Transforming the Self through Devotion: The Philosophy of Bhakti Yoga

Introduction

Bhakti Yoga is a spiritual path that emphasizes the importance of devotion and love in achieving a deeper understanding of oneself. The ultimate goal of Bhakti yoga is union and the divine. In this philosophy, the key to self-realization lies not in asceticism or renunciation, but rather in the cultivation of a deep and heartfelt relationship with a personal God or Goddess. Through practices such as prayer, chanting, and meditation, Bhakti Yoga offers a path to transform one’s inner self, leading to a profound sense of peace, joy, and connection to the universe.

There are many styles of yoga. Bhakti Yoga is one of the most important styles of yoga that is preferred by devotees or individuals who seek to cultivate a deep and personal connection with the divine through the practice of yoga. This style of yoga teaches us how to identify with God as an expression of love, devotion, surrender, and service.

What is Bhakti yoga?

Bhakti yoga is a path of devotion and love. It is one of the six classical paths to God that are described in Hinduism. This path, which translates to “devotion,” is focused on bringing us closer to our faith by cultivating a love for God through prayer and meditation.

Bhakti yoga focuses on the practice of devotional meditation. The term “bhakti” means “devotion,” so bhakti yoga is often called “devotional yoga.”

Bhakti yogis believe that meditation on the divine is an essential part of human life and that through such meditation one can achieve enlightenment.

Bhakti yoga is a path of devotion and love. It is one of the six classical paths to God that are described in Hinduism.

Bhakti yoga is a path of devotion and love. It is one of the six classical paths to God that are described in Hinduism.

This devotional yoga was also practiced by several historical figures, including Shankara, who lived in India between A.D. 700-750; Ramanuja (1077-1137); Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1531); Nityananda Prabhu; Purandara Dasa (1484-1564); and many more!

Bhakti yoga is about strengthening our faith and letting go of the world’s distractions. It is about finding peace in the midst of chaos and being able to look at the world around us with wonder and love instead of fear.

It’s also about finding your own understanding of God and what that means for you, without necessarily needing to devote yourself to a specific deity or set of beliefs.

Ways to practice Bhakti Yoga

Nama Japa: Repetition of a mantra

Nama Japa, or the repetition of a mantra, is one of the most popular ways to practice bhakti yoga. Mantra means “sacred sound.” It’s words or sound that helps us focus our attention and experience deeper states of meditation.

Nama Japa, or the repetition of a mantra, is one of the most popular ways to practice bhakti yoga.

Nama Japa, or the repetition of a mantra, is one of the most popular ways to practice bhakti yoga.

A mantra is a sacred sound, vibration, or phrase that has been used for centuries as a way to meditate or connect with the divine. When you meditate and chant your mantra, you’re bringing yourself into deep relaxation and quieting your mind. When you do this, you can feel the connection between yourself and whatever you believe in.

Chanting can also silence our minds and bring us into a state of meditation, helping us to connect more deeply with our inner selves and the divine. By focusing on the repetition of sacred mantras or names of deities, we can quiet the constant chatter of our thoughts and enter into a state of stillness and peace.

The mantra itself doesn’t really matter—it’s what you do with it that counts.

While traditional mantras can be powerful tools for spiritual practice, the most important thing in Nama Japa is the intention behind the repetition of the name.

You can use any name or phrase that has personal significance or meaning to you, as long as it is a positive, uplifting, and spiritually meaningful word or phrase. For example, you could use the names of your favorite deities, spiritual figures, or saints, or you could use affirmations or positive statements that inspire you.

Ultimately, the goal of Nama Japa is to focus your mind on the divine, and any name or phrase that helps you do that can be effective. So, feel free to experiment and find a name or phrase that resonates with you and helps you connect with the divine.

Stuti: Reciting poems and prayers

Stuti means a prayer of praise. You can recite Stutis individually or in groups. Stuti can be sung or recited, and it is often performed with music or dance.

Stutis are usually from ancients scriptures like vedas and Gita

Stutis are usually from ancients scriptures like the Vedas and Gita

 

The most common form of Stuti is chanting the mantras from ancient scriptures (such as the Bhagavad Gita or Vedas) aloud in your heart or silently in your head, but you can also create your own chants using prayers from any religious tradition.

Stutis express the devotee’s love and reverence for the divine. By reciting or singing these hymns, we can cultivate a deep sense of devotion and surrender to the higher power.

