NAVA VIDHA BHAKTI

Mythological narrations, be it of Shabari, Meera Bhai, Prahalada, Markandeya, Radha, or Arjuna, inspire and touch us as they have a special bond with their Lord. Whether they eat, sleep, or walk, they hold their favourite deity close to their heart and over a period of time forget themselves. Knowing about these exemplary devotees, we are also inspired to develop a deep relationship with our God. 

Introduction

DEVOTION (LOVE FOR GOD)

Bhakti or Devotion is a very strong and overpowering feeling. Poets can write pages after pages on this topic describing this emotion.

Bhakti can be defined as the love for Lord in its purest form without any motives, conditions or desires. It is like a nectar that fills the person with inexplicable ecstasy and bliss. Bhakti is a feeling that fills the heart so completely that, there is no place for any other feeling like pleasure and pain, likes and dislikes etc. The devotee has to surrender everything unto the Lord and become free of his ego. The sole purpose of such a person is to serve the Lord and His devotees unconditionally. Bhakti helps a person to break from all sorts of worldly bondages and attachments and to be a mere instrument in the hands of God. Bhakti will also help him to be free from the cycle of birth and death.

If we set our mind, we can cultivate this magnanimous feeling of Bhakti, by simply engaging ourselves in meaningful devotional activities that will pull us closer and closer to God until His sweet grace flows into us.

NINE TYPES OF DEVOTION

A devotee can constantly listen to the Lord and His leelas, (Sranavam), sing His glory (Kirthanam), contemplate on the grandeur of God (Smaranam), serve the Lord (PaadaSevanam), worship Him (Archanam), remain surrendered through salutation (Vandanam), be a humble servant to the Divine Master (Daasyam), have the Lord as the closest friend (sakhyam) or merge with the Almighty (Atma Nivedhanam) in the path of devotion.

Devotees can follow the path of his or her choice and connect with the deity. Devotion becomes a part of their life and they remain in the thoughts of God constantly. Following one of the forms of devotion steadfastly, develops in the devotee, faith and love for God. 

CHALLENGES

In the midst of daily life compulsions, routine works, and distractions, the devotee might initially find it difficult to pursue the path chosen. For many, their family, friends, or colleagues with whom they spend more time are a priority. 

However, once the devotee connects with God, focuses only on God, develop faith, and learn to surrender, the path of devotion turns into nectar. 

References :

  • Balvikas Gurus Guide
  • http://www.saibaba.org.hk/image/media/9%20Forms.pdf
  • https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/25958227/nine-forms-of-devotion-sathya-sai-service-organisation-scotland
  • http://www.themotherdivine.com/15/suratha-and-samadhi.shtml
  • https://issuu.com/m.thirumaleshwar/docs/sadhana_--_path_of_bhakti_....._fro
  • https://www.mixcloud.com/premanosh/loving-god-through-sakhyam/
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SHRAVANAM

Shravanam is the first and the foremost among the nine forms of devotion. It includes listening to the epics, parables, or even small instances that reveal the love and omniscience of the Almighty. This is an easier step to remember the Lord. Devotion becomes a natural feeling while listening to these stories. 

Shravanam can be cultivated through regular satsanghs, by listening carefully to the words of the wise or teachings of the scriptures. By hearing the stories of the Lord’s divine activities, the devotee’s mind is purified. 

The story of King Parikshit given in Srimad Bhagavatham is an example of a devotee who exemplified Shravanam. 

LIBERATION OF KING PARIKSHIT

Maharaja Parikshit was a pious king. But, he had incurred the curse of a Brahmin boy that shortened his life to just seven days.  Parikshit realised that he would die in a week and decided to prepare himself for it.

He entrusted the kingdom to his son, and went to the banks of the Ganges.  Parikshit enquired with the great sages present there: “What is my duty? I am going to die within seven days. What should I do? You are all learned sages, please tell me.” 

Some suggested yoga, some others jnana, and so forth. Sage Sukadeva entered the forest. Since he was so learned, everyone agreed to follow his advice. Parikshit reverentially asked him “O great master, please teach me the way of obtaining freedom from this cycle of birth and death.” On hearing this request Sukadeva replied, “If you want to be fearless in meeting your death next week, then you must immediately begin the process of listening to the glories of the Lord.”

