What is Bhakti?

Path to Siva, Lesson 28, Commentary


Gurudeva teaches that in our tradition there is always pure devotion/bhakti for God but it deepens as we progress as a calm, intelligent expression of love. Theism leads to monism. Behold the light of life through meditation. Perceive one light in everything, everyone. We are That when we reach the last stage of wisdom. Experience that God is Love and then you become that Love.

Path to Siva, Lesson 28.

[note: Audio taken from video camera. First Paragraph missed recording]

Unedited Transcript:

This morning we're reading from Path to Siva, Lesson 28.

"What Is Bhakti?

"Bhakti is devotion or love felt toward God, Gods and guru. Bhakti yoga, the practice of expressing this love, is strong in most Hindu traditions. We express bhakti when we worship in our home shrine, attend the temple or travel on pilgrimage. The more we experience devotion, the more it grows within us. This occurs when we sing sacred songs and chant bhajans. Listening to stories of our great saints and satgurus inspires bhakti. In Saiva Siddhanta, bhakti yoga is never outgrown. It is not just for beginners. As Gurudeva said, 'The yoga of pure devotion is found at the beginning, the middle and the end of the path.' By awakening this love and appreciation, we open ourselves to God's grace. We also express bhakti toward our guru as a way to experience his or her blessings and grace. Devotion is a calm, intelligent expression of love for the Deity. It is not unlike the closeness felt between good friends...

[Audio starts here.]

"...In Saiva Siddhanta, the path begins at the charya stage, with getting to know the Gods and developing a relationship with them through service, or karma yoga. Then bhakti is naturally experienced. This is the kriya stage. Our nature becomes soft, flexible and content. Gurudeva explained, 'The inner knowing that 'All is Siva's will' is one of the first benefits of bhakti yoga.' A close, loving relationship with God and the Gods gives us a great stability in life and allows for success in meditation. If problems, or negative karmas, arise, the devotee can place them at the feet of the Deity to be dissolved. When karmas are clear, the devotee is able to internalize his devotion into deeper meditations in the yoga stage."

Here's a quote from Gurudeva:

"The greatest inhibiting factor in practicing bhakti yoga is the doubting, cynical, intellectual mind. Doubt and skepticism harden the heart and narrow the mind. When you have the energy of bhakti, of love, flowing through your body, meditation is easy. You don't have to go through the preliminaries. You are already functioning in the higher chakras."

Interesting point that Gurudeva makes here toward the beginning you know we have a "... pure devotion that's found at the beginning, the middle and the end of the path. You don't go at sometimes, in other words, sometimes bhakti yoga is looked at as a very simple, a very basic practice. Well to start with bhakti yoga and after a while you end up a great jnani. We have outgrown bhakti yoga. It's helpful for a couple of years, maybe a few months. But you're supposed to outgrow it. Become a great jnani. That's one of the default ideas in Hinduism and although that could be true in some paths it's not true in this path that Gurudeva teaches. It's just the form of the devotion changes and that's what we're looking at at the end here. There's always a pure devotion for God but it deepens in its experience.

Another point Gurudeva makes is devotion is a calm intelligent expression of love for the deity. We like to distinguish between devotion and emotion. So in our tradition we're not trying to get excited emotionally, you know. All cranked up through singing or something; we're not trying to become emotional. We're trying to express devotion. So, if we get emotional it limits the pure devotion you can experience. Emotion takes a lot of energy. Kind of externalizing. So, we don't want to become emotional; it's similar but it's more calm and it's more intelligent. So we're going to be devotional not emotional.

"Our nature becomes soft, flexible and content." So this is a very important point that one of the qualities of the current world status of education of the world is when we go to the university, we come out of the university, we get hardened. A bit intellectual. Maybe a bit proud even. So it's the opposite of a soft, flexible and content. Hard. Therefore the nature needs to be softened in order to go deeply within ourselves, in order to have profound experiences we have to soften the external nature. That's done through bhakti yoga.

One of the overall points is, we see this on television now and then, whenever love and God are discussed, particularly when seen in a western intellectual framework, that it says that God loves you. The whole focus is on God loves you. Well that's true. It's true in Hinduism too. God loves you but that's more taken for granted. Okay, God loves you. You don't have to come back to that point. But we're focused more on you loving God. And that's not necessarily mentioned. We're focused on our love for God and not just that we love God but deepening that love for God. So that's what bhakti yoga's all about. I love God, but God, I'm going to deepen that love for God. And that's what we're looking here. When we deepen the love for God it moves from what's called theism to monism. It moves from being separate from it to being it. We'll try to explain that in two minutes.

There's a verse in the scripture we pulled off in Tirumantiram -- Tirumular. He's talking about the progression of getting closer to God in views of the phrase "life." The life of life is for the name of God. In Tamil it's called "uyirkuyir." The life of life of the soul. The soul is love of name; they're the same God. That's invoking life through ceremony like we did this morning. We're invoking Siva's presence, invoking life. We've done this through ceremony. Beholding the light of life. We're done through meditation. So in meditation we learn to go in and see the inner light. So that's a spiritual light. It's called the light of life. The light of the soul. So we're perceiving that. And then eventually, in the jnani, we are the light of life. We don't think of ourselves as something separate for the light of life. We perceive it as one light in everything, everyone and we are That. What we can see there in that spiritual quote we're invoking, through ceremony, we're beholding the light of life through meditation and then we are the light of life when we reach the last stage of wisdom.

So we can parallel love to that as far as scriptural verse; we can write one if we wanted to but scriptural verse it just takes the same idea. It uses love instead of life. So expressing love of God is done through ceremony. So that's what we were doing this morning. We were expressing our devotion for God Siva through ceremony.

Beholding God as love, that's called Anbe Sivam in Tamil. Beholding God as love in guided meditation. And then being God as love is wisdom. So in other words, the phrase that God loves you, I love God, and we have God is love and then we have you are God as Love. You or God or One as Love. So that idea is that dualism leads in to monism. That theism leads to the monism eventually if we take it deeply enough.

So that's how love is different in Hinduism than in western takes it. It starts as God loves and you then God go deeply and then go far enough. Experience that God is love and then you become that Love. Yogaswami was quoted that one, much long ago, he has a letter.

He says: "Who must you love?" (He's talking to a young man.) "Who must you love? Everyone."

But actually you are everyone. Cause there is no separate person when you're a jnani. So you are this love which permeates everyone. That's how Yogaswami looked at it.

Thank you very much. Beautiful having everyone here this morning. Beautiful day.

Photo of  Gurudeva
What do we mean when we say there is no good and no bad, only experience? We mean that in the highest sense, there is no good and bad karma; there is self-created experience that presents opportunities for spiritual advancement.
—Gurudeva