What is Bhakti Yoga?
Bhakti Yoga is one of the four main yogic paths to enlightenment. Bhakti means “devotion” or “love” and this path contains various practices to unite the bhakta (Bhakti Yoga practitioner) with the Divine.Bhakti Yoga is considered the easiest yogic path to master and the most direct method to experience the unity of mind, body and spirit. While Hatha Yoga requires a strong and flexible body, Raja Yoga requires a disciplined and concentrated mind, and Jnana Yoga requires a keen intellect, the only requirement for Bhakti Yoga is an open, loving heart. But Bhakti Yoga complements other paths of yoga well, and it is said that jnana (knowledge or wisdom) will dawn by itself when you engage in the devotional practices of Bhakti Yoga.
Bhakti Yoga is pure spiritual devotion, of love for God which is Love. The Deity is the beloved and the devotee is the lover. In Bhakti yoga, everything is but a manifestation of the divine and all else is meaningless, including the Ego. When the Bhakta is blessed by divine grace he feels an undivided union and non-dual consciousness prevails. Bhakti Yoga is regarded as the most direct method to merge in cosmic consciousness.
Bhakti yoga is based on the doctrine “Love is God and God is Love”. The bhakta experiences separation and longs to meet or even just glimpse his beloved. Nothing else attracts him, nothing else holds his attention, all else is meaningless.
The 9 Practices of Bhakti Yoga
There are nine main practices of Bhakti Yoga that can be practiced independently or together. Each of these limbs creates a specific bhava (feeling) that appeals to different inner constitutions of practitioners.
The Nine Limbs of Devotion
1. Shravana – “listening” to the ancient scriptures, especially potent if told by a saint or genuine bhakta.
2. Kirtana – “singing” devotional songs, usually practiced in a call-and-response group format.
3. Smarana – “remembering” the Divine by constantly meditating upon its name and form.
4. Padasevana – “service at the feet” of the Divine, which incorporates the practice of karma yoga (selfless service) with bhakti (devotion).
5. Archana – the “ritual worship” of the Divine through practices such as puja (deity worship), and havan or homa (fire offering).
6. Vandana – the “prostration” before the image of one’s chosen image or representation of the Divine.
7. Dasya – the “unquestioning” devotion of the Divine involving the cultivation of serving the will of God instead of one’s own ego.
8. Sakhya – the “friendship” and relationship established between the Divine and the devotee.
9. Atmanivedana – the “self-offering” and complete surrender of the self to the Divine.
The origins of Bhakti can be seen in the upanishads, specifically the Shvetashvatara Upanishad. The Bhagavad Gita, and the Puranas are important scriptures that expound the philosophy of bhakti yoga. Hindu movements in which bhakti yoga is the main practice are called bhakti movements – the major schools of which are Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism.
The Bhagavad Gita is a cornerstone of Hindu bhakti theism, especially among Vaishnavists. The Bhagavad Gita stresses that love and innocent pure intentions are the most powerful motive forces in a devotee’s spiritual life.
“Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.” (Bhagavath-Gita 9.34)
SRILA B A KESHAVA MAHARAJA
Srila B A Keshava Maharaja is a native to New Zealand and appeared in this world in Invercargill in 1967.
At the young age of 17 he quickly developed attraction to the path of Bhakti and joined with the Vaisnava tradition of Bhakti Yoga in 1985, under the teachings of Srila AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja Prabhupad.
For 10 years he lived in ashrams and travelled throughout the world receiving vital lessons on the path of Bhakti(Vedanta) by various teachers and wellwishers, he also lectured and taught in numerous ashrams around the globe.
In 1995 he met his eternal Spiritual Master Om Vishnupada Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaja and received Harinama initiation, then in 1997 Diksha Gayatri mantra from his Gurudev personally in Navadwipa India.
For many years he was assisting his Gurudev's mission in the UK, Ireland,India and Sweden. In October 2012 Srila Keshava Maharaja entered into the sacred order of Sannyasa.
Srila Keshava Maharaja is based in the South pacific and is currently teaching between NZ and Australia, the Divine path of Bhakti Yoga, as revealed and taught by Srila Govinda Maharaja and Srila Sridhara Maharaja.