Bhakti Yoga, the Path of Union with God through Devotion
A Talk By Mirabai Devi
This is the most direct path to God, the most direct path to union with the Self. Bhakti means devotion, and devotion takes place in the heart. When the heart unifies with god, then the being comes home. The being can only unify with God when the mind is totally pure. The path of Bhakti Yoga is a path of purifying the mind. At the other talks we have spoken about karma yoga or service. Reaching union with the self or the Divine happens through service. Work as worship and practising our daily activity as worship to God, so that every action that we take is surrendered to God. Now we move into a different aspect, that is the path of devotion. It is a very great honour to talk about this, this union, because this is really my path and my own individual experience.
Spiritual aspiration or longing for God is the highest quality to have on the spiritual path. If it is there, it is a very great blessing. People have desire for material things, desire for relationships, success, abundance, all those desires come very naturally. A pure longing for God, or a pure desire for union with God is the rarest quality to have, it is like a gem. It is something that we should cultivate.
I would like to tell you a story of how I got my name. My name, Mirabai, comes from an 16th century Rajastani princess who was married to a handsome prince. She had a beautiful palace, much wealth and many riches. Since she was a child she was completely in love with Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna is the aspect of God in the Hindu deities that is symbolised with a peacock and playing the flute. Lord Krishna is known as the symbol of the universal self, the embodiment of pure, unconditional love. He is known as the lover. Ever since Mirabai was a child, she would worship the picture of Lord Krishna and dance and sing to Lord Krishna and go into ecstatic trance states, which are known as Samadhi. Samadhi is a trance like union with the Divine. She would sing and dance to Lord Krishna until she would be in trance state, where Lord Krishna would appear to her. All she wanted, was to say Lord Krishna’s name and worship Lord Krishna.
One day her family and husband thought that she was crazy and she had to decide if she wanted Lord Krishna or whether she was going to have a normal life, be a regular wife, a regular daughter and a regular princess. They put a lot of pressure on her to drop her spiritual life and her spiritual madness. Mirabai left the palace, her husband, her wealth and travelled all over India and hundreds of thousands of poor people followed her. She would dance and sing in ecstasy and compose poems and love songs to Lord Krishna. She had no care for her palace and no care for her possessions, she lived for Lord Krishna. It is said today that Mirabai was an incarnation of the goddess Radha. Radha is the spiritual partner of Lord Krishna. If Lord Krishna is represented as the lover, then Radha, who is Krishna’s consort, is represented as longing, pure longing. All Mirabai did was long for Krishna. It is said that you cannot have love without longing, and you cannot have longing without love. Love is the fulfilment of longing. Isn’t that beautiful.
So you want to invoke that quality of Radha, of Mirabai, that quality of pure devotion to God, Bhakti, the heart. We do everything for the sake of the heart, when we move onto the path of the heart, we no longer listen to the mind. We no longer get caught up in impure thoughts and impure actions. We constantly offer all of our thoughts and actions so that our minds become purified, so that we can move into a state of selfless service, so that we can surrender to God, serve God and long for God. The state of longing moves into a state of union, ultimately longing must turn to union. In period of darkness, when we feel absent of the light, that is very often when we feel the longing for God. Often life provides us with knocks and bumps and circumstances to remember that we have to turn to God, to that Divine power for help.
That is where humility comes in. When things are going well along the path, things are going very easy and we are feeling very much in control and strong. That is when we often forget about the Divine and the ego takes control and we start to think ‘I am so great, so wonderful, I don’t need anything else’ that is when life, nature comes along and gives us a slap and wakes us up. Things then fall apart in our life and we go back on our knees and we remember, ‘I know nothing’. That is why they say on the spiritual path ‘the more that you think you know, the less you know, the less you realise you know, the more you do’. That is moving out of the mind. The mind is associated with doing, the heart is associated with being. We are so busy doing, and doing-ness is associated with the ego, unless it is service work that is dedicated to the Divine and we surrender the fruits of our actions.