[Advaita-l] on Bhakti yoga - by Paramarthanandaji

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 16 05:39:05 CDT 2012

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Hari Om! Sadananda
Bhakti Yoga: Acharya- Swami Paramarthananda ji

8. Bhakti Yoga
Today we will deal with the topic of Bhaktihi found in the scriptures and a
topic with various shades of meaning in different contexts and therefore
often a confusing topic also. So we should clearly understand what Bhaktihi
is. The word Bhaktihi is used in the scriptures in two different meanings.

8.1. First Meaning of Bhakti - Devotion to God

One is Bhakti as in devotion towards God. Devotion is nothing but a love
directed towards a higher principle. Whenever love is directed towards some
principle which we revere, which is sacred, that love is called Devotion.
Reverential love can be called as devotion. We talk about Mātru Bhakti,
Pitru Bhakti because in our tradition we look upon our parents as superior,
holy, deserving, respect worthy. Similarly we talk about Guru Bhakti and
Desha Bhakti and Īshvara Bhakti. This love has been very elaborately
analysed in our scriptures both in its general form as love and also in its
specific form as in love of God.

8.1.1. Forms of love

Scriptures point out that all forms of love that a human being entertains
is directed towards only three things. Love towards Goals

The first is whatever goals that we want to accomplish in our life,
whatever ends that we want to accomplish, all are ends that we love. And it
is because we love them that we want to acquire them or accomplish them.
This is called Love towards various ends or goals. Love towards Means

Later we find that to accomplish the ends, we have to use various means.
Only through the means can we accomplish the ends, and since the means are
useful to accomplish the ends, we begin to love the means also. This is
because it is useful to accomplish the ends and hence the second direction
of our love is love of the means. Love towards oneself

The third thing the object of love is the love of oneself. Everyone loves
himself or herself. It is also called self love.

Then the scriptures point out that there is a gradation in the intensity of
love in the above three forms of love. Love of the means is the least in
its intensity, love of the end is mediocre and love of oneself is the
highest form of love wherein the love has got the highest intensity. The
reason is that love of the means is not for the sake of the means itself
but for the sake of the end. Once the end is accomplished, then the
attitude towards the means is completely different and often not loved.
E.g. Rich people are more loved than poor people. That is because the rich
are the means to an end called Wealth. And as long as the end called wealth
can be accomplished through the rich, they are loved. The moment money goes
away from them, thereafter the rich are not loved. Most of the time love
for people is love for the means to accomplish the end and often money is
the end.

Between the love of the end and love for the self, the love of the self is
superior. I love various ends hoping that they will give me various comfort
safety and happiness. The moment I see that particular end does not give me
joy, then the end is either changed, or even after accomplishing the end,
it is disposed of.

If we have to grade, Means love is called Manda, End love is called
Madhyama and Self love is called Uttama because that is the highest in

8.1.2. Love towards God

Let us apply this in the field of God. If we have Bhakti or if a person
loves God, what will be the intensity of that love ? The scriptures point
out, the intensity of the love depends upon how you look upon God. Manda Bhakti

Majority of people look upon God only as the means for various worldly
ends. As long as you look upon God to attain means the love is called Manda
Bhaktihi. That is why people get angry with God also. This is a conditional
love, and only if the condition is fulfilled will the person love God and
if the condition is not fulfilled I reject God. Madhyama Bhakti

The next set of people who are still rarer, who look upon God not as means
to various ends. They are matured enough, their understanding of God is
clearer enough that they are able to choose God as the goal of life.
Because they know God represents security, peace happiness. Once I
understand God as the symbolic representation of peace, love and happiness
then I know that everyone in life is seeking security, happiness and peace
alone. And once I know God represents these, I know that God is the end of
my life and naturally my love of God is as the end and therefore it is more
intense than the previous one. This Bhakti is called Madhyama Bhakti. Uttama Bhakti

Uttama Bhakti is the even rarer form of love, the most intense form of love
in which I look upon God not as the means nor even as the end, but God as
non-different from myself. Soham Asmi – means that that Lord is essentially
not different from me and therefore the Lord and the Self being identical,
God love will become equal to self love. And since self love is the most
intense love, that form of love is called Uttama Bhakti.

