In spiritual growth, bhakti is the process and the purpose
The Bhagavad-gita (14.26) states that bhakti is the process for transcending our material conditionings, that is, for growing in spiritual consciousness.
The same Gita (18.54) states that advanced spiritualists characterized by equanimity attain pure bhakti, conveying thus that bhakti is a higher spiritual perfection than equanimity. Earlier (15.20), the Gita has already stated that those wholeheartedly devoted to Krishna are fully enlightened.
Thus, bhakti comprises both the process and the purpose of spiritual growth.
Why does bhakti occupy such a prominent place throughout in our spiritual journey? Because it channels the strongest activating force within us – emotions – and it also manifests as the culmination of that force.
When we are still neophytes, bhakti uses our emotional energy for connecting us with the all-attractive supreme, the reservoir of all pleasure. Thus, bhakti grants glimpse of sublime fulfillment even to seekers. And pure bhakti – unmotivated, uninterrupted love for Krishna – is the purest, noblest and highest emotion that the human heart can ever experience. Such love is what we all long for, ultimately.
Some people say that bhakti is for the sentimental. They are right – bhakti is so inclusive that even those incapable of intellectual exertion or physical austerities can practice it. But bhakti’s inclusiveness goes beyond the sentimental to encompass everyone. The Gita through its overview of different paths indicates that even karma-yogis, jnana-yogis and ashtanga-yogis need to add devotion to their practices to attain their respective perfections.
These twin roles of bhakti as process and purpose are implicit in its conclusion (18.66). This verse’s assurance that the devoted will be protected from sinful reactions conveys that the process of bhakti is open even for the impure. And the verse’s call to give up all other paths for surrendering to Krishna conveys that bhakti is the purpose of all spiritual growth.
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