concepts

Different types of bhakti in the Bhagavad-gītā

We have seen the definition of pure or uttamā bhakti elsewhere. Many practitioners tend to mix pure bhakti with other methods like karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga and dhyāna-yoga which gives rise to varieties of mixed bhakti. Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī’s commentary on the Gītā explains the various mixtures at various places, which we summarize below with reference to specific verses.

The small amount of bhakti mixed with predominant jñāna-yoga and dhyāna-yoga is called guṇī-bhūta-bhakti

In the first six chapters Śrī Kṛṣṇa speaks about jñāna-yoga and dhyāna-yoga and how they lead to mukti or the attainment of Brahman. In both cases, some bhakti to Śrī Kṛṣṇa is required as a minor element to yield a nirguṇa result – that of attaining Brahman. Śrī Kṛṣṇa makes the requirement for bhakti as a minor process clear in BG 9.3, when he says that a person without faith in bhakti does not attain him (in any of his forms – Brahman, Paramātmā, or Bhagavān) and returns to the world of birth and death.

When bhakti is present as a minor component in other paths, Viśvanātha Cakravartī calls this type of bhakti, guṇī-bhūta-bhakti. Jñāna-yoga is called jñāna-yoga and not bhakti yoga because bhakti is only a minor process in it.

Mixed bhakti where bhakti is the predominant process.

When bhakti is the predominant process, and methods/attitudes of karma, jñāna, or dhyāna become mixed with it as minor components, Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī calls this prādhāni-bhūta-bhakti. Śrī Kṛṣṇa speaks about bhakti mixed (miśra) with dhyāna-yoga (yoga-miśra-bhakti) in 8.9–13; bhakti mixed with karma (karma-miśra-bhakti) in 7.16; bhakti mixed with a desire for mokṣa (mokṣa-kāma-miśra-bhakti) in 7.29; and bhakti mixed with niṣkāma-karma and jñāna (karma-jñāna-miśra-bhakti) in 9.28. Of course, Kṛṣṇa considers pure bhakti the best, as in 12.2.

In 7.16, Śrī Kṛṣṇa describes two types of mixed devotees, or bhaktas: the karma-miśra-bhakta and the jñāna-miśra-bhakta. Bhaktas who seek knowledge out of inquisitiveness, wealth, or relief from suffering are karma-miśra-bhaktas. However, these desires are secondary or subordinate to their main desire of bhakti. As such, karma-miśra-bhaktas, after attaining their respective material desires, reach Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s abode, that is, they attain sālokya-mukti (9.25). Śrī Kṛṣṇa confirms this in 18.56, where he mentions that by His mercy the karma-miśra bhakta attains His abode.

The jñāna-miśra bhakta has a predominance of bhakti, no material desires, and no desire for attaining Brahman. Jñāna here refers to the bhakta’s ability to control the mind by the (subordinate) practice of jñāna. The result of such bhakti is to attain śānta-rati – knowledge of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s Lordship, but no active relationship with Him. However, the result can be prema (love) if by chance, such a bhakta gets the association of uttama bhaktas.

In 7.29, Śrī Kṛṣṇa explains another type of bhakta who has a mixed desire for freedom from the material world. And in the eighth chapter He speaks of bhakti mixed with a secondary component of dhyāna-yoga. At the time of death, to better focus the mind on Śrī Kṛṣṇa this type of bhakta withdraws the mind from sense objects using dhyāna-yoga. Constantly remembering Śrī Kṛṣṇa, he attains Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s abode, like the karma-miśra-bhaktas (8.13).

Three more types of bhaktas, inferior to those discussed above are described in 9.15. These are those jñānīs who worship themselves, considering themselves non-different from Śrī Kṛṣṇa; who worship secondary forms like the sun as non-different from Śrī Kṛṣṇa; and those who worship the viśvarūpa, Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the totality of everything in the universe (9.16–19). These bhaktas achieve Brahman.

Verse 9.27 describes yet another type of bhakti: karma-jñāna-miśra-prādhānī-bhūta-bhakti. In this bhakti, actions are offered to Śrī Kṛṣṇa after they are performed (rather than before) and without desire for personal benefit. And here all activities are offered, rather than only the nitya-karma, naimittika-karma, and kāmya-karma, as in karma-yoga.

In pure bhakti (ananyā-bhakti), actions are offered before performing them. Thus, an ananyā-bhakta cooks with the idea of satisfying Śrī Kṛṣṇa, while a karma-jñāna-miśra-bhakta offers the result of cooking to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. BG 9.28 explains the result of such bhakti: the bhakta can serve Śrī Kṛṣṇa directly. Śrī Kṛṣṇa mentions this type of bhakti again in 18.57.

Summary

Although the Bhagavad-Gītā is very complex, its logic can be understood better if seen in the framework of processes mixed with bhakti. The mixed bhakti can be either dominant, i.e. prādhānī-bhūta-bhakti, or a minor component, i.e. guṇī-bhūta-bhakti. In all cases, any transcendent result that comes about is only due to bhakti. Uttamā-bhakti or pure bhakti is the most desirable because it gives the result of eternal personal service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa.

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