For Manda Bhakta God is dear, for Madhyama Bhakta God is dearer and for the
Uttama Bhakta God is the dearest. Krishna beautifully elaborates in seventh
and twelfth chapter of Gītā. Thus love of God in the form of Manda,
Madhyama and Uttama Rūpa is called Bhakti. This is the first meaning of the
word Bhakti. Now we will come to the second meaning of the word Bhakti.

8.2. Second Meaning of Bhakti- Course of Discipline

The second meaning is Bhakti as a course of discipline to achieve the
spiritual goal, the ultimate goal of liberation. To convey this idea of
Bhakti as a course of discipline, generally the word Yoga is added. So when
Bhakti means a course of discipline, we use the word Bhakti Yogaha meant
for accomplishing the goal. In the Bhagavad Gītā Krishna says

Māmcha Yovyabhichārena Bhakti Yogena Sevate,
Sagunān Samatītyaitān Bhrahma Bhūyāya Kalpate

And the 12th chapter of the Gītā is titled Bhakti Yoga itself.

8.2.1.What is Bhakti Yogaha ?

What course of discipline is indicated by the word Bhakti Yogaha. Earlier
we dealt with our three fold course of discipline for attaining the
Purushārtha – the human goals. We talked about Karma Yoga, Upāsana Yoga and
Jnāna Yoga. We never talked about Bhakti Yogaha. So the question is what is
then meant by Bhakti Yogaha as a course of discipline ? Is it a fourth Yoga

Our answer is Bhakti Yogaha is not an exclusive or separate course of
discipline at all. Bhakti is the name of the entire groups of discipline
consisting of all the three. It is not a fourth one, but it is the name of
the entire threefold course of discipline known as Karma Yoga, Upāsana Yoga
and Jnāna Yoga. The first stage of Bhakti Yogaha is Karma Yoga. The second
stage of Bhakti Yoga is Upāsana Yoga and the third stage of Bhakti Yoga is
Jnāna Yoga.

8.2.2. All encompassing

The next question is why do you call all these three commonly as Bhakti
Yogaha ? How come Bhakti Yogaha is the common name for all these three ?
Why don’t you treat it as a separate fourth Yoga ? Bhakti Yogaha is the
common name for all the three because, Bhakti is the common atmosphere in
which all these three Yogas are practiced. It is not that Bhakti is
separately practiced in a separate time but Karma Yoga, Upāsana Yoga and
Jnāna Yoga have to be imbued in Bhakti.

In Karma Yoga, the attitude that one enjoys is dedicating all actions to
the Lord and accepting without resistance all the consequences of my
actions. Therefore how can there Karma Yoga without Ishvara Arpana Bhāvanā
and Prasāda Bhāvanā. Therefore a Karma Yogi should necessarily have Bhakti
all the time because every action is dedicated to the Lord.

In Upāsana Yoga, I have to meditate upon the Lord for developing mental
discipline and integration. How can I meditate upon Lord if I don’t have
Bhakti – these include Mānasa Pūja, Mānasa Pārāyanam, Mānasa Japa.
Therefore Upāsana Yoga must also take place in the atmosphere of Bhakti

Jnāna Yoga also involves Bhakti. Before any study of scriptures, we start
with a prayer and end with a prayer. In Jnāna Yoga we are enquiring into
our own real nature, discovering the identity of our real nature with the
nature of God. therefore self realisation or discovery is nothing but God
discovery. Therefore Jnāna Yoga also involves Bhakti.

At no time is the person away from Bhakti and all three Yogas put together
are called Bhakti Yogaha. This is the second meaning of Bhakti.

8.3. Principle of God

Another topic to be introduced in this context. When we talk of Bhakti, it
is love or devotion towards God. Without understanding the principle of
God, how can we discuss the topic of devotion ? Because, integral part of
love is the object of love. Infact you cannot develop love towards anyone
without understanding what it is. How can anyone love an unknown thing or
person ? That is why Jnānam of God becomes a necessity.

Scriptures give three definitions of God depending on the maturity of the
seeker and the intellectual calibre of the seeker.

8.3.1. Jagat Kartā Īshvara

First definition for the beginner is – God is the creator of the world. In
Sanskrit - Jagat Kartā Īshvara. And we present the simple and easily
understandable reasoning – any well designed product, any purposeful well
designed product must have an intelligent being to design. And the more
well designed the product is, the more you appreciate the designing
intelligence. So if the ordinary product requires an intelligent being
behind the creation, what to talk of the most wonderful universe which is
well designed and very purposeful ? Nothing is purposeless in this
creation. If this creation is purposeful and well designed there must be an
intelligent creator behind it and that intelligent creator is the Jagat
Kartā or Īshvara.

