The Bhagavata Purana is a popular and influential text in the Vaishnavism traditions, and it discusses Ishvara pranidhana (devotion to a personal god). The Sanskrit text presents various modes of bhakti specifically to incarnations of Vishnu, particularly in terms of “Narayana, Rama, Krishna”.
The Bhakti yoga tradition has been historically most associated with Vaishnavism. The personal god here is Vishnu or one of his avatars. In many regions, the loving devotion is either to Vishnu-Lakshmi (god-goddess) together, or through Lakshmi who is considered as the shakti of Vishnu. The specific avatar varies by the devotee and region, but the most common are Krishna and Rama.
There are 2 stages of Bhakti, The first one is known as vaidhi-bhakti, love of God qualified by scriptural injunctions. For such devotees a regular and methodical worship, hymns, prayers , Japa and chanting of his glories prescribed. This lower bhakti in course of time matures into para-bhakti, or supreme devotion, known as prema, the most intense form of divine love.
To develop the devotees’s love for God, Vaishnavism humanizes God. Gos is to be regarded as the devotee’s Parent, Master, Friend, Child, Husband or Sweetheart, each succeeding relationship representing an intensification of love. These bhavs or attitudes towards God are known as follows:
The love towards God has various expressions or “bhava.” They are:-
- Shanta – where the devotee does not express himself or herself too much, through singing or euphoric dancing but remains blissful and calm. Like rishis of vedas.
- Dasya – Serving the Infinite as his most faithful servant. Like Hanuman or cowboys of vrindavan.
- Vatsalya – Loving God like one’s child, like Yashoda.
- Sakhya – Loving the Infinite like a friend, Arjuna or Uddhava are shining examples.
- Madhurya or Kanta – This is the highest form of Bhakti, where God is one’s lover, spouse, beloved. One achieves complete oneness with the beloved. Radha displayed this love, as did Meera or the Gopis of Vrindavan.
While practicing the discipline of the Madhur bhav, the male devotee often regards himself as a woman, in order to develop the most intense love for shri krishna. This assumption of the attitude of the opposite sex has a deep psychological significance. If he can inoculate himself thoroughly with the idea that he is a woman, he can get rid of desires peculiar to his male body. Again the idea that he is a woman, may in turn be made to give to another higher idea, namely, that he is neither man nor woman, but the impersonal spirit. The impersonal spirit alone can enjoy real communion with impersonal God. Hence higher realization of vaishnava draws close to the transcendental experience of the Vedantist.
The manifestation in the same individual of the 19 different kinds of emotions for God is called, in the books on Bhakti, Mahabhava, the most exalted rapture of divine love.
Shri Chaitanya, also known as Gauranga, Gora or Nimai, born in bengal in 14th century & regarded as incarnation of God, is a great prophet of vaishnav religion.
Chaitanya declared the chanting of God’s name to be the most efficacious spiritual discipline for the Kaliyuga.
In the Krishna-oriented traditions of Vaishnavism, the Chaitanya Charitamrita by Krishnadasa Kaviraja interprets the section 7.5.23-24 of Bhagavata Purana to teach nine types of bhakti sadhana, in the words of Prahlada.
- Sravanam– Hearing about Krishna
eg-Maharaj Parikshit heard about Krishna for seven days continuously and he perfected his life.
- Kirtanam– Chanting the holy names of Krishna and glorifying Him
eg-Sukadev Goswami narrated about Krishna for seven days and he perfected his life.
- Smaranam: Remembering Krishna by reading and associating with devotees.
eg- Prahlada Maharaj constantly remembered Krishna and by remembering Him he perfected his life.
- Padasevanam Being intensely attached to thinking and serving Lord’s lotus feet
- Lakshmidevi continuously serves Krishna’s lotus feet, so her life is perfect.
- Archanam Serving Lord Krishna in the temple (Diety worship)
- Prithu Maharaja perfected his life through worshipping Krishna.
- Vandanam– Praying to Krishna
- Gajendra – being caught by the crocodile within the waters and while struggling for life for years – offered heartful prayers to Hari and perfected his life.
- Dasyam– Following His order and instructions-preach His message
eg.Hanumanji always serves Lord Ram and this is the perfection of his life.
- Sakhyam– Developing a close, personal and intimate relationship with Krishna
eg- Arjuna and Uddhava served Krishna as friend and they perfected their lives
9.Atmanivedanam– Giving everything we have to Krishna including our mind, body and activities.
eg.Bali Maharaj gave everything to Lord Vamana, and thus, perfected his life.
Likewise, there are innumerable examples that can inspire us to practice bhakti.