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Essentials in Bhakti Yoga Sadhana

by Swami Sivananda

There are different types of mind. People have different tastes, tendencies, temperaments, inclinations and capacities for Sadhana. So various paths are necessary although the goal to be reached, i.e., Self-realisation is always the same. The path of Bhakti Yoga is open to all and is the easiest path for God-realisation in this Iron Age. Anybody can become a devotee. No distinction of caste, colour or sex finds a place in the realm of Bhakti. Devotion has nothing to do with age, caste, position or rank in life. The desire for liberation alone makes one a fit person for developing devotion and taking up the path of Bhakti Yoga. Merits acquired in the previous births generate devotion in the heart of a man in the following birth. Liberation comes to him who is devoted to the Lord.

Bhakti is supreme devotion and intense attachment to the Lord. Faith in the existence of God is the foundation of Bhakti. Service of Bhagavatas, Sadhus and Sannyasins, repetition of God's name, Satsanga, Hari-kirtan, study of the Bhagavata or the Ramayana, stay in Brindavan, Pandarpur, Chitrakuta or Ayodhya-these are the six means of cultivating and developing Bhakti. Navavidha Bhakti or nine modes of devotion should be practised by all aspirants in the path of Bhakti Yoga. They are: Sravanam hearing the Lilas of the Lord, Kirtanam singing His praises, Smaranam remembering God, Padasevanam worshipping the lotus feet of God (service of humanity, country and poor people), Archanam offering of flowers, Vandanam prostration, Dasyam service, Sakhyam friendship and Atmanivedanam complete self-surrender.

Bhakti should be of a Nishkamya type. It should be Avyabhicharini also. It should be continuous like the flow of oil. The aspirant should observe Sadachara or right conduct. He should be very very serious and earnest in his devotional practices. These are the five indispensable requisites in the Bhakti Yoga. Then only realisation of God will come quickly.

Know that caste, learning, position, beauty and youth are the five thorns in the path of devotion. Beware of the two inner enemies, viz., lust and anger that stand in the way of developing Bhakti. Know that ten kinds of vices follow lust and eight kinds of vices accompany anger. Lajja or shyness for the utterance of the names of the Lord is also a great obstacle for the beginners in the path of devotion. Trishna or internal craving for sensual objects is quite detrimental to the growth of Bhakti.

Have true, perfect, living, unswerving faith in God, in His grace and in the power of His name. Faith can work wonders. Faith can move mountains. Faith can take you to the inner Chambers of the Lord. Faith can make you Divine. Faith can give you peace, inner spiritual strength, joy, freedom, immortality and bliss. Therefore have genuine and living faith in the existence of God, in the scriptures, in the words of your Guru and in your own self.

God tries His devotees in various ways in the beginning. He puts them to severe trials and tests. Eventually He becomes a slave of the Bhaktas. Lord Krishna says, "I am not in My control. I am under the complete control of My Bhaktas. They have taken entire possession of My heart. How can I leave them when they have renounced everything for My sake only?"de God is full of mercy, compassion and love. He has been described as the ocean of mercy. His mercy flows like the streams of the Ganga and the Yamuna. He willingly suffers endless pain in the eyes of the world in order to alleviate the sufferings of His devotees. He ran with His Chakra to kill the Asura who was in the form of a crocodile, when He heard the cry from Gajendra, the lord of the elephants and gave him salvation. He posed as Inspector of Schools and signed in the register when Roop Kalaji of Ayodhya was very busy in his worship of Lord Rama and forgot all about his inspection work. Lord Rama took the form of a sepoy and did sentinel duty when His sepoy Bhakta in Punjab left his duty and attended a Sankirtan party.

Stand up dear friends! Life is short and time is fleeting. Time is more precious. Remember the goal and the purpose for which you have taken this physical body. Struggle hard. Do intense Sadhana. Annihilate egoism, selfishness, pride and hatred. Consecrate everything at the lotus feet of the Lord. Strive in right earnest after the achievement of that great end of human life, the true essence of all religions-Devotion to God's Divine Prem or Bhakti, which alone can free us from the Samsaric wheel of births and deaths and give us highest knowledge, infinite bliss, supreme peace and Immortality. May you all tread the path of devotion and ever rest in the state of divine ecstasy and unalloyed bliss of joy and happiness.

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