“Bhakti is the intense love of God”
Bhakti Yoga is known as the yoga of devotion. In this yoga the practitioner seeks union with the divine through becoming absorbed in their chosen deity or aspect of God. In this yoga mental understanding and knowledge are not important what is important is that the seeker is able to go beyond the mind and use his heart to be filled with genuine devotion.
Sri Chinmoy says this of Bhakti Yoga:
“Ask a man to speak about God and he will speak endlessly. Ask a Bhakta to speak about God and he will say only two things: God is all Affection, God is all Sweetness. The Bhakta even goes one step further. He says, “I can try to live without bread, but never can I live without my Lord’s Grace. A Bhakta’s prayer is very simple: “O my Lord God, do enter into my life with Thine Eye of Protection and with Thy Heart of Compassion.” This prayer is the quickest way to knock at God’s Door and also the easiest way to see God open the Door. “
From: Sri Chinmoy Library – Bhakti Yoga
Great Bhakti Yogis
Sri Chaitanya or Lord Gauranga was a prominent spiritual master who lived in Bengal during the 16th Century. Originally Sri Chaitanya was a great scholar and pundit. He used to defeat the leading pundits in debates about religion. However at the age of about 22 Sri Chaitanya became dedicated to worshipping Sri Krishna. Sri Chaitanya became absorbed in the consciousness of Krishna, he was filled with divine ecstasy and lost all interest in dry intellectual discussions. He became determined to renounce the world and live as a wandering sannyasin. Despite the objections of his mother Sachi Sri Chaitanya became a monk and spent his time in meditation and prayer. For hours at a time he would sing Bhajans about Krishna such as ‘Hari Bol’. His intensity and absorption in God consciousness attracted many disciples.
Sri Chaitanya often led Kirtan groups singing and dancing in the streets of Bengal. Sri Chaitanya’s unorthodox behaviour and disdain for Religious and Caste restrictions bought the displeasure of the ruling elite, but often soldiers or opponents relented when they became aware of Sri Chaitanya’s divine mood’s. Throughout his life Sri Chaitanya became more and more devoted to Krishna. He experienced increasing amounts of divine ecstasy and bliss. These consciousness were so overwhelming he struggled to act in conventional ways. He spent his time wandering around India and in particular Bengal forever with the mantra of Krishna on his lips.
Sri Chaitanya left a profound influence on India, in particular Bengal Sri Chaitanya was responsible for reinvigorating the Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism. The popular Hare Krishna movement has its roots in Sri Chaitanya’s tradition.
Mirabai was a princess who lived around the time of the mogul emperor Akbar. She was married to a powerful Hindu prince but she did not get on well with her husband and family. From an early age Mirabai was enchanted with the idea of marrying Sri Krishna. As a child she was given a doll of Sri Krishna and she would spend all her time imagining this doll to be the real Krishna she felt inwardly that she would dedicate her life to the worship and contemplation of Krishna. Worldly attractions held no interest for Mirabai. Her heart longed for union with her beloved Krishna. Unfortunately her family and husband did not approve of her spending most of her time praying to Krishna. Mirabai had to endure much abuse and suffering from her jealous and ungrateful relatives. They tried their hardest to prevent Mirabai from worshipping Krishna but Mirabai could not be dissuaded. Eventually Mirabai decided to leave the comforts of the palace and lead the life of a wandering mendicant. Her fame became widespread and many came to listen to her beautiful bhajans. These poems expressed her heartfelt longing for union with Krishna, whom she often referred to as Govinda.
Sri Ramakrishna was one of India’s greatest bhakti saints of the nineteenth Century. He was devoted to his beloved Mother Kali. When singing or praying to Kali, he would enter into a profound spiritual consciousness of Samadhi. His devotion and divine love, clearly visible to even the most sceptical visitors. Although Ramakrishna’s favourite deity was Mother Kali. He went through a period of practising the spiritual paths of many religions and sects of Hinduism. Thus from personal experience Ramakrishna was one of the first spiritual Masters to be able to state that all religions led to the same goal; the same spiritual consciousness expressed by different names.
Sufism has its base in Islam. The great Sufi master Jaluddin Rumi was very knowledgeable about the Qu’ran it is also unlikely they had any knowledge of Bhakti yoga as practise by Hinduism. However through their poetry we can see that they had a powerful and absorbing love for the divine which is in the greatest tradition of Bhakti yoga.
For example Hafiz frequently wrote about his longing for his beloved using metaphorical language, which could be construed to be ordinary romantic language. Hafiz also frequently alluded to the divine bliss of communion with the Divine. He used terms such as ‘drunk with the wine of the beloved’. One reason for Hafiz using language such as this was that he needed to avoid prosecution from the religious authorities who disproved of Hafiz’ unorthodox religious behaviour.
This is an example of Hafiz poetry translation: Daniel Ladinsky.
The Subject tonight is Love
The subject tonight is Love
And for tomorrow night as well,
As a matter of fact
I know of no better topic
For us to discuss
Until we all
The tradition of bhakti Yoga can be seen in many of the Christian mysticswho developed a close an intimate connection with The Christ. For example St Teresa of Avila came to feel she was the bride of Christ. Although her outer life was filled with many trials and tribulations she was sustained by her close inner connection to Christ. She wrote how she was given many divine spiritual experiences where she felt the ecstasy of attaining a oneness with the consciousness of Christ.
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