Bhakti Yoga – the path of Love and Devotion

We see love everywhere around us. Whatever in society is good and sublime is the working of that love; whatever in society is bad, nay diabolical, is also the ill-directed working out of the same emotion of love.

By its nature, love offers both fulfillment and the empowerment to become an instrument of change for ourselves, the people around us, and our environment. It help us in pursuing our heart’s deepest calling, to discover the beauty of our own true Self and appreciate life’s miracles every moment

All the twists of life lead to the simple and ageless truth – our countless desires, our insatiable longings, our fleeting gratifications and our inevitable frustrations arise from a single origin: we’ve forgotten the true understanding of love that lies dormant within us. Discovering and reawakening that love is the greatest need of this time. In the Indian philosophies, this path to rediscover love is termed as ‘Bhakti Yoga – the Yoga of love’. We often limit the understanding of Yoga as a certain kind of physical practice, but the word itself means “a joining” or “union”. Ultimately all yoga practice aims at helping us unite with the truth of who we are as pure spiritual beings.

In Indian philosophies, Love in its most gross form is called Kama (desire or lust). Kama is the basic innate feeling that we all possess. When feeling of sacrifice is added to Love it becomes Prema. In prema we do not expect anything in return. It is a language of the heart. Prema brings satisfaction and it calms down the mind. Purification of prema takes us to Bhakti. In prema we only give up material things; but when we also surrender ourselves i.e. our ego and attachments, we rise to the level of Bhakti. In Bhakti, we surrender ourselves totally; not only at the physical level, but also mentally and intellectually. Hence, Bhakti is the state where there is no separation of thoughts, feelings and actions from the ultimate ‘Supreme Consciousness’. 

“Bhakti is intense love to God. When a man gets it, he loves all, hates none; he is ever contented” – Narada Bhakti Sutra

In scriptures such as Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana and the Bhagavata, ‘Bhakti’ is most glorified as the means to achieve Yoga. A belief in the grace of ‘Supreme Being’ and in the possibility of getting liberated (with the help of His grace) is the only qualification needed to be able to march on this path. There are also few thorns in the path of Bhakti. These thorns may come to the practitioner as his own inner enemies in form of lust, anger and pride. The self-arrogating little ego persists and resists again and again. It clings like a leech – to its old habits, cravings and desires. In Bhakti Yoga the central secret is to know that the various passions, feeling, emotions in the human heart are not wrong in themselves. Emotion can take different forms. It can take positive, sweet and wonderful forms; it can also take absolutely negative, nasty and horrendous forms. They have to be carefully controlled and channelized to a higher direction, until they attain the very highest condition of excellence.

Bhakti Yoga is thus the science of emotion culture. It does not say, “Give up”; it only says “Love; love the Highest!” and everything low naturally falls off. When the moon shines brightly, all the stars become dim; and when the sun shines, the moon herself becomes dim. Operating on our emotions, purifying our emotions, raising ourselves from kama to prema, from prema to Bhakti, culminating in Self-realization, in total attunement to that Divinity; to Reality itself. It unites the lover (the devotee) with the beloved (the Divine).

Who is God? –is our mother, our father, has an all pervading presence, refereed as – ‘God’ or ‘the Lord’ or ‘the Supreme’ or ‘the Almighty’ or ‘the Divine’ etc, can have a face of both feminine and masculine, who is more than you and I can imagine, who cannot be confined by our limited conceptions, or religion, or language or intellect!

In this era of science and technology, we develop ourselves predominantly at the intellectual (left-brain) level. The right-brain related emotions are hardly trained. During emotional onslaughts we often find ourselves tossed up and down leading to stress and depression. We lack concern and love for others; we want everything for ourselves. Our heart is yet to blossom in comparison to our head; until that happens we are limiting ourselves only as intellectually-rational animals. Bhakti Yoga is a boon in nurturing the right-brain, helping in gaining control over emotional instabilities by properly harnessing the energies involved; raising us to the highest levels of universal brotherhood and oneness.