Sri Matre Namaha
Bhakti-priya – The One Hundred & Eighteenth name in Lalitha Sahasranamam.
bhaktih priya yasyah sa
She who likes devotion to her
She who is pleased with worship
Bhakti = Devotion or worship. It is of two kinds, i.e., mukhya, primary and gauni, secondary. Of these the first type, primary bhakti is a particular mental modification called anurage about Isvara. This bhakti is otherwise called para (supreme). The secondary devotion is in the form of service (i.e., sevarupa) to the Lord and by this devotion one can attain the concentration. Moreover, the root bhaj means to serve. There are many kinds of devotions. According to some Puranas there are nine varieties of bhakti; according to some, ten kinds. All of those types are included here in the word bhakti.
She likes devotion. Sivananda lahari verse 61 describes devotion. “The way a needle seeks a magnet, the way in which a creeper seeks a tree, the way in which a river unites with an ocean and in the same way when the mind seeks the lotus feet of Shiva it is called devotion”. ‘Devotion is beyond the three gunas – rajas, tamas and satwa. It is beyond desire. It grows every second. It remains connected with the Brahman. It is subtle and realized out of experience. Once realized, he always remains with That.’ This is what sage Narada has said about devotion. Sri Ramakrishna compares devotion to the flood that flows powerfully to the ocean in spite of the dams built to control the floods. Our mind, he continues, is not flowing but stagnant like a pond. Our mind gets stagnated towards devotion, which has to grow in every second. Viveka Chudamani verse 31 says that “amongst things conducive to liberation, devotion alone holds the supreme place. The seeking after one’s real nature is designated as devotion”. The point driven home in this nama is that nothing prevents a true devotee in realizing Her irrespective of the hurdles. She is delighted with such devotion and such devotees. What type of devotion and devotees? Those who worship internally, those who seek Her within. Devotees do not mean those who perform external rituals for a longer time. We have already seen that there should be a gradual transition to internal exploration from external rituals.
As the mother goddess of all, Devi has a special creative power beyond all the Gods. The Hindu term for this creative power is shakti and, so, Devi is called Shaktas. She the single original reality from which the three gods of the Trimurti emerge. Her creative power is the source of the origination (pravrti) and dissolution (pralaya) of the successive universes. Although the Puranas focus mainly on the Trimurti, the Devi Bhagavata Purana is devoted specifically to Devi and her creative powers. About one thousand pages in length, the text is classified as one of the 18 great Puranas,where in devotion towards devi is specifically dealt with in detail.
The text vividly describes the concept of supreme devotion (parabhakti), a central component of all the Puranas. One passage explains that there are three kinds of Yoga: that of action (karma), knowledge (jnana), and devotion (bhakti). According to Devi, who narrates the text herself, “Of these three, the Yoga of devotion is the easiest in all respects.” However, she explains, there are three lower forms of devotion that should be avoided. Some people worship Devi to spite other people. Others worship Devi hoping to attain some personal desire, such as fame. Still others worship Devi as a means of purifying their actions. A fourth type of devotion, though, is supreme devotion, which is completely selfless. As described below, it is so selfless that the worshiper does not even desire the experience of release itself.
“Now listen attentively about the supreme devotion (parabhakti) which I will now describe to you. He always hears my glories and recites my name. His mind always dwells in me, like the incessant flow of oil, and he is the receptacle of all good qualities and gunas. But he does not have the least trace of any desire to get the fruits of his actions (karma). Indeed, he does not want the various levels of release (moksha), including being on the same plane as God (salokya), nearness to God (samipya), having the form of God (sarsti), union with God (sayujya) and other forms of release. “
Devi continues noting that true worshipers abandons all concepts of themselves, completely identify themselves with Devi, and make no distinctions between themselves and anything else. Worshipers find Devi in everything, including other souls:
He becomes filled with devotion for me alone, worships me only, knows nothing higher than to serve me, and he does not even want final release. He does not like neglecting the notions of “serving” (sevya) and the “servant who serves” (sevaka). He always meditates on me with a constant vigilance, actuated by a feeling of supreme devotion. He does not think of himself as separate from me, but rather thinks to himself, “I am the Lord (Bhagavati).” He considers all souls (jivas) as myself, and loves me as he loves himself. He makes no distinction between the souls and myself since he finds the same pure consciousness (caitanya) everywhere and manifested in all. He does not quarrel with anyone since he has abandoned all ideas of separateness. He bows down and worships the pure consciousness and all the souls. He becomes filled with the highest love when he sees my place, sees my devotees, hears the scriptures, describes my deeds, and meditates on my mantras. His hairs stand on end out of love for me and his tears of love flow incessantly from both of his eyes. He recites my name deeds in a voice that is choked with feelings of love for me. With intense feeling he worships me as the mother of this universe and the cause of all causes. [Devi Bhagavata Purana, 7.37]
When it comes to devotion who can forget tulasi and her devotion for Lord Krishna.
