Nine types of Bhakthi

We often come across people who say, ‘I am religious but not the praying type’. So the questions arise: ‘What shows that I am devoted to the Lord? Is it by going to temples or by singing Bhajans? If I don’t do any of that, does that mean I am not religious?’ .

Not surprisingly, the answers are already there in our scriptures. In fact, the Bhagavata Purana mentions nine ways by which an individual can demonstrate his devotion to the Lord:

shravanam keertanam vishno: smaranam paadasevanam
archanam vandanam daasyam sakhyam aatmanivedanam
iti pumsaarpita vishnau bhakthi: cheth nava lakshanaa

(Bhagavatam : 7.5.23-24)

The nine types of Bhakthi are shravana, keerthana, smarana, paada sevana, archana, vandana, daasya, sakhya and aatmanivedana. Thus, a person can follow any of the given nine types of Bhakthi and can attain enlightenment.

Nine types of Bhakthi

Let’s look at each of them in detail:

1. Shravanam

Shravanam means ‘to listen’. A devotee can demonstrate shravanam by listening to the Lord’s qualities and stories related to his divine nature and form. Also, this is the easiest type of Bhakthi any devotee can practice. All it takes is for one to listen. Unlike the other senses like the eyes or mouth, the ears are always open to listen. Additionally, the best Dharma in this world is to hear Lord’s glories through which one can attain salvation.

An example of a person who attained salvation through Shravanam is King Parikshit (grandson of Arjuna). As per Bhagavata purana, Parikshit was cursed to die within a week. He chose to spend the week by listening to the glories of Lord Krishna narrated by Sage Shuka. Thus, Shravanam helped king Parikshit to attain Moksha.

2. Keerthanam

Keerthanam is singing of Lord’s glories. By singing His praises, the devotee loses himself and becomes one with the Divine. Singing makes some become extremely peaceful while others start dancing in ecstacy. The devotee sees the Lord within himself and starts to feel pure at heart.

Sage Narada exemplifies Keerthana as he chants the praises of Lord Narayana all throughout. Playing his divine veena ‘Mahathi’, he roams the worlds singing the praise of the Lord. Sri Thiagaraja Swamy is another example we can think of in this category.

3. Smaranam

Smaranam is the remembrance of the Lord at all times. To practice this, the mind must be totally engrossed in thinking of the Lord alone. The focus should be such that one forgets the earthly pleasures and sorrows and concentrate on the divine form of the Lord. Meditation and Yoga can help one in practicing Smaranam.

The greatest example for this type of Bhakthi is Prahalada. Though his father put him through several difficulties, he always remembered the Lord unwaveringly. In the end, the Lord manifested as Narasimha, destroyed his father Hiranyakashipu and protected him.

4. Paada Sevanam

Padasevanam is serving at the Lord’s feet. Though it is not practically possible to serve the Lord in this realm, Padasevana can be done at temples and on the idols of the Lord. Alternatively service to the poor and needy can also be construed as service at the feet of the Lord. Service to the world is service to the Lord.

No one does Padasevanam better than Goddess Mahalakshmi, the supreme consort of Lord Vishnu. Thus, Goddess Lakshmi offers the most supreme service to the Lord by offering obeisance at His feet.

5. Archanam

Archanam is worship of the Lord. Worship can be done through physical means through rituals and holy objects such as Thulasi and flowers. One can also do Archanam through the mind (maanasika Archanam).  In this type of Bhakthi, the devotee visits various temples and offer prayers while performing various pujas. One interesting aspects of archanam is that it employs all the four types of Bhakthi mentioned above i.e., shravanam, keerthanam, smaranam and paada sevanam.

King Prithu is considered the pioneer of this type of Bhakthi. According to Bhagavata Purana, King Prithu was born in the lineage of Dhruva, the boy who was blessed by Lord Vishnu. He is famed for extracting all the riches from the Earth and hence Earth came to be known as Prithvi henceforth. King Prithu demonstrated Angaarchana which was submitting each of his sense organs in worshipping the Supreme.

6. Vandanam

Vandanam is prayer and prostration. Performing saashtaanga namaskaram towards the Lord with eight parts of the body touching the ground . Vandanam with faith and total surrender helps the soul to be free of ego and makes it easy to attain the supreme. In doing  so, divine grace descends upon the devotee and man becomes one with God.

Akrura, the minister in the kingdom of Kamsa is a proponent of this type of Bhakthi. When he reached Brindavana he saw the Lord’s footprints, he immediately jumped down from his chariot and saluted the sacred soil. Lord Krishna blessed him.

7. Daasyam

Daasya-Bhakti is to reach God by being his humble servant. Since the Lord is the supreme master, serving him without expecting anything in return is considered the ultimate surrender. This bhava is called shesha-sheshi bhava (servant-master relationship). In our current life, we can exhibit this behavior by doing our mite in maintaining temples (sweeping, cleaning, cooking, serving other devotees) and involving in charitable activities like taking care of the sick etc.

Lord Hanuman is a supreme example of daasya bhakthi. He had the privilege of serving the Lord wholeheartedly.

8. Sakhyam

Sakhyam is to establish a friendship-like feeling with the Lord. Treating the Lord as a friend makes Him one among us. Also, it makes it easier to reach out to Him without the overwhelming fear of his enormity, greatness and supremacy. All earthly chores become mundane when we answer His call and we develop an unbreakable bond with him. There is no fear or guilt, but only endless affection in this relationship.

Arjuna is a classic example of a devotee who showed Sakhya Bhava towards Lord Krishna. 

9. Aatma Nivedanam

Aatma Nivedanam is self-surrender. It happens when the devotee offers himself body and soul to the Lord. All other worldly pleasures and sorrows don’t matter anymore. One who has offered himself completely to God has no need to fear and will be completely under God’s protection.

King Mahabali is the perfect example of Aatmanivedanam. When the Lord took the incarnation of Vamana/Trivikrama and measured all the worlds with his two steps, King Bali offered himself as the measure for the third step thus performing Aatmanivedanam. 

So, which form of Bhakthi do you exhibit? Do let us know in the comments section!

Namo Narayanaa!

Author Details

Rangarajan has been blogging for over 12 years now on various topics. With Thedal, he becomes one with the universe and he is hoping that his search will help him discover the eternal truth.  Please join him as he traverses through the universe across temples, philosophies and science!

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