Bhakti Yoga

The path of God-Love

Bhakti provides the basis for Karma Yoga and the point of departure from it. It is true to say that Bhakti and Karma Yoga (love of God and service to humanity) are two sides of the same coin and that one cannot exist without the other, for a Bhakta cannot desist from selflessly serving humanity any more than a Karma Yogi cannot desist from loving God. Bhakti has been described as the fulfilment of Karma Yoga. A Bhakti’s face is turned constantly towards God, they follow the path of God love, their resting place is in God. Their worship is through adoration and self-surrender. God love is not intellectual for it cannot be rationalized, it is an affair of the heart. To a Bhakta, its not so much the action or ritual that matters but the Bhava/devotion with which it is done.

“He who offers to me with devotion only a leaf, or a flower, or a fruit, or even a little water, this I accept from that yearning soul, because with a pure heart it was offered with love”. “Whatever you do, or eat, or give, or offer in adoration, let it be an offering to me; and whatever you suffer, suffer it for me”.

“Thus thou shalt be free from the bonds of Karma which yield fruits that are evil and good; and with thy soul one in renunciation thou shalt be free and come to me”.

(Bhagavadgita ch9v26/28)

Bhava is an intense feeling, something like a mother has for her new born, its indescribable, a-logical, but all powerful. We must regard God as our father, mother, friend, relative, lover. This beautiful prayer is sung to the Lord by many in both east and west as part of their daily devotions.

Twameva Mata chapita twameva twameva bandhuscha sakha twameva twameva vidya dravinam twam eva twameva sarwam mama deva deva

Kayena vaca manasendriyair-va buddhyatmana va prakrti-swabhavat karomi yadyat sakalam parasmai narayanayeti samarpayami

1st Verse – Thou art mother, and father thou art, thou art friend, dear one thou art thou art learning, wealth thou art, thou art all, my Lord, Lord.
2nd Verse – I offer all to the Lord, all that I do or speak or think, every action of body mind and spirit.

So, Bhava is devotion through faith which colours our inner feelings and convictions, it has to be felt that God dwells in all, that we are in love with mankind, in love with God.

A Bhakta purifies their soul by listening to and reading stories about the Lord, singing his praises and serving his many manifestations, (this is done in all religions, so we by the practice of Bhakti Yoga, could be a Christian, a Hindu, a Jew etc. this is why it is said that Yoga compliments all religions). This is the Yoga of devotion, where the mind is freed from passions such as lust and greed, which have their root in rajas and tamas, so that one then dwells in satva. In this way we are rid of all worldly attachment through loving devotion to God.

The wise always practise devotion to God as this purifies the soul and when they realise God in their heart all karmas are said to be liquidated. There are nine practises we are told to follow:

  • to hear the names, praises and stories of the Lord.
  • to chant the names of the Lord.
  • to remember the Lord always.
  • to wait upon the Lord in all.
  • to offer worship.
  • to salute the Lord.
  • to dedicate ones actions.
  • to cultivate the Lord’s friendship.
  • to offer oneself in total surrender.

A true Bhakta has an inner passion and wish to know their Lord. Our vision is normally external, we have a love of external objects. The Yoga of devotion helps us to look within not only ourselves but others and so instead of worshipping the finite we start to worship the infinite God, or divine in all things both animate or in-animate. According to Swami Venkatesanandaji this externalization is our biggest problem, for we become attached to name, fame, wealth and family and we have heard many times “true love is not attached,” we have to apparently lose all to gain all! If you think that this, that and something else is MINE then love is not present. We have to turn inward to know what love really is, only then can we know love and truly love God within everything and everybody, without the owning which only causes anguish and pain.

Through the ritual already mentioned the Bhakta is constantly reminded of God, possibly the use of images is helpful, so one might use a picture or statue of Christ, Mary, Krishna, Siva etc. The Bhakta would stay away from all things that would make them forgetful of the Lord. They would wake early in the morning, sitting and worshipping through mantra and prayer, lighting a symbolic candle, purifying and sweetening the air with incense and maybe gazing at a picture or statue of their guru or something that represented all that was good and holy, in other words God personified.

“Brahman is the Supreme, the eternal. Atman is his spirit in Man. Karma is the force of creation, wherefrom all things have there life.

Matter is the kingdom of the earth, which in time passes away; but the Spirit is the Kingdom of Light. In this body I offer sacrifice and my body is the sacrifice.

And he who at the end of his time leaves his body thinking of me, he in truth comes to my being: he in truth comes unto me. For on whomsoever one thinks at the last moment of life, unto him in truth he goes, through sympathy with his nature. Think of me therefore at all times; remember thou me and fight. And with mind and reason on me, thou shalt in truth come to me.

For if a man thinks of the Spirit Supreme with a mind that wanders not, because it has been trained in Yoga, he goes to that spirit of Light”.

(Bhagavadgita ch8v3/8)

Things of this world are transitory, the only stable reality is God. Total surrender to the will of the Lord is asked for; “not my will but thine be done”, in this way we loose all to gain all, both in this world and the world to come.

Satchidananda Ma