He then narrated the story of the Lord’s divine play in the universe. Parikshit thus attained liberation. Such is the power of Shravanam. 

King Suratha and a Vaishya by name Samaadhi who heard the glories of the Divine Mother from Maharishi Sumedasalso attained Mukthi.

SWAMI’S WAY

Swami says, "Listen to all such things as will draw you towards God, then think it over in silence and make it a part of your consciousness, this is what makes Shravanam effective." Swami would narrate stories of Lord Rama, Lord Krishna or other Gods during the Summer Courses. He would conduct examinations at the end of the Course. The students thus had to be attentive during the discourse, discuss later with their friends and classmates, and study the stories. Swami indirectly helped the students develop ‘Shravanam’.

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KEERTHANAM

Keerthanam is the second form of devotion which involves ‘singing’ the praise of the Lord’s magnificence and omniscience with heartfelt devotion.

The Divine Name is more powerful than the Lord. Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has stressed on this and embarked on His Divine Mission with a Keerthan (ManasaBhajare Guru Charanam...)

A pure heart full of devotion works miracles and there are innumerable instances to drive home the point. 

STORY OF MEERA BAI

When Saint Goswami visited the palace, the young princess, Meera, was attracted to an idol of Sri Krishna that he had brought with him. The saint left the idol with Meera and she would play with the idol, sing and dance around it, and worship Lord Krishna. She loved to listen to the stories about His childhood and her love for the Lord increased every day.

As Meera grew up, her family got her married to King Bhojraj, who loved her very much. She was a dutiful wife and daughter-in-law but after she finished her household chores she went back to her idol of Krishna. Her devotion to the Lord was pure, simple, and so complete that none of the hurdles she faced in life affected her. She used to sing His name and glory all the time, making up the most beautiful and moving lyrics.

Even as Meera-bai moved on in her devotion, she did not stop the kirtans, showing the way to devotees on immersing oneself in Keerthan. 

By constantly chanting the lord’s name, devotees like Dhruva, Andal, Thiruppaanaazhwar, Saint Thyagaraja, Purandaradasa also have achieved God realization. 

SWAMY’S WAY:

Swami says that devotion is a stamp which posts our loving thoughts to God. When a song is sung without understanding or love for God it is a meaningless rendition.  Swami always says: “I accept your singing only when love is the key note.” 

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SMARANAM

Smaranam is the constant ‘remembrance’ of the Lord, revelling in the contemplation of his beauty, majesty and compassion.

Smaranam is remembering the name of God when in joy or sorrow, during good and bad times, in health and sickness and during day and night, in the wakeful, dream or deep sleep state.

The little six-year-old devotee, Prahalad, is an outstanding example of Smaranam.

THE STORY OF PRAHALAD 

While Prahalad’s father Hiranyakashipu hated the Lord, Prahalad was madly in love with the Almighty. Hiranyakashipu had a boon from Brahma, the Creator, that no man or animal would kill him; he would die neither during day nor night; he would not be killed inside or outside, neither by an astra (a weapon held in the hand) nor shashtra (a weapon that can be thrown from a distance). He would die neither in the sky nor on ground.

Such a boon gave him a feeling of eternity and turned him into an arrogant person. He ordered people in his kingdom to worship him and he destroyed all temples of the Gods. Those who worshipped the Lord were persecuted and tortured. Prahalad learnt his lesson of devotion while he was still in his mother’s womb from none other than the sage Narada.

Hiranyakashipu was surprised and annoyed to hear little Prahalad talk about the God. Even talking about the Lord was considered a crime. Hiranyakashipu tried to teach the boy his own views and preach his own godhood. Prahalad was unmoved and he corrected his father which angered him.

Prahalad firmly decided to follow his heart and continued his devotion to the Lord. The whole world feared and obeyed the king except his own son. Hiranyakashipu was afraid of being laughed at or if his subjects would stop fearing him.

