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Living the Yoga Life: Bhakti and Jnana

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True bhakti–devotion–in its ultimate nature is conscious, deliberate union with the Self and God the Supreme Self.

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Bhakti has one purpose: union with God in which all semblance of separation between God and the individual spirit is dispelled and a unity of being and identity is attained. Not that the individual becomes the Absolute, but that the total, eternal union of the individual with the Absolute is realized in the yogi’s consciousness.

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What is true bhakti? It is like the oil in a lamp without which there would be no light. It is the inner power that moves the yogi forward, intent on his goal. Unfortunately bhakti is usually considered to be emotion directed to God, especially as love. But bhakti means dedication to the search for God. It is Ishwarapranidhana, the offering of the life to God, which Patanjali says is the way to superconsciousness (Yoga Sutras 2:45).

Shankara simplified and clarified it greatly when he said that bhakti is seeking God and jnana is finding God.

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Bhakti and jnana purify the heart. But bhakti is not emotion, and jnana is not intellectuality. Instead, they are dispositions of mind and heart, a psychological frame of reference within which the entire life is lived. Sri Ramakrishna revealed their ultimate essence. He said that bhakti was the attitude (bhava): “God is the Master and I am His servant.” Jnana, he said, was the attitude: “God alone is real; all else is unreal.”

What begins as an attitude, a kind of intuitive conviction, ripens into direct realization. The person no longer “feels” or “thinks” those principles, but knows them and embodies them.

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True jnana in its essence is the atmic experience which authentic yoga produces directly. In reading the Gita we see that genuine bhakti and jnana are interdependent, each fostering the other.

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True bhakti is always centered in intelligence, in the buddhi. The Gita tells us: “Among the virtuous, four kinds seek me: the distressed, the seekers of knowledge, the seekers of wealth and the wise. Of them, the wise man, ever united, devoted to the One, is pre-eminent. Exceedingly dear am I to the man of wisdom, and he is dear to me. All these indeed are exalted, but I see the man of wisdom as my very Self. He, with mind steadfast, abides in me, the Supreme Goal” (7:16-18). The true devotee seeks God because he knows it is his nature and purpose to do so, that God alone is his goal.

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Real, God-centered bhakti moves upward in us and manifests as awakened consciousness. Swami Sivananda used to say: “Bhakti begins with two and ends with One.”

Next in Living the Yoga Life: Brahman

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About to Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga

Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga

Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga: Introduction

    1. Living the Yoga Life: Climbing the Ladder of Consciousness
    2. Living the Yoga Life: Sanatana Dharma, Sanatana Yoga
    3. Living the Yoga Life: The Atman/Self
    4. Living the Yoga Life: Bhakti and Jnana
    5. Living the Yoga Life: Brahman
    6. Living the Yoga Life: Ishwara
    7. Living the Yoga Life: Breath
    8. Living the Yoga Life: India and Sanatana Dharma
    9. Living the Yoga Life: The Importance of Independence
    10. Living the Yoga Life: The Intelligent Path
    11. Living the Yoga Life: The Internal Life
    12. Living the Yoga Life: Japa and Sound (Shabda)
    13. Living the Yoga Life: Japa with the Breath
    14. Living the Yoga Life: Jnana
    15. Living the Yoga Life: The Jnani
    16. Living the Yoga Life: Karma and Karma Yoga
    17. Living the Yoga Life: Kundalini
    18. Living the Yoga Life: Liberation
    19. Living the Yoga Life: It Is All Up To Us
    20. Living the Yoga Life: Madness, Divine and Worldly
    21. Living the Yoga Life: Manas (Mind) and Buddhi (Intelligence/Intellect)
    22. Living the Yoga Life: Buddhi Yoga
    23. Living the Yoga Life: True Masters (And Not)
    24. Living the Yoga Life: Maya
    25. Living the Yoga Life: Meditation
    26. Living the Yoga Life: Prana
    27. Living the Yoga Life: Raja Yoga
    28. Living the Yoga Life: Reincarnation
    29. Living the Yoga Life: Religion
    30. Living the Yoga Life: Samadhi
    31. Living the Yoga Life: Sadhana
    32. Living the Yoga Life: Dedication to Spiritual Life
    33. Living the Yoga Life: Self-realization
    34. Living the Yoga Life: Shivashakti
    35. Living the Yoga Life: Spiritual Experience
    36. Living the Yoga Life: The Spiritual Teacher
    37. Living the Yoga Life: Subtle Anatomy
    38. Living the Yoga Life: The World
    39. Living the Yoga Life: Worship
    40. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga, the Body and the World
    41. Living the Yoga Life: Dharma and Adharma
    42. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga–The Supreme Dharma
    43. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga Nidra
    44. Living the Yoga Life: The Yogi
    45. Living the Yoga Life: Some Advice to Yogis
    46. Living the Yoga Life: Qualities of a Yogi
    47. Living the Yoga Life: This and That
    48. Living the Yoga Life: Touch Not
    49. Living the Yoga Life: The Gita Speaks To The Yogi
    50. Living the Yoga Life: How It Is Done
    51. Living the Yoga Life: Use your mind
    52. Living the Yoga Life: Some things it is wise to avoid
    53. Living the Yoga Life: Things you should definitely do and have in your life
    54. Living the Yoga Life: Spiritual Reading
    55. Living the Yoga Life: Gorakhnath Speaks To The Yogi
    56. Living the Yoga Life: And A Final Word From Me
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