Site Map
On Bhakti
Section › 9   Set    Search  Previous Next



On Bhakti

Devotion, bhakti, may be for looting humans or feed on them from within also.

Wendy Doniger writes in the Encyclopedia Britannica (EB) that bhakti is a movement "emphasizing the mutual intense emotional attachment and love of a devotee toward a personal god and of the god for the devotee." (EB, "Hinduism," passim)

We will look into that. Those who suppose that Doniger is wise and knows how all gods and goddesses feel and act toward humans may not rise to ask, "Has she got first-hand, top-notch and reliable quality information about what the gods feel or are up to from the gods themselves?" If so, fair documentation is what to go into next. It may be missing!

The group is not always right. What Doniger describes, is, rather, a hope where worshippers are fond of thinking the god is fond of them, mainly without scientific evidence to support them, and against scriptural evidence. Cornelia Dimmitt and J. A. C. van Buitenen tell in their Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas (1978):

"[T]the Goddess" appears to be a collection of different personalities, both beneficient and fierce. (Ib., 220)

Vishnu and Shiva, for instance although their origins are in part traceable to Vedic gods, display complex personalities in the epics and Purana that come virtually out of nowhere, with divine feats and attributes unknown to Vedic tradition. And so do the goddesses. (Ib., 220)

In present-day rural India, the goddess brings fertility or pestilential death, depending on her mood. . . . Epithets describing the goddess as the source of the universe are the same as those applied to the gods Vishnu and Shiva. (Ib., 221)

Kali, the "black one," springs from Durga's forehead when her [Durga's] brow grows inky black with rage. (Ib., 225)

The tradition also say there are some goddesses that work destruction in the long run if not before. Extracts from The Ten Great Cosmic Powers by S. Shankaranarayanan (1975):

There are various Gods and Goddesses. (Shankaranarayanan 1975, 2)

Gods and Goddesses close to the human level are more readily accessible . . . endowed with capacities and powers beyond normal human possibility, but they are not all for that reason divine in nature. There are higher and lower classes of them . . . Those that are nearest to the earth-plane . . . respond very readily to the approaches of those who seek their help but they do so mainly for their own purpose, namely, to get hold of the particular human vehicle and convert it into a centre for their activity on the earth . . . in the end they let [the seeker] down, rather roughly, once their purpose is fulfilled. The seeker is misled, his progress comes to a standstill if it does not end in disaster. [Such deities] mislead the seeker with pett glamorous gifts [and succeed in] enslaving the man for their purpose at the cost of his soul which is betrayed into misadventure. (Ibid., 2-3)

  1. In ancient scriptures there are gods who seduce many, like the god of love, Kama, with his figurative arrows, and like the Vedic god, Indra, in later scriptures.
    In the Vedas, Indra is the king of Svarga (Heaven) and the Devas. He is the god of the heavens, lightning, thunder, storms, rains, river flows, and war. Indra is the most referred to deity in the Rigveda. He is celebrated for his powers, and the one who kills the great symbolic evil (malevolent type of Asura) named Vritra who obstructs human prosperity and happiness. Indra destroys Vritra and his "deceiving forces", and thereby brings rains and the sunshine as the friend of mankind. . . . [I]n the post-Vedic Indian literature . . . he is depicted as a powerful hero but one who is getting in trouble with his drunken, hedonistic and adulterous ways, and . . . he fears self-realized human beings may become more powerful than him. (WP, "Indra; cf. Dimmitt and van Buitenen 1975, 303-6.)

  2. In some branches of Hinduism, there are specified and benevolent goddesses to invoke. The Sri Vidya tradition is formed to this end (Brooks 1992).
    There are benevolent deities. They occupy higher levels, [so] the seeker has to make an effort to ascend to them. But they take the seeker on the parth steadily and safely. [Yet] there are still higher deities. At the top is the Supreme Deity. There are certain cardinal aspects of it. They are called Mahavidyas (Great Vidyas). (Shankaranarayanan 1975, 3, passim)

  3. There are also classical tales of envious gods who try to hinder humans from developing into the Self-realisation. In an Upanishad we are informed that many sorts of gods may exploit devoted humans much like humans do to ignorant farm animals. In coupling upwards or otherwise, study who benefits.
If a man worships another deity, thinking: "He is one and I am another," he does not know. He is like an animal to the gods. As many animals serve [nourish] a man, so does each man serve [nourish] the gods. Even if one animal is taken away, it causes anguish [to the owner]; how much more so when many [are taken away]! Therefore it is not pleasing to the gods [devas] that men should know this. (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10, in Nikhilananda's translation. Comments there, p. 122-25. Words put in square brackets here are by F. Max Müller)

These considerations could amount to something, namely, "Take care. Gods may or may not love you back." First of all, ferret out Gods you are in harmony with according to traditional, good descriptions of them, and their icons, combined with how you spontaneously feel for various gods and goddesses too, hold fast and try to benefit.

