By Amruta Kulkarni, CYT 500
The path of Bhakti Yoga is a universal and spiritual discipline based on devotion to the divine. Divinity comes in many different forms. The Bhakti Yoga path honors and worships the divine in the form of God, the immanent divine essence in all beings, including oneself, and the divine as manifested through one’s own Guru or teacher. The meaning of the word “Yoga” is yoke or union.
The path of Bhakti Yoga and its practitioners, known as bhaktas, are earnestly in search of union with the divine energy within their own hearts as manifested by the intense longing for oneness with their Guru or God. In order to accomplish this goal, bhaktas use Yogic techniques such as prayer, mantra, chanting divine names, and ritual worship. Ultimately, the goal of Bhakti Yoga is to be immersed in love and to serve others from that place.
Bhakti Yoga is known as one of the fastest and surest paths to obtaining oneness with God as well as self-realization. Many Bhakti Yoga practitioners engage in the singing of divine texts, mantras, and prayers. These chants keep the bhakta’s mind focused on the divine within. The syllables of the mantras themselves help to purify our energy fields and to revitalize us. Through the practice of kirtan or devotional singing, our minds are uplifted and our beings begin to pulsate with divine grace.
Bhakti Yoga practitioners also have an intense longing for oneness with their Guru or teacher. An enlightened teacher who awakens the inner divinity of a student will embody divine love and grace for that student. The student’s Guru will also act as a mirror for the student, reflecting the student’s positive and negative qualities back to the student, so that the student may go through the alchemical process of purification and live more fully in the awareness of God’s love and presence within his or her own heart.
Many ritual acts of worship encompass offerings of prayers, food and flowers. These offerings honor God and help to keep the student’s mind and heart focused on the goal of Bhakti Yoga, oneness with the divine. Ritual acts of worship also honor the Guru-disciple relationship and the importance of the Guru in the student’s life. Seva or selfless service naturally springs from the awakening of deep love and compassion within the student’s heart. According to the Indian scriptures, the highest goal of Bhakti Yoga is service to God, one’s Guru, and all other living beings. The path of Bhakti Yoga is one of devotion.
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