Ram Chandran chandran at TIDALWAVE.NET
Tue Oct 13 09:09:26 CDT 1998

An ocean of literature on Bhakti is available in the great Epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata and in the Puranas. According to BhAgavata PurAna there are nine forms in which bhakti might be expressed:

Sravana (Listening to recitals of the names and glories of God): The tradition of Katha Kalachepam (Recitation of stories from Ramayana, Bhagavatam and other Puranic stories) and musical recitals are good examples. In the south, thousands of people gather to listen to  Sengalipuram AnatarAma Dikshidar and other great story tellers.  Thousands of people also attend Carnatic music recitals to listen to the Kirthanas (poems in musical form) composed by Saints Tyagaraja, Tulasidas, Purandaradas and others.

Nama-sankirtana (Reciting the names of God as did Narada, Chaitanya, Meera, Tyagaraja, Ramdas, Purandaradas, etc.) Bhakti in this form infers that the Bhakta sings the glory of his Lord twenty four hours a day without stopping!

Smarana (Recalling the glory of the Lord and His Deeds): The greatest example for this form of devotion is the story of PrahlAda.  The empty mind of Hiranyakasipu (father of Prahlada) was filled with proud and ego. On the other hand, PrahlAda's mind was filled with the glory of Narayana.  Hiranya asked Prahlada tenderly, "Son! Tell me what you have learnt at school." Prahlada replied, "I have learnt that  the essence of Bhakti from all scriptures as - OM NAMO NARAYANAYA."

Pada-sevana (Go along the footsteps of the Lord and follow him wherever He goes): Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama is an excellent example to illustrate Pada-sevana. Rama's younger brother Bharathan was in fact a great devotee of Rama and he worshiped and treated the Sandals (Pathuka) of Rama equivalent to His Pada!

Archana (Worshiping the Lord through Pujas): Temple visitations and conducting Pujas at home on regular basis fall into this form of worship.

Vandana (Saluting the Lord through prayers): All forms of temple worship will fall into this classification of Bhakti.

Dasya (Service with total dedication without ego): Hanuman is the greatest example for this form of Bhakti.  Ramakrishna Paramahamsa gave a beautiful example to illustrate Hanuman's Bhakti toward Shri Ram.  The Lord once asked Hanuman, "What is your attitude toward men? How do you look upon, think of and worship me?"  Hanuman replied, " O Rama, I am conscious of my body when I feel that I am this visible body and then I have the conviction that thou art the Lord and I am thy servant.  Thou art to be served and I am the one to serve. When I am conscious of my self as the individual self, one with the mind, the intellect and the soul, I have the conviction that thou art the whole and I am thy part.  When again, I remain in samadhi, in the mood that I am the pure Self without all qualifying adjuncts, I have the conviction that I am also verily that which Thou art. Thou and I are one.  There is no difference whatsoever."

Sakhya (Befriending Him): Arjuna, Sugriva, Guka and Vibhishna, are good illustrations for this form of Bhakti.

Atma-nivedana (Total dedication of oneself to Him). The story of Kannappa Nayanar illustrates this form of Bhakti.

In all these form of bhakti, prema (love) is the essential component.  The purest form of prema was shown by the great bhaktas, Meera, Andal, Tyagaraja, Chaitanya, Tukaram, Jayadeva, the Nayanars and Alwars of south India and others.  In fact whenever, we bow to God, we do namaskara.  Na-mama-kara declares that "all that I am and have is due to Your Grace."  During our temple worship through Archana, the term "Namah" is invariably used.  The Taittiriya- Upanishad acclaims the virtue of using "Namah" while worshiping and says; "Desires fall at the feet of such a one who worships Him by saying Namah:

    tam nama ityupAsIta, namyante-asmai kAmAh.

Among the nine forms of Bhakti described above, four have contemporary relevance; Sravana, Nama-sankritana, smarana, and archana. All these rest on the glory of Ishwara and His Glory. Our mind is always riddled and unsteady with desire and hate and lust and greed. Reciting the names of Ishwara in rhythmic pattern (Japa) help us for turning the mind inward.  We are at the elementary stage of spiritual evolution and repeating the name of Ishwara is a potent form of  disciplining the unsteady mind from desire, hate, lust and greed.  Faith is an important and integral part of the path of Sankara's Advaitam.  Let me repeat the beautiful quotation of Saint. Augustin on the role of faith on human salvation: "Faith is to believe what we don't see, and its  reward is to see what we believe."

Ram Chandran
Burke, VA

"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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