Bhakti Yoga

Author: Geeta Kale

Geeta Kale 

 “Yog” means “to join”. It is important and essential to follow Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Jnana Yoga. I am going to focus on Bhakti Yoga.

Bhakti means devotion, or unselfish love. It comes from the root “Bhaj”, which means to serve or to be deeply interested in something. “Bhaj Sevayam” is the Sanksrit root. Therefore, Bhakti is an intense attachment to God, or deep interest in God.

The innate nature of all beings is to love an external object. We cannot love or cherish something in the heart. Man is never satisfied with what he has. He can concentrate on any object. He can focus on his wife and children as he usually does. But this is not the focus and love that is meant in Bhakti Yoga- the focus on and the love for God. This unselfish love or devotion is the ladder to reach final freedom.

One cannot love God in an earthly manner. The conception of God and love for God those who cannot still all emotions must have at least pure emotions. This is the significance of divine emotion in Bhakti-Marga.

Devotion to God is developed in nine different ways. Intense love is the common factor in all nine modes. In the Shrimad-Bhagavata and the Vishnu Purana, it is told that the nine forms of Bhakti are Sravana- hearing of God’s lila’s and stories, Kirtana- singing of his glories, Smarana- remembrance of this his name and presence, Padasevana- service to his feet, Archana-worship of God, Vandana- prostration to the Lord, Dasya- servant of God, Sakhyam- cultivation of the friend- Bhavana, and Atma Nivedana- complete surrender of the self.

We can practice any method of Bhakti.

1. Sravana- hearing of the Lord’s Lilas.

Sravana includes hearing of God’s virtues, glories, sports, and stories connected with his divine name and form. The devotee gets absorbed in the hearing of divine stories and his mind merges in the thoughts of divinity; he cannot think of things that are not divine. The devotee remembers God even in sleep.

“Tviddhi pranipatena parisprasnena sevaya;
Upad ekshyanti te jnanam jnaninah- tattvadarsinah.”

This means “know that by long prostration, by service and enquiry. The wise who know the truth shall instruct thee in that wisdom.”

2. Kirtana- Singing of Lord’s glories.

The devotee is filled with divine emotion. He loses himself in his love for God. He sings and dances in ecstasy. He gets others also dance. Such practices should be the outcome of a pure heart, and they should not be merely a show.

3. Smarana- The remembrance of the good God at all times.

The mind does not think of any object in the world, but is ever engrossed in thinking of the glories of God alone. Remembrance of God is a very difficult method of Sadhara. Remembrance of the Lord has given Liberation even to those who remembered him through hatred, even as a worm through meditation.

4. Padasevana- Serving the Lord’s feet.

Service of the Lord’s feet can be done through formal worship of Murtis or idols in temples, or to a mental image of God; Observing the sacred feet of the Lord again and again with devotion and eager eyes, worshipping him and serving them, sipping the sacred water with which the Lord’s feet has been washed, worshipping the wooden sandals of the Lord, meditating on them and praying to them.

5. Archana- Worship of the Lord

Worship can be done either through an image or picture, or even a mental image. The image should be appealing to the mind of the worshipper. The purpose of worship is to please the Lord, to purify the heart through surrendering of ego and love of God. The Lord appears in all forms. He is everything. During worship, the mind and devotee should always be concentrated on the form of the Lord. He should think of God’s attributes, His infinite nature, bliss, immortality, etc. The worshipper should not think of earthly things. 

6. Vandana- Prayer and prostration.

Humble prostration, touching the earth with the eight limbs of the body (Ashtanga- Namaskara), the devotee should bow before everything in absolute devotion, believing that he is bowing before God himself. The object or purpose of devotion is to realize God through exclusive love.

7. Dasya- the love of God through servant sentiment.

This means to serve God and carry out his wishes, realizing his virtues, mystery, and glory. He should consider himself to be a slave of God. He should serve and worship to the idols in temples, sweep the temples, meditate on God, and mentally serve him like a slave. Also included in Dasya Bhakti is that he should serve the saint and sages, serve the devotees of God, serve the poor and sick people who are all forms of God.

8. Sakhya- Bhava- the cultivation of the friend-sentiment with God. 

This means to always be with the Lord, to treat him as one’s own dear relative or friend belonging to his own family, to be in God’s company at all times, to love Him as himself. He always does what may please God in all aspects. He considers all as God. He treats every being of the world as his own relative or friend. He treats everyone as belonging to himself. There is no selfishness, no hatred, no separateness in him.

9. Atma- Nivedana- Surrendering of the self

In Vishnu- Sahasrana it is said “The heart of one who has taken refuge in Vasudeva, who is wholly devoted to Vasudeva, gets entirely purified, and he attains Brahman, the eternal. The devotee offers everything to God. He keeps nothing for himself. He loses even his own self. He has no personal and independent existence. He has become part and parcel of God. This self-surrender is absolute love for God exclusively. Krishna taught Arjuna that self-surrender alone can givehim peace and relieve him from all sins. One who studies the Bagvad Gita and the Shrimad- Bhagavata will come to know what great importance is stressed upon total self-surrender.

In conclusion, the nine modes of Bhakti are the methods in which a devotee attains the supreme ideal of life. Any devotee can take up any of these paths and reach the highest state. The path of Bhakti is the easiest of all and is not against the nature of human inclinations. It slowly and gradually takes the individual to the supreme without frustrating his human instincts. It is not direct assertion of God, but a progressive realization of Him. If Bhakti Yoga is practiced in a day to day life, it removes all stress, gets rid of anger, hatred, and jealousy. Hencde, it is considered as the most powerful yoga.

Hari Om!

“The views expressed above are solely those of the author. may or may not agree with all views presented.”

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