2 Types of Bhakti Practices (Finite vs. Infinite Devotion) (75)


Lesson 75 expands on 2 types of devotion; worldly and God. First is sakama-bhakti (most common; instant gratification), who worships security in matter and entertainment (artha/kama), and leads to samsara/rebirth. Second is nishkama-bhakti, delayed gratification, but leads to infinite Bhagavan/moksha. Intention is to see it's possible to honor your householder duties, with mind turned inwards to self.

Source: Bhagavad Gita, CH9 – verse 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25


  • In V19, bhakti as means of freedom from saṃsāra is over.
  • V20-29 Krishna speaks of 2 types of bhaktās: sakāma (form/apūrṇa benefits) & niṣkāma (formless/pūrṇa benefit).
    • Krishna doesn’t say which to choose. You must decide.
  • Sakāma bhakti: seeks either artha (worldly security) OR kāma (worldly entertainment).
  • Niṣkāma bhakti: not interested in artha/kāma, because knows limitations.
    • Uses all time/energy in bhakti for liberation (mokṣa), either through karma-yoga or upāsana.
      • “Lord! May I have purity of mind, may I develop all the virtues which are required for śāstra vicāra.”
    • Also recognizes coca-cola bottle can’t be opened without opener. In same way, śāstra can’t be fully understood without ācārya who “opens” their statements.
  • Comparing:
    • Sakāma-bhakti = improving time/space experience.
    • Niṣkāma-bhakti = freedom FROM time/space.
  • How to tell which you are? Based on saṅkalpa (intention) / motive of bhakti.
    • Where is my mind’s eye on daily bases? EG: Money OR money (incidental) as means to citta śuddhi (mind purification: EG: One can’t focus on God if they can’t pay the rent).
  • Bhakti is classified in 3 levels, based on saṅkalpa (intention). Determines relationship with Bhagavān:
    1. Manda (dull) bhakti (eka rūpa Īśvaraḥ):
      • Bhagavān used as means (sādhanam) for getting worldly ends (sādhyam). EG: Wealth, health, recognition.
      • “I love Lord not for Lord’s sake, but world benefit sake”. Lord’s love is incidental; supposed to fulfill my desires.
        • EG: I am loved for sake of friend borrowing money from me. Long as borrow, I’m loved. Then STOP borrowing, friendship slowly disintegrates. Love broken. Thus friend loves/values the money, I was only means to him. Fake love.
      • Most common devotion in the world (at least in Kali-yuga)
      • Sakāma-bhakti.
    2. Madhyama (intermediate) bhakti (aneka rūpa Īśvara / viśva rūpa):
      • Matures and attitude changes. Sees God superior to anything worldly.
      • Instead of loving Īśvara for sake of world… bhakta loves Īśvara as end itself. Reversal of means-ends. World is means – God is end.
      • Niṣkāma-bhakti OR jijñāsu-bhakti in CH7. Still can’t tell difference between saguṇa/nirguṇa Īśvara, which can result in praying to limited devatās (seen in V22-24).
    3. Uttama (excellent) bhakti (arūpa Īśvara):
      • Vedānta asks: Why do you want Bhagavān as #1 goal?
      • Answer: If I attain Him, I’ll be happy. Meaning I love God, not for His sake, but MY sake.
        • Proof: If goal can’t give happiness, we change.
        • This shows love for God is actually LESSER then love for self.
      • ORDER:
        • Love for the end (God) is superior to > love for means (worldly stuff).
        • And love for self > is superior to > love for the end (God).
        • In this way, I love the end NOT for end’s sake, but my sake.
      • Here Īśvara is neither means nor end. But one discovers truth of self and God are not-two.
      • Called: advaita bhakti, parā-bhakti, jñāna-bhakti, abheda-bhakti (absence of distinction).
    • S1: God is means (sakāma).
    • S2: God is end (niṣkāma).
    • S3: advaita / abheda.
    • Jñāni is not anywhere in these stages because already gone through the 3 stages.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 9 – Verse 20:

traividyā māṃ somapāḥ pūtapāpā
yajñairiṣṭvā svargatiṃ prārthayante |
te puṇyamāsādya surendralokam
aśnanti divyān divi devabhogān ||

The knowers of the three Vedas, who perform the ritual in which soma is offered and thereby being purified of their pāpas, having propitiated Me with rituals, they pray to go to heaven. Gaining the world of Indra, which is a result of their puṇya, they enjoy the heavenly pleasures of the celestials in heaven.