Therefore, he decided to have his own son killed. He gave orders for a drunk elephant to trample his son. Yet, Prahalad sat unperturbed in meditation. And wonder of wonders! The elephants that came charging towards him calmed down as they neared him, and they sat at his feet. That is how the Lord rescues His loved ones!

Prahalad was given poison to drink but it turned into nectar. He was thrown down from the top of a mountain, but Prahalad did not let anything distract his meditation. The Lord manifested at the bottom of the mountain to catch him. Prahalad was then made to sit in the fire with his aunt Holika, who had a boon that fire would not burn her. But lo and behold! Holika got burnt and Prahalad was unscathed.

The king, in a fit of anger and frustration, broke a pillar in his court room. From the debris emerged a most terrible form that was half man and half lion. The Lord assumed that terrible form to outsmart and destroy Hiranyakashipu.

The Lord caught hold of him and dragged him to the threshold at the entrance of his palace, which was neither inside nor outside. He pulled him on his lap which was neither in the sky nor the earth. It was dusk at that time, which was neither day nor night. He used His nails, which was neither astra or shashtra, to kill him. Thus, He kept His word and protected His dear devotee who always remembered Him.

The sweetness of Namasmarana is best exemplified by Narada, Shabari, Ambareesha, Prahalada, Surdasa, Tulsidas, Kabir Bhadrachala Ramdas, Draupati, Jayadeva, Gaurang, Tukaram, Poosalar Nayanar and many others who tasted and drank 'the Nectar of the Name' (Namamrita) and liberated themselves.

SWAMI’S WAY

“God if you think God you are, dust if you think dust you are.” Hence, we must spend our time thinking and reflecting on Bhagawan and His Leelas. We must spend time contemplating on His precious words.

Smaranam melts all negativities in the mind and fills it with the beauty that is Sai.

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PAADASEVANAM

Paadasevanam is worship of the Lord by concentrating upon or serving His feet or Paadukaa (sanctified sandals) or reverence.

To touch a person’s feet is a sign of humility and that is why in Indian tradition, we are taught to touch our parents’ and elders’ feet as a token of respect. The feet of the Supreme Lord are so soft and beautiful that they are known as paadapankajam or Lotus feet.

Simply thinking of the Lord’s feet takes devotees to deep feelings of love, longing and ecstasy. Even the mighty devas were delighted when little Krishna wandered the forests of Vrindavan, leaving His footprints in the dust. And Krishna’s dear friends the gopis would press this dust against their heads and hearts, lost in ecstatic trance.

One of the beautiful stories depicting bhakti extolled in Paadasevanam is none other than the story of Goddess Lakshmi Herself, the consort of Lord Vishnu. 

GODDESS LAKSHMI

When the Gods and demons were churning the ocean, in search of the Divine Nectar, of immortality, they found fourteen jewels one after the other. At one stage, while they were yet churning, there appeared Goddess Lakshmi, the daughter of the Ocean, she was beauty personified, fully decorated with lovely jewels. She had a vaijayantimala, the garland of Vaijayanti flowers (kind of Lotus) in her hands. As soon as the Gods and demons saw her, they had desire to marry her. They kept looking at her eagerly, to find out whom would she choose as her husband. The goddess looked around, but did not set her heart upon any one of them. Then she saw Lord Vishnu, who was resting upon Sesha and was not concerned about the worldly matters. He did not even care to look at her, what of desiring then? He was ever contained and blissful within Himself. Seeing Lord Vishnu detached to the worldly matters, Goddess Lakshmi thought him to be the right person to be her husband. So, she went to him and putting her garland round his neck, accepted him as her husband.

Goddess Lakshmi is always seen serving the Lotus feet of the Supreme. This is remarkable, as noted in Srimad-Bhagavatam(1.11.33): “The goddess of fortune, although by nature very restless and moving, could not quit the Supreme’s feet.”

Goddess Lakshmi is often restless in nature in the form of wealth and good fortune; both of which are elusive and temporary. Mortals cannot control Goddess Lakshmi, although many waste their lives trying. As a devoted servant of the Supreme, the Goddess of fortune bestows her bounty only with the Lord’s blessings.

