Archive | March 2011

What is Bhakti Yoga?

Bhakti yoga (Devanāgarī: भक्ति योग) is one of the types of yoga mentioned in Hindu philosophies which denotes the spiritual practice of fostering loving devotion (bhakti) to a personal form of God. The Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavata Purana are two important scriptures which explain and develop the attitude of bhakti.[1] Hindu movements in which bhakti is the main practice are called bhakti movements—the major schools are Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism.[2]

Philosophy

Bhakti is a Sanskrit term that signifies an attitude of devotion to a personal God that is typically based on a number of human relationships such as beloved-lover, friend-friend, parent-child, and master-servant.[1]

The Bhagavata Purana teaches nine primary forms of bhakti, as explained by Prahlada:[3]

(1) śravaṇa (“listening” to the scriptural stories of Kṛṣṇa and his companions), (2) kīrtana (“praising,” usually refers to ecstatic group singing), (3) smaraṇa (“remembering” or fixing the mind on Viṣṇu), (4) pāda-sevana (rendering service), (5) arcana (worshiping an image), (6) vandana (paying homage), (7) dāsya (servitude), (8) sākhya (friendship), and (9) ātma-nivedana(complete surrender of the self). (from Bhagata Purana, 7.5.23-24)

These nine principles of devotional service are described as helping the devotee remain constantly in touch with God. The processes of japa and internal meditation on the aspirant devotees’s chosen deity form (ishta deva) are especially popular in most bhakti schools. Bhakti is a yoga path, in that its aim is a form of divine, loving union with the Supreme Lord. The exact form of the Lord, or type of union varies between the different schools, but the essence of each process is very similar.

The Bhagavad Gita

While it has an extensive list of philosophical and religious associations, the Bhagavad Gita is also seen as a cornerstone for Hindu Bhakti theism, especially within Vaishnavism. However, it has been interpreted by many as being a manual not limited just for devotees of Krishna. Whatever be the case, it is adamant, in Krishna’s words, that love and innocent pure intention is the most powerful motive force in a devotee’s spiritual life. It is a very succinct and comprehensive statement on the mindset of the Bhakta (loving devotee) of Krishna, Svayam bhagavan:

Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me. (B-Gita 9.34)[4]

One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of Me by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God. (B-Gita 18.55) [5]

Branches

A large statue in Bangalore depicting Shiva meditating

The main schools of bhakti in Hinduism are: Shaivas who worship Shiva and the gods and goddesses associated with him; Vaishnavas, who worship forms of Vishnu, his avataras, and others associated with him; Shaktas who worship a variety of goddesses. These schools are not always exclusive of each other—a bhakti’s devotional practices to one form of god does not preclude worship of another form.[2]

The bhakti movement began in South India and moved north, with an emphasis on devotion vs. ritual. It also opposed the caste system, with prominent bhakti poets Ravidas and Kabir both writing against the hierarchy of caste.[6] Altogether, bhakti resulted in a mass of devotional literature, music, dance and art that has enriched the world and gave India renewed spiritual impetus, one eschewing unnecessary ritual and artificial social boundaries.

Notable proponents of Bhakti

10 Reasons why I Love Yoga, and why you should too!

 

1. Doing Yoga all year long helps to relieve my pinched nerve and herniated disc.
2. Yoga keeps me focused on my Daily Intentions.
3. Twisting prepares my body for a good day.
4. Yoga helps my body warm up during cold winter days.
5. Yoga helps my Daughter maintain her school focus.
6. Yoga plus meditation equals no stress or chest pains.
7. A Yoga routine done outside reminds me to be one with Universal Source Energy when I connect to it.
8. Eating satvic foods help my weary bones to neither creek nor pop while doing the poses.
9. Do I look over 40 to you?
10. Developing a daily Yoga routine has helped me focus on the more positive aspects of my life.

The Six Yoga Systems

Hatha Yoga
Ha and tha, the sun and moon, refer to the two opposite currents that regulate all processes in our body. There is nothing mysterious about it because anything in our universe exists because of a positive and negative charge. Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Kriya Yoga are specifically dealing with the intention of gaining control over the flow of these life-currents.
Hatha Yoga is known for the asanas or postures. It is thought that by perfecting the body, creating a healthy physical condition, and raising Kundalini (dormant energy) upwards along the spine, the body becomes better prepared for yogic awakening. The first effects felt are usually improved health and strengthened nervous system. Some Hatha Yogis may even demonstrate control over internal organs, blood flow, and breathing. The ability of some Yogis to even stop the breathing and heart beat completely for a period of time has been demonstrated under laboratory settings.

