God and His path of attainment are both eternal.
Material beings are eternally under the bondage of maya and are ignorant. So the Divine matters are beyond the reach of human mind. It is thus quite obvious that a material mind can never find a way to approach the Divine. It cannot even know the nature of the Divine power on its own. It is thus only God Who Himself reveals His knowledge to the human beings. It is seen in the world that nature produces milk in the bosom of a woman before the birth of a child as the child may need it immediately on birth. So, even before the birth of human beings on this earth planet, God produces the knowledge of His attainment through the Upnishads, and the Puranas.
These scriptures reveal the form of God, personality of God, nature of God, greatness of God, Graciousness of God, path to God and also the procedure of the path. This path is called bhakti or divine-love-consciousness. Everything that relates to God is eternal because God is eternal. Thus, all the knowledges of the Upnishads and the Puranas along with the path of bhakti are eternal. Bhakti and the Grace of God are very closely related to each other.
The definition of bhakti (devotion).
Bhakti is the submission of the deep loving feelings of a devotee’s heart for his beloved God where all of his personal requisites are merged into his Divine beloved’s overwhelming Grace which He imparts for His loving devotee. This loving submission has been described in the scriptures and in the writings of the acharyas and Saints in many ways.
The Gita uses the terms surrender and single-mindedness.
These are the famous verses of the Gita that tell about surrendering all the social and religious (apar dharm) commitments at the lotus feet of Krishn and then wholeheartedly and single-mindedly worshipping Him with faith and confidence.
The Bhagwatam stresses on the selflessness of a devotee (bhakt) of Krishn and tells that the leela Bliss of Krishn is so deep, profound and limitlessly charming that even God Shiv’s heart was entangled in its fascination and He always wandered in Braj absorbed in the love of Krishn. So the Bhagwatam advises the souls, to drink the nectar of the leela Bliss of Krishn and selflessly desire for His vision and the Divine love.
The Ramayan emphasizes on the sincere humbleness of a devotee. Goswami Tulsidas says,
O my supreme beloved Bhagwan Ram, the crown jewel of the dynasty of King Raghu! I am the most fallen and humble soul of this world, and You are the most kind friend of all such souls. Your Graciousness has no compare. So, please lift me up from this unlimited cosmic ocean and make me Your own forever.” Selfless devotion to God with such feelings of devotional humbleness are constantly expressed in the Ramayan and also in the Vinay Patrika.
Jagadguru Nimbarkacharya introduced a method of devotional remembrance and meditation called ashtyam seva, which means that a selfless devotee should remember the leelas of Radha Krishn, whatever They normally do since the early morning when They get up from the bed and till the night when They go to sleep. In this way, meditating upon Their leelas, the devotee should feed and decorate Radha Krishn accordingly. (Ashtyam literally means the 24 hours.) This is just a procedure of meditation where a devotee develops his longing to see the Divine leelas of Radha Krishn and to be in Their Divine service forever in Vrindaban or Golok.
Jagadguru Ramanujacharya used a word prapatti to express the feelings of a devotee who very humbly surrenders his heart, mind and soul at the lotus feet of his loving God and earnestly desires for His Divine vision.
Vallabhacharya defined his path of devotion as the pushti marg. Pushti means the loving Graciousness of Krishn which fosters the devotional feelings of a selfless devotee, and marg means the path. So pushti marg means the path of devotion to Krishn where a devotee, depending upon the Graciousness of Krishn, humbly surrenders and dedicates his whole being for the service of Krishn.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhuji simplified the procedure of sadhana (devotional) bhakti for the devotees and said that the remembrance of Krishn is easily and most effectively done through the chanting of His name and the leelas, and the desire of His meeting is quickly deepened when you develop the feeling of longing for Him in your heart. He says in the Shikchashtak:
It means that a devotee should be humble, forgiving, forbearing, respecting to the devotional feelings of others but not desiring for any personal compliments for himself. With such a humble heart, which is yearning for the love and the vision of his beloved Krishn, the devotee should sing and chant the leelas and the names of Krishn.
These are all the descriptions and the definitions of the devotional bhakti (sadhana bhakti) as to how it should be observed in the practical life.
The eternal significance of bhakti.
As mentioned above, bhakti is eternal. It means that it is the eternally existing path to attain God. God is one, so the path of His attainment is also one, and thus, the same path of bhakti ensures the attainment of any of the forms of God. The path of bhakti is prevalent in every brahmand of this entire universe and it is for all the souls of this universe. It remains the same in all the four yugas (satyug, treta, dwapar and kaliyug) and, as it is directly related to soul and God, it is above caste, creed, sect and nationality. It can be adopted by any person of any nation of this world, because it is gifted by the supreme God Himself for the benefit of the humankind; and again, there are no physical requirements in doing bhakti. There are no meditation postures to adopt, no concentration techniques to follow and no rituals to observe. So it can be done by anyone, young, old or sick, and at any time in twenty-four hours, because bhakti is the pure love of your heart that longs to meet the Divine beloved of your soul in this very lifetime. The philosophy of bhakti is also described in Narad Bhakti Sutra and Shandilya Bhakti Sutra.
Karm-yog and gyan-yog.
Sattvic good karmas on their own only purify the heart to some extent; but if the doer of good karmas starts doing bhakti, his actions are classified as karm yog, and then, on the perfection of bhakti, he receives God realization. Literally the word yog means ‘the unity.’ Thus, the (Divine) uniting factor, bhakti, when it is predominantly added to the sattvic good karmas, it is then called “karm yog.” Similarly, when bhakti is predominantly added to the practice of gyan (or yog), it is called gyan yog. So, now we know that all kinds of good karmas and all kinds of yog and gyan-related practices are only sattvic, but when they are predominated with bhakti, they become the means of God realization, because bhakti unfolds the field of God’s Grace.