Bhakti – love and devotion to the Supreme Lord

Bhakti (Sanskrit: भक्ति, bhakti) Devotion, love, humility, worship, deepest connection with God always and under all circumstances. Bhakti is loving devotion to God.


Every living being is an immortal spiritual soul, a tiny part of God, who is the source of all creation and the source of all living beings. Therefore, one who has realised this, will naturally desire to offer service to this Supreme Lord in love and devotion. This is the process of bhakti-yoga. The term “yoga” literally means “to connect”, and “bhakti” means “love” and also “devotional service”. Thus, the process of Bhakti-Yoga consists of “connecting with the Supreme through loving, devotional service”.

Since we living beings are parts of the Supreme, self-realisation and God-realisation go hand in hand. Therefore, we cannot avoid serving the Supreme Lord when we strive for self-realisation. The Vedas give an example in this context: When the sun rises in the morning sky, one can simultaneously recognise the sun and oneself as well as the entire environment. Similarly, through the process of Bhakti-Yoga, one attains knowledge of God and at the same time knowledge of our own spiritual identity and our relationship with God.

योगिनामपि सर्वेषां मद्गतेनान्तरात्मना ।

yoginām api sarveṣāṁ / mad-gatenāntarātmanā
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ / sa me yuktatamo mataḥ

“Of all yogīs, the one who is most closely united with Me in yoga, is the one who always abides in Me with great faith and worships Me in transcendental loving service, and he is the highest of all.” (BG 6.47)

The process of Bhakti-Yoga includes various activities, such as chanting the holy names of God, studying the Vedic scriptures, personal prayers, worshipping the deities, practical service, etc., which of course should not only be performed externally, but with inner meditation and loving devotion.

The ultimate goal is to always be aware of your relationship with God and to develop love for him. It is natural for the pure soul to love God. But due to the material covering, the soul forgets his real position and tries to enjoy the material body with the senses, thus becoming entangled in the cycle of birth and death. Through Bhakti-Yoga, one can free oneself from the material “prison” and thus be liberated from all suffering, worries and material desires already here in the material world and return to the eternal spiritual world, the kingdom of God, at the end of life.

– Bhakti-Yoga –
Devotional Service

Bhakti-yoga means “yoga of devotion”, i.e. devotional service to the Supreme Lord or practised Krishna consciousness. The scholars divide devotional service into 9 categories: 1. listening (reading), 2. chanting, 3. remembering, 4. serving, 5. worshipping, 6. praying, 7. carrying out instructions, 8. friendship, 9. complete surrender. In short, it means following the instructions of Krishna and the bona fide spiritual master. There are countless forms and variations of devotional service, which are divided into pure devotional service (without material motivation) and mixed devotional service (with material motivation).

Pure devotional service

Pure devotional service is the most advanced form and the ultimate goal of Bhakti-yoga. It means to engage in devotional service without any material motivation such as inner peace, a place in heaven, salvation from all suffering, the Promised Land, prosperity, health, etc. The only motivation of pure devotional service is to remain forever in this pure devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such a pure devotee is beyond heaven, earth and hell. He considers heaven without pure devotional service to be hell, and vice versa. We must be very careful not to imitate the exalted position of such an advanced soul. Pure devotion is a gift from Krishna and He will grant it to one who follows the bona fide spiritual master with determination and sincerity.

Mixed devotional service

When one engages in devotional service to attain heaven, salvation, inner peace, health, mystic powers, etc., it is called mixed devotional service. Most pious people are engaged in this type of Bhakti-yoga, which gradually elevates the practitioners to pure devotional service. One who is intelligent enough should endeavour for pure devotional service by following the instructions of a bona fide spiritual master who is a pure devotee and who chants the Holy Name continuously. For devotees who want to practice pure devotional service, it is recommended not to associate with those who practice mixed devotional service, as they are (still) afflicted with many sins.

Raganuga bhakti

Raganuga Bhakti (spontaneous devotional service) is the advanced stage of practice in Bhakti-yoga. One who follows the bona fide spiritual master and attains the stage of liberation from the material world after overcoming his material attachments (anartha-nivritti) realises his eternal self (svarupa, the eternal transcendental identity of the soul) and engages this transcendental identity (himself) in what is called Raganuga Bhakti. This realisation is not mere imagination or speculation. The real self is revealed in due course when one sincerely engages in devotional service under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master like Srila Prabhupada.

