Bhakti – Dogma, fanaticism and indoctrination

The problem with bhakti yoga is that it can easily lead to blind dogmatism combined with fanatical enforcement of one’s beliefs on others. This is not bhakti. Throughout history bhakti has been totally misunderstood and misapplied. Bhakti is the path of love and devotion, yet it has often tended to develop along the path of dogmatism and fanaticism. This is exactly the opposite of bhakti. On the path of bhakti yoga one can devote oneself to a specific form of divinity, any form of one’s choice. It does not matter, but at the same time, one has to be tolerant of any other form of divinity worshipped by other people. Tolerance lies at the very core of bhakti yoga.

At first bhakti yoga involves focussing one’s whole attention on the object of worship or love. This is the stage where bhakti can easily become intolerant and corrupted. This narrowmindedness automatically disappears when one’s devotion leads to expanded awareness and spontaneous bhakti arises from the very depths of the heart. One realizes an underlying essence behind all individual deities and comes to a point of understanding where one accepts all these forms as divinity. This is the paradox that you must understand for yourself.

It is only in the early stages that bhakti can seem to be a form of indoctrination. But this is not the purpose of bhakti yoga. The aim is to reach states beyond indoctrination. The aim of bhakti yoga is to lead to something that removes present indoctrination and concepts and leads to perfect freedom of being. So let us not repeat the errors of history and corrupt bhakti yoga by making it sectarian and narrow. The aim is much higher than dogmatism, fanaticism and indoctrination. The aim is knowledge and bliss. Bhakti yoga is the means and bhakti is the experience.

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