Learn more about the nine forms of Devotion (Bhakti) as described in the Shrīmad Bhagavat
Navdha Bhakti—The Nine forms of Devotion
There are nine forms of Devotion (Bhakti) as described in the Śrīmad Bhāgavat; these are known as “Navdhā Bhakti”. They are 1) Shravanam, 2) Kirtanam, 3) Smaranam, 4) Pādasevanam, 5) Archanam, 6) Vandanam, 7) Dāsyam, 8) Sakhyam and 9) Ātmanivedan.
The first form of Devotion described in the Śrīmad Bhāgavat is listening (Shravanam) with full faith and thirst to tales of the Lord’s pastimes (liīlās). Parikshit is the best example of attaining the Lord through this. Four keys to successful listening are—
- Complete trust in the words of your Guru as you listen;
- Humility within yourself;
- Self-restraint over the weaknesses and follies of your emotional heart-mind.
- Firmly established, steadfast concentration of your intellectual mind in Katha.
The second form of Devotion described in the Śrīmad Bhāgavat is Kirtanam—singing the Lord’s name and glories with joy and enthusiasm. Śrī Shukdevjī is the best example of worshipping the Lord in this way. Pujya Bhaishri emphasizes that Kirtan should be performed without any deception. We should choose first to listen on the path of devotion, but if there is no one to listen to, then we should gladly glorify the Lord and purify our tongue and heart. Collective singing of the Lord’s name is the swiftest means to purity in the age of Kaliyuga.
Smaranam (Remembrance of the Lord) is the third form of Devotion described in the Śrīmad Bhāgavat, and Prahalādajī is the best example of such a devotee. The qualities of smaranam are:
- It’s constant and heart-felt;
- A devotee recalls the Lord’s Name, Form, Place and Play.
- Remembrance of the Eternal Lord vanquishes the effect of delusion (māyā), which entraps one in the transient world instead.
- Remembering Lord Viṣṇu who is omnipresent, helps us align our actions with Him.
- If our work benefits all, Universal Consciousness supports us.
Pādasevanam (Worship of the Lord’s lotus feet) is the fourth of nine forms of Devotion described in the Śrīmad Bhāgavat, and Goddess Lakṣmī is an example of an ideal devotee who practices this. Pujya Bhaishri explains that ‘Pādasevanam’ Bhakti means—
- Worship of the Lord’s lotus feet by living in service of the Lord; which is possible only when one strives to be ever-connected to His presence.
- To view one’s Gurudev’s lotus feet; i.e. to see and seek to grasp his conduct.
- To touch Gurudev’s lotus feet with dedication; i.e. to strive to follow in his exemplary conduct.
- All this is possible only by the Grace of the Guru Himself.
Archanam (Ritual Worship) is the fifth form of Devotion described in the Śrīmad Bhāgavat, and an example of this is King Prithu. What are the qualities of an ideal archanam?
- The Lord is worshipped with love and purity.
- The Lord descends into physical form along with his eternal attendants in the form of all the utensils and adornments that come into His service. Treat all with reverence.
- Purity should be maintained of the articles of worship; the method of worship as well as in the worshipper.
- Worship as per scriptural injunctions is purity of the method.
- Worship should be offered with Unity of mind, actions and speech.
- The Lord is worshipped both in His idol form and in His universal form as well.
- The Lord exists inside as well as outside. Meditation is worship of the Lord within.
The sixth form of Devotion described in the Śrīmad Bhāgavat is ‘Vandanam’ (bowing down with reverence), and a prime devotee example is Akrurji. Pujya Bhaishri differentiates between the three various forms of bowing with reverence—
- Vandan—is to pledge one’s fidelity (unalloyed loyalty) to the Lord.
- Pranāma—acknowledging our Life to be in partnership with Him, to vow to live with integrity towards Him.
- Namaskāra—to commit to live with gratitude towards Him by remembering His innumerable favors and serving His Universal form as a mark of thanks.
Dāsyam (Servitude) is the seventh form of Devotion described in the Śrīmad Bhāgavat, and Śrī Hanumānajī is an ideal devotee example of this. Pujya Bhaishri explains that a dedicated servant of the Lord—
- Places his ego (“I”) in the service of his Lord (Dāsoham) and remains steady in praise and criticism;
- Uses all forms of strength, intelligence and wisdom that he possesses to alertly serve his Lord;
- Serves with eagerness, readiness and selflessness.
- Lovingly obeys his Lord’s wishes as his command (āgya pālana) without argument.
Sakhyam (Friendship) is the eighth form of Devotion described in the Śrīmad Bhāgavat, and an ideal example of this is Arjuna. The right to accept this bond lies with the Lord. Friendship with the Lord is practiced in the form of—
- Complete faith (bharosā) in the Lord in every situation;
- A brave fearlessness in facing every challenge, knowing fully well that the Lord is with us;
- Complete openness (nishkapat) with the Lord, keeping nothing hidden from Him;
- Willingness to follow His guidance and fight the ongoing struggle of Life for what is right.
Ātma-Nivedanam (Self-Surrender) is the ninth and final form of Devotion described in the Śrīmad Bhāgavat, and an ideal example of this is King Bali. The Lord alone decides whom to accept this bond with, once proffered. It is practiced by—
- Giving up one’s sense of ‘mine’ by offering one’s possessions to the Lord;
- Giving up one’s sense of ‘I’, by surrendering one’s own Self as the giver.
- Happily accepting one’s Self as the Lord’s very own—to do with as He pleases.
- Complete Self-Surrender of individual desires, plans, likes, dislikes, doership or ownership—to simply be His toy.
An embodied soul (jīva-ātmā) gives up all sense of ownership over their body and possessions. The Lord then removes all sense of doership and separation, when He accepts this offering.