EXCLUSIVENESS is the greatest feature of love. The very idea of recieving exclusive love makes our soul tingle. When love is made exclusive it makes it possible for the lover to love their beloved on the deepest level you can imagine, thus giving the word “love” it’s actual substance. The perfection of all yoga paths is to reach Samadhi; Samadhi means that the mind is always cent-per-cent in concentration on the supreme object of meditation.
Recently, some of my friends came back from Bhakti Fest 2010, which was held in Joshua Tree, CA. I really enjoyed hearing of their experiences. It’s so nice that people are finally coming in contact with many of the spiritual methodologies outlined in the traditional Vedic texts – the same ancient Vedic hymns which shout, “Shanti Shanti Shanti.” It means “Let there be peace for all living beings in the upper, middle, and lower worlds.”
I’m thankful for such an event, which can help lift modern materialistic American culture from the clutches of corporate slavery and the embarrassment of accepting our human existence as nothing more than a soul-less conglomeration of insentient chemicals firing in the brain. This conception we partly gain due to our exposing the same brain to mainstream media outlets and thus gleaning the doctrines of the latest avant-garde atheists of our time.
But, one thing boggles my mind completely!
First of all, it’s well known that Americans as a whole are cursed with the mentality of trying to get satisfaction for the lowest possible price. (Witness the success of fast-food and other similar industries.)
THE REALLY SAD THING TO ME IS….that many of the leaders of our recent bhakti trend teach a very perverted idea of what bhakti-yoga really is.
Unfortunately, because we often carry that same ‘fast-food-America’ mentality into spiritual life, we end up relegating spiritual practice to the category of hobbies and side interests so we can maximize our time for DEVOTION to some very un-spiritual and unnecessary materialistic activities.
Bhakti-yoga is a science like all other yoga paths. Hatha-yoga, for example, is not some whimsical practice where you can throw on a pair of spandex and act like you’re BKS Iyengar himself.
Some will say that bhakti is what you feel inside, it’s all your own opinion and path; no one can tell you what bhakti is for you; it’s you who have to define it, create it all by yourself, without the help of any dogmatic religious priests, books, or disciplinary guidelines.
Well, to that I say, if that’s your philosophy, then that rule should apply in the real world. Could that mentality fly in the real world of action and reaction? We should understand that Bhakti-yoga is an actual science like all other yoga paths. Hatha-yoga, for example, is not some whimsical practice where you can throw on a pair of spandex and act like you’re BKS Iyengar himself. Furthermore, in most states if you want to teach yoga you FIRST must be CERTIFIED. Is it not so?
What happens when you go to a hatha-yoga teacher who is not certified? You may break your back, pull a hamstring, or even worse.
So, you have to know who is qualified to be a teacher of that science. And bhakti-yoga is no less a science than hatha-yoga. In fact, it’s the most advanced science of all the yoga paths. It’s an ancient art, a spiritual craft in a league of its own. There are universal, time-tested, validated, scientific ways to cultivate that devotion within. But before you get there you have to have a basic road map of some kind.
EXACTLY WHO OR WHAT ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO BE DEVOTED TO WHEN YOU PRACTICE BHAKTI-YOGA, THE YOGA OF DEVOTION?
Is it to Shiva, Kali, Krishna, or none of them? Are they symbolic images, real higher living beings, or just mythological symbols we use to access greater aspects of our own self through meditation?
Well, you can begin to see what I mean.
Again, we should know that there are actually very detailed road maps that show the bhakti path, and there are also universities (ashramas), professors (gurus), and textbooks (ancient Sanskrit manuscripts) to guide us on the way.
But again, if you want cheap fast food instead of the real thing, then unfortunately that is what you’re going to end up with: a cheap, watered-down version of the real thing.
I’m not a fighter, I’m a lover, but I will fight for what I love, and it’s gonna be for the truest and purest definition of love.
Now regardless who your teacher is (your guru), or regardless how you are feeling today, we can all agree on one thing. Bhakti is supposed to be the ultimate expression of love of the soul. IT IS CALLED “THE YOGA OF DIVINE LOVE”. Now, I don’t think too many people will disagree with this interpretation of the Sanskrit word bhakti.
All I know is that when I looked up a particular famous Kirtan singer’s webpage and read what his philosophy of life is and what he taught his fans, it clearly said that it is the path of bhakti-yoga. Okay, fair enough. So, when I looked up this one main headliner at the BHAKTI FEST, it stated that though he teaches bhakti-yoga he is also initiated into a sect of Buddhism in India. Furthermore, he claims that his teacher appointed him as the leader of a temple of the Hindu Goddess Durga, and moreover he quotes the Bhagavad-gita, a book containing the teachings of Sri Krishna, in such a way that you would assume he fully abides by it.
Now once again, I don’t hate, but I have a brain and an intellect, and they tell me that many things are amiss in this picture. Let’s see if you agree.
