July 31, 2010

Bhakti Yoga: How Yogis Get High

How can we cure our spiritual heart disease? By getting high on Bhakti Yoga.

In the great tradition of the Bhagavad Gita and other Eastern sacred scriptures, it is often said that the gateway to the Divine is through the heart of love, the path of Bhakti, the path of intense passion and loving adoration for the Divine.

Poetic giants and mystical geniuses such as Rumi were the embodiment of this sacred path of passion. In the words of Rumi:

From beyond the intellect beautiful Love comes…

And from beyond Love, that One who cannot be

described, who can only be called “That” keeps


But how do we find “That” in our life? How do we experience “That” in others and in nature?

As Rainer Maria Rilke—arguably one of the greatest poets to be born on Western soil—wrote in The Sonnets to Orpheus: “Praising is what matters.”

It is through praising the Divine in everything that our heart opens up and expands to dissolve all barriers of duality and separation.

Bhakti Yoga is thus the gracious act of offering of love and gratitude to “That.” Through loving praise for the existence of “That” in all others, we can connect with the spiritual heart of everybody around us.

Through an all-embracing awe of the presence of “That” in nature, we can celebrate the oneness of creation.

That is Bhakti Yoga, the perennial cure for the aching emptiness we sometimes feel inside.

The great sages have always reminded us of the importance of Bhakti, of love for the Divine. Their reminders cannot be underestimated.

My guru, Anandamurti, used to say that spiritual praise or devotional love “is the highest and most valuable treasure of humanity.”

And what is the role of this love, this devotional sentiment? “To transform our worldly existence into the supreme spiritual stance.”

This kind of transformation is exactly what our self-obsessed and narcissistic Western world needs. Despite our many technological wonders, our materialistic culture is suffering from a chronic case of spiritual heart disease.

And what is the cure for this disease? Bhakti Yoga, a daily, transformational diet of Divine praise, adoration and love.

Here are some ways to practice Bhakti Yoga:

  • Chant your heart away with kirtan.
  • Play kirtan at home or in the car.
  • Dance while singing kirtan.
  • Join a kirtan group at your local yoga studio.
  • Write love poetry to the Divine.
  • Write love poetry to your lover as if he or she is Divine.
  • Read or sing the Bhakti poetry of Rumi, Kabir, Mirabai, and others.
  • Read the Gita and other sacred books.
  • Love the Divine in nature by watching the stars at night, walking in the woods, meditating and practicing yoga in awe-inspiring places.
  • Praise your family and friends as manifestations of the Divine.
  • Eat and drink as if your meal is Divine nectar.

The heartfelt love of the Divine is our most delicate and tender, inner asset. Like a delicate plant, it must be nurtured and preserved. Bhakti Yoga is to love the world as God and Goddess.

Bhakti Yoga is to cultivate the dynamic harmony between the material, mental and spiritual realms. To love and live the dance of opposites as if all is One.

That vision has always been, and will always be, the sweet song of Bhakti Yoga. Its melody and metaphors may change from time to time, but its transcendental beauty, charm and wisdom will forever remain unchanged.

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