Traditional Hatha Yoga consists of:
1. Asanas (postures);
2. Shat Karmas (six cleansing techniques, also known as Shat Kriyas);
3. Pranayama (control of breathing with retention);
4. Bandhas (locks) and Mudras (seals) for the regulation of Prana (life-force) and Kundalini; and
5. Samadhi (Union with God, realization of the Self, ecstasy, nirvana).

There are many good books available on this subject and one is wise to have a copy handy that also include pictures of the various asanas and mudras.


Raja Yoga / Radja Yoga

Raja Yoga means royal and is sometimes called the crown of Hatha Yoga. Raja adds concentration after body and mind are cleaned and trained to stay calm and attentive. The improvement in our power of concentration, as a result of Raja Yoga, moves all of our attention towards the source of our Being in order to become that Being. Raja Yoga is a complete system, also refered to as Ashtanga Yoga because of the eight (ashta) limbs (anga) the system rests on.

The Eight Limbs (Ashta-anga) are:
1. Restraints (yamas: harmlessness, truthfulness, non-stealing, control of senses)
2. Disciplines (niyamas: cleanliness, purification of body, mind and nervous system, study of metaphysical principles, contemplation on God)
3. Postures (asanas)
4. Control of breathing and life-currents (pranayama)
5. Turning the attention within (pratyahara)
6. Concentration (dharana)
7. Meditation (dhyana: prolonged periods of perfect concentration and contemplation)
8. Holy Trance (Samadhi)


Bhakti Yoga (Union through Devotion and Love)
Bhakti Yoga is the Yoga of selfless love, compassion, humility, purity and the desire and serious intention to merge with God. It is nothing else than to follow the ‘First Commandment’: “to love God with all your heart, mind and soul.”

The following persons are known as outstanding examples of Bhakti Yogis:
·  Daya Mata
·  Shree Maa
·  Anandamayi Ma (1896 – 1982)
·  Mother Teresa (1910 – 1997)
·  Ma Yoga Shakti
·  Mata Amritanandamayi (Ammachi)

Bhakti Yoga Meditation – a complete guide for understanding the philosophy and practice of bhakti for practitioners at any level. Following the teachings of Jagadguru Shri Kripaluji Maharaj, we offer online meditation instructions, mp3 downloads of meditation kirtan, lectures and other helpful accessories, tips and suggestions for you to progress in your bhakti meditation.


Jnana Yoga (The Yoga of Knowledge)
Jnana Yoga is practical Philosophy/Metaphysics. It is both theory and practice. Jnana Yoga uses the intellect as a tool to understand that our true Self is behind and beyond our mind. It is a Quest for the Self by direct inquiry into “who we are.” It is, however, a mistake to think that the Source could be found with the intellect alone.

For the purpose of Self-discovery, Jnana Yoga probes the nature of the Self through the question: Who am I? Through persistent probing, fixing our attention on the source of our Being, we regain our real Self. We remember who we are. The inquiry, as the result of practising Jnana Yoga, leads us towards clear Awareness by removing our attention from that which we are not. Along with Bhakti Yoga (Devotion), Jnana is listed among the best approaches for becoming aware of the eternal Self (God).

Shankara and Ramana Maharshi are the classic authorities concerning Jnana Yoga. Like Hatha and Raja Yogis, Jnana Yogis also acknowledge the relationship between breathing and thinking. They found that breathing slows automatically through concentration on the “I-AM.”

For more in-depth information, please see extended article: Jnana Yoga


Kriya Yoga
Kriya Yoga refers to actions designed to rid the body and mind of obstructions. Kriya Yoga is a complete system including mantras, meditation, and other techniques towards controlling the life-force and bringing calmness and control over body and mind. The goal is to unite with pure Awareness (God). Since pure Awareness is our original condition, it is also referred to as Self-awareness.

The following organizations are known to be genuine sources for the original techniques:
·  Ananda Church of Self-Realization
·  Center for Spiritual Awareness (CSA)
·  Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF)

For more in-depth information, please see our extended article: Kriya Yoga


Karma Yoga (Self-less work for our fellow neighbour)
Karma is the total sum of all our actions (mental and physical), in this life and before. Karma Yoga is the yoga of Service or self-transcending Action, whereby the yogi directs all actions towards God. By serving God and humanity (without selfishness, egoism, and attachment) the heart becomes pure, the ego fades and, over time, or even over many lifetimes, one becomes increasingly in tune and unified with God. Enlightenment (Samadhi, nirvana, union with God) is naturally realized through Karma yoga.

Thank you goes out to

http://www.self-realization.com/articles/yoga/yoga_systems.htm for this wonderful article about the different types of Yoga!