By Ved Prakash Saxena
In common parlance, bhakti is conceptualized by such acts as going to a temple, making offerings to God as part of religious worship, observance of fasts on specified days, chanting prayers in the praise of God, going on pilgrimages of holy places, performing religious rites and rituals, etc. Any person who performs such bhakti defining acts is called a bhakta. Just as a dance form is not separate from the dancer, bhakti is not separate from the bhakta. However, Gītā’s take on bhakti and bhakta is entirely different.
The term bhakti appears in Gītā in seven Slokas (7.17, 8.22, 11.54, 13.14, 14.26, 18.54, and 18.68). Of these, only Sloka 18.54 provides a hint of the Gītā view of bhakti: “One who has acquired oneness with Brahma (God), has an undisturbed and cheerful disposition, who neither grieves nor craves for anything, and has the same regard for all beings, acquires supreme bhakti, that is, the highest order of bhakti (param bhakti) of God. So Gītā’s ‘supreme bhakti’ has nothing to do with the acts associated with it in common perception. Instead, it is characterized by those attitudes and attributes which bring peace to self and other beings.
The term ‘bhakta’ appears in Gītā in fifteen Slokas of which eight Slokas bring out the characterizing features of a bhakta (and, of bhakti by logic). According to Sloka 11.55, “The bhakta who performs action only for God’s sake, is free of attachment (to worldly entities), and is free of animus for all beings, attains God (which is the highest reward of bhakti, of course).
Slokas 13, 14,15,16,17,18, and 19 in Chapter 12 describe the attributes of bhaktas that God holds dear to him. These attributes are bearing no sense of ‘mine-ness’ and egotism; equipoise to dualities such as pain and pleasure, friend and enemy, praise and blame; absence of expectations; purity of body and mind; staying un-distressful and beyond affliction and worry; renunciation of (that is, indifference to) favourable and unfavourable; being ever content and self-controlled; having unwavering mind and firm determination; and the mind and intellect dedicated to God. According to Sloka 12.15, one who is not agitated by anyone, nor causes anyone to be agitated, and who is free from glee, envy, fear, worry, and excitation is dear to God. So, it is these features and not those that are commonly associated with bhakti that define the Gītā concept of bhakti.
Many other Slokas in Gītā indirectly point to some other features of bhakti. One very important feature is constant remembrance of God even while engaged in an action and dedication of both mind and intellect to Him (Sloka 8.7) which surely makes the devotee reach God. [In this Sloka, Krsna advises Arjuna to remember God at all times while fighting the war]. Yet another feature of bhakti is to perceive God existing everywhere and in all beings and all beings existing in God which perception makes the devotee and God inseparable from each other (Sloka 6.30). According to Sloka 3.19, by performing duty-based actions without attachment (to actions and to their fruits), a person attains the Supreme which is the ultimate aim of bhakti.
All this makes it obvious that the Gītā concept of bhakti is not even remotely related to any regime of rites and rituals. It encompasses all aspects of love and dedication to God and to his creation of sentient beings. It is encapsulated in Gītā’s sublime dictum “sarvabhūtahitey ratāh which means to remain engrossed in the welfare of all beings with the same regard for all which attitude brings the bhakta to God (Sloka 4, Chapter 12). It does not involve any repetitive actions mechanically performed without the application of mind and intellect. And, Gītā’s bhakti is an all-time affair involving body, mind, and intellect, and total dedication of all activity to God, and not a sporadic activity involving body alone.
Practicing bhakti the Gītā way will bring peace, harmony, and happiness at all levels of mankind for sure.
घर–घर गीता, सस्वर गीता | हर उर गीता, सुमधुर गीता ||
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