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Bhakti Yoga
Bhakti Yoga, a spiritual practise of offering utmost devotion to God, is considered as the easiest way to liberate oneself.
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 Bhakti YogaBhakti Yoga refers to a spiritual practise of offering utmost devotion (Bhakti) to God. Bhakti is a series or succession of mental efforts at religious realization, beginning with ordinary worship and ending in a supreme intensity of love for God. The movements wherein Bhakti Yoga is practised are called as Bhakti movements and this yoga is generally considered as the easiest way to liberate oneself. In order to practise Bhakti yoga, it is very important for the practitioner to surrender himself to God by channelling his emotions into unconditional love for God, turning into devotion. A Bhakti Yogi is motivated chiefly by the power of love and sees God as the embodiment of love. However, this path appeals to emotional people since, chanting or singing the praises of God forms a substantial part of Bhakti Yoga.

Origin of Bhakti Yoga
The concept of Bhakti Yoga, or the path of love in Bhagavad Gita, originated in the epic poem Mahabharata, where the mighty third Pandava - Arjuna is filled with remorse and shame after he has to confront his blood in the war of Kurukshetra. His opponents are each his father or cousin, teacher or grandfather, with whom he outright denies to take up his bow and slay in battle. His charioteer, Lord Krishna interferes at his critical juncture, turning the tables of India's mythological history, paving way for the Bhagavad Gita, cardinal text in Hinduism. Arjuna is lectured on various topics of life and faith in general by Krishna, urging him to take up his weapon to fight like a Kshatriya. Arjuna keeps on barging Krishna with his series of doubtful questions, patiently answered by the Lord.

Philosophy of Bhakti Yoga
While Lord Krishna was pouring Arjuna with invaluable wisdom of life and faith, Arjuna, in one such instance questioned his Lord about the better devotees who worship Krishna, those who try to know Him as a Personal God, or those who try to know Him as Impersonal and Indestructible. Lord Krishna replied that those who keep their minds rigid on Him, who worship Him always with unfaltering faith and concentration- "Those who worship Me as the Indestructible, the Indefinable, the Unmanifest, the Omnipresent, the Unthinkable, the Primeval, the Immutable and the Eternal, subduing their senses, viewing all conditions of life with the same eye, and working for the welfare of all beings, assuredly they come to Me." However those who fix their attention on the Absolute and Impersonal, encounter bigger hardships; for it is difficult for those who possess body to realise the Lord as without one.

Bhakti Yoga In actuality, those who surrender their actions to Krishna, who muse on Him, worship Him and meditate on Him alone, with no thought save Him; Lord Krishna rescues them quickly from the ocean of life and death, because their minds are fixed on Him. Henceforth, Krishna instructs Arjuna to let his mind cling only to Him, his intellect to abide in Him; if Arjuna does so, without doubt he would live thereafter within Him alone. Nevertheless, Krishna warns Arjuna that if he cannot fix his mind firmly on Him, then, it would be better to strive to do so by constant practice.

Bhakti Yoga, the path of love in Bhagavad Gita speaks that if one is not strong enough to practise concentration, then one should devote oneself to Krishna's service, perform all one's acts for His sake and one is sure to still attain the goal. And if one is too weak even for this, then, it is advised to seek refuge in union with Him and with perfect self-discipline one shall have to renounce the fruit of all action.

"Knowledge is superior to blind action, meditation to mere knowledge, renunciation of the fruit of action to meditation, and where there is renunciation peace will follow." He who is unable to hate any being, who is kind and sympathetic, free from egotism, without conceit, equable in pleasure and in pain and forgiving, always contented, self-seeking, self-restraining, unwavering, with mind and reason dedicated to Krishna, such a devotee of His is ideally His much loved.

He who does not harm the world and whom the world cannot harm, who is not carried away by any whim of joy, anger or fear, such a one is the Lord's beloved. He who anticipates nothing, who is pristine, watchful, indifferent, unperturbed and who abdicates all initiative, such a one is also Lord Krishna's much loved individual. According to Bhagavad Gita's path of love, or Bhakti Yoga, one who is beyond joy and hate, who neither wails nor desires, to whom good and evil fortunes stands the same, such a one is Krishna's beloved. "He to whom friend and foe are alike, who welcomes equally honour and dishonour, heat and cold, pleasure and pain, who is enamoured of nothing, who is indifferent to praise and censure, who enjoys silence, who is contented with every fate, who has no fixed abode, who is steadfast in mind, and filled with devotion, such a one is My beloved."

Bhakti Yoga Krishna makes Arjuna knowledgeable that in actuality, those who love the spiritual wisdom as He has taught, whose faith never betrays and who concentrates his whole nature on Him, he indeed is His most beloved.

Forms of Bhakti Yoga
There are nine forms of Bhakti Yoga. Shravanam refers to listening to the stories of personal deity, Kirtanam refers to chanting the name of devotee with devotion, Smaranam is remembering the deity throughout the day, Padashevanam is service to the divine, Archanam includes ritualistic offering to the deity, Bandaram refers to worshipping everything as the form of divinity, Dasyam is being the servant of Almighty, Sakhyam refers to friendship with the deity, Atma Nivedanam depicts total surrender.

Stages in Bhakti Yoga
Bhakti is practised in higher as well as its lower form. The former has been explained above, but the latter has a great disadvantage since it often degenerates into hideous fanaticism. From the genuine worshippers, however, every sect of religion does have many fanatics who are always exclusively recruited from these worshippers on the lower planes of Bhakti. These fanatics tend to get attached to their God or ideal but denounce every other form, resulting in becoming a howling fanatic as soon as he sees or hears anything of any other ideal. But this danger exists only in the preparatory stage (Gauni) of Bhakti. Bhakti Yoga has two levels; the first is called "Gauni," or preparatory and includes all the preliminary practices; the second is "Para," or the state of supreme love and devotion to God. A beginner in Bhakti Yoga should first of all free his heart from attachment to earthly objects and pleasures; then realize divinity and consciousness of God in this life. When Bhakti ceases to be in preparatory stage and passes to the supreme (Para), there is no fear of these hideous manifestations of fanaticism. In fact here, the soul is overpowered by the higher form of Bhakti to such a level near to God and love that it discontinues to become an instrument for the diffusion of hatred.

Although Yoga relates to health and fitness of body, Vedic Texts describe Yoga as a means of connecting with God. The goal of this yoga is far different and difficult apart from just the love for God. Bhakti yoga is a real and genuine search of God, wherein a Bhakti yogi searches for happiness and Moksha. His search begins, continues and ends in Love, since it is matter of only a moment that the madness of extreme love to God brings eternal freedom. When a man practices Bhakti, he loves everyone and he becomes satisfied forever, since all his cravings for the earthly benefits get reduced. However, what is important to realize is the importance of Bhakti in its individual sense. Bhakti is greater than Karma and Yoga, because the latter two are practiced for a purpose, whereas Bhakti is its own means and its own end. The one great advantage of Bhakti is that it is the easiest and the most natural way to reach the great divine end in view.

(Last Updated on : 21/06/2013)
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