THE PRACTICE OF BHAKTI YOGA
Hare Krishna to all, in this schematic guide that everyone can follow at home, too, we introduce the method of developing our consciousness called Bhakti-Yoga, practiced by millions of people all over the world, from very ancient time, in order to achieve the spiritual realization.
First of all we want to clear some fundamental aspects of this process:
HOW IS IT CALLED ?
_ Bhakti yoga,
_ Buddhi yoga,
_ Krishna consciousness, or
_ Devotional service.
They are all expressions reported to the same process.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN ?
_ Yoga means union with God.
_ Bhakti means devotion, love for God.
_ Bhakti Yoga means to join God with love and devotion or, in other words, to develop love for God.
WHAT USE IS IT ?
_ To wake up again our own eternal relation with God, now forgotten , and consequently:
_ To acquire great knowledge, spiritual and material.
_ To get rid from every suffering.
_ To control the mind.
_ To catch up a perfect psycho-physical equilibrium.
_ To become happy, situated on the spiritual platform.
_ To use the human body correctly.
_ To lose own bad habits.
_ To acquire good qualities.
WHAT IS IT ?
_ A process completely scientific.
_ A method based on a precise, spiritual science.
_ A series of spiritual practices, independent from any external, material circumstance.
WHAT IS IT NOT ?
_ A sentimental method (is based on immense scientific literature).
_ A sect, schism, or narrow group (it is followed by hundreds of millions of people in the world).
_ A new religious faith (it come from the most ancient tradition: the Veda were wrote about 5.000 years ago, but they were existing very much time before, handed down orally).
_ An Indian religion (it is valid for all living beings, and it is knewn from very much time before that India was constituted as Nation of nowadays).
_ An Eastern religion (it does not depend on geographic position, and it is not meant for some particular people or place: it is for all the living beings).
_ An "other" religion (the principles are the same established by the founders of the main religious faiths of the world, like Christianity, Islam etc).
_ Hinduism (the term "Hindu" does not exist in Veda, it was coined from the Muslims who called thus all the populations that lived behind of the Sindhu river, during their invasion of India).
_ Polytheism (only one, same God is the origin of all other His forms).
_ Pantheism and similar (see above).
WHO CAN PRACTICE IT?
_ Any living being (the human form of life is particularly suitable to have success in bhakti yoga).
WHO CANNOT PRACTICE IT?
_ Nobody. No-one living being is excluded. But actually, only the human form of life allows a meaningful practice of Bhakti yoga.
I AM FOLLOWING ANOTHER RELIGIOUS FAITH, AND I WANT TO KEEP IT:
CAN I PRACTICE THE METHOD ANYWAY ?
_ Sure. This is a scientific method, and it works independently from the followed or declared religion, at any level. Bhakti yoga simply make us to intensify and go deeply into the personal relation with God, in our preferred aspect of Him, without necessarily to change it.
I AM ATHEIST, AND I WANT TO REMAIN SO:
CAN I PRACTICE THE METHOD ANYWAY ?
_ Sure. With this method one can achieve also the "brahman", impersonal aspect of God, that corresponds to an atheistic vision (denying or not taking in consideration the existence of God as a person). In this position many benefits are caught up however (see also the point " WHAT USE IS IT").
WHAT MUST ONE TO CHANGE, BEFORE TO START?
WHAT MUST ONE TO CHANGE OR STOP GRADUALLY?
_ Own bad habits.
WHAT (NECESSARILY) DOES NOT HAVE TO CHANGE, NEVER?
_ The familiar position.
_ The social position.
_ The working position.
_ The geographic position.
_ The religious position.
_ Own interests, hobbies etc.
_ The field of own activities.
_ Generally nothing that does not re-enter in bad habits.
WHAT HAPPEN IF I PRACTICE SOME ACTIVITY, BUT NOT ALL ?
_ You get however a benefit, proportional to your engagement. Also the minimal action executed in the field of the Bhakti Yoga assure enormous advantages, and no unfavorable result.
WHAT HAPPEN IF I DO NOT FOLLOW ALL THE RULES OR THE PRINCIPLES ?
_ Same as above.
WHAT HAPPEN IF I PRACTICE FOR SOMETIME, THEN I STOP ?
_ Same as above.
HOW MUCH IT COST ?
_ Absolutely nothing.
_ Because this method was established by the Lord for the benefit of all living beings.
It cannot be taught for payment.
I AM NOT INTERESTED. WHY I WOULD HAVE TO PRACTICE IT ?
_ In order to obtain great benefits anyway (see also the point "WHAT USE IS IT ?").
SUMMARY DESCRIPTION AND PRACTICAL SUPPORT
Adding in our daily life the simple activities of the bhakti yoga, we can settle down ourself on a transcendental plan, called "Brahma-bhuta platform", where we will be no more longer hit from material sufferings, and from the destiny that we would have had, called "karma". Gradually we will be able to perceive always more clearly the presence of God and to catch up the more high spiritual happiness, until resuming our eternal spiritual position of full happiness and knowledge, may be during this same life (according to our engagement in the process).
