What Is Bhakti? With Examples and Definitions

To give you a little idea, I’d like to discuss a few definitions of the word Bhakti. The Veda says: Bhajanam Bhakti bhajanam naam rasanam. 

Bhakti means to relish the Bliss of God. We all seek Bliss, we all want Bliss, and God is the ocean of Bliss.

So the relish of his Bliss is Bhakti. When we bring him to our mind, which means when we take our mind to him, we will experience his Bliss.

To what extent? To the size of our Bhakti. Like for example, if you’re hearing the scriptures of God, recitation of his pastimes as Lilas.

If you have four hours of devotion, he will give you from inside four hours of Bliss.

If you increase your devotion to 8 hours, he will improve Bliss’s experience to eight hours. And if you grow your devotion to 16 hours, he will enrich your understanding of Bliss to 16 hours.

So our experience of Bliss is to the limit of devotion, and between these two, a competition ensues.

The devotee constantly keeps on increasing love, and God continually keeps on increasing Bliss.

The moon reaches the full; it waxes until the full moon, and then it wins. But in love, there is no full moon.

It just constantly increases, so the devotee keeps expanding his or her love, and God keeps on pouring his Bliss.

He doesn’t say, alright, I finished my treasure chest no more Bliss.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says: None of them lose out this competition goes on for the rest of eternity.

So the Vedas have said our hearts are ignorant. The bonds of the material energy and Bhakti break these bonds and dispel the ignorance that releases us from the suffering of the material energy.

So Bhakti liberates us from material bondage. That is what it is.

There are many other definitions of Bhakti.

Narad Ji says in his Bhakti Darshan: So he defines Bhakti as an extreme attachment to God. You all experience attachment to son, daughter, husband, wife, television, golf, etc.

Now attachment to God but not that Narad qualifies it extreme attachment to God is Bhakti.

Maharishi Kapil says if all our thoughts could begin flowing towards God, all our thoughts could become godly, that would be Bhakti.

Jagadguru Shankar Acharya says, “Take a needle and stick it to potato. Like the middle is stuck in the potato, it doesn’t get dislodged. 

Similarly, if all our thoughts could be connected towards God, that would be considered Bhakti.

See, every Acharaya has described Bhakti differently. Madhusudhan Saraswati steals a very astonishing.

He sat down in a big temple, ‘Radha Govind Ji Mandir’ in Samadhi, for three years, and one Rajput king would disuse the temple all around.

So Madhusudhan Saraswati says, “By engaging in devotional practices, when the heart melts then as a result of your sadhana your effort your spiritual engagement, the impurities disappear, and the heart becomes soft. It softens, and it flows in the direction of God, which will be considered as Bhakti.

There are many more definitions now come to the definition of Veda Vyasa. Veda Vyasa says, “Look, I am the writer of the Vedant, so hear from me what Bhakti is.”

He says the word Bhakti has come from the root Bhaj. The Dhatu (matter) is Bhaj, and Bhaj Dhatu means to serve.

So Bhakti means to serve God, and it is a fact. Now let’s give you the one final definition of Bhakti which is my favorite. This is Bhago Bhakti. What is Bhago Bhakti?

We are all Bhags of God means we are all his parts. Just like the hand is a part of the body. So what is the function of the hand? To serve. 

The hand will take the food and place it in the mouth; it will take the water and throw it on the body.

So by serving the body, the hand is automatically taken care of. It receives from the body whatever nourishment it needs.

The hand doesn’t need to think about how I take care of myself and how I serve myself. The hand only performs its Dharma to take care of the body. Now suppose the hand refuses to submit to his Dharma (duty).

“Why should I serve the body? So many years have gone. Enough, cut me off from the body. I’ll take care of myself. I’m not interested in this service. I will be self-employed.”

Can the hand subsist by itself independent of the body?

Impossible, its self-interest lay in the service of the body.

Similarly, if the soul can understand this relationship with God and understand that its self-interest is in God’s service and by serving God, it will get the Bliss that it is seeking.

Then have this understanding in the intellect is Bhago Bhakti.

So Kripalu Ji Maharaj says, “One who realizes where the self-interest lies that person becomes blessed.”

Everybody is running for self-interest worldwide, and if they can understand this connection, they have Bhago Bhakti.


What Is Bhakti Yoga?

