Jiva Goswami writes his great medieval treatise, the Bhakti Sandarbha

The great medieval theologian, Rupa Goswami, defined bhakti as pure, devotional, loving service to God that is free from any selfish desire, including impersonal moksha – the merging of the soul with Brahman – and desires for personal profit, in this life or the next. Such love for God, he wrote, frees one from all suffering, bestows good fortune, and fills the heart with an inexplicable joy. It is rarely attained, and is so powerfully attractive that it even attracts God Himself.

His nephew, Jiva, continued his work by writing books on the theology and practise of bhakti. In one book he writes of eleven essential practises of Bhakti. I reproduce it here with the addition of a few notes of explanation.

Eleven Elements of Bhakti

From Jiva Goswami’s Bhaktisandharbha

1.     Guruseva – service to the guru

– a guru is one who knows the shastra, practices the same, and teaches it to sishyas (disciples)who also practice it . He appears in an authentic parampara and is fixed in spiritual consciousness. He is friendly, compassionate, and always helping others to understand and take shelter of God.

2. Sharanagati – resorting to God as the only refuge

(a) Accepting things favourable for God’s service (b) Rejecting things unfavourable (c) Confidence in His protection (d) Embracing His guardianship (e) Full self surrender (f) Humility

3. Shravanam – listening to the name and qualities of God

– through personal japa, kirtan, classes, discussions, reading

4. Kirtanam – chanting the name and qualities of God

– through chanting japa, kirtan, giving classes, teaching, preaching,

5. Smaranam – remembering God

– through many different means

6. Padasevanam – service to the feet of God

– bowing down and performing menial or even uncomfortable acts of devotion

7. Archanam – worship

– rituals, ceremonies, personal home puja, and temple worship and festivals

8. Vandanam – prayer and paying homage

– personal prayer and recitation of the prayers and songs of great devotees

9. Dasya – feeling of servitude

– understanding and developing an inner mood of your natural place as a servant

10. Sakhya – a sense of friendship to the Lord

– understanding and developing the mood and behaviour of a friend

11. Atmanivedana – complete surrender of the self

– making a ‘deposit’ of oneself, as if making a deposit in a trusted bank / making a ‘consignment’ of the self as in delivering a precious package. Still further, understanding that He owned you always, and that the power of giving yourself to Him also came from Him.

Top Additional Tips for Bhakti in today’s world

  1. ‘Early to bed and early to rise’ – will make your bhakti strong
  2. Minimise distractions, especially in the morning hours
  3. Arrange your life so your mind becomes attracted to Krishna – somehow
  4. Read every day – and make notes. Then tell it to someone
  5. Ask questions of other Vaishnavas – even if you know the answers
  6. Make at least three Vaishnava friends and spend time with them
  7. Choose someone to be your guide; be someone’s guide yourself
  8. Have regular kirtan and discussion with a group of at least five others
  9. At least once a month, go on sankirtan
  10. Keep your mind, body and relationships clean and pure by following moral principles

One response to “Bhakti

  1. YES. It’s true. Bhakti is a state of mind that makes a person transcend day-today activities of life and remain non-attached to the worldly affairs. It may come through offering poojas or doing homam or chanting prayers or sharing thoughts about God. Be it any way, being in the state of bhakti makes one attain a mode of living that is higher than the ordinary plane and helps him live in a world where he can think about God one way or the other.

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