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On Bhakti

Wendy Doniger and other contributors to the Encyclopedia Britannica write that bhakti is a movement "emphasizing the mutual intense emotional attachment and love of a devotee toward a personal god and of the god for the devotee." Further: "Each of the major divinities of Hinduism – Vishnu, Shiva, and the various forms of the Goddess – have distinct devotional traditions."
In Bengal the love of God was considered analogous to the sentiments involved in human relationships . . . In South India passionate, often erotic, poems to Shiva and Vishnu (particularly to Krishna) were composed.

Inscriptions, iconographic evidence, and literary references reveal the emergence of devotional theism in the 2nd century bce. (EB, "Hinduism," passim)

Bhakti is Sanskrit. Oxford dictionaries present a contemporary Western meaning of it as

devotional worship directed to one supreme deity, usually Vishnu (especially in his incarnations as Rama and Krishna) or Shiva, by whose grace salvation may be attained by all regardless of sex, caste, or class. It is followed by the majority of Hindus today.

There are other meanings of 'bhakti' than such devotion. They include attachment, faithfulness, order, fondness for, separation, zeal, streak, division by streaks or lines, worship, predisposition, assumption of the form of, partition, succession, devotional service, homage, distribution, row, attribute, faith [as a religious principle or means of salvation], that which belongs to or is contained in anything else, faith or love or devotion, trust, portion, series, being a part of, devotion [as a religious principle or means of salvation], variegated decoration, line, division, share, belonging to, and piety. (Source: SDSS)

Craze is not necessarily part of bhakti. That could be wise to keep in mind, and that the word 'bhakti' carries many meanings, as shown. The context where it is used and some tradition's understanding of which meaning is most likely in any case tend to bring a translation, or many translations that vary.

There are two main facets of bhakti, devotion. One is directed outwards onto someone or something, and one is directed inwards. The last facet is recommended by Adi Shankara. He tells that proper devotion, piousness, is turning one's awareness inwards towards one's spirit:

"Sages worship Brahman with devotion as the ultimate reality within their own selves." (From the Hymn to Hari, v. 42) [Shankara sayings]

"Chief among the causes of Freedom is devotion, the intentness of the soul on its own nature. Or devotion may be called intentness on the reality of the Self." (Crest-Jewel of Discrimination, from v. 31 and 32, tr. Charles Johnston) [More]

Prabhavananda and Isherwood translates the same verses in this way: "Among all means of liberation, devotion is supreme. To seek earnestly to know one's real nature –, this is said to be devotion. / In other words, devotion can be defined as the search for the reality of one's own Atman." (p. 36-37)

This does not tell that devotion outwards is a bad or forbidden thing, but if turned within effectively it can become a formidable means of liberation: that is the observation of Shankara. Accordingly, seek to turn a large part of it within till you get old and leave.

It could be that bhakti in antiquity was more reserved than jubilant. Stauch reserve in these waters may be called being polite to yourself. At any rate, a suspect notion does not deserve to be set in motion and crampedly, rigidly, upheld through a faith. It could be better to refrain. We do well to stablish the facts before getting induced into sectarianism like a sheep to the slaughter-house or something else to compare with . . . to resist being made an "animal" might be much good for you and your dear ones after all.

Clippings and Renderings

The search for a One that is the All has been a characteristic feature of India's spiritual life for more than 3,000 years.

Competing world views: During the 6th to 2nd century BC the god Prajapati was widely believed to be the highest god and the creator of the universe; Indra, known chiefly as Shakra ("The Mighty One"), was second to him in importance. Yet in the Svetashvatara Upanishad, Rudra is for the first time called Shiva and is described as the creator, preserver, and destroyer of the universe. His followers are called on to worship him with devotion (bhakti). The tendency for the laity to form themselves into religious guilds or societies—evident in the case of the yaksha cults, Buddhism, and Jainism—promoted the growth of devotional Vaishnavism and Shaivism. These local associations of worshipers appear to have been a principal factor in the spread of the new cults.

Paths to liberation: The Bhagavad Gita tells of three paths to salvation: the karma-marga ("path of ritual action" or "path of duties"), the jnana-marga ("path of knowledge"), the use of meditative concentration training (Yoga) to gain a supraintellectual insight; and the bhakti-marga ("path of devotion"), love for a personal God. These ways are regarded as suited to various types of people, but they are interactive. (EB, Hinduism > "Dharma and the three paths")

Life goals are many, and four goals constitute a stem to hold on to: The actual life goals of most Hindus include executing properly one's social and ritual duties; supporting one's caste, family, and profession; and working to achieve a broader stability in the cosmos, nature, and society, all for the sake of maintaining personal and universal equilibrium (balance, harmony). (EB, Hinduism > "Dharma and the three paths")

In the wide perspectives above, how could bhakti or bhakti-yoga fit in? As already told, "there is bhakti and there is bhakti." It may therefore be pertinent to ask something like, "Which form of bhakti are we talking of here?"

