Bhakti – Important and unique concepts in Sanatana Dharma aka Hinduism

I got a lot of positive feedback on my previous article and I have been asked to write more and share my views on philosophy in general and on Sanatana Dharma in particular. And it is my duty to do so and spread what I have learned from all the books that I have read and my personal experience. I will keep using the same style of writing i.e. define certain words so that all of us get on the same page and similar line of thinking before I start writing anything. Of course parts of it will be controversial and there will be a lot of readers who will disagree and outright disapprove but thats the good thing about Sanatana Dharma. You don’t have to agree to neither everything nor anything. And still the whole world can leave in peace and harmony. Lets point out some important words here.

– Sanatana Dharma: Sanatana Dharma is a word in Sanskrit meaning “the eternal law” existed long before “religion” was invented as an “organized corporation”. It was a way of life for the people. There are/were a whole lot of beliefs and scriptures incorporated in the structure based on Sruti, Smriti, Puranas and Vedas.

– Dharma: Roughly translated into English as “Religion”. But one needs to be aware that religion is an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems and world views that related to spirituality and “sometimes to moral values” ( This definition of religion is very narrow and does not cover all the aspects of the word Dharma as defined in Sanskrit. Dharma is that which upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe and designates those behaviours considered necessary for the maintenance of the natural order of things. It encompasses ideas such as duty, vocation, religion and all behaviour considered approriate, correct and morally upright (

– Hinduism: Is the western name given to the people who follow the Hindu religion. In the past the Indus River was a predominant historic appellation in the northwestern part of the Indian Subcontinent also known as Sindhu ( After the 8th century, there began a series of attacks from the newly found Muslim religion from the west. The first of those attacks started from the persian speaking mulsims (please do not confuse them with Parsis). The culture on the east side of Indus was everything different than the muslims had ever seen. So they began referring to the people on the east of Indus river by the local name Sindhu. But since Persian does not have an “S” sound, they used to say “H”indu. Hence the name Hindu was coined and it has been stuck with the followers of Sanatana Dharma since the 8th century.

– Bhakti: Is devotion in the form of active involvement of a devotee in worksho pof the divine (

Now with the words out of our way, lets start by discussing some very important and unique concepts that are only available in Sanatana Dharma. I will just focus on “Bhakti” as the main topic for this article. Bhakti is one of the basics of our Dharma and it is unique. It is not enforced through a fear for hell, or through a revengeful god or through an evil and lusty devil or through gifts and promises in the afterlife or through any other consideration. Bhakti is just driven by the moral need to do the right thing at the right time and follow the Dharma (as defined above) i.e. make sure that there is the maintenance of the natural order of things. There are many different forms of Bhakti and traiditons ascribed to it. Parts of some have been taken by other “Religions” although they have modified and twisted it to form a totally different beast out of the original concept! In this article, I will focus on the nine forms of Bhakti (Navdha Bhakti) which is described in Valmiki Ramanayan.

As the history goes, Lord Sri Ram was with Laxmana in search of Mata Sita when she was abducted by the evil Brahman King Ravana. I want to stress that Ravana was a Brahman since there are a lot of people who believe that he was of the lower varnas. Again there is a lot of mis-propoganda on Ravana which I will tackle in some of my other article. But looking for a clue to take the next step in search of Mata Sita, Lord Sri Ram comes to Matan Rishi’s Ashram where he meets Sabri. Sabri is a lower caste, tribal woman who has spent her whole life in order to meet the Lord. On her request to know about Navdha Bhakti, Lord Sri Ram narrates about the 9 different forms of Bhakti as listed below.

1. Satsang Bhakti: Is the kind of Bhakti which happens when a person sits with learned people/saints and participates in various discussions.
2. Katha Bhakti: Is the kind of Bhakti where the person listens to the tales/stories/deeds of the Lord and his leela (games that Lord plays with us mortals).
3. Guru Seva Bhakti: Is the kind of Bhakti where the person does selfless service to his Guru without any pride. In Santana Dharma, both Guru and parents have higher positions than the Lord himself. I will explain this concept in some other article.
4. Gungaan Bhakti: Is the kind of Bhakti where one praises the Lord’s virtues with a heart clear of guile, deceipt or hypocrisy.
5. Naam Jaap Bhakti: Is the kind of Bhakti where one chants the name of the Lord as revealed in the Vedas.
6. Moral/Vairagya Bhakti: Is the kind of Bhakti where one practices self-control, has a good character, has detachment from manfold duties and follows the various Dharmas as ascribed in the Vedas.
7. Sant Bhakti: Is the kind of Bhakti where one precieves the word as God himself and regards the saints higher than the Lord.
8. Contentment: Is the kind of Bhakti where there is no desire but perfect peace and contentment with everything one posses and does not see fault in others even in his dreams. Such a state is attained after the person travels through the first seven kinds of Bhakti margs.
9. The Lord Everywhere: Is the kind of Bhakti where one has full faith in the Lord and becomes clean of any hypocrisy or deceit. One has strong faith in the Lord with neither exaltation or depression in any situation.

The interested can read more at and In the latter link, you also find the Navdha Bhakti as detailed out in Srimad Bhagvad. Essentially it is the same thing but instead closely and more tightly devoted to Lord Sri Krishna. Of course there are many other different kinds of Bhakti margs which I am not listing here.

One other form of Bhakti which I would like to mention is known as “Para-Bhakti”. It is the highest form of devotion in which the devotee himself is one with the Lord. He is so engrosed in the Lord that he sees him everywhere, he even feels like he is the Lord himself and tries to act and do what the Lord would act and do. An example of such Para-bhakti is given in Vishnu Puran where Raja Paundrak himself feels that he is the ultimate Lord Sri Krishna! He calls Lord Sri Krishna an imposter whereas himself as the real Lord Sri Krishna! And he even dresses like Sri Krishna, even owns a Chakra like Sri Krishna and even has a sevak similar to Lord Sri Hanumanji and calls himself “Murlidhar”!

When Rukminiji asks about Paundrak to Lord Sri Krishna and why Lord Sri Krishna is allowing Paundrak to be an imposter, the simple answer by the Lord is that Paundrak is so much into the Lord’s Bhakti that he considers himself to be one with Lord Sri Krishna. It is taken by Lord Sri Krishna as the highest instance of “Para-Bhakti”. And to Paundrak’s good luck, his soul was later given “Salvation” as he was killed by Lord Sri Krishna. He got the “Salvation” despite of his bad deeds since he was totally engrossed in “Para-Bhakti”. You can read more about the story from as written by Srila Prabhupada himself.

With that, I end up my article on Bhakti wherein I haven’t touched much on Apara-bhakti but that maybe for next time. I would like to have your comments and suggestions. Hare Krishna, Jai Sri Krishna.