Tarka #01: On Bhakti

In this issue of Tarka, On Bhakti, we explore the concepts of devotion, especially from a Vaiṣṇava Hindu perspective, including an in depth look at the teachings of the poet-saint Śri Caitanya, the Tamil Āḷvārs, the yogas of the Bhagavad Gītā, Kṛṣṇa devotion, and the Nārada Bhakti Sūtras.

Tarka Issue #1

On Bhakti

  • Historical, Polemical, and Experimental Essays
  • Introductory Articles on Key Topics
  • Interviews with Shambhavi Sarasvati, Miles Neale and Kavitha Chinnaiyan
  • Three Book Reviews
  • Articles on Practice and Translation

Articles from this Issue

Bhakti Yoga (Book Review)

Bhakti Yoga: Tales and Teachings from the Bhāgavata Purāṇa by Edwin F. Bryant.

Review by Stephanie Corigliano

Edwin Bryant is well known in the realm of modern yoga studies for his translation of the text and commentaries of the Yoga Sūtras (2009).  This 2017 edition, Bhakti Yoga: Tales and Teachings from the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, takes up an approach similar to that of the 2009 volume, offering a comprehensive introduction to the subject o

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The Lost City of Sri Krishna (Book Review)

The Lost City of Sri Krishna: The Story of Ancient Dwaraka by Vanamali

Review by Jacob Kyle

Vanamali’s most recent book, The Lost City of Sri Krishna: The Story of Ancient Dwaraka, is a work of pure devotion. While it contains elements of history, philosophy, and mystical revery, it transcends these familiar categories, speaking its truth from the perspective of adoration for the author’s blue-bodied Lord. All 44 chapters of The Lost City

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Wise-Love (Book Review)

Wise-Love: Bhakti and the Search for the Soul of Consciousness by Pranada Comtois

Review by Jessica Jagtiani

Wise-Love: Bhakti and the Search for the Soul of Consciousness is a recent winner of the 2019 Montaigne Medal Award, Eric Hoffer Book Award, a 2018 National Indie Excellence Award in the Spirituality category, a finalist for the 2018 Body/Mind/Spirit Book of the Year by Foreword Indies, and the 2018 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

Young Kṛṣṇa among the cowherds is an iconic image central to North Indian Vaiṣṇava traditions of bhakti. Although Tamil South Indian literature and traditions developed and changed some of the elements, the basic characteristics of the narratives remained. For example, stories concerning Kṛṣṇa’s love-play with the gopīs (cowherd maidens) are paramount for understanding Southern Kṛṣṇa bhakti, where the union and separation of the gopīs with and from Kṛṣṇa become the primary material for understanding the devotees’ own union and separation with the divine.  

The ancient Tamil worldview can be seen in classical Tamil poetry (called caṅkam), which spans nine hundred years (from the third century B.C.E. to the sixth century C.E.) The poetry is divided into two categories, akam (poetry of the “inside,” deal

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The Power of Pilgrimage: Sacred Rite & Paradigm Therapy

The old man’s face is weathered, his wrinkles tell a story of centuries of hardship that he and his kin have endured as nomads exposed to the extreme elements of the high Himalayas.

And yet he smiles. His hands clasp together in prayer above his crown, and effortlessly as breath he utters the sacred mantra: Om Mani Padme Hum. His hands touch throat and heart, as he lowers himself to the ground in full prostration onto the ancient rocks beneath him. His eyes are unblinking in the cloud of dust, his internal gaze is likewise unflinching, transfixed on Chenrezig, the deity of compassion with a thousand arms. 

The man rises, carefully takes three steps forward, and repeats the prostration. He will continue like this—step by step, bow by bow, mantra by mantra—for hours, days, perhaps weeks. He is bound for Mount Kailash to circumambulate the

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Cultivating Bhakti Through Pūjā

There’s a certain kind of magic in deity yoga, where we develop an intimate relationship with the deity, the object of our adoration. Pūjā is the procedure of developing this deep and sweet intimacy.* 

The word “pūjā” is made up of , which means to purify or cleanse, and , which means birth. Essentially then, pūjā is a ritual of adoration of a deity with the goal of purifying or sanctifying our lives. Importantly, the deity becomes the ideal through which our lives are beheld and in the way we conduct ourselves from moment to moment. 

Pūjā is an essential part of life and sādhanā in many paths and traditions – the goal and purpose of ritual will therefore differ according to the path. It can be viewed as a barter system, where the pūjā is performed wi

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Mūrti: The Living Form of God

Whatever you wish to see, can be seen all at once within this body. This universal form can show you all that you now desire. Everything is here completely.

Bhagavad Gītā 11:7

I was late for the train back to Delhi, but Auntie was not bothered. “First things, first,” she announced. “The train will wait.”

Finishing up a long research trip in Madhya Pradesh’s central Indian hinterlands, I’d come back to Bhopal to catch the night train to Delhi. One of my friends had invited me to stay with her maternal aunt in that city. “She’ll love having you,” she assured me. And she did.

As one who relishes visiting temples and holy places, Auntie found in me a kindred spirit and took me to every famous temple—except one.<

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What is Smaraṇa?

Smaraṇa  directly translates as “remembrance.”  For many schools of bhakti, especially those informed by literature like Bhagavad-Gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, (or the “Bhāgavat School”) remembering the Godhead at the time of death is the ultimate fruit of a successful human life:

The highest perfection of human life achieved either by complete knowledge of matter and spirit (sāṃkhya), by practice of aṣṭāṅga-yoga (yogābhyām), or perfect discharge of occupation duty (sva-dharma-pariniṣṭhaya), is remembrance (smṛti) of Nārāyaṇa at the end of life.1

In Bhagavad-Gītā [BG], which is one of the “three foundations” (pra

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From the Introduction

Bhakti is love or devotion to a supreme deity. It is a form of religious practice, a state of mind, and the goal of practice. Through visualization, narrative, chanting, and pūjā, bhakti taps into raw emotion and desire. It engages with images of Kṛṣṇa, for example, as an infant to be nurtured and adored, as a handsome young lover, and as a loyal friend and teacher. Thus, the image of god connects to the deeply personal, rooted in a heartfelt connection. Yet, bhakti is more than devout human action; it is a discipline directed at cultivating a pure and absolute love for the supreme, both as a personal form of god and as that essence that surpasses the imagination.

Stephanie Corigliano, TARKA Journal Managing Editor

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  1. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 2.1.6