How can a person increase his or her bhakti? Do scriptures give any guidance or advice over this issue?
- प्रथम भगति संतन्ह कर संगा।
The first step to devotion (Bhakti) is to keep company of the saints (Satsang).
- दुसरि रति मम कथा प्रसंगा॥
The second step is to enjoy listening to legends/discourses pertaining to the Lord
- गुरु पद पंकज सेवा तीसरि भगति अमान।
Selfless service to the Guru's lotus feet without any pride is the third step.
- चौथि भगति मम गुन गन करइ कपट तजि गान॥
The fourth step is to earnestly sing praises of the Lord's virtues with a heart clear of guile, deceipt or hypocrisy.
- मंत्र जाप मम दृढ़ बिस्वासा। पंचम भजन सो बेद प्रकासा॥
Chanting My Name with steadfast faith is the fifth step as the Vedas reveal.
- छठ दम सील बिरति बहु करमा। निरत निरंतर सज्जन धरमा॥
The sixth, is to practice self-control, good character, detachment from manifold activities and always follow the duties as good religious person.
- सातवँ सम मोहि मय जग देखा। मोतें संत अधिक करि लेखा॥
The seventh step is to perceive the world as God Himself and regard the saints higher than the Lord.
- आठवँ जथालाभ संतोषा। सपनेहुं नहिं देखइ परदोषा॥
The eighth, is a state (which one arrives at when one travels the first seven steps) where there is no desire left, but the gift of perfect peace and contentment with whatever one has. (In this state) one does not see fault in others, even in a dream.
- नवम सरल सब सन छलहीना। मम भरोस हिय हरष न दीना॥
In this state, one has full faith in the Lord, and becomes (child-like) simple with no hypocrisy or deceit. The devotee has strong faith in the Lord with neither exaltation or depression in any life circumstance (but becomes equanimous).
नव महुं एकउ जिन्ह कें होई। नारि पुरूष सचराचर कोई॥ सोइ अतिसय प्रिय भामिनी मोरें। सकल प्रकार भगति दृढ़ तोरें॥
Shri Ram adds that Shabri’s Bhakti is perfectly complete. Yet if anyone were to have taken even one step towards devotion, out of all nine, he/she would be very dear to the Lord.
श्रवणं कीर्तनं विष्णोः स्मरणं पादसेवनम्।
अर्चनं वन्दनं दास्यं सख्यमात्मनिवेदनम्॥
श्रवण - Listen to God's lila, narrative, significance, power, source etc. with absolute reverence with unlimited mind. Same as Parikshit.
कीर्तन - Kirtan (Telling/Discussing) with joy and enthusiasm of God's qualities, character. Same as Shukdevaji.
स्मरण - Remembering God with a constant sense of purpose, remembering his greatness and power and being enchanted at it. Same as Prahlad.
पादसेवन - To take shelter of God's feet and treat them as your own. Same as Goddess Lakshmi.
अर्चन - By worshiping the feet of God with the sacred materials by mind, word and action. Same as Prathu.
वंदन - To worship the Lord's idol with utmost respect. Same as Akrura.
दास्य - Serving God with utmost reverence. Same as Lord Hanuman.
सख्य - Having God as your best friend, surrender yourself to Him and requesting your sin virtue with true love. Same as Arjuna.
आत्मनिवेदन - Always surrender yourself to the feet of God and do not keep anything independent from yourself. Same as Bali.
You can apply the same to your favorite God.
This is a very good Q. There are the 9 forms of bhakti prescribed by shaastra.
"shravana or satsang — Listening to spiritual discourses or devotional songs related to God. kirtana — Singing or talking about God. smarana — Remembering God. pãda-sevana — Serving God's holy feet. archana — Anointing God with sandalwood paste, etc. vandana — Bowing before God. dãsya — Behaving as the servant of God. sakhya — Behaving as the friend of God. ãtma-nivedana — Unconditionally offering oneself and all of one's belongings to God with absolute submission."
These are the mean s by which one develops love for god. Additionally, worshipping great devotees of God, and offering all our actions and thought s to him is a supreme form of bhakti.
"Aatmaa tvam girijaa matih sahacharaah praanaah shariiram griham Poojaa te vishhayopabhogarachanaa nidraa samaadhisthitih . Sajnchaarah padayoh pradakshinavidhih stotraani sarvaa giro Yadyatkarma karomi tattadakhilam shambho tavaaraadhanam.h .." (Shiva Manas Pooja)
O Lord, You are my Atma (Soul), Devi Girija (the Divine Mother) is my Buddhi (Pure Intellect), the Shiva Ganas (the Companions or Attendants) are my Prana and my Body is Your Temple, My Interactions with the World are Your Worship and my Sleep is the State of Samadhi (complete absorption in You), My Feet Walking about is Your Pradakshina (Circumambulation); all my Speech are Your Hymns of Praises, Whatever work I do, all that is Your Aradhana (Worship), O Shambhu.
P.S. You can apply this to your ishta devata. Don't get confounded by the inclination to Shankara and get into Shiva, Vishnu dichotomy. The exact same can be inferred with Lakshmi, Narayana.
The answers given are mostly describing what the Navabhida Bhaktis (the 9 types of devotional acts) are. But as far as i can see, you're simply asking "How to increase Bhakti". So, i assume that you have less of that.
And, the answer to it is simple: By following the conducts of Dharma as laid down in the scriptures. If one does so, he will get devotion, if he has less of it or nothing of it. And, finally by devotion one can achieve Jyana (or knowledge) which is the highest goal.
This is what's stated in the Devi Bhagavata Purana by Sri Devi herself:
O King of mountains! Meditation with Karma and Jñâna with Bhakti will lead one to Me. Only the work alone will fail to get one to Me. O Himavan! From Dharma arises Bhakti and from Bhakti arises the Highest Jñâna. What are said in the S'ruti and Smriti S'astras the Maharsis take that as the Dharma; and what are written in other S'astras,
The Devi Bhagavata Purana,Book 7, Chapter XXXIX.
So, you are required to know what conducts are prescribed for you in the scriptures as Dharma. And, if you follow those conducts, then you will have a definite increase in the devotion that you have for your favorite deity.
I remember reading a similar verse somewhere else which basically said " By practicing rituals or worship, exactly as per the rules laid down in scriptures, one can achieve Bhakti, even if has absolutely nothing of it."
And, this is true.