Thus pada-sevanam offers a deep spiritual lesson. Though Lakshmi is the Goddess of wealth and presides over all forms of prosperity, she shows to the world that serving the Supreme’s feet is greater than all the treasures on earth. In present times, we often worship Shri (wealth) more than Hari (the Supreme). What we do not realize is that by worshipping the Supreme’s feet, wealth is achieved automatically.  

Devotion of Bharatha, Gopikas and Mary (disciple of Jesus) are also befitting examples for Paadasevanam.

SWAMY’S WAY

Paadasevanam need not be misconstrued as only physical prostration to God. It is a broader term which includes physical and mental surrender to the Lord’s feet and whole-heartedly engaging oneself in serving the lotus feet of the Lord, according to the time and circumstances.

Swami says “Serving the poor, the illiterate, the diseased and the distressed is the Paada Pooja God welcomes most”.

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ARCHANAM

“Whoever offers Me with devotion and a pure mind (heart), a leaf, a flower, a fruit ora little water—I accept this as devotion.” (Bhagavad Gita 9.26)

Archanam is complete “offering” in the form of prayers arati, food, flowers and even clothes to the Supreme. Love expresses in giving and as love for God grows in the heart of the devotee, he naturally wants to offer his best.  By doing this, the devotee derives inner satisfaction and inspiration.

The Archanam offered by King Prithu is considered to be of very high order.

KING PRITHU

He made nearly 100 Ashwamedha Yagnas, nearly became an Indra, Shatakradhu, and when Bhagavan appeared before him, he asked for a unique boon, "Vidatswa Karnayudhamesha me Varaha:", give me a 500 years for listening to your Uttama Sloka Gunanu Keerthanas (Glories)!! Then after giving the Kingdom to his children Prithu Maharaj went to Tapovanam and started doing the Tapas alone. Tapas is the form of Archana Bhakthi.

In this form of worship, Prithu demonstrated the unique significance of Angaarchana or using each of his sense organs in worshipping the Supreme. “Netra kamalamsamarpayami” (I offer my Lotus eyes to the Supreme). “Srotrakamalam samarpayami” (I offer the Lotus ears to the Supreme)”. “Hridayakamalam samarpayami” (I offer the Lotus of my heart to the Supreme): in this manner Prithu regarded every organ of his body as the Lotus to be offered to the Supreme Lord in worship.

One of the most wonderful aspects of Archanam is that it employs all the four forms of devotional service discussed so far i.e hearing about the Lord, chanting His names, remembering Him, and serving His Lotus feet. Thus it is a very significant form of devotion that can be practised in our daily life to seek God’s grace.

Regular Archanam creates a holy atmosphere in our homes and keeps our hearts and homes peaceful.

The devotion of Kannappa Nayanar, Saakya Nayanar and Rukmini (Krishna’s wife) are also good examples for Archanam.

SWAMY’S WAY:

Bhagawan exhorts us to offer our vices, feelings, thoughts, words, and deeds. When the vices are laid at His Feet, He fills our minds with the wealth of values. The Lord wants us to worship Him with the beautiful flowers grown with love in the garden of our heart. These are the flowers that truly please Him.

Ahimsa (the flower of non-violence), Indriya Nigraha (the flower of sense control), Kshama (the flower of patience, forbearance and forgiveness), Shanti (the flower of peace), Tapas (the flower of penance), Dhyana (the flower of contemplation on the Lord), Sathya (the flower of truth) are the eight flowers that Swamy wants us to offer him.

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VANDANAM

Vandanam is supreme ‘reverence’ or ‘prayer’ to the lord and is another form of devotion. In this, a devotee begins to see his favourite form of the Lord everywhere and in all beings and objects.

We offer our namaskar with folded hands. When we fold our hands together, what does it signify? Swami Himself explains, “When you fold your hands and bring them together, feel that you are offering all the actions of five karmendriyas and gyanendriyas indicated by the ten fingers.” Again, this indicates total surrender. The joint hands should also remind us of our true nature. How? The right palm indicates the Supreme, all-pervading consciousness that we call God – “Tat” or “That” from the Upanishads. The left palm indicates “Twam” – I, the limited Jeevatma. It reminds us that the ultimate goal of all spiritual practices is the merging of the two – jeevatma and parmatma. “TatTwamAsi” – That Thou Art, or I and He are one.

