Bhakti Yoga is known as the yoga of devotion. In this spiritual tradition the adherents seek union with the divine through becoming absorbed in their chosen deity or aspect of God. It is also known as the path of love, devotion and surrender. Through cultivating divine love of God the seeker attains union with the Supreme. Bhakti poets may worship different forms and manifestations of God but ultimately they are achieving the same spiritual experience. To express the divine emotions of a true bhakti is a difficult task because my definition they experience a consciousness beyond the usual ken of intellectual experience. Poetry has proved to be one of the most useful methods for the great saints to give a small insight into what they experience.
The bhakti path…
The bhakti path winds in a delicate way.
On this path there is no asking and no not asking.
The ego simply disappears
the moment you touch him.
The joy of looking for him is so immense that you
just dive in,
and coast around like a fish in the water.
If anyone needs a head, the lover leaps up to offer
Great Bhakti Poets
Sri Chaitanyaor Lord Gauranga was a prominent spiritual master who lived in Bengal during the 16th Century. Originally Sri Chaitanya was a great scholar and pundit. He used to defeat the leading pundits in debates about religion. However at the age of about 22 Sri Chaitanya became dedicated to worshipping Sri Krishna. Sri Chaitanya became absorbed in the consciousness of Krishna, he was filled with divine ecstasy and lost all interest in dry intellectual discussions. He became determined to renounce the world and live as a wandering sannyasin. Despite the objections of his mother Sachi Sri Chaitanya became a monk and spent his time in meditation and prayer. For hours at a time he would sing Bhajans about Krishna such as ‘Hari Bol’. His intensity and absorption in God consciousness attracted many disciples.
Unfortunately not many of Sri Chaitanya’s songs survived from the 16th Century in which he lived.
‘Chant the Name of the Lord and his glory unceasingly,
That the mirror of the heart may be wiped clean
And quenched that mighty forest fire,
Worldly lust, raging furiously within.’
Mirabai was a princess who lived around the time of the mogul emperor Akbar. Mirabai was devoted to the worship of her beloved Krishna. Her family vehemently disapproved and eventually she was forced to lead the life of a wandering mendicant. Her fame became widespread and many came to listen to her beautiful bhajans. She composed many songs expressing her heartfelt longing for union with Krishna, whom she often referred to as Govinda.
“O my mind,
Worship the lotus feet of the Indestructible One!
Whatever thou seest twixt earth and sky
Will perish. “
“Though I am never loath to grant salvation,
I hesitate indeed to grant pure love.
Whoever wins pure love surpasses all;
He is adored by men;
He triumphs over the three worlds.. “
Sufism has its base in Islam. The great Sufi master Jaluddin Rumi was very knowledgeable about the Qu’ran it is also unlikely they had any knowledge of Bhakti yoga as practised by Hinduism. However through their poetry we can see that they had a powerful and absorbing love for the divine which is in the greatest tradition of Bhakti yoga.
For example Hafiz frequently wrote about his longing for his beloved using metaphorical language, which could be construed to be ordinary romantic language. Hafiz also frequently alluded to the divine bliss of communion with the Divine. He used terms such as ‘drunk with the wine of the beloved’. One reason for Hafiz using language such as this was that he needed to avoid prosecution from the religious authorities who disproved of Hafiz’ unorthodox religious behaviour.
This is an example of Hafiz poetry translation: Daniel Ladinsky.
The Subject tonight is Love
The subject tonight is Love
And for tomorrow night as well,
As a matter of fact
I know of no better topic
For us to discuss
Until we all
This is the kind of Friend
Without making me realize
My soul’s anguished history,
You slip into my house at night,
And while I am sleeping,
You silently carry off
All my suffering and sordid past
In Your beautiful
The tradition of bhakti Yoga can be seen in many of the Christian mystics who developed a close an intimate connection with The Christ. For example St Teresa of Avila came to feel she was the bride of Christ. Although her outer life was filled with many trials and tribulations she was sustained by her close inner connection to Christ. She wrote how she was given many divine spiritual experiences where she felt the ecstasy of attaining a oneness with the consciousness of Christ.
” What fears can yet assail thee now?
All that I fear is but lose thee.
Love’s whole possession I entreat,
Lor make my soul thine own abode,
And I will build a nest so sweet
It may not be too poor for God.”
- Indian Poets
- Hindu Poets