While one is in deep devotion, something happens and suddenly you lose control over thoughts and start wondering about the things happening - you feel as if the Bhakti is totally lost. Please help. I am having such a problem.

Don’t worry. Such things are common in the early stages of devotion. When your devotion gets stronger and stronger, the frequency of such happenings automatically reduces and everything will be alright.

I can love my friends, my parents and whoever I meet and admire. I can worship God, but how can I love LORD KRISHNA?

You can love Him if you understand that Sri Krishna is pure love and love alone. In order to realize that you have to continuously chant the Maha Mantra. Listen to the stories of Sri Krishna. That is the best way to develop love for Him.

Is it true that even a Bhakta has to go through ‘Vichara’ in order to realize the Self?

No! Not at all!

How can we cultivate the love, devotion and care towards the supreme God? Sri Sri Swamiji mentioned that we should chant the Maha Mantra with devotion and love. So how can we cultivate this love and devotion inside ourselves?

The easiest way to cultivate this devotion and love is through the association of Sadhus and Mahans.

If everything happens as per karma, and fate cannot be defeated, then why should convince people about Bhakti?

Can you tell me if Bhakti is also in your fate or not? Convincing people about Bhakti is in your fate, asking this question is in your fate, and getting this answer from me is also in your fate!

I want to attain the Bhakti, Love and devotion for the God and for that I have to chant the Mahamantra and should read Bhagavatam. I am chanting the Mahamantra daily and recently thought of reading Bhagavatam. Can you please let me know from where should I start?

Yes. Start from the first chapter.

I am soon going to go to a foreign country. I want my mind to be filled with thoughts of Krishna. I love Him a lot, and I wish that someday He would consider me one of His crores of devotees, and look at me with affection, and take me to His service in Goloka. How do I ensure my concentration on Him in spite of all the other things and work that I am about to undertake?

Catch hold of the Divine Name and do your duties in this world. It is like applying oil in your hands while cutting jack fruit. With the Divine Name on your lips, your mind will never be stained by worldliness. People who chant Mahamantra are already at the door of Lord Sri Krishna’s affection.

In the bhakti path, Srimad Bhagavatam recommends us to meditate on the form of Narayana who is ‘chaturbhuja’ (four armed). Other followers of Sri Chaïtanya Mahaprabhu say that the human form of Sri Krishna is "vigraha" the higher, verily and wholly spiritual form, because we can develop more relationship through it. What is the real importance of the form of Godhead? Is one form of Godhead more beneficial for this Kali Yuga in association with the chanting of Mahamantra?

For meditation, one can take to either the ‘Chaturbhuja’ form of Narayana or the ‘Dvibhuja’ (two armed) form of Sri Krishna. One form of the Lord is not necessarily higher or lower than the other.

When some saints speak of the greatness of one form over the other, they do so only enhance the faith of a spiritual aspirant / devotee in the form that the aspirant/devotee has already been contemplating on. Saints never try to discourage anyone’s faith.

When such statements are interpreted out of context, they cause confusion.

A person thinks that God is always with him physically and mentally -- God is eating, sleeping, talking and walking along with him. It is just an imagination. There is nothing called real divine experience. Am I not right?

Initially it is an imagination. This imagination is called Bhava Bhakti. It is very rare to attain this state.

This imagination becomes true one day. Then it is called Sakshatkara (Realization). This is the Real Experience, and is the rarest of the rarest.

The Bhakti schools speak about Go-loka. Is it the same as Sri Vaikunta? If not, what is the difference?

Go-Loka is not the same as Sri Vaikunta. Only those who revel in the epitome of Prema Bhakti attain the Go-Loka. It is even greater than the Vaikunta.

Kindly explain the different types of Bhakti. Can’t we beg Sriman Narayana to give us Nishkamya Bhakti?

As described in our scriptures, a Bhakta can be viewed at three different levels, Aarthi, arthaarthi and Jignyasu.

An ‘Aarthi’ is one who worships the lord for the removal of sufferings.

An ‘Arthaarthi’ is one who performs Bhakti to the Lord to bless Him with comforts like wealth, fortune and even heaven.

A Jignyasu prays to the Lord for spiritual elevation, divine visions and Liberation.

Above all of these, there is a fourth level, where the devotion is unconditional. In this state, the devotee performs Bhakti for the love of Bhakti. Even after attainment of Liberation, this Jnaani performs Bhakti. his is the supreme state called as Prema Bhakti.

Yes. You can pray for Nishkamya Bhakti. The Lord will bless you with the same.

On a journey from one place to another we use a map which indicates the essential landmarks to confirm that we are on the right path. If one chooses Bhakti , what are these signs that one encounters as he progresses, which identify the location of the aspirant on the path?

According to Bhakti Shastras, there are 20 ‘lakshanas’ or characteristics that indicate the state of Bhakti. Horipilation, trembling of the body, loss of consciousness, eyeballs getting fixed upwards, sleeplessness, becoming leaner and paler, blood oozing out of hair nodules on the body – these are a few of them. The key among them is the feeling of ‘viraham’ or the loneliness felt by the separation from the beloved.

Instead of reading the Bhakti Shastras, one can merely read the life history of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and see how he exhibited all these Lakshanas.

In Bhagavatam, I remember reading that Bhakti is more difficult to attain than Mukti. Is your preaching (Nama Sankirtan) aiming at Bhakti or Mukti? If what Bhagavatam says is true, any other way to attain the Lord (other than bhakti) must be easier, isn't it?

Bhakti can be divided into two types - Sadhana Bhakti and Sadhya Bhakti. Sadhya Bhakti is also known as Prema Bhakti. The goal of Sadhana bhakti is Sadhya bhakti, similar to the one of the Gopis. It is that Bhakti that Srimad Bhagavatam refers to as the most difficult, because, the state of Prema Bhakti is nothing but Mukti.

Sadhana bhakti is the nine types of Sadhanas that Prahlada says – Sravanam, Kirtanam, Smaranam, Pada Sevanam, Vandanam, Dasyam, Archanam, Sakhyam and Aatma Nivedanam. When these are done not expecting any worldly return, with the sole aim of attaining Prema Bhakti, it will take us to that state.

Generally, the term ‘Bhakti’ refers to Sadhana Bhakti – the path towards the goal. As a simple example, when we are in the process of making tea, we simply say that "the tea is being made" though tea is not done until the process is over. The same way, the term ‘Bhakti’ is generally used to denote the Sadhana bhakti. But, that is not what Srimad Bhagavatam refers to.