Getting devotional - on thin ice unless . . . Being on thin ice without knowing may show up to be dangerous.

There is and has been a variety of schools with blends of claims. Predominant yoga outlooks have changed very much over time. Devotional yoga is quite a newcomer in the long history of yoga, frankly. (Madsen 2013)

It is a trend of markedly devotional groups that they become sectarian in the course of time. There are some who do not know how to deal with devotion. It is an obvious problem. In the longer run, devotion directed outwards can breed limited or kinky outlooks, sectarianism and sects in time.

Effects of Love and Marriage

"A wife is a person who helps you through all the troubles you wouldn't have had if you hadn't got married." [Ole, in Stangland 1993; Ole and Lena Online]

There may be fit ways to love, markedly unfit ways, and hanky-pankies around too. There is so much pep talk of love and devotion in some circles.

There are many forms of yoga today. "Must love dogs" is not one of them, at least not the best known one. Bhakti yoga is one of them. It is hailed in Bhagavad Gita as one of many means to get enlightened. "To those who are constantly disciplined, worshipping [me] with love, I give the yoga of the intellect, through which they come to me. (Bhagavad Gita 10.10.

Compare: 14.26.) There is also one verse on devotion in the Bhagavatapurana 1.2.19.

Patanjali tells that devotion to Isvara is part of a five-set things to do. (Yoga Sutras 2.1). It indicates inward-turned love a lot.

Passages on love and bhakti, devotion, are not absent in ancient sources, but are in the minority. And devotion of old may be taken to be piousness, directed inwards, as Shankara tells of.

There is a compilation of texts on yoga, Roots of Yoga (2017) with James Mallington and Mark Singleton as compilers and translators of Sanskrit passages. The book contains material "drawn from more than a hundred texts, dating from about 1000 BCE to the nineteenth century." Most of the passages are from Sanskrit texts. Material that "is incidental to the mainstream of yoga theory and practice in South Asia," is not included in it. Further, the material is largely practical. (2017, "Introduction")

The earliest known definition of yoga comes in the Katha Upanishad. It says "one who is able to control the senses by means of the mind, as a charioteer reins in his horses, is not reborn (3.7-8). He attains the highest state, which is . . . indwelling person."

Two yoga sources blend. (1) For the ascetics of the Vedic tradition, the aim of [yoga] austerities was usually to win a boon – often a protection or a special power – from the gods. (2) And in Sramana traditions of religious mendicants, the foremost aims were to still the mind or blot out past karma.

The first mentions of dhyanayoga [yoga-meditation] appear in the Mahabharata (third century BCE to third century CE). There are extensive instructions on yogic practice in a long section at the end of the twelfth book of the Mahabharata, and a systematisation of yoga practice. The Bhagavadgita, a slender part of the Mahabharata, contains several teachings on the practice of yoga too. (Ibid., "Yoga in Vedic-era sources;" "Sramanas;" "Teachings on Yoga in the Mahabharata, including the Bhagavadgita")

There are many words for love: rati is love (sexual etc.), sneha is love (motherly etc.), and kama is erotic, sensual. Preman is a word variously translated as joke, affection, fondness, love towards, joy, tender regard, kindness and similar. (SDSS)

Now, Ramakrishna says: "Love of God: Such love . . . is not for ordinary men." [Gupta 1942:679]

Married love, is it different? Take a look at how love can breed stress, and the grave effects of marriage results among Americans, and then do what you can to bulwark against such stressing events to lessen your capital losses. There is a chance your health is into these love-result matters too.

Stress is a major nuisance and killer these days (Shrand and Devine 2012). Stress tells that people are exerting themselves too much, and probably to cope and cope better for a bigger slice of the cake so to speak. Some just give up, and some end up unwell or going solo. Eric Klinenberg's Going Solo (2014) tells more about preferring being singles.

Consider how up to 11 of the 14 most stressing experiences of Americans tie in with love and love-making, and what you can do about it - to get less bad and more good out of it than the statistical average. The average Joe's and Jane's love can be quite a killer, and normal aging brings about death.

