Bhakti is viewed/categorized in many ways. These types or categories are not necessarily non-overlapping:
a) Sakamya and Nishkamya Bhakti
b) Apara (lower)and Para (higher) Bhakti
c) Mukhya ((Primary) and Gauna (Secondary)Bhakti
d) Ragatmika and Vaidhi Bhakti
e) Vyabhicharini and Avyabhicharini Bhakti
f) Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic Bhakti
a) Sakamya and Nishkamya Bhakti: In Sakamya Bhakti, a devotee prays to god for material gains. Here the Bhakta prays to God for wealth, happiness, good health, prosperity etc. If the Bhakta prays sincerely to the Lord, his wishes may be granted, but then the satisfaction is momentary. After the fulfilment of one desire the next desire crops and then the other and so on. Thus the desires or the wish list is endless. In Sakamya Bhakti, there is no supreme satisfaction, immortality, and Moksha. Eg: Dhruv, initially had Sakamya Bhakti as he wanted to get the dominion. So he retired into the forest on advice from his mother. It was later he developed Nishkamya Bhakti after he had the darshan of Lord Hari.
In Nishkamya Bhakti, the devotee is contented with whatever he has. His communion with God bestows upon him Divine Grace which in turn purifies his heart so that he eventually becomes one with God. In Nishkamya Bhakti, as the Bhakta is in communion with God for becoming one with Him, the Bhakta enjoys the Divine Aiswaryas like Jnana, Viragya with His grace. The Bhakta also gets to see the Vibhutis or various manifestations of the Lord in the universe. The devotee will have the Darshan of the Lord as well. Eg: Prahalada
b) Apara and Para Bhakti: Apara means lower and Para means higher. Apara Bhakti is lower in the sense of priority. An Apara Bhakta worships the Lord by offering flowers, doop, deep, naivaidya. He observes rituals and ceremonies. His bhakti is personified towards the deity he worships. He is dedicated to the deity of his worship and is elevated towards higher status through this dedication.
Para Bhakti refers to a higher state of Bhakti reached after the perfection of the Apara Bhakti. Para Bhakti includes Apara Bhakti. It is not possible to approach Para Bhakti avoiding or opposing Apara Bhakti. Para Bhakti is all inclusive. Para Bhakti is free from the three gunas. Here the Bhakta sees God in everything including inanimate objects seen in this world. All that is seen in the nature like flowers, fruits, animals, birds, trees, rivers, oceans, mountains etc will be seen as a manifestation of the Lord himself. “Thou art all-pervading; on what Simhasana shall I seat Thee? Thou art the Supreme Light, in whose borrowed light the sun, the moon, the stars and the fire shine; shall I wave this little Deepa or light before You?” Thus the devotee recognizes the transcendental nature of God. The bhakta has single minded devotion to the Lord. He does not want anything other than the grace of the Lord. There is no expectation from the Lord, the love is pure and spontaneous towards God. The Bhakta does not want other Vibhuthis (other manifestations) of the Lord, he wants the Lord Himself. He has no foes or friends. His mind is composed in pain and pleasure. His mind is ever fixed on the Lord. Para-Bhakti and Jnana are one. This is the highest culminating point to be reached in Bhakti. Some of the examples of Para Bhakti are Tukaram, Namdev, Rama Das, Tulsi Das etc.
c) Ragatmika and Vaidhi Bhakti: In Ragatmika Bhakti, the Bhakta is not bound by rituals or ceremonies in his worship to the Lord. He is not bound by the barriers or customs of the society. The devotee is above public criticism. There is only free flow of bhakti or divine love to the Lord. Eg Mira Bai. She was so intoxicated with the Love for Krishna that she ignored the criticisms from the public about her relatives or husband. She would sing and dance on the streets in praise of Lord Sri Krishna.
In Vaidhi Bhakti, the Bhakta is bound by the customs of the society for worshipping the Lord.
d) Vyabhicharini and Avyabhicharini Bhakti: Vyabicharini bhakti is to love god for some time, love wife, children, parents and property for some time.
Avyabhicharini Bhakti is to love god and god alone all the time.
e) Sattavika, Rajasika and Tamasika Bhakti: In Sattavika Bhakti, the Bhakta worships God to please Him. The Bhakta is dissatisfied with the mundane materialistic pleasures and sees Him in his prayer
In Rajasika Bhakti, the bhakta strives to attain success in the material world. Rajas predominates this type of bhakti. Here the Bhakta prays to the Lord to acquire wealth, estates etc.
