Practicing Bhakti Yoga

How to be a devotee of Krishna

Bhakti means to offer with love and devotion anything one does in life to God.

Yoga is more than just a physical exercise. The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root Yuj which means to link up with, or combine. Bhakti is derived from the Sanskrit word bhaj, which means – loving service. Bhakti-yoga means to connect to the Supreme by means of loving devotional service.

Bhakti means love of God or, as Srila Prabhupada would often translate the word, pure devotional service to God. (The Sanskrit root of the word bhakti is bhaj, which means “loving service.”) Bhakti is the essence of the eternal relationship we souls have with Krishna. In material existence, our Bhakti is covered by our material consciousness and misdirected away from Krishna and toward the temporary things of this world.

The Bhagavad Gita, describes variety of yoga practices. Among them are karma-yoga (the practice of conscious action), jnana-yoga (philosophical study and contemplation), and hatha-yoga (the practice of yoga-asanas and breathing exercises).

Therefore we are never fully satisfied. We can awaken our natural Bhakti by practicing Bhakti. In other words, we can awaken our love for Krishna by performing acts of love for Him.

Today, some yoga practitioners consider the physical benefits of yoga to be the end in themselves. But according to the traditional yoga systems, physical exercises are just one step on path of God realization. The Gita ultimately prescribes bhakti-yoga (the path of dedication and love) as the culmination of other yoga practices. Bhakti-yoga focuses on developing our dedication, service and love for the Divinity, Lord Krishna.

Mantra mediation is one of the key practices of a bhakti yogi. This is done through japa (quiet chanting on beads) and kirtan (musical chanting in groups). Our connection and relationship with Krishna is developed through the chanting of the maha mantra. The chanting cleanses the heart, calms the mind, and inspires a life of purpose and meaning.

The path of bhakti-yoga is developed through a variety of activities. These include mantra meditation, or the chanting of the names of God. The chanting is done either individually on beads (japa) or in community by chanting mantras accompanied by music (kirtan). The study of sacred texts such as the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, associating with like-minded spiritual aspirants, eating sanctified vegetarian food, and living in a way that upholds the principles of truthfulness, mercy, austerity, and cleanliness, are all core practices for a life of follower of bhakti.