Through sincere prayers, many like Akrura have realized the Supreme.  Akrura’s prayers are explained in detail in Srimad Bhagavatham 10th canto; one of which is given below: “O son of Vasudeva [Krishna], obeisance to You, within whom all living beings reside. O Supreme of the mind and senses, again I offer You my obeisance. O master, please protect me, who has surrendered unto You.” —Akrura (SrimadBhagavatham 10.40.30)

AKRURA – THE UNCLE LORD KRISHNA

Akrura, the uncle of lord Krishna was one of the courtiers of Kamsa who was sent as a messenger to invite Krishna to Mathura to be killed. Akrura considered this as the greatest of opportunities to meet Lord Krishna and was immersed in so much longing and devotion to meet Him in Vrindavan.

As soon as he reached Vrindavan, when he saw the Lord’s footprints, he immediately jumped down from his chariot and saluted the sacred soil. His heart was filled with deep satisfaction even to see the footprints. He prayed sincerely to the Lord to free him from all kinds of fear and grief that was instigated by Kamsa. Thus he attained the lord through this form of devotion – vandanam.

Kunti, Draupadi and Gajendra (the elephant king) offered this form of devotion to attain the Lord.

SWAMY’S WAY

At the Balvikas conference in Prashanti Nilayam in 2001, Swami said, “See me in your heart and in the heart of everyone you meet.” That is the ultimate goal of all spiritual practices, to see and serve the Lord in all His creation. Seeing and loving Him in one and all is true devotion. We must live our life as Swami says: “With hands in society and heads in forests.”

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DAASYAM

Daasyam is a form of devotion where the devotee sees himself as not just the ‘servant’ of the Lord but also the servant of the Lord’s devotees. Daasyam refers to a heartfelt yearning to be of personal service to God.

Swami says “Devotion begins with DASOHAM, the attitude that you are the servant of God, and progresses to the stage of SOHAM, where you become one with God.” 

Daasyam is expressed as seva (service) of the beloved. For, it is this which gives maximum happiness to the devotee. But, by itself it is not seva, it is an attitude. It is the willingness in the devotee to serve. The devotee considers himself as an instrument in the hands of his beloved Lord. He considers all situations as coming directly from the Lord. He considers all actions coming from his own body and mind as the Lord’s work, as His grace.

The Ramayana offers an extraordinary example of personal service. Rama did not have to instruct Hanuman or offer endless encouragement. Hanuman’s pure love for the Lord itself enthralled Rama as whenever Hanuman got the opportunity to serve Rama, he never missed it. It is impossible to summarize Hanuman’s devotion in a couple of Paragraphs. Few excerpts are given below.

HANUMAN’S DEVOTION

Once, when Hanuman had not been to Lanka yet, all were lying down in the open on a moonlit night. Sri Rama too was reclining. How? There were no beds there, only sand. Rama was in the guise of a Yatri, with matted locks etc. While Lakshmana sat down,Rama’s head was resting on his lap. Rama, in the course of conversation, put a question to each one present around Him. He asked Sugreeva, “Sugreeva, do you see the darkspot in the moon? What do you think it is?” Sugreeva replied that he did not know.Rama next asked Jambavan. Jambavan, who was well versed in astrology, ecology and geography, said it was the shadow of mountains and carters on the moon's surface. Rama continued throwing the question to every one else. When it was the turn of Lakshmana, he replied, “Brother! It looks like a deer or some animal like that”. Hanuman, who was massaging the legs of Rama, was asked as to what he saw in the moon; He said, “Rama! I see nothing strange there. As You lie down here, Your face is reflected in the clear moon. So, it is the image of Your face in the mirror of the moon that I see.” Thus, Hanuman saw Sri Rama’s name and form in everything. At all times, he was engaged in Rama’s service undistracted. 