First of all, Orthodox Buddhism teaches “anatma,” which is a philosophy that says we don’t have a soul and that we’re just a mind reincarnating. The goal of this path is to end one’s personal existence by stopping all thought and merging into what is called Nirvana — the big, black, empty void. This is a doctrine completely different from that of Durga worship, which is rooted in the Advaita school of thought. This school teaches that we’re not matter but spirit and that this spirit is undivided, although it appears to be divided into individual persons, whom we see as each other in this world. Then there is the Bhagavad-gita philosophy, which clearly teaches that the Supreme Truth is a Personal God, Krishna, who is the origin of all things material and spiritual, and that the perfection of all yoga systems is to constantly remember Him in devotion through bhakti-yoga. To follow this path properly one should, as Krishna says, “give up all other dharmas, or methods of worship, and take exclusive shelter of Me in devotion.”
The Bhagavad-gita is the main text of the bhakti school, which teaches that God is an individual person, as are we, but that He is in the supreme position as the controller and origin of all that be. In other words, it wouldn’t make sense for someone who truly accepts the Gita’s teachings to take a break from this path and worship Durga or any other god or goddess or object. If you truly accept what the Gita is saying – that Krishna is the origin of all things and that all things are emanating from Him and contained within Him – what would be the point of worshiping any other person or object?
So if you do sometimes worship someone or something else, that proves that underneath all your external public display of heartfelt “bhakti” you don’t really think that Krishna is the supreme goal of meditation. In other words, you don’t really accept as true Krishna’s teachings in the Bhagavad-gita. Right?
How can a person follow all three extremely contradictory spiritual paths simultaneously? This unfortunately sounds to me like a most bogus kind of “bhakti”. It’s like a guy offering “respect” to a priest by touching his foot with one hand while beating him over the head with a shoe held in the other hand! Following the teachings of a voidist path like Buddhism or an impersonal path like advaitism while trying to cultivate devotion to a personal Supreme Truth through a theistic path like bhakti is like trying to start a fire while simultaneously pouring water on it. It just doesn’t work. In other words, there can be no real bhakti potency in such chanting of mantras. It must be a farce.
“If you are married to a person and you tell that person “I love you. My love is completely devoted to you” and then you are constantly calling another person, talking about them, singing to them, how do you think your spouse is going to feel?”
Maybe you think that one who is advanced spiritually can see the divine in all things. But then again, what is your position: is there a soul, or isn’t there one? Do you devote your being to Durga, or do you actually worship Krishna/Vishnu? Which is it? Shouldn’t we want to know?
What is the meaning of a guru’s giving you a name such as Govinda Das if you regularly chant the name of Durga or Kali? It’s as if I’m married to a woman named Patty but I’m always calling Sherry on the phone. Are you really devoted to the person whose name you’re calling out repeatedly? Or do you do so solely for entertainment purposes and recognition?!
Someone may argue that if you love God then do you not love everything and everyone? Sure, but what would be the point of bhakti-yoga practice unless you’re trying to direct all your love and action to watering the root? Unless you’re trying to give it all back to God, the place where it all comes from? And if we can chant any name, then why do I have to go to a yoga studio and try to bend up like a pretzel and look all spiritual, when I can just chant my girlfriend’s name in the back of my Cadillac on Mount Solidad and make profuse amounts of “love” and call it “divine bhakti.”
In other words, what is the actual substance of bhakti that makes it bhakti? We should understand this science and investigate ALL of these different philosophical doctrines. We should continue to go deeper and deeper in the ocean of knowledge of life and reject obvious contradictions and misinterpretations of those doctrines. We should not follow anything blindly. Question Everything; Know for yourself.
Anyways, it’s clear to me that spiritual prostitution exists. And it’s a fact that there are these modern kirtan gurus popping up who will prostitute themselves philosophically to gain access to a greater demographic of consumers, and you should know that they are alive and doing well, very well.
If you are married to a person and you tell that person “I love you. My love is completely devoted to you.” and then you are constantly calling another person, talking about them, singing to them, how do you think your spouse is going to feel?
In conclusion, real love is exclusive. “Love” that is not exclusive is prostitution — it’s not love at all. This kind of “love” is self-serving and cannot truly satisfy the self. If you think that sex with multiple partners is an advanced form of bhakti-yoga, then you’re not even on the spiritual path at all, because the spiritual path means knowing that you are not the body made of flesh and blood but that we should actually endeavor to realize and nourish the eternal spirit within. This is not a criticism of the search for genuine love; it’s just a criticism of the modern materialistic mindset of making the most valuable things in life cheap and simulated.
May all those sincere seekers who wish to experience the true depth of the heart of the bhakti-yoga science find such guidance and shelter in the teachings of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who taught the complete science of bhakti and wrote it all down in numerous books, especially The Nectar of Devotion. (See www.nectarofdevotion.com)