"What is Bhakti?

Literally speaking bhakti means, loyalty, surrender, faithfulness, attachment and devotion. The word is derived from bhakta meaning a person who is attached or loyal to someone, a worshipper, devotee, adorer or faithful attendant. Bhakta also means food, boiled or cooked rice, an offering made in a sacrifice. The concept was probably rooted in the ancient practices of animal and human sacrifices. A person who offered himself to the bhokta (eater or deity) as a sacrifice was a bhakta. Overtime, the practice disappeared, but with the internalization of sacrificial rituals, the idea stayed. A bhakta became a devotee who surrendered himself to God and lived a life of detachment and renunciation full absorbed in the contemplation of God.

True bhakti

Spiritually speaking, bhakti is one of the most sublime human expressions not easily attained. True bhakti arises in a person who is filled with the purity of sattva, who is free from worldly desires and whose sole aim is liberation. A loyal devotee of God does not seek anything, other than the attention of God or oneness with Him. He may even act or appear as if he is out of mind. In spiritual terms bhakti means intense spiritual love and devotion to God. In true devotion, a person reaches the heights of out of body and out of mind experiences, suffers frequent mood changes, loses consciousness or falls into rapturous trance. True devotion often manifests itself as a kind of divine madness and total indifference to worldly matters.

Thus, bhakti is not mere devotional feeling or activity. It is much deeper than that. It is intense yearning of the soul who is caught in the phenomena of birth and death to become free from the phenomenal existence in which it is held in captivity. It manifests in one's being as a powerful emotion which is both of this world and not of this world. It arises in a mind that is stabilized by one pointed intelligence and purified in the fire of virtues and divine qualities."