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Devotion to Bhagavan: 9 forms

Bhakti, or devotion, is the heart and soul of of Sanatana Dharma. It is the path of love and surrender to the Divine, fostering a deep and personal relationship with God. When we Bhakti, it encompasses a whole range of emotions and practices. There are a number of ways to express one's Bhakti to Bhagavan. Let us look at Nava Vidha Bhakti or the 9 forms of Devotion.

Shravanam (Listening to the Divine Stories)

Shravanam is the act of listening to the sacred stories and glories of Bhagavan. This form of bhakti emphasizes the importance of hearing about Bhagavan's deeds, miracles, and teachings from scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, and Bhagavata Purana. Listening with a pure heart opens the mind to divine wisdom and strengthens faith. Attending satsangs (spiritual gatherings), listening to discourses by spiritual teachers, and reading and reciting scriptures are all integral to Shravanam.

Kirtanam (Singing the Divine Glories)

Kirtanam involves singing hymns, bhajans, and kirtans that praise Bhagavan. This form of devotion is characterized by musical expression, where the devotee sings or chants the names and glories of Bhagavan, often in a communal setting. Kirtanam invokes joy and deep emotional connection with the Divine. Participating in bhajan sessions, singing devotional songs, and chanting mantras are ways to engage in Kirtanam. "Nara Janma Bandhaga Nalige Iruvaaga Krishna Ena Baarade!" sang Purandara Dasa calling for us to chant the name of Krishna now without postponing.

Smaranam (Remembering the Divine)

Smaranam is the constant remembrance of Bhagavan, keeping the Divine in one's thoughts at all times. This practice helps in cultivating a deep inner connection with Bhagavan and ensures that every action is performed with the Divine in mind. Japa (repeating God’s name), meditating on the form of Bhagavan, and reflecting on divine stories and teachings are key aspects of Smaranam. Hari Smarane Mado nirantara sang Purandara Dasa

Padasevanam (Serving the Bhagavan’s Feet)

Padasevanam involves service to Bhagavan, often symbolized by serving His feet. It represents humility and devotion through actions, serving not just the idols but also the temples, places of worship, and even the devotees of Bhagavan. Temple service, offering food and flowers to the deity, and serving holy places and pilgrims are expressions of Padasevanam.

Archanam (Worshiping Bhagavan)

Archanam is the ritualistic worship of Bhagavan using various offerings like flowers, fruits, incense, and lamps. This form of devotion involves elaborate puja rituals, symbolizing the devotee’s reverence and love for the Divine. Performing daily puja, offering special worship on festivals, and decorating the deity’s altar are central to Archanam.

Vandanam (Praying to Bhagavan)

Vandanam involves offering prayers and prostrations to Bhagavan. This form of devotion is an expression of gratitude, reverence, and submission to the Divine. It is a way to communicate with Bhagavan, seeking blessings and expressing one’s innermost feelings. Daily prayers and supplications, performing namaskar (prostrations), and offering stotras (prayer hymns) are part of Vandanam.

Dasyam (Serving Bhagavan as a Servant)

Dasyam signifies serving Bhagavan with the attitude of a humble servant. It emphasizes complete surrender and dedication to the Divine will, considering oneself as a servant of Bhagavan. Performing selfless service, engaging in community service, and following Bhagavan’s commands and teachings are ways to practice Dasyam. Saints like Purandara Dasa and Kanaka Dasa considered themselves to be the servants of Bhagavan. Hanuman can be seen as an epitome of Dasya Bhava.

Sakhyam (Befriending Bhagavan)

Sakhyam is developing a relationship of friendship with Bhagavan. This form of bhakti involves sharing one’s joys and sorrows with the Divine, trusting Bhagavan as a close friend and companion. Sharing thoughts and feelings with Bhagavan, confiding in the Divine during meditation, and developing a personal bond with the deity are expressions of Sakhyam. Arjun approached Bhagavan Shri Krishna with Sakhya Bhava and Shri Krishna experienced great closeness with Arjuna.

Atmanivedanam (Complete Surrender to Bhagavan)

Atmanivedanam is the pinnacle of bhakti, where the devotee offers their entire self to Bhagavan, surrendering all actions, thoughts, and desires. It signifies the ultimate union with the Divine, where the devotee and Bhagavan become one. Total surrender and acceptance of the Divine will, renunciation of ego and personal desires, and living a life dedicated to spiritual principles embody Atmanivedanam.

Each form of devotion provides a unique way to connect with the Divine, catering to different temperaments and inclinations. By embracing these nine forms, devotees can deepen their relationship with Bhagavan, experience profound inner peace, and achieve spiritual liberation.Incorporating Nava Vidha Bhakti into daily life not only enriches one’s spiritual practice but also transforms mundane activities into acts of devotion, fostering a life of love, service, and divine connection.


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