Have you ever wondered which spiritual path of yoga is right for you? If you are devotional, should you pursue Bhakti Yoga? What is the best way to recognize our path?
We start where we are. We pay attention to our soul yearning and to our nature. Remember that Life itself is the spiritual path. Everyone is traveling this path—whether they realize it or not and whether they have landed on a particular path or not. Fortunately, yoga teachings offer us many ways to make that journey in harmony with our individual nature.
Bhakti Yoga is One of the Four Yogic Paths
Some seekers are inclined toward Jnana Yoga or the way of wisdom. They lead with their intellect and power of clarified discernment to investigate the nature of Reality and discover the essential Self. Others prefer a systematic approach to meditation and spiritually conscious living. They choose the path of Raja Yoga and follow a step-by-step approach to purifying the mind and experiencing higher states of consciousness. Then there are the seekers of truth and lovers of God. They are drawn to the way of devotion, or Bhakti Yoga. The fourth path of classical yoga is Karma Yoga or the practice of selfless service. Karma Yoga may be the principal path for a seeker with an active, serviceful nature.
We are multifaceted beings. All the inclinations that fuel each of those seemingly separate paths are part of our make-up. We tend to lead with one facet of our nature but discover and more fully integrate the others as we mature. Thus the truly wise seer becomes a lover of God or truth, and the realized lover of God becomes a knower of wisdom.
Think of it this way. We travel the inner journey of the spiritual path like mountain climbers seeking the summit of Self- and God-realization—a majestic vista in consciousness that will transform our way of living. Like an earthly mountain, there are many pathways one can follow in ascending, but only one summit. There are myriad ways for us to awaken to Reality, but that Reality is One. And it turns out that those ways are actually not as different as they seem, nor are they mutually exclusive. After all, they meet at the summit of realization and subsequently inform a life of selfless service. Once we wake up, beholding and serving the One in all is the only option and joy of living.
How to Practice Bhakti Yoga
The mystic poet Kabir said: “It’s the yearning that does all the work.” The primary discipline of the spiritual life is to let ourselves be drawn by the soul’s natural love for what is life-giving. In other words, to fall in love with our life.
Many students have asked me how to develop bhakti or divine love. I offer the best advice I know—love your life because God is your life. Since the goal of yoga is the realization of the One Reality, it makes perfect sense to start right where we are.
Whole-hearted spiritual devotion helps us realize that in the play of life with its diverse manifestations, there is truly only One with whom we relate—one Spirit, one Consciousness operating behind Its many guises. Bhakti Yoga is a consistent life practice or orientation for remembering and honoring the One. This may be done through various methods that open the heart--worship rituals, devotional chanting, reverence toward one’s guru or spiritual teacher, or reliance on divine grace. Above all, it is a method for sanctifying all that we do. We love and serve the One in all.
When we practice devotion, when the mind returns to thoughts of God during activity, we begin to see something that we have missed before. We notice a shimmering beauty—a vibrant presence transforming the dull grays of a mundane existence into the colors of joy.