How They Do It in India

Prefer safe paths to questionable ones.

The art of loving well includes who to love a lot, how to best love, when, and taking care in fit ways too. In the ancient guru-disciple tradition, the benevolent or kind enough guru helps. Many disciples-to-be search for long until they get such a guru. He makes plain which mantras to use and thereby invoke a goddess or two or three attuned to it - Goddesses may share mantras.

If the goddess you like the best is one of those who lead from darkness to light, learn her best mantra and practice it for as long as you have got no gurudev. That is the basic teaching.

How to find out which goddess (or god) you like the best? From old times they have icons that are said to represent their different qualitites, and descriptions of their qualities, and mantras.

Doniger further: "Each of the major divinities of Hinduism – Vishnu, Shiva, and the various forms of the Goddess – have distinct devotional traditions."

In Bengal the love of God was considered analogous to the sentiments involved in human relationships . . . In South India passionate, often erotic, poems to Shiva and Vishnu (particularly to Krishna) were composed.

Inscriptions, iconographic evidence, and literary references reveal the emergence of devotional theism in the 2nd century bce. (EB, "Hinduism," passim)

Such devotion

Bhakti is Sanskrit. Oxford Dictionaries present a contemporary Western meaning of it as

devotional worship directed to one supreme deity, usually Vishnu (especially in his incarnations as Rama and Krishna) or Shiva, by whose grace salvation may be attained by all regardless of sex, caste, or class. It [devotional worship] is followed by the majority of Hindus today.

There are other meanings of 'bhakti' than such devotion. They include attachment, faithfulness, order, fondness for, separation, zeal, streak, division by streaks or lines, worship, predisposition, assumption of the form of, partition, succession, devotional service, homage, distribution, row, attribute, faith [as a religious principle or means of salvation], that which belongs to or is contained in anything else, faith or love or devotion, trust, portion, series, being a part of, devotion [as a religious principle or means of salvation], variegated decoration, line, division, share, belonging to, and piety. (Source: SDSS)

Craze is not necessarily part of bhakti. That could be wise to keep in mind, and that the word 'bhakti' carries many meanings, as shown. The context where it is used and some tradition's understanding of which meaning is most likely in any case tend to bring a translation, or many translations that vary.

There are two main facets of bhakti, devotion: One is directed outwards onto someone or something, and one is directed inwards. The last facet is recommended by Adi Shankara. He tells that proper devotion, piousness, is turning one's awareness inwards towards one's spirit:

"Sages worship Brahman with devotion as the ultimate reality within their own selves." (From the Hymn to Hari, v. 42) [Shankara sayings]

"Chief among the causes of Freedom is devotion, the intentness of the soul on its own nature. Or devotion may be called intentness on the reality of the Self." (Crest-Jewel of Discrimination, from v. 31 and 32, tr. Charles Johnston) [More]

Prabhavananda and Isherwood translates the same verses in this way: "Among all means of liberation, devotion is supreme. To seek earnestly to know one's real nature –, this is said to be devotion. / In other words, devotion can be defined as the search for the reality of one's own Atman." (p. 36-37)

Adi Shankara does not tell that devotion outwards is a bad or forbidden thing, but if turned within effectively, it can become a formidable means of liberation: that is the observation of Shankara. Accordingly, seek to turn a large part of it within till you get old and leave.

It could be that bhakti in antiquity was more reserved than jubilant. Stauch reserve in these waters may be called being polite to yourself. At any rate, a suspect notion does not deserve to be set in motion and crampedly, rigidly, upheld through a faith. It could be better to refrain. We do well to stablish the facts before getting induced into sectarianism like a sheep to the slaughter-house or something else to compare with . . . to resist being made an "animal" might be much good for you and your dear ones after all.

Clippings and Renderings

The search for a One that is the All has been a characteristic feature of India's spiritual life for more than 3,000 years.

Competing world views: During the 6th to 2nd century BC the god Prajapati was widely believed to be the highest god and the creator of the universe; Indra, known chiefly as Shakra ("The Mighty One"), was second to him in importance. Yet in the Svetashvatara Upanishad, Rudra is for the first time called Shiva and is described as the creator, preserver, and destroyer of the universe. His followers are called on to worship him with devotion (bhakti). The tendency for the laity to form themselves into religious guilds or societies - evident in the case of the yaksha cults, Buddhism, and Jainism - promoted the growth of devotional Vaishnavism and Shaivism. These local associations of worshipers appear to have been a principal factor in the spread of the new cults.