Donít worry, there is no need to learn difficult physical positions or respiration exercises, bhakti yoga mainly means to resume conscience of our intimate eternal relation with the Lord, listening to
about Him from reliable sources. This is called "sravanam", that in sanskrit language means just "listens to" (the word "yoga" indicates that we are talking about God).
To listen to about spiritual arguments we will raise our conscience to a spiritual level.
The fundamental point to understand is that every living being is an eternal spiritual soul, of joyful nature, full of knowledge and happiness. Only temporarily we are living in this material body, that alloys us to this world and its miseries. But actually we have nothing to do with it: the material body is completely separated from us, the real spiritual souls.
Originally we come from the spiritual world, where there is no any suffering but only full satisfaction, in company of the Lord. In fact, a deep relation of love between God and every individual soul exists eternally: in this moment we have forgotten that connection.
The process of bhakti yoga, or devotional service, allow us to wake up again this relation and to remember everything, at the condition to listen to spiritual informations from reliable sources.
All the feelings of love for God are already present in the heart of every living being, but now they are covered from material contamination, so they must be uncovered again. This is possible cleaning the heart from any obstacle: the method in order to obtain such purification is to recite regularly the Holy name of the Lord, and listening to about His qualities, His passtimes etc., from authoritative persons, repeating them as they are, without any kind of alteration.
Basically, this process exists in every religious faith of the world (if authentic) but, during the time we have seen many manipulations, always increasing, of the original knowledge diffused by the founders of these religious systems.
The result is that nowadays, real and effective methods of spiritual realization are very rare or nonexistent (in some traditions).
The method of bhakti yoga, promoted by the International Society for Krishna consciousness (ISKCON), is based on the ancient vedic knowledge, wrote about 5.000 years ago in sanskrit language, and arrived to us through a disciplic succession of spiritual masters, all extremely
loyal to the duty to keep the same knowledge intact: the 32į authentic ring of this succession is Bhaktivedanta Svami Srila Prabhupada, founder of the Society and author of more than 80 books.
Thanks to his service we have now access to many vedic texts (all the most importants), authentics and authoritatives, very well translated in English language (from the original sanskrit language, precisely) and skillfully commented, with a purport particularly suitable to the modern context.
So we can offer an effective and complete method of spiritual realization, well-supported and easy to practice, with immediate personal check.
Mainly the method is based on a regular recitation of the maha mantra:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
that it comes from the spiritual plan, and it is called "the mantra of the liberation". For its high power, in fact, it is the most suitable way to free the mind from every disturbance, and it is totally effective also nowadays, even under heavy external conditions.
Its meaning is "Oh energy of the Lord, o God, please engage me in Your spiritual service" (find more here: www.iskconny.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=30&Itemid=1)
It is also necessary to read regularly the vedic texts we were talking about, starting with the "Bhagavad-Gita as it is". You can find it on line at the page www.radiokrishna.com/books_online_eng.php of our website, among the "Krishna book", reassuming 10į Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the summum bonum of the vedic knowledge (dealing about Krishna, the supreme personality of Godhead), and a short biography of the author.
The books that form the philosophy of Krishna consciousness are all those wrote from Srila Prabhupada, approximately 80 in English language. They are buyable at your nearest Hare Krishna center or by the website www.krishna.com (many other free e-books are available).
In this way, following the indications of Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada, as he explains very clearly in his books, we will proceed with sure step towards the spiritual realization.
A mantra of 16 words as described above, repeated for 108 times it constitutes a "round" of japa, and the spiritual standard established by the master, Srila Prabhupada, is to chant 16 rounds everyday, that requires from 1 hour and half to 2 hours of time approximately.
Thatís why devotees in Hare Krishnaís temples wake up very early morning, in order to complete their spiritual practices without too much disturbance. The hour that goes from 90 minutes before, until the dawn, called brahma-muhurta, it is preferable, because every spiritual practice performed in that period, give us the greater benefit.
Actually there are also other activities that facilitate the achievement of the higher results, such as the spiritual morning program, performed in every temple of the Society for Krishna consciousness. You can attend the program by internet, audio/video live from some temples all around the world, generally from 4.30am. You can find the links at the page: www.radiokrishna.com/stations
On this example, everyone can introduce the practice of bhakti yoga in his/her life, according to own desires, necessities and living conditions.
Anyway to chant and to recite the maha-mantra Hare Krishna is the center of all other activities. In order to count the "rounds" of japa, it is possible to use a crown similar to the catholic one, but counting until 108 (twice, since it has 54 grains). A vocal examples of the recite during personal meditation, can be listened to from here: www.radiokrishna.com/rkc_archive_new/index.php?q=s&s=chanting+japa
If you want to buy a more suitable crown of sacred wood, called Tulasi Mala, we suggest you to ask the nearest Hare Krishna temple (here is a world-wide list: http://directory.krishna.com). You can also make a call, to ask if they can send it to you by postal service, with the appropriate bag of material (bead-bag), in order to avoid trailing and distraction during the meditation.
