Bhakti Yoga

Definition - What does Bhakti Yoga mean?

Bhakti yoga is one of the main paths of yoga that a practitioner can follow on the path to self-realization and is the path most followed in India. The name comes from the Sanskrit root word bhaj, meaning "to adore or worship God." Thus, it is the path of love and devotion. Bhakti is sometimes described as “love for love’s sake.” It is also sometimes described as the yoga of the mind or intellect.

The concept of Bhakti yoga is described in the Hindu sacred texts, the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. It involves surrendering to the Divine or universal Consciousness, which is the inner Self.

Yogapedia explains Bhakti Yoga

The intention when practicing Bhakti yoga is to devote oneself to the Divine that is in everything and, thus, to realize the union of the individual Self with God. It is motivated by a love of God rather than a fear of negative repercussions or punishment and has been described as the sweetest of the yogic paths since it develops love and acceptance for all beings.

Some Bhakti yogis may worship a specific deity, while others may take the broader approach of devoting to the Divine in everything. In Hinduism, there are three main groups of Bhakti yogis who worship specific Gods:

  • Shaivists devote their worship to Shiva and his family.
  • Vaishnavists devote their worship to Vishnu and his avatars.
  • Shaktists devote their worship to devis such as Durga and Kali.

All three groups have absolute respect for the other groups and their gods while focusing on their own primary gods.

The Bhakti path of yoga is a path of the heart and practitioners may use chanting, devotional mantras, prayer, kirtan and rituals as part of their worship. Historically, this was a more accessible path for women and those from lower castes in Hindu society for whom the education required for more studious paths of yoga was not readily available.

It is said that achieving union with God through Bhakti yoga requires patience, determination, and absolute surrender and devotion to the path, not just a superficial attempt at worship.

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