Every part of the world, every culture and every religion has had its share of bhakti intoxicated bhaktas. The religion of Judaism has had the bhaktas of the Old Testament and the vibrant followers of Hasidism. Christianity has had these plus bhaktas such as St. Teresa, St. Augustine, St. Francis and many more. Islam has had bhaktas such as Rabia of Basra, Junnuna Misri of Egypt, Attar, Rumi, Farid, Tabriz and many others. In India there has been an endless list