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Understanding Bhakti Yoga, the pinnacle of all Yogas

Reaching the state of rasa (essence), a condition of complete happiness attained in the devotional surrender to the Divine is the ultimate aim of Bhakti yoga practice. It stands as a profound journey towards spiritual enlightenment through unwavering devotion and love for God.

Understanding Bhakti Yoga, the pinnacle of all Yogas what is bhakti yoga anr
First Published Dec 3, 2023, 6:00 AM IST

From the Sanskrit word bhaj, which means "loving service," comes the word bhakti. The Sanskrit word for yoga is "connection." Bhakti yoga is, therefore, the practice of connecting through loving, pure, devotional worship to the highest being. Bhakti Yoga, one of the paths outlined in ancient Hindu philosophy, stands as a profound journey towards spiritual enlightenment through unwavering devotion and love for the divine.

What is Bhakti Yoga?

Bhakti Yoga, often referred to as the "Path of Devotion," is one of the four main paths to spiritual realization, alongside Karma Yoga (Path of Action), Jnana Yoga (Path of Knowledge), and Raja Yoga (Path of Meditation). At the core of Bhakti Yoga are the principles of unwavering love, surrender, and selfless devotion to the chosen deity or form of the divine. Devotees seek to cultivate a personal and intimate relationship with the divine through prayer, worship, and a profound sense of surrender.

As the ultimate practice of yoga, the Bhagavad Gita prescribes bhakti-yoga or the path of devotion and love. The goal of bhakti yoga is to increase our devotion to, love for, and service to Lord Krishna, the Divinity. According to Prahlada, the Chaitanya Charitamrita by Krishnadasa Kaviraja explains section 7.5.23–24 of the Bhagavata Purana to teach nine forms of bhakti sadhana in the Krishna-oriented Vaishnava traditions: 

(1) Sravanam ("listening" to the scriptural stories of Krishna and his companions) 
(2) Kirtanam ("praising"; usually refers to ecstatic group singing)
(3) Smaranam ("remembering" or fixing the mind on Vishnu) 
(4) Paada-sevanam (rendering service) 
(5) Archanam (worshiping an image) 
(6) Vandanam (paying homage) 
(7) Dasyam (servitude)
(8) Sakhyam (friendship) and 
(9) Atma-nivedanam (complete surrender of the self).

After being separated from Lord Shri Krishna, the Gopis engaged in these kinds of devotion.

How to practice Bhakti?

The bhakti practices—reading sacred texts, doing practical devotional service, joining groups of like-minded spiritual practitioners, and practising meditation and Kirtan (the chanting)—all work to gradually purify our consciousness and awaken the bhakti inside us. We become more aware of our nature and, as a result, more like the divine as we come to understand this link.

Bhakti is not confined to temples or rituals; it extends into every aspect of daily life. Practitioners infuse their actions with devotion, seeing the divine in every living being and recognizing their service as an offering to the divine.

Bhakti Yoga stands as a timeless and universal path, offering seekers a profound way to connect with the divine through the power of love and devotion. Its principles and practices continue to guide countless hearts on a journey toward spiritual fulfillment, fostering a deep and intimate relationship with the Supreme God. 

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