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Bhakti yogaBhakti yoga is a term within Hinduism which denotes the spiritual practice of fostering loving devotion to God, called bhakti. Traditionally there are nine forms of bhakti-yoga. Bhakti yoga is generally considered the easiest of the four general paths to liberation, or moksha (the others being Karma, Raja and Jnana Yoga), and especially so within the current age of Kali yuga (according to the Hindu cycle of time). In scriptures such as the Bhagavata Purana, bhakti is described as a perfectional stage in itself which surpasses even moksha as a level of spiritual realisation. Hindu movements in which bhakti yoga is the main practice are called bhakti movements.
PhilosophyBhakti is the Sanskrit term that signifies a blissful, selfless and overwhelming love of God as the beloved Father, Mother, Child, Friend or whichever relationship or personal aspect of God that finds appeal in the devotee's heart. Bhakti incorporates a number of universal principles, also common in other world religions.
The 'Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu' (written by Rupa Gosvami) gives the following as the nine primary activities of bhakti, with the instruction that by following all, or just one, of these activities perfectly the aspiring devotee can achieve pure love of God:
1. Hearing about the Lord - singing & chanting God's names (japa), hearing stories from scripture.
2. Glorifying the Lord - describing God's all-attractive features.
3. Remembering the Lord - internal meditation on the Lord's form, activities, names or personality.
4. Serving the lotus feet of the Lord - providing a form of physical service.
5. Worshiping the Lord - deity worship (puja) is a popular form of this within India.
6. Offering prayers to the Lord - any form of prayer offered to please God.
7. Serving the Lord - offering a service for Lord's pleasure, such as preaching activity.
8. Building a friendship with the Lord - having an internal, loving relationship with God.
9. Surrendering everything unto the Lord - surrendering one's thoughts, actions and deeds to God.
The scriptural source of these nine primary forms of bhakti is a verse in the Bhagavata Purana, spoken by Prahlada:
"Prahlada Maharaja said: Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and pastimes of Lord Vishnu, remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one's best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind and words) — these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service. One who has dedicated his life to the service of K???a through these nine methods should be understood to be the most learned person, for he has acquired complete knowledge."
These nine principles of devotional service are described as helping the devotee remain constantly in touch with God. The processes of japa and internal meditation on the aspirant devotees's chosen deity form (ishta deva) are especially popular in most bhakti schools. Bhakti is a yoga path, in that its aim is a form of divine, loving union with the Supreme Lord. The exact form of the Lord, or type of union varies between the different schools, but the essence of each process is very similar.
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