  • V20-21: Sakāma-bhakti (Stage 1).
  • traividyā māṁ somapāḥ pūtapāpā yajñaiḥ mām iṣṭvā: Stage 1 (sakāma) are informed of 3 vedās and performed somayajña (ceremony to appease deities for own benefit). EG: Just how toddler appeases parents to get icecream for it’s enjoyment.
    • Soma“ means “extract”. Metaphor for extracting elixir of knowledge to gain prescribed benefits.
      • If “juice”, then only taken with yajñā as prasāda. Not separately.
    • Result is pūtapāpā, free from pāpam (this life), because puṇyam overshadows, owning to rituals in 3 vedās.
  • Then what? svargatiṁ prārthayante, gain Īśvara’s Lower nature (svarga), instead of seeking Higher (nirguṇa).
    • EG: Offer gold / wheat biscuit to toddler. Chooses wheat. Doesn’t know gold can buy millions. Lacks nitya-anitya viveka.
      • If mother forces toddler to choose Gold biscuit, it cries. SOLUTION? In time, child matures and eventually sees value in Gold.
    • Meaning whatever we receive in life – is because of our SELECTION, not Bhagavān’s.
      • Often think God is a deliberate giver; false. If Īśvara determines, then partial. EG: One should be happy. Another unhappy.
      • Īśvara is like shopkeeper and not a salesman. Gives whatever you ASK.
      • In this way, you/I are 100% responsible for what going through TODAY. Never blame.
  • te surendralokaṁ āsādhya: Those unintelligent people (sakāma), thus attain world of Indra (svarga loka). Which is puṇyam; full of joy/sense pleasures.
  • What kind of pleasures? Divyān, unimaginable, splendorous, magnificent.
  • Sounds good? Let’s see what next verse says…


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 9 – Verse 21:

te taṁ bhuktvā svargalokaṁ viśālam
kṣīṇe puṇye martyalokaṁ viśanti |
evaṁ trayīdharmamanuprapannā
gatāgataṁ kāmakāmā labhante ||

These people, having enjoyed that vast heaven, enter the world of mortals when their puṇya is exhausted. In this manner, following the rituals in the three Vedas, those who are desirous of various ends gain the condition of (repeated) going and coming, saṃsāra.


  • taṁ bhuktvā svargalokaṁ: they enjoy heavenly delights limited only by imagination. Visualize > get.
    • Represents how most see heaven. However this is only ROSE, which always has thorn. What is thorn?
  • Thorny logic: Svarga (heaven) is gained through puṇyam (on earth). Puṇyam is gained through actions. All actions give limited results. Just like no action can make infinite money.
    • Puṇya is “money” for svarga. When go broke in heaven, born on Earth AGAIN. (Pleasures > Dentist)
      • Heaven police are flawless. Noone can overstay in heaven when puṇya over! 🙂
    • Also can’t make new puṇya to extend visa.
  • Eventually, martyalokaṁ; back to world of mortals.
    • Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad (1.2.10): nākasya pṛṣṭe te sukṛte'nubhūtvemaṁ lokaṁ hīnataraṁ vā viśanti; manuṣya loka not guaranteed. Depends on next fructifying karma. Cactus/beaver maybe.
  • When human on Earth again, then what? Withdrawal symptoms.
    • Pain of loss equally proportion to quantity of prior joy.
      • EG 1: Thrilled watching movie > power loss > infuriated VS watching boring-movie.
      • EG 2: Indian in Australia goes back to India. Then criticizes homeland. Noisy, chaotic, etc.
    • In other words, we only complain when go from Higher > Lower.
  • In this case, trayidharmam anuprapannaḥ; those who resort to rituals of karma-kāṇḍa, use puṇyam merit for perishable delights.
    • EG: Most use salary to travel to enjoy, instead of travel to get educated.
  • SUMMARY: Bhū loka is most often re-visted by jīvātma. Because all puṇya/pāpa earnings are here.
    • 6 upper lokās (up to Brahmaloka) = puṇya exhaustion.
    • 7 lower = pāpa exhaustion.
    • Biography of sakāma-bhakta saṃsāri: Karma (action/sow) > phalam (benefit/reap) > janma (rebirth to repeat).


