Monday Morning Greetings 2017 #24 – What is Bhakti?

June 12th, 2017

Bhakti is a faith –  the faith that the best thing is to surrender to God with devotion.

But it is more than just an understanding. It is the actual feeling in the heart to want to do so.

And bhakti is more than just that feeling of devotion. It is also the practical expression of that feeling through the faculty of the mind, body, and words called devotional service or sevā.

And higher than that is pure devotion, when that practical expression to please Kṛṣṇa is the exclusive desire of the heart unmixed or covered by any other desire.

Ultimately bhakti is God’s energy, the essence of His pleasure potency, which Kṛṣṇa mercifully places in the heart of that devotee who attracts His mercy by such pure devotional service.

Is bhakti inherent? Our nature is to serve is inherent and certainly we have the potential for bhakti within our heart.

That full potential of bhakti is called bhaktyānanda,[1] the bliss of devotion, which is the essence of God’s internal potency and His highest pleasure. Unlike svarūpānanda, God’s own pleasure, which He basks in alone, bhaktyānanda, the bliss of devotion, must come from another. We are that potential “other”, created as receptacles for a love meant to be offered back to the one who has bestowed it. That is real bhakti because love of Godhead (kṛṣṇa-prema), the essence of His pleasure potency (hlādinī-śakti), is the thing that pleases God the most.

To understand such bhakti we must understand the term tad-ātmikā, which means “to become one with”. Our eternal nature is to serve, to be perfect instruments for the pleasure of God. When that service attitude is pure and God trusts us with His energy of love, our mind becomes energized or one with that love just as an iron rod becomes energized or one (tad-ātmikā) with fire. That mind absorbed in devotion offered back to God for His pleasure is bhakti in its highest sense, although the mood of service and the practices of devotion to get such bhakti can also be deemed bhakti, in a sense.

Monday Morning Greetings has a diverse audience, from people many decades mature in bhakti, to those with a cursory interest who may have signed on to my mailing list after hearing just one of my lectures. This Greetings touches some deep philosophical content that may give food for thought, especially to experienced practitioners of bhakti, but I hope these beautiful concepts will touch everyone’s heart.

To close I would like to offer a definition of bhakti that was shared with me by a great Sanskrit scholar that in a sense sums up the essence of bhakti in such a way that if you can imbibe that mood, then for sure you will one day be bestowed with the highest devotion. He told me:

Bhakti is to make oneself available [for service].”


[1] The terms bhaktyānanda and svarūpānanda are found in the Jaiva Dharma by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. I was not able to get the exact reference by the time of the post.

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