Bhakti: the Yoga of the Heart
At this date in the 21st century, most people are now at least somewhat familiar with "yoga"... there are "yoga studios" in many cities and communities around the world. Most people, though, if asked about "yoga" would probably define it as a form of exercise and stretching... some others would say that it teaches meditation and perhaps also that it had its beginnings in ancient India...
To one degree or another, each of these answers would be true: but they would also, likewise, be false. For "yoga" truly means "to be in union with or bound to God": so exercise, stretching, meditation, and ancient India could all be part (or not) of the "binding"... There are two primary "source" books for yoga: the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita, both written perhaps two thousand years ago: summarizing teachings and practices that themselves stretched back many more thousands of years. Both emphasize the necessity of a transformation in our human consciousness through meditation, action, and devotion: with the ultimate realization being "I love you so very much", a mutuality of adoration in which the Holy One and the Lover engage in a sort of mix-and-match "play" of Love...
The Great Secret of all the World Scriptures, the Great Secret of Saints like Rumi, Hafiz, Lalla, Kabir, Francis, Hildegard, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Eckhart, Ramakrishna, Paramahansa Yogananda, Neem Karoli Baba, Anandamayi Ma, and Amma is precisely this "I love you so very much". The devotee of Yeshua the Poet of Nazareth, of Krishna, of Allah, of Kuan Yin, of Mother Mary... empties the mind and heart of the "little self" in a rush of Love, in interior adoration and surrender and praise, to be "caught up" in a moment, or a life, of ecstasy, abandon, and delight: evolving into the "new human" who is transformed into kindness, simplicity, service, harmlessness, and beauty: think of the hugs of Mother Amma, of Gandhi's toothless smile, of Dorothy's steady resistance, of the Dalai Lama's twinkling eye and gracious laugh... think of this path as "bhakti yoga"...
Bhakti: the Yoga of the Heart, is the essence of both yoga and "religion": it is not "religion" in the sense of a "creed" or a "profession of faith", but religion in the true sense of "practice" or transformation from one's little or "lesser" self into one's higher or "true" self. Bhakti means: the Lover adopts a focal-point for the heart: the Holy One as one's Sacred Beloved: help in this focus could be a teacher like Neem Karoli Baba or Mother Amma... or the Divine Mother... Christians on the path of Bhakti usually focus on Yeshua, Mother Mary, or a particular saint... Hindus will oftentimes focus on Radha-Krishna, Muslims on Allah, Taoists on Kuan Yin, Buddhists might choose "Green Tara"... but the essential point of light being "I love you so very much"! (I can hear the wild screams of dismay coming from the literalists of each faith: "There is only one way to God! And that is the way of... ...!" But truthfully, how many people must the literalists abuse, oppress, or kill before the rest of us say, "Enough already!" -- and simply stop drinking from their poisoned fountains and paying for their corruption?)
"I love you so very much" are the words that free-flow from the Holy One to the devotee, and from the devotee to the Holy One: until there is Only One voice, Only One "I love you so very much", and on and on, until there is Only One Love... this path of the heart is wild and untamed! Mystics rising up out of the market-place the world over is perhaps the single greatest fear of the world religions: if no one is left to buy their opinions and dogmas, what happens to their power? Humanity is on the cusp of conscious evolution: this leap upward / forward will first of all be a thing of the heart. Mystics of every age have responded to this pull upward / forward with a radicalization of their lives, an emptying of their hearts, and a new consciousness of adoration and simplicity: all still essential ingredients to transformation. Hand-in-hand with these practices are those that build new communities of friends and seekers: servants of One Love, and through mutual aid, support, and service uplift each other while also engaging the world around them in tranformational change.
The path of Bhakti: the Yoga of the Heart is one sample of the absolute passion with which the Holy One is engaged in the rEvolution of Now: through the activation of our passion and compassion, we can respond with the holy competition of "who can love more"! This is the dynamism that will shake us all loose from the shackles of predatory capitalism / consumerism, violence without end, and the raping of this precious blue Planet. It really is finally time to cut loose and make love to your partner like there is no tomorrow; to play with your children in total delight; to ask / give forgiveness; to drop every justification for violence; to recognize and practice gender equality; to open the doors of our hearts to include every 'other' in our will to love; and to, finally, build the Paradise that is possible upon this Earth. Bhakti yoga, the message of the Gita, of Yeshua, of the Divine Mother, of Allah, and of Every Glance of the Holy One is the Way to where we really want to go, and also the "welcome home" that we all hunger for more than anything else: "I love you so very much!"
"I have learned so much from God that I can no longer call myself
a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew.
The truth has shared so much of itself with me that I can longer
think of myself as a man, a woman, an angel, or even pure soul.
Existence has become so saturated with laughter it has freed me of every
concept and image a mind could ever war with." -- Hafiz
The Big Red Book, Coleman Barks translating Rumi
Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda
Living the Eternal Way, Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian
Chants of a Lifetime, Krishna Das
Be Love Now, Ram Dass
Be Here Now, Ram Dass
Love Poems From God, Daniel Ladinsky