Bhakti Yoga-Types Of Bhakti Yoga
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Different Styles of Yoga

Bhakti yoga

Types Of Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti yoga as already explained in the definition of Bhakti yoga is the path of attaining supreme God through the practice of lifelong devotion by way of certain principles of positive existence. This can be done by various ways and the path followed would define the type of Bhakti yoga. Bhakti basically means prayers offered to God in the view of uniting with Him one day.

It can be argued and not wrongly so, that Bhakti yoga actually may be a highly emotionalized state of human mind. This is because concentrating on God may not be a possibility as His existence is also indefinable. It is true that God has not been viewed in real life by anyone but we see his existence in everything around us. This actually is the ultimate aim of Bhakti yoga – to see His presence in all existing entities. It is a difficult procedure as there are too many distractions in this world. This process requires complete engrossment of the senses in the supreme consciousness.

There are different people who practice some form of Bhakti yoga in their daily lives. These days it is become very improbable to see anyone completely engrossed in all practices of Bhakti yoga. Even the people who claim to have devoted their entire lives to yoga or attained the status of renowned yogis do not seem too seeped in following pathways of Bhakti yoga to the core. Yet everyone seems to be indulging in some form of Bhakti or the other. So what is the correct pathway of following Bhakti yoga? Or is there any set, defined and definite pathway of following the love of God?

It is true that there are many ways in which a devotee or a yogi turns all his attention towards God. There cannot be defined any fixed technique of doing this. Each way followed will result in a different type of Bhakti yoga. So there can be perhaps, as many ways or types of Bhakti yogas as there are people themselves. But still for the guidance of a beginner few types of Bhakti yogas are broadly described here. These are:

Sakaam Bhakti: This form of Bhakti yoga is when a person indulges in Bhakti with the aim of achieving something from God. This means that prayers are offered to God with the idea of attaining some materialistic or emotional desire in return. Sakaam Bhakti is perhaps the most extensive form of Bhakti that is visible almost everywhere. The devotee does the offering of prayers with the constant thought of getting his desire granted. In fact this cannot even qualify as a type of yoga as yoga primarily deals with a sense of detachment from the material desires and enhancement of the senses towards greater causes. But the ancient texts describe this as a beginner’s way of turning his attention towards God. In many cases it is seen that the devotee uses this as a first stage and slowly moves towards the next stage.

Nishkaam Bhakti: This is the Bhakti with no desire or selfish interest involved. Here the devotee has no hidden reasons for offering his prayers to God. There are no other reasons except that the devotee is thankful to God for giving him human life and so as a result of this extreme gratefulness he offers his prayers to the almighty. This is the purest form of Bhakti yoga and every yogi should try to turn his attention to this side as soon as possible.

Apara Bhakti: This type of devotion indulges in a lot of different rituals for performing his prayers. He sincerely believes that without these his prayers will not be accepted. Again this is a path for the beginner so that he has some task ahead of him to focus his attention on.

Para Bhakti: This type of Bhakti finally has the realization that the rituals are actually needless and they do nothing to transform a person into a pure devotee. This is about realizing that God is transcendental in nature and exists in everything and everywhere. The realization extends to the sense that human consciousness in order to be united with God consciousness is not dependent on ritualistic form of offering prayers.

Nine different forms of Bhakti are described in ancient texts. These are called Nav Vidha Bhakti.

The basic forms are:

  • Sravana: meaning hearing of stories of the divine glory.
  • Kirtana: meaning singing devotional hymns.
  • Smarana: meaning remembering the name of God every time.
  • Padasevana: meaning offering prayers and devotion to His lotus feet.
  • Archana: meaning offering regular prayers to God.
  • Vandana: meaning offering oneself in the duty of God.
  • Dasya: meaning offering prayers to God as a servant of God.
  • Sakhya: meaning offering prayers to God as a friend of God.
  • Atmanivedana: offering prayers to God by way of complete surrender to God.

Whatever paths are followed the ultimate aim of uniting with the divine consciousness is at the core of all processes of Bhakti yoga.

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