What is BHAKTI

Bhakti or devotion is central to all religious traditions. Scriptures abound with descriptions of bhakti and countless people practise various disciplines of devotion. One can be a better devotee if one knows the meaning of the word ‘bhakti’. This is a Sanskrit word. Sanskrit is a classical language like Greek, Latin, and Persian. And in Sanskrit, as in most classical languages, most words are derived from a stem or root.  


The word ‘bhakti’ is derived from the root bhaj, which means to divide, distribute, allot, apportion, share, grant, bestow, furnish, supply, to obtain, receive, partake, enjoy, possess, engage, assume, undergo, feel, pursue, practise, cultivate, prefer, declare, choose, serve, honour, revere, love, adore, deal, chase, and cook. The word ‘bhakti’ means distribution, partition, separation, sharing, decoration, predisposition, attachment, devotion, fondness, trust, homage, worship, piety, faith, love, and a means or path for spiritual knowledge or liberation.


The word ‘bhakti’ is mostly used in the sense of devotion or the path of devotion. Devotion is the most common path in all faith traditions. This comes from the idea of a personal God, an embodiment or an envisioning of God in the form of a living being or more commonly, a human being. God is seen to have incarnated or manifested in the form of a human being with superhuman capabilities. So, this being that is the personal God is both human and beyond, and represents all higher tendencies and aspirations of the human beings.


The human faculty of feeling and love is central to the practice and development of bhakti or devotion. Bhakti is the process of giving a concrete shape to the divinity immanent in all aspects of this universe. The connecting of what one perceives through the senses with the highest divine principle, which could be seen as the highest reality, is the path of bhakti. It is the process of symbolising that which is truly beyond all symbols. A complete self-abnegation is the goal of bhakti and true bhakti can be achieved only by complete annihilation of the petty ego, the ego that stresses on the individuality of a person. The discipline of bhakti is practised at three levels: the stage of the aspirant, the stage of the divine mood, and the stage of becoming one with the chosen ideal.


Bhakti is the nectar that destroys all suffering and creates constant bliss. Bhakti brings spiritual maturity to the aspirant and weakens one’s ego. Faith does not look for logic. All true faith is blind. The highest form of bhakti is an uninterrupted flow of feeling towards God and all forms or names associated with God. Supreme bhakti eschews all desires and the only desire of a bhakta—one who has bhakti, a devotee—is to be immersed in the thought and essence of God. It is imperative for bhakti that the ultimate superiority and divinity of God is acknowledged and experienced at every moment of life.


Bhakti is embodied spirituality and requires that all bodily and mental actions are directed towards God. All the senses should be directed towards God and all sense experiences should be experiences of surrender to God. All senses should be directed to the service of God. Bhakti is love for God without any expectation and with complete surrender.


Author is Editor Prabuddha Bharata

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This article was first published in the July 2017 issue of Prabuddha Bharata, monthly journal of The Ramakrishna Order started by Swami Vivekananda in 1896. This article is courtesy and copyright Prabuddha Bharata. I have been reading the Prabuddha Bharata for years and found it enlightening. Cost is Rs 180/ for one year, Rs 475/ for three years, Rs 2100/ for twenty years. To subscribe http://advaitaashrama.org/pbSubscription

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