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THE SCIENCE OF BHAKTI YOG

The science of Bhakti Yog, sometimes referred to as Bhakti-yoga is the ultimate path leading to eternal bliss. It is the only way a soul can realize its true self and at the same time, relish the divine bliss of the Supreme God. Bhakti-yog is the epitome of true devotion to God, propelling an individual become truly complete and satiated.

Every soul in this world is incessantly seeking bliss, and every action the soul performs, is with the intention of attaining that bliss.  It is no surprise that the mundane experience of life confirms that man has not received even an iota of that supreme bliss. The happiness that we receive in the world is not true because it is transitory in nature.  In fact worldly happiness decreases with time and often becomes painful.  Therefore the soul continues its everlasting quest for happiness and yet seems to have reached nowhere.

The Vedas reveal that the soul is divine in nature and a part of God.  Since God is the ocean of bliss, the soul is drawn toward bliss.  Understand this through the analogy of rivers which are created from the water vapor that rose from the ocean, and then formed into clouds and rained back on earth. The rivers naturally flow toward the ocean, which is their source.  In the same way, the soul is naturally attracted toward its source, which is God.  Therefore, it is the intrinsic nature of every soul to desire happiness. This nature can only be satisfied when the soul attains the infinite bliss of God. Hence, knowingly or unknowingly, every soul is struggling to reach that state of divine consciousness, or Yog which means ‘Union with God’.

The various paths of achieving union with are referred to as different systems of Yog, such as karm yog, jñāna yog, aṣhṭāṅg yog, and bhakti yog.

1. Jñāna Yog (Path of Knowledge):

In this system of Yog, the emphasis is on self-knowledge. Through the practice of intellectual discrimination, the jñānī focuses on realizing the self, which is distinct from all bodily designations and contaminations. Self-realization is considered as the ultimate goal of perfection. The practice of jñāna yog is based on self-effort, without support of the grace of God. Hence, it is a difficult path and there is danger of downfall at every step.

 

2. Aṣhṭāṅg Yog (The eight-fold path):

It involves a gradual process of purification beginning with mechanical practices and progressing to the control of the mind. In it, the life force is raised through the sushumṇā channel in the spinal column. It is brought between the eyebrows, which is the region of the third eye (the inner eye). It is then made to focus on the Supreme Lord with great devotion. This process was presented in a structured system of practice containing eight stages by Maharshi Patanjali in the famous text written by him, called Yog Sutras. Thereby, it came to be known as aṣhṭāṅg yog or the eight-fold system of Yog. A variation of this is haṭha yog, in which the emphasis is on austerities. The haṭha yogi strives to gain mastery over the mind and senses by exercising the force of will power.

3. Karm Yog (Path of Action):

Karm refers to performing one’s worldly obligations and responsibilities, while Yog refers to union with God. So the practice of uniting the mind with God even while doing one’s obligatory duties in the world is karm yog. This requires detaching the mind from the fruits of actions, by developing a resolute decision of the intellect that all work is meant solely for the pleasure of God. Thus, the Gita occasionally refers to it as buddhi yog, or the Yog of the intellect. Since most people practice spirituality while living in household life and discharging their worldly duties, karm yog becomes necessary for them alongside with any other system of Yog they may pursue.

 

4. Bhakti Yog (Path of Devotion):

This path involves attaching the mind to the names, forms, virtues, pastimes, etc. of God through selfless and exclusive love. One develops a loving relationship with God by seeing him as the eternal father, mother, friend, master, and soul-beloved. By surrendering to him and uniting the individual will with the divine will, the devotee attracts the grace of God and achieves the goal of spiritual perfection more easily than by the other paths.