BHAKTI YOGA is a lifestyle, an art of living, an expression of life. It is known as the yoga of devotion in which the ultimate desire is to connect with love. As a practice, Bhakti Yoga is the process of purifying, transforming and channeling your negative emotions towards those associated with love. It is making your mind and heart sensitive and connecting them to positive, uplifting, creative qualities and traits.
Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, says in the book, Bhakti Sadhana, “The only two kinds of interactions in life that are accepted as expressions of Bhakti are Seva, selfless service to others, and prem, unconditional love.” When your feelings are connected with others and your efforts are only concerned with their happiness and upliftment, this is seva. When your heart is soft toward everyone in the world, when you experience a sense of connection, empathy, affinity and oneness with all, that is prem.
The Obstacles of Bhakti
Worldly life consists of sensory enjoyment and pleasure, and spiritual life consists of Bhakti. In Bhakti, the torchlight of the mind is turned away from the world of senses and sense objects and towards a higher, powerful essence – the divine.
As you journey into your ‘self’, you find that you fight emotional battles with your instinctive nature of anger, greed, confusion, attachment, pride, and arrogance. These are obstacles of Bhakti that can be overcome by cultivating discipline and order in your life.
Lust – removal of desires from the mind
Greed – non-attachment
Anger – forgiveness
Confusion – contemplation
Pride – humility
As you can see, Bhakti is an ongoing process of psychological transformation in life to move from the negative, restricted, conditioned nature towards positive, uplifting, creative and transcendental powers. The Divine can take on the form of a personal God, an aspect of nature, the overarching picture of the universe or whatever you resonate with that helps you to uplift yourself in acknowledging the bigger picture.
Nine Practices to Develop Bhakti
In the Srimad Bhagavat, in the Vishnu Purana, and in the Ramacharitamanas there are nine practices to develop the language of our heart, to inspire, motivate and awaken the higher human qualities of love.
- Srvana: listening – hearing stories of saints and sages, reading sacred texts, discussing spiritual concepts and universal truths, and reflecting on teachings of spiritual masters.
- Kirtana: singing – chanting mantras, connecting to your heart, losing yourself in love and connecting to the moment through sound.
- Smarana: remembering – remembrance of the presence of divinity in all beings, acknowledging that higher force which sustains all of creation, which is within every breath we take.
- Seva: serving – worshiping through selfless service, performing all daily activities as an offering to the divine without expectation of reward, all the while cultivating humility.
- Archana: worshiping – ancient traditional rituals which help to purify the internal and external environments and help the mind and emotions to flow in a positive manner.
- Vandana: praying – communion with the divine through silent and spoken appeals.
- Dasya bhava: living in the world in service – having an attitude of offering, playing ones role through the divine and finding purpose in thought, word and deed.
- Sakhya: being a friend to all – understanding, compassion, caring for all; seeing the whole world as your friend.
- Atmabhava: seeing oneself in all beings – self-surrender, completely surrendering oneself to love. It is written in the Bhagavad Gita (6:29), “…the true yogi sees all living beings in himself and himself in all living beings.”
These practices are starting points to help you manage and re-channel your instinctive emotions towards a higher purpose. If you take a little time each day to incorporate and reflect upon some of the practices and aspects of Bhakti yoga, as mentioned above, you may find something useful to transform yourself into a more positive human being, whilst being able to connect with the divine essence in all of creation.
As you can see, Bhakti Yoga is not just ringing bells or singing songs! It’s a feeling, an energy, an awareness of total, unconditional, infinite love.
Experience Bhakti at Anahata’s Bhakti Celebration
If you feel called to the path of love through Bhakti Yoga, join us for this celebration devoted to the divine. Together we will experience all of these practices through mantra meditation, music, creativity, self-love workshops and of course, Kirtan. To immerse yourself fully in this event, we recommend you come to the bigger Yoga of Sound Yoga Retreat which the celebration is a part of.
When we each strive to connect deeper with the divine and come together to awaken that experience, we will rise into a higher love for ourselves, each other and all of life itself.
Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati. (2017). Bhakti Sadhana. Munger, India:Yoga Publications Trust (Bihar School of Yoga)