The Method and Aims of the Yoga of Love and Devotion

The yoga of devotion recognizes the seminal importance of the emotional being of man, and the power that emanates from the emotions. While the reasoning intellect can tend to be dry and aloof, the emotional center provides energy, passion and involvement. It is also much easier for most individuals to access this emotional power than to harness the abstract intellectual powers. The method of the yoga of love and devotion is simply to take all forms of emotional expression and focus them, not on the outer world of relationships, but on the Divine. The entire gamut of relations can be thus utilized. While we generally associate the yoga of devotion with the sweetness of love for the divine Lover and Friend, there is even a role for the power of hatred!

There is an apocryphal story in the Bhakti tradition that several door-wardens of Vishnu were cursed by some Rishis who had come to visit and who were not provided instant admittance. They were reduced to tears, considering that the curse involved their being separated from their beloved Vishnu’s presence. They were then given the choice to spend countless lifetimes separated, but devotional, or three lifetimes as hostile enemies of the Lord. They chose the hostile births as being the most suitable to the earliest and fastest way to return to Vishnu’s presence, and they took up the role with such vigor that Vishnu had to incarnate several of his Avatar forms to address the magnitude of the hatred, destruction and suffering they unleashed. The third such lifetime was that of Ravana and his brother Kumbhakarna whose spans of life were ended by Sri Rama and his brother Lakshmana. They then resumed their chosen place at the feet of the Lord Vishnu.

As a possible limitation, to the extent that Bhakti Yoga focuses on the individual’s relation and salvation, it takes on an other-worldly focus. Sri Aurobindo points out, however, that there are further developments, such as embracing the entire community of devotees in common worship, which can widen this path. “It provides a more general corrective in the realisation of the divine object of Love in all beings not only human but animal, easily extended to all forms whatosever. We can see how this larger application of the Yoga of Devotion may be so used as to lead to the elevation of the whole range of human emotion, sensation and aesthetic perception to the divine level, its spiritualisation and the justification of the cosmic labour towards love and joy in our humanity.”

Eventually, the widest form of the Yoga of Devotion and Love embraces the entire manifestation with Love and acts with the deepest compassion for all beings in an outpouring of that compassion into action.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pp. 33-34

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