Monday, November 24, 2008

Bhakti and the three gunas of nature

The Adhyatma Ramayana classifies Bhakti into three types according to the mode of nature (guna) we attach it with. When we worship to hurt other beings or couple our worship with pride, jealousy, or anger, our Bhakti is said to be tamas. Because tamas makes us assume the wrong to be righteous, we may end up tying ourselves more to our negative karma as a result of it. As an example, prayers and mantras that try to bind a deity under an oath to get our mission accomplished may be classified under tamas.

Rajas bhakti simply focuses on the fulfillment of our material desires, which usually include money and fame. It should not be a surprise that this mode of worship is the most popular on earth. Bhakti becomes sattvic when we worship for the sake of worshipping and enter the desire-free mode. Interestingly, this is not the final level of devotion. When our continuous remembrance eliminates the separation between our soul and Brahman, Bhakti can be classified as Nirguna (devoid of gunas). This is the kind that gives mukti (liberation).

The Ramayana continues to tell us that Nirguna Bhakti can give us salokya, sameepya, sarishti, or sayujya mukti. While salokya refers to residence in the abode (loka) of Rama (or our favorite form of Brahman), sameepya means proximity to Rama. Similarly, sarishti refers to achieving majesty on a par with the Lord, and sayujya refers to complete merger in Rama. However, the superior devotee rejects them all to remain in his service forever.

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