Bhakti means love and devotion to God - love and devotion to His Creation, with respect and care for all living beings and all of nature. Everybody can practice Bhakti Yoga, whether young, old, rich or poor, no matter to what nation or religion one belongs. The path of Bhakti Yoga leads us safely and directly to the goal.
Bhakti Yoga also includes the worship of a form of God. God is everywhere. God dwells within us and all around us. It is as though we are connected to God by a fine thread - the thread of love. God is Universal love. Love and Divine Grace surround us and flow through us, but we are not conscious of this. The moment this consciousness, this Divine love, has been experienced, one never desires anything more. We then know the meaning of true love for God.
A person lacking Bhakti is like a fish without water, a bird without wings, a night without the moon and stars. All beings need love. Through it we feel protected and happy just like a child in the arms of its mother or a traveller at the end of a long, arduous journey.
There are two types of Bhakti:
- Apara Bhakti - egoistic love
- Para Bhakti - Universal love
However, prior to reaching this level of supreme love for God, our Bhakti is intermingled with egoistic thoughts. This means that we do in fact love God, but also expect something from God. Many people turn to God for help when they are troubled or in pain. Others pray for material objects, money, glory, career promotion. Yet we should always be mindful that when we depart from this earth, we must leave behind all possessions and that is why nothing here has any real or lasting value. Spiritual seekers pray for wisdom and God-Realisation. However, often we create an inner picture of God - what God is like from our point of view, how God should act - and because of this, we are not open and ready for a Divine revelation.
In the Bhakti Sutras, Sage Narada describes nine elements of Bhakti Yoga:
- Satsang - good spiritual company
- Hari Katha - to hear and read about God
- Shraddha - Faith
- Ishvara Bhajana - to sing the praises of God
- Mantra Japa - Repetition of God's name
- Shama Dama - Withdrawal and control of the senses with regard to worldly things
- Santo ka Adar - to show honour to people who have dedicated their lives to God
- Santosha - Contentment
- Ishvara Pranidhana - Devotion to God