Paths to liberation: The Bhagavad Gita tells of three paths to salvation: the karma-marga ("path of ritual action" or "path of duties"), the jnana-marga ("path of knowledge"), the use of meditative concentration training (Yoga) to gain a supraintellectual insight; and the bhakti-marga ("path of devotion"), love for a personal God. These ways are regarded as suited to various types of people, but they are interactive. (EB, Hinduism: "Dharma and the three paths")

Life goals are many, and four goals constitute a stem to hold on to: The actual life goals of most Hindus include executing properly one's social and ritual duties; supporting one's caste, family, and profession; and working to achieve a broader stability in the cosmos, nature, and society, all for the sake of maintaining personal and universal equilibrium (balance, harmony). (EB, Hinduism: "Dharma and the three paths")

In the wide perspectives above, how could bhakti or bhakti-yoga fit in? As already told, "there is bhakti and there is bhakti." It may therefore be pertinent to ask something like, "Which form of bhakti are we talking of here?"

Getting devotional - on thin ice unless . . . Walking on thin ice without knowing it is thin, may prove very dangerous or deadly.

There is and has been a variety of schools. Claims may blend. Yet predominant yoga outlooks have changed very much over time. Devotional yoga is quite a newcomer in the long history of yoga. (Madsen 2013)

It is a trend of markedly devotional groups that they turn sectarian in time. There are some who do not know how to deal with devotion. It is an obvious problem. In the longer run, devotion directed outwards can breed limited or kinky outlooks, sectarianism and sects in the long run.

Effects of Love and Marriage

Taking care has many sides to it.

There may be fit ways to love, markedly unfit ways, and hanky-pankies around too. There is so much pep talk of love and devotion in some circles.

There are many forms of yoga today. "Must love dogs" is not one of them, at least not the best known one. Bhakti yoga is one of them. It is hailed in Bhagavad Gita as one of many means to get enlightened. "To those who are constantly disciplined, worshipping [me] with love, I give the yoga of the intellect, through which they come to me. (Bhagavad Gita 10.10. Compare: 14.26.) There is also one verse on devotion in the Bhagavatapurana 1.2.19.

Patanjali tells that devotion to Isvara is part of a five-set things to do. (Yoga Sutras 2.1). It indicates inward-turned love a lot.

Passages on love and bhakti, devotion, are not absent in ancient sources, but are in the minority. And devotion of old may as well be taken to be piousness, directed inwards, as Shankara tells of.

There is a compilation of texts on yoga, Roots of Yoga (2017) with James Mallington and Mark Singleton as compilers and translators of Sanskrit passages. The book contains material "drawn from more than a hundred texts, dating from about 1000 BCE to the nineteenth century." Most of the passages are from Sanskrit texts. Material that "is incidental to the mainstream of yoga theory and practice in South Asia," is not included in it. Further, the material is largely practical. (Mallington and Singleton 2017, "Introduction")

The earliest known definition of yoga comes in the Katha Upanishad. It says "one who is able to control the senses by means of the mind, as a charioteer reins in his horses, is not reborn (3.7-8). He attains the highest state, which is . . . indwelling person."

Two yoga sources blend. (1) For the ascetics of the Vedic tradition, the aim of [yoga] austerities was usually to win a boon – often a protection or a special power – from the gods. (2) And in Sramana traditions of religious mendicants, the foremost aims were to still the mind or blot out past karma.

The first mentions of dhyanayoga [yoga-meditation] appear in the Mahabharata (third century BCE to third century CE). There are extensive instructions on yogic practice in a long section at the end of the twelfth book of the Mahabharata, and a systematisation of yoga practice. The Bhagavadgita, a slender part of the Mahabharata, contains several teachings on the practice of yoga too. (Ibid., "Yoga in Vedic-era sources;" "Sramanas;" "Teachings on Yoga in the Mahabharata, including the Bhagavadgita")

There are many words for love: rati is love (sexual etc.), sneha is love (motherly etc.), and kama is erotic, sensual. Preman is a word variously translated as joke, affection, fondness, love towards, joy, tender regard, kindness and similar. (SDSS)

"Love of God: Such love . . . is not for ordinary men." - Ramakrishna, [in Gupta 1942, 679]

Married love, is it different? one may come to wonder. Take a look at how love can breed stress and divorces or worse. Just consider the grave effects of marriage results among Americans, and then do what you can to bulwark against such stressing events to lessen your capital losses. There is a chance your health is into these love-result matters too.

Stress is a major nuisance and killer these days (Shrand and Devine 2012). Stress tells that people are exerting themselves too much, and probably to cope and cope better for a bigger slice of the cake so to speak. Some just give up, and some end up unwell or going solo. Eric Klinenberg's Going Solo (2014) tells more about preferring to be single.

