What is Bhakti Yoga?

What is Bhakti Yoga – In the previous blogs, we discussed that through Jnana yoga one can realize the Brahman aspect of Krishna, by Dhyana yoga one can realize the Supersoul aspect of Krishna. In this blog we will discuss about Bhakti Yoga and how by only Bhakti yoga only one can realize Krishna as He is, i.e. Krishna as the supreme transcendental person (Bhagavan).

The Topmost Yoga System

Bhakti yoga is the easiest to practice in this age of Kali (quarrel). Not only the easiest, but it is also the topmost yoga as well

This is confirmed in Bhagavad Gita:

Yoginām api sarveṣāṁ
śraddhāvān bhajate yo mäm
sa me yukta-tamo mataḥ
[Bhagavad Gita 6.47]

Lord Krishna emphatically states: “And of all yogis, the one with great faith, who always abides in me, thinks of Me within himself and renders transcendental loving service to Me, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion”

Nine Processes of Bhakti Yoga

The nine processes of bhakti, also known as navadha bhakti, have been prescribed by Prahlad Maharaja, who is a vedic authority among 12 mahajanas (twelve great devotees mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam 6.3.20).

Sravanam kirtanam visnoh
smaranam padasevanam
archanam vandanam dasyam
sakhyam atma nivedanam

[Srimad Bhagavatam 7.5.23]

These nine processes are

1. SravanamHearing about Krishna
eg-Maharaj Parikshit heard about Krishna for seven days continuously and he perfected his life.

2. KirtanamChanting the holy names of Krishna and glorifying Him
eg-Sukadev Goswami narrated about Krishna for seven days and he perfected his life.

3. Smaranam: Remembering Krishna by reading and associating with devotees.
eg- Prahlada Maharaj constantly remembered Krishna and by remembering Him he perfected his life.

4. Padasevanam Being intensely attached to thinking and serving Lord’s lotus feet
eg. Lakshmidevi continuously serves Krishna’s lotus feet, so her life is perfect.

5. Archanam Serving Lord Krishna in the temple (Diety worship)
eg. Prithu Maharaja perfected his life through worshipping Krishna.

6. VandanamPraying to Krishna
eg. Gajendra – being caught by the crocodile within the waters and while struggling for life for years – offered heartful prayers to Hari and perfected his life.

7. Dasyam Following His order and instructions-preach His message
eg.Hanumanji always serves Lord Ram and this is the perfection of his life.

8. SakhyamDeveloping a close, personal and intimate relationship with Krishna
eg- Arjuna and Uddhava served Krishna as friend and they perfected their lives

9.Atmanivedanam– Giving everything we have to Krishna including our mind, body and activities.
eg.Bali Maharaj gave everything to Lord Vamana, and thus, perfected his life.

Likewise, there are innumerable examples that can inspire us to practice bhakti.

Bhakti Yoga awards highest benediction impartially

The perfection through bhakti is not limited by any barriers of caste, gender, nationality or any such bodily consideration. To elucidate this point, we elicit an example of Haridas Thakur, who chanted 3 lakhs of Krishna’s name everyday although born in a Muslim family. Devout Hindus are naturally attracted to Haridas Thakur for his saintly qualities. But a local influential Brahmin, Ramachandra Khan, became very envious because he was not getting any respect, whereas Haridas Thakur, who although born in a Muslim family was getting all the respect. So he sent a prostitute to defame Haridas Thakur. This prostitute used to come in night time to seduce him. Haridas Thakur used to say, “I have a ‘Vrata’ to chant three million names of Krishna every day. I have not finished my rounds today, you have to wait”.