And once I define Īshvara as Jagat Kartā, you will visualise God as a
person because we are used to intelligent beings as human beings or
persons. Therefore we imagine a very intelligent God who is omniscient,
omnipotent, and since we don’t see him around safely place him above the
clouds. This is Lord as a creator, personal God with a special form as
Raama, Krishna, Vishnu or Shiva. This is called Eka Rūpa Īshvara.

8.3.2. Jagat Kāranam Īshvara

And once you have grown up sufficiently, the scriptures present the next
level of Īshvara. God is the cause of the world - Jagat Kāranam Īshvara.
Suppose I understand God as the creator of the world, invariably the
question comes – what is the raw material out of which the world is
created? Nothing else is available because before the creation of the
world, God alone was there – none else, even space was not available. That
is why scientists say, before Big Bang, we cannot even conceive of time and
space. Even before the creation of time and space and objects, when God
alone was there, where is the raw material ?

Scriptures point out that God himself happens to be the very material also
out of which the world is shaped. God is the Kāranam – the very material
out of which the world is created- just as a spider finds the material for
the web out of itself. Similarly God is the material cause of the universe
and from this the scriptures extend, the raw materials alone becomes the
product – manifold products, and since God is the raw material God alone
has become the universe. Therefore the whole universe is nothing but God
alone. So where is God ? The whole universe is God. Since the whole
universe is God, every form I see is the form of God. Hence God does not
have one form but all forms are God’s forms. So He is no more personal God,
He is universal God. He is no more Eka Rūpa Īshvara but is Aneka Rūpa
Īshvara or Vishva Rūpa Īshvara and to have to have the Darshanam to God he
is available everywhere.

Hence first we said, God created the world, and now we say, God has become
the world.

8.3.3. Jagat Adhishthānam Īshvara

Once you are ready for the next level, the scriptures give the third
definition – Jagat Adhishthānam Īshvara. This is the highest and the
toughest and the culmination. In this we say, God did not become the world.
This is because the next question will be – Are the ugly things God as
well? How can I accept bad also as God ? If such a question comes, you are
ready for the third definition.

God does not become the world. God appears as the world with different
forms not affected by any form in which he appears. To put the other way
around – God is the very substratum of all the forms or the entire
creation, which he transcends. God is the ultimate reality, God is the
ultimate stuff behind the creation but not affected by them. This is Jagat
Adhishthānam Īshvara.

And since God transcends all the superficial forms of the creation, no
particular form belongs to God. Therefore that God is Adhishthānam Īshvara
is Arūpa Īshvara – formless God.

When I am in the initial stage, I have Eka Rūpa Bhaktihi. When I am in the
middle stage, I have Aneka Rūpa Bhaktihi. When I am in the final stage my
Bhakti is Arūpa Bhaktihi.

And remember, when we talk about the three stages gradually, the latter
ones does not displace the former ones. It only is of a different
dimension. The one who has come to Arūpa Bhakti has not lost Eka Rūpa and
Aneka Rūpa. Arūpa Bhakti includes the other two. That is why the greatest
Advaitin can worship God in any form also. They could happily appreciate
Lord as the beautiful nature also and they could transcend both of them and
arrive at the formless also. So the higher one does not displace the lower
one but adds another dimension. This is the understanding of God that
develops in the mind of the seeker as he studies the scriptures.

To consolidate, we have discussed nine forms of Bhakti.
a) The first three are Manda Bhakti, Madhyama Bhakti and Uttama Bhakti
where Bhakti is based on Love of God – Bhāvanā Drushtyā Bhakti Trayam
b) Then we saw Karma Yoga Rūpa Bhakti, Upāsana Yoga Rūpa Bhakti and Jnāna
Yoga Rūpa Bhakti where Bhakti is from the standpoint of Sādhanā - Sādhanā
Drushtyā Bhakti Trayam
c) Then we saw Eka Rūpa Bhakti, Aneka Rūpa Bhakti and Arūpa Bhakti
depending on my understanding of God – Devatā Drushtyā Bhakti Trayam

So anytime we talk about Bhakti, we should understand the context and grasp
the meaning. And it is a very important topic in the scriptures.

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