Navavidha bhakti comprises the nine ways to express devotion or develop devotion for God or the higher Self. Mentioned in the Hindu scriptures, the “Srimad-Bhagavata” and the “Vishnu Purana,” navavidha bhakti is also described as the devotional paths that lead to moksha, or liberation.
The term comes from the Sanskrit, navavidha, meaning “nine-fold” or “consisting of nine parts,” and bhakti, meaning “faithfulness,” “devotion to” or “love.” In Hinduism and yoga, there are different paths to salvation with bhakti being just one. Jnana is the path of knowledge, Karma is the path of action, and Raja is the royal path, or the eight-fold path of yoga as explained in the Yoga Sutras.
The devotional path of bhakti is divided into nine types, or navavidha bhakti. They are:
- Shravanam — Listening to the names of and stories about God. By listening to His glories, we begin to subconsciously develop love and reverence for Him.
- Keertanam — Chanting or singing about God. It is said that Keertanam is the only way to achieve salvation in this kali yuga. The Meera bhajans are the ultimate example of this.
- Smaranam — Remembering God throughout the day. The greatest example of a devotee who realized God through smaranam is Prahlad who was just a little child at the time he attained God realization.
- Paada sevanam — Serving God willingly. To approach a person’s feet is a sign of humility and that is why in Indian tradition, we are taught to touch our parent’s and elder’s feet as a token of respect. The feet of the Supreme Lord are so sweet and beautiful that they are known as paada pankajam or Lotus feet as they are so soft and red like the lotus petals.
- Archanam — Worshiping God. Archanam, the fifth form of devotion, is the complete “offering” in the form of pujas or ritualstic worship, chanting mantras, singing bhajans, offering arati, food, flowers and even clothes to the Supreme.
- vandanam — Praising God selflessly and with total submission. Vandanam is an intensely personal process and it may also be the most universal form of bhakti.
- Daasyam — Serving God. Daasyam refers to a heartfelt yearning to be of personal service to the Supreme. It is the ultimate expression of humility, yet it is bold in its aspiration to such a lofty position.
- Hanuman is the supreme example of daasya bhaktha or the one who realized God through serving Him wholeheartedly.
- Sakhyam — Developing a friendship with God.
Arjuna is another 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.
- . Aatma Nivedanam — Surrendering oneself to God; Self-realization or Samadhi. Aatmanivedanam is the ninth form of devotion which 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. This feeling of ‘oneness’ with the lord and all His divine beings is achieved only in the spirit of the final form of devotion to the Supreme–aatmanivedanam.
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