Monday Morning Greetings 2021 #50 – What is Bhakti?

December 13th, 2021

What Is Bhakti? [1]

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 seva.


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


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


Is bhakti inherent? Bhakti is certainly the jiva’s purpose lying dormant within heart, which is actualized when touched by the Lord’s internal potency.


That full potential of bhakti is thus called bhaktyānanda,[2]  the bliss of devotion, which is the essence of God’s internal potency and His highest pleasure. Unlike svarūpānanda, God’s own pleasure, in which He basks 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-premā, 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, “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 devotionally inclined mind becomes fully energized by, 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.


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 Greeting 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 Sanskrit scholar,[3] which 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] This is a reprint from June 12, 2017, that I have edited slightly.

[2] I did further research on this subject from Priti Sandarbha 65 (section 63 in some editions, such as H.H. Bhanu Swami’s translation) since 2017 when I first published this article. Bhaktyananda is discussed there in relation to Krishna and His eternal associates, which we may eventually fully experience at the stage of perfection when we qualify to exchange love with Krishna in His eternal pastimes.

[3] This definition was shared with me many years ago by Pradyumna das, who served as Srila Prabhupada’s Sanskrit editor, in a discussion I once had with him.


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