything unto the lord and becomes free of ego.

Though bhakti is endowed as a result of God’s grace, yet it can be cultivated by us through constant practice of engaging ourselves in meaningful devotional activities that can bring us closer to the lord for His grace to flow through us.

SrimadBhagavatham elaborates nine forms of bhakti (SrimadBhagavatham 7.5.23).

The nine forms of devotion are:

Shravanam – Hearing the names and glories of the Lord

Keertanam – Chanting His glories

Smaranam – Remembering the Lord

Paadasevanam – Serving the Lord’s feet

Archanam – Worshiping the Lord

Vandanam – Offering obeisance unto the Lord

Daasyam – Serving the Lord as His servant

Sakhyam – Developing friendship with the Lord

AatmaNivedanam – Total surrender of oneself to god.

SHRAVANAM:

Shravanam is the first and the foremost among the nine forms of devotion. It means ‘listening’ to the divine glories of the lord pertaining to His form, qualities, leelas or divine plays, His miracles and His spoken words like the Bhagavad Gita. Shravanam can be cultivated through regular satsanghs, by listening carefully to the words of the wise and that of the ancient seers and also regularly listening to the teachings of the scriptures. By hearing the stories of the lord’s divine activities, the devotee’s mind becomes purified from bad qualities like lust, anger, greed and envy.

EXAMPLE: King Parikshit given in SrimadBhagavatham is an example of a devotee who exemplified shravanam.

To cultivate shravanam three qualities are needed – an yearning to listen, listening with total faith and putting into practice what has been listened to. The act of listening itself becomes worship of the lord and the process of shravanam becomes effective as a form of devotion, leading us to liberation.

KEERTANAM:

Keertanam is the second form of devotion which involves ‘singing’ the praise of the lord’s magnificence and omniscience with heartfelt devotion.

By constantly chanting the lord’s name, devotees like Dhruva, Draupadi, Prahalad, Meera, ChaitanyaMahaPrabhu and Tukarahave achieved God realization. Chanting God’s name brings relief to the devotee’s mind.It is said that Keertanam is the only way to achieve salvation in this kali yuga.

EXAMPLE:” Sage Narada is the supreme example of one who realised the divine by continuously singing the glories of God in all circumstances and at all times. He also demonstrated to the world the supreme spiritual efficacy of singing the lord’s glories.

SMARANAM:

Smaranam is the constant ‘remembrance’ of the lord, reveling in the contemplation of His beauty, majesty and compassion. It is the thirdform of devotion.

EXAMPLE:The greatest example of a devotee who realized God through smaranam is Prahlad who was just a little child at the time he attained God realization. Though even in all the extreme sufferings and pain, Prahlad kept remembering the Supreme and never lost his faith in the lord. From this we understand that a true and pure devotee who constantly remembers the Lord in all situations is never unhappy in any situation of life.

Paadasevanam is the worship of the lord by concentrating upon or ‘honouring’ His feet or Paadukaa (sanctified sandals). It is the fourth form of devotion. Paadasevanam is an innate sense of surrender to the Supreme leading to worship of the Lord’s lotus Feet. This form of intimate service to of the Lord is Paadasevanam.

But what is the significance of worshipping the Lord’s feet?

 To roach a person’s feet is a sign of humility and that is why in Indian tradition, we are taught to touch our parent’s and elder’s feet as a token of respect. The feet of the Supreme Lord are so sweet and beautiful that they are known as paadapankajam or Lotus feet as they are so soft and red like the lotus petals.

EXAMPLE:One of the beautiful examples of bhakti extolled in Paadasevanam is none other than Goddess Lakshmi Herself, the consort of Supreme Vishnu. Goddess Lakshmi is always seen massaging the Lotus feet of the Supreme. God-Garbhodakashayi-Vishnu This is remarkable, as noted in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.11.33): “The goddess of fortune,although by nature very restless and moving, could not quit the Supreme’sfeet.Thuspada-sevanam offers a deep spiritual lesson.

