Three articles on Bhakti are already published which deal on - what is Bhakti (Doctrine of Bhakti), how to cultivate Bhakti (Cultivation is Bhakti) and Evolutionary stages of Bhakti. This article aims at explaining the signs of Bhakta at various evolutionary stages of Bhakti.
At the first stage i.e. Signs of Sadhana Bhakti:
1. Aspirant has a strong faith in God as the highest value and a sense of the utter temporariness of worldly achievements.
2. Aspirant, then, turn to the scriptures and spiritual teachers who impart the doctrines regarding, the self, Nature, and God.
3. Aspirant performs the duties of life without personal desire or fruits of actions or attachment and for success. In this one must have an understanding of oneself as the Atman. Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga to be practiced together.
At second stage, i.e. Signs of Para Bhakti:
1. Viveka (Practice of Discrimination) – Aspirant practice viveka for all the things that are taken in through the senses. Ramanuja system emphasizes more on the need to be discriminate in taking food i.e. eat only things that are Sattvika or purity-generating and prepared and served only by persons and in conditions that are pure.
2. Vimoka – Aspirant resists the impulses of passions like anger, sexuality, jealousy etc.
3. Abhyasa – Aspirant practice all the disciplines of worship such as worship of divine images, japa, collective singing of the names of God, visiting holy places etc. which remind that God is the indwelling Principle (Sesi) in oneself and the whole universe.
4. Kriya – Aspirant performs the following five-fold duties of life:
6. Anavasada – Aspirant is free from despair, pessimism etc. and preservation of a cheerful and positive attitude of mind.
7. Anuddharsa – Aspirant does not yield to excitement or depression and to preserve an even temperament in all situations.
By long and continued practice of these disciplines, by practice of detachment, dhyana and upasana, the mind of aspirant gets purified and develops power to perceive the Divine as the inner self. At this stage, his faith is strengthened by the glow of love for God and develops into Para Bhakti when the mind, even without any external stimulation, goes towards God in place of sense objects.
At third stage, i.e. Signs of Prema Bhakti:
When the mind of Aspirant feels the great attraction of the God, and Bhakti is said to develop then into the stage of Prema Bhakti. The devotee becomes mad with love and longing, and is always in intimacy with the Divine. Prema bhakti is same as system of Prapatti when the attachment to God becomes the sole music of one’s life and one is immersed in the bliss of the Parmatman.
Doctrine of Self-Surrender (Prapatti under Sri Ramanuja system):
Dedication of oneself, along with one’s dependents and belongings, to God is the central feature of self-surrender. It evokes God’s grace and leads the aspirants to supreme status. Abandonment of religious rites and taking refuge in Him leads to transcendent purity and freedom from all sins. Self-surrender is analyzed in six phases as under:
1. Aspirant resolves to cherish love for all, as all animates and inanimate beings constitute His body.
2. Aspirant abstains from hostility to all beings. It means abonnement of all evil ways and enmity to others.
3. Aspirant has faith i.e. strong conviction that God is the refuge of all and will protect him. Seeking His protection means maintenance of an attitude of prayerfulness for it.
4. Aspirant chooses God as one’s shelter. He resigns oneself absolutely to His care and protection. A feeling of one’s pitiable state owing to a realization of insufficiency of all self-effort made for one’s salvation.
5. Aspirant entrusts oneself, one’s near and dear ones, possession etc. to Him and throwing one’s burdens, one’s “I and mine” on Him. He accepts that God’s protective grace is always with one.
6. Aspirant is humble i.e. he has no pride and conceit of agency and is ready to submit unperturbed to any misfortune or failure, accepting it as the Divine will.
The Prapatti doctrine holds that a single moment of resignation with the attitude of mind is enough to bring the God’s grace operative on the Jiva. The effect is immediate and non-laborious.
Characteristics of the Bhakta, who has developed delight in Bhakti:
Fruits of Bhakti:
Reference: Bhakti Schools of Vedanta – by Swami Tapasyananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai.