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The importance of bhakti

Growing up in the west is challenging as devotion and humility are foreign to the culture. Striving for our inner perfection while working through outer imperfection without getting discouraged, realizing we're a divine being. The minimum practice as a Hindu is to live a virtuous life and fulfill duty.

Unedited Transcript:

Karma yoga and bhakti yoga.

"External worship, bhakti yoga, is taught first on the spiritual path, because it produces a softened, mellow heart. It is to waste the guru's time to give training in meditation and contemplation before the heart has been softened through bhakti yoga."

Interesting challenge in growing up in the United States. I remember talking to a family and the wife was a bharata natyam teacher. Teaching in the U.S. And she said her students can do all of the bharata natyam emotions except devotion and humility. They don't know how to portray devotion and they don't know how to portray humility. And that's called growing up in the U.S.A. It's kind of foreign to our culture. That idea of a devotional nature and a humble nature. Sometimes you go to the university a certain way and you come out. And whatever humility you had when you entered you manage to lose it along the way. I've noticed that that university training can really make someone, change them in the sense of, their ego sense, their pride is much stronger when they come out then when they went in. So, that's something we all have to work with in the west to get out of ourselves and our family.

"The patient guru will wait until this has happened within the devotee. Otherwise, any accomplishment attained through intense raja yoga practices will not be sustained."

That's an important point and again, one that's not common in the west. In the west we're always in a hurry. There's a guru, this in Malaysia, he would do very well in the U.S.A. Very popular. Somehow, he touches someone and it stimulates the kundalini. And everything goes, from that point on goes well in their life. Pretty easy path right. All you have to do is get touched. You don't have to learn to control your anger, you don't have to become humble, you don't have become devoted. All you have to do is get touched and everything's perfect. So, of course, he has thousands of followers. He's very popular, but, whatever he's generating can't be sustained because the person has no foundation. The kundalini can be stimulated by another person; it can be stimulated by attending a festival particularly, say, a Muruga festival. The kundalini can be temporarily stimulated but that's not enough. What we need is a day to day sustaining of a certain state of consciousness. We're trying to keep our consciousness at a certain place every single day. And that requires discipline. And it takes time.

"And the problems that arise within the devotee's subconscious mind -- should he be taught raja yoga before the proper preparation has been mastered -- will go back on the guru."

Whoa, don't want that.

"The guru will then have to act as the psychiatrist to solve the problems arising from the forced awakening. "

Oh, it's a, definitely a challenge and requires some philosophical study to be able to strive for our inner perfection and handle our outer imperfection. Sometimes we're quite burdened by serious mistakes of the past, our outer imperfection. And when those loom up in the mind we can think of ourselves as a terrible person and get stuck in that consciousness. Whereas, of course, that's not what we're supposed to do. We want to acknowledge our mistakes but not think of ourselves as imperfect. We made a mistake. We need to learn from it and move on; apologize if necessary.

So that balance of being able to recognize our imperfection, our mistakes, and recognize our perfection, our soul nature and strive to manifest more of the perfection. And when imperfection manifests to compensate and learn from, it is not automatic. It takes some philosophical training.

That's why we read Gurudeva's teachings as often as we do to impress the mind with the philosophy that we are a divine being. It's interesting in that Dancing With Siva, the first shloka, you think would be about Siva, right? That's the title of the book, Dancing With Siva. We'd start describing Siva's nature. Siva's this, Siva's that. No! The first shloka's not about Siva; it's about the soul. Cause that's what we need to get in our mind strongly is: We are a divine being on a wondrous journey. We came from God and we return from God. Remember the verse? Well that's the point is we have to keep impressing ourselves that we're a diving being. And only with really understanding that, when the imperfections of the past or even the present come up in our mind, are we able to work through them without getting overly discouraged and depressed?

That's what Gurudeva's talking about here.

"Whereas a mature bhaktar takes such problems, or negative karmas, which are sometimes aroused as a result of deep meditation, to the temple Deities, placing them at their feet to be dissolved. This will not happen for the devotee who has not experienced living in the state of bhakti yoga, because the relationship has not been established between himself and the Gods. Therefore, the wise guru starts his devotee at the beginning of the path, not in the middle."

Very interesting, meeting families whose children are growing up in the west. Met two young men recently and one of them was obviously here under protest. And when he came in the Guru Peedam he wouldn't even look at me and he just sat like that, the whole time. Parents were talking to me for 20 minutes, he sat like that. That's pretty hard to do. Where was his relationship with the Deity? Well, it wasn't there. Where was his relationship with Hinduism? It wasn't even there. You know, he clearly just didn't want to be here and had no desire to experience anything that was here. Just totally closed to the experience. Just waiting for it to be over.

Another young man was different. He was constantly asking questions: What about this? What about that? This, that, that, that. And said that he didn't relate at all to the temple and devotional practices. His parents kind of cringed when he said that. And was that all right? So, obviously, if you tried to meditate and his mistakes came up in his mind he'd go through this problem, because he had no, didn't even have a desire to try to get to know the Deity let alone a relationship with the Deity where he could take the problems to the Deity and talk them over and feel better about him or herself.

So, I said... I went through the purusharthas which are always a good talking point with youth and university students. Gives them four concepts: dharma, artha, kama and moksha to grab onto. Four words! So, I explained that a minimum practice was the dharma part. You know, that certainly he didn't have to participate in the temple worship. But, for sure, as a Hindu, the minimum that should be done is to live a virtuous life and fulfill our duties. To pursue wealth and love according to dharma and not adharmically. So, he understood that and I thought that was a successful point to make to him so that he could understand something about Hinduism even though he wasn't really interested at all in the devotional side of it.

So, thank you very much. Wonderful phase.

[End of transcript.]

Photo of  Gurudeva
It is an error to say that the universe is mere illusion, for it is entirely real when experienced in ordinary consciousness, and its existence is required to lead us to God.