What is Bhakti Yoga?
Bhakti Yoga is one of the four main yogic paths to enlightenment. Bhakti means “devotion” or “love” and this path contains various practices to unite the bhakta (Bhakti Yoga practitioner) with the Supreme. It is considered the easiest yogic path to master and the most direct method to experience the unity of mind, body, and spirit. While others require a strong and flexible body, Raja Yoga requires a disciplined and concentrated mind, and Jnana Yoga requires a keen intellect, the only requirement for Bhakti Yoga is an open, loving heart. But it complements other paths of yoga well, and it is said that jnana (knowledge or wisdom) will dawn by itself when you engage in the devotional practices of Bhakti Yoga.
This deeply spiritual practice draws heavily on the Hindu pantheon of deities. Each of these deities is seen as representing a humanized aspect of the single Brahman much the same way the Christian saints represent specific attributes and qualities of God. The use of Hindu deities in Bhakti Yoga can be a large obstacle for Western practitioners, especially for those with a deeply religious background. But the use of the Hindu deities is not required for this practice. In fact, finding your own objects of devotion will be all the more effective in achieving yoga with the Supreme.
Ninefold path of Bhakti Yoga
- Shravana – “listening” to the ancient scriptures, especially potent if told by a saint or genuine bhakta.
- Kirtana – “singing” devotional songs, usually practiced in a call-and-response group format.
- Smarana – “remembering” the Supreme by constantly meditating upon its name and form.
- Padasevana – “service at the feet” of the Supreme, which incorporates the practice of karma yoga (selfless service) with bhakti (devotion).
- Archana – “ritual worship” of the Supreme through practices such as puja (deity worship), and havan (fire offering).
- Vandana – “prostration” before the image of one’s chosen image or representation of the Supreme.
- Dasya – “unquestioning” devotion to the Supreme involving the cultivation of serving the will of God instead of one’s own ego.
- Sakhya – “friendship” and relationship established between the Supreme and the devotee.
- Atmanivedana – “self-offering” and complete surrender of the self to the Supreme.
Benefits of Bhakti Yoga
- It helps in improving your mood.
- Increases positive thoughts.
- Improves attention capacity.
- Reduces mental pain.
- Helps in achieving bliss.