In several previous issues of the bulletin we discussed the subject of the act of veneration, devotion, adoration and fervent adoration of the spiritual ideal, deity or God. This process is called bhakti in yoga, and Sufi call it ashika. It belongs to the mantra yoga mantra as a completely basic part of the practice that develops the necessary qualifications for a spiritual journey called the „path” or „way”. Bhakti is a divine state of existence. Undoubtedly, it is the beginning of a journey towards the heavenly dimension of existence.
We will now try to understand the deeper practical sense of the whole process, already described in issue 6 and 17 of the Hridaya Bulletin. The concept of bhakti is not easy to clearly express in a Polish or English word. Technically, the best Polish term would be the word ‘dewocja’, but used in its original, long-ago lost sense [English word ‘devotion’]. For the word comes from Sanskrit from the word deva, which defines beings of angelic, heavenly or even divine nature. Deva is a truly spiritual creature, a being with angelic, blissful, patient and gentle temper. Deva is above all a resident of the heavens, or an angel. The word devotion means worship, sacrifice, dedication, as well as sacrifice and ecstasy of happiness. Originally it is an attitude of deep and sincere veneration. Devotion is the expression of the angelic nature in its entirety with all its spiritual qualities, especially such as subtlety and tenderness, kindness, gentleness and sacrifice.
All this unequivocally tells us that the first step on the spiritual path is to become like the inhabitants of the heavens – angels in every possible way. English „devotion” has a similar overtone as the Polish word devotional, coming from the same root. The term generally has at least five meanings. Devotion from „devotio” therefore takes on such meanings as:
- Devotion to the saint, devotion as a quality;
- Dedication, devotion, attachment to someone or something;
- Dedication, sacrifice (to someone or something);
- Prayers, praise (in pl., devotions);
- Enthusiasm, worship.
We can therefore define devotion as: enthusiastic dedication to the worship by offering prayers of glory. Nowadays, all words describing devotion are used, with the exception of the very concept of devotion, because it took on a negative colour. Of course, this was due to false devotees, who are now called devotees and devotees, although this term should not be used in such a negative sense, if only to acknowledge its true, original meaning [this excerpt refers to the Polish word ‘dewot’ meaning devotee]. In this way, we lost the essence of activity in Polish language because we lost the meaning of the term describing this activity. Have we, therefore, lost contact with our angelic nature and the ability to express it through worship, or rather devotion? Let us recall from the memory of our Vedic ancestors, from whom we adopted the right word, how to honour God and how to practice this dimension of yoga or sufi, which we call bhakti.
The life of divine Ramachandra
Rama means joy and beauty, and the flame is his symbol. Chandra, (which should be pronounced as Chiandra), means the deity of the moon. The full name brings „Lunar Joy”. Traditionally, the moon is a symbol of total devotion, quietness and enlightenment. The moon cleans the restless mind. Sweetness, contentment, magnificence, bliss – all of this comes from the source of love, or prema. Who, then, hides under this sweet name translated as Rama the Magnificent?
Ramachandra is the seventh appearance of the divine being called Vishnu – the second aspect of God in the form of a protector who sustains all life, protector and guardian of kindness.
Rama has a greenish or emerald colour body. Among the attributes he has a bow symbolizing solar energy and arrows that are an expression of luminous rays of the sun. He is initiated into the solar cult and in the mighty power of the sun which incinerates all evil. Rama is the son of the sun and the saviour, the liberator of humanity. Saviour Rama is the guardian of people, protects them from misfortunes and troubles, as well as ensures order and prosperity. Rama is a model of the virtues and royal righteousness, because he is the ruler himself, the king who exercises just rulership. His power illustrates return to the beginning, when it was the divine order, justice and happiness of all beings. The kingdom of Rama is an archetype of paradise, the kingdom of heaven, which can be put into existence here on earth – as it was already the case. This is the kingdom of perfect good. The holy number of Rama is the number twelve, the symbol of the solar cycle, followed by the full revival of the human being.
The spiritual tradition that originated from Rama has not created any sectarian tendencies around itself. This is a certain sensation compared to the movements of Krishna, Buddha or Jesus, which have a strong sectarianism. Such a tendency results from the confusion of bhakti with passion (Kama). The sect’s fanaticism comes from the impure, improper way of worshiping the deity or God. The impurity come as the result of mixing up emotions such as jealousy, envy, need of possession or pride with feelings of heart such as dedication, devotion, commitment, adoration or bliss. The result of this is fanaticism, sectarianism and separation from others. Bhakti is a devotion to God. Fanaticism is the result of jealousy and envy. Where there is bhakti, there cannot be sectarianism, fanaticism, or just one right path. If someone is on the wrong path, they are fanatics alone, proud in their sect and enviously despising the paths of other people. Tradition of Rama does not have fanatical features; hence it can be said that it is kept fresh and retains the practice of bhakti in flawless form.
Rama ruled in the kingdom of justice for ten thousand years. This is what the legend says. The ruler did not ignore the complaint of even the most miserable dog.
Rama’s wife was lovely Sita, whose name means „furrow”, because she emerged from the furrow of the ploughed land. The story of this couple carries a lot of romance, but it is not a model of a loving couple, if only understood literally.
