The Bhagavadgita on Bhakti or Devotion
Chapter 11 - Sloka 54
bhaktyā tv ananyayā śakya aham evamvidhorjuna
jñātum drastum ca tattvena pravestum ca paramtapa
bhaktya = by devotion; tu = but; ananyaya = not by other means; sakyah = can be; aham = I; evam-vidhah = in this manner; arjuna = O Arjuna; jnatum = known; drastum = seen; ca = and; tattvena = in reality; pravestum = entered into; ca = and; parantapa = O destroyer of foes.
"But by devotion, not by other means, I can be known or seen in this manner, and can be entered into (My) Reality, O destroyer of foes.
Only the true devotees of Brahman have an opportunity to enter His abode and see Him directly. They alone have the permission to enjoy His Company and His close association. They earn it by the merit of their actions and the strength of their devotion. True devotion is the gateway to eternal life and liberation. There is no better way to enter the world of Brahman other than through the path of devotion. In this journey, knowledge is very important, because true devotion springs from knowledge of Brahman alone. Without knowledge (jnanam) there can be no true devotion (bhakti). You cannot love someone you do not know.
Some people may consider themselves devotees of Brahman, but how can they be His true devotees if they do not know who He is? They worship Brahman because they love themselves more than they love anyone else. They seek Him because they want Him to fulfill their wishes and help them reach their goals. In the end, they may get what they desire, but do not secure a place in the highest Abode of Brahman. When you know Brahman through knowledge, which comes with self-study and self-absorption (samadhi), you become filled with love and devotion. When your heart is empty of yourself and saturated with the love of God, you will be able to surrender to Him and perform your actions with a sense of sacrifice. As you open your heart to the currents of divine love and abiding grace, your life becomes one great sacrifice in which you pour everything you have as a sacrificial offering, becoming both the sacrificer and the sacrificed, without any expectation and without claiming ownership.
What happens to a devotee who has realized Brahman whilst in the human body? According to the descriptions available in our scriptures, when a devotee who has been blessed and liberated by the divine couple (Maha Lakshmi and Maha Vishnu) dies, he passes through many planes and worlds of light, meeting on the way many divinities who rejoice in his liberation and take great delight in seeing him. After meeting these incredible beings of great eminence, he finally reaches the river Viraja.
Viraja means beauty, splendor and illumination. He takes a plunge into its radiant waters and becomes completely cleansed and perfected by its illuminating power. Then a strange being appears on the banks of the river, named Amanava. He is the personal messenger or ambassador of Lord Vishnu, specially deputed by Him to assist the devotee in his journey and familiarize him with the landmarks. Accompanied by him, he enters into Sri Vaikuntha, the eternal world of infinite splendor. Marching forward, he meets with many divine beings and sees many magical and divine manifestations of God. Finally, he enters into the Golden City of Vaikuntha where Vishnu resides.
As he enters the City Gates, many divinities and souls of the highest order come forward to welcome him, showing great love and affection as if they are seeing a long lost friend. Marching further, he passes through a Golden Hall, studded with precious stones and gems of all kinds, where the aura of Brahman enters into him and fills his consciousness. Passing further, he meets with the divinities of the highest order, who act as the deputies of Lord Vishnu. Finally, at the end of a long and blissful journey He comes into the presence of the Great God Himself, Whom he sees in full regalia, resting on the coils of mighty serpent, Adisesha, surrounded by His close attendants and the purest beings, with the Divine Mother, Goddess Maha Lakshmi seated by His side. Upon seeing the form of God, the devotee who has transcended his own delusion and crossed many worlds thus far finds himself fully absorbed into an ocean of bliss and saturated with the love of Brahman. His very arrival delights God and makes Him immensely pleased. From that moment of reunion, the liberated soul (mukta atma), the devotee of God, begins to have the same form as that of Vishnu.
A liberated soul, who is a devotee of Vishnu, is given a special place of honor in Vaikuntha whereby he gets an opportunity to remain seated near Him and see Him all the time uninterruptedly. The Lord is as pleased as the devotee to see him seated near Him. Thus, each devotee of Brahman, who has been liberated from the cycles of births and deaths and the impurities of Nature, enjoys three great blessings that are rare to achieve: namely nearness (samipya), similar form (sarupya) and eternal unity (sayujya).
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Om, Aum, Pranava or Nada in Mantra and Yoga Traditions
- Brahmacharya or Celibacy in Hinduism
- Atheism and Materialism in Ancient India
- Solving the Hindu Caste System
- How To Choose Your Spiritual Guru?
- Creation in Hinduism As a Transformative Evolutionary Process
- Wealth and Duty in Hinduism
- Do You Have Any Plans For Your Rebirth or Reincarnation?
- Understanding Death and Impermanence
- Lessons from the Dance of Kali, the Mother Nature
- Letting your God live in You - The True Essence of the Hindu Way of Life
- prajnanam brahma - Brahman is Intelligence
- Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs From The Perspective Of Hinduism
- The Defintion and Concept of Maya in Hinduism
- The Meaning of Nirvana
- Self-knowledge, Difficulties in Knowing Yourself
- Hinduism - Sex and Gurus
- The Construction of Hinduism
- The Meaning and Significance of Heart in Hinduism
- The Origin and Significance of the Epic Mahabharata
- The True Meaning of Prakriti in Hinduism
- Three Myths about Hinduism
- What is Your Notion of God?
- Why Hinduism is a Preferred Choice for Educated Hindus