Meaning of Sakhya Bhakti
Sakhya bhakti is a form of bhakti, wherein the bhakta considers God as his friend at all times. The bhakta considers God as his friend, relative, and companion. In Bhagavatam, it is said, “Oh, how wonderful is the fortune of the people of Vraja of cowherd Nanda whose dear friend is the perfect, eternal Brahman of Absolute Bliss!”
Characteristics of a devotee
Following are some of the characteristics of a devotee practicing Sakhya bhakti.
- In Sakhya bhakti, the bhakta does not distinguish between himself and God. He believes that whatever belongs to him belongs to his friend (the Supreme Lord) also.
- The devotee is selfless in discharging his duties. He considers everyone as an embodiment of the Supreme Lord and loves them. He becomes one with all. The devotee sets aside or even neglects some of his pressing personal work and indulges himself completely with all devotion in the work concerning God. God is his Supreme friend and he is ever ready to serve God with all his heart.
- The devotee considers all his actions as an act of God. Therefore all mundane acts are transformed into sacred.
- He does not consider God as a hard task master, terrifying or dignified but as a sweet and loving friend.
- The devotee cannot live without the Lord even for a moment. He considers that his life’s goal can be fulfilled only when used in the service of the Lord.
- He believes that God, his friend residing within, will always be with Him in the ebbs of life. He believes that God loves him as much as he loves the Lord. The devotee feels anguish when separated from Him.
How to cultivate Sakhya Bhakti
God is one’s best friend. Sakhya bhakti can be cultivated by offering oneself earnestly to Him for His companionship. The bhakta shares his moments of joy and sorrow with Him. The devotee will develop a special and personal relationship with the Divine.
Sakhya bhakti is not limited to making friends with God alone. It also includes making friends with people sharing the same temperament or with His devotees. Satsangs can be an important place to develop Sakhya bhakti with like minded people. People attending Satsang will share their experiences of God, Guru or saints which can be spiritually enriching to the bhakta. Friends in satsangs can form the basis of spiritual progress in a devotee.
Benefits of Sakhya Bhakti
God who is all-knowing and ever loving will recognise the devotion in his bhakta. When one offers oneself to Him, then it becomes God’s duty to be with His devotee at all times. God does not have to be physically present as a companion of his devotee. He is ever with the devotee, to guide, love and support the devotee eternally.
Sudhama, Gopis of Vraja, Vibhishana, Sugriva, Arjuna and Uddhava are some of the examples of devotees who had Sakhya Bhakti with the Supreme Lord. Arjuna clung to Krishna with faith “I have none else, but You, come what may. Krishna and Arjuna were two bodies but one life. Arjuna had been a consistent companion of Krishna. He immersed himself in Krishna Consciousness.
The story of Sudhama
Sudhama was a poor Brahmin. He met Sri Krishna at Sandipani’s hermitage and soon became His friend. On completing their studies at the hermitage, both of them went their ways. Sri Krishna became the king of Dwaraka. He married princess Rukmini, the goddess of prosperity. Sudama married a simple Brahmin girl and led an ascetic life. He led his life reading scriptures. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Sri Krishna.
Sudama could hardly provide for the bare necessities for his family. When things were getting very difficult for the children, Sudama’s wife asked her husband to visit Sri Krishna, his friend and seek some help from Him. Sudama was very delighted at the thought of visiting his friend. But he told his wife that he would not ask anything from Sri Krishna. Sudama wanted to offer something to his friend, Sri Krishna. As there was nothing much left at home, his wife collected few grains of puffed rice from neighbours, tied it in a small handkerchief and gave it to her husband. Sudama then set out to meet his friend Sri Krishna. While walking, Sudama’s mind was pre occupied with the thought of Sri Krishna and nothing else.
When Sri Krishna saw his good friend Sudama at the palace, Sri Krishna embraced him with joy. Sri Krishna then offered Sudama fruits and some refreshments. Sri Krishna washed Sudama’s feet and burnt incense in honour of His friend. After the royal meal, both the friends exchanged the happenings in their lives since they departed from Sandipani’s hermitage. Suddenly Sri Krishna noticed a small bundle on Sudama’s waist. Sri Krishna said “You have brought a present for me”! Sudama was hesitant for a moment and thought how could be offer a king, a poor man’s puffed rice. Sri Krishna noticed Sudama’s hesitation and said “Sudama, the poorest gifts given to me with love is dearer to Me, than the richest gifts given without love.” Krishna became thoughtful. “Sudama has not asked anything for himself. He has come out of love for his wife and me”. Then He quickly grabbed the bundle from Sudama and to his surprise saw puffed rice in it. He soon tossed few grains of puffed rice and relished it. Then both of them continued to talk to their hearts’ content. Sudama could not ask anything from Sri Krishna.
The next day morning, Sudama bid farewell to Sri Krishna and left for his home. He continued to think of Sri Krishna on his way back home. As he reached his home, he could not recognise his home. There was a big mansion standing in place of his old hut, his children were well clothed and he could hardly recognise them. As he saw more and more of his home, he realised that it was the all–knowing Sri Krishna who had rewarded him for his gift of love.
Sudama had offered only a morsel of puffed rice to Sri Krishna, but Sri Krishna had rewarded Sudama a million fold for his true love towards Him. God is unconquerable, but can be conquered by a bhakta’s true love and devotion. Sudama lived the rest of his life thinking of Sri Krishna.