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Bhakti means loving devotion for Bhagwan. Compared to other forms of yoga, bhakti yoga is the easiest path to attain Paramatma. In the Shrimad Bhagvatam (11.14.20), Shri Krishna Bhagwan reveals to Uddhavji, his foremost devotee, “O Uddhav! What yoga, knowledge, dharma, study of shastras, austerities and renunciation cannot attain, the highest bhakti will attain – me.” Even Shankaracharya, the proponent of Advait Vedant regarded bhakti as the supreme path – bhaktireva gariyasi – among all forms of sadhana. Bhagwan Swaminarayan added the word mahātmyajnān–yugbhuri-sneho bhaktischa Mādhave (Shikshapatri 103) – bhakti is intense love for Paramatma, with a full-fledged realization of his glory, grandeur and greatness.
The Bhagvatam (7.5.23) cites nine forms of devotion – navdha bhakti – namely, shravanam, kirtanam, Vishnoho smaranam, padsevanam, archanam, vandanam, dasyam, sakhyam and atmanivedanam. In the Ramcharitmanas (3.58.8), Tulsidas also cites navdha bhakti with a few variations. All rituals of bhakti may, for the sake of simplicity, be incorporated in navdha bhakti. They are briefly discussed below.


Shravanam means to listen to Paramatma’s glory, divine lila and injunctions and those of his avatars and eminent devotees (Haricharitramrut Sagar 1.65). Of all the nine forms of bhakti, shravan bhakti is the most important. This is effected through the ritual of katha. As mentioned in article two (Swaminarayan Bliss, November–December 2021), one ritual in mandirs is katha. All bhakti traditions have their own shastras on which katha is done. Common shastras include the Ramayan, Ramcharitmanas, Bhagvatam and Bhagavad Gita. In the Swaminarayan Sampradaya, in addition to above shastras, katha is usually based on the Vachanamrut, Harililamrut, Swamini Vato, Yogi Gita and Satsang Diksha.
BAPS devotees listen to katha at their nearest shikharbaddha or hari mandir daily or weekly. The Sunday satsang sabha globally is a ritual introduced by Yogiji Maharaj. The daily ghar sabha – home katha – is a ritual introduced by Pramukh Swami Maharaj. In both, people listen to discourses by devotees or sadhus. By listening to katha devotees gain an understanding of core principles and practices, redemptive virtues and inner peace. More importantly, as declared by Bhagwan Swaminarayan, it removes swabhavs and vasana – base instincts – more effectively than by performing austerities such as chandrayan. Hence, the flitting and miserable mind is stabilized by eradicating desires for vishays – sensual enjoyment (Vachanamrut Kariyani 12).


Kirtan bhakti means to sing aloud or chant Bhagwan’s name (mantra japa or dhun), divine events (lila) and attributes. It also means to sing devotional bhajans which describe Bhagwan’s persona, shangar – attire and adornments – and his glory. In the Haricharitramrut Sagar (1.65), Bhagwan Swaminarayan adds that kirtan means to recite, study, learn and teach shastras related to Bhagwan and his eminent devotees.
Some well-known singers and poets of Sanatan Dharma include Naradji, Valmiki, Shukdevji, Tulsidas, the Alwars, Narsinh Mehta, Mirabai, Swami Haridas, Surdas, Tyagraj, Tukaram, Nanakdev, Pushti Marg’s eight poets and Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s eight poet-paramhansas.
In the Swaminarayan Sampradaya, daily kirtan rituals include katha, prabhatiya, arti, thal (naivedya), dhun, godi, nitya chesta, mala and chanting the Sahajanand Namavali – the 108 divine names of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Similar to the prabhatiya bhajans in the Swaminarayan Sampradaya, the suprabhatam is sung daily in Tirumala when Shri Venkateshvar Balaji is awakened at 3.00 a.m. Singing prabhatiya is a common tradition in bhakti sampradayas.


Smaran means to recall. So by smaran bhakti devotees recall everything related to Bhagwan. The Bhagvatam (12.12.54) cites five ways of performing smaran bhakti:
1. recalling Bhagwan’s name in one’s heart, 2. remembering his divine charitras (lila) 3. recalling his divine attributes (gunas), 4. meditating on his form and 5. constant mental rapport with him.
In the Vachanamrut (Gadhada I 3), Bhagwan Swaminarayan states the immense importance of remembering Bhagwan’s lila; if at the time of death, a devotee forgets Bhagwan’s form but remembers his divine actions or his sadhus and devotees then he will attain an elevated spiritual state.

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