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 9 – Verse 22:

ananyāścintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate |
teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmyaham ||

(Those) people who see Me as non-different from them offer worship (by) dwelling on Me. I take care of the yoga and kshema of those eversteadfast ones.


  • V20-21 spoke of (S1) sakāma/manda bhakta – where Īśvara is means, world is end.
  • V22 speaks of (S2) niṣkāma/madhyama bhakta – where Īśvara is end (focus of love), world is means. Total reversal.
    • In S2, love is superior in bhakta in contrast to Stage 1. Because mind is ALWAYS obsessed with END, and never the MEANS (eg: yajñās).
      • EG 1: Drive car from Mel to Brisbane. Stop places. Greet family. Sleep over. While mind is obsessed / soaked in GOAL.
      • EG 2: Wish to build house. We transact with contractor (world), but don’t fall in love with him. He is means to our focus of love; HOUSE.
    • Similarly, niṣkāma’s eye is on Īśvara (end) throughout orchestrating world duties (means).
      • Therefore Īśvara (end) displaces other things (means) from mind.
      • EG: Mom cares for baby (means), but mind’s eye on God (end). Also called ananya bhakti (no other, undeviating). Instead of baby becomes end, while nourishing it becomes means.
      • In other words, absorption in Lord never means negligence of world duties. Just like car driver’s FOCUS is always on Brisbane, no matter how many stops in-between.
  • In short, janāḥ mām paryupāsate; they worship me without any other goal. (This can also be referring to Stage 3, uttama bhakti. LOGIC: (1) Īśvara is ānanda (2) If destroy idea self is apart from Īśvara, then (3) self = ānanda also.
    • DOUBT: What about yoga (acquiring, supporting, earning) and kṣema (protecting)? Earn/protect for sufficient world security. But never hoard out of insecurity. Because Lord will take care of you.
  • Worry: Is Lord reliable? yogakṣemaṁ vahāmyaham; I will take care of bhakta’s yoga/kṣema, under one condition…
    • teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ: only for those who are VERY committed/steadfast in goal of Me exclusively (undivided, unshared, sole).
  • Reassuring verse, because everyone carries some insecurity about finances, health, etc.
  • Furthermore, gṛhastha/saṃnyāsin lifestyle doesn’t determine one’s security, but state of mind does.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 9 – Verse 23:

ye'pyanyadevatābhaktā yajante śraddhayānvitāḥ |
te'pi māmeva kaunteya yajantyavidhipūrvakam ||

Oh! Arjuna, even those who are devotees of other finite Gods and who worship (them) with faith, are worshipping Me alone unknowingly.


  • Krishna said in previous verse, niṣkāma-bhakta is one who worships Me.
  • DOUBT: Does that mean everyone in the world should worship only Krishna? Brings doubt of who is inferior/superior devata (God). Is it Śiva, Viṣṇu, Christ, Allah, Buddha, Yahweh, Elohim, Ahura Mazda, Sahib, Kṛṣṇa, etc?
    • 7.21 answered: Any form of God is finite. But in any form we can INVOKE infinite. Bhakta’s choice.
      • EG: Cheque book leaf is value-neutral. Only valuable when decide number on it.
    • Thus, when invoke infinite in Kṛṣṇa, then Kṛṣṇa is infinite… and others devatās are finite. Thus choose deity who excludes nothing.
  • Therefore Krishna says: Instead of worshipping other finite devatās, you can worship Me (infinite). 4 Reasons why…
    1. Infinite includes all finite.
    2. None worship goes to devatās, it all goes to Me (the omnipresent, omniscient One). Just like touching one limb, person says “You touched Me”. Because “Me” includes all limb-devatās.
    3. All karma-phalam is not given by worshipped devatās, but by Me.
    4. Worshipping limited devatās, yields limited phalam. Worshipping Kṛṣṇa (in B.Gītā context), yields limitless phalam.
  • How do niṣkāma-bhaktās worship? śraddhayānvitāḥ yajante; with faith. But don’t know their worship is NOT going to their devata, but to Me (infinite one).
  • What is their problem? avidhipūrvakam; Ajñānam. Don’t know that by worshipping Me (parā-prakṛti), they’d be worshipping all others ALSO. (Metaphor: Instead of worshipping branches, worship the tree’s roots).


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 9 – Verse 24:

ahaṃ hi sarvayajñānāṃ, bhoktā ca prabhureva ca |
na tu māmabhijānanti tattvenātaścyavanti te ||

Indeed, I alone am the enjoyer and the Lord of all the yajñās. But they do not know Me in reality. Therefore they fall.


  • Last verse further clarified. Can apply to Stage 1 and uneducated Stage 2 bhakta (no śāstra)…
  • Aham sarva yajñānām bhoktā: I am the ultimate receiver of all offerings to any devata.
    • Other devatās are like postal people. They deliver all prayers to Kṛṣṇa.
    • Just like members in advisory board are in power long as CEO doesn’t fire them. In same way, Kṛṣṇa CEO gives power to devata advisory board to bless devotees.
  • But (na tu māmabhijānanti tattvena) those devotees don’t know my True nature. They are deluded thinking I am a physical finite human form (apūrṇa svarūpam).
    • They don’t know difference between: Superficial saguṇa / māyā (AND) nirguṇa sat-cit-ānanda satyam.
    • Even if they worship Me directly, they don’t ask for infinite, because don’t know my Higher cetana tatvam.
      • Irony: Lord willing to give unlimited, free of charge. But most ask for limited, at a cost (loss).
      • Īśvara both hands in pockets. Limited hand working overtime. Unlimited hand paralyzed.
  • And for this reason, cyavanti te; owning to foolishness or under-utilized buddhi for nitya-anitya viveka, they fall into saṃsāra.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 9 – Verse 25:

yānti devavratā devān pitṝn yānti pitṛvratāḥ |
bhūtāni yānti bhūtejyā yānti madyājino'pi mām ||

Worship of Gods (devathās) reach the Gods; worshippers of ancestors (pitṛs) reach the ancestors. Worshippers of bhūtās reach the bhūtās and My worshippers reach Me.


