The Yoga of Devotion
Bhakti means “devotion” or “love.” It is derived from the root bhaj, meaning “to participate in” and denotes “loving involvement and devotion.” Bhakti is usually translated as “devotion” and is understood as human adoration of the Divine. However, the Sanskrit term bhakti more accurately expresses a mutual love—it is the intimacy of love shared. But this “sharing” does not refer to the feeling (often experienced in personal love) that if we love someone they “must” answer our love by loving us back. “Love shared” refers to Divine Love, a love that is always mutual because it points towards the same reality—Love, pure and simple. It is also mutual because it radiates from the same divine Heart.
Bhakti Yoga—The Path of Devotion
Bhakti Yoga is the “path of devotion to and adoration of the Divine.” This means unconditional love for the Divine and putting our faith in God. Krishna’s discussions with Arjuna in the sacred text the Bhagavad Gita exemplify this path. The Gita says liberation can happen without devotion if we practice detachment—that is, being in the world but not attached to it. The liberation accessible through devotion is a superior kind. By “awakening to the divine Krishna,” the yogi attains liberation.
Those who are on this path personify the Absolute as a god, goddess, the Divine Mother, or another special representation. They devote their lives and actions to their ishta devata (tutelary deity) or to God, present in their heart as a Father, Mother, or Divine Lover. They sing their adoration, write poems, or dance—immersed in the ecstasy of love.
Ancient Treatises Mention That Bhakti Yoga Has Nine Parts:
- Shravana, listening to holy scriptures
- Kirtana, devotional song, usually in call and response style
- Smarana, remembrance of God through meditation on its forms
- Pada sevana, action at the feet of God
- Arcana, ritualistic worship of the Divine
- Vandana, prostration before the icon of God
- Dasya, humble devotion to God
- Sakhya, the divine friendship that elevates the devotee to the rank of a friend
- Atma nivedana, self-giving in which the aspirant becomes one with the immortal body of the Divine
Hridaya Yoga embraces love as the most natural way to maintain the awareness of the Self. It emphasizes that jnana (spiritual knowledge of our true nature) is intimately related to bhakti, to the mystery of Love-Awareness as revealed by devotion, adoration, fervor, or ecstasy.