The Yoga of Love -- Light and Sound on the Path -- Newsletter of Spiritual Quotes & Sant Mat Satsang Discourses
by James Bean
Bhakti Yoga according to the Dictionary of Mysticism is "the yoga of love, the quest of union with the Divine Spirit through Bhakti-marga (the path of love and devotion)." (Frank Gaynor, Philosophical Library) Bhakti is a Sanskrit word for love and devotion, and love is the quintessential truth of all religion, spirituality and mysticism. In the New Testament, Saint Paul said that "love is the most excellent way." The Bhagavad Gita and the other world scriptures say the same thing. The mystic-lovers of history have taught that "God is an infinite Ocean of Love and each soul is a drop from that Ocean." By approaching simran/zikhr/manas jap (a spiritual exercise of repeating God's Name or Names, mantra), prayer, the singing of hymns or meditation with an attitude of love and devotion (prem and bhakti), we elevate our consciousness; the practice of love brings us into harmony with the Supreme Being, our own true nature, and with everyone else. "Even as the sun shines and fills all space with light, so shines the Lord of Love and fills the hearts of all created beings." (The Upanishads, Eknath Easwaran) I very much suspect people are drawn to the poetry of Rumi because he may be for some a connection to this rare and lesser-known Eastern mystical approach of Divine romance, the Way of the Lover and the Beloved!
Bhakti is an Indian term for the religion of love; it is heart-centered, focused on the cultivation of love between the soul and the Oversoul, between lover and the Beloved. India's Nirguna Bhakti Saints and devotees (bhaktas) are madly in love with God; their relationship with the Supreme Being is that of Divine romance! The 16th century mystic and Sant Mira Bai said:
"To the Lord's abode I will go,
According to Saint Tulsi Das there are several modes of Bhakti practice. One major practice is called Satsang -- the society of realized Saints. Satsang means "association with Eternal Truth" as well as "association with God," and is to some extent comparable to "church" or "temple," but not in any institutional sense. A saying of Jesus in the New Testament provides us with a great definition of Satsang: "Where two or three are gathered in My Name, I am there in their midst." When devotees or initiates of a Saint sit together for instruction, worship and meditation, the Masters teach that there's a great spiritual energy or charge present, a stronger manifestation of the loving Presence of God and a kind of "communion of Saints," past and present.
Satsang is also an experience of spiritual community, an opportunity to be uplifted by the collective energy of our brothers and sisters on the Path, for we're influenced by the company we keep! Devotees make this a time and place of spiritual Remembrance, and this helps to keep us on the Path. Mira Bai has said:
"In minutes, Satsang will lead to
The format of Satsang meetings can include: a spiritual discourse, instruction on putting the Path into practice, a Master giving a talk (or recording of such), readings from the writings of various Masters or Mystics, the reciting or singing of banis, bhajans or kirtans (hymns of worship composed by Saints), and silent group meditation. It's considered the greatest of blessings if it is a Master who conducts the Satsang in person.
Repeating a Name (or Names) of God with love and devotion, called in the east "Simran", "Manas Jap", or "Zikhr," is one of the key spiritual exercises used to cultivate love for God and to invoke the Positive Power in our daily lives, making it possible to live a life of love. This is usually done mentally, as a mental repetition of a Name of God done during meditation, this practice is done during available moments throughout the day and night as a way to remember God all the time. Says Sant Tukarama:
"Such is God's Name
One absorbed in the Lord's Name, O Tuka,
This spiritual exercise of repeating God's Name helps to uplift our day, to bring some of the heaven and bliss of meditation into our down-to-earth daily experience, and is a way to remember in a world of forgetfulness, to remain awake in a world of spiritual slumber, to abide in Truth, no longer dominated by the forces of illusion. Be who you really are wherever you go!
Most of the great Saints and Mystics of history have also been poets or composers of hymns, psalms, odes, banis, bhajans -- mystic songs of love and devotion.
Closely related to the chanting of Divine names (mantra, manas jappa, simran or zikhr) is the practice of reciting or singing kirtans, shabds and banis (hymns). India's Saints of Love for thousands of years now have composed their own vanis, padavali, devotional hymns and poems. India's Mystics have left behind -- and continue to compose -- an immense treasure of devotional literature, the scriptures of the Saints and Masters of the East. If Westerners aren't able to sing these hymns in their original languages, reading translations of them is in itself a spiritual exercise of great benefit, for these beautiful words carry a loving spiritual charge that helps to keep one mindful of the spiritual Path, as well as it helps to prepare one for daily meditation practice. Babuji Maharaj of Agra used to advise his followers to recite several hymns a day, prescribing certain hymns of Swami Ji Maharaj and Huzur Maharaj Rai Saligram (his spiritual Master) "to be sung in the morning, before meals, and before going to bed at night."
Each tradition has a similar practice of daily prayers and hymns. To be sure, it is indeed extremely helpful to read a couple of hymns or poems of the Saints each day.
Traditionally in India the Saints and Masters have also used hymns and mystical poetry as a way to communicate their teachings to the people by sharing the truths of the Saints directly to the hearts of those who listen.
"Govinda [God] says, 'I go wherever devotees sing my praise.'" (Sant Garab Das) That quote from Garab Das very much reminds me of a passage from the Hebrew Book of Psalms: "God inhabits the praises of His people."
This is a translation of a hymn (shabd) by the 19th century Mystic Param Sant Tulsi Sahib of Hathras titled, "Shabd surat jin ki mili."
"Whose soul is attached to the Word,
The mystery of the Inaccessible
In the lotus feet of the Beloved
The happily married woman
The compositions of Param Sant Tulsi Sahib are Bhakti (devotional) in tone, and at the same time allude to the mystical experiences of the soul achieving cosmic flight by becoming attached to the Word -- hearing the Celestial Music of the Spheres during meditation. Through the divine Word the mystery of the Inaccessible Plane (called by some Mystics "Agam Lok") is made accessible. Sant Tulsi described his experience of the Beloved Lord as a marriage consummated in mystical union. This merger of lover and Beloved is the final destination of lovers. Sant Dadu Dayal, a Master in the Kabir lineage said of this oneness:
"The lover is converted into the Beloved.
In their hymns, the Masters and Mystics sing of the power that the Spirit of Love has to transport souls back to the original Home of all souls -- the Ocean of Love and Compassion. By approaching spiritual practice with love, we will be elevated in spirit to places beyond our wildest dreams! And for those who are skeptical of their own ability to experience the Way of the Saints, Swami Ji Maharaj said in one of his hymns:
"It does not matter if your bhakti is imperfect.
Here's a poem beautiful by the 16th century Mystic Sant Dadu Dayal of Rajasthan who outlined his vision of the spiritual life to be pursued during our time here on planet Earth:
"Recognize the Path to your Beloved, O travelers