Bhagavad Gita explains Bhakti Yoga to attain God Realization | What is Bhakti Yoga in Bhagavad Gita?

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The Gita is the infinite ocean of unadulterated nectar (अमृत) containing endless strata of meaning. Just as a diver dives deep into the ocean and lays his hands on the precious gems, diving deep into the secrets of the Gita, the seeker goes on discovering ever shining gems that are ever fresh. Just as a mosquito and the king of birds Garuda take their flight in air, each according to his capacity; in the same way each and every student of the Gita takes meaning out of the Gita according to his own respective abilities of comprehension.

A careful study on the subject of the Gita shall reveal that the primary aim of the Gita is to lead the “Jiva” (जीव), living entity, merged in the muck of worldly mire due to beginningless ignorance, coming down from eternity, to its final consummation, into the realization of God. With this objective in view, the Gita prescribes means, adopting which man can attain God even while scrupulously attending to his worldly duties.

This wonderful art of applying the spiritual truth in practical life has been revealed in the Gita, which prescribes two well detailed paths for God-realization to suit the nature and qualification of the sadhaka or spiritual practitioner. The two paths are (1) The Path of Knowledge or Jnana (ज्ञान) also called Samkhya Yoga (सांख्य योग) and (2) The Path of Karma Yoga (कर्म योग). It is interesting to note that elsewhere the scriptures have mentioned three principal ways to God-realization which are (1) Karma/Action (2) Jnana/Knowledge and (3) Worship/bhakti (भक्ति योग). The question is, does Gita recognize the path of Bhakti?

Many students of Devotion/Worship/Bhakti understand the teachings of the Gita as laying particular emphasis on Devotion, where the Supreme Lord too, has brought out the special glory of Devotion in the clearest terms as in Chapter 6 Verse 47 of the Gita. He has declared God’s attainment through pure devotional service as in Chapter 8, Verse 14 of the Gita. It is to be understood clearly that Devotion or Bhakti (also called Upasana (उपासना)) is the underlying force, the underlying working principle within the entire framework of Sanatana Dharma.

The cult of Bhakti is included within the two paths of Action/Karma and Knowledge/Jnana. In fact it is Bhakti alone which is the driving force behind Karma and Jnana and there is no need to specify or delineate the Bhakti process as a separate path. It can be explained thus. When man worships God recognizing Him as one with him, such worship falls under Samkhyanishtha (सांख्यनिष्ठा) or the Path of Knowledge and when the same feeling is reflected towards the activities of the world, treating the activities carried out for the world, as actions done as service to God, one becomes Yoganishtha (योगनिष्ठा) or one who is committed to the path of action. 

In Chapter 24, Verse 24 of the Gita, the Lord speaks of God-attainment through the process of meditation, but there too it should be understood that one is looking for God within oneself and hence it is the path of a Samkhyanishtha. The very popular belief that it is devotion alone that leads to final God-attainment is also perfect. It is to be however understood that the Gita maintains a two way approach, well-defined paths; of Action and of Knowledge, but unless devotion is suffused into these processes, all search for meaning will be rendered baseless, useless.