In Tamasic Bhakti, the bhakta is indolent, slothful and thus prays to God to get success through deceit. Tamasic guna pre dominates this type of Bhakti. Eg: A thief praying to God to help him in his ventures.
f) Mukhya and Guana Bhakti: Mukhya bhakti is where the devotee exhibits devotion to the Lord as primary aspect. Guana Bhakti is devotion as secondary aspect.
Abheda Bhakti. This is an advanced stage of devotion is ‘undivided devotion’. Eg Prahalada at a later stage meditated on his own Self as Lord Hari.
Samarasa Bhakti is a type of bhakti where the bhakta sees all the gods and goddesses like Sri Rama, Sita, Krishna, Siva, Parvati, Hari alike. He does not differentiate between the gods and goddesses. He knows that Lord Krishna is not any different from Lord Rama, similarly Sita Mata is no different from Parvati. All are inseparable. This is also an advanced stage of bhakti.
Ananya Bhakti is a type of bhakti where the Lord is seen in all forms and names. For Eg: Just like the metal gold can be moulded to a bangle, necklace, rings etc, similarly, god alone is seen in all forms and names. Here gold is the base metal used in all the ornaments, while different names like bangles, rings and necklaces are given. Thus Lord is seen in all forms and names.
Some advocate that Ananya bhakti, Para Bhakti, Avyabhicharini Bhakti are all one and the same.
Qualities of a Bhakta
According to Bhagavad Gita, (Ch 12, (stanza 13-20) following are the characteristics of a bhakta.
a) Advesta Sarvabhutanam: Bears No ill will against anyone: To a bhakta, all the happenings, good/ bad, agreeable/ disagreeable are a Prasad, God’s gift. A bhakta believes that God does not discriminate and does only the best for him. So there is no ill will against anyone, no hatred against someone.
b) Maitrah, Friendly: A bhakta is friendly to one and all.
c) Karuna: Compassionate: A bhakta is compassionate to the sufferings of others as he believes that all beings are only a manifestation of the Supreme Lord.
d) Nirmamo: Free from the idea of “its mine”: A bhakta should train his mind in such a way that there is no attachment to worldly objects. This quality is very important for the spiritual advancement or God realisation.
e) Nirhankaro: Free from the idea of “I”: The objective of a bhakta is to annihilate the ego and identify himself with the Self, which is Atma. Thus a devotee should have minimum ego. In the words of Sri Rama Krishna, one should develop servant ego or God ego to minimise the effect of “I”.
f) Sama Dukha Sukha: Even mined in pleasure and pain. As long as the mind associates with the external sense objects, there is bound to be pleasure and pain. These are like waves which may be favourable sometimes and unfavourable sometimes and vice-versa. In other words, these are temporary. So a bhakta should be even minded at all times.
g) Kshmi: Forbearance: With forbearance as a virtue, a bhakta can bear all hardships both physical and mental cheerfully. He will have control over his mind and does not react to situations/ events.
h) Santushta: Ever Content: A bhakta understands the ever changing nature of the world. He is ever content with the Divine Name.
i) Yatatma: Controls body, mind and intellect
j) Dridha Nischayah: Determined Mind: A wavering mind never achieves anything- Spiritual enlightenment or material benefits.
k) Yasmanno –dvijvate Loko Lokanno- dvijate: One by whom the world is not agitated and who cannot get agitated by the World.
l) Harshamarsha Bhayodvegaiah Muktah: Free from excessive delight, intolerance, fear and anxiety. Here the mind of a bhakta is concentrated on the God or on control of emotions.
m) Anapekshah: Unattached: The bhakta is not attached to the wordly objects. He believes that realisation of the Supreme is the highest gain.
n) Shuchih, Pure: The bhakta is pure in mind, intellect and body.
o) Daksha: skilful: He is skilled in attaining the highest goal- god realisation.
p) Udasinah; Indifferent: The bhakta is indifferent to worldly happenings. Though he is concerned about the welfare of the society at large, he does not involve himself in activities to satisfy his ego.
q) Gatavyathah: Untroubled: The devotee is untroubled by favourable and unfavourable circumstances. He is free from worries and thus from fear, hatred, anger and jealously.
r) Sarvarambh Parityagi: Renounces all initiatives of new action. The bhakta renounces all actions for the sake of name, fame, prosperity. His only goal is Supreme Lord.
