The History of Bhakti Yoga

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The History of Bhakti Yoga

bhakti yogaBy Kimaya Singh 

Bhakti Yoga is the practice of spiritual devotion in a variety of forms. The goal of Bhakti Yoga practices is for the Yoga practitioner to attain oneness with the divine. Truly following the path of Bhakti Yoga can lift you into the very heart of God. As your inner being becomes purified of negativity, your divine vision and awareness will unfold and expand. Through the practices of Bhakti Yoga, a Yogi or Yogini has the opportunity to obtain the divine state of grace and liberation as embodied by his or her Guru or chosen deity.

One of the core aspects of Bhakti Yoga is the direct, personal experience of God. The various practices of Bhakti Yoga that are delineated in the Bhagavate Purana and the Bhagavad Gita are aimed at imbuing the divine state of vibratory grace into the very core of the devotee or Yoga practitioner. Bhakti Yoga practices became quite popular between 600-900 CE in Southern India with the explanations of divine experiences by the Vaisnava Alvars.

Bhakti Yoga continued to spread throughout India from 900 CE through the 1800s as many poet-saints traveled throughout the countryside singing the praises of their Gurus and sacred deities. These poet-saints were enraptured by the divine bliss pulsating throughout their beings. They were deeply grateful for the ability of their own Gurus for immersing them into the inner realization of God within their own hearts. The love of a personal Guru is known in Hinduism as Svayam Bhagavan. This concept is one of the primary pillars of Bhakti Yoga practices.

Historically, one of the very first references to bhakti is found in a sutra written by Panini in 500 BCE. The Bhagavad Gita is one of the core teaching stories of Hinduism. In the Bhagavad Gita, the term “bhakti” is referred to as a particular spiritual path. Some years later, the Bhagavata Purana expanded on the general concept of bhakti and described the Bhakti Yoga path as consisting of eight distinct aspects or qualities. The Shvetashvatara Upanishad further developed the concept of Bhakti Yoga within the context of a path of awakaning guided by the great Hindu deity, Shiva. This path is known as Shiva-bhakti, and it elucidates the different qualaties of the love for one’s Guru.

In Hinduism, there are also feeling states known as bhavas. Different devotees have unique temperments and personalities that creates tendencies towards a certian connection with their Guru or chosen deity. The different aspects of bhakti or devotional love range from the love of a mother to a child, the love of a romantic partner, the love of a friend and the love of a dedicated servant for his or her master. Ultimately, these different types of devotion are all seen as spokes on the hub of a wheel that lead to the same goal, oneness with God, through the sustained and dedicated practice of Bhakti Yoga.

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