Bhakti yoga is one of the four main yogic paths which lead to enlightenment. The literal meaning of bhakti is “love” or “devotion” and this path comprises of various practices to bring the bhakti yoga practitioners close to the divine. Bhakti yoga can be considered the simplest yogic path to master as well as the most direct method to acquire the unity of mind, body and spirit. While Raja yoga requires a concentrated and disciplined mind, Hatha Yoga asks for a strong and flexible body and Jnana yoga requires a solid intellect. But the only requirement for mastering bhakti yoga is a loving heart. But bhakti yoga does complement other paths of yoga well as it is said that knowledge or wisdom (jnana) will only come to those who engage in the devotional practice of bhakti yoga.
The path of devotion is a perfect method for the expression of the emotions as these are expressed many times in violence and out bursts. This is a means of channeling the emotions and development of best possible Mental Health. This method is helpful for a higher yogic experience which helps the mind and body coordination for to higher sensitivity and receptivity toward the supreme.
Bhakti Yoga also involves the worship of a deity or a form of God. A bhakta accepts everything that happens to him as a blessing from God. He does not have expectations or desires and he is entirely surrendered to the will of the Almighty. The devotee accepts everything happening in his life as his destiny without any complaints or resentment.
However, before reaching this point of eternal love for God, the bhakta is entwined with egoistic thoughts. When at this level, the bhakta does love God but also expect things from him. There are many people who cling on to God only when they are facing difficulties in life or going through a rough patch of life. Others turn to God asking for materialistic things, money, career promotion, glory, etc. But they do not realize that the human life is not eternal and when it is the time to depart from this world, all the possessions will stay behind and that is why it is illogical to put more emphasis on these worldly desires. Spiritual seekers only pray for the realization of god and wisdom. Most of the times we create a picture of how he is and how he should act and because of this sole reason, we could not entirely open up to the divine revelation.
There are nine practices of bhakti yoga which can either be practiced collectively or separately. Each of these nine practices gives birth to a specific feeling which appeals to different parts which for the inner constitution of the practitioner.
The nine limbs of devotion are as follows:
- Shravana– Reading or listening to the ancient scriptures. The practice is proven to be more potent when told by a saint.
- Kirtan– Singing devotional songs and while remembering the Almighty.
- Smarna– Remembering the almighty by meditating upon its form and name.
- Padasevana– The word padasevana means “service at the feet of the God”. This involves the practice of selfless service (karma yoga) with devotion (bhakti).
- Archana- The worship of the Almighty through puja or havan or ritual of worships.
- Vandana– Praying in front of a Statue or image of the selected deity or God.
- Dasya- Not questioning the will of the Almighty and focusing just on unquestionable devotion towards God.
- Sakhya– The unconditional relationship between the God and the devotee.
- Atmanivedana- Surrendering one’s self to the Almighty.