THE PRACTICE OF BHAKTI YOGA
Hare Krishna to everyone, in this schematic guide that everyone can apply even at home, we present the method of raising consciousness called Bhakti-Yoga, practiced by millions of people from all over the world, since ancient times, to be realized spiritually. First, let's clarify some key aspects of this process:
HOW IS IT CALLED?
_Krishna Consciousness, or
They are all expressions that refer to the same process
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
_Yoga means union with God.
_Bhakti means devotion, love of God.
_Bhakti Yoga means joining God with love and devotion or, in other words, developing love for God.
WHAT'S THE USE?
_To awaken one's eternal relationship with God, now forgotten, and consequently:
_To acquire great consciousness, spiritual and material.
_To free yourself from every suffering.
_To control the mind.
_To achieve a perfect psychophysical balance.
_To be happy, situated on the spiritual plane.
_To use the human body correctly.
_To lose one's own bad habits.
_To acquire good quality.
WHAT IS IT?
_A completely scientific process.
_A method based on an exact, spiritual science.
_A series of spiritual practices independent of each external, material circumstance.
WHAT ISN'T IT?
_A sentimental method (based on a very sufficient scientific literature).
_A sect or a restricted group (has millions of practitioners worldwide).
_A new religious faith (it is ancient: the written Vedas date back 5,000 years, but existed long before, transmitted orally from teacher to disciple).
_An Indian religion (valid for all living beings, known long before India was incorporated as a Nation).
_Hinduism. The term "Hindu" does not exist in the Vedas, it has been invented by the Muslims who named all populations that lived on the other side of the Sindhu River, at the time of India's invation (around 700 A.D.).
_Politeism. The Vedas explain that there is a single God at the center of each thing.
_Pantheism and similar (idem to the previous point).
WHO CAN PRACTICE IT?
_Any living being (the human way of life is particularly predisposed to succeed in the Bhakti Yoga).
WHO CANNOT PRACTICE IT?
_No one. No living being is excluded from the practice of Bhakti Yoga.
I AM OF ANOTHER RELIGION AND I WANT TO FOLLOW IT: CAN I PRACTICE IT EQUALLY?
_Yes. It is a scientific method, and works indepensively of the religion professed or declared at any level. And Bhakti Yoga simply intensifies and deepens our own personal relationship with God, in the aspect we most prefer, without necessarily changing it.
I AM AN ATHEIST AND I WANT TO REMAIN AS SO: CAN I PRACTICE IT ANYWAY?
_Yes. With this method one can also realize the impersonal Brahman aspect of God, which corresponds to an atheist vision (i.e., that it denies or does not take into consideration the existence of God as a person). Either way, many benefits develop in that position (see the point "WHAT IS IT USED for?").
WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE URGENTLY BEFORE STARTING?
WHAT IS NECESSARY TO CHANGE OR CEASE GRADUALLY?
_The bad habits themselves.
WHAT IS NO NEED TO BE CHANGED?
_The family position.
_The social position.
_The working position.
_The geographical position.
_The Religious possion.
_The interests themselves.
_The field of the activity itself.
_In general nothing that does not fit bad habits.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I MAKE SOME ACTIVITIES, BUT NOT ALL?
_Either way you get a profit, proportional to our effort. Even the minimum activity carried out in the field of Bhakti Yoga carries enormous advantages, and no unfavorable results.
WHAT IF I DO NOT FOLLOW ALL RULES OR PRINCIPLES?
_Idem to the previous response.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I PRACTICE IT FOR A TIME AND THEN LEAVE?
_Idem to the previous response.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
_Because it is a method established by the great sages of antiquity for the benefit of all living beings, it is present in Vedic scriptures and is available free of charge to anyone who wishes to take advantage of it.
I'M NOT INTERESTED. WHY SHOULD I PRACTICE IT?
_For great benefits anyway (see also the point "WHAT IS IT?")
SUMMARY DESCRIPTION OF THE PROCESS
Adding in our daily life the few and simple activities of Bhakti Yoga, one can establish oneself on the transcendental plane, called Brahma-bhuta, where one is no longer affected by the material suffering and fate that we should have suffered (karma). Gradually we will be able to perceive more and more clearly the presence of God and reach the highest happiness, until we reasume our spiritual position of eternally happy souls and full of knowledge, even in this very lifetime.
