Bhakti is the one essential thing.
Satchidananda is like an infinite ocean. Intense cold freezes the water into ice, which floats on the ocean in blocks of various forms. Likewise, through the cooling influence of bhakti, one sees forms of God in the Ocean of the Absolute. These forms are meant for the Bhaktas, the lovers of God. But when the Sun of Knowledge rises, the ice melts; it becomes the same water it was before. Water above and water below, everywhere nothing but water. . . But you may say that for certain devotees God assumes eternal forms. There are places in the ocean where the ice doesn’t melt at all. It assumes the form of quartz.
One obtains love of God by constantly chanting His name and singing His glories. . . God is unknown to the mind attached to worldly objects . . . Therefore it is necessary to seek the company of holy men, practise prayer, and listen to the instruction of the guru. These purify the mind. Then one sees God. Dirt can be removed from water by a purifying agent. Then one sees one’s reflection in it. One cannot see one’s face in a mirror if the mirror is covered with dirt. After the purification of the heart one obtains divine love. Then one sees God, through His grace.
– Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
RelatedSri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa on Bhakti