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What is Bhakti Yoga?

Everyone who follows a religious life has faith in God. One might have faith mixed with a feeling of competition with others and with a feeling of separation from, or fear of, God. Another might worship God in order to secure material enjoyment from Him, either in earthly or Heavenly planes. Still another may worship God in order to be purified of the contamination of contact with mundane things. But there are those who worship God in order to awaken unmotivated devotion for Him; to serve Him with simple love, with no other reason than to please Him.  The latter is the practice of Vaisnavism or Bhakti Yoga.

The Siksastakam Prayer: Unalloyed Devotion

500 years ago,the great apostle of Love of God, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, prayed:

na dhanam na janam na sundarim
kavitam va jagadisa kamaye
mama janmanijanmanisvare
bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi

Translation

“O Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, followers, beautiful women, or salvation. My only prayer is for Your causeless devotional service, birth after birth.”

Vaisnava practicing life tries to move in this direction. “Wherever I am born according to my karma, I aspire only for your service, my Lord. I pray for unmotivated service, not for anything else in return.” The general temptations that surround us on four sides are: money, followers, women, and liberation. But Lord Chaitanya has rejected all of these.

“O Lord of the universe, I shall serve you, and in remuneration you must give me more of a tendency to serve you. My affection for you will be enhanced, and if you want to pay me something, then increase my serving tendency so that my hankering to serve you will increase.”

This is Bhakti Yoga. Bhakti, devotion, is ahaituki, causeless. It is quite natural and has no other aspiration. It is the real inner quality of the Soul, and is the source of unlimited joy.

In the timeless holy Scripture, Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krsna systematically describes to His disciple, Arjuna, all the paths of Yoga. He then states:

B.G. 9.18

yoginam api sarvesam, mad gatenantaratmana
sraddhavan bhajate yo mam, sa me yuktatamo matah

Of all yogis the topmost are those who take refuge in their heart’s faith in My pure devotional service –

Of all types of yogis, (following the paths of action, knowledge, and meditation (karma, jnana, dhyana),) the most elevated of all is he who surrenders his heart to Me and serves Me in devotion with sincere, internal faith.

Krsna gives the conclusion of Bhagavad Gita, saying, “Abandon all varieties of duty, and just surrender unto Me (sarva dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja). My position is such: I am your guardian, your friend, your everything. Your goal of life is to be found in Me. Believe it Arjuna. At least I must not deceive you. You are my friend.  You can take it for certain.”

This explanation is beautifully described in the scripture, Chaitanya Charitamrta. The gopis tell Krsna, “Do you think we are yogis who will be satisfied with abstract meditation on You? Can we be satisfied by imagination? We are not a party to that. Neither are we karmis, fruitive workers, who are incurring a great debt from nature, who come to Your door to get relief, praying, ‘O God, please relieve us from all our previous sins.’ We do not belong to either of these two sections.”

“What are we? We want to live with You as Your family. We are interested neither in abstract thinking, nor in using You to clear off the faults of karma to nullify our sinful activities. We don’t want to use You for any other purpose. We want to have a direct family life with You. “

What is Impersonal Realization of the Supreme?

The most  ancient of all books, spoken by the creator at the dawn of creation, Sri Brahma Samhita, describes,

Text 34:

panthas tu koti-sata-vatsara-sampragamyo
vayor athapi manaso muni-pungavanam
so ’py asti yat-prapada-simny avicintya-tattve
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami

TRANSLATION

The yogis follow the path of strictly controlling the life-breath, and the great sages follow the path of  intellectual rejection of the non-real in quest of the non-differentiative Brahman. They all aspire to reach that eternal Spiritual Truth beyond the mundane. But after trying for billions of years, even those who are foremost can only reach the outskirts of the lotus feet of the Primeval Lord, Govinda, Whom I do worship.

Krsna says in Bhagavad Gita (2.47), “Never be attached to not doing your duty (ma te sango ‘stv akarmani). Don’t subject yourself to that painful reaction, for then you will be doomed. Don’t be attached to stop work and go on strike. No. That is a dangerous vacuum. Don’t jump there in that eternal vacuum, but work for Me, and you will thrive.”

All actions for personal separate interest cause clashes in this plane. Further, every action produces a karmic reaction. When one becomes tired of this endless and useless existence, he takes to a process of gaining relief.

“Kaivalya” and “brahmalaya” mean becoming one with the Absolute and ultimate dissolution of one’s sense of individuality. This state is situated at a region midway between the mundane plane and the Divine Realm. All such positions are nothing but the absence of sorrow in mundane relativity, and neither constitute happiness. Only the Supreme Lord is described as the ocean of joy.   One must seek out the grace of Divinity Personified through Devotion. This can never be attained by the path of tasteless and tortuous mental speculation.