Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotion and higher emotions. This yoga has three steps - love, devotion and surrender. First we learn to love God; then we devote ourselves to God's Will trying, as best we can, to live our lives in service to God. Finally, we surrender our finite existence into the very breath of God. This surrender is our realization of the oneness between God and man. In Bhakti Yoga we cultivate these emotions and transform our worldly emotions into divine emotions. This is achieved through the cultivation of sincerity, simplicity, purity and gratitude. These feelings prepare the soil of our existence so that we may grow, from our very human roots, the God-becoming tree with its three vast branches: love, devotion and surrender. The concept of spiritual surrender can be difficult to grasp. Sri Chinmoy's elucidation on this topic will prove invaluable: "The present day world wants individuality. It demands freedom. But true individuality and freedom can breathe only in the Divine. Surrender is the untiring breath of the soul in the Heart of God. Human individuality shouts in the dark. Earthly freedom cries out in the deserts of life. But absolute surrender universally sings of divine Individuality and Freedom in the Lap of the Supreme. In surrender we discover the spiritual power through which we can become not only the seers but also the possessors of Truth. This Truth is the omnipotent Power. If we can surrender in absolute silence, we shall ourselves become the Reality of the Real, the Life of the Living, the Centre of true Love, Peace and Bliss. We shall become an incomparable blessing to ourselves. A lovely child attracts our attention. We love him because he conquers our heart. But do we ask anything from him in return? No! We love him because he is the object of love; he is loveable. In the same way we can and should love God, for He is the most loveable Being. Spontaneous love for the Divine is surrender, and this surrender is the greatest gift in life. For when we surrender, the Divine in no time gives us infinitely more than we would have asked for. Surrender is a spiritual miracle. It teaches us how to see God with our eyes closed, how to talk to Him with our mouth shut. Fear enters into our being only when we withdraw our surrender from the Absolute. Surrender is an unfoldment. It is the unfoldment of our body, mind and heart into the Sun of divine Plenitude within us. Surrender to this inner Sun is the greatest triumph of life. The hound of failure cannot reach us when we are in this Sun. The Prince of Evil fails to touch us when we have realised and founded our oneness with this eternally life giving Sun. Surrender and wholeheartedness play together, eat together and sleep together. Theirs is the crown of victory. Calculation and doubt play together, eat together and sleep together. Theirs is the fate that is doomed to disappointment, destined to failure. India is the land of surrender. This surrender is not a blind submission, but rather the dedication of one's limited self to one's unbounded Self. There are a good many stories in the Mahabharata dealing with surrender. They all have great spiritual truth in them. Let me tell you a short but most inspiring and revealing story about Draupadi, who was the Queen of the Pandavas. While the evil Duhshasana was ruthlessly attempting to disrobe her, she was praying to the Lord to save her. Yet all the while she was holding her garments tightly with her fists. Her surrender was not complete, and her prayer was not granted. Duhshasana continued his efforts to pull off the garments of the unfortunate Queen. But the moment came when Draupadi released her hold on her robes and began to pray to the Lord with hands upraised. "O Lord of my heart, O Boatman of my life, may Thy will be fulfilled," she prayed. Lo, the strength of her absolute surrender! God's silence broke. His Grace rained down on Draupadi. As Duhshasana tried to pull off her sari, he found that it was endless. His pride had to kiss the dust. God's all fulfilling Grace descends only when man's unconditional surrender ascends. Our surrender is a most precious thing. God alone deserves it. We can offer our surrender to another individual, but only for the sake of realising God. If that individual has reached his Goal, he can help us in our spiritual journey. If, however, we offer ourselves to someone just to satisfy that person, then we are committing a Himalayan blunder. What we should do is offer ourselves unreservedly to the Lord in him. Every action of ours should be to please God and not to gain applause. Our actions are too secret and sacred to display before others. They are meant for our own progress, achievement and realisation. There is no limit to our surrender. The more we surrender, the more we have to surrender. God has given us capacity. According to our capacity He demands manifestation of us. Manifestation beyond our capacity God has never demanded and will never demand. In man's complete and absolute surrender is his realisation: his realisation of the Self, his realisation of God the Infinite." One of the greatest challenges in Bhakti Yoga is cultivating a love for God. It is difficult to love that which we cannot perceive. It is here that the guru, or genuine spiritual teacher, plays a key role. The guru has merged his or her consciousness with God and therefore God can manifest Himself or Herself to the seekers in and through the guru. The disciple experiences God through interaction with the guru. We can surely feel and sense God in various ways, yet to see God reflected in human form is undoubtedly the representation with which human beings will most identify. Of course we must be wise when choosing and working with a spiritual teacher. The well-respected spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy offers the following advice on that unique relationship: " Progress in the spiritual life is a matter of acceptance. The Master must accept the disciple and the disciple must accept the Master. At the time of initiation, the Guru makes a solemn promise to the individual seeker and to the Supreme that he will do his best to help the seeker in his spiritual life, that he will offer his heart and soul to take the disciple into the highest region of the Beyond. The Master says to the Supreme, "Unless and until I have brought this child to You, I shall not leave him; my game shall not be over." And to the disciple, he says, "From now on, you can count on me, you can think of me as your own." The main purpose of initiation is to bring the soul to the fore. A spiritual teacher says, "Here is the key. It will open the safe where your inner treasure is hidden." It is not the teacher's safe. It is your safe, all yours. The treasure is within you, but you have unfortunately misplaced the key that will unlock the safe where the diamond is kept. A real spiritual Master is he who has inseparable oneness with the Highest. All real spiritual Masters teach meditation to their disciples and admirers in silence. When a genuine spiritual Master meditates, Peace, Light and Bliss descend from above and enter into the sincere seeker. Then automatically he learns how to meditate from within. Why does one go to the university when one can study at home? It is because he feels that he will get expert instruction from people who know the subject well. Now you know that there have been a few - very, very few - real men of knowledge who did not go to any university. Yes, there are exceptions. Every rule admits of exceptions. God is in everybody, and if a seeker feels that he does not need human help, he is most welcome to try his capacity alone. But if someone is wise enough and wants to run toward his Goal instead of stumbling or merely walking, then certainly the help of a Guru can be considerable." This wisdom of Sri Chinmoy's is some of the best I have found regarding the mature approach and relationship with a spiritual master. Remember, oh seeker, the treasure is within you!