As has often been stressed on the Living-Wise Project, (e.g. see article What Yoga is Really About), yoga is not merely a set of physical exercises or postures. Yoga, meaning union, refers to any action that unites us with Consciousness.
Many people may not be aware that there are four paths of yoga:
Raja yoga: is the path of knowledge and meditation
Karma yoga: is the path of selfless action (action without desire for the results)
Kriya yoga: is the path of internal action achieved through pranayama (breathing exercises) attempting to control life energies
Bhakti yoga: is the path of devotion
The 4 yogas are connected with, in the order listed above: mind, body, energy and emotion, the four physical aspects of ourselves.
It is said that Bhakti yoga, the path of love and devotion is the simplest. You have to do nothing. Except, of course, surrender. Which also happens to be the most difficut thing for us in modern society where surrender equates to giving up everything you have worked for and losing your identity to something unknown. Who would strike such a raw deal? Modern yogis with their admiration for science and logic, would prefer kriya yoga which sets out precise, formulaic breathing and meditation methods.
What Bhakti yoga, the easiest path requires is that we dissolve into the object of our devotion – whether it be a God, a tree, a snowflake. Only mad poets of ancient times can be considered capable of such things. Poets like Rumi who proclaimed:
Liberate my soul.
Fill me with your love and
release me from the two worlds.
If I set my heart on anything but you
let fire burn me from inside.
take away what I want.
Take away what I do.
Take away what I need.
Take away everything
that takes me from you.
Such heart-wrenching devotion, such an aching to dissolve.
In India, Mirabai, a 16th century mystic poet is known even today for her devotion to Lord Krishna. She was a princess who left her husband and royal life to spend her time with saints. She sang constantly about her love for Krishna.
I love the man who takes care
of cows. The cowherd.
Cowherd and dancer.
My eyes are drunk,
worn out from making love
with him. We are one.
I am now his dark color.
People notice me, point fingers at me.
They see my desire,
since I’m walking about like a lunatic.
I’m wiped out, gone.
Yet no one knows I live with my prince,
The palace can’t contain me.
I leave it behind.
I couldn’t care less about gossip
or my royal name.
I’ll be with him
in all his gardens.
Such mad abandon is hard to find in our world today. It’s like the world has lost something wonderful.
To this day, singers and poets in India find inspiration in Mirabai. A line from a modern day Hindi devotional song for Krishna goes:
“Who says God doesn’t come when you call?
It’s just that you don’t call Him like Mira did”
**See also, a brilliant video from Sadhguru here where he talks about how devotion is another form of intelligence and means being devoid of oneself.Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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