By Faye Martins
The Shandilya Bhakti Sutras are comprised of one hundred verses that elucidate the path of divine devotion. This compilation is one of the foremost Hindu scriptural texts describing the various aspects of the Bhakti Yoga path. The great sage Shandilya composed the Shandilya Bhakti Sutras during the time period of the epic Indian Mahabharata War just prior to 300 BCE. The exact origination date of the text is a point of contention among religious scholars and archaeologists. The Narada Bhakti Sutras and the Shandilya Bhakti Sutras are two complimentary Indian scriptures that teach devotees about the various aspects of practicing Bhakti Marga or Bhakti Yoga. These devotional practices ultimately ensconce and merge a devotee’s consciousness into the divine energy that exists in the heart of every human being.
In his Bhakti Sutras, Shandilya speaks about the great power of devotion for one’s teacher or guru and for God. This longing for a taste of divine nectar can be painful at first, if it is left unfulfilled. However, as a Yoga student continues to fan the flames of desire and devotion for his or her chosen deity, the longing itself generates more devotion and helps keep a devotee close to the heart of God. As a Bhakti Yoga practitioner continues to follow this path, this longing turns into great waves of bliss, joy and ecstasy when the vrittis or thought-waves of the mind begin to subside and the Bhakta’s consciousness begins to rest in the essential divinity of the heart. Ultimately, following Shandilya’s and Narada’s advice from their Bhakti Yoga Sutras will lead a devotee to the realization of the divine waves of bliss or ananda that underlie all of reality.
According to Shandilya, Bhakti Yoga is considered to be a transcendental practice that far supersedes the practice of the Yoga of Knowledge or Jnana. In fact, Bhakti Yoga is considered to be one of the fastest and surest paths back to the divine. In contemporary metaphorical terms, Jnana Yoga is the equivalent of travelling a country road and practicing Bhakti Yoga is equal to travelling on an interstate. In Shandilya’s terms, Jnana Yoga is equal in value to the loose skin hanging from a goat’s neck. Not much, indeed! Some Yoga studios are actively incorporating Bhakti Yoga practices into their classes. Chanting sacred mantras and singing the divine names at the beginning or end of a Yoga class helps to root the Yoga students’ awareness into the divine underpinnings of their asana practice.
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