No need to alarm, there are no physical positions that are difficult to learn and no breathing exercises needed to be done, Bhakti Yoga means primarily regaining awareness of our intimate eternal relationship with the Lord by listening to it from reliable sources . This is called "sravanam", which in Sanskrit means "to listen" (the word yoga indicates that we are referring to God). Listening to spiritual matters will raise our consciousness to the spiritual level.
The fundamental point to understand is that all of us, living beings, are eternal spiritual souls of a joyful nature, full of knowledge and happiness, and that we only live temporarily in a material body, which unites us to this world and its miseries. In reality, however, we do not have to do anything at all: the material body is completely separate from our true spiritual being.
Originally we come from the spiritual world, where there is no suffering but only fullness, satisfaction in the company of the Lord. In fact, there is an eternal love relationship between God and each of the individual Souls like us, which we have forgotten at this time. The Bhakti Yoga method, or devotional service, allows one to awaken this relationship and remember everything, provided that spiritual information is heard from reliable sources.
Feelings of love for God are already present in the heart of every being, but now they are covered with material acontamination, therefore they must be "awakened", with a cleansing of the heart by each impediment: the method to proceed with this purification is to regularly recite the name of the Lord, and to listen to the transcendental science of God and the stories that concern Him, of authorized, auentic spiritual teachers who inform them as they are, without alteration.
This process, in principle, exists in all religions of the world, as long as it is authentic. However, over time, the alterations of original knowledge disseminated by the founders of religious systems, have made an increasingly rare and difficult access to the mass, real and effective methods of spiritual realization, in practically all traditions.
The Bhakti Yoga method diffused by the International Association for Krishna Consciousness, on the other hand, shows the ancient Vedic knowledge, originally written in Sanskrit approximately 5000 years ago, through a disciplic succession of teachers spirits, all extremely loyal to the duty to keep intact the same knowledge: succession that saw in His Divine Grace Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, author of the prorated books and founder of the Association, its 32th autentic ring. Thanks to his service, we now have many authentic and authoritative Vedic texts (all major) well translated into English (from the original Sanskrit, in fact) and commented masterfully, with a presentation particularly suitable to the modern context. Therefore, we can offer an effective and complete method of spiritual realization, with immediate scientific support and practical personal feedback.
PRIMARY ACTIVITY: 1) CHANTING OF THE MAHA MANTRA HARE KRISHNA
The Bhakti Yoga begins with chanting or reciting a certain number of laps per day, the mantra:
It comes from the spiritual plane, and is called "the great mantra of liberation". Because of its enormous power, in fact, it is best suited to free the mind from any pertubation, and is fully effective even today, in very difficult external circumstances. The words "Krishna" and "Rama" indicate the original forms of God (the first and second respectively), and the word "Hare" refers to his energy, "Hara" (it is his vocational decline). The meaning of the Hare Krishna mantra is, "Oh energy of God, O Lord, please commit me in Thy transcendental service." This mantra has been given a particular power, as a special facilitation for the men of our time: its regular recitation guarantees in any case, a strong purification of existence.
PRIMARY ACTIVITY: 2) READING THE RECOMMENDED TEXTS
Then it is necessary to read regularly the mentioned Vedic texts, to ununderstand transcendental science. It is a superior, spiritual knowledge, which is always revealed more, as our purification progresses, thanks to the recitation of the mantra and the reading itself (Divya jnana).
The books that form the basis of Bhakti Yoga are all those written by Srila Prabhpada, around 80 in english, of which almost 50 are translated into italian. It is possible to consult the complete catalogue actually available here: http://www.radiokrishna.com/catalogo.
Many of these texts can be read online or downloaded in .pdf format, for free, together with this handy guide and other useful tools, from the page: http://www.radiokrishna.com/books, and some of them are also available to listen into audio, in radio version.
Books in the printed version can be ordered online from our website, on this page: http://www.radiokrishna.com/carrello, or at any Hare Krishna centre (here is the list of centers in Italy: http://www.radiokrishna.com/centri_italia.php).
