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How to Develop Bhakti? | Bhakti: Path of Devotion

Have you been to Sri Dham Vrindavan?

Bhakti comes from the Sanskrit root “Bhaj” (भज) which means to worship, to pray or to be devoted. Without devotion there can be no Bhakti. But over many years and with social changes, the word Bhakti seems to have lost most of its meaning. Today, Bhakti only stands for some “process” which means either chanting or repetition of certain syllables that may be considered to represent the Name of the Lord or the Supreme Force. Bhakti may sometimes be interpreted as “doing” something that may allude to getting “qualified” as a Bhakta or devotee. It may also be interpreted as doing “something”, some rituals, with the deity or praising the Lord, singing His songs and a host of other things. I have also seen some good saints encouraging people to simply “chant” the names of the Lord with a view to getting them involved with the so-called Bhakti process so that someday they shall “develop” the much elusive mood of “bhajan” or “bhakti”. This, unfortunately is not sound advice!

If my intention in the heart is to “gain” something “out of” Bhakti, then I shall be thoroughly misinformed and cheated. The Bhakti process is not expected to give you anything. It is there to take everything away from you. Let’s set the goals right here. Bhakti is “Genuine Love”. Even in so-called material love, people give some good definitions. Indian movies also have done some good work in this regard. They say “Love, is to lose, lose everything including yourself to the one whom you are in love with.” Fortunately this definition is of a superior kind and it is apt. Love and Bhakti are one and the same. There is not an inch of difference. However we do not use the word “love”, because usually the world love has material connotations and much of the material love includes “give and take” of some manner, as a hidden policy that drives it. It includes relatives, one’s own parents and all others who exist as separate “bodies”

It is better to understand Bhakti, Worship with regards to a deity or the Lord. Then more can be said and understood about Bhakti. The service part can be only explained if Bhakti is understood at its very root. Bhakti, was beautifully defined by one of the pioneers of the Modern Bhakti movement, Srila A.C BhaktiVedanata Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acharya of the ISKCON movement. I am not a great admirer of this movement nor its proponent in any manner. However the definition that Srila Prabhupada gave to Bhakti is interesting and immaculate. He said Bhakti is “devotional service”. Now devotion cannot be proved without impressing ourselves in our heart of hearts that we are in Bhakti. The question is, are we ready to serve the person whom we love unconditionally under all circumstances? This has to be established. If one is ready to undertake service towards the person, towards whom we proclaim in our hearts, that we have Bhakti, serve him round the clock, unconditionally, only then can we even prove to ourselves that we have Bhakti, True Love towards this person. Now, we have a material body. If the object of Love also has a material body, he shall be moody like us. He shall be unpredictable. He is not perfect. We may not expect anything out of this person, no doubt. But if it happens so that we are serving this person and the object of our love, loses his temper and insults us because of his uncontrolled senses owing to external pressures, can our love towards him be retained forever?

The simple answer to the above question is a big “NO”. So who can be the object of such love or Bhakti? Obviously that person cannot be human. He should be perfect and even be the source of perfection. If we are convinced in our hearts that the object of our Bhakti is Supreme and perfect then Bhakti can be perfect, unadulterated. The Shastras proclaim that other than the Supreme Personality of Godhead, no being can come close to perfection. Our service thus, can only be towards the Supreme Being, Vishnu, Krishna or Rama. When we deliver service to the perfect being, should be we worried or expectant of any fruits from the Supreme Being? Not at all. One shall be satisfied that “I can be imperfect in my service to Him all the time, but he can never err in His love towards me.” This thought or emotion is the basis of such Bhakti. Bhakti cannot be anything else. When one is totally committed to the deity without an ounce of expectation, toiling day and night for His pleasure and satisfaction alone, only then can be “Service or Seva Delivered”.  I am using the word Service here for easy readability. But Seva (सेवा), which is the perfect word cannot be equated to the English sense contained by the word Service, nevertheless. But the question is how can we deliver service when we cannot see Him and cannot assess His level of happiness if we are to serve him unconditionally? Are there mechanisms to know this?

The answer is, there are a million ways to know this and get a response from Him. The following are the ways

1)  One has to be qualified enough to understand that one does not expect anything from Him. Whatever happens is by the Will of the Lord alone. One can never blame one’s object of Love or Bhakti. If one has desires in the heart, one has to do sadhana and under the guidance of the spiritual master purify one’s thoughts and intentions. Once willingness to lose everything for Him has to slowly develop as a passion for being alive.

2)  Whatever happens in our life, is by His will alone. We may recognise, good or bad happenings as mere projections of the mind and a result of our Karma, which we have to pay back anyway. 

3) If we are good on points 1 and 2 then we are ready for Seva (Service), serving the Supreme Lord. 

4) Since we do not have any personal agenda, whatever manifests in our life is by the pure will of the Lord and he expects it to be attended as His service. 

5)  When we perform all actions as service to the Lord at the same time we are mentally prepared that even if everything is taken away from us, it is accepted as the Love of the Lord for us, then true devotional service is being performed. 

6) When one has the thought of the Lord all through the day, involving His presence in all activities, with complete forgetfulness of “Me and Mine”, or “My Objectives”, devotional service is performed. 

7)  When one gets completely absorbed in the mood of Seva to the Lord, all activities shall automatically be moulded into pure “spiritual activities”. Towards maturity of the Seva, you must be only talking about the Lord to the right people whom the Lord sends to you. You may only be writing and promoting the Lord’s wishes which is totally of spiritual nature. 

8) One shall automatically be fully dependent on the Lord, completely relying on His Power and Prowess for one’s own survival.

9)  If you want to know the outcome of such devotional service, one needs to get conscious of how the heart feels. If your heart is feeling content, fully satisfied, where one has no complains in life, know that the Lord is happy with “your” Seva.

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