The Yoga for the Rest of us
Bhakti yoga, one of the four main yogic paths to enlightenment, is the easiest of all to master. Hatha and raja yoga require much inner strength and physical health to reach one's goal. And jnana yoga requires a keen, subtle intellect. But the only requirement for bhakti yoga is an open, loving heart. Because the theory behind the practice is so simple, everyone can practice bhakti yoga.
Bhakti means devotion to the Lord. One need only surrender all doubts, fears and worries and express genuine love and devotion to the almighty Lord of The Universe.
The Analogy of the Baby Monkey & the Kitten
Ancient Yogis often told stories which shared the wisdom of animals in nature to help us understand how to live our human lives more fully. One analogy explores the differences between the way monkeys and cats are transported by their mothers from one place to the next to illustrate the difference between jnana and bhakti practices.
While traveling, the baby monkey wraps his arms around his mother and clings to her as she moves across the ground or swings from tree to tree. All of the responsibility to stay attached rests with the infant monkey. If he lets go he falls and may die. The mother cat, however, grabs her offspring with her teeth firmly behind the neck. For the process to be smooth and painless, the kitten must not move at all it must completely let go and surrender to the mother.
God is One, Names & Forms are Many
When first introduced to the teachings of bhakti, many Westerners are puzzled by the many Gods they are introduced to (up to 33 million!!!). Most fail to realize that, according to advaita vedanta which is also the support for bhakti, there is only one God or supreme entity or absolute consciousness. However, that consciousness has many facets and manifests itself in many ways. These different aspects of the one God, called deities, all represent the Supreme Lord and appeal to different devotees according to their temperaments and personalities.
Can One Develop Devotion to God?
Absolutely. This is the main contention of bhakti yoga that the devotion and love for God can be very easily increased through the worship techniques of bhakti. The main practices are called the nine modes of devotion.
Do We Need to Worship?
Unfortunately many yogis and yoginis, especially in the Western world, feel uncomfortable with the concept of worshiping God. Worship is necessary for the great majority of aspirants because it is an essential psychological need. No matter how much people try to repress their emotions or religious devotion, you will find by observation that people will always find an object of worship. Common examples include: one's own body or anothers' body, money and one's bank balance, Elvis, Marilyn and a flurry of other show business figures (33 million ?), Michael Jordan and other athletes, business people, one's ancestors and political figures such as the American Founding Fathers, monarchs of all cultures, cars, houses, computers and other gadgets, etc. The list goes on and on.
Now considering that according to the yogic psychology and the laws of thought power you become what you think. It becomes easily understandable that all the cases above will have various effects to say the least. Instead Bhakti yoga tells us to worship God, to love God, to adore God so that we can imbibe his Divine qualities and eventually become one with Him.
Note that Bhakti advocates the worship of God in many idols which are His forms and aspects. This is different from the worship of idols BEFORE God (such as an object that represents wealth and greed - the golden bull).
To learn about the different kinds of devotion used in the practice of bhakti yoga, please go to the nine modes of devotion page.