9 stages of devotion (bhakti)!

There are nine stages of bhakti as described in Madhurya Kadambini by Srila Vishwanatha Chakravarti Thakur Prabhupada. The nine stages of bhakti are as follows:

  1. Shraddha: Having faith in the spiritual process of chanting the Holy Names in the form of Hare Krishna Mahamantra.
  2. Sadhu Sanga: Associating with saints (or devotees of Lord) through recorded lectures, books or in-person, and listening to their instructions for advancement in bhakti (spiritual life)
  3. Bhajan Kriya: Chanting Hare Krishna Mahamantra, following the four regulative principles and doing spiritual activities that are favourable in bhakti.
  4. Anartha Nivritti: More chanting of holy names until and unless the anarthas or negative qualities in the form of lust, greed, anger, pride, envy, and ego are destroyed from the cit (consciousness).
  5. Nistha: Becoming fixed in devotion to the Lotus Feet of Divine Couple and Guru-Tattva. Even if the mind or the thought goes at other places, the devotee immediately brings it back to Vrindavan and holy names. A devotee can reach this stage by own effort and desperation. From the next stage onwards, it can only be achieved by kripa (mercy) of Rasika Vaishnavas and Divine Couple.
  6. Ruchi: Tremendous attachment, interest and taste in holy names and inner confidential pastimes of Krishna.
  7. Asakti: Always remembering about Vrindavan, holy name, rupa (form), guna (qualities), lila (pastimes) of Sri Radha and Krishna. The thickened form of ruchi where there is an intense longing to be there in the nitya-lilas of Lordships in original form.
  8. Bhav: The devotee is always in lila chintan or thinking about pastimes of Krishna and at such stage, the devotee is literally not aware of the outer world.
  9. Prema: Fully spiritually realised as an eternal soul and eternal servant of Krishna and Radharani in one of 5 rasas.

At Prema stage, the devotee realises their complete spiritual identity and attains sthayi (fixed) bhav. At this level, the devotee no longer recognises himself or herself as a body but as an eternal spirit soul. Rasika Vaishnavas are completely in Prema stage. Hence only they are the true bonafide Guru who can give Prema-Bhakti and the treasure of Vrindavan Prema Rasa to others. Else, it will be mishrit (adulterated) and not serve or empower their disciples to the true Vraj- Prema-Rasa.

Rasika Vaishnavas are no more human, saints, male, female or even God. They are now eternal constitutional part of Krishna and serving the Divine Couple in Nitya Goloka Vrindavan in their spiritual identity (vraj swarup).

Jai Jai Shri Radhe!

Hare Krishna!

P.S. This article is an excerpt from the article Who are Rasika Vaishnavas.

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