s) Na Hrishya, Na Dveshti Na Shochati Na Kamshati: Neither rejoices, nor hates, neither gives nor desires.
t) Shubhashubha – Parityagi: He is not attached to good and evil
u) Samah Shatrau Cha Mitre cha: He treats friends and foes alike.
v) Samah Manapmana-au: Treats praise and criticism alike.
w) Tulya ninda stutir mauni: Treats praise and censure alike.
x) Aniketah: Homeless: A devotee never the sense of possessing a property. The whole world is his home and everyone belongs to him and he belongs to everyone.
z) Firmness in devotion
aa) Devotion to God
According to Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-lila 22.78–80), the qualities of a bhakta are:
He should be merciful, free from hostility, truthful, equipoised, faultless, generous, tender, clean, detached, helpful to everyone, surrendered only to Lord Krishna, free from lust, harmless, steady, victorious over the six bad qualities, (Arishad varga like lust, greed, anger, desire) a small eater, not inebriated respectful, free from pride, compassionate, friendly, poetic, expert and silent.
Types of Devotees
All human beings are classified into two categories: Bhaktas (devotees) and abhaktas (non devotees). Bhakti is only for believers in God.
In Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says (Ch 18, 67)
You should never disclose this science to anyone who is devoid of austerities, nor to one who is not devoted, nor to one adverse to spiritual advancement and never anyone who is envious of Me”
In Bhagavad Gita (Ch 7, 15 & 16)
The deprived, the foolish the lower levels of humanity do not surrender unto Me; their discrimination degraded by the illusionary energy they betake to the nature of the demoniac.
In Bhagavad Gita (Ch 7, 28)
But those persons performing virtuous activities whose sins have been completely eradicated; they being free from the delusion of duality conscientiously and determinedly engage in devotional service unto Me.
Lord Krishna classifies the types of devotees as follows:
“Four types of virtuous men worship Me, O Arjuna- the dissatisfied, the seeker of knowledge, the seeker of worldly happiness, and the wise O best among the Bharatas”
There are four types of devotees. Lord Krishna in the Gita says “those who are devoted to Me alone, can cross over this Maya –power of illusion.” Those who are in the quest for the Self alone can reach the Self and thereby end the magic enchantments of the power of illusion. The form of devotion (expression of emotion) adopted by a devotee depends upon his mental makeup and the motives.
Depending upon their accumulated merits from the previous births, the righteous and virtuous who worship Lord Krishna fall into four categories.
a) Artto is the seeker who is impoverished and who is suffering from diseases and enemies. If the devotee has performed virtuous deeds in their past lives, then he will worship Lord Krishna to alleviate his distress. Eg: King Jarasanda prayed to Lord Krishna to be delivered and the Lord rescued him. Another example is of queen Draupadi who prayed to Lord Krishna when she was disrobed in the Kshratiya assembly hall on the insistence of Duryodhana. Krishna saved her honour. The elephant king, Gajendra prayed to Lord Krishna when he was seized by a crocodile. Lord Krishna rescued the elephant.
b) Jijnashu is the seeker of self realisation or knowledge who wants to end the cycle of birth and death. He is the enquirer. The pleasure and pain from material objects does not interest him. He thinks there is something higher than mundane pleasures to be attained. If he has performed virtuous deeds in his past lives, then he will have the opportunity to worship Lord Krishna. Eg. Uddhava. He was dissatisfied with the world and got the wisdom from Sri Krishna.
c) Artharti is the seeker of wealth, power, enjoyment etc of which he is deprived of. Eg is Vibhishana. He wanted to put an end to Ravana and get Lanka. Dhruva was an Artharti who wanted dominion where his step mother would not trouble him. Sugriva was an Artharti, he wanted to drive away Vali and get his kingdom.
d) Jnani is the seekers of knowledge about the Supreme Lord who is residing within all embodied beings as Atma. Jnanis consider attainment of the Supreme Lord as their goal in life and attainment of Him, the fulfilment of all ambitions. Sukha Maharishi was a Brahma Jnani, the highest type of Jnani.
Besides the above four mentioned types of Bhaktas, is also another type of Bhakta known as Vaira Bhakta or Ninda Bhakta. Here the bhakta has negative emotions about the Lord. He hates god and thus remembers Him always. This is also a type of Bhakti, as even hating God needs remembering Him always. Eg: Kamsa, Sisupala, Hiranyakashipu thought about the Lord constantly due to the deep rooted hatred they had towards the Lord.