Bhakti Yoga — The Way of Love (part of the 4 Yogas of Hinduism series!)

Krishna and Putana - ISKCON desire tree

Krishna and Putana – Hare Krishna (ISKCON) painting

Bhakti Yoga, the Yoga of Love, is for the passionate type of person (4 Yogas Main).

The process is:

  1. Adopt God as an object of obsessive love.
  2. Connect to God using every form of love:  parent-child, friend, lover.
  3. Adopt a specific manifestation of God — in Hinduism, a particular diety — as your primary image and symbol of God. Make all others secondary.

The Hare Krishnas are the most well-known for Bhakti Yoga.  Their group worship consists of singing and dancing.  The musician sings a round of the chant, which is in Sanskrit (the sacred language of India — think of Latin in Europe), and the congregation repeats it.

Typically this begins with the congregation half-singing, half mumbling the chant — just like Christians singing hymns in church — but they get more and more into it, more and more worked up, like teenagers at a pep rally.

Individual worship may consist of chanting, reading the Bhagavad-Gita, saying rosaries, or so forth.

The purpose of all this is to get the person worked up and emotionally involved with the diety.  The Hare Krishnas have the goal of so fixating on their desire to be with God that they are totally focused on this at the time of their death.  The name of this mental state is “Krishna consciousness” and the effect is to ensure that they go to Krishna in the after-life.

Hindus often regard Christianity as a kind of Bhakti yoga.  Christ said that the most important commandment is to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your being.  He also said that the second commandment, which is like the first, is to love humanity in the same way.

I’m told it is appropriate to love Krishna as a child, as a friend or as a lover, whichever is most meaningful to you.  Christ figures in the scriptures as a child, Christians often regard him as their spiritual father, and certainly he can be considered a person’s best friend.  He is not traditionally portrayed as a lover, although in the culture people often illicitly think of him that way think of him that way (Jesus Calling Jesus – mp3).

Jesus freaks saturate themselves in the love of Jesus, they are undoubtedly doing a kind of Bhakti yoga.  They regard Jesus as the essence of cosmic love, and obsessively carry that thinking around with them in their day to day lives.  I don’t think anyone who believes in God can question the effectiveness of that kind of devotion.

Buddhist Metta meditation is the Buddhist form of spiritual development through love. “Metta” means loving kindness.  There are two forms of metta meditation.

In what I call the easy form, one calls up a feeling of love and kindness by any means.  Thinking about a person who naturally arouses feelings of love and kindness does well. Or, one can simply say, “love, love love love love.” Then, one pushes that feeling in all directions into the world. The goal is to give the feeling to the world (while by all means keeping the source of the feeling).

In what I call the difficult form, one meditates on someone naturally loved strongly, feeling that feeling as strongly as possible.  This is done every day for a week. All day — this is an intensive practice. Then, one meditates on oneself with that same feeling, thinking of oneself as if from the outside. The third week, one thinks of a person who arouses no strong feeling at all, where the feeling is neutral.  One meditates on this neutral person with metta.

The fourth week, one meditates on someone disliked, with the feeling of loving kindness.  The last week, one meditates on someone who is hated, with a feeling of loving kindness.

The Buddhists get the credit for inventing this form of meditation, but there is no religious reason it can’t be done by others.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Introducing the 4 Yogas of Hinduism Series « TiltedCandle

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