Bhakti refers to the common religious devotion that is held in the heart of a devoted person of any spiritual faith. It is a practice of yoga (Bhakti-yoga), a spiritual discipline which brings one to a state of pure love of God. More specifically, the term Bhakti can refer to the devotional interpretation of Vedanta, the primary influence in Hinduism. Through the practises of Bhakti, one attains a perfected state of consciousness – exclusive and continuous love of God, the natural condition of the soul and eternal, enlightened bliss.
In the history of Indian spirituality the most important scriptural sources are Vaishnava sacred texts – The Bhagavad-gita, The Srimad Bhagavatam, The Caitanya Caritamrita, The Ramayana etc. There are several ancient, time-tested linages of Vaishnava saints that focus and expound on the teachings of these Bhakti related texts. These texts and teachings have had a tremendously profound influence on Indian culture, (music, dance, literature, poetry, theatre and art). But beyond their cultural influence, through exquisite, heartfelt poetry, they manage to integrate profound theological discourse and astute social thought to support an evolved presentation of Bhakti-yoga. Though these lineages are particularly popular in India, their devotional teachings cross all social borders and are highly relevant to all of humanity because they address the most essential needs of the soul.
The Bhakti lineage known as Gaudiya Vaishnavism has significantly increased the awareness, recognition and growth of devotion internationally since the mid-1900’s, largely through the activities of The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Sivarama Swami is a direct disciple of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and is a representative of the Gaudiya Vaishnava lineage and it’s teachings. Gaudiya Vaishnavas are the followers of Sri Chaitanya (1486-1534). Sri Chaitanya worshiped Radha and Krishna and popularised the practice of Kirtan (congregational chanting of the names of God). His followers revere him as an incarnation of Krishna, prophesied in the later chapters of The Srimad Bhagavam, who appeared to teach the path of Bhakti. Sri Chaitanya taught the belief in one supreme God, the ultimate manifestation being in the form of Krishna, accompanied by Radha, whose power and majesty is secondary to his beauty, love and sweetness. The Absolute Truth, or God, is all-attractive and has both a male and female nature. Sri Caitanya taught that the ultimate realisation of God is intimate and personal. The discovery of a personal relation with the Absolute is “the most secret of all secrets”, the highest truth which sages, yogis and philosophers have been seeking since the dawn of time.