Stutis are also a way to connect with the divine and seek blessings and grace from the higher power. By offering prayers and praises, we can establish a deeper relationship with the divine and experience a sense of unity and oneness with all of creation.

Kirtanam( or Kirtan) : Singing songs

Kirtanam, or Kirtan for short, is a devotional practice that involves singing songs, often accompanied by music and rhythmic clapping. It is an essential component of Bhakti Yoga. The word Kirtanam is a Sanskrit word that means “singing of praise.”

 

Kirtanam is a meditative practice that involves singing sacred Hindu chants.

Kirtanam is a meditative practice that involves singing devotional songs

 

In Kirtan, participants gather together to sing and chant the names of God or the Divine, often repeating the same phrases or mantras over and over again. The repetitive nature of the practice helps to quiet the mind and bring about a sense of inner peace and connection to the Divine. Kirtan is not limited to any particular religion or culture and is celebrated in many different traditions around the world. It is a powerful tool for transformation, and many practitioners attest to its ability to bring about a deep sense of joy, love, and spiritual fulfillment.

Puja (rituals): Creating or caring for an altar

“Puja” is a Hindu ritual of worship, performed to express gratitude and devotion to the divine. It can be done alone or in a group, at home or at a temple.

Pooja is a ritual that reminds us of divine presence in our hearts

Pooja is a ritual that reminds us of the divine presence in our hearts

Puja, a Sanskrit word that translates to “worship,” is a form of ritualistic practice in Hinduism and other Indian religions. For Puja, you can create an altar, which serves as a focal point for devotion and prayer. The altar includes images or statues of deities, as well as offerings of flowers, incense, and food.

During the Puja ceremony, devotees perform a series of rituals and offerings to the deities, including chanting mantras, pouring water, and lighting candles. The purpose of Puja is to establish a relationship with the divine, seek blessings for oneself and others, and express gratitude for the blessings already received. It is a way to connect with the spiritual realm and deepen one’s understanding of the self and the universe.

Puja can be practiced in the home, in temples while traveling, and in holy places. It is an integral part of daily life for many Bhakti yoga practitioners.

Vrata (fasting): Following a prescribed routine or diet

Fasting is a common spiritual practice in Bhakti Yoga, where it is a way to purify the body and mind, as well as deepen one’s spiritual connection with the divine. In Bhakti Yoga, fasting is often practiced on special days or during religious festivals and involves abstaining from food or certain types of food for a specified period of time.

Fasting is seen as a way to cultivate self-discipline and restraint, and to focus the mind on spiritual practice. It helps purify the body and mind by removing toxins and promoting physical and mental clarity. Fasting is also a way to develop empathy and compassion for those who are less fortunate, as it involves voluntarily giving up something that is essential for life.

Fasting is often combined with other spiritual practices such as meditation, prayer, and devotional chanting. The period of fasting is a time for introspection and self-reflection, and for deepening one’s spiritual connection with the divine. Fasting also increases our spiritual potency and helps to overcome material desires and attachments.

Yatra (pilgrimage): Traveling to holy places

Yatra, which means pilgrimage or spiritual journey, is a common practice in Bhakti Yoga. It involves traveling to holy places or sites of spiritual significance, with the intention of  connecting with the divine energy at that site.

Yatra can take many forms, from visiting temples or holy sites in our own country to undertaking a longer pilgrimage to a foreign land. It can be done alone or in a group and can involve various practices such as meditation, prayer, chanting, and self-reflection.

Yatra is a way to break free from the distractions and attachments of everyday life and focus the mind on the divine. It helps develop a deep sense of devotion and surrender to the higher power.

Yatra can also be a way to connect with other like-minded individuals and build a sense of community and shared spiritual values. It can be a transformative experience that helps to shift our perspective and priorities and inspire a deeper commitment to our spiritual practice.

Dhana (charity): Selfless Giving

Dhana, which means charity or giving, is a spiritual practice in Bhakti Yoga that is considered to be an important aspect of the path of devotion. It involves giving freely of one’s resources, time, and energy to those in need, with the intention of serving the divine in all beings and cultivating a spirit of selflessness and compassion.

Dhana is seen as a way to purify the heart and mind. It helps overcome selfishness and egoism and cultivates a sense of gratitude and contentment with what we have

In Bhakti Yoga, the act of giving is seen as a way to serve the divine in all beings, and to see the divine in every person and every situation. It is a way to express our love and devotion to the divine and to receive the blessings and grace of the higher power.