Bhakti Sadhana of Śri Rama
The Ramachandra tradition cultivates a twelve-year solar cycle of renunciation and asceticism or perhaps a better intense practice which is a period of internal change and rebirth. The cycle of the twelve signs of the zodiac is also considered to be regenerating and renewing. This is confirmed by the duration of the annual cycle, after which all nature is renewed and transformed. Rama’s disciples continue practice with His Name, and the full cycle of repetition of the Name and spiritual connectedness is precisely these twelve years. Then there is a spiritual rebirth or, if we prefer, awakening.
The practice that is the foundation of all religion on one hand, and the mantra yoga on the other hand, is called bhakti sadhana. Bhagavan Sri Rama explains the process of devotion, or bhakti in the form of a nine-point Instruction. Hence the bhakti sadhana is called the noble nine-step path. Actually, these are nine aspects of the same bhakti practice.
1. The first practice to undertake is to look for the association of holy (pure) and virtuous people (possessing the divine qualities). This is the period of acquiring devotional characteristics. Directing your steps towards the light is possible even during the darkest night. The association of devotees of God is the right place to acquire the spiritual qualities necessary to cultivate this yoga.
Here is the way of gaining the angelic qualities and cultivating „devotio” in the company of saints and virtuous beings:
„Maintaining a social relationship with My devotees, continually serving Me and My devotees; keeping fast during Ekadasi (three days before the full moon or the new moon); ceremonial celebrating the festivals related to Me; listening, reading and explaining the glory and fame of My magnificence; dedicating oneself to Me with great devotion in a constant way; singing about my perfection and magnificence. The one who will keep these rules of guidance every day, will achieve pure devotion (piety). „
Rama himself gave this instruction. We already know what purpose common meetings of the association of devotees should serve.
2. Recounting the cosmic activities of God and explaining their meaning is a form of learning about God which is an important pillar of bhakti. In Rama’s tradition this applies to His activities, actions and deeds. This means that every act of the divine being has its hidden meanings that need to be clarified. His biography should not be understood literally. Otherwise there would be nothing to explain.
3. Counting or listing various good qualities of deity or God is another important aspect. We attribute only good things to God in this way. God alone is the only Good. We discover the fullness of His nature of all-pervading kindness.
4. The detailed consideration and explanation of the words and instructions from Rama is the next important work of bhakti sadhana.
5. The search for the Guru and the acquisition of good habits through self-control and observance of established laws and principles should be the fifth discipline of practice.
6. Worship, devotion, prayers and religious celebrations must be practiced very regularly. You must worship / praise Rama very regularly. Prayer (Mass, Puja) is in fact a worship, and worship is a devotion.
7. You must receive a holy mantra (wasifa) from your Guru, which is the property of the deity. Therefore, take His, Rama, holy mantra: Rama, Rama, Rama, Ram.
8. Respecting and worshiping (praising) Lord Rama’s devotees by all available means and perceiving everything as Lord Rama.
9. Cultivating non-attachment to anything else. The original term translated as detachment is a vairagya, which should be understood as indifference, non-clinging, and non-desire. This means that we desire nothing else than the association of devotees and deity and God, in this case Ramachandra. At this point the devotee no longer clings to anything else but his spiritual ideal. You can therefore only desire Him, cling to Him only, tie yourself to Him only and make Him the object of all endeavours and efforts, your goal. This is the last desire of this world.
In this way, we have travelled through the practical dimension of bhakti sadhana, which is just the beginning of the practice of the system known as Mantrayana, in its first of sixteen degrees!
Kama, bhakti, prema – grades of love
Kama – love as a desire, passion, lust or craving is called emotion or feeling of the stomach. We have many instinctual desires, many passions. All such love is Kama – desire for love. Kama also means all the wishes of our appetite.
Bhakti – love of the heart, loving and full of devotion, bliss, trust, faithfulness, fearlessness, unselfishness, willingness to sacrifice and renounce. All these states of subtle feelings express the richness of bhakti – the love of the heart. This kind of love begins to wake up under the influence of the properly practiced path of mantras (Wasifa). When bhakti begins to appear – the feeling of the heart – then it mixes with the feelings of the stomach. Such a stage is dangerous because the practitioner squanders strength of the heart to strengthen bodily aspirations coming from the abdomen instead of taking control over them! It strengthens ego and carnality, generates fanaticism and sectarianism, creates and strengthens aversion to people believing differently. Self-control is necessary to successfully practice bhakti sadhana. The love of the heart, bhakti must be used to control the emotions of the stomach and to transform them. Bhakti mixed up with kama ceases to be bhakti, and becomes the kama of the lowest type, with a devastating destructive force.
Prema – love of the soul or how you prefer spiritual love, pure love and sympathy. Prema is love for all, loving without a shadow of attachment. It is a fixed, sincere and pure love. The first glimpse of the prema will dawn when all trace of passion disappears in the feeling of the heart, when the desire nature is exhausted by self-fulfilment, sublimation and transformation. Thus, when Kama is absorbed in bhakti, the prema will begin the absorption of bhakti, and we will finally begin to know what the true Love of God is.
Such are the three degrees of love: eros, filos and agape.
Aćarya Lalit Mohan G.K.