Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, who experienced spiritual ecstasies from a young age, had both kinds of disciples-the householders and monastics, some of whom were later to become monks. There was also a small group of women devotees. The householder devotees were Ramchandra Dutta, Manmohan Mitra, Durgacharan Nag, etc. His monastic disciples included Narandranath Dutta (Swami Vivekanada), Rakhal Chandra (Swami Brahmananda), Baburam Ghosh (Swami Premananda), Taraknath Ghoshal (Swami Shivananda), etc. He concluded as under:
Spiritual steps for householders:
How to love God:
Reference: The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna – by Swami Nikhilananda
Science & Psychology of Bhakti (Divine Love)
The term Bhakti comes from Bhaj which means to revere, to share, to partake, to worship and to be attached to God. Bhakti is not precisely love or devotion. Love and devotion spring from explicit or hidden selfish gain whereas Bhakti is a subtle experience from pure and selfless devotion towards deity. In bhakti, power of emotions is elevated to the level of divine devotion. Bhakti elevates. Bhakti transforms. Bhakti brings fulfilment. When bhakti sprouts, one does not need of any other thing. Tears of ecstasy flows out, when merged with the almighty.
Question arises why one should do Bhakti without gain in this material world. The question has been addressed in various scriptures of Hinduism. Selfishness, if not accomplished, develops kama, krodha, etc. the negative aspects of feelings. But in selfless love one gradually develops positive aspects such as gratitude, satisfaction, generosity etc. which are attributes of Atman. These bring peace and bliss. Bhakta completely surrenders to the extent of losing his identity through selfless love. Zenith of bhakti is advait (अद्वैत, non-duality), when bhakt and Bhagwan become one as Gopi and Krishna.
By listening and repeating stories of almighty, Bhakti grows and attachment with almighty increases. When bhakti becomes addiction, moksha is easy.
Gopis were spiritual preceptors of Bhakti. Their sight was steady on the entire form of Shri Krishna and enjoyed the bliss. They have been immersed in the playful activities of Balkrishna and oblivious of other things. While performing their duties, their mind was constantly engrossed in Balkrishna. This is height of Bhakti. Sri Shankaracharya said, “Immerse in any form of deity with full devotion; perform all worldly duties keeping almighty in manas and for the almighty; if devotion is done all through our actions, speech and thought, shri Krishna (or any other form of almighty) enters in life; believe all other forms part of that form”.
Tukaram says, Bhakt (devotee) is one who never vibhakt (separated) from almighty. Eknath, Tukaram, Narsingh etc. were householders. Celibacy and name of almighty can help in crossing this world as Hanuman ji crossed ocean.
Gyani may be tormented by abhiman (false pride). Bhakti (divine love) brings several attributes. Bhakt becomes polite, courteous. As patience and virtues increases, bhakti ripens. Without detachment, bhakti does not succeed. Good conduct and thoughts nourish bhakti. Luxuries destroy Bhakti. Bhakt feels difficult to endure separation of almighty.
Without Vairagya (dispassion), persistence does not come. When Gyan, Vairagya and Bhakti are perfected, the person becomes divine. By thinking whether he has made preparations for welcoming death, vairagya sprouts. By thinking about miseries of birth, death and diseases, vairagya arises.
Bhakti is in core of all paths of liberation whether Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga or Gyan Yoga. It is common to all paths. All paths of liberation except bhakti require efforts and discipline. Bhakti starts with joy and love. Hence the path starts with fruits.
Psychology of Bhakti
Characteristics of Bhakti
Obstacles of Bhakti
In this world, manas (मन) keep roaming. As soon as one sees beauty in world or body, sin starts. Attachments to sensual pleasures are of manas (मन). Meditating the sensual pleasures makes the manas impure. Abandoning such thoughts of sensual pleasure, purify the manas.
It should be arrested by intelligence. Until manas (मन) is not curbed, bhakti is not gained. Manas (मन) impurities are of two types viz. gross and subtle. Gross impurities can be removed by tapa (religious austerities), vrata (vows), Anshan (fasting) etc. But subtle impurities are removed by intense bhakti (divine love). Servitude melts the manas (मन).
Vasnas (longings) are biggest hindrance in spiritual progression. When there is no vasna in mind, bhakti will sprout. Without vairagya (detachment), bhakti weeps. Desires are hindrance. With increase in patience and good conduct, bliss increases in bhakti. Wise person remembers almighty every moment. Thinking about beauty of almighty starts bhakti. When manas becomes steady in almighty, it is peaceful. After liberation of manas, jivatma enjoys freedom.
Science to cultivate Bhakti
Tulsidas ji in Shree Ramcharitramanas has lucidly explained importance of satsang in Bahkti:
Types of Bhakti
The real worship is living holy life, total surrender, offering of oneself, one’s possessions, and one’s actions and even the sense of agency to Him and unwavering faith and devotion (अनन्य भक्ति) and service to living beings. Such Attitude of devotion (bhakti) is born out of knowledge (Jnana) of one’s relationship with the divine. Jnana supports Bhakti and bhakti deepens Jnana.
Shri Krishna in Shrimad Bhagavad Gita has mentioned this in chapter 9 as under: