More than an activity, bhakti is an attitude – an attitude of reverence and of gratitude. It is also the attitude of acceptance, of compassion ; and of affection.
Bhakti is the means of establishing a relationship of love and trust with the Supreme Lord. A devotee creates a connection of the heart with the Lord, through loving devotion to Him. Bhakti is considered to be the sweetest of the yoga approaches because it directly touches the heart. It is also the easiest to follow. A devotee shares all his thoughts, aspirations and fears with his beloved deity. He opens up his heart before the Lord and offers himself, both his beautiful and ugly facets, to Him without holding anything back. He stands, face to face, with his master. Instead of suppressing any of his emotions, he directs them to the Divine. Such a devotee of pure heart and clean mind dedicates his whole being to the Lord. He worships Him selflessly. He only wants to love and be loved.
God has no friends or foes. He hates no one and no one is dear to Him. He is impartial to everyone. But those who worship Him with devotion, they are in Him and He is in them. The prayers which arise from within one’s heart ; and which are pure and unselfish are always answered by the Lord. The simplest way, thus, to win the affection of the Lord is by approaching Him, with sincerity and humility.
God loves all His devotees. He answers to the prayers of all – whether they pray in distress, for some material gains or for getting spiritual wisdom. But the one who having gained knowledge of the self worships Him with a single-minded devotion, he is most dear to Him. In other words, God loves the most a man of wisdom who worships Him selflessly and with a focussed mind.
Bhakti is the means of creating bonds of oneness with the Divine. Anything done as devotion to Ishvara brings one a step closer to the awareness of the indwelling divinity. One unites with that reality which is eternal and changeless. A devotee who is established in unity with the Divine, never loses sight of Him ; nor is he ever out of His sight. He worships Him with the understanding that it is He who resides in all beings. Such a feeling of unity with the Divine generates expressions of selfless love for whole of the creation. As a result, one’s evil tendencies are transformed from destructive energy to creative constructivity.
Bhakti tradition values sincerity. The Lord is pleased with sincere devotion and is not influenced by any sectarian considerations. This path of spiritual growth is open to all irrespective of their social standing, financial status or educational achievements. Anyone of whatever gender or class is welcome to embrace the essential message of this beautiful way of self-realisation. Bhakti yoga has opened the doors of spirituality wide enough to enable anyone and everyone to establish his own bond of love with the Lord. This universal acceptance speaks volumes about the democratic spirit of devotional practices.
Essence of one’s life is his inner life. When one sees the God everywhere and sees all in Him, he lives life at the most intense level. The illumination brought about by such knowledge penetrates into the deepest and darkest pockets of one’s being. He comes to understand the underlying principle of pure consciousness and also the purpose of life. He remains situated in Ishvara, howsoever active in the outer world he may be. He is at peace with himself and with the world around, whatever his position in life may be. Bhakti, thus, creates a sweet sense of divine bliss which permeates one’s entire being.
Bhakti does not mean abandoning one’s duties and simply chanting the name of God. It cannot be an excuse for running away from the responsibilities of life. Work is worship, man’s offering to God. That is why it has been stated that one can attain spiritual perfection by worshipping the Supreme Lord through sincere and unattached performance of his own duties i.e. by doing the work that suits his nature the most.
One does not have to do some great or extraordinary things to practice the yoga of devotion. A true devotee dedicates all the work he does in his day-to-day life as acts of worship. Whatever work he undertakes, he does it as an offering to the Supreme Lord. Whatever results he gets, he accepts them as prasada, grace of God. In such a state of being, an entirely different dimension is added to his routine work. Even daily chores becomes work of worship.
Dedication brings focus. Just focussing on one’s actions ; and imbuing them with an attitude of reverence, love and thanksgiving can transform the very routine activities into devotion. Such a focussed devotee never loses the thought of Ishvara. In his heart lives the One who governs the whole of the cosmos.