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  • Writer's pictureAshok Kumar Burra

What is true Bhakti (Devotion)?


Bhakti (loosely translated in English as Devotion), in Sanskrit, means no Vibhaktham (detachment) from the highest i.e., GOD. The term Bhakti (Devotion) comes from the root ‘Bhaj’ which means to be attached to GOD.

Bhakti is intense devotion and supreme attachment to GOD. It is pure, unselfish, divine love or suddha (pure) prem. Saints have defined it as an irrevocable attachment with GOD. The feeling of Bhakti cannot be described in words. It has to be experienced by the devotee. It unites the devotee with the Lord. It is a self-generated fire within, which consumes all the passions like anger, undue wants, lust, pride, etc., without any physical awareness.

It is otherwise defined as the highest love developed towards God without any physical expectations in return. That means one should have no answer as to why and what for he loves GOD. Such true love is called devotion. Offering something and praying for so many things in return is in no way called Bhakti.


Ancient sages, finding worship of the Immaterial Absolute a difficult task for the masses to start with, had devised certain convenient means for their uplifting of beginners. They made a start by taking up something apparent in the solid form such as a picture or image, which the masses of the lowest standard could easily grasp or understand. They were allowed to decorate images with flowers and garlands, ring the bells, offer Naivedya (food offering to God), wave lights (oil wick lamps), observe rituals and ceremonies.

Besides these, the image set up for the purpose was fully charged with the spiritual force so that those sitting by, in devotion and worship, gained some of it through constant radiation. Now persons of such caliber, having the power to infuse into the image the spiritual force, are rare, although the process of Pran Pratishta still continues as a matter of mere formality. The bhakta here regards the lord as a supreme person who is immanent in that image and who can be propitiated in that form only. They are sectarians. They dislike other kinds of Bhaktas (devotees) who worship other devatas (Gods). They have no expanded heart.

Some other beginners take ‘Deekshas (Monastic vows) and complete the prescribed Diksha (Vow) period with strict rules and regulations. Afterward, they leave the said rules and regulations there itself. Most of them praise the ideals, love, devotion, sacrifice, moral, etc., which the great personalities (Avataras) have taught and adopted in their lives. But they won’t follow them in their real-life thinking that they are very difficult and possible only to the said great personalities. For all this how do they expect God’s grace? The result is nominal.

Mechanical form of worship, commonly adopted by those hankering after Gods and Goddesses to serve their worldly ends is an absurdity. It is no worship at all. The solid material form of God aimed by them in the mind and worshipped with faith and devotion leads to internal grossness.

Thus it was only for the people of the lowest standard that they had adopted the solid form such as picture or image and that too only as a temporary measure. When they(Devotees) attain some progress they have to give it up and embark upon the next stage, taking up a finer form. It is just like teaching writing to a baby-making her move her pen along the prints of letters. Thus the solid form or the image was to be adopted by beginners for a time only, after which they must go to the next higher stage.

There are many devotees who may say that they do not want Mukti (liberation). They only want to come again and again into this world and practice Bhakti (devotion). Their goal in life is undetermined and indefinite. Bhakti and nothing beyond as they say is their goal. Really they are attracted by the charming effect of the conditions of a Bhakta (devotee) and like to remain entangled in it forever. They do it only to please themselves. Freedom from eternal bondage is not possible so long as we are within entanglements. The natural desire of the soul is to be free from bondage. Freedom from bondage is liberation. It is the end of our pains and miseries. Anything short of liberation cannot be taken as the goal of life. If there is one who does not like to free himself from the entanglements there is no solution for him. Bhakti is the means of achieving the goal and not the goal itself.


A real devotee (who attained progress) sees God in every animate and inanimate thing. He feels that God is pervading everywhere. Universal love becomes predominant and he begins to love every being as God’s creation. He will submit everything to his Lord and behaves simply like an instrument in the hands of his Lord. Whatever he gets, he thinks that they are all from his Lord. And whatever he loses it is all for his good only. He performs all the activities as his duty and in service of his Lord. He totally thinks that everything is going on according to the will of his Lord, and he has to go according to His will. He tunes all of the activities of his life in these lines and always remains in that feeling devoid of self and goes on performing everything as his duty. Household responsibilities are in no way bar to him. He feels that his Wife, children, parents, friends, neighbors are all the gifts offered to him by his Lord. His responsibilities towards them are the duties allotted to him by his Lord. By thinking so he keeps himself in the service of his Lord continuously without any break.


There are five bhavas/attitudes that a devotee takes according to his individual temperament to express his devotion towards God.

1. Placid love for God. In this attitude/bhava, the devotee is peaceful. He is not highly emotional. His heart is filled with love and joy.

2. The attitude of a servant. Here the devotee feels that he is the servant of his Lord and visualizes God as his master. He performs all his duties as ordered by his Lord.

3. The attitude of a friend. Here the bhakta feels that God is his best and most intimate friend and he gives great importance to his friendship with his Lord.

4. The attitude of Vaatsalya is a close relationship and natural affection shown towards little children.

5. The attitude of love. Divine love is not selfish. There is a lot of difference between lust (kama) and divine love (Prema). The secret of divine love cannot be understood, so long as there is a transformation of the human into the divine.


A true devotee’s (Bhakta’s) eyes are fixed every moment on Reality which is unchanging and eternal and he is free from feelings of attraction and repulsion. This is Vairagya (renunciation) in the truest sense of the term. When the devotee has achieved this state of mind he is free from desires. He feels contended with what is available to him. The end of desires means the stopping of the formation of Samskaras.

What remains now is only to undergo the effect (Bhog) of the previously formed Samskaras (impressions) which are to be worked out during the course of the devotee’s life. Nature too helps the devotee in the work by creating a field for Bhog in order to remove the impressions of his thoughts and actions from the casual body. When the coverings melt away the Devotee (Bhakta) will achieve the real thing i.e. union with GOD.

Credits: Sri. P. Subbarayudu & Sri. B.E. Sampath Kumar from ‘Sri RamaChandraji Maharaj Seva Trust’, Kadapa.

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