Following the instructions of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, very closely informed in his books, we will proceed with a safe step towards the highest knowledge and spirtual realization, in accordance with our desire and commitment, making use of his direct and constant guidance, as our spiritual master for all practical purposes (in fact, transcendental vibration never loses power, always remain valid and equally effective, despite the apparent absence of who has pronounced it).
A 16-word mantra like the one described above, repeated 108 times constitutes a japa "round", is the spiritual standard set by the founder and spiritual master of the Hare Krishna Movement, Srila Prabhupada, for the benefit of all, has 16 twists a day, which takes about 1 hour and a half to 2 hours.
That is why the monks of the Hare Krishna temple get up very early in the morning to perform their spiritual practice without too much external disturbance. The 90 minutes before sunrise, a period called "brahma-muhurta" is preferable because every spiritual activity practiced at that time is more effective than at other times of the day.
To count the "rounds" of recited japa, a crown similar to the Catholic one is used, but with 108 beads: vocal examples of recitation of the mantra during personal meditation, can be heard or unloaded from here: http://www.radiokrishna.com/rkc_archive_new/index.php?q=s&s=chanting+japa,
while if you want to find the sacred wooden rosary, called Tulasi Mala, you can go to one of the hare Krishna temples in Italy.
(the list is here: http://www.radiokrishna.com/centri_italia.php).
You can also phone to find out if home delivery is possible, perhaps with the special cloth bag (beads bag), to avoid distractions during personal recitation, which is actually an intense and powerful form of meditation, and to which , therefore, it is appropriate to devote all your attention. Of course, the standard of 16 rounds per day can also be achieved gradually, starting for example with 2 or 4, depending on your skills, and increasing them when possible (it is suggested not to reduce the number once established).
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: 3) SPIRITUAL PROGRAM
Other practices, then, make it easy and accelerating our spiritual advancement, in skateboarding the morning program, which is followed in each temple for Krishna's consciousness. You can connect live audio/video for example with the temple of Bergamo and watch its execution, every day from 4.30 hs onwards, on the page: http://www.radiokrishna.com/medolago.htm, or follow a recorded version, present in our download file. On this page you will find all the links to all the files, where the typical program is also described, with the schedules, the letters of the mantras and prayers, their meanings, etc.: http://padasevanam.mediarama.com/rkcforum/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=599.
On this basis, each can organize the day according to the circumstances, according to his own desires, will and living conditions. The more we follow this pattern as it is, the more our spiritual progress will be fast and secure. However, even partial or limited practice will bring great eternal benefits, though proportionate to the spite of the method and the sincerity of our efforts. It is always advisable to practice at least some of the activities described, even if occasionally or incompletely.
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: 4) FOLLOW THE REGULATORY PRINCIPLES
Simultaneously with the activities described above, to quickly get the greatest achievement, and to always remain at a transcendental level ("brahma bhuta"), where material suffering will not disturb us and spiritual happiness will always go on increase, we must follow four principles of health and purity, and insert them into our lives, even gradually:
1)Refrain from eating meat, fish and eggs (and mushrooms, garlic, onion, etc. - a fairly complete list is here: http://padasevanam.mediarama.com/rkcforum/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=54)
2) Refrain from the use of any intoxicants (drugs, alcohol, smoke, etc.), but also tea, coffee and etc.
3) Refrain from illicit sexual activities i.e. without the purpose of procreation, with the legitimate partner.
4) Refrain from gambling and from any unnecessary mental or intellectual speculation.
There is no need to worry about not being able to practice these principles immediately (especially number 3, which is usually the last one to follow perfectly), because while we do the other practices, the recitation of the mantra and the daily study in particular, our consciousness will gradually rise, enjoying ever greater spiritual pleasure, and we will be so able to accept these principles effortlessly and without repression. Its given the example of a very rich man who, if he sees some coins on the street, will neglect it and surely keep going, without any interest. Likewise, one who enjoys spiritual pleasure, which is superior to all those material pleasures (even sexual ones), are automatically no longer interested in the inferiors. You don't even have to work hard, they just don't care because they know better. Of course this point is very difficult to understand without having experienced it on our own, everyone is invited to take the test immediately, initiating the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra and readings of Sril Prabhupada's books mentioned above.
