Stages of Bhakti
The below stages of bhakti are detailed in the writings of Rasik Saints.
For the purposes of our spiritual practice, we can understand that bhakti has two main stages:
- Sadhana bhakti or preliminary bhakti meditation practice;
- Siddha bhakti or perfect divine love (a power of God)
Through preliminary bhakti (devotion) we prepare ourselves to attain divine bhakti (divine love). So through practicing one bhakti we attain another bhakti.
Ten kinds or stages of bhakti have been described:Preparatory stages:
Divine and realized stages:
- Sadhana Bhakti
- Bhav Bhakti
The eight divine stages are attained through the grace of Radha Krishna and a Rasik Saint.
- Prema Bhakti
- Sneh Bhakti
- Maan Bhakti
- Pranaya Bhakti
- Raag Bhakti
- Anuraag Bhakti
- Bhavavesh Bhakti
- Mahabhav Bhakti
Stages of bhakti:
Preparatory devotion or sadhana bhakti
Sadhana bhakti is the preliminary stage of bhakti yoga or devotion. This is the introductory stage of understanding the importance of devotional remembrance. However, it may still be difficult to keep the mind focused during your meditation practice.
You will feel a pull both towards your practice and also towards the field of your attachments in the world.
This is a period of continuously reviewing the knowledge received from the Guru about proper practice and service, the true relationship of the soul with God, and the greatness of divine love. Eventually this understanding is retained in the mind.
On the base of your firm determination, consistent efforts and Guru's grace, your heart and mind purify and your devotion becomes natural.
Stages of bhakti:
Natural devotion or bhava bhakti
Bhava bhakti is a natural emotional stage of bhakti yoga or preparatory devotion. This is the beginning of a true and spontaneous longing for Radha Krishna. It may initially appear as tears of longing and then manifest in sweeter and sweeter forms.
This inner devotional development becomes evident as:
- Willingness -- a feeling of being truly related to Radha Krishna and a longing to meet Them;
- Valuing Time -- a realization that time is limited and an avoidance of activities that don't support your practice;
- Detachment -- an emotional detachment while still maintaining harmony in all your relationships;
- Indifference -- a lack of interest in acquiring worldly accomplishments and praise;
- Hope -- an optimistic feeling that one day you will see Radha Krishna with your own eyes;
- Excitement -- a thrill as if Krishna or Radha were actually physically close to you, but as yet unseen;
- Delight -- joy in every aspect of your practice, especially in kirtan or chanting of the divine name;
- Attachment -- an increasing attachment to all of Radha Krishna's qualities (Their beauty, sweetness, kindness, graciousness)
In this evolved state of consciousness, you experience different types of devotional emotions (called bhava), which are of varying strengths and may appear in different forms.
These relate to the feeling that Radha Krishna are actually close to you (called "milan"), or to the feeling of being separated from Radha Krishna (called "virah").
The emotional heat that is produced from both the feeling of separation and the excitement of meeting burns up the devotees accumulated impurities and purifies his heart, just a strong fire will melt and purify gold.
Madhusudan Saraswati wrote in the "Bhakti Rasayan",
"When the heart of a devotee melts in the heat of the feeling of separation, it acquires the qualities of divine love. Such a melted heart becomes saturated with Krishna's love and from this starts a natural and unbroken remembrance of Krishna (bhava bhakti)."
As a devotee's heart becomes more purified through devotional remembrance, whether in waking state, during meditation or in any other state, he remains continuously absorbed in these loving emotions of bhava bhakti.
Stages of bhakti:
Spiritual enlightenment or siddha bhakti
This is the final enlightened stage of bhakti yoga. The heart of the disciple is now completely pure, and the evidence of this is his Guru (the Rasik Saint) graces him with spiritual enlightenment. The Bhagwatam describes this experience:
"At this stage, the heart and mind of a devotee become one with Krishna. They cease to be material and become a form of Krishna's divine love. His veil of maya is destroyed, just as the germinating power of a grain is destroyed when it is roasted. He attains Krishna's eternal association, and with Krishna's grace, he experiences divine love and divine beauty."
From this point, the practitioner becomes a Saint, he sees the true form of Radha Krishna and experiences the always-new experience of the ever-increasing bliss of divine love, forever.