Four Essential Steps in the Yoga of Devotion

The Yoga of Devotion is based on turning the emotional being towards the Divine. Over many millenia, across the entire gamut of human experience, there have been numerous attempts to systematise practices that will bring about the intense emotional union of human with divine. This has led to a wide range of rituals, prayers or habitual actions that we see in any devotional service or practice. This may include the use of rosaries, regimented times of prayer, or devotional singing or dance. The practices may be done in solitary locations or in large groups. All of these practices arose and became systematised based on real breakthrough events that people were able to experience, and the attempt to create out of those experiences some kind of reproducible methodology.

Sri Aurobindo observes, in this regard: “Bhakti in itself is as wide as the heart-yearning of the soul for the Divine and as simple and straightforward as love and desire going straight towards their object. It cannot, therefore, be fixed down to any systematic method, cannot found itself on a psychological science like the Rajayoga, or a psycho-physical like the Hathayoga, or start from a definite intellectual process like the ordinary method of the Jnanayoga. It may employ various means or supports, and man, having in him a tendency towards order, process and system, may try to methodise his resort to these auxiliaries: but to give an account of their variations one would have to review almost all man’s numberless religions upon their side of inner approach to the Deity.”

He proceeds further to break down the four steps or movements that are essential to Bhakti Yoga: “…the desire of the Soul when it turns towards God and the straining of its emotion towards him, the pain of love and the divine return of love, the delight of love possessed and the play of that delight, and the eternal enjoyment of the divine Lover which is the heart of celestial bliss.”

By reviewing each of these steps, it will be possible to develop a general guideline both for the practice of Bhakti Yoga and for the incorporation, to the extent they are useful, of the principles of Bhakti into the Integral Yoga.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Chapter 4, The Way of Devotion, pg. 546

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