Bhakti is devotion and love to one’s personal god. Bhakti is also described as “love for love’s sake,” and includes ceremonial offerings, devotional meditations and reminders of gratitude.
Bhakti yoga includes references to “the lord,” “the divine,” and “god,” but note the lowercase letter. For the secular, bhakti is simply the belief that love is all around, available in abundance to be given and received. Bhakti yoga teaches that the divine exists in whatever form you choose; the yogic divine is formless. The intention of bhakti is to create love and gratitude outside of the self and recognize that the attachment to relationships, things and ideas is fleeting, but receiving and giving love to a divine energy is absolute and permanent. Bhakti devotees describe their practice as romance with life itself, rather than a specific person or object.
The knowledge of introspection and gratitude will destroy the obstacles in the way.Yoga Sutra 1.29
Many people come to bhakti yoga as a remedy for heartache. In the face of extreme loss, people seek to understand how to love again. Bhakti teaches that love is abundant and that by spreading and receiving love from all sources, suffering from heartache can be alleviated. Heartache is heavy because it’s a feeling of love and loss. Bhakti yoga is the practice of finding an outlet for that love – regardless of which relationships or possessions are present. Bhakti yogis give love to the earth and the sky and everything in between.
The practice of Bhakti includes devotional meditations such as Kirtan chanting, ceremonial offerings such as flowers or sand to represent love for the earth, and offerings of gratitude such as giving thanks before a meal.
Exercise: bhava meditation
Try this bhava meditation:
- Bathe first and wear white to represent inner purity. Fill a bottle of water.
- Go for a walk and collect 10-20 items. Flowers, blades of grass, grains of rice, etc. The walking/collecting can be inside your house or outside.
- Find a place to sit where you’re looking at nature (even if it’s out a window or at a houseplant!).
- Take a sip of water and visualize your mind being purified. Sprinkle water around your seat to purify the area of undesirable emotions.
- Place a leaf/grass/rice in your hand and hold it over your heart. Silently say “I love you” to the view of nature. Imagine you’re representing devotion to life itself. Discard the item and proceed with the remaining items.
- Sing! The soul doesn’t judge. Keep going with the ritual, one item at a time. Be receptive to the simplicity of the ritual.
Be natural, spontaneous, present and open. When you’ve completed the ritual, sit quietly and allow the loving energy to infuse your whole being. Bhava is sheer ecstasy and represents being in your own heart. Devotional rituals are available anytime and with minimal rules. Follow the path towards bhakti yoga by creating your own rituals of love for love’s sake.