The Srimad Devi Bhagavatam is one of the Mahapuranas or ancient texts of Indian literature. This voluminous text is dedicated entirely to the wisdom, worship and stories of Sri Devi Bhagavati, the universal Mother and creatrix of all manifest and unmanifest existence. Now listen to the divine exposition of bhakti given by Sri Devi in Book 7, Chapter 28.
Sri Devi said: There are three paths leading to moksha: karma yoga, jnana yoga and bhakti yoga. Of these three, bhakti yoga is the easiest path in all respects. Through the practice of bhakti people can bring their minds to a perfect point of concentration without incurring any physical suffering or hardship.
Apara bhakti is of three types which correspond to the three gunas. Bhakti is tamasic when it is tainted by anger, jealousy or pride, or when performed with the intention of inflicting harm or pain upon others. But bhakti becomes rajasic when practised for ones own benefit or welfare, without any intention of harming others. This kind of devotee may have some desire or aim in view, such as name and fame, freedom from difficulty or the attainment of certain objects of enjoyment. With such an object in mind, he worships me with the greatest devotion, ignorantly thinking himself to be separate from me.
Bhakti is sattwic when my worship is performed for the sake of purification and for the welfare of others. This type of devotee offers the fruit of all his practices and actions to me, but still regards himself as separate from me. He worships me in the prescribed ways, knowing that these actions are authorized by the Vedas and, therefore, must be observed. This type of sattwic bhakti is different from para bhakti or supreme devotion because the devotee thinks of me as separate. But it leads to para bhakti, while the other two forms of bhakti do not.
Now listen to the description of para bhakti. The highest bhakta is one who ever hears my glories and recites my name, and whose mind dwells steadily in me, like a constant flow of oil. This devotee is the receptacle of all auspicious qualities and does not retain even the slightest trace of desire for the fruit of his actions. He does not even wish for the attainment of the higher states of bhakti, such as salokya, sarsti, samipya and sayujna, or any other forms of liberation. He is filled with devotion for me alone and worships me only. He knows of nothing higher than serving me and has no desire to attain moksha. He never likes to forsake the idea of sevaka (one who serves) and sevya (one to be served).
This devotee of mine, who always meditates on me with one-pointed awareness, is charged with divine bliss, which arises from the feeling of supreme love. He loves me as he loves himself, and does not consider himself as separate from me, but rather thinks I am the Bhagavati. Considering the entire creation as my form, he makes no differentiation between all beings and myself. He respects all beings equally, even those of the lowest class, because he experiences the same consciousness manifested everywhere and in all. Thus he never quarrels with anybody, as he has abandoned all feelings of separateness and individuality.
This devotee is filled with the highest love whenever he sees my abodes, attends my devotions, hears my stories, or meditates on my mantras or names. His hair stands on end and tears flow ceaselessly from his eyes out of love for me. He worships me with intense feeling as the Mother of the universe and the cause of all causes. He observes my vows, performs my yajnas and participates in my festivals without any miserliness in regard to time or expenditure. He sings my name loudly and dances with the intoxication of my love. He has no egoism and is free from bodily identification, thinking that he is not the body. Considering that whatever is his destiny must come to pass, he experiences no fear or agitation for the preservation of the body.
In para bhakti the prominent thought is of the Devi, and no other idea arises. One whose heart is filled with such para bhakti is immediately dissolved in my consciousness. One who surrenders in devotion entirely to me goes to my abode, Manidvipa, the island of jewels, and there, even though unwilling, enjoys all the possible objects of enjoyment. At the end of this period he receives the knowledge of my consciousness, and through that jnana attains final liberation forever. Without that knowledge, final liberation would not be possible. Thus, in Manidvipa the knowledge of oneness arises, and through that jnana my bhakta becomes free from bondage and rebirth.