Bhakti Yoga #1

Sage Narada’s ‘Bhakti Sutras’ is a comprehensive guidebook for all the seekers on the path of Bhakti Yoga. Narada’s wisdom takes an aspirant from the first steps of his spiritual ascent, till he reaches the summit. Sri Ramakrishna has said that the best and easiest path to attain Self Realization in this age is the path of Bhakti as taught by Narada. I’m humbly making an attempt to write down my understanding of the Sutras from the discourses and commentaries of great masters and swamis.

What is Bhakti ?

Typical of the Sutra tradition, Narada begins his exposition on Bhakti by addressing a particular group of people who are competent and disciplined enough to receive and assimilate it.

Narada defines Bhakti as Supreme Love towards God. This love is different from our love for earthly relations or things. Love for the mother, father, spouse, brother, friends, wealth, name and fame etc., is not supreme love but self-centered love. Love for the relations and objects is selfish at the core as it’s centered around the person who loves. The question of ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’ comes first in this love as the idea of possessiveness is associated with such love. All kinds of love is selfish except divine love which does not have any kind of relation with the Self. God is dear not for the sake of anything else, but dear for its own sake. A true devotee of God does not love God by expecting something in return. The joy of such a devotee is only in giving and not in receiving anything. This unselfish love is supreme love, Parama Prema.

Further, the nature of this supreme love is immortal, never ending, undying and imperishable. The earthly love has a beginning and an end, it can never continue uninterruptedly forever. It is bound to be a temporary thing, limited by time, circumstances, and by the objects towards which love flows. Divine love, on the other hand, is unlimited. Once that love is realized, it continues forever. Earthly love is awakened when we come into contact with people or objects. In divine love, no external contact is implied because divine love is within us and the object of love too is within us. Here the lover, the Beloved and the relationship are all immortal. Bhakti is interminable, never ending and immortal and he who tastes it also becomes immortal.

Characteristics of a Devotee

Narada describes the qualities or characteristics of devotee as a perfected being, immersed in eternal bliss, and fully satisfied. He is beyond desires, grief, hate, elation or enthusiasm. Furthermore, once these characteristics are obtained, the devotee becomes intoxicated-like, tranquil, and completely absorbed in the joy of Self.

Perfected being

By attaining the desired goal of Supreme Love, a person becomes a perfected being. Siddhi for a devotee is not attaining supernatural powers. It means attainment of the ideal, which is perfection, or complete absorption or resignation in God. The person who has got such devotion becomes a Siddha, a man of perfection.


This immortality does not mean continuance of the physical existence. The devotee becomes immortal in the sense that attachment towards the body completely disappears, and along with it the fear of death. He becomes a pure spirit, devoid of any attachment to any of the things that limit it and make it impure. When attachment to objects and fear of death are removed, he becomes immortal.


By attaining Supreme Love, a devotee becomes fully satisfied, i.e., he becomes free from all desires.


A devotee does not have any more desires once he tastes supreme love


This love is eternal and cannot be lost, hence there is no question of grief.


Hatred arises in our minds towards people or things that are obstacles to the attainment of the objects of our desire. But a devotee does not hate anyone or anything. Because he is one with that supreme love, nothing can create any disturbance or gap between him and his love. He does not hate any one as he sees God’s hand in everything and also sees that it’s God who is residing in all beings.

no Elation

A devotee has no feeling of elation. The feeling of elation comes when we get something which we wanted to have. But in the case of a devotee of God’s love, he already has everything.

no Enthusiasm

He has no enthusiasm to do anything. He already has everything, nothing else would motivate him to achieve something else.

These are the characteristics that one has to attain by way of sadhana or devotion. To become a perfected being, he has to remove from his mind all other desires except for supreme love. When that is completely attained, he will not desire anything else. He will not be attached to things other than God, therefore he does not grieve for the loss of anything. He does not hate anything because other things become insignificant and, therefore, he does not have that feeling of elation as any other person will have for the attainment of a desired object. The devotee does not value anything other than his devotion. Therefore, he does not have any kind of enthusiasm for the attainment of anything.

Once the devotee drowns himself in the ocean of devotion, he becomes intoxicated, inert or tranquil and absorbed in the joy of Self. Just as a person who is completely intoxicated does not have any kind of cognition of the external world, so also the enlightened soul becomes mad-like, becomes absorbed in his joy; so much so that he cannot take any note of the world around him. By being absorbed in his own joy he becomes full, and therefore inert, without any expression of activity. His joy is derived from his own self, it’s not derived from, or is dependent upon, any extraneous circumstances. It issues from his own Self.

A person who is in Bhakti Yoga may appear to be of unsound mind to the worldly people since he is no longer bound by the social norms or cannons of scriptures. Such a devotee appears drunk sometimes, at other times sits quietly in a state of Samadhi or dances or sings without any reason. Sri Chaitanya, Bhakta Mira, Sri Ramakrishna are great examples of such devotees of God.

Do’s and Don’ts for Devotees

  • A devotee should not worry about the loss of public appreciation because the devotee has surrendered his self, public esteem and the adherence to injunctions of scriptures.
  • For the success in the path of devotion, one should not discard the (good) dealings with others; but renunciation of the fruits of actions as well as the means of their attainment should be maintained.
  • The descriptions about wickedness, vulgarity, wealth, people who do not believe in God and enemies are not to be heard.
  • Pride, vanity and other vices are to be given up.
  • One should devote all actions to God and submit lust, anger, pride etc. towards God only
  • After breaking through the coverings of the three modes of nature (gunas), one should act only in pure love of God, remaining perpetually in the mood of a servant serving his master, or a lover serving her beloved.

How Do Primary Devotees Behave

Primary devotees are those who have one-pointed love for God. Such devotees exchange notes with one another in choked-voices, hairs standing on end, and tears in the eyes. They purify their families and the world also. They make the holy places holier, render all actions blessed, and make the scriptures more sacred. Because they are permeated with divinity. The ancestors rejoice, gods dance in joy and the mother earth finds a protector in the devotee. In them such distinctions as caste, learning, beauty, family background, wealth, profession, and so on are never present. Distinctions do not exist because they are God’s very own.

This concludes #1 of Bhakti Yoga. A summary of the Sutras 1 to 6 of Narada Bhakti Sutras describing the nature of Bhakti and the qualities of a devotee, Sutras 61 to 66 the do’s and don’ts for a Devotee, Sutras 67 to 73 on how Primary devotees behave.

Coming up Next: #2 Nature of Devotion – Renunciation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: