The Nine Practices of Bhakti Yoga

These nine practices are discussed by Prahlada Maharaja in the Seventh Canto of the ancient text, Srimad Bhagavatam. They are meant to be guidelines that will help the Bhakta, or Bhakti practitioner, cleanse his or her heart and cultivate pure, selfless love of God. Though some of these practices are more accessible than others, they are not necessarily progressive steps as is the case with practices in other systems of yoga.  A Bhakta, or practitioner of Bhakti, may to choose to focus on some of these practices more than others, and in time, as his or her heart purifies, learn to love the Divine. Typically, the first three limbs form the foundation of a Bhakta’s Sadhana.

Sravanam (listening) - This includes reading sacred texts and books written by illumined practitioners, listening to Kirtan, and hearing from teachers.

Kirtana  (chanting) – During the Kali Yuga, the time in which we live, this is considered to be the most effective spiritual practice.  It includes singing the names of God or poetry about God’s pastimes and characteristics. Kirtan is considered to be so powerful that it benefits those who are singing, listening and even those who hear it in passing.

Smarana (remembering) – This practice includes remembering or meditating on saints, one’s Guru, as well as stories and the forms of the Divine. 

Pade-sevana (serving the feet) – This can be considered the cultivation of humility, especially in relation to God or one’s Guru.  It is common for Bhaktas to bow at or touch the feet of their teacher or chosen deity, as even the lowest portion of a saint is considered to be venerable.

Arcana (worshipping) – Typically this is the ritualized worship of one’s chosen deity.

Vandana (praying) – Praying in Bhakti can be done through silent and spoken appeals to God, and also through song and poetry.  This ideally is done humbly and without want of material gain, though one may ask for help in clearing obstacles or tendencies that impede one’s spiritual growth.

Dasya (serving) – The development of a serving attitude towards God.  In other words, “Ask not what God can do for you but what you can do for God.”

Sakhya (befriending the Divine) – The cultivation of a feeling of friendship with the Divine.

Atma-nivedana (self-surrender) – Completely surrendering oneself to God.