Raganuga Bhakti is beyond the material platform and is not meant for the material body or the material mind. So-called sahajiyas (pseudo devotees) are under the misconception that the material gross or subtle body is the true self and as a result may dress as gopis or gopas (consorts of Krishna), but they only frighten people and deceive fools. Other sahajiyas dream up such things in their minds and put on a “spiritual” show with tears, loud shouting, singing and other “ecstatic” appearances, which even materially sensible people find embarrassing and repulsive, not to mention the genuine devotees, who are downright mocked by this.

Real ecstatic symptoms are never embarrassing or repulsive; above all, they are recognised by the fact that a genuine devotee does his best not to produce them, especially since they appear to be an obstacle in his service to Krishna. For example, Srila Prabhupada’s devotion to Sri Krishna was almost infinite, yet he was hardly ever seen to manifest ecstatic symptoms. Only very rarely did his disciples notice him suppressing them with the utmost violence. Something similar can be observed in Sri Caitanya, whose ecstatic devotion to Krishna is unrivalled and will be unrivalled forever.

Raganuga Bhakti is for the eternal spiritual self. The spiritual self is most sacred, and an advanced devotee who has actually realised it would never speak about it in public, let alone dress the material body like an eternal resident of Vrindavana (the most sacred spiritual kingdom of Krishna). As long as the material body is present, it is engaged in ordinary ninefold devotional service.

“A devotee who is actually advanced in Krishna consciousness and is continuously engaged in devotional service should not manifest himself so publicly, even if he has attained perfection. The idea is that as long as his material body is there, he continues to act as a beginner. Devotional service activities according to regulative principles must be followed even by the pure devotee. But when he realises his real position in relationship with the Lord, he can think of the Lord within himself under the guidance of a particular associate of the Lord while executing regulated devotional service and develop his transcendental sensations by following that associate.” (Nectar of Devotion 1)

Radha Krishna

The stages of devotional service

ādau śraddhā tataḥ sādhu-saṅgo ‘tha bhajana-kriyā
tato ‘nartha-nivṛttiḥ syāt tato niṣṭhā rucis tataḥ
athāsaktis tato bhāvas tataḥ premābhyudañcati
sādhakānām ayaṁ premṇaḥ prādurbhāve bhavet kramaḥ

“In the beginning, a certain amount of trust is required to awaken the interest to associate with pure devotees. One is then initiated by the spiritual master and follows the regulative principles under his supervision. Thus one is freed from all undesirable habits and becomes steadfast in devotional service, thereby developing taste and attachment. This is the process of sadhana-bhakti, the practice of devotional service according to the regulative principles. Gradually the sensations intensify and eventually love awakens. Thus the gradual development of love for God takes place for the devotees who are interested in Krishna consciousness.”

(CC Madhya-lila 23.14-15 – B.R.S. 1.4.15-16)

Recently there has been some discussion about the qualifications of a genuine spiritual master. Since the view has been strongly advocated in our society that a madhyama-adhikari preacher is qualified to be a diksa-guru, and many alleged proofs for this view have been cited by various authors, it seems that some research should be done to determine whether this view is correct or not.

In any case, the truth is that our spiritual master Srila Prabhupada and our scriptures say that ONLY an Uttama-Adikari Vaisnava, who can never fall down, can be a diksa-guru. Even at the level of bhava, short of pure love for Krsna (prema), one can still fall down as the example of Bharata Maharaja shows us.

At least Prabhupada says otherwise:

But the only kind of real diksa-guru is an authorised maha-bhagavata!

“The guru must be at the highest level of devotional service. There are three classes of devotees, and the guru must be accepted from the topmost class.” (C.c. Madhya, 24.330, purport)

“When one has attained the highest position of maha-bhagavata, he must be accepted as guru and worshiped just like Hari, the Personality of Godhead. Only such a person is eligible to hold the post of guru.” (C.c. Madhya, 24.330, purport)

“Therefore, a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari as a spiritual master.” Unqualified gurus are also warned: “One should not become a spiritual master unless one has reached the level of Uttama-adhikari.” (The Nectar of Instruction, Text 5, purport)

Note IHKM: Of course diksa-gurus are meant here.

