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Focusing the Mind
Achieving Better Health and Well Being
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Then we hope you’ll find these pages enlightening
Balancing asanas are an important group of asanas which we have not yet introduced in this course. These asanas develop the coordination between the muscles of the body, so that the individual is able to perform physical movements more gracefully and more efficiently. Many people lack synchronization between the muscles. The different muscles seem to hinder more than help each other. This means that more effort and energy are required to do less work. To attain a specific movement of any part of the body, there has to be perfect timing between the relevant muscles and between the nerves that activate the muscles. Some muscles and nerves must even act in opposition, partially blocking the required movement, so that the resulting movement is graceful and well directed. All movements of the body, no matter how small, are controlled by means of various nerve pathways to the brain. These nerve pathways ensure that the muscles relax or contract to exactly the correct degree to attain perfect muscular response and thereby perfect movement.
Continue reading: Balancing Asanas: Practice
All the paths of yoga lead to dhyana (meditation). Bhakti can intensify the effectiveness of other paths of yoga, for if you feel devotion towards something, then your attention and interest will automatically flow in that direction without any effort. There will be a natural attraction towards the object of love. For many people, it is difficult to maintain awareness of the breath or the psychic centres or whatever during hatha yoga and raja yoga practices, because there is no natural attraction. The awareness is distracted in other directions, preventing success in one’s yogic sadhana. But if you feel devotion and love for an object, then you will have no choice but to be aware. The object of devotion will overwhelm your whole being. This is the way to success in yoga.
Remember, if you are not devotionally inclined then don’t force yourself to follow the path of bhakti. If you are a doubter, then please remain a doubter. Don’t try to become a bhakta. But if you are a doubter then let the doubt be so overwhelming that it forces you to make an effort to seek answers to life and your own nature. If your doubt is strong enough then it will force you to practise some of the paths of yoga, though not bhakti yoga. Or your doubt will force you to find some other means to either confirm or remove your scepticism.
Continue reading: A summary of bhakti yoga – part 2
We have written much about bhakti yoga. But the flow of ideas on the subject kept coming and coming. There seems to be no end, and even now there are countless other things that could be said. But at this point it is time to stop, and give you a chance to follow the path of bhakti yoga for yourself if you are devotionally inclined.
Each of us has emotions. They are a normal part of the human makeup. But few people can direct and focus these emotions in one direction and towards positive and constructive purposes.
Each person is looking for a suitable object or person on which to express and focus their emotions. This occurs either consciously or unconsciously and is the case with both the obviously emotional person and the seemingly unemotional person. It is in this search for a suitable focal point for emotions and feeling that people rush wildly after so many things in life, and as a result their emotions are needlessly dissipated. Others, who have met with severe and traumatic rebuffs in their efforts to express emotions, tend to suppress them. This is a great problem in life and there is only one positive method of solving it: one must try to focus all the emotions on one thing. The emotions have to be channelled in one direction. Some people do this by directing all their emotions into their work. There is nothing wrong with this, providing you follow as closely as possible the principles of karma yoga3. If you don’t then the emotions will rebound and once again cause you disturbances. The best method is to direct all one’s emotions towards one subject or object of veneration. One should try and convert emotions into devotion and surrender and dedicate all one’s aspirations to the object of devotion. One should offer all the fruits of actions, either spiritually or mentally. This is bhakti yoga, but it is not easy.
Continue reading: A summary of bhakti yoga – part 1
Bhakti is rarely associated with Buddhism. But actually Buddha himself was the epitome of a bhakta. He was said to be ever blissful. He was even known as the ‘compassionate one’ which surely implies bhakti. Wherever he went he radiated love. Though he did not preach bhakti yoga as a method, he himself was a perfect example of an intoxicated bhakta. The same also applies to Buddhism; it does not teach bhakti yoga as a path, for it is easily misused and can lead to blind superstition, but its prescribed paths eventually lead to the experience of bhakti.
It is said that Buddha urged his disciples to have faith. But this is not blind faith in dogmas or the scriptures. It is faith in the existence of a higher reality, of the possibility of attaining liberation and knowledge.
Continue reading: Buddhism
Ramakrishna worshipped the form of the supreme as Kali, the divine mother. She represents the dissolution of life, pain and darkness, as well as loving kindness, protection and bliss. Kali is both loving and stern. He continuously reflected on her image and attributes, day and night. His bhakti was such that he could not stop thinking of her. Eventually, he saw her everywhere and in everything. This was his path to illumination.
He was often asked by people: what is the way to the supreme? His answer was sharp and definite: bhakti yoga. He said time and time again that bhakti yoga is the best sadhana for the Kali Yuga (Dark Age) of the present. His bhakti is illustrated by the following statement he made to a disciple:
Continue reading: Indian Bhaktas – Part 2
If we wrote about most of the known bhaktas of India then we would easily fill the rest of this book. It is possible to write an encyclopaedia on them. To give you an idea of the aspirations of these bhaktas we intend to give selected quotations from two great bhaktas – Kabir and Ramakrishna.
Kabir is one of the most famous bhaktas of India. The word kabir means ‘great’, and this exactly describes this exuberant bhakti poet. He is often called Kabirdas, which means the slave or servant of the supreme.
He was born near Benares in 1440. His whole life was an expression of bhakti. He earned his living as a weaver. He sang countless songs, many of which have been recorded by his disciples. They all generate an atmosphere of devotion and bliss and are widely sung throughout India. And still, even though they were written hundreds of years ago, they continue to transmit overwhelming devotion and feeling. When these songs are sung the whole atmosphere is charged with the devotion of Kabir. The air becomes vibrant; the heart starts thumping with joy. This occurs even for those who do not understand the language.
Continue reading: Indian Bhaktas – Part 1
There are vast numbers of sects and subsects, some of which are closely related and others that seem very different. All together they form a mixture that makes the Hindu religion seem confusing. As an illustration, we intend to briefly discuss one bhakti sect which worships Krishna. This will indicate the general trend of bhakti yoga in India.
Much of the doctrine of the vaishnavites (followers of Vishnu, including Krishna) is concerned with Krishna as a child in the town of Brindavan by the Yamuna River. The stories of his childhood pranks are recorded in the Srimad Bhagavatam. Stories of other parts of his life are given in scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita. He is worshipped and adored by the gopis (cowherd girls) who were Krishna’s greatest followers. They were intense bhaktas. Everything that they did, touched and saw was permeated with Krishna. They wallowed in his eternal sport which is unceasing and everywhere. It is said in the Srimad Bhagavatam that: “In every branch, leaf, flower and fruit I see Krishna and nothing else. Doors and walls have been transformed into mirrors. In every direction I see thee and thee alone. Pebbles, stones and lumps of earth have all been turned into so many looking glasses.”
Continue reading: Bhakti in Hinduism