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Bhakti in Yoga

by Swami Sivananda

1. Who is Isvara

God is a particular soul unaffected by afflictions, works, fruition and vehicles.


Yoga of Patanjali Maharshi is a complement of Sankhya philosophy of Kapila. Kapila denies the existence of an Isvara. He says that Prakriti can do everything. Patanjali Maharshi admits the existence an Isvara. This philosophy hence derives its significant name Sa-Isvara Sankhya. Isvara of Patanjali is neither the personal God of the Bhaktas nor the impersonal Brahman of the Vedantins. His God is a peculiar Purusha, completely free from all afflictions, works, fruition and vehicles.

2. Source of Knowledge

In Him is the highest limit of the seed of omniscience.


The nature if Isvara is described in Sutras 24, 25 and 26. The way to develop devotion for Isvara is described in the Sutras 27 and 28. The fruits of devotion are described in Sutra 29. Infinite knowledge is God. Vayu Purana says: Omniscience, eternal satisfaction, eternal knowledge, independence, non-decreasing power, infinite power - these six are said to be the Angas of the Great Lord. Knowledge, non-attachment, Aisvarya, Tapas, truth, forgiveness, Dhairya or endurance, power of endurance, Atma Svarupajnana or knowledge of the Self and being the Adhishthana or substratum for everything and of all activities - these are the ten unchangeable (Avyayas) qualities that always exist in God.

3. The Guru of All

He (God), being unconditioned by time, is the teacher of even the ancients.


The ancient teachers were conditioned by time. But this Isvara is Adi-Guru, who is not conditioned by time. The magazine of knowledge and power is within. The help of a Guru is very necessary to awaken this knowledge. No spiritual progress is possible without the aid of a Guru. That Guru who removes the veil of aspirants and obstacles and throws light on their path, who is omniscient, who exists in the past, present and future, who is independent is God or Isvara.

4. Name of Isvara

The sacred syllable Om connotes Him (Isvara).


Study Mandukya Upanishad. You will have a detailed, elaborate explanation of this sacred syllable Om. Om is everything. In the Bible you will find: In the beginning there was the word; the word was with God. The word itself is God. This word is Om. This world and the Vedas take their origin from Om. In the Gita you will find: Om, the one-syllabled Brahman, reciting, thinking upon Me, he who goeth forth, abandoning the body, he goeth on the highest path. Lord Krishna says: I am Omkara. I am Pranava in all Vedas. Of speech, I am Ekakshara, the one-syllable. In the Upanishads you will find: Om is the bow; the mind is the arrow. Brahman is the target; know this Brahman with concentration; hit the target with Ekagrata; just as the arrow becomes one with the target, the individual soul will become identical with Brahman. Om has got four feet: Akara, Ukara, Makara and Ardhamatra; representing Visva, Taijasa, Prajna and Turiya.

A Sankalpa arose in Brahman. He wished: May I become many. The physical vibration of Om in the physical plane corresponds to the original vibration in God when Srishti began. All the trinities, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas; Brahma, Vishnu and Siva; preservation, creation and destruction; Jagrat, Svapna and Sushupti; A, U and M; etc., are contained in Om. The glory of Om cannot be adequately described.

The syllable Om is the most appropriate name of the Supreme Self. Just as a man is pleased when addressed by a name dear to him, so also God is pleased when this name Om is used. The greatness of this monosyllable is further proved by the fact of its being frequently used in the beginning and end of Japa, sacrifice and study of the Vedas. A Mantra has no life without Om. The first Mantra of the first chapter of the Chhandogya Upanishad is: One ought to meditate upon the syllable Om.

Lord Yama says to Nachiketas: The goal which all the Vedas uniformly extol, which all acts of Tapas speak of, and wishing for which men lead the life of celibacy, the life of a Brahmacharin, that goal I tell you briefly. It is this Om.

'Pranava' means that which is always new. Pranava is unchanging and eternal. The relation between Sabdha and its meaning is Parinama Nitya and not Kutastha Nitya. Purusha only is Kutastha Nitya. Parinama Nitya is changing eternal. Kutastha Nitya is unchanging eternal. There are three factors in the comprehension of a word, e.g., milk. (1) the word 'milk.' (2) the object 'milk' and (3) the idea of 'milk' in the mind. Languages are different in different countries, but the ideas are the same. Sound-symbols vary. The idea of water is the same in all persons, but the sound-symbols are different viz., water in English; Pani in Hindi; Jal in Bengali and so on. Om is the basis for all sounds. All languages emanate from Om. The sound 'Om' starts from Nabhi (navel) and ends by closing the lips. Amen is only a modification of Om. You analyse and dissect any word. You will find Om there. All sound-symbols are centered in Om. That is the reason why Om is recognised as a common name for God by all religionists. The vibrations of Om can blow up a big mountain. Such is the power of Om. Every word has a corresponding object in the world. All words emanate from Om. Therefore in Om the world exists; in Om it is dissolved in cosmic Pralaya; and in Om it subsists. Om is the highest flower or offering for God.

5. Japa of Om

Its repetition and its meditation with meaning (should be practised).


The aspirant gets one-pointed mind by the repetition of Om. Avarana and Vikshepa slowly vanish. Japa is of three kinds, viz., Vaikhari (verbal), when the Japa is done loudly; Upamsu (semi-verbal), when the Japa is done in a whisper or humming mild tone; and Manasic (mental), when the Japa is done through the mind without moving the lips. The fruits of Upamsu Japa are a thousand times more powerful than the Vaikhari Japa, and the fruits of Manasic Japa are a lakh of times more powerful than the Vaikhari Japa. Mental Japa can be kept up even during work. It continues automatically during sleep also through force of habit. Beginners should do Vaikhari and Upamsu Japa. The significance of Om must be remembered during Japa. This is very, very important. The relation of the word and its meaning is eternal.