Even when Hanuman reached Lanka, and was caught and brought before the court ofthe demon king Ravana, Hanuman maintained his identity as Rama’s humble servant.When Ravana questioned him thus, “Impertinent monkey, tell me, who are you?” Without blinking his eye, Hanuman replied, “Dasoham Koshalendrasya.” I am the servant of Lord Ram who is the noble son of mother Kaushalya. It should be remembered that Hanuman had several other identities. He was the son of Vayu, the wind God. He was also the disciple of Surya, the Sun God. He was the chief minister of Sugreeva, who ruled Kishkinda. But when questioned by Ravana he did not mention any of these by way of introduction. Instead, he very proudly announced himself as a servant of Sri Rama. His devotion to Lord Rama exemplifies Daasyam. Of all the relationships he had in the world, he felt the relationship with the Lord as the dearest to him, hence the declaration.

Back in Ayodhya, the brothers of Rama divided all the tasks needed to be performed for Rama among themselves, leaving Hanuman with nothing to do. But the ever-ready-to-serve, Hanuman, always found a way to serve his beloved Lord, Rama. He took up the duty of snapping his fingers when Sri Rama yawned! Pleased with His spirit of unrelenting service, Rama even offered Him Moksha but Hanuman declines it. To Him, this body consecrated by being near His Lord, blessed by Darshan of Mother Sita was dearer than Moksha.

He said “My dear Lord, if You like, You can give me salvation from this material existence, or the privilege of merging into Your existence, but I do not wish any of these things. I do not want anything which diminishes my relationship with you as servant tomaster even after liberation. ”Mother Sita thus blessed Hanuman with immortality calling him a Chiranjivi. In the Dhyana shloka of Ramayana, it is said, “Wherever Ramayana is being recited, there the great Maruti, who is the destroyer of rakshasas, sits listening humbly with folded hands and with eyes overflowing with tears of joy.” Thus Rama bhakti and consequential peace and joy can be enjoyed by worshipping Lord Hanuman.

Lakshmana and Angada cultivated this Daasya Bhakti.

SWAMY’S WAY

Swami says “You are My instruments for whom My love will pour. Be always aware that the moment you let your ego descend upon you My work ceases. When you have overcome your negative attributes, you will again become My source”. Watching the mind is the most beneficial spiritual exercise. It matures the devotee tremendously and helps to overcome the negative traits.

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SAKHYAM

Sakhyam is the form of devotion where in the devotee considers himself to be the ‘friend’ or sakhaa of the Supreme.

Good friends are so rare and precious and if the Lord Himself is our friend, it is a blessing. We have someone to turn to in times of need and to share our joys. While we worship God in different ways, there are very few who had Him as their closest friend. 

Swami often speaks of His two school friends, Ramesh and Suresh in His discourses, while talking about His childhood days. In Mahabaratha, Arjuna's closest friend was Lord Krishna. Krishna and Arjuna shared a very close bond with each other. Arjuna was said to be at the Sakhyam level of devotion and such was the relationship that, Krishna always revealed the secrets of His actions to him.

Who else can be our best friend other than the Supreme? Arjuna is the classic example of a devotee who achieved perfection through friendship with the Lord. Krishna was so familiar to Arjuna that he even asked Krishna to drive his chariot in the battle of Kurukshetra! And yet, when Arjuna became confused as he faced his relatives on the battlefield, he turned to his friend and charioteer for help.  Because Arjuna had such a friendly rapport with the lord, his turning to Krishna for instruction was a shift in the relationship.

When Krishna reveals His magnificent universal form to His friend Arjuna, he was aghast, and stammered out an apology. “I have in the past addressed You as ‘O Krishna,’ ‘O Yadava,’ ‘O my friend,’ without knowing Your glories. Please forgive whatever I may have done in madness or in love.” (Bhagavad Gita. Chapter 11.41) Krishna is so kind and merciful that in spite of such opulence He played with Arjuna as a friend. Such is the transcendental loving reciprocation between the devotee and the Lord.

Although Arjuna had seen the opulence in Krishna’s universal form, he could not forget the friendly relationship with Him. This is the beauty of having an eternal friendship with the Lord!

Completely pure souls in the spiritual world enjoy a friendship with the Lord because they have no desire for anything else. In the text Madhurashtakam it is stated –how sweet is Lord’s friendship with us – “sakhyam madhuram”! Recognizing that the Lord has already extended Himself to us, it is left to us to reciprocate His friendship.

