Brilliance of the Breath-Giving Bhakti

ONLY the brilliance of Bhakti shines in the greatest splendor of Absolute Love
Keywords: Bhakti, Brilliance, Emotion, Action, Human, Intellectual, Rational 
Listen to article

Equation of  Bhakti 

Bhakti is the science of emotion, thought and action.  It trains the emotional faculty to maturity, and expands the heart in relation to the head, without which a human being can become a  mere intellectual-rational animal. The culture of Bhakti broadens the vision of life to overcome pettiness, violence, and cruelty, and raise one’s standard to the highest level of mindfulness, consciousness, and oneness!

Sage  Narada is an exalted celestial sage who twangs His Veena to spread wisdom &  enlightenment, the Divine Rishi 

  • who transformed dacoit (robber) Ratnakara into Adi Kavi Valmiki- due to which humanity received the Ramayana,  read even today 
  • who inspired VedaVyasa to  write  Srimad Bhagvatham, read even today
  • who initiated Prahlada & Dhruva –  the star children seen even today!

; in his scripture Narada Bhakti Sutra, venerated in the Hindu traditions, he has given the following formula for Bhakti ➖

Celestial Sage Narada 

Prema = Kama + Tyaga 

प्रेम = काम + त्याग

Where Love ( Prema) = Desires that  are binding and demanding (Kama)+ empathy to give without motive (Tyaga)

When Love gets purified and actions are done with an attitude of offering their results to the Almighty Isvara. In surrender, the Divine will operate and take over the individual will. This becomes Bhakti.


Bhakti = purification of Prema + Sharanagati ( surrender) 

भक्ति =  प्रेम + शरणागति

By raising oneself from Kama to Prema and then from Prema to Bhakti, one attains perfect peace and contentment. In Bhakti, there is distress only when forgetting the Divine. There is no room for comparisons or apprehensions.

The means/methods of Bhakti 

Hiranyakashipu, a demon, had  4 sons – Samhrada, Anuhrada, Hrda, and Prahlada.

Unlike his 3 brothers, Prahlada had divine virtues and qualities that were intrinsic to the benevolent devas. He would relieve others of pain, respect elders, honor the Vedas, the Brahmins, cows, sages and loved all beings, with humility and equanimity. His Gurus were instructed to initiate him into the code of asuras – to be demonic, trapped in ego and senses, as per his father’s wish. 

Demon Hiranya orders to the Gurus 

Demon Hiranya orders to the Gurus 

But for Prahlada, the best thing in the world was to surrender to the feet of Lord Narayana, for whose  Grace he had a craving. Lord Narayana was the magnetic field that this little five-year-old boy was drawn to, naturally. He was a true bhakta, a bhagavata.

His Gurus however attempted by all means to make Prahlada treat Lord Narayana as his enemy as per the command of their King Hiranyakashipu, but they could not succeed. Time passed.

 Once his asuric father, asked :

 “ Son, tell me what  you have learnt.”

“Father, I have learnt NINE important methods  of approaching Lord Narayana, the all-pervading, omniscient & omnipotent Lord’

  1. श्रवणं – Sravanam: Listening 
  2. कीर्तनं – singing Lord’s glories
  3. स्मरणं – remembering the Nama 
  4. पादसेवनम् – worshipping the Lotus Feet of the Lord
  5. अर्चनं – Offering the best 
  6. वन्दनं – Prostration 
  7. दास्यं – Service
  8. सख्यं – friendship
  9. आत्मनिवेदनम् – Atmanivedanam -Surrender of self 

The story subsequently ends with the demon Hiranyakashipu being torn to pieces by the Lord himself, according to the boons and conditions he had laid for his own death.

These nine methods of Bhakti, for reaching the Supreme, were explained with such conviction and clarity by five years Prahlada! 

What made him think and act so nobly and very differently from others? 

