A summary of bhakti yoga

We have written much about bhakti yoga. But the flow of ideas on the subject kept coming and coming. There seems to be no end, and even now there are countless other things that could be said. But at this point it is time to stop, and give you a chance to follow the path of bhakti yoga for yourself if you are devotion-ally inclined.

Each of us has emotions. They are a normal part of the human makeup. But few people can direct and focus these emotions in one direction and towards positive and constructive purposes.

Each person is looking for a suitable object or person on which to express and focus their emotions. This occurs either consciously or unconsciously and is the case with both the obviously emotional person and the seemingly unemotional person. It is in this search for a suitable focal point for emotions and feeling that people rush wildly after so many things in life, and as a result their emotions are needlessly dissipated. Others, who have met with severe and traumatic rebuffs in their efforts to express emotions, tend to suppress them. This is a great problem in life and there is only one positive method of solving it: one must try to focus all the emotions on one thing. The emotions have to be channelled in one direction. Some people do this by directing all their emotions into their work. There is nothing wrong with this, providing you follow as closely as possible the principles of karma yoga3. If you don't then the emotions will rebound and once again cause you disturbances. The best method is to direct all one's emotions towards one subject or object of veneration. One should try and convert emotions into devotion and surrender and dedicate all one's aspirations to the object of devotion. One should offer all the fruits of actions, either spiritually or mentally. This is bhakti yoga, but it is not easy.

Bhakti yoga is often regarded as being very different from other forms of yoga, but this is not really true. In hatha yoga, the mind is made one-pointed by awareness of the breath or different parts of the body. In raja yoga the mind is made one-pointed by awareness of a fixed symbol or a psychic centre. In jnana yoga the mind is made one-pointed by total absorption in an enquiry. In karma yoga the mind becomes concentrated by complete absorption in one's work. In bhakti yoga the same result, namely one-pointedness of the mind, is achieved through love and devotion. If there is devotion towards one thing, then all the energy of the mind will also flow in the same direction. Love is probably the strongest force for concentrating the mind. The greater the love then the greater the concentration.

All the paths of yoga lead to dhyana (meditation). Bhakti can intensify the effectiveness of other paths of yoga, for if you feel devotion towards something, then your attention and interest will automatically flow in that direction without any effort. There will be a natural attraction towards the object of love. For many people, it is difficult to maintain awareness of the breath or the psychic centres or whatever during hatha yoga and raja yoga practices, because there is no natural attraction. The awareness is distracted in other directions, preventing success in one's yogic sadhana. But if you feel devotion and love for an object, then you will have no choice but to be aware. The object of devotion will overwhelm your whole being. This is the way to success in yoga.

Remember, if you are not devotionally inclined then don't force yourself to follow the path of bhakti. If you are a doubter, then please remain a doubter. Don't try to become a bhakta. But if you are a doubter then let the doubt be so overwhelming that it forces you to make an effort to seek answers to life and your own nature. If your doubt is strong enough then it will force you to practise some of the paths of yoga, though not bhakti yoga. Or your doubt will force you to find some other means to either confirm or remove your scepticism.

In this case your doubt can be positive. But if you doubt and take no steps to find answers from personal experience, then nothing will be gained. By all means doubt . . . doubt everything. Accept nothing. This is a good method of clearing away the cobwebs of false thinking from the mind. Eventually you may be surprised to find that you have become a bhakta spontaneously.

Bhakti yoga is one of the most powerful methods of inducing meditation. If you are swept away by a powerful current of bhakti, then you will find that meditation will arise naturally. It will come about as a natural consequence of having a concentrated mind. So if you feel devotion whether it is tangible or intangible, let it be the supercharger that launches you into the realms of supercon-sciousness. It is said that there are two types of fools: the ignorant fool and the fool who is saturated with bhakti. But the happiness of the bhakta is infinitely greater than the ignorant fool, because it is based on love and knowledge. So if you follow the path of bhakti yoga, you may find that you have become a fool... but a wise, blissful one.

Intense bhakti will induce the joy of meditation. One becomes the perfect receptacle of the divine nectar. You will come face to face with yourself. Do you know the root of the word 'personality'? It comes from the word persona. It means 'a mask', or 'an appearance'. Therefore, your personality, your individuality, is a mask, a shell of something much greater. Bhakti yoga is a method of seeing behind that mask, of seeing behind your limited personality. Follow the path of bhakti, and then . . .

Notes

1 Bhakti Yoga: Part 1 - Book II, Lesson 15, Topic 1; Part 2 - Book II, Lesson 16, Topic 1; Part 3 -Book II, Lesson 17, Topic 1

2 For more information on the subject of tantra refer to Book II, Lesson 13, Topic 6

3 For full details on karma yoga refer to Book I, Lesson 12, Topic 1

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