Sudhama, Udhava and Gopalas are pure souls in the spiritual world enjoyed a friendship with the Lord because they have no desire for anything else.

SWAMY’S WAY

Swami says “Friendship is the expression of unshakable love, love that is noble, pure, and free from desire or egoism.” If I like someone and want to establish a friendship with him, I have to get to know that person and let the person get to know me too. On the Sakhyam level of devotion, the devotee gets to experience God’s love.

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AATMANIVEDANAM

Aatmanivedanam  means yielding fully or the ‘complete surrender’ to the will of the Supreme, with no traces of ego whatsoever left in the devotee’s heart. Completely filled with devotion to God, the devotee gains the knowledge of his true self in this form of devotion where the devotee and the lord become one.

In Bhagavad Gita by Krishna as: “He who constantly remembers me and worships me at all times, is protected and his welfare is taken care of by Me at all times.” King Bali is the perfect example of Aatmanivedanam or complete self-surrender unto the Lord.

KING BALI

In Vamana avatar of Lord Vishnu, King Bali welcomed the Lord disguised as a young Brahmin with open arms and promised him that he would offer him whatever he desired. He offered to wash the feet of Vamana and sanctify himself by sprinkling that water on his own head. Bali’s preceptor, Sukracharya was an all-knowing counsellor. Aware that Vamana was an incarnation of Vishnu, he advised Bali to go back on his offer to Vamana. But Bali’s magnanimity and greatness may be seen in the fact that he refused to accept his preceptor’s advice. Bali said, “When the Supreme lord Himself has come to me with out-stretched hands asking for a gift, what greater good fortune I can have than making the gift from my humble hands? I am prepared to give away everything regardless of what happens to me.”

Bali told Lord Vishnu: “I offer to you, Oh lord, all my wealth and possessions, as well as myself. I take refuge in you, protect me, Oh lord.” (Srimad Bhagavatham 8th canto). This was the sense of abnegation with which Bali offered himself to Lord Vamana. Thus he attained the Lord through his selfless devotion and surrender to the Supreme.

When the Lord’s feet touched Bali’s head, Bali experienced instant illumination and bliss.

In other words, we should learn how to cry for the Lord in tears of bhakti. Such tears are the price for the highest perfection.

This feeling of ‘oneness’ with the Lord is achieved by Radha and Sri Rama Krishna Paramahamsa.

SWAMY’S WAY:

Swami calls for Thrikarna Shudhi - purification of thought, word, and deed - to make this life sacred. When the Baktha is absolutely pure and perfect, he becomes the Lord, Himself. 

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Balvikas Activities

The topic is referred to in the Group 2 syllabus. This write up will supplement the information in the syllabus.

The Balvikas Guru can teach the nine forms of devotion through:

  • Simple explanation of each form with the help of a story.
  • Conducting fancy dress on the theme ‘Nine Forms of Devotion’
  • Handmade puppets enacting each devotion in a narrative. 
  • Thematic Golu arrangements on ‘Nine Forms of Devotion’ in the Balvikas centres during Navaratri festival
  • Group dance on ‘Nine Forms of Devotion’
  • Group singing on ‘Nine Forms of Devotion’
  • Role plays where children play the roles of devotees and understand how thedevotion develops.
  • Interactive sessions with children to find out the various examples from religious literatures/divine discourses of each path of devotion.
  • Interactive sessions with examples that include a combination of ‘Nine Forms of Devotion’ can be highlighted to children. For instance,

    Footnotes

    • Though Prahalada is a classic example of Smaranam, for him it all started with Narada Maharishi while he was in his mother’s womb which represents Shravanam.
    • Meera and Andal are classic examples of Keerthanam but ended with Aatmanivedanam.

SWAMY’S WAY:

Swamy says, "Fill your eyes with the beauty of His Form, your ears with the stories of His Leelas, your heart with the sweetness of His Glory; inspire yourselves by seeing Him everywhere. Think of His immanence in every hill and dale, every man and beast, every tree, bird and insect. You will be really thrilled with joy of that Vision. That will make your work as light as puja."

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