What is Bhakti Yoga?
If like me, you’ve been exploring yoga in Melbourne, you’ll find it can be more than physical exercise. The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root yuj which means to link up with or to combine. Bhagavad-gita, our primary text, describes a variety of yoga practices. Among them are hatha-yoga (perhaps the most familiar: practicing yoga-asanas and mindful breathing), karma-yoga (practicing conscious action), jnana-yoga (philosophical study and contemplation), and bhakti-yoga. Bhakti is derived from the Sanskrit word bhaj, which means loving service. Bhakti-yoga means to connect to the Supreme by means of loving devotional service.
You’ll be well aware that the physical benefits of yoga can be the end in themselves. But according to the traditional yoga systems, physical exercises are just one step on the path to spiritual realization. The Bhagavad-gita prescribes bhakti-yoga (the path of dedication and love) as the culmination of other yoga practices.
Benefits of Bhakti Yoga
Research shows that practicing hatha-yoga reduces anxiety and depression. In my 50-odd years of experience (you got it: grey hair), bhakti-yoga extends that benefit to our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. The benefits of bhakti-yoga include:
- relief from the stress, worry, and anxiety of life
- sharing that peace with all living entities
- cleansing the consciousness of our hearts and minds
- personal, practical, and verifiable realisation of our true nature and our original relationships with others
- bhakti-yoga enables a sincere practitioner to taste pure love and share it with others
- bhakti-yoga expands our experience of bliss and knowledge, of spiritual, transcendental life
How to Practice Bhakti Yoga
Bhakti-yoga means to practice connecting with God, and re-establishing our relationship with Him, through acts of love and service, or devotional service. The path of bhakti-yoga is developed through a variety of activities. These include mantra (or kirtan) meditation, or the chanting of the names of God. The chanting is done either individually on beads (japa) or communally by chanting mantras accompanied by music (kirtan). The study of sacred texts such as the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, associating with like-minded spiritual aspirants, eating sanctified vegetarian food, and living in a way that upholds the principles of truthfulness, mercy, austerity, and cleanliness, are all core practices for a life of a follower of bhakti.
“In the primary stage a child loves his parents, then his brothers and sisters, and as he daily grows up, he begins to love his family, society, community, country, nation, or even the whole human society. But the loving propensity remains imperfectly fulfilled until we know who is the supreme beloved.” (The Nectar of Devotion [NOD], Preface)
Love can become all-embracing only when we understand that Krishna is the supreme beloved, the root of all creation. By embracing Him we successfully embrace everyone, just as pouring water on the root of a tree successfully nourishes every leaf and branch.
We all have love or Bhakti within ourselves. However, it is in a dormant state. There is a simple way to awaken this dormant loving service to
Krishna. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of Krishna in this present age, has made this process very simple and enjoyable – chanting (kirtan and japa), dancing, and feasting.
The Sanskrit meaning of the word kirtan is praise. Kirtan is the chanting of ancient Vedic mantras and the names of Krishna in both His masculine and feminine forms. Chanting of pure names of Krishna can be done simply by regularly chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra –
Hare Rama Hare Rama / Rama Rama Hare Hare
The chanting can be done as a fixed number of rounds on a japa mala (personal chanting beads), or it can be done together congregationally with musical instruments.
You can find Kirtan meditation videos in Hare Krishna Melbourne’s Kirtan playlist on YouTube.
Try Bhakti Yoga in Melbourne – Free Yoga Classes
Are you interested to try bhakti-yoga but unsure where to start? Come down to our free Kirtan Sundays in the Temple (197 Danks St Albert Park 3206): 7:30 – 9:30 pm.