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The 3 categories of Bhakti explained by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji

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imageproxy.jpgJiva Gosvami’s teacher, Rupa Gosvami, has divided bhakti into three categories: sadhanabhava and premaSadhana-bhakti is that which is realizable by the function of the senses. It is devotion in practice and is a means for attaining bhava-bhakti. But sadhana-bhakti is not a means in the ordinary sense.

Generally, sadhana refers to some practice that is undertaken to attain a specific goal, known as the sadhya. In this general sense sadhana is merely a cause that gives rise to a previously non-existent sadhya, and once the sadhya is attained, the sadhana that was undertaken to achieve it becomes obsolete.

Bhakti is not sadhana or sadhya in this sense. Bhakti is eternal and not manufactured by any combination of ingredients. Sadhana-bhakti qualifies the aspirant so that bhava can become manifest. Bhakti, manifesting in the form of internal emotions, is called bhava-bhakti and when it matures into the sentiments of love, it is called prema-bhakti, or devotion in love.

Sadhana-bhakti is of two types: vaidhi and raganuga. When devotional activity is inspired solely because of the prompting of scriptural injunctions, it is termed as vaidhi-bhakti. No raga, or spontaneous attachment, exists in this case.

There are sixty-four angas, or limbs, of vaidhi bhakti described by Rupa Gosvami. Out of these, five are considered as most powerful: (1) associating with saintly people, (2) singing the Lord‘s name, (3) listening to the recitation of Srimad-Bhagavatam, (4) residing in the holy land of Mathura and (5) serving the deity with reverance. A little contact with any of these can give rise to bhava-bhakti. These limbs of vaidhi-bhakti engage the body, mind and senses in the service of the Lord and are all highly effective in promoting the appearance of bhava-bhakti.

The second type of sadhana-bhakti is called raganuga, which means to follow the mood and attachment of the Lord’s eternal associates, known as ragatmikasRagatmikas have a natural raga, or deep absorption in the Lord manifesting out of love.

Upon coming into contact with ragatmikas, such as by hearing about them, an adherent may develop a yearning to serve the Lord in the same mood as his model. When this yearning impels one to engage in devotional service, irregardless of scriptural injunction, it is called raganuga-sadhana. Raganuga follows the natural deep sentiments of the adherent and is therefore independent of all outward rules.

Vaidhi-sadhana-bhakti, on the other hand, depends upon the injunctions of scripture and is not necessarily performed with loving sentiment. The difference between these two practices is like the difference between a mother and a maid taking care of a baby. A mother has innate affection for her baby and thus takes care of the child out of her natural attachment, whereas a maid does not have such affection. She merely follows the instructions of her employer. This does not mean that raganuga devotees are averse to scriptural injunctions. The injunctions are meant for those who do not have a natural inclination for devotion. A raganuga devotee does not need them because he has a natural, spontaneous inclination to act favorably towards the Lord and to abstain from anything unfavorable.

The mature stage of sadhana-bhakti is called bhava-bhaktiBhava is the dawn of prema, or love, which is the perfected stage of bhakti. It is a pure and internal feeling which softens the heart toward the Lord.

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