“Unless one is a resident of Krishna Loka, one cannot be a spiritual master. That is the first suggestion. A layman cannot be a spiritual master, and if he becomes one, he will simply create disturbance. ” (SP letter Mukunda dated 10/06/69)

Note IHKM :

The requirement for being a diksa or an initiating guru in ISKCON is not simply that one believes he has acquired the necessary qualifications to act as a guru, but that Srila Prabhupada must additionally also authorise such persons to act specifically in that capacity:

“One should take initiation from a bona fide spiritual master who is in the disciplic succession and is authorised by his predecessor spiritual master. This is called diksa vidhana.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.8.54, purport)

Note IHKM:

The main point is: “Who is authorised by his previous spiritual master.”!!! (NOT BY THE GBC)!!!

This has put the GBC in a trap because they have realised that it is not enough to “assume” that they should become gurus to “continue the parampara”, but that they must also prove authorisation to do so.

“Our business is to point out who is not a saint.” (Srila Prabhupada, Morning Walk, 10 April 1974)

“General votes (my addition: GBC 2/3 hand vote) have no jurisdiction to elect a ” Vaisnava acarya. A Vaisnava acarya is self-effulgent and no court judgement is required. A false acarya might try to overrule a Vaisnava by a Supreme Court judgement, but Bhaktivinode Thakura says that he is nothing but a disciple of Kali-yuga. ” (CC (BBT 1975) Madhya 1.220)

Note IHKM:

“A false acarya might try to overrule a Vaisnava by a Supreme Court decision ( e.g. GBC), but Bhaktivinode Thakura says that he is nothing but A DISCIPLE OF KALI-YUGA.” !!!!!! 1978 – Guru-by-vote mocked:

“One cannot simply vote a person to the post of Supreme Holiness” (“Editor’s Notes,” Back to Godhead No. 13-01/02, 1978)


“Srila Jiva Gosvami advises not to accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions.” (CC (BBT 1975) Adi 1.35)


“The GBC is the highest ecclesiastical body that governs ISKCON.” ( Back to Godhead )!!!

Iskcon-GBC says: A spiritual master can sometimes falldown and become demonic. (MYTH.)

“There is no possibility of a first-class devotee falling down …” (CC. Madhya 22.71, purport)

“The spiritual master is always considered one of the two confidential associates of Radharani, or a manifest representation of Sri Nityananda.” (Cc. Adi. 1.46,purport)

“The spiritual master is not a question of [‘living’ or ‘dead’]… The spiritual master is eternal – the spiritual master is eternal.” (SP Lecture, 2 October 1968, Seattle, WA).

Note IHKM:

By definition, the deviant gurus described could never have been members of the eternal disciplic succession. Rather, they were non-liberated, self-authorised or GBC-approved, two-third handbill-elected gurus and priests who claimed to be initiating acaryas.

Genuine members of the disciplic succession never deviate:

“God is always God, Guru is always Guru.”
(The Science of Self-Realisation, Chapter 2)

“Well, if he is bad, how can he become guru?”

(The Science of Self-Realisation, Chapter 2)

Note IHKM:

There is not a single example in Srila Prabhupada’s books of an officially authorised diksa-guru in our disciplic succession ever deviating from the path of devotional service. The rejection of Sukracarya as a guru is sometimes used to support the view that acaryas can fall down or be rejected, but this example is highly misleading as he was never an authorised member of our disciplic succession.

Sometimes the incidents of Lord Brahma with his daughter are mentioned. Yet in Srimad-Bhagavatam it is clearly stated that these incidents of Lord Brahma occurred before he became the head of our sampradaya.

In fact, Srila Prabhupada was highly displeased when the disciple Nitai referred to this lila as an example of the falldown of an acarya.

Aksayananda: Recently I was told by a devotee that the acarya does not have to be a pure devotee. […]

Prabhupada: Who is this rascal? […]

Aksayananda: He said it. Nitai said it. He said it in this context. He said that Lord Brahma is the acarya of the Brahma-sampradaya, but still he is sometimes plagued by passion. Therefore he says that it appears that the acarya need not be a pure devotee. So it does not seem to be right. […]

Prabhupada: He has invented this idea. Therefore he is a rascal. Therefore he is a rascal . Nitai has become an authority? […] He has invented something bad and he is expressing it. That’s why he’s more of a  rascal. These things happen.

(SP Morning Walk, Vrindavan, 10 December 1975)