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: 5) FEEDING ONLY ON PURIFIED FOOD (Prasadam)
It is also extremely important to offer Krishna the food we have prepared, before consuming it (this can be done from the beginning, at least with vegetarian preparations). In this way we will be free from any karmic reaction that comes from having taken life from any vegetable (which is also a guilty activity). Therefore, the Lord accepts this offer and returns it intact but purified, for our benefit. It always feeds on "prasadam", food offered to God, (literally called "mercy"), there it remains free from karmic reactions due to preparation and other involuntary food-related failures, and prepares us for spiritual purification. Mantras (also sung), explanation and procedure for offering food are available here:
If at the beginning of practice, in special or emergency circumstances, it is not possible to follow the procedure perfectly, one can simply offer food to Krishna in our own words, and recite the Hare Krishna mantra, with the intention of starting or reasume the entire procedure as soon as possible.
Let us now briefly summarize the complete method of Bhakti Yoga (which must be achieved gradually, as already explained, according to one's capacity and will):
1) Recite the matra Hare Krishna, 16 rounds of 108 counts per day (time required: 90 to 120 minutes).
2) Read the recommended books (Bhagavad-gita, etc.), at least 60 minutes a day (the more the better).
3) Eat only "spiritual" vegetarian food (offered to God).
4) Do not eat meat, fish, eggs or other foods not recommended (see list: http://padasevanam.mediarama.com/rkcforum/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=54).
5) Do not consume intoxicants of any kind.
6) Do not engage in illicit sexual intercourse.
7) Do not play in gambling, do not engage in unnecessary mental or intellectual speculation.
We firmly reiterate that there is no need to panic: this is the highest level of perfection, and it can also be achieved gradually. How fast it is up to us: a moment or millions of lives is just a matter of desire and sincerity in commitment.
However, you can even start by simply chanting or reciting the mantra, perhaps a few minutes a day, and appreciate the benefit in terms of relaxation, tranquility, and lucid thinking (the Hare Krishna mantra frees the mind in any case).
In addition, many of the useful side effects stem from each of the activities mentioned, especially those described in points 1 and 2.
Even a minimal practice brings an eternal and lasting result: in the future it will begin from the exact point where we left it, if not in this life, later (in fact, the spiritual merits acquired are never lost, unlike materials).
In any case, therefore, even if we do so only temporarily, or to get secondary or intermediate results, it is always advisable to practice this method, at least partially.
The mere fact of beginning it will ensure safe spiritual progress. The first beneficial effects are usually heard after a few days, or a few weeks to the maximum of constant practice.
Of course, it can be useful to keep correspondence with someone who follows the same process from some time, that can guide us in the different stages (which are always explained extensively in the books used), and for this purpose our Support service has been established in personal follow-up, with the help of the website: www.radiokrishna.com and its multiple services.
There are many resources available on the portal, such as radio, television and web streaming stations, hundreds of online books and thousands of freely downloadable radio and music programs (spiritual genre), chat, forums, etc., which along with the e-mail service and telephone, keeps us in contact with people interested in practicing the process, despite the geographical distance.
From time to time we meet to spend a day dedicated to spirituality, or to deepen the knowledge of method and practice, in one of the centers for Krishna consciousness, or during parties or special events (always indicated in our forum in this section: http://padasevanam.mediarama.com/rkcforum/forum/forum.asp?FORUM_ID=33).
However, there is no particular need to physically approach people or places, it is sufficient to follow the instructions of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, recite the Mantra Hare Krishna as it is described and study the transcendental science explained in the books mentioned.
Krishna's consciousness is a primarily individual path, it is made to restore one's own personal relationship with the Lord, and this can be done anywhere and any condition, provided that the directions of an authentic spiritual master, such as Srila Prabhupada, are followed, applying them with logic and common sense in the context in which we live.
For any additional questions, doubts or information you can contact the editors of RKC or contact the resources already mentioned and the others, listed below.
Best wishes for a joyful practice of Bhakti Yoga, Hare Krishna
Gualberto Berti - Gokula Tulasi das
Operating Office (Radio Krishna Centrale On-Web)
C/O ISKCON Mayapur
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West Bengal - India
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