What is Bhakti yoga

So she used to wait whole night and at the time of sunrise she used to depart. So first night is gone, second night is gone and on third night, her heart changed as she was continuously hearing the pure name of Krishnafrom a perfected person. She fell at the lotus feet of Haridas Thakur and begged apology. Getting initiation from Haridas Thakur, she led a saintly life devoted to Krishna. So, even a prostitute, who is normally sinful by her action, can become a saintly person by coming across a devotee of Krishna

One needs to be faithful in Bhakti Yoga

Ninth chapter of Bhagavad Gita is all about Bhakti Yoga. In the beginning of this chapter, Lord Krishna says

aśraddadhānāḥ puruṣā
dharmasyāsya paran-tapa
aprāpya māṁ nivartante

[BG 9.3]

Translation: “Those who are not faithful in this devotional service cannot attain me, O conqueror of enemies. Therefore they return to the path of birth and death in this material world.”

Those who are envious of Krishna can never understand what Bhakti Yoga is. If you perform devotional service by Bhakti yoga you understand Krishna through direct perception; but those who are not faithful in this devotional service, they will return to the path of birth and death in this material world. They cannot go back to the spiritual world because they are envious of Krishna

Meaning of Bhakti yoga

Who can understand Bhakti? Only the mahatmas. In the words of Lord Krishna:

BG 9.13: “O son of Prtha, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible.”

BG 9.14: “Always chanting my glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before me, these great souls perpetually worship me with devotion.”

So, a mahatma is he who has access to this most confidential knowledge. One needs to be a devotee and faithful, otherwise one will NOT be blessed with the mercy of The Lord to understand Him. We require the mercy of the Lord to understand the absolute nature of bhakti or Krishna consciousness

Bhakti can be practised in all situations of life

Is bhakti difficult? No, not at all. A mother sees no difficulties while taking care of her child; this is because her love for her child is unconditional. Similarly, a devotee has spontaneous attraction for Krishna. This unconditional love makes him to remember Krishna even in a difficult situation like a battlefield.

tasmāt sarveṣu kāleṣu
mām anusmara yudhya ca
mayy arpita-mano-buddhir
mām evaiṣyasy asaṁśayaḥ

[BG 8.7]

“Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Kṛṣṇa and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me, and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt.”

Bhakti yoga in bhagavad gita

Bhakti teaches both – how to live perfectly and how to die perfectly, i.e. the ART OF LIVING and ART OF DYING

Bhakti Alone Attracts Krishna

Once Duryodhana in order to show off his opulence, employed many expert chefs in preparing thousands of food stuffs for Krishna. He arrogantly thought that Krishna was a cowherd boy and He would at best know how to eat butter. He decided to show Krishna how many varieties of foodstuffs one can enjoy. But when Krishna arrived, He did not even look at those preparations. He went to the house of Vidur, who was a dear devotee of the Lord. Vidur was not there but Vidur’s wife, also a dear devotee of the Lord, was present. Seeing the Lord at home, she became overjoyed and anxious to serve Him. In her excitement and anxiety, she began serving the Lord with some bananas that were lying in her kitchen. However, she was so excited that as she was peeling off the bananas, she kept throwing off the bananas and feeding the peels to Krishna. And Krishna was actually eating those banana peels!

How to practice Bhakti yoga

From this story, we can see how Krishna accepts our emotions or bhava. He relishes our feelings for Him. Vidur’s wife was in ecstasy because she could not believe that Krishna had come to her small cottage. Though she could not serve the Lord properly in her ecstasy and served Him banana peels, she was overwhelmed with emotions of pure love for the Lord and that pure feeling attracted the Lord. He is not attracted by all the opulence one may possess because ultimately all that opulence belongs to Krishna


Krishna concludes the Bhagavad Gita with the following verse:

sarva-dharmän parityajya
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvämsarva-päpebhyo
mokshayishyami ma sucah

[BG 18.66]

Translation: “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.

Types of Bhakti yoga

Bhakti means we must surrender to Krishna alone. We all have a natural and original transcendental relation with Lord Krishna. To engage in that relationship under the guidance of a bonafide spiritual master is called bhakti or devotional service. Bhagavad Gita is the dictionary and Srimad Bhagavatam is the encyclopaedia to properly understand the process of bhakti-yoga.

Bhagavad Gita