In Bhagwad Gita various paths have been suggested to realise the self. Bhakti yoga is one of them.
What is Bhakti?
The ultimate object of this life is love and happiness. To love and to be loved is man’s inherent nature. When this love for God becomes natural ( for no other reason but just for the sake of love) unalloyed and intense ( no other thing interests other than God) it becomes Bhakti. हरि व्यापक सर्वत्र समाना। प्रेम ते प्रकट होहि मैं जाना।। The god is everywhere, with love he is attainable. Bhakti is intense love for God. When a man gets it, he loves all, hates none, he becomes satisfied ever ( because we all have come from the same source). This love cannot be reduced to any earthly benefit because so long as worldly desires last that kind of love doesn't come.
One great advantage of Bhakti yoga is that it is the easiest way to reach God particularly in our age of Kaliyug. In yoga sutra also Maharshi Patanjali talks about Ishwar pranidhan which is nothing but Bhakti yoga.
Tenets of Bhakti yoga- as suggested by Swami Vivekananda.
How can we love Vyasthi - the particular without first loving the Samasthi - the generalised and the abstract universe whole (God)? How can we claim to love God without loving His creatures? So, the conclusion Bhakta comes to is that love everybody as they are nothing but another form of God. If we love God, we love everything and if we love everything, we love God only.
Everything is His and He is my lover. I love Him says the Bhakta. In Him everything becomes sacred. He is there in animate as well as in inanimate, how then, we may not love anything.
The nearer we approach God, we begin to see that all things are In Him. Our heart then will become the eternal fountain of love. Man is seen no more as man but only as God. The animal is seen no more as animal but only as God. Thus, in the intense state of Bhakti, worship is offered to everyone, every life and everything.
As a result of intense all absorb in love, comes the feeling of perfect surrender. Then the loving soul is able to say if pain comes - welcome pain, if misery comes - " welcome misery" - you are also from my beloved. If death comes, he will lovingly embrace it, because he is in the intense state of love for God.
We beg God for everything, God give me health, wealth, good husband, good wife, son education. This begging is not the language of love. To worship God for the sake of salvation is also no love. Love is always for love's sake. Bhakta loves because he cannot help loving. Give your love unto God but do not ask anything for return.
Love knows no fear, those that love God through fear are the lowest of human beings. If you love God for fear of punishment, is the crudest from of worship and love, so long there is any fear, how can there be love also. Love knows no fear. Most of us love God out of fear only- ईश्वर हमारा कुछ बिगाड़ न दे- lest God harm us.
Love knows no rivals. True love never comes until the object of our love becomes to us our highest object. In many cases human love is misdirected or misplaced. The highest ideal of any man is God. But we mortals love our body, our ego, our family, our wealth, our possessions and at the same time we claim to love God too. Utter non-sense. When it comes to love for God, it has to be God alone.
Sometimes we are so engrossed in our preparation, processes, rituals, like observation of particular time (muhurt), lighting diyas, garlands, decoration, chanting of mantras, and in the process, we forget the main object, the God. Preparations and processes cannot be end in themselves. The true Bhakta’s love is burning madness before which everything vanishes for him.
Man takes up all the relationships of life as father, mother, as son, friend as lover and projects them on the ideal of love on his God. To him God exists as all these and the best time of his progress is reached when he feels that he has become absolutely merged in the object of his worship. At last comes the full blaze of light in which he realizes at last the beautiful and inspiring truth that the love, the lover and the beloved are one.
In Bhagavat Puran nine types of Bhakti have been described. They are-
In Indian tradition nine types of Bhakti have been suggested. One can choose any form or a combination thereof depending on his inclination and interest.
Shravana- This is listening the glories, Lila, of the lord or discourses, satsang about the God.
Kirtan- singing and chanting of lord’s name and stories and mantras. It destroys all sins of the devotees.
Smarana- Remembering God all the time without interruption. Gopi’s constant remembrance of Krishna and Sabari’s remembrance of Rama is of this type.
Pad Sevan- It is serving the lotus feet of the Lord. An excellent example of this is Bharat, when Ram was in exile ( vanvas) he borrowed His wooden sandals and placed them on the thrown and worshipped them as Rama only. We too worship the image or an idol of the lord.
Archana- This is offering God a flower, a leaf, a fruit or even jala ( water). Lord said in Bhagwad Gita that any devotee who offers Him a leaf, a flower or even water with devotion, he is very pleased and he gets me only.
Vandana- This is to pray and prostrate before the Lord. Prostrating before all ( as all are creatures of God) our ego destroys. As soon as we become egoless and humble, we feel oneness with the God.
Dasya- it is serving God as his Lord and treating one as his servant. Hanuman ji served Lord Rama as a servitor. Surdas also had a bhav of servant while serving lord Krishna.
Sakhya - in sakhya Bhakti the bhav of the devotee is that of a friend. Arjuna treated Lord Krishna as his friend so is Sudama. This keeps them in the company of Lord all the time.
Atma Nivedan- It means complete self surrender. It is like Ishwar pranidhan of Maharshi Patanjali. Every thing happens according to His wish. He believes- he is there in all, everything belongs to him and he has no desire. By complete surrender, God takes responsibility of everything of the devotee.