Of course the level of 16 rounds per day can be caught up gradually, beginning with 2 or 4, for example, according to our capability, and increasing them when possible (we suggest donít decrease them).
Simultaneously, to make faster the process of spiritual realization, and in order to keep us on a transcendental plan, where the material suffering donít disturb us and we can get a spiritual happiness always increasing, we have to follow four principles, inserting them in our life, gradually, according to our will:
Donít worry if you cannot follow immediately all these principles (especially the number 3, the most difficult to observe, generally), because while we proceed with other practices, in particular reciting the mantra and studying daily, our conscience will be gradually elevated, we will taste a spiritual pleasure always increasing, and we will be thus in a position to accepting these principles without effort or repression.
We can make the example of a rich man, who if sees on the road some bit, he neglects them and he pass beyond, without any interest. Similarly, who tastes a spiritual pleasure, so bigger than all material pleasures (included sex), automatically he/she is not interested to the inferiors one. He/she doesnít need to make efforts, simply he/she is not interest because he/she knows something better.
Of course it is very difficult to understand this, without to have experimented it personally, so everyone is invited to test the method, starting with the chanting of mantra Hare Krishna and reading the books of Srila Prabhupada mentioned above.
It is also very important to offer all (vegetarian) food we have prepared to Krishna, before to eat it (this can be done from the beginning). In this way we will be free from every reaction of karma coming from doing violence to some vegetable (than is a guilty activity, anyway).
The Lord will accept such offering, an He will give it back integrally (unless He does not decide to make us a joke; -) but purified, for our benefit. Eating only "prasada" (food always offered to God, called literally "mercy"), we will be protected from karmic reactions due to the preparation of the food and we will be predisposed for a spiritual advancement.
The mantra and some explanation to make a food offering is available here: www.iskcon.com/culture/food/index.html
May happen that, at the beginning of the practice, one cannot do a proper food offering, due to some particular circumstance (on work, other people around and so). Then he/she can simply offer the food to Krishna using own words and chanting the mantra Hare Krishna. The correct procedure can be learned later, or executed mentally.
Now, let us go to summarize the method of bhakti yoga fully running, (to achieve gradually, as you like it, according your will and ability):
1) To chant the mantra Hare Krishna, 16 rounds of 108 grains (from 1,30 to 2 hours) every day.
2) To read recommended books (Bhagavad-gita, etc.), advised 1 hour at least every day.
3) To eat only vegetarian "spiritualized" food (that is "prasada", offered to God).
4) Donít take any intoxicant.
5) Donít have illicit sex.
6) Donít play gambling.
We repeat firmly, donít worry if all this appears very far from you, now: that is the most high level of perfection, we can arrive there gradually. How much time we need, it depends on us: a moment, or Million of years, it is just a question of desire and sincerity in our engagement about the method.
However we can start only to chant the mantra, even a few minutes every day, to appreciate the benefit in terms of relax, calmness, clearness of thought etc. (the mantra Hare Krishna makes clear the mind, anyway).
Moreover, many secondary useful effects come from everyone of the mentioned activities, especially from those described at the points 1) and 2). Also the minimal practice door a permanent, eternal result: in future we will start to advance again, from the exact point in which we have left, if not in this life, nextly (in fact, the acquired spiritual merits are never lost, to the contrary of those materials).
In any case therefore, even if we follow the method just temporarly, or in order to obtain some secondary or intermediate result, it is always good and advantageous, to practice it, at least in a partial way. Even a very little engagement in such method, it will ensure a spiritual progress, now or in the future, and generally it is possible to understand the initial benefits after just a few days, or some week.
Certainly is useful to correspond with someone who is following the same process from some time, to be helped and guided through the different stages of the process (always widely explained in the books mentioned, anyway), and thatís why we created multiple services at www.radiokrishna.com , to supply "virtual" assistance to everyone.
On the portal are available many books and other resources on-line, radio and tv stations, thousands of radio shows and songs (spiritual genre), free listenable or downloadable, chat, forum, mail, phone etc, so we can keep in touch with the people interested to practice bhakti yoga.
Someone could ask, how much is good a "virtual" practice, without to meet each others physically ?
The answer is that, there is no particular need to approach people, it is sufficient to follow the instructions of Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada, to chant the mantra Hare Krishna as described and to read the mentioned books, where everything is explained very well.
To read such books, means to stay with the spiritual master himself, so we can have the best help in our practice, and take all benefits, as much as we were in his presence.
Krishna consciousness means mainly to recover our own personal relation with God, and this can be made everywhere, in every condition, only we have to follow the indications of a bonafide spiritual master, like Srila Prabhupada, applying them with logic and good sense our life.
For any question, doubt or request of deepening you can have, please contact us at RKC Mayapur and/or consult the mentioned resources, here :
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C/O ISKCON Mayapur
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West Bengal - India
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Good luck with Bhakti Yoga, Hare Krishna!
Gualberto Berti - Gokula Tulasi das