Who is a Bhakta?

Who is a Bhakta? The answer to the question, who is a Bhakta, seems to be very simple. He who has devotion or Bhakti is a devotee or a Bhakta. But then arises the question, what is Bhakti? Bhakti is Love; that Love for God which is generated from the true knowledge of the Greatness (of God); that Love which is unshakable and which is greater than the love (the Bhakta has) for any other thing.

Thus we see it is not the base fear of God that characterizes a true Bhakta. Again, this Love for God is steadfast both in weal and woe. Remember Prahlada, his Love for Hari and the Divine Name was so great that he could not give up uttering the Hari-Nama even when he was tortured only because he refused to give up singing the sweet name of Shri Hari.

The Bhakta’s Love for God is greater than his love for his wife, his children and all other relatives, for his riches and even for himself. Bhakti is both the means and the end. So a Bhakta asks God to increase and to cement his Bhakti for him, i.e., to increase his love for Him both in quantity and in quality. His only prayer is that the Lord should so propel his poor mind as to enable him to love the Lord always, through thick and thin and to love Him more and more. For the Bhakta is never satisfied with the quality and the quantity of his Love. And he never spares any pain to see – this Love does not fade, and this Love is always ripening.

A Bhakta is not afraid of anything and is not afraid of losing anything. Should it be said that poverty never upsets him, when he is not afraid of even the horrors of hell, provided he is assured that even in hell his devotion will not fade? But the Bhakta is terribly, very terribly, afraid of becoming a trader with the Lord Hari and is terribly afraid of lapsing into carelessness which would perhaps make him ask the Lord for this and that in return for his devotion. He does not trouble himself even with Moksha or the final Bliss.

Shri Prahlada, the great devotee, is asked by the Almighty, Shri Narasimha, to ask Him for a boon. And Bhakta Prahlada says, “O Lord, both the servant and the master deserve their mutual relationship only when they have their, respective qualities but not when they are so related only for some gain. He who hopes to secure his happiness and comforts from his master does not deserve to be a servant. Similarly, a master is no real master if only to glorify himself as such he showers gifts on his servant. I am Thy devotee devoid of all desires and Thou art my Lord having nothing to gain. O Lord, if Thou, the foremost among those who can grant boons, are pleased to grant, I request Thee to bless me that my heart becomes completely devoid of desires.

Bhagavan Shri Krishna Caitanya says, “O Lord of the Universe, I do not pray for riches or for friends or for relatives or for beautiful muse. Kindly bless me with selfless devotion and Love for Thee irrespective of time or my birth.

न धनं न जनं न सुंदरी कवितां वा जगदीश कामये ।
मम जन्मनि जन्मनिश्र्वरै भक्तद्धाक्तिरहैतुकी त्वयि ॥

Again, in the eyes of Shri Caitanya only the following is to be termed ill-luck to a Bhakta. He is pleased to say, “Oh Supreme Lord, Thou hast been merciful enough to give to the world Thy numberless Names which have been surcharged with all Thy Shakti and force. Again, Thou hast been merciful not to lay any restrictions as to the time and the like for uttering and remembering Thy Holy Names. But alas, such is my ill-luck that I have no love for chanting Thy sweet Name.
Again, Lord Caitanya says, “A Bhakta who is humbler than even a blade of grass and who is more forbearing than even a mighty tree, and who readily honours every other creature without expecting anyone to honour him, only such a Bhakta is competent to chant the sacred Names of the Lord.

What does Shri Krishna say in the Gita about a Bhakta? In the twelfth discourse named ‘The Yoga of Devotion’ the Lord enumerates the qualities of his devotees and He says more than once that such devotees are dear to Him. Only a gist of the discourse is here given and the reader is requested to turn to any translation of the Gita, if he cannot follow the text.

A Bhakta bears no ill-will to any creature, is friendly and compassionate but without attachment and egoism and is balanced both in pleasure and sorrow. He is ever content and dedicates his mind, reason and everything to the Lord. The world does not run away from him and he too does not run away from the world. He knows not the anxieties of pleasure, passion and fear. He wants nothing other than the Love for God, is always cool and renounces every 63 undertaking for achieving this Love for the Lord. He is full of devotion, is alike to friend and foe. Fame and ignominy, cold and heat are equal to him. He is free from all attachment. He is resolute in his dedication of his all to the service of the Lord and is homeless” – says Shri Krishna.

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