Dhana can take many forms, from giving money to charitable causes to volunteering our time and skills to help others, to offering food or other resources to those in need. It is important to approach dhana with the right intention and attitude, with a spirit of generosity and compassion, and without seeking personal gain or recognition.

Through the practice of dhana, we can cultivate a deeper sense of spirituality, develop a stronger connection with the divine, and contribute to the well-being of others and the world at large.

Tapas (austerity): Practicing self-discipline and regulating your habits

Tapas is a Sanskrit word that means austerity.  It is a spiritual practice in Bhakti Yoga that involves undergoing self-discipline, austerity, and effort, with the intention of purifying the body, mind, and spirit, and deepening one’s spiritual practice. It is an essential aspect of the path of devotion and is a way to cultivate the qualities of determination, discipline, and inner strength.

Tapas can take many forms, from physical practices such as fasting, yoga, and meditation, to mental and emotional practices such as self-reflection, introspection, and self-control. It involves making a conscious effort to overcome our limitations, let go of unhealthy habits and attachments, and cultivate positive qualities such as compassion, generosity, and humility.

In Bhakti Yoga, tapas is seen as a way to strengthen our devotion and surrender to the divine and to deepen our spiritual connection. It helps purify the mind and body and removes obstacles to spiritual progress.

Tapas is not seen as a way to punish or deprive ourselves, but rather as a way to consciously and willingly undergo challenges and difficulties in the service of spiritual growth. It is important to approach tapas with the right intention and attitude, with a spirit of humility, devotion, and surrender.

Through the practice of tapas, we can cultivate a deeper sense of spirituality, develop a stronger connection with the divine, and overcome the limitations and obstacles that stand in the way of spiritual progress.

Smarana : contemplation

Smarana, also known as contemplation or remembrance, is a spiritual practice in Bhakti yoga that involves focusing our minds on the divine. In Bhakti yoga, the ultimate goal is to develop an intense love and devotion for the divine, and Smarana is a key component in achieving this.

Smarana involves meditating on the divine attributes of God, such as love, compassion, and grace. By meditating on these attributes, we begin to develop an understanding of the divine and can experience a deep connection with God. Through this connection, we can begin to cultivate love and devotion for the divine, leading to a deeper spiritual experience.

Smarana is a spiritual practice in Bhakti yoga that involves contemplation and remembrance of the divine. It is a powerful tool for developing love and devotion for God and can lead to a deeper spiritual experience.

Smarana is a spiritual practice in Bhakti yoga that involves contemplation and remembrance of the divine. It is a powerful tool for developing love and devotion for God and can lead to a deeper spiritual experience.

The practice of Smarana is often accompanied by the repetition of the divine name or mantra. This repetition helps to focus the mind on the divine and can aid in the development of love and devotion.

Smarana is considered to be a powerful spiritual practice that can lead to the ultimate goal of Bhakti yoga, which is to attain a state of divine love and union with God. Through the practice of Smarana, we can develop a deep and meaningful relationship with the divine and experience a profound sense of peace and fulfillment.

How to practice Bhakti Yoga

So, how can you incorporate these 9 bhakti yoga practices into your daily routine?

First, find a time and place that is comfortable for you. Then choose one or two of the practices from above (or another one if there’s one we didn’t mention) and start there!

You don’t have to do them all at once. Even just practicing Nama Japa once a day is great for your soul. The important thing is to keep coming back again and again so. Eventually, it becomes part of who you are as an individual on this earthly plane.

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Conclusion

Bhakti yoga is a practice of love and devotion. It’s about letting go of your ego and opening yourself up to the divine. It’s about surrendering to the will of God and letting Him take over your life.

The way to do this is through practice. You have to practice being kind and loving toward yourself and others; that comes first. Then you move on to practicing kindness toward all living things. And finally, you can practice loving God with all your heart—not just by repeating words or phrases. But by surrendering yourself completely to His will and letting Him guide you through life’s challenges.

By practicing Bhakti yoga, we become more in tune with the universe around us, sharing our love with others. We learn how to serve God through our service to others.

Bhakti yoga makes us come closer to God because it focuses on cultivating a loving relationship with God. By doing so, we become more aware of God’s presence in our lives and in the world around us.

 

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Yogchakra
Author: Yogchakra

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