Bhakti Has Many Amazing Stages
The below stages of bhakti are described in the "Bhakti-Rasamrit-Sindhu" (The Ocean of Blissful Nectar of Devotion), written over 500 years ago by a great Rasik Saint of Vrindaban, Roop Goswami.
For the purposes of our spiritual practice, we can understand that bhakti has two main stages. The first is sadhana bhakti or the preliminary bhakti meditation that we practice. The second is siddha bhakti or perfect Divine love, which is a power of God.
Through preliminary bhakti (devotion) we prepare ourselves to attain Divine bhakti (Divine love). So through practicing one bhakti we attain another bhakti.
This means there are ten kinds of bhakti or devotion:
Divine and realized stages:
- Sadhana Bhakti
- Bhav Bhakti
- Prema Bhakti
- Sneh Bhakti
- Maan Bhakti
- Pranaya Bhakti
- Raag Bhakti
- Anuraag Bhakti
- Bhavavesh Bhakti
- Mahabhav Bhakti
The remaining eight Divine stages are attained through the grace of Radha Krishna and a Rasik Saint.
Intellectual Stage of Preparatory Devotion:
Sadhana bhakti is the preliminary stage of devotion. This is the introductory stage of intellectually understanding the importance of devotional remembrance. However, it may still be difficult to keep the mind focused in your meditation practice.
You will feel a pull both towards your practice and also towards the field of your attachments in the world.
This is a period of continuously refreshing the mind with correct understanding received from the Guru about proper practice and service, the true relationship of the soul with God, and the greatness of Divine love. Eventually this understanding is retained in the mind, and whatever we firmly understand, we become.
On the base of our firm determination, consistent efforts and Guru's grace, our devotion becomes natural.
Natural Stage of Preparatory Devotion:
Bhav bhakti is the natural emotional stage of prepatory devotion. This is the beginning of a true and spontaneous longing for Radha Krishna. It initially may appear in the form of tears of longing, and then appears in sweeter and sweeter forms.
This inner devotional development becomes evident as:
- Willingness -- feeling truly related to Radha Krishna, you deeply long to meet Them
- Valuing Time -- realizing time is short, you don't waste time in activities that don't support your practice and you utilize all available time in remembrance
- Detachment -- while maintaining harmony in all your worldly relations, you remain emotionally detached from them
- Indifference -- you feel a lack of ambition for worldly gratification and praise
- Hope -- you have a warm optimistic feeling that one day you will see Radha Krishn with your own eyes
- Excitement -- you frequently feel a thrill as if Krishna or Radha were actually physically close to you, but as yet unseen
- Delight -- you feel joy in every aspect of your practice, especially kirtan or chanting the Divine name and leelas
- Attachment -- you feel increasingly attached to all of Krishna's qualities (His beauty, sweetness, kindness, graciousness) and you desire to live in the pilgrimage places related to Radha Krishna during Their descension 5,000 years ago
In this evolved state of consciousness, you experience different types of devotional emotions (called "bhav"), which are of varying strengths and may appear in different forms.
These relate to the emotional state of meeting or feeling that Radha Krishna are close to you (called "milan"), or to the feeling of being separated from Radha Krishna (called "virah").
The emotional heat that is produced from both the feeling of separation and the excitement of meeting burns up the devotees accumulated impurities and purifies his heart, just a strong fire will melt and purify gold.
Madhusudan Saraswati wrote in the "Bhakti Rasayan",
"When the heart of a devotee melts in the heat of the feeling of separation, it acquires the qualities of Divine love. Such a melted heart becomes saturated with Krishna's love and from this starts a natural and unbroken remembrance of Krishna (bhav bhakti)."
As a devotee's heart becomes more purified through remembrance, whether in waking state, during meditation or in any other state, he remains continuously absorbed in these loving emotions of bhav bhakti.
Divine Stage: Siddha or Prema Bhakti
This is the final enlightened stage of bhakti. The heart of the disciple is now completely pure, and the evidence of this is his Guru (the Rasik Saint) graces him with Divine enlightenment. The Bhagwatam describes this experience:
"At this stage, the heart and mind of a devotee become one with Krishna. They cease to be material and become a form of Krishna's Divine love. His veil of maya is destroyed, just as the germinating power of a grain is destroyed when it is roasted. He attains Krishna's eternal association, and with Krishna's grace, he experiences Divine love and Divine beauty."
From this point, the practitioner becomes a Saint, he sees the true form of Radha Krishna and experiences the always-new experience of the ever-increasing bliss of Divine love, forever.
Set Your Devotional Goal
These classes and states are the subtlest manifestations of the Divine. They can't be understood without experience. When your heart has been purified to some extent through your bhakti meditation practice, it is possible to guess the greatness of these states, but this, too, is only possible with the grace of a Guru who has attained those states.
While these are the highest and most sublime states of Divine love, they are also not difficult to attain. Non-dual practices of gyan, which produce a less enriched Divine experience, are much harder to practice. But the attainment of Divine love is the easiest to realize through bhakti yoga meditation.
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