The 18 chapters of the Bhagavad Gita are grouped into three sections of six chapters each, which explain the three-fold path to salvation. They are karma, bhakti and jnana. The Lord’s penchant for the path of bhakti is revealed during the exposition to Arjuna when He vouches salvation to the true bhakta whom he says is very dear to Him. Krishna observes how it is only very rarely — perhaps at the end of innumerable births — does a Jivatma seek refuge in Him (who is alone the Eternal Truth) with steadfast determination for attainment of salvation. The Lord promises quick redemption from this Samsara to those who worship Him through steady and uninterrupted meditation and with unswerving faith, pointed out Sri K. Srinivasan in a lecture.

The simple definition of bhakti is love, and how does one experience this feeling and express it? The famous discussion between Yagnyavalkya and Maitreyi in the Brihadharanyaka Upanishad makes it clear that one’s love for people, places and objects is always coloured by the fluctuations one experiences. In such a situation, unselfish love remains an impossibility.

But when the love is directed towards the Supreme Lord, He is sought for His sake alone by the true bhakta. There is no question of any personal gain except the yearning for closeness with Him. Only overwhelming love for and devotion to God takes centre stage in the bhakta’s entire consciousness. The sole purpose of life now becomes God, and this makes his thought, word and deed an offering to Him. All the senses with their propensity to seek their objects in the external world now converge in God realisation. The sense of ‘I’ and ‘Mine’ (a compulsive hurdle to the spiritual aspirant) that easily robs one of true identity is thus kept at a safe distance in such a state of mind.

This feeling that one cannot be without the Lord is the underlying bhava of bhakti and the gopis exemplify this in their longing for union with the Lord. They were able to attain the goal that the greatest of rishis and seers have been striving for through austere penance and practices. They were able to eschew all worldly considerations and seek the Lord with single-minded love.

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