“ The Lord who is beyond duality has put these thoughts into my mind and none else. Only His form is in my  heart forever” – child Prahlada

Kinds of  Bhakta ( Devotees)

चतुर्विधा भजन्ते मां जना: सुकृतिनोऽर्जुन |

आर्तो जिज्ञासुरर्थार्थी ज्ञानी च भरतर्षभ || 7. 16||

There are  4 kinds of Bhakta, Says Bhagavan Krishna 

  1. artah आर्त: –  one who is seized by distress. One who will call upon the Almighty, but only when in distress. Till then the Lord is absent and forgotten in his life.
  1. Artharthi अर्थ-अर्थी – who recognises the factor of daiva ( the Lord)  in all his pursuits of power, position and pleasure and his powerlessness without it! He invokes grace for the fulfillment of his desires alone.
  1. Jignasuh जिज्ञासुः –  one who wants to know the bhagavat-tattva, the truth of daiva – Isvara; not as an accomplice for his accomplishments but to gain a clear mind and knowledge of  Isvara. He is a great devotee. 
  1. Jnani ज्ञानी – whose identification with Isvara is total. He who knows the truth as himself. A bhakti that has fulfilled itself, as absolute love. 

The Dearest Bhakta

  ये तु धर्म्यामृतमिदं यथोक्तं पर्युपासते |

श्रद्दधाना मत्परमा भक्तास्तेऽतीव मे प्रिया: || 12.20||

In this concluding verse of Chapter 12 in the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan Krishna gives a beautiful summary of the revelation that the supreme path of spirituality is Bhakti, and those who develop this shraddha –  faith, and lead a life permeated with the qualities aforementioned, are the best Bhakta and the most dear to Him!

Epitome of Bhakti 

Once Krishna wanted to test the love of his devotees for Him. Feigning a headache he told sage Narada that only the dust of the feet of a true devotee would cure Him. Shocked at  His orders, none were ready to do it ! Narada was told to go to Brindavan and ask the Gopikas there. 

Gopikas cried angrily” When the Lord was with us He never fell ill, He was fine! You are all not taking care of Him properly.”

They wasted no time in collecting the dust off their feet and giving it to the  Sage for the sake of Krishna’s speedy recovery. Narada warned them of punishment for their impudent act. 

“ We do not care what happens to us as long as Krishna is cured of his pain. We can bear any punishment for that” rebuked the Gopikas.

The Gopikas were  an epitome of Bhakti !

श्रुत्वा हनुमतो वाक्यम् यथावद्भिभाषितम् |

रामः प्रीतिसमायुक्तो वाक्यमुत्तरमब्रवीत् ||

(Valmiki Ramayana Yuddha Kanda Sloka 1 &  2 )

“ Filled with delight  to hear the story of Hanuman, faithfully narrated,  Shri Rama made the  following appropriate reply – a very great work, rare on earth, has been done  by  Hanuman, which could not be accomplished even in thought by  any other  on the earth’s  surface”

इत्युक्त्वा प्रीतिहृष्टाङ्गो रामस्तम् परिष्स्वजे | 

 हनुमन्तम् कृतात्मानम् क्ऱ्६इतवाक्यमुपागतम् ||

(Valmiki Ramayana Yuddha Kanda Sloka 14 )

“Saying so, Sri Rama, whose limbs  were thrilled with  delight,  embraced the  celebrated  Hanuman, who had disciplined his mind and who had just returned having  carried out His behest”

This unreserved embrace is Bhakti, wherein: – 

  • The Bhakta &  Bhagavan become one
  • The  individual  will & the divine will merge into one 
  • The form is absorbed into Absolute Awareness
  • The wave and the ocean have no division
  • The mortal becomes immortal

And ONLY the brilliance of Bhakti shines in the greatest splendor of Absolute Love!


  1. Srimad Bhagavatam – Kamala Subramaniam 
  2. Srimad Valmiki Ramayana Part II – Gita Press, Gorakhpur,India
  3. The Bhagavad Gita  –  Swami Dayananda Saraswati Ji
  4. Yoga Instructor’s Course Theory Book – S-Vyasa Yoga University

Add comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pavithra Srinivasan

Pavithra Srinivasan is a Visiting Fellow of India Foundation. She is an acclaimed Bharatnatyam dancer, and founder of Arsha Kala Bharathi.

View all posts