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Bhakti-Yoga, according to A.S. Raghavan

From: Krishna Susarla (susarla.krishna_at_tumora.swmed.edu)
Date: Wed Dec 10 1997 - 09:44:20 PST

In his book VishiShTaadvaita, Sri A.S. Raghavan lists seven characteristics of the path of bhakti-yoga. These are (quoted verbatim from p 86):

1) Men born of the first three castes only can take to it, and even among them only those who have sufficient knowledge and capacity.

2) They should have passed through the stages of Karma-yoga and J~naana-yoga by constant practice and realized the individual soul.

3) There are innumerable obstacles in the form of sins which will prevent a person from beginning the Bhakti-yoga. In order to overcome them, he has to seek the aid of Prapatti or SharaNaagati at the feet of God.

4) Again in the daily practice of Bhakti-yoga there is always the risk of mistakes creeping in. If mistakes come in, either expiation prescribed in the Shaastras with reference to such sins must be done or another Prapatti performed in place of such expiation.

5) Bhakti-Yoga has got to be supplemented by the performance of various obligatory rites, daily and occasional.

6) Bhakti-yoga is capable of yielding the fruit only after a long time. The reason for this is that it can destroy all sins excepting those that have begun to perated and yield fruit (i.e., Praarabdha karma). Before the attainment of salvation, one must experience all the fruits of Praarabdha-karma, good or bad. One cannot say how long this period of experience will be when the operating karma will be exhausted. It may be many years and even many births. 

7) Lastly even at the last moment when the yogi sheds his body, the thought of God must be in his mind which is known as Antimasmriti or final rememberance. Such is Bhakti-yoga.

8) There is the great merit (in practicing bhakti-yoga) that the very process is a source of joy and happiness unlike the other means. This is because the object of meditation is Bhagavaan whose essential nature is Bliss and whose qualities are auspicious and faultless. A greater merit is that when the Bhakti-yoga is successfully completed, the Upaasaka is once for all free from the travails of birth and death and attains the state of Release from which there is no return. 

These things in mind, it occurs to me that the Sri Vaishnava definition of "bhakti-yoga" is vastly different from the one I was accustomed to. I would like to open a discussion here on this list regarding bhakti-yoga, prapatti, and sharaNaagati and how they are regarded in the Sri Vaishnava sampradaaya. This is mostly for the purpose of my own enlightenment, so if it seems quite elementary to most of you, please forgive me.

First of all, if all are in agreement with the description of bhakti-yoga provided above, I was wondering if anyone could provide examples from the itihaasa-s or puraaNa-s of individuals who practiced the bhakti-yoga as described above. 

Secondly, I was wondering if someone could provide a succinct definition of bhakti-yoga as it is understood in the Sri Vaishnava sampradaaya. What activities does it consist of, what qualifications does it require, and how is it different from the path of sharaNaagati? Why is there a varna restriction on who can practice bhakti-yoga? What methods of worship are employed in the practice of bhakti-yoga (i.e. - shravanam, kiirtanam, etc)? Furthermore, is there any sort of restriction on the particular Deity of Vishnu that one can worship in this process?

your servant,

H. Krishna Susarla
susarla.krishna@tumora.swmed.edu
http://www.swmed.edu/home_pages/personal/krishna
UT Southwestern Class of 1999
(my opinions are my own)