The Practice of Devotion in the Mind

In the Yoga of Knowledge, there is a focus in the mind on the Absolute and an abandonment of all the preoccupations or distractions of the outer world in order to achieve Oneness in the silence of the Beyond. In the Yoga of Devotion there can be a somewhat similar focus, insofar as the mind is asked to turn towards the Divine, fix itself on the Divine and become immersed in the ecstatic bliss of union with the Divine. The motive force here, however, is coming from the emotional nature of the devotee, and the goal sought is not some austere silent immutable Self, but a complete union with the Divine that fills the being with bliss.

Traditionally there are stages that are recognized in this pursuit, as described by Sri Aurobindo: “There are supposed by those who systematise, to be three stages of the seeking through the devotion of the mind, first, the constant hearing of the divine name, qualities and all that has been attached to them, secondly, the constant thinking on them or on the divine being or personality, thirdly, the settling and fixing of the mind on the object; and by this comes the full realisation.”

Sri Aurobindo observes that these steps are not actually the essential principle: “the one thing essential is the intense devotion of the thought in the mind to the object of adoration.”

While the seeker may go through various phases, including one of withdrawal from action in the world to focus on the Divine realisation, eventually the seeker can see that the Divine Being is everywhere and in all things, “all this is the Brahman” as the Upanishad so aptly puts it, and this changes the relation of the seeker to the universal manifestation: “As in the other Yogas, so in this, one comes to see the Divine everywhere and in all and to pour out the realisation of the Divine in all one’s inner activities and outward actions. But all is supported here by the primary force of the emotional union: for it is by love that the entire self-consecration and the entire possession is accomplished, and thought and action become shapes and figures of the divine love which possesses the spirit and its members.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Chapter 4, The Way of Devotion, pp. 549-550