Advice for Starting a Bhakti Yoga Practice

In this age of Kaliyuga, the best yoga to practice is Bhakti yoga.

So, let us try to understand- What is Bhakti yoga?

Bhakti is derived from the Sanskrit word Bhaja which means loving service. Yoga in Sanskrit means connection.

Bhakti yoga means connecting to the supreme through loving pure devotional service.

We all have love or Bhakti within ourselves. However, it is a dormant state. There is a simple way to awaken this static loving service to the supreme personality of Godhead. Lord Shri Krishna lays down this process in Bhagavad Geeta.

Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Lord Krishna’s incarnation in this present age, has mercifully made this process very simple and enjoyable.

Srila Prabhupada, the founder of Isckon, has made this process famous all over the world.

The process of awakening love is not just purifying but also fully satisfying. This purification process consists of 3 primary principles-

Chanting, dancing, and feasting.

Chanting of pure names of god can be done simply by regularly chanting hare Krishna Mahamantra:-

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna,Krishna Krishna Hare Hare,Hare Rama Hare Rama,Rama Rama Hare Hare.

Hare Krishna Mahamantra

The chanting can be done as a minimum fixed to Ram on Japa Mala. Which is called Japa, it can be done together with musical instruments called sang kirtan.

Dancing is also an essential part of purification to attain love. It is done gracefully in front of the lord.

It engages our whole body in glorification of the supreme personality of Godhead. Feasting means only eating food that has been specifically good and lovingly offered to Krishna.

Such food is free of karma and does not entangle us in the cycle of repeated birth and death. So, what is Bhakti Yoga?

Bhakti yoga means connecting to the supreme by loving pure devotional service with three simple chanting, dancing, and feasting steps.

I hope you will also start practicing Bhakti yoga with these three simple steps.

Why Surrender in Bhakti Yoga

72 Surrender To God Illustrations & Clip Art - iStock

What is the logic in surrendering to Krishna?

To liquidate all the debts, nourish the tree by watering the tree’s root, nourish the body by feeding the stomach. Liquidate the debts by serving the Supreme Lord.

The Srimad Bhagavatam states: If one Waters the root of a tree automatically, all of the branches, Twigs leaves Etc are also nourished.

There is no need nor effectiveness in separating pouring water on the branches, twigs, and leaves of a tree.

The water should be placed on the root. Similarly, food must be placed in the stomach from where it is automatically distributed to all of the body’s limbs.

It is foolish to nourish the whole body by rubbing food separately on all the bodily limbs.

Similarly, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna is the source of all the existence. Everything is emanating from Krishna.

Krishna maintains everything, and in the end, everything will emerge from resting in Krishna.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna is the Supreme benefactor, friend, protector, and well-wisher of every living entity.

And if he is satisfied, then automatically the whole world will become satisfied. It is stated in the Bhagavad Gita that the supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart and that he only is giving intelligence and memory.

Thus our full fathers who carefully preserved cultural traditions were acting with intelligence provided by the Supreme Lord.

They certainly would not be acting with their own in independent intelligence.

No one can be intelligent without a brain, and it is only by Krishna’s mercy that we receive a human brain.

Let’s carefully analyze all of our diverse obligations to word different classes of living entities. We find that in every case, it is ultimately by the mercy of Godhead’s Supreme personality. 

One who directly serves the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna at once fulfills all such obligations because all benedictions ultimately have come from the Lord.

People, in general, are only eager to receive benediction from demigods, family members, and Society because such blessings are conducive to material sense gratification.

A less intelligent person considers such material progress to be the only goal of life and cannot appreciate the exalted position of pure devotional service to the Lord.

Bhakti yoga or pure devotional service is meant to please the senses of Godhead’s Supreme personality directly. The devotees know the inconceivable Beauty, strength, wealth, and fame of Godhead’s Supreme nature.

Directly please the Lord’s senses through loving service and thus receive the Supreme benediction of going back home, back to Godhead.

The devotees return to the Lord’s abode, where life is eternal. Full of bliss and knowledge.

What is the True Nature of Bhakti or Devotion to God?

Tulsidas was asked that what is true nature of Bhakti?

He says, “Like a greedy man loves wealth, he is always hankering for it.”

There is the story of one wealthy person. He had his shop, and the most blissful part of the day would be in the evening when he would count his money.

