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Bhakti: Engage your mind always in thinking of Me

My experience with yoga has been living and practicing, to the best of my ability and understanding, the paths of raja, hatha, jappa, bhakti and karma yogas. Bhakti is one that seems to come to me most naturally through devotional singing or even the reading of devotional poetry.

singing krishna Bhakti: Engage your mind always in thinking of MeOne of the most beautiful texts on devotional poetry is about Paramânand, one of north India’s greatest medieval poet-saints. Paramânand’s poetry has been sung from the sixteenth century to the present in ritual service to the Hindu deity Krishna.

In Singing Krishna: Sound Becomes Sight in Paramanand’s Poetry Bhakti: Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, A. Whitney Sanford shows us not only the significance of Paramânand’s poetry, its beauty and historical importance, but also its “capacity to permit us to see through the ephemeral world into Krishna’s world.”

Hinduism teaches that bhakti is a yoga path, a form of divine, loving union with the Supreme Lord, and bhakti yoga is the spiritual practice of fostering such loving devotion to God. Bhakti itself is the Sanskrit term for a blissful, selfless and overwhelming love of God. This can be love of God as the Father, Mother, Child, Friend or any relationship or personal aspect of the Godhead that appeals to the devotee.

Many universal principles common in other world traditions as well as Hinduism are incorporated in Bhakti. The ‘Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu’, by Rupa Gosvami, provides nine primary activities of bhakti. It is said that the devotee can achieve pure love of God by following any or all of these activities:

  1. Hearing about the Lord, which can be in the form of singing & chanting God’s names, also called japa, or hearing the recitation of stories from scripture.
  2. Glorifying the Lord, which is done by describing God’s all-attractive features.
  3. Remembering the Lord, which is the internal meditation on the Lord’s form, activities, names or personality.
  4. Serving the lotus feet of the Lord which is done by providing a form of physical service, whether actually washing or anointing the feet of another or any other selfless loving service.
  5. Worshiping the Lord, which is the adoration or worship of deity also known as puja, is popular within India and other places.
  6. Offering prayers to the Lord, which is offering any form of prayer to please God.
  7. Serving the Lord, which is offering a service for the Lord’s pleasure, such as preaching or teaching from scripture.
  8. Building a friendship with the Lord, which can be having an internal, loving relationship with God.
  9. Surrendering everything unto the Lord, including surrendering one’s thoughts, actions and deeds to God.

These nine principles of devotional service are described as helping the devotee remain constantly in touch with God. This verse, from the Bhagavata Purana, is the scriptural source of these primary forms of bhakti:

“Prahlda Mahrja said: Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and pastimes of Lord, remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one’s best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind and words) — these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service.

“One who has dedicated his life to the service of God through these nine methods should be understood to be the most learned person, for he has acquired complete knowledge.” ~ Bhagavata Purana

The Bhagavad Gita is also seen as a cornerstone for Hindu Bhakti theism, especially within the school of Vaishnavism. In it, Krishna speaks of that love as a pure and innocent intention and that it is the most powerful and motivating force in the devotee’s spiritual life:

“Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.” ~ Bhagavad Gita 9.34

“One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of Me by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.”~ Bhagavad Gita 18.55

Here are some additional sources of inspiration. Perhaps you might like to have one of them for your Bhakti yoga study and practice.

  • The devotional song and music of Krishna Das has been a favorite form of Bhakti for me. In Pilgrim of the Heart, he tells the very personal story of himself as a seeker on the bhakti journey, interspersed with an uplifting series of chants in the true bhakti tradition.
  • And Karma-Yoga and Bhakti-Yoga Bhakti: Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, by Swami Vivekananda is a treasure. Romain Rolland said of Swami:

“His words are great music, phrases in the style of Beethoven, stirring rhythms like the march of Handel choruses. I cannot touch these sayings of his, scattered as they are through the pages of books at thirty years distance, without receiving a thrill through my body like an electric shock.

“And what shocks, what transports, must have been produced when in burning words, they issued from the lips of the hero!” ~ Romain Rolland

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