Bhakti Yoga the Yoga of Devotion

Bhakti Yoga the Yoga of Devotion

Yoga of devotion The power of an open, loving heart is immeasurable and unparalleled in its ability to transform one’s life in the Yoga of Devotion. It can connect us to something bigger than ourselves, allowing us to transcend our individuality and merge with the divine. Bhakti Yoga, also known as the Yoga of Devotion, is a path that takes us directly to the deepest reservoirs of love and devotion in the heart. It is a sacred journey in which we are invited to completely surrender to the divine, to immerse ourselves in the ocean of devotion, and to experience the boundless joy that comes from connecting with something greater than ourselves.

What is Bhakti Yoga the Yoga of Devotion?

Bhakti means “devotion” or “love” in Sanskrit, and it derives from the root word “bhaj,” which means “devotion, worship, or service to God.” “Yoga” means “union” or “to yoke” in Sanskrit. Thus, Bhakti Yoga is defined as a devotional path to spiritual liberation and union with the divine.

One of the four major yogic paths to enlightenment is Bhakti Yoga. Bhakti means “devotion” or “love,” and this path includes a variety of practices designed to connect the bhakta (Bhakti Yoga practitioner) to the Divine. Bhakti Yoga is widely regarded as the simplest yogic path to master and the most direct way to experience the unity of mind, body, and spirit. While Hatha Yoga necessitates a strong and flexible body, Raja Yoga necessitates a disciplined and concentrated mind, and Jnana Yoga necessitates a keen intellect, Bhakti Yoga necessitates only an open, loving heart. However, Bhakti Yoga complements other yoga paths well, and it is said that when you engage in Bhakti Yoga devotional practices, jnana (knowledge or wisdom) will dawn on its own.

This profoundly spiritual practice heavily relies on the Hindu pantheon of deities. Each of these deities is thought to represent a humanized aspect of the single Godhead or Brahman, similar to how Christian saints represent specific attributes and qualities of God. The use of Hindu deities in Bhakti Yoga can be a significant barrier for Western practitioners, particularly those with a strong religious background. However, the use of Hindu deities is not required for this practice; in fact, finding your object(s) of devotion will make achieving yoga (union with the Divine) all the more effective.

Origin and history of the Bhakti movement

Bhakti practice dates back thousands of years, with its origins in South India during the sixth century CE. The Bhakti movement, however, did not gain prominence until the medieval period in the 15th century, when it became a significant force in Indian spirituality.

As a reaction to the rigid caste system and the dominance of ritualistic and intellectual forms of worship, the Bhakti movement arose. It aimed to democratize spirituality by emphasizing the power of devotion and love for a specific deity.

Numerous saints and poets rose to prominence during the movement, expressing their devotion through music, poetry, and dance. These Bhakta saints came from various parts of India and wrote devotional hymns in languages such as Tamil, Hindi, Bengali, and Gujarati.

Mirabai, Surdas, Kabir, Tulsidas, and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu are some of the most famous Bhakti saints. Through their writings and teachings, they spread the message of love and devotion, inspiring people from all walks of life to embrace Bhakti as a spiritual path. These saints preached the concept of completely surrendering to the divine and experiencing a deep connection through love and devotion.

The inclusiveness of the Bhakti movement was one of its defining characteristics. It welcomed anyone seeking a personal connection with the divine, regardless of caste, gender, or social status. This inclusiveness was critical in breaking down barriers and fostering a sense of unity among various groups of people.

How to practice Bhakti

Bhakti Yoga entails cultivating a deep love and devotion to the divine. This selfless devotion can be directed toward a specific deity, such as Krishna, Ganesha, Shiva, or any other form of God that the practitioner resonates with. One seeks to establish a personal and intimate relationship with the divine through constant remembrance and contemplation of the chosen deity.

Devotion is frequently associated with various rituals, prayers, chanting, and singing of devotional hymns or mantras. These acts of devotion are more than just external rituals; they are tools for purifying the heart and awakening the inherent love and devotion that exists within. The practitioner cultivates surrender and selflessness by offering the divine one’s thoughts, words, and actions.

The ultimate goal of Bhakti yoga practice is to achieve the state of rasa (essence), a state of pure bliss attained through devotional surrender to the Divine.

The Nine Limbs of Devotion

Bhakti Yoga has nine main practices that can be practiced separately or together. Each of these limbs generates a distinct bhava (feeling) that appeals to the practitioners’ various inner constitutions.