So, after he would close the shop, he would sit and count. One day he was going on in counting; one was over a second time. His wife said, “Come on. It is time for dinner.” She invited him 3-4 times he did not come. Finally, she got so frustrated.

She took the sweet dish, one spoon, and put it in his mouth, that this will wake him up. But his mind was elsewhere, and he thought, “Oh, I have eaten the sweet. That means the meal is over.” He said, “Alright, now I need to wash my hands. My meal is over.”

So, Tulsi das ji says, “Just like a greedy man yearns for wealth, and a young boy yearns for a young girl.”

Let’s understand by an example:- There is the story that one woman, her beloved, was coming from out of the station. So, this girl was going running to meet her special.

At the same time, Akbar was touring his kingdom for an inspection.

Being a Mohammadan, he used to say the Namaj (Prayer) five times. In the Namaj (Prayer), they spread the sheet, and then they sit on it and tell the Namaj.

So, Akbar had spread his sheet; they consider it sacred. They think it a representation of Allah. He was saying the Namaj when this woman was running to meet her beloved.

She did not realize she placed feet on that sheet, but Akbar saw it. Akbar said to Birbal, “This woman should be brought to my court.” Now, the next day woman was brought to court.

Akbar said, “You ran on my Namaj sheet?” The woman said, “Absolutely not, O King.” I am telling you, you ran (Akbar noted).

“No, I did not” (Women said). Akbar said, “Then an I mistaken? I have very clearly seen you ran.”

The woman said, “I have no recollection of it.” She said, “O Great King, you were worshipping the Supreme Lord, and yet you have recollection on who is stepping on your sheet. I was running after a worldly beloved, and I was oblivious of what had happened. Don’t you even have that much of absorption in your Divine Beloved as I got in my material beloved?”

So Tulsidas says that kind of complete absorption is real Bhakti. That is the true nature of a Bhakt.

Why did Lord Buddha Not Teach Bhakti Yoga?

The Buddha was an avatar of Vishnu. Our scriptures have included him in the Dashavatar, the Chaubis Avatar.

But his teachings were all about ethics. There was no discussion of God and devotion.

If he was an avatar of Vishnu, then why did he not talk about bhakti?

The reason is- The teacher may be a Ph.D., but if the student is in grade 1, the teacher will only teach: 2+2=4.

It does not mean that the teacher only knows this much. It means the student can only understand that much.

In India at that time, people were highly ritualistic. They had taken the formal aspect of the Vedas and were over-indulgent in it.

And it was not in their focus to desire to purify their minds. So the essence of it was all missed that they need to purify themselves.

In that ritualistic aspect, they were also misinterpreted, and they were committing animal sacrifice, saying that this is written in the Vedas.

So the Buddha probably thought that the way they are devoted to God, it’s better that they do not engage in devotion.

Because rather than benefiting, they are losing out. So Buddha said, “I will give you the simple principle.”

“That the message of the wise is to purify your heart. You think how you will purify your heart.”

So the misdeeds that people were doing in the name of God, they stopped. Although the Buddha found this situation and preaches like this, he had so much more knowledge than he wished to give him.

See, even in the Bible, this statement comes: “I have so many more things to tell you, but you can not hear them now.”

Any prophet who comes teaches according to time, place, and circumstances. So, the time, location, and event in which the Buddha delivered his teachings demanded that he not mention that aspect of it.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is Bhakti Yoga in short?

Ans. The word Bhakti comes from the Sanskrit root, bhaj which means to share. So the Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion. It’s not an exercise, it’s not a matter of concentrating on a dot, but it’s a matter of devoting oneself to the Godhead.

Q2. Why the path of devotion or Bhakti is effortless?

Ans. The mind tends to run behind what it likes, the greatest pleasure. And that is the problem. It keeps running. But when the goal becomes the most prominent attraction, when the destination (God) becomes so attractive that everything else falls off, everything else becomes tasteless. The path becomes so effortless, so beautiful.

Q3. What is the beauty of devotee?

Ans. The beauty of a devotee is that in devotion there is no ego.

Q4. What does Bhakti do?

Ans. So the Vedas have said there is ignorance in our hearts, there is the bonds of the material energy and Bhakti is that which breaks these bonds and dispels the ignorance that releases us from the suffering of the material energy.

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