Everyone loves love. When we love someone, we find joy in doing things that benefit them and that they enjoy. It is easy and natural to have that person captivate our attention as well as our affection. We also feel great energy when we see or hear them, or spend time with them. If our love is deep and faithful, we experience an ever-increasing feeling of oneness with them. We are in them and they in us.
Bhakti Yoga utilizes the great power of love in attaining the goal of union with the Self or the Divine. The Self appears as every name and form in creation, but we don't normally experience this reality. In Bhakti Yoga, a name and form that points to that Highest Truth is chosen as the object of devotion. Any name and form, from any faith tradition, that captures our highest aspirations is perfectly appropriate.
Bhakti Yoga is often thought of as a path of emotions. In the sense that it largely centers on love, this idea holds truth. But Bhakti Yoga is more than just the feeling we typically call love. That wonderful emotion, associated with our partners, children, and our sweet pets, is an echo of pure love. It makes us feel stronger, clearer, and puts
us in touch with that which is eternal. Don't we often say and think, "Our love will never die?". This feeling is love, but it is still limited and conditioned by our egos.
Pure love - unlimited and unconditioned - is the reflection of the Absolute on the mind. It is when we experience this that we know without doubt that love does come from inside us. It is not brought about by sweet words or actions, by beauty, or attraction. Love, pure and unfettered, has always been within us as our True Self. For Bhakti Yoga to reveal its powerful transforming power, pure, unadulterated love needs to be cultivated.
Bhakti Yoga is based on devotion - the surrender of selfishness. It is the joyful and willing dedication of yourself to the Divine. A Bhakti Yogi cultivates the attitude that whatever they do is an offering to God. They offer themselves to God as His/Her instrument in serving others. They see everyone as brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers in one spiritual family. They enjoy prayer, worship, and ritual centered on the form of God that is so beloved by them. Chanting, reading stories of their Divine beloved are also central to the practices. Bhakti Yoga brings ecstatic joy leading the practitioner to communion with the Absolute.
The relationship with God varies according to the taste and temperament of the devotee. God can be approached as a parent, master, friend, spouse, or child. God can be perceived as remover of obstacles, creator, sustainer, dissolver of the universe, protector, or as the Divine Feminine principle, Shakti, in any of her various manifestations. Some devotees regard their Guru as a manifestation of God and apply the principles of Bhakti Yoga in that relationship.
True bhaktas (devotees) are not narrow in their vision. They cultivate the understanding that all names and forms of the Absolute are to be revered as forms of their own chosen deity.
The advantage of Bhakti Yoga is that it naturally encourages giving and fearlessness. Fear vanishes in the presence of love. Sri Swami Satchidananda often said, "Fear and faith don't go together." The heart is also the center of our strength and perseverance. Love engenders hope and joy.
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