Bhakti Yoga: Devotion and Love to warm our hearts

Our theme for February is Bhakti Yoga.  According to the Narada Bhakti Sutras, bhakti or an “intense love for God”, is a deep yearning to experience love in its purest form, uniting with that which is eternal and unchanging.  In February as things start to feel most cold and barren outside, we can draw inward and create warmth through this practice of acting with intentional love and devotion.   While a traditional Bhakti path includes many rituals of devotion such as chanting, meditation  and prayer the “heart” of Bhakti (Pun intended 😉 goes deeper than these external actions.  It requires a dedication and surrender of everything we do in our daily lives as acts of worship.  So How do we do this as modern practitioners?   The Bhakti Sutras explain that Bhakti yoga is both the means and the end: aparabhakti, or lower bhakti, is the way to cultivate and deepen devotion, and parabhakti, or higher bhakti, is union with the Divine—the ultimate goal. One of the easiest ways to understand the path of bhakti and expand our devotional attitude is to come back to a most basic rule we learned as children, and treat others the way we would like to be treated.  The  Brihadaranyaka Upanishad states that we do not really love others for their own sake but rather for the Divine Self that resides in them.  So we can use each and every relationship and encounter to really  practice Bhakti.  This is a highly accessible practice in a city such as New York where we have soo many opportunities for interaction.  Holding Doors and smiling at babies and strangers is not just polite but can be a gateway into the Bhakti Practice if we intentionally seek to brighten someones day with love.  And in the more difficult moments and relationships, can we keep in mind that age-old quote “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”  ? When the subway is crowded with seemingly angry people who refuse to move, or your boss is driving you crazy, can you see the divine in them?   When you see that someone is having a hard day, can you take the time to listen and perhaps offer your help or support? We hope to have many opportunities to practice seeing the divine in each and every one of you this month.