Guru Brahmãh Gurur Vishnuhuhu Guru Devoo Maheswaraha |
Guru Sãkshãth Para Brahma Tasmai Sree Gurave’ Namaha ||
Guru is Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Maheswara,
Guru is nothing but the Supreme Brahman devoid of attributes.
That is the reason why we bow to the Guru.
Bhakthi Yoga, the methods of worship.
i. Various forms of Devotion and Sanskara in Practice
Hindu Religious Faith and practice are based on its strong philosophy and the ancient tradition. Most of the followers know about the Vedas and the Vedantha philosophy. Every one understands that there is one God who is worshipped in many forms. Most of them are familiar with the Adhvaitha theory and Vedantha philosophy of oneness of the Divine and the human soul. However, the practice is much more closer to the Dhvaitha and Visishta-adhvaitha theories for the worship of the Divine. The paths of Karma yoga, Raja yoga, Bhakthi yoga and Gnana yoga are taught as the spiritual disciplines for the practice. Some feel that Gnana or the path of wisdom is the ultimate while others consider that after performing duties without attachment as in Karma yoga, practicing meditation and controlling thoughts as in Raja yoga and gaining knowledge of Gnana path one will reach the state of ultimate surrender of Bhakthi yoga.
Among all the paths of Hinduism, the most common and popular ones have been the ritualistic [Sanskaara] path and the Devotional [Bhakthi] paths of worship. The ritualistic path involves the practice of sanskaara which are performing the regular rituals for the formless Supreme Divine as prescribed in the Karma kanda and Upasana kanda portions of the Vedas. They are performed every day and for various events in one’s life. These are practiced and performed mostly by persons knowledgeable in the Vedas and the Hindu philosophy and those initiated to the practice of these rituals.
The Bhakthi pathway is much easier to follow for everyone. It teaches a method of love and attachment towards a supreme God through one of His manifestations as in the Agamas and Puranas with devotional prayers and worship to various forms of Deities through poojas and bhajans. This form of Bhakthi develops into various levels and degrees as an inner attitude of an attachment and feeling of love towards God, from a blind faith and devotion to God in one form to total surrender to the Supreme.
ii. Bhakthi Yoga – the Devotional Pathway
PARA-BHAKTHI is the form of devotion with contemplation on the formless and unmanifested Brahmam. It is the highest form of bhakthi suitable only for few learned people, the Jnana Yogis, who have the true knowledge of God.
APARA-BHAKTHI or Gauni-bhakthi is the primal level of love and devotion to a manifested Iswara and prayers to one of His forms accepted as Ishta-Devatha or a personal God. There are many levels or grades in this, the most important being – Bhaya-bhakthi, Anyaya-bhakthi and Ekantha-bhakthi.
Bhaya-bhakthi is the very external form of worship of a Deity as God. It is the adoration paid to a form of God outside ourselves. It is the most basic form of a faith, based on the unenlightened or Tamasika feeling that God is external to us and dwells in a particular locality like the prayer room or Temple. The pilgrimages, worship of several images of God, symbols and sacred books are examples of this. Most popular religions do not rise above this level.
Anyaya-bhakthi [meaning “not another”] is the exclusive and passionate, or the Rajasika, form of worship of one’s Ishta Devatha in the heart. It is an intense form of monotheism and gives a healthy direction to the spirit of devotion. But, it shall not give rise to bigotry and cruelty towards those who have different concept of God and different methods of approach. Among Hindus, it is well recognized that the gods whom others worship are only different forms of his own Ishta-devatha.
Ekantha-bhakthi is the purest and Sattvika form of devotion. Here, the devotee loves God for His own sake and not for His gifts. He learns to crave for his personal God alone, in prosperity as well as in adversity. He sees the presence of God, as his Ishta-devatha, in all places, at all times.
iii. Bhavas as an expression of Devotion and Love
1. Santha Bhava: [means calmness of mind] The mind of the devotee is filled with divine knowledge and is emotionless, always undisturbed, peaceful and tranquil. Only Yogis and Jñanis, like Bhishma, who are highly developed and have had direct experience of God will be able to practice Santha Bhava.
2. Dasya Bhava: The devotee considers himself as inferior to God. He takes God to be his Master and looks upon himself as just a humble servant. He considers it is his duty to worship and to love God. Hanuman is an example of Dasya Bhakthi.
3. Sakhya Bhava: The devotee considers God to be a dear friend, the sole supreme companion, and as his equal in relation, with pure friendship not degenerating into familiarity. Arjuna is an example of Sakhya Bhaktha.
4. Vatsalya Bhava: The devotee considers God as his Child and the themselves as the mother giving and also getting the unconditional love of the Child. Mother Yashoda had Vatsalya Bhakthi towards Child Krishna as her own child.
5. Kantha Bhava: This is the expression of devotion with a feeling like the one a wife gets and gives towards her husband, as in the case of devotion of Sita or Rukmini towards Sri Rama and Sri Krishna, called Kantha Bhava.
6. Madhurya Bhava: This is the highest expression of Divine love. Here, the devotee takes the lord to be his beloved, with deep love, devotion and surrenders himself. When Gopikas like Radha develops Bhakthi towards Sri Krishna, it is the romantic love and surrender of the self to the lover, without any sensuality but with pure devotion and surrender, called Madhurya Bhava.
iv. Fundamental Disciplines needed for Bhakthi Yoga
1. Abhyasa: -Practice of constantly and continuously remembering God with a steady mind.
2. Viveka: Discrimination, the ability to choose between right and wrong.
3. Vimoka: Intense longing for God, rejecting everything that hinders our progress.
4. Sathyam: Truthfulness, to be always observed as a basic rule of spiritual ethics. We have to live a life of truth, think truth alone, speak truth and
listen carefully to their own inner voice called conscience.
5. Arjavam: This is straightforwardness or honesty.
6. Kriya: Doing good to all beings, as the devotee will see God in all forms.
7. Kalyana: This is wishing well of others with a loving heart, praying to the Lord for the well being of others, for the peace and welfare of the world.
8. Dhaya: Compassion, as God is love, mercy and compassion personified. As we seek to realize Him, we, too, must develop the same qualities.
9. Ahimsa: The practice of non-violence, non-injury to all creatures,
by way of action, thought or word.
10. Dhaana: Abundant and spontaneous charity with a pure heart, for relieving the suffering of the distressed is a potent means of growing spiritually.
11. Anavasada: To be cheerful and hopeful is an essential quality of a devotee. One must always have faith and hope.
manmanã bhava madh-bhakto madh-yaaji mãn namaskuru |
mãm-e’vaisyasi sathyam the’ prathijãne’ priyo’sime’ ||
– Bhagavad Gita Chapter XVIII – 65
With your mind engrossed in Me, become My devotee, worship Me and salute Me.
I promise you that you will come to Me alone, as you are so dear to Me.
Etham Vibhoothim Yogam Cha; Mama Yo Ve’tthi Thatthvathah: |
So’vikalpena Yogena Yujyate’; Nãthra Samsayah ||
– Bhagavad Gita Chapter X – 7.
He who knows about this manifestation of My divine majesties and my power unites with Me in steady and unfaltering communion. About this there is no doubt.