Apara is considered lower devotion and para bhakti is higher devotion. In apara bhakti, the yogi focuses on rituals, objects, images or ceremonies in his/her worship of the Divine. In para bhakti, the devotion transcends the world, and the yogi strives for union with the Divine and liberation from the life-death-rebirth cycle.
In other words, apara bhakti is the beginning stage of the bhakti yogic path. As the yogi grows in devotion, he/she has no need of the rituals based on ego and desire, and so gradually transitions to para bhakti and universal love.
Bhakti is further divided into multiple types of devotion, including the following:
- Sakaam bhakti – worshiping God with the hope of material or emotional gain.
- Nishkaam bhakti – the opposite of sakaam, it is devotion with no selfish motivation.
- Ragatmika bhakti – devotion that is not limited by customs and rituals.
- Vaidhi bhakti – the opposite of ragatmika, this bhakti is limited by society's customs.
- Vyabhicharini bhakti – loving family and possessions in addition to God.
- Avyabhicharini bhakti – loving God all of the time.