Srimati Tulasi devi is one of the most exalted devotees of the Sri Krishna. All scriptures stress on the importance of getting the mercy of Tulasi devi if one has to make progress in the path of devotion. In the Skanda Purana it is said: ‘Tulasi is auspicious in all respects. Simply by seeing, simply by touching, simply by remembering, simply by praying to, simply by bowing before, simply by hearing about or simply by sowing this tree, there is always auspiciousness. Anyone who comes in touch with the Tulasi tree in the above-mentioned ways lives eternally in the Vaikuntha world.”
Five thousand years ago when Sri Krishna descended on Earth to do His pastimes, Vrinda devi created the proper environment for His pastimes in Vrindavana. Millions of years before the descent of Sri Krishna, Vrinda devi had appeared as the daughter of the pious Emperor Kedera. Then she performed penances for sixty thousand years. Pleased by her penances, Lord Vishnu gave the benediction that any austerities performed in Vrindavana would be very potent. Thus Vrinda devi sanctified the place and it got the name Vrindavana. Later Vrinda devi once again descended here as Tulasi devi, the daughter of King Kushadvaja to perform penances and attain perfection here.
Once Tulasi devi descended as the daughter of King Kushadvaja. She was married to Jalhandara. It is said that Samudra deva the demigod controlling the nether regions had Lakshmi devi as a daughter (since she appeared from him at time of the churning of the ocean) and Jalandara (one who is born from water).
Jalandara was married to Tulasi devi and drew strength from her purity and chastity. So firm was her chastity that even Lord Shiva could not defeat Jalandara in battle and all the demigods went to Lord Vishnu for help.
At this time, Lord Vishnu went to Tulasi devi assuming the form of her husband, Jalandara. When Tulasi devi greeted Him, thinking Him to be her husband, her chastity was momentarily broken. Taking advantage of this the demigods killed Jalandara.
When Tulasi devi understood what happened, Lord Vishnu revealed His original form. An enraged Tulasi devi cursed Lord Vishnu for His stone hearted behavior to become a stone. Honoring His pure devotee, Lord Vishnu accepted this curse and promised to appear as the Saligrama shila in the Gandika river (now in Nepal). He also gave Tulsai devi the benediction that she will eternally reside with Him as His consort in Vaikuntha. He said that for the benefit of every one she will assume the form of a plant which will be most auspicious for anyone performing devotional service.
Thus devotees never offer anything to Krishna without a Tulasi leaf. He always adorns Himself with a Tulasi garland. The goddess of fortune, Laksmi, is sometimes envious of the Tulasi leaves which are placed at the lotus feet of the Lord, for they remain fixed there and do not move, whereas Laksmi, although stationed by the chest of the Lord, sometimes has to please other devotees who pray for her favor. Laksmi sometimes has to go to satisfy her numerous devotees, but tulasi leaves never forsake their position, and the Lord therefore appreciates the service of the tulasi more than the service of Laksmi.
Quoting from the Gautamiya-tantra, the Hari-bhakti-vilasa states:
jalasya culukena va
vikrinite svam atmanam
‘Sri Krishna, who is very affectionate toward His devotees, sells Himself to a devotee who offers merely a tulasi leaf and a palmful of water.’
In the Nectar of Devotion, service to Tulasi is glorified as one of items of devotional service.
In the Srimad Bhagavatam (3.15.19) it is said that although flowering plants like the mandara, kunda, kurabaka, utpala, campaka, arna, punnaga, nagakesara, bakula, lily and parijata are full of transcendental fragrance, they are still conscious of the austerities performed by tulasi, for tulasi is given special preference by the Lord, who garlands Himself with tulasi leaves.
In the Skanda Purana there is a statement praising the Tulasi tree as follows: ‘Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the Tulasi tree, which can immediately vanquish volumes of sinful activities. Simply by seeing or touching this tree one can become relieved from all distresses and diseases. Simply by offering obeisances to and pouring water on the tulasi tree, one can become freed from the fear of being sent to the court of Yamaraja [the King of death, who punishes the sinful]. If someone sows a tulasi tree somewhere, certainly he becomes devoted to Lord Krishna. And when the tulasi leaves are offered in devotion at the lotus feet of Krishna, there is the full development of love of Godhead.’