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April 26, 2020
April is a month for study of Bhakti Yoga. A bhakti yogi (bhakta) establishes a devotional relationship with God through study, prayer, ritual, and worship. As a bhakta, you practice giving every action, thought, emotion, perception and tendency “a Godward turn.” All your energies and attributes, both positive and negative, are offered to the Divine Presence. Your prayer is for the blissful self-surrender of a child in its Mother or Father’s arms, and ultimately, union with your Belovèd.
We — our entire planet, perhaps the universe itself — seem to be at the beginning of a major transformation. We cannot see far ahead. Experts — health care scientists, economists, political leaders, are not much help. They don’t have meaningful precedents for something like this. So what they offer are their best guesses, and sometimes conflicting day-to-day guidance.
In the face of such uncertainty, it would be easy to give way to fear, even panic or despair. Fortunately, as spiritual aspirants we have a powerful alternative — the yogas. Each month for the next four months we will take up what one of the yogas teaches us about how to live calmly and constructively during this great wave of change.
We’ll start with Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion. Sri Ramakrishna said, “Bhaktas accept all the states of consciousness. They take the waking state to be real also. They don’t think the world to be illusory, like a dream. They say that the universe is a manifestation of God’s power and glory. God has created all these — sky, stars, moon, sun, mountains, ocean, men, animals. They constitute His glory. He is within us, in our hearts. Again, He is outside …
“Do you know how a lover of God feels? His attitude is: ‘O God, Thou art the Master, and I am Thy servant. Thou art the Mother, and I am Thy child.’ Or again: ‘Thou art my Father and Mother. Thou art the Whole, and I am a part.’”
In this talk we explore what Ramakrishna is telling us, and discuss the refuge and solace a devotee finds, even in the most difficult circumstances, when the Master’s teachings are practiced, day in and day out.