  1. Shravana – “listening” to the ancient scriptures, especially potent if told by a saint or genuine bhakta.
  2. Kirtana – “singing” devotional songs, usually practiced in a call-and-response group format.
  3. Archana – the “ritual worship” of the Divine through practices such as puja (deity worship), and havan or homa (fire offering).
  4. Smarana – “remembering” the Divine by constantly meditating upon its name and form.
  5. Padasevana – “service at the feet” of the Divine, which incorporates the practice of karma yoga (selfless service) with bhakti (devotion).
  6. Vandana – the “prostration” before the image of one’s chosen image or representation of the Divine.
  7. Dasya – the “unquestioning” devotion of the Divine involving the cultivation of serving the will of God instead of one’s own ego.
  8.  Sakhya – the “friendship” and relationship established between the Divine and the devotee.
  9. Atmanivedana – the “self-offering” and complete surrender of the self to the Divine.

Kirtana (also known as Kirtan) is the most popular limb of Bhakti Yoga in the West, with national and local Kirtan walas performing weekly in small to large cities. Bhakti Yoga can be practiced alone or in conjunction with other types of yoga or spiritual practices.

As Swami Sivananda writes, “Bhakti softens the heart and removes jealousy, hatred, lust, anger, egoism, pride, and arrogance.” It bestows joy, divine ecstasy, bliss, peace, and wisdom. All worries and anxieties, fears, mental torments, and tribulations vanish completely. The devotee has been liberated from the Samsaric cycle of births and deaths. He attains the everlasting abode of peace, bliss, and knowledge.”

The ultimate goal of Bhakti yoga practice is to achieve the state of rasa (essence), a state of pure bliss attained through devotional surrender to the Divine.

Bhakti yoga benefits

The benefits of consistent Bhakti Yoga practice are enormous—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. “Bhakti softens the heart and removes jealousy, hatred, lust, anger, egoism, pride, and arrogance,” writes Swami Sivananda. It bestows joy, divine ecstasy, bliss, peace, and wisdom. All worries and anxieties, fears, mental torments, and tribulations vanish completely. The devotee has been liberated from the Samsaric cycle of births and deaths. He attains the everlasting abode of peace, bliss, and knowledge.”

On a physical level, Bhakti Yoga devotional practices can help reduce stress and anxiety while also promoting overall well-being. Bhakti Yoga’s rhythmic chanting and singing can have a calming effect on the nervous system and promote a sense of inner peace.

On a spiritual level, Bhakti Yoga aids in the purification of the mind and heart, as well as the cultivation of qualities such as love, compassion, and humility. The practice provides practitioners with a profound sense of connection and union with the divine, allowing them to experience deep joy, bliss, and fulfillment. It aids in the dissolution of the ego and the development of a sense of oneness with the divine, resulting in heightened spiritual awakening and a deeper understanding of one’s true self.

Bhakti Yoga is a practice that promotes emotional healing and transformation. By directing one’s emotions and desires towards the divine, practitioners learn to detach from the material world and ego mind in order to find solace in the divine’s unconditional love. This process assists people in overcoming negative emotions like anger, jealousy, and greed and replacing them with positive qualities like forgiveness, gratitude, and contentment.

On a mental level, Bhakti Yoga assists individuals in navigating life’s challenges with grace and resilience. Practitioners who devote themselves to the divine develop a deep trust in a higher power, knowing that they are not alone and that the divine is always guiding and supporting them. This belief system provides individuals with a sense of inner strength and peace, allowing them to Face challenges with courage and calm.

Bhakti yoga in daily life

Incorporating Bhakti principles into daily activities can transform our mundane routines into mindful and sacred rituals. Offering our actions to a higher power is one of the simplest ways to practice Bhakti Yoga in our daily lives. We can infuse love and devotion into any action, whether it is preparing a meal for our loved ones, finishing a project at work, or even doing household chores. Even the most mundane tasks become conscious, sacred, and fulfilling when we shift our mindset and see these tasks as opportunities to serve and express our gratitude.

We can practice Bhakti Yoga by seeking beauty and divinity in the most insignificant things—a blooming flower, a gentle breeze, a kind word from a stranger. We open our hearts to the divine presence that pervades every aspect of our existence by cultivating a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for these small moments.

Chanting or singing devotional songs is another powerful aspect of Bhakti Yoga. These sacred sounds’ vibrations can cleanse our hearts and bring us closer to the divine. We can create a space of peace and tranquility within ourselves by setting aside a few minutes each day for chanting. Surrendering our voice and emotions to the divine creates a profound sense of connection and unity with something greater than ourselves.

Final thoughts

It’s easy to get caught up in the never-ending cycle of work, responsibilities, and stress in today’s fast-paced world. However, Bhakti Yoga teaches us that true fulfillment comes from connecting with something bigger than ourselves, from cultivating a deep and unwavering devotion to the divine.

There is a deep longing in our hearts to be in union with the divine. This intense longing is the fuel that propels us along the Bhakti Yoga path. It is a bright flame that guides us to a life of love, compassion, bliss, unity, and selflessness. This life-changing journey invites you to discover the immense power of an open, loving heart.