Srimad Bhagavatham is a great treatise on bhakthi given to us by Bhagavan Vedavyasa. Sri Madhwa defines bhakti as follows
Maahaatmya jnaanapoorvastu sudradha sarvatodhikah
Sneho bhaktiritiprokto tayaa muktirnachaanyatha
Bhakti is the friendship which we profess towards God-a friendship which is firm and in a measure that is greater than the friendship with any other person,and with the realisation of the excellences and supremacy of God.Such bhakti alone can yield liberation which cannot be had by any other means.
Essential precondions for bhakti,therefore are:
- Firmness in friendship
- A friendship which excels over friendship with any other person
- Knowledge of potencies and excellences of God.
At the outset,let us say,that not everybody is interested in becoming a bhakta-neither is it possible for all to become bhaktas.This is because of the limitations posed by the three gunaas,viz. Satvaa,rajas,and tamas of Prakrit,on all created beings which determine the propensity or the bhaava towards God,among believers or aastikaas.
There are differences in Bhakti yoga because of the differences in the bhaavaas.
Bhaktiyogo bahuvidho maargairbhaamini bhaavyatay
Swabhaava guna maargena pumsaam bhaavo vibhidhyatay
Thus instructs Bhagavan Kapila to mother Devahooti (BH.SK 3,SL 30)
Given the desire of a being to propitiate God,let us examine the different scenarios in which the same is done.
In the case of a taamasa bhakta,where tamasa is predominant guna along with lesser rajas and satvaa,there is a great deal of use of violent means,blatant and loud showoff,jealousy,concealed hatred towards others.The main purpose of such propitiation is to obtain suzerainty and power over all others and enjoy material prosperity.Anyone coming in their way are to be eliminated by all means.
In the case of a raajasa bhakta,where rajas is predominant guns mixed with a little sativa and games,propitiation of God is done with intention of securing material benefits such as fame and wealth.Such bhaktas do not realise that the same Supreme Lord is present in different incarnations or avataaras of Lord such as Raama,Krishna ,Narasimha etc,
In the case of a saatvika bhakta,where satva is the predominant guna mixed with little rajas and games,propitiation of God is done with a view to negate the sins accrued through karmas,and devotion is an intentional and earnest offering to the Supreme Lord.The devotee sees the same Supreme Lord in all His incarnations or avataaraas.
In the case of Nirguna Bhakti,the devotee at the mere mention of the Lord’s name or potency,has his thoughts flow at at once, in the Lord,in a continuous unbroken flow-the Lord who is the source of all gunaas-as the holy Gangs flows into the ocean.Such bhakti asks for no quid pro quo and is constant and unbroken.Even if the Lord were to offer such a devotee,saalokya-a stay in the same planet as the Lord-,Saarsti power equal to the Lord,Saameepya-nearness to the Lord,Saayujya-a form similar to the Lord’s,or merging with Lord even,such a devotee would refuse the same,being fully satisfied with service to the Lord.Such a bhakti towards Supreme Lord is the ultimate in bhakti which transcends the three gunaas and pleases the Lord.