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Thursday, May 7, 2020

Practicing Bhakti

By Abhijeet Kislay

Using just the power of thought, if a person tries to distance oneself from one’s body and mind via the sheer power of “Not This, Not This,” and remains established as “That” -- This is the process of the Jnani. Unless a real experience happens where that person sees themselves completely separated from the body-mind, this step generally ends up in farce intellectualism or a plain white lie. Though from the outside, that person thumps their fist and says that “I am That,” if it is not a reality within, it is best categorized as an attempt or worse, hypocrisy. Time and again spiritual teachers have cautioned seekers about this.

Now it is widely understood that directly using the above method of a Jnani is not easy, as most of us lack proper qualifications in the starting. Another method more natural and easy that is prescribed freely for the same end-result is the path of Bhakti. That very Brahman, that the seeker was so adamant earlier to seek an identity unto immediately, is now seen as a separate entity as the Eternal, the Pure, the Ever-Free, the Almighty Ishvara whose own nature is inexpressible Love.

The next question that arises then is: Are there then two Gods -- the “Not this Not this,” the Existence-Knowledge-Bliss of the philosopher, and this God of Love of the bhakta? 

Swami Vivekananda explains in the book Bhakti Yoga that it is the same Sat-Chit-Ananda who is also the God of Love. That there is no distinction between the impersonal and the personal aspect of the Divine. The impersonal aspect, Brahman is too much of an abstraction to be loved and worshipped. So the bhakta chooses the relative aspect of Brahman, that is Ishvara, the Supreme Ruler. 

Thus Swamiji explains that Ishvara is the highest manifestation of the Absolute Reality that the human mind can think of. He insists, however, that these dry reasonings are only needed at the beginning to strengthen the will of a seeker in the early stages. Once the seeker starts treading on this path and sincerely practices devotion to his/her chosen Ideal, it very soon leads him beyond the hazy and turbulent regions of reason and leads him to the realm of realization. He mentions that soon enough, through the mercy of the Lord, the bhakta reaches a state where dry reasoning is left far behind. The bhakta no more gets stirred up with pedantic and powerless reasoning and intellectual groping. Rather the bhakta starts tasting the enjoyment of direct perception. He no more reasons and believes, he almost perceives!

It can be seen that the path of Bhakti is more natural compared to the path of the Jnana. While Jnana puts forward many qualifications for an adhikari (qualified) at the start, which befuddles many of us, Bhakti doesn’t have any such qualifications. As the love for the chosen Ideal increases over time, the bhakta naturally starts attaining qualifications necessary for realizing the Ultimate Truth. Thus we see how Bhakti essentially readies us naturally for the breakthrough that we have been desiring all this time long. 

This simple explanation by Swamiji gives us a clear direction on how a seeker can develop a natural love for the Divine in terms of their Istha and tread forward towards the Ultimate Truth that the Jnana Yoga promises us.

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