Here are averaged life events on the much used Holmes-Rahes scale, where 100 points is allotted to the worst single event:

  1. Death of spouse *     100
  2. Divorce *     75
  3. Marital separation *     65
  4. Jail term (in US prisons)     63
  5. Death of a close family member +     63
  6. Personal injury or illness *     53
  7. Marriage *     50
  8. Dismissal from work     47
  9. Marital reconciliation *     45
  10. Retirement     45
  11. Change in health of family member +     44
  12. Pregnancy +     40
  13. Sex difficulties +     39
  14. Gain of new family member *     39
The signs explained:
*: Very likely to tie in with wedding someone.
+: Quite likely to tie in with wedding somebody.
The list is the top of Holmes and Rahe stress scale. See more: [WP "Holmes and Rahe stress scale"]

Having a mate

Socrates summed up some male experiences thus: "If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher."

What about women? "Women are always unhappy in their thoughts, both before and after Marriage; for, before Marriage they think themselves unhappy for want of a Husband; and after they are Married, they think themselves unhappy for having a Husband." - Margaret Cavendish (1623–73), The Convent of Pleasure, Act II, Sc. 1. from ca. 1662.

The list above shows many ills that result from having a husband. And yet, wellbeing may be helped by good yoga-meditation. Such parts of life are combined in fine ways by Transcendental Meditation and main Buddhist living.

Wealth and a happy marriage

La No one has attained happiness from acquiring wealth, and it will never happen. – Shyama Lahiri Mahasaya, Garland of Letters (2005, No. 73)
Is the kriya guru right again? Wealth are of many kinds, and is found on many levels. To be rich in spirit is far from bad. Wealth, artha is one of the four main life goals of Hinduism.

Wealth and joy hand in hand could be wise. Buddha teaches to go for both in a carefully designed all-round Way of life.

This stands out: Do not get deprived of the boons of wealth by sayings of others. Shyama Lahiri teaches against and for wealth. In another place he writes it is a boon to gain both dharma (righteousness), artha (meaningful wealth here and beyond), kama (lust, joy), and moksha (freedom). [See Satyeswarananda 1992, v. 92]

Granted that and much else, it could be very wise to be for righteously had wealth, for the Sanskrit term artha, wealth, opulence etc. is one of four noble life goals in Hinduism, and Buddha tells how to get a balanced living that has room for fairly gained wealth too. He says it is fit for a householder to go for righteously gained wealth – among other things to fund a family, have a business, and a future fit for meditation. Good friends supply needs, rejoice in wise prosperity, and protect the wealth of the heedless. Bad friends, on the other hand, bring ruin, he says. [More]

Buddha sorts out many forms of wealth too. [Mangala]

From this we learn: Don't take separate sayings for truth - get a good view of the terrain first. Shyama teaches for and against wealth, and as for women to get wed to, he offers this advice:

La Woman is the destroyer of man. Do not look at her, at any cost. - Lahiri Mahasaya, married and with children (108 and His 108 Pieces of Advice, No. 77)

"At any cost" - Millions of dollars may go into that. Shyama Lahiri was married at eighteen; his bride was nine. He also says it may be fine to marry for those who feel for it.

A husband or wife or woman in Scandinavia might do well to take into account that each child may cost a lot, for example one million crowns in the long run. If a parent can deal with the future cost of making love, married life could actually be uplifting, nay, pleasant - perhaps not wholly devastating. You never know . . .

Swami Satyeswarananda recounts

Lahiri Mahasay actually praised the household lifestyle above all lifestyles, as being best suited to stabilize the [kriya yoga] seeker in a balanced, righteous way. - Swami Satyeswarananda

According to the teaching of Lahiri Mahasay, Kriya is for the householders. There is NO place for the order of Swami (sannyas) in it. - Swami Satyeswarananda, member of a Swami Order branch.

Lahiri Mahasay did not permit any of his disciples to enter into the order of Swami. That was ignored by some followers, like the swami Yukteswar. Swami Satyeswarananda



Gentle Dealings First

Fairly got wealth and assets may be fit, and wealth, artha, is one of the four main life goals of Hinduism.

Generally, it is good help to look into and see and handle things for yourself, and deal with wealth as classy as you can. It should help to invest money well too. Much in future may be eased that way.

One has to take stock of one's wealth firmly, or some 'them' could take what assets you had to begin with. Wisely used, righteous wealth may lessen sufferings, dhukkha. Buddha warns against dissipating one's wealth, and that a warm-hearted friend "protects the wealth of the heedless", among other things [Link]. Buddha is also pointing out a good way on and up, enriching your life thereby. It is the Eightfold Path.

Buddha also enumerates factors leading to welfare and how to get better fit for great wealth and happiness.

There is much to learn in life. Getting wisdom is good, and developing skills is another good thing in life.

Love, bhakti, devotion, Literature  

Narada's Bhakti Sutras.

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