the yoga of love
“Long ago, I was wandering the world starving for an experience of truth and beauty. The one truth I found which penetrated to the core of my heart was, that beyond the differences that divide us—nationality, religion, gender, race, appearance, health, or illness—lies the common essential quality we all share: the soul’s inherent ability to love.”
— RADHANATH SWAMI
What is Bhakti?
The word bhakti refers to divine love; bhakti is the love that is dormant within the heart of every living being, it is the pleasure that everyone is seeking, and it is the highest potential in all beings. The true self, the atma, or soul, is seeing through the eyes, tasting through the tongue, touching through the body and so, things of this world can give some amount of satisfaction to the mind and senses, but they cannot reach the true self, it is only love that gives fulfilment to the heart. Bhakti is the purest form of that love which connects our true self to its source, and as a result connects us to every other living being in the most meaningful way.
“Becoming self-aware allows you to feel compassion for others because you come to understand that they too, are souls struggling to recall their nature.”
— RADHANATH SWAMI
The History of Bhakti in India
Bhakti has been central to India’s spiritual culture for thousands of years, but over the course of time, it became lost in rituals and prejudiced customs. Beginning around the sixth century C.E., a bhakti revivalist movement developed around the writings of mystics who were extracting the essence of the ancient scriptures. These mystics were mostly in South India, and they expressed their intimate love and longing for God through philosophy, song, and poetry. Their devotional revelations were gradually expanded on by their disciples and organized into schools of devotional yoga by scholars and saints like Ramanuja (1017–1137), Madhva (1238–1317), Nimbarka (circa eleventh century), Vallabha (1479–1531), and Chaitanya (1486–1533).
Focusing on sincerity of intent and development of character, these revered teachers ushered in a movement that is still growing. In the 1960s, the bhakti movement finally left India in the hands of Radhanath Swami’s teacher, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and arrived on the shores of countries all over the world. Still, while history provides an interesting context for the development of the bhakti movement, bhakti itself is timeless. Love for the Supreme is the eternal nature of all souls, and all religions or philosophies that strive to help their adherents awaken that love are essentially practicing bhakti.
“Becoming self-aware allows you to feel compassion for others because you come to understand that they, too, are souls struggling to recall their nature.”
— RADHANATH SWAMI
The Process of Bhakti-yoga
The true meaning of yoga is to reconnect, and so bhakti-yoga is the process of reconnecting to God through the process of love.
The four pillars of Bhakti:
Our personal practice of connecting to our true selves and God through the power of prayer, meditation and acquiring knowledge. These spiritual practices allow us to tune into the frequency of grace of love and compassion that’s within us and when we put time aside to do this daily, we actually establish a deep foundation and clear direction in life.
Being in the company of those people who uplift us as far as possible. When we come in contact with spiritual people, their experience and energy inspire us to carry on walking our spiritual path, help us to overcome hurdles and to avoid pitfalls.
This refers to the mood in which we live our life and interact with those around us. The mood of bhakti means to be in the mood of seva (selfless service).
Seva means selfless service; one of the key components and aspects of bhakti is serving God with love along with serving His children and creation. With this principle of seva, we transcend differences based on culture, colour, religion, gender, age and even species, and live together in love and harmony.
Top 5 Books on Bhakti-yoga
Dive deeper into bhakti-yoga with this excellent selection of books authored by or inspired by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Available at all good online and physical book stores.