What does a bhakta do? Many people think that bhakti has to be expressed by wild singing or emotional prayers or utterances. And indeed this can be the case; many great bhaktas have sung the most soulful songs and created the most beautiful poems in order to express their joy, devotion and realization. Others have been famous for their joyful dancing. The Sufi dervishes are good examples. Every movement, every action is an expression of bliss and devotion. But this is not necessarily so. Many great bhaktas were less dramatic. They continued to live their lives in a state of calmness. Each action and each thought however is permeated with awareness of the divine. Every act becomes blissful. Every act is done as worship, without a sense of limited ego, but according to the dictates of the situation, with intuition. He looks into the mirror of the world and sees the image of himself. Actions become perfect.
Many people may not seem to be bhaktas for they don’t sing devotional songs, but actually they could be bhaktas blissful with the love of the totality. Bhakti need not necessarily be associated with wild, abandoned singing. It can be felt in many people without obvious outward expression. It depends on the dharma or personality of the bhakta. Some bhaktas seem to mellow with time. They become less obviously expressive. It is like someone who takes his first bottle of wine (alcoholic wine, that is). The initial intoxication makes him do crazy things. He says crazy things and jumps around like a madman. This is the expression of new experience. The seasoned drinker, who has been drinking wine for many years, is unlikely to do such things. He is more likely to sit quietly and enjoy the wine and the effects of the intoxication. The intoxication is the same, but the expression is much less dramatic.
Actually, every saint, yogi, tantric or sage is a bhakta. This applies whether they appear to be karma yogis, jnana yogis, raja yogis or whatever. They must be bhaktas, for the knowledge, the realization that they have in higher states of awareness must automatically lead to bhakti.
A Christian gospel singer, a Hassidic Jew at the wailing wall in Jerusalem, a dancing Sufi, a Hindu chanting or singing bhajans, a Buddhist of the bhakti sect of the Fair Land School reciting ‘namuamidabu’, a Muslim facing Mecca and praying on his mat and so forth can all be expressing bhakti. It depends on the inner feeling and attitude (bhava). In the Srimad Bhagavatam it says: “.. . the devotee loses all sense of etiquette. He moves around the world without attachment. He always chants the name and his heart melts through love. He is like someone possessed, sometimes laughing wildly, sometimes weeping; and then he sings aloud and dances …” (2:2)
This description of the expressions and actions of a bhakta is as good as any. But a bhakta need not conform to this pattern. He will express himself according to the dictates of his personality, dharma and the given situation.