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In college, when my interest in spiritualism was at full bore, I learned of the Bhakti Movement. There is not enough room here to go into a meaningful tutorial on Bhakti practice and living as a Bhakta, and I’m not a Bhakti teacher, so I’ll (over)simplify it like this:
Bhakti is the yoga of devotion; a practice of having a personal relationship with Spirit (God, Yahweh, Krishna, Jesus, the Infinite, Loving Mother, Bearded Father, Friend – all the images that are just the different faces of the One), a spiritual practice whose occupation is devotion and whose goal is a union of soul with God.
The goal of union/oneness is achieved through direct experience, through some kind of practice. It may be singing to God (called ‘Kirtan’ in Bhakti), ceaseless prayer, devotional reading, even offering your food to the Beloved before eating.
Bhakti is heart-centered. It’s a practical tool that brings what Bhaktas call ‘God Realization’, which is exactly what it sounds like – a gradual communion with the divine through devotion and meditation.
It’s also called Bhakti yoga, and is yoga in its true form – not our Westernized version of yoga that devotes itself to exercise and fitness (and now, pricey yoga clothes and vain accessories). Bhakti takes yoga back to its roots, to something beyond a fitness program.
There is no right or wrong Bhakti. Practicing Bhakti while doing Jnana asanas or washing your hair is right and effective Bhakti. No matter how we do it, Bhakti gets us somewhere, and that somewhere is an honest and direct connection to the source of all life.
I’ve long been a follower of Sadhguru, a teacher and sage who has led millions in the practice of Bhakti. Sadhguru leads devotees in the practice of Ishakriya. Ishakriya is part of a movement that strives to offer drops of spirituality to every single sentient being on the planet.
This is achieved in part through training in meditation. It’s a simple process, but a powerful tool for God Realization. It brings joy, healing, wisdom, and contentment to ourselves and others. It dispels fears and doubts. Children, with their innocent love, are amazing Bhaktas.
Reading the Gita, or ecstatic poetry, singing to God while gardening, offering some of your meal to a god or goddess, or attending a Kirtan event are all ways to do Bhakti. But for a much better explanation of Bhakti, visit the Isha Foundation website at inshafoundation.org.
So why am I talking about Bhakti today? Five days ago, yet another loved one of mine was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Our friend River died September 30, and the next day, another beloved is given a death sentence. Sadness comes in waves, and this is definitely a sad time.
I don’t know for certain what I’ll do when my time comes. Will I embrace the end of this life, or run from it? I hope I have joy to the end. I believe that through Bhakti, I will. For now, I am despairing to see so much sadness surrounding this person’s diagnosis. Everyone has become very, very grim. Voices are lowered around her. There are no smiles. Talk is negative. There are tears.
I solemnly believe that there is joy and comfort available every day, despite our life’s course. Burying ourselves in intellectualism doesn’t work. Organized religion has failed. The material goods of this world are a proven disappointment. Even love, which is like a flower – beautiful and fragrant, but when bad weather rolls in, quickly wilts – is not the answer.
Unlike a flower, Bhakti is like a tree. No matter what’s happening above ground, below, the roots are stable and strong. In Bhakti, in ceaseless devotion to the Infinite, we find truth, calm, and wisdom. I’ve seen it time and time again.
So I just invited this person to lunch this weekend. She starts chemotherapy next week, and I proposed that we both enjoy a beautiful meal before her treatment is underway. Once she begins chemo, she’ll lose her appetite and energy. Let’s go live for a few hours, I said. Offer our food to God, and then take the gift to ourselves.
She hasn’t said yes or no yet. I’m waiting for her answer. I hope she shrugs off all the despair around her, and says yes. I want to touch her and talk of the joy of the present, life’s possibilities, our eternal selves, and great food.
There is joy and comfort available every minute. Bhakti is joy. No matter what’s happening above ground, below, the roots can be stable and strong. God Realization is within our grasp.
Live in peace.