An Explanation of Bhakti Yoga, by Julie Pasquale
As a person who doesn’t drive all that often, I am beyond happy that I live in the time of GPS. How reassuring it is to hear that voice telling me to turn right or turn left, that there is a delay ahead, and would I like her (because mine is definitely a woman named Beatrice) to tell me how to get around it. But, of all the marvels of the GPS, my favorite feature is the GO HOME button – wherever I am, she will guide me home, no matter how many wrong turns, detours, or traffic delays there may be, she leads me back to where I live.
Bhakti Yoga is like a GPS, it is the process of leading us back to our “home”, back to our true selves, and what the yogic teachings call our “constitutional nature” – to be loving beings! The soft hearted, compassionate people we seek to be, are already inside of us, we simply have lost our way – and the path back to who we truly are is Bhakti. The practices of Bhakti help one see who they really are – that beyond the body, the mind, the intellect, they are something else – to quote the great yogi BKS Iyengar, they are “sparks of divinity”. And just as an actual spark of fire glows most brightly when it is near the flame from which it came, a soul is at it’s fullest when closest to it’s source – The Divine.
This energy/presence that is bigger than us, yet pervades us, can be called by many, many names: The Divine, The Absolute, The Great Creator, God, Jesus, Mohammed, Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna, Bob, Susan, Left Big Toe – the process of Bhakti is to re-establish the loving relationship to that higher power whatever one calls it, and when that love is uncovered, cultivated and grown, all of our interactions become more loving. The example is often given about how we water the roots of a tree to make it grow, as opposed to watering the leaves – in Bhakti, this connection to The Divine is like watering the roots – and when we do that, the love in our hearts flowers and blooms and that love overflows into our relationships with others. And in the path of Bhakti, love is best expressed through service, for how else do you really show the love that is in your hearts than by giving of yourself. A great practitioner, Radhanath Swami says, “If you love the parent, you have to love the child”, and who are the children of The Divine, if not the living beings on this planet?
In other paths of Yoga, the goal is to quiet our minds – a worthy, and extremely hard goal indeed. Bhakti endeavors to quiet the mind, too, by using the most powerful weapon we human beings have – LOVE. Think of when you have been in love – can you even begin to think of anything but your beloved? Probably not! You can’t do your work, or sleep, or eat – thoughts of your sweetheart fill your mind, as well as your heart. What if we could be that in love with The Divine? Our minds so absorbed in loving thoughts, that the day to day rat race between our ears is calmed, and all we experience is a love song that spills out into our lives.
Bhakti is a yoga that needs no mat, no blocks, no stretchy pants, it is the yoga of the love, a love that is inside of each one of us, but that we have forgotten, until we hear the voice of the GPS known as Bhakti guiding us home.