ARCHANAM:       

“Whoever offers Me with devotion and a pure mind (heart), a leaf, a flower, a fruit or a little water—I accept this as devotion.” (Bhagavad Gita 9.26) Archanam, the fifth form of devotion, is the complete “offering” in the form of pujas or ritualistic worship, chanting mantras, singing bhajans, offering arati, food, flowers and even clothes to the Supreme. Love expresses in giving and as love for the Supreme Lord grows in the heart of the devotee, he naturally wants to offer his best.  By doing this, the devotee derives inner satisfaction and inspiration.

 

VANDANAM

Vandanam is supreme ‘reverence’ or ‘prayer’ to the lord and is the sixth form of devotion. In this form of devotion a devotee begins to see his favorite form of the Lord everywhere and in all beings and objects.

Vandanam is an intensely personal process and it may also be the most universal form of bhakti, through universal prayers that make up the traditions of the different religions and cultures of the world,creating our most ancient ties and our most common language- the language of a sincere prayer to the Supreme.

EXAMPLE: queen Kunti in the Mahabharata.

The significance of this form of devotion is that it is not just for humans to practice, but even animals and other beings can offer this form of devotion to attain the Lord. The prayer is a reflection of our spiritual realization and our unique relationship with God.

DAASAYAM:

Daasyam is the seventh form of devotion where the devotee sees himself as not just the ‘servant’ of the Lord but also the servant of the Lord’s devotees, with no sense of inferiority. Daasyam refers to a heartfelt yearning to be of personal service to the Supreme. It is the ultimate expression of humility, yet it is bold in its aspiration to such a lofty position.To attain daasyam one must completely understand that God is a person. He is not our creation. Rather, He is a person of such wonder and magnitude that this vast, imponderable world is just a tiny spark of His creative ability.

EXAMPLE:The Ramayana offers an extraordinary example of personal service. Rama did not have to instruct Hanuman or offer endless encouragement. Hanuman is the supreme example of daasyabhaktha or the one who realized God through serving Him wholeheartedly. So for us, daasyam means not only to serve the lord directly, but to serve even those who serve Him. 

SAKHYAM:

Sakhyam is the eighth form of devotion wherein the devotee considers himself to be the ‘friend’ or sakhaa of the Supreme. Just like the body that we see and feel around us is temporary and fickle, so is this material world. But there is another world, composed exclusively of spiritual energy, in which everything is sentient and full of love for the Supreme .

EXAMPLE:Who else can be our best friend other than the Supreme? arjuna-krishna-chariotArjuna is another classic example of a devotee who achieved perfection through friendship with the lord.

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AATMANIVEDANAM:

Aatmanivedanam is the ninth form of devotion which means yielding fully or the ‘complete surrender’ to the will of the Supreme, with no traces of ego whatsoever left in the devotee’s heart. Completely filled with devotion to God, the devotee gains the knowledge of his true self in this form of devotion where the devotee and the lord become one.

EXAMPLE:” King Bali is the perfect example of Atmanivedanam or complete self-surrender unto the lord.

In other words, we should learn how to cry for the lord in tears of bhakti. This is called laulyam, and such tears are the price for the highest perfection.This feeling of ‘oneness’ with the lord and all His divine beings is achieved only in the spirit of the final form of devotion to the Supreme–aatmanivedanam.

CONCLUSION:

Bhakti is bliss and more blissful would be our lives when we cultivate and practice the above discussed navavidha bhakti or nine forms of devotion in our journey of life towards the Supreme.We can take up any of these paths and reach the highest state. The path of bhakti is thus the easiest and if practiced regularly , it would gradually uplift us in the progressive realization of the Supreme.Let us keep remembering and chanting the names of the lord at all times! Let our hearts bloom into beautiful flowers of divinity, by drinking the daily dosage of the divine nectar of eternal bhakti   

 

REFERENCE:

“Navavidha  Bhakti”– the 9 forms of devotion to attain the Supreme Lord