Introduction to Bhakti Practices

Bhakti has a philosophical side and a practical one. On the whole, the practical one is more important. However, without a basic understanding of bhakti, our intrinsic nature and our relationship with everything else in existence, our practice won’t go much beyond a mere sentimental plane.

Thus a basic intellectual understanding of bhakti is essential. You can find this in Bhakti Basics. We especially recommend you to read Soul Nature and Bhakti Nature.

From there you can dive deeply into essential practice and taste what bhakti really means. Bhakti never really unfolds unless you do it. It is dynamic activity. It’s practices are multifarious.

The 9 Practices of Bhakti

There are nine fundamental practices in bhakti, which each have various subdivisions. And beyond the nine basic activities there many more. Actually, it is an essential principle of bhakti that almost any ordinary activity can be converted into devotional service.

In the beginning, we are going to focus on the nine principle ones. These are mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Sravanam, kirtanam visnoh, smaranam, pada-sevanam, arcanam, vandanam, dasyam, sakhyam, atma-nivedanam. These nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.5.23)

Bhakti Practices for Beginners

The first two practices, sravanam and kirtanam are essential for all levels of practitioners, but especially for beginners. Smaranam, or meditation, is possible after sufficient practice of sravanam and kirtanam. However, in our beginner’s course (coming soon!!) we have included a simple form of bhakti meditation. Beginners can also perform simple versions of pada-sevanam, arcanam and vandanam.

Bhakti Practices for Intermediates and Advanced

All the first seven practices are recommended for intermediate practitioners, with special focus on sravanam and kirtanam. It is not necessary to practice all the items, even by focussing on item one can reach perfection. Everyone has a natural tendency for one or several of these bhakti practices, so let yourself be guided by your intuition to find the right combination of practices that is suitable for your nature.

Sakhyam and atma-nivedanam are practices which require advanced levels of devotion.