  • Doubt: Why do people have to work for liberation? If Lord knows best, why doesn’t Lord bless mokṣa anyway? 2 Reasons why…
  • REASON 1: Human is endowed with freedom to will / select / decide / pick / choose. Unlike animal; instinctively programmed with basic buddhi for karma exhaustion.
    • Owning to our freewill, God’s laws/orders cannot choose for us, only influence (eg: new moon, weather).
    • Meaning Īśvara’s role is to present options, including how to attain each. And not to coerce.
    • In other words, if person rejects Higher, indirectly saying: “Lord, my mistake for receiving human birth. Give me animal birth next time”.
    • This means, only person has power to choose mokṣa, even Bhagavān is powerless.
  • REASON 2: Suppose Īśvara offers guru/śāstra infront of person. An uninterested person won’t accept/receive it.
    • I can’t give you anything if you refuse to receive. Again, Bhagavān is helpless.
  • In this way, devavratā devān yānti; worshippers of devatās, receive results of devata’s limited results. EG: If pray Lakṣmi; wealth.
  • And pitṛvratāḥ pitṝn yānti; worshippers of ancestors will go to pitṛ-loka (souls of departed). (Also called Candra loka or Bhuvaḥ loka)
    • NOTE: Above description of pitṛ-loka is from Vedās. In purāṇa, the pitṛ-loka is defined differently.
    • Loka is similar to western term “Parallel universe”.
      • Carl Sagan was impressed by time/space descriptions within purāṇās, vedās.
      • Einstein published paper of relativity between energy/matter in 1900’s, which was already established in Veda thousands years ago (explained through 5 elements, 3 guṇa).
    • Where is pitṛ-loka? 1 loka above Bhūr-loka (earth), which (according to Viṣṇu purāṇa) is one of billions like it.
      • Reason why first experience after death, familiar ancestors seen.
      • Pitṛ is not heaven (svarga; unimaginable pleasures). Svarga-loka is after pitṛ.
    • Statement based on Upaniṣad (tam yatha yatha upāsate; tadeva bhavati), whatever you (jīvātma) worship unknowingly, you become.
      • Hence important to present young children with noble heroes. Because they unconsciously imitate.
  • bhūtejyāḥ bhūtāni yānti: worshippers of bhūtās (rājasic/tamasic deities) WILL get those limited benefits also.
    • Depending on bhakta’s dharma/adharma, used for: good/bad like black magic, witchcraft, healing, etc
    • EG:
      • Iyanga (South Africa), Nkondi (Congo), Juju (Nigeria). In all cases, it's either used for harm (performed by adharmic mind) or healing (performed by dharmic mind). However in 99.9% of cases they are all sakāma-bhakti based, meaning it's either to get advantage over someone (adharma) or hoard possessions (which harms earth).
      • Each ritual is either Sattvic (for knowledge, harmony, peace), Rajasic (for possessions, status, wealth) or Tamasic (hurting others) in nature. However persons dharma can take any ritual and turn it into a divine ritual. So it depends on person’s intentions, and not the ritual itself.
  • Whereas madhyājinaḥ mām yānti; those who worship Me (who represents brahman, pūrṇatvam, śānti), will come to Me only. Both options are in YOUR hands, now, now, now, now…
  • NEXT VERSE: What to offer to limitless Īśvara and with what attitude.


Keywords: acarya, ananda, apurna, arupa, bhagavan, bhurloka, bhutas, devatas, divyan, grhastha, grihastha, ishvara, isvara, jijnasu, jivatma, kama, kanda, krsna, ksema, kshema, laksmi, laskhmi, martyaloka, maya, Mundaka, nirguna, niskama niskam, papam, para jnana bhakti, para prakriti, pitr pitru loka, punya, purana, purna, purnatvam, putapapa, rajasic, rupa, sadhanam, sadhyam, saguna, sakama, samsara, samsari, sannyasi, santi, sastra, satcitananda, shanti, shastra, shiva, siva, somayajna, suddhi shuddhi, tamasic, upanisad, upanishad, upasana, vedanta, vedas, vishnu, vishva rupa, visnu, visvarupa, yajñas, yanti


Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching given to Chinmaya Int. Foundation & Swami Paramarthananda

Recorded 19 Nov, 2019



  1. Surely the notion of free will contradicts the previous teaching of karma given in this course. If every cause has an effect and every effect has a prior cause, then each thought we have is caused by a previous cause. Even if we have 5 different thoughts about what to do, and can choose the action to take, the thought about which thought and corresponding action to choose is caused by our previous thoughts and conditioning, which causes the following action. So I can see no room for free will anywhere.

    1. Teaching evolves. When one says “There is no freewill, and there is free will”, one should instantly know what both mean and not see them as contradiction. You’re near video which will show freewill on whiteboard, which explains the yes/no answer. I think somewhere after video 80.

  2. From After Class-Work. I see the grace in my divorce and having no children, as it has allowed me to spend much time in this life engaged in spiritual pursuits, teachings, study and sadhana. My desire for Moksha without the distractions of the other two. I speak for myself, my own path, not the lives of others who have a spouse/family.

    1. Pleased to see you’ve also attended to the after-class work. Yes, whatever happens in our life, it’s an opportunity, a new blank chapter. We’re it’s author. Body-mind, it’s pen.

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