Path to Siva: A Catechism for Youth

28 What Is Bhakti?§


At a roadside shrine in India a devout woman approaches the great God Siva, seeking guidance and blessings. Holding a trishula in His right hand, the murti has been lovingly adorned with silk & flowers.§


Bhakti is devotion or love felt toward God, Gods and guru. Bhakti yoga, the practice of expressing this love, is strong in most Hindu traditions. We express bhakti when we worship in our home shrine, attend the temple or travel on pilgrimage. The more we experience devotion, the more it grows within us. This occurs when we sing sacred songs and chant bhajans. Listening to stories of our great saints and satgurus inspires bhakti. In Saiva Siddhanta, bhakti yoga is never outgrown. It is not just for beginners. As Gurudeva said, “The yoga of pure devotion is found at the beginning, the middle and the end of the path.” By awakening this love and appreciation, we open ourselves to God’s grace. We also express bhakti toward our guru as a way to experience his or her blessings and grace. Devotion is a calm, intelligent expression of love for the Deity. It is not unlike the closeness felt between good friends. In Saiva Siddhanta, the path begins at the charya stage, with getting to know the Gods and developing a relationship with them through service, or karma yoga. Then bhakti is naturally experienced. This is the kriya stage. Our nature becomes soft, flexible and content. Gurudeva explained, “The inner knowing that ‘All is Siva’s will’ is one of the first benefits of bhakti yoga.” A close, loving relationship with God and the Gods gives us a great stability in life and allows for success in meditation. If problems, or negative karmas, arise, the devotee can place them at the feet of the Deity to be dissolved. When karmas are clear, the devotee is able to internalize his devotion into deeper meditations in the yoga stage.§


GURUDEVA: The greatest inhibiting factor in practicing bhakti yoga is the doubting, cynical, intellectual mind. Doubt and skepticism harden the heart and narrow the mind. When you have the energy of bhakti, of love, flowing through your body, meditation is easy. You don’t have to go through the preliminaries. You are already functioning in the higher chakras.§