Bhakti is a state of ‘Snehanubhuti’, where we not only realize and experience ‘bhav’ (spiritual feeling/God/love), but we actually become love. The emptiness that one experiences in life is because of ‘a-bhav’ and can be filled only with ‘bhav’. However, to get to the stage of ‘bhav’, the navel needs to be activated. When we are not rooted in the navel, we are vary of expressing ‘bhav’ for fear of being taken advantage of or ridiculed or some such other reason. It is a very rare possibility for one to get to the navel through bhakti.
Bhakti is a state of being. According to all bhakti traditions of the world and even as per the Bodhmarga philosophy, love can never be directed towards any perishable/impermanent object, whether it is a human being or any other animate/inanimate object. In other words, love can only be towards ‘Ishwar’ (imperishable) and not towards ‘Nashwar’ (perishable). Read More
The ultimate flow of bhakti is always towards a formless energy, which is without attributes (‘Nirakar’ and ‘Nirgun’). We may give it different names like Parmatma, Ishwar, Life principle, the all-pervading factor, the cosmic energy centre etc.
So why do people on the bhakti path (bhaktas) worship or perform puja of an idol or display love and devotion towards an idol? One needs to understand that our senses are always outward bound, whether it is our eyes, ears, mind etc. They keep us identified and engaged in the activities in the world of form and we are said to be in ego state (‘ahankar’ state).
When we withdraw our senses from the world of form, an energy centre begins to arise within us and when our awareness (bodh) moves towards this centre, we get connected to the cosmic energy centre (‘ek mev’ energy centre), which we may refer to as ‘Hari’ or ‘Har Har’. When this connection is established, we experience a feeling of unity with that centre and this may manifest as harmony, love etc in our being.
Thus, when the senses stop flowing outwards, then our energy or ‘spandh’gets awakened to the ultimate potential energy (i.e. ‘Shiv’ or ‘Bhagwath-tha’). But as soon as we get back to the ego state i.e. when our senses become active again and flow outwards, this connection is severed. Then we feel the disconnect and wish to get back to the state of connectedness.
Awareness can either flow towards the outside (through our senses) or it becomes conscious of the cosmic energy centre. In order to constantly remember the state of connectedness in the world of form, bhaktas use idolas a tool or as a representation of the cosmic energy centre. They keep their awareness centered on this tool and thereby prevent the senses from its outward forray in different directions.
When the awareness is so prevented from being scattered in the world of form, the energy centre that arises in them gets connected with the cosmic energy centre and this evokes in them the qualities of love and harmony. Thus, the love of a bhakta is notdirected towards the murti, which is only a tool for him to awaken the fountain of love that is latent within him.
When we get caught in this kind of divine love, we become a personification of love itself. Then people around us start experiencing love in our presence. We don’t have to make any effort to intentionally love anyone. The fountain of love keeps flowing within us and around us.
From this, it can be understood that the ultimate aim of bhakti is to unravel the krishna(Gurutattva), that is lying latent within us. However, this ‘anubhav’ (realization) becomes possible only when we are in a state of receptivity and with the grace of a Guru. Thus, the path to ‘Nirgun’ (the one without attributes) is through ‘Sagun’.
Here, it may added that Bhakti is always of Vishnu and soLakshmi (abundance) is bound to accompany Vishnu. This is the reason why it is often said “Raah buddha ka, par patta krishna ka”.
The importance of being in Bhakti has been emphasized strongly by Sri Adi Shankaracharya, the great Indian philosopher and champion of Advaita Vedanta philosophy, in the following verses :-
Govindam Bhaja Moodhamathe
Samprapte Sannihite Kaale
Nahi Nahi Rakshati Dukrinkarane….”
Literally translated, it goes as follows :-
“Seek or worship Govinda, O fool,
When death comes at the appointed time,
the rules of grammar will not save you…..”
Here, ‘Grammar’ is a metaphor for all worldly knowledge/acquisitions/possessions. According to Adi Shankaracharya, the one who runs after materialistic gains is ‘moodhamathi’, i.e. a fool.
With Bhakti, the second Granthi i.e. the Vishnu Granthi gets unknotted.