Bhakti yoga is one of the main yoga paths that can lead you to full awareness of your true nature. It is the path of devotion that is based on the service to God. The path of Bhakti yoga allows us to use all of our senses, emotions, and actions to express love in our daily interactions and offer it to God. This path involves total dedication and surrender.
In this article, I will introduce you to Bhakti yoga and its 9 principles following which will help you to live a heart-centered life.
What Is Bhakti Yoga?
The Sanskrit word bhakti comes from the root bhaj, which can be translated as “selfless service” or “devotion”. Bhakti yoga is often described as “love for love’s sake” and “union through love and devotion.” This yoga path is the path to self-realization, to having an experience of oneness with everything through reconnection with the Divine forces.
Religion sees the manifestation of love for God through strict submission to his higher powers, because (according to almost any religion) God is wiser and more enlightened than any representative of humanity. In Christianity, the highest spiritual knowledge was possessed by Jesus; in Judaism – by Moses, in Islam – by Muhammad. Bhakti yoga has a different approach: there is no need to be afraid of God because God is the highest intelligence that understands and loves everything and everyone. And anyone can communicate with God through unconditional love, kindness, and gratitude.
Thus, we can say that Bhakti yoga is a spiritual path of divine love mysticism, that focuses on an intimate understanding of oneness and harmony of the eternal individual with the Divine and all creatures, is a constant delight. This is the yoga of a personal relationship with God.
As you tap into universal love, you naturally develop a sense of trust that this benevolent, wise universe provides everything you need. This understanding helps you relax so that you can’t help but generate positive energy for others.
9 Principles Of Bhakti Yoga
One can attain clear and pure love to God through the nine principles of Bhakti yoga.
Principle #1: Sravana
This is the Sanskrit term for listening to sacred texts, sincere praise to God, poems, or stories about God’s virtues and mighty deeds. This principle cannot be practiced in isolation. The devotee must hear the stories from a wise teacher and seek the companionship of holy people.
Sravana is the first and obligatory principle of devotional service that cannot be circumvented. If one does not listen to the descriptions of God, one cannot clearly understand the other methods of devotional service.
This principle teaches us to turn our spiritual practice into sound. It teaches us listening and understanding of what we hear.
The person who demonstrated how this principle works is Maharaja Pariksit. He listened to Srimad Bhagavatam for seven days and attained transcendental realization through practicing the Sravana principle.
Principle #2: Kirtana
This principle refers to the singing or chanting of God’s praises. This is what Ram Dass said about this principle, “When you are in love with God, the very sound of the Name brings great joy.”
Kirtana is considered the main principle that should be practiced in Kali Yuga. However, it is impossible to practice Kirtana without Sravana, since these two principles are related. We can imagine Sravana as the inhale and Kirtana – as the exhale. Exhaling is impossible without inhaling.
The person who demonstrated how this principle works is Sukadeva Goswami. He recited Srimad Bhagawatam and achieved perfection by practicing the Kirtana principle.
Principle #3: Smarana
This principle refers to remembrance of God at all times, or keeping God in the forefront of your consciousness. In Christian terms, Smarana is what the French monk Brother Lawrence meant by “the practice of the presence of God.”
Smarana is a natural result of the Shravana and Kirtanam principles practice.
Smarana requires regular meditations. Therefore, it is very important to learn proper meditation in order to practice Bhakti yoga principles.
A person who has attained perfection through the Smarana method is Prahlada Maharaja.
Principle #4: Padasevana
Padasevana is gaining the opportunity to serve God, after mastering the previous three principles. This Bhakti yoga principle expresses love toward God through service to others.
Lakshmi Devi was the one who demonstrated how this principle works.
Principle #5: Archana
This Bhakti yoga principle refers to the worship of God through such external images as icons or religious pictures or through internal visualizations. The purpose of Archana is to purify the heart through the love of God.
Worshiping takes place under the guidance of the guru and in accordance with the instructions of the Pancharatra.
Prithu Maharaja was the one who demonstrated how this principle works. By performing austerities Prithu became steadfast in spiritual life, worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead 24 hours a day. In due course of time, Prithu Maharaja was able to fix his mind firmly upon the lotus feet of Krishna. Practicing the mystic yoga system, he raised his soul to the top of his skull.
Principle #6: Vandana
This Bhakti principle refers to prayer and prostration (lying face down on the ground with arms outstretched). Vandana is intended to curb self-absorption and self-centeredness through prayers and worship of God with love and devotion.
Akrura was the one who demonstrated how this principle works.
Principle #7: Dasya
This principle focuses on becoming God’s tool by opening yourself to God. In order to do this, you need to meditate on the words of God, caring for people, and helping to clean or repair sacred buildings or places.
By practicing Dasya, you dedicate your every action to God. Your life becomes a service to God, planet, and humanity.
Hanuman was the one who demonstrated how this principle works. A characteristic feature of his dasya bhava (devotional mood to serve) for the Lord, as mentioned in the Hanuman Chalisa, is his keenness in working for Rama.
Principle #8: Sakha-bhava
This Bhakti principle is the attitude of a friend, looking at the master as your friend, and delight in companionship with God
Sakha-bhava is the discovery of deep and sincere feelings for God, based on a friendly attitude and a transition to a higher spiritual level.
Arjuna was the one who demonstrated how this principle works. Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures praise Arjuna for his close relationship with Krishna. Not only is Arjuna known as Krishna’s friend, but Krishna is known as Arjuna’s friend. In Bhagavad Gita (9.29) Krishna tells Arjuna, “I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.”
Principle #9: Atma-nivedana
This principle focuses on the complete self-offering or self-surrender to God.
Bali Maharaja was the one who demonstrated how this principle works. He did not do anything extraordinary. He simply gave to Krishna whatever he possessed. By giving to God, by serving God, by loving God, nobody is a loser, everyone is a gainer. So therefore we should immerse ourselves in this process.
How To Practice Bhakti In Daily Life?
If you are a beginner on the path of Bhakti Yoga and don’t know what to start your practice with, try to simply keep your focus on Divine love no matter what you’re doing.
However, you should keep in mind that Divine love is different from human love. Human love tends to be grasping and self-serving, whereas Divine love is selfless and giving.
Start with transforming the relationships in your life by offering whatever you do as service to the Divine Light within them. In this way, you deepen your spiritual connection to your own inner light.
The Bhakti Sutras say that by cultivating and deepening virtues, such as non-harming, truthfulness, purity, compassion, faith, and humility, in our worldly relationships, we refine them and make them more harmonious, so they become a clearer reflection of the Divine.
If this is still too much for you, start with simply treating others the way you would like to be treated. When you see that someone is having a hard day, offer to help, say a prayer, or just listen with an open and compassionate heart.
Put some extra love into your relationships with others. Heal and nurture your spiritual connection with others. If someone has hurt you or upset you, try to see the situation through the eyes of this person and offer your forgiveness silently. Learn how to accept the apologies that you’ve never received and forgive people with an open heart.
Find your own ways to serve your family, friends, and community. Let it be natural and spontaneous. Let all your actions be inspired by love, reverence, and devotion.