The mind of the Yogi who constantly repeats the Pranava and habituates the mind to the constant remembrance of the idea it carries, becomes one-pointed. The mind feels bliss in the one Lord alone. God showers His blessings on the Yogi. He gets the fruit of Samadhi and Kaivalya. You must make the Bhavana or the understanding of the significance of Om enter the mind over and over again by constant practice until it becomes part and parcel or the very substance of the mental existence. The Japa of Om should always be accompanied by meditation on Isvara. Mere parrot-like repetition or gramophonic repetition will not produce the maximum benefits. It has its own effects. Om serves as a boat to cross this ocean of Samsara. Om is a good companion for the mind. Just as soap washes cloth, so also Om washes the impurities of the mind. If you eat oranges twelve times, the force of Samskara and Vasana is increased in the mind. The greater the force of the Samskara, the greater the force of the Vasana for orange. Repetition strengthens the force of habit. By constant repetition of Om or any other Mantra, the force of spiritual Samskaras is increased. This is a great asset for you in the spiritual path. It will not allow the mind to run into the old grooves of Vishaya Vasanas or old ruts for sensual things.

6. Benefits of Japa

Thence comes the cognition of the individual soul and also the removal of the obstacles.


Through the grace of Isvara, the Yogi will not get any disease. The divine grace will descend when one repeats Om and meditates on its meaning with concentration. Japa makes the mind inward (Antarmukha Vritti), and removes all physical and mental obstacles. As Om and Isvara are inseparable, fixing the mind on Om means fixing the mind on Isvara. Doing Japa on Om is the remembrance of Isvara.

7. Benefits of Devotion

Or, by devotion and self-surrender to God.


In Sutra 20 of Chapter I, it is stated that Asamprajnata Samadhi is obtained by faith, energy, memory, meditation and discernment. Success in Samadhi is speedier for those who have intense Vairagya. This is given in Sutra 21. And now in this Sutra it is given: Or by devotion and self-surrender to Isvara. That is, success is rapid in attaining Asamprajnata Samadhi by devotion to Isvara. The devotee should have total, ungrudging, unreserved self-surrender to Isvara. He should entirely depend upon Isvara. He should not keep any secret desire or egoism for his self-gratification. He should not expect any kind of reward, even admiration, gratitude, thanks, for his services. He should completely dedicate himself and all his actions to the will of the Supreme Being. This is Ishvarapranidhana. It is true devotion.

8. Instructions on Bhakti

Five things are indispensably requisite in Bhakti Marga. Bhakti should be of a Nishkamya type. It should be Avyabhicharini also. It should be Sadat (continuous) like Taila Dhara (flow of oil). The aspirant should observe Sadachara (right conduct). He should be very serious and earnest in his devotional practices. Then only realisation of God will come very quickly.

No development of Bhakti is possible without Sadachara (right conduct). Just as a disease can be cured by medicine as well as by dietetic adjustment, so also realisation of God can be had by devotion and Sadachara. Bhakti is the medicine. Sadachara represents dietetic adjustment.

If you remove a fish out of water and place it on the shore, it will flutter with intense agony. It will be thirsting for re-entry into the water. If you keep a boy in the cold water of Ganga for a short time, he will be greatly agitated. He will shriek and yell out. He will be eager to come out of water. When the house of a man has caught fire, the owner of the house runs immediately to the municipal office to get the fire-brigade for extinguishing the fire. He takes immediate steps. If the aspirant has the same thirsting, the same feeling, the same earnestness or seriousness for realising God as the fish has for getting into the water, as the boy has for getting out of the water, and as the man whose house is on fire has for getting the fire-brigade, he will have realisation of God in this very second. There is no doubt of this. O aspirants! Be very serious and earnest in your devotional practices. Run now to the Lotus Feet of the Lord. Those people who are not serious and earnest about their devotional practices have lost this world on this end and God on the other end. They are hanging in the air with head downward like Trishanku. Pitiable indeed is their lot!

What is Jnana? Just as you see the thread in cloth, clay in pots and jars, gold in ornaments, iron in various kinds of implements, wood in chairs, benches and stools, so also see God or Atman in man, in every being. To feel that God is seated in your heart and in the hearts of all: Vaudevah Sarvamithi is Jnana. Bhakti, when it gets ripe, brings Jnana. When Bhakti gets matured Jnana dawns by itself. The fruit of Ananya Bhakti is Jnana. Bhakti is the seed or the mother. Jnana is the fruit or the son.

Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga are not incompatibles like acids and alkalis. One can combine Ananya Bhakti (one-pointed devotion) with Jnana Yoga. The fruit of Bhakti Yoga is Jnana. Highest love (Para Bhakti) and Jnana are one. Perfect knowledge is love. Perfect love is knowledge. Sri Sankara, Advaita Kevala Jnani was a great Bhakta of Lord Hari, Hara and Devi. Jnana Deva of Alandi, a great Yogi, was a Bhakta of Lord Krishna. Lord Chaitanya (Gauranga Maha Prabhu) of Bengal was a fine Advaita Vedanta scholar, and yet he danced in streets and market places, singing Hari's names. Appaya Dikshitar, a famous Jnani of Adaipalam, author of Siddhanta Lesha and various other Vedantic books, was a devotee of Lord Siva. It behoves, therefore, that Bhakti can be combined with much advantage with Jnana.

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