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Differences between Bhakti & Prapatti- Sri Velukkudi Krishnan

From: Vijay Triplicane (
Date: Sat Jan 26 2002 - 18:18:55 PST

Dear Bhagavatas,
Adiyen saw a question on bhakti and prapatti a few days back. Learned
members would have replied already. Adiyen would like to add a few more
lines to that. 
Bhakti is the path of devotion. It is meditating towards the lord,
longing for his union, lamenting on his separation, doing as much
service as possible to his pleasure. Karma and gnana are ancillaries for
bhakti. Bhakti is a "upAya" - "means" to reach our Lord. Bhakti is
sAdhya upAya - achieved by our efforts or even known as pravritti marga
- endeavouring in action. Bhakti as a upAya is known as sAdhana. 
Prapatti - is "absolute surrender" to the lotus feet of Sriman Narayana.
In other words having faith that Sriman narayana's lotus feet is the
upAya (means). Prapatti also known as nyAsa or saraNAgati is siddha
upAya - ie "means" that is pre existing and not achieved by our efforts
(unlike bhakti). This is so because the lotus feet is not achieved or
created by our efforts. It is already existing and ever waiting to
respond. This is nivritti marga - abstaining from action - abstaining
from doing anything as means for liberation other that requesting and
accepting the Lord as the means. Reference for Bhakti - manmanA bhava.
gItA 9th chapter last sloka. Reference for prapatti - tvamEva upAyabhUtO
mE bhava iti prArthanA mati: saraNAgati:.  For easier understanding let
us draw a chart differentiating bhakti and prapatti.
1. sAdhya upAyam
siddha upAyam.
2. pravritti margam
nivritti margam
3. Only a select few can practice - those who are eligible for Vedas.
Anyone including animals can surrender. 
4. Gives mOksha after burning out the prArabdha karmas which might take
many births.     Gives mOksha at the end of that birth in which one
5. to bear fruit, one has to meditate towards the Lord till the last
moment.                           Once surrendered there is no need to
think of him in the death bed.
    (there is a need for antimasmrti)
(no need for antimasmrti)
6. expects karma and gnana as ancillaries (anga) to bear fruit.
Does not expect anything as it is the will of the Lord
7. Bhakti is acit (non sentient)
prapatti is absolutely cit (sentient) as it is the Lord himself. 
8. expects some other than itself to give the fruit (Lord has to give)
Itself gives the fruit (as prapatti is Lords will which itself gives the
9. Atma swarUpa viruddham - not a right mean considering the absolute
slavery                 Atma swarUpa anugunam - the right mean
considering the absolute slavery
    nature of jIva. As bhakti casts some independence on him which is
not Atmas nature       nature of jIva. No independence on the jIva. 
10. Not a fitting means for the great fruit mOksha which we get, as this
is acit                      fitting means for the great fruit mOksha
which we get, as this is cit. 
Interestingly, a bhakta also performs prapatti and a surrenderer also
practices Bhakti.     Why so ? 
To practice Bhakti, one has to be cleansed of all his papa karmas. Since
our papas are countless, the prayascittams are also countless, which is
almost impossible considering our finite life and knowledge. So in lieu
of prayascittams a bhakta performs prapatti. The fruit for this
surrender is cleaning the karmas. Then on Bhakti is born and further
leads to liberation. This is called anga prapatti (ancillary to Bhakti).
A surrenderer after performing prapatti has to spend his life time in
the service of his master. To generate more interest, to sing His glory,
to chant His divine names and to enjoy His nearness , the surrenderer
uses Bhakti as a medium. Bhakti here is used as a means to enjoy and
experience the Lord. Not as a means for liberation. 
For a bhakta, Bhakti is the means for liberation but prapatti is
ancillary for clearing karmas.
For a prapanna, Lord's  feet is the means for liberation , but Bhakti
helps in furtherance of his service. 
Bhakti is a mixture of action and meditation. Prapatti is a pure state
of mind. A prapanna possesses the following : makes up his mind to do
what pleases His master, not to do what displeases His master, absolute
faith that He would protect, to seek Him alone as the protector, reveal
his inability and meekness, and lastly submit oneself. Bhakti is easy to
conceive and understand but difficult to practice, prapatti is easy to
do but difficult to conceive understand or digest as a concept. 
A hagiology for prapatti : Once Swamy ParAsara bhatta along with his
disciple was going through a forest . He had to stay that day at a
hunter's place. In the evening the hunter returned and was looking very
hungry. Bhattar enquired whether he could not hunt any animal or bird
that day. Hunter replied : "O knowledgeable ! I caught a small rabbit
and was returning home happily. The mother of that rabbit saw this and
stood before me with pleading eyes. I felt pity and let the small rabbit
go. So I am hungry". Bhattar on hearing this fell unconscious. After a
while he got up and said "neither the mother rabbit knew saraNagati
sastram, (it did not chant dvayam, it did not say nivEdayata mAm
kshipram like vibhIshana), nor the hunter knew the characteristics of a
protector, (does not know sarva dharman paritryajya mAmEkam saraNam
vraja or abhayam sarvabhUtEbhyO dadAmi). Neverthless without a word
being uttered a prapatti has borne fruit here. " So it is not words or
actions that matter in prapatti, but the mental make up- the pleading
gesture - feeling of a destitute - absolute faith on Him that is

           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
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