Consider how up to 11 of the 14 most stressing experiences of Americans tie in with love and love-making, and what you can do about it - to get less bad and more good out of it than the statistical average. The average Joe's and Jane's love can be quite a killer, and normal aging brings about death.

Here are averaged life events on the much used Holmes-Rahes scale, where 100 points is allotted to the worst single event:

  1. Death of spouse *     100
  2. Divorce *     75
  3. Marital separation *     65
  4. Jail term (in US prisons)     63
  5. Death of a close family member +     63
  6. Personal injury or illness *     53
  7. Marriage *     50
  8. Dismissal from work     47
  9. Marital reconciliation *     45
  10. Retirement     45
  11. Change in health of family member +     44
  12. Pregnancy +     40
  13. Sex difficulties +     39
  14. Gain of new family member *     39
The signs explained:
*: Very likely to tie in with wedding someone.
+: Quite likely to tie in with wedding somebody.
The list is the top of Holmes and Rahe stress scale. See more: [WP "Holmes and Rahe stress scale"]

The list above shows many ills that result from having a husband. And yet, wellbeing may be helped by good yoga-meditation. Such parts of life are combined in fine ways by Transcendental Meditation and main Buddhist living.

Having a mate

If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher. - Socrates

Women are always unhappy in their thoughts, both before and after Marriage; for, before Marriage they think themselves unhappy for want of a Husband; and after they are Married, they think themselves unhappy for having a Husband." - Margaret Cavendish (1623–73), The Convent of Pleasure, Act II, Sc. 1. from ca. 1662.

Wealth and a happy marriage

Try to get happy and all right wealthy in the first place. The one does not exclude the other. They may coexist and work very well together.

It is "all" about thriving. Wealth and joy hand in hand could be wise. Buddha teaches to go for both as part of an all-round Way of living.

"First thrive and then wive," is a British proverb. It cautions such as, "Who marries best can well afford to do it." After marriage crowned by divorce, wealth (maybe for thriving too) is what many former devoted ones fight over through their skirmishes. However, both health and wealth are of many kinds and relate to many levels. To be rich in spirit is far from bad. Besides, good wealth, artha is one of the four main life goals of Hinduism.

Granted that and much else, it could be very wise to be for righteously had wealth, for the Sanskrit term artha, wealth, opulence etc. is one of four noble life goals in Hinduism - Also, Buddha tells how to get a balanced living that has room for fairly gained wealth too. He says it is fit for a householder to go for righteously gained wealth – among other things to fund a family, have a business, and a future fit for meditation. Good friends supply needs, rejoice in wise prosperity, and protect the wealth of the heedless. Bad friends, on the other hand, bring ruin, he says. [More]

Buddha sorts out various forms of wealth too. [Mangala]

From this we get an inkling: A marriage may get costy, and broken families may even more. If a parent can deal with the future pangs and other costs of making love, married life could actually be uplifting for a time, and maybe not wholly devastating afterwards. There are several outcomes.

Gentle Dealings First

Fairly got wealth and assets may be fit, and wealth, artha, is one of the four main life goals of Hinduism.

Generally, it is good help to look into and see and handle things for yourself, and deal with wealth as classy as you can. It should help to invest money well too. Much in future may be eased that way.

One has to take stock of one's wealth firmly, or some 'them' could take what assets you had to begin with. Wisely used, righteous wealth may lessen sufferings, dhukkha. Buddha warns against dissipating one's wealth, and that a warm-hearted friend "protects the wealth of the heedless", among other things [Link]. Buddha is also pointing out a good way on and up, enriching your life thereby. It is the Eightfold Path.

Buddha also enumerates factors leading to welfare and how to get better fit for great wealth and happiness.

There is much to learn in life. Getting wisdom is good, and developing skills is another good thing in life.

Love, bhakti, devotion, Literature  

Brooks, Douglas R. 1992. Auspicious Wisdom: The Texts and Traditions of Srividya Sakta Tantrism in South India. Albany, NU: State University of New York Pres 1992.

Dimmitt, Cornelia, and J. A. C. van Buitenen, eds, trs. 1978. Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Purananas. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Klinenberg, Eric. 2014. Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. Paperback ed. London: Duckworth Overlook.

Madsen, Børge. 2013. Why Yoga? A Cultural History of Yoga. London: MadZen Press.

Nikhilananda, Swami, tr. 1956The Upanishads: Aitareya and Brihaddranyaka. Vol. 3. New York: Harper and Brothers. ⍽▢⍽ Explanations are based on the commentary of Sri Shankaracharya.

Shankaranarayanan, S. 1975. The Ten Great Cosmic Powers. Pondicherry: Dipti Publications.

Love, bhakti, devotion, To top    Section     Set    Next

Love, bhakti, devotion. User's Guide   ᴥ    Disclaimer 
© 2019, Tormod Kinnes, MPhil [Email]