Commentary by Siddha Yoga Meditation Teacher Laura Dickinson
Devotion connotes the qualities of deep reverence and divine worship, of inner faith and outer practice.1 In Sanskrit, the word for devotion is bhakti, and the eminent Vedic sage Narada dedicated an entire scripture, the Narada Bhakti Sutra, to the topic. Narada defines bhakti as “the highest form of love,” by which he means love for God.2 This kind of pure love unfolds naturally and spontaneously as you progress on the spiritual path.
Every seeker of the Truth has the innate ability to encounter the reservoir of bhakti within themself, because the very desire to perform spiritual practices is itself bhakti. As you engage in the spiritual practices, bhakti manifests as a feeling that may take on many flavors and forms: a state of profound peace that arises within; a nectarean sweetness that suffuses every fiber of your being; a blissful energy that bursts forth from your heart.
Bhakti is also a practice in itself. A commentary on Shri Bhagavad Gita by the thirteenth-century philosopher and sage Jnaneshvar Maharaj unlocks the mystery of devotional practice with poetic precision, opening a pathway for the seeker who wants to nurture bhakti.
Jnaneshvar Maharaj writes:
कां चैतन्त्याचिये पोवळी - | माजीं आनंदाचां राउळीं |
गुरुलिंगा ढाळी | ध्यानामृत || १८६ ||
उदयिजतां बोधार्का | बुद्धीची डाल सात्त्विका |
भरोनि त्र्यंबका | लाखोली वाहे || १८७ ||
kā caitanyāciye povaḷī, mājī ānandātsā rāuḷī,
gurulingā ḍhāḷī, dhyānāmṛta.
udiyizatā bodhārkā, buddhīci ḍāla sātvikā,
bharoni tryambakā, lākholī vāhe.
Within the temple of the bliss of the Self, [the seeker] installs the
image of his Guru and pours over it the nectar of meditation. When
the sun of the awareness of Brahman dawns, he fills the basket of his
intelligence with pure feeling and offers the flowers of his feeling to
Shankar in the form of his Guru.3
In this account, the seeker rests in the perception of his heart as a temple and meditates, visualizing his Guru. The inner image he calls forth evokes an attitude of devotion. As that devotional love builds, he treats it as a sacred gift that he offers back to the Guru. He holds the awareness that the Guru is Shankar, a name for the Lord. As the seeker paints this inner scene, bhakti awakens within him.
You can also practice devotion by inwardly focusing your attention on an aspect of God’s creation. For example, you might summon up an image of nature, such as a stately mountain, a majestic tree, or a serene lake. By turning your attention to these forms with the awareness of their intrinsic divinity, love for God can emerge in the intimate space of your own heart.
Gurumayi explains the great power of bhakti in her book The Yoga of Discipline. She says:
Devotion to God is much more than a feeling. Through your devotion, God comes alive for you. Through your devotion, you also invite the one you worship into your body, into your mind, into your life. The formless takes on a form that you can relate to.4
As you bring the object of worship into yourself, an inner alchemy takes place. Kundalini Shakti, the spiritual power or energy, builds within you, and you begin to acquire the very qualities of that which you are worshiping. By acknowledging the blossoming of devotion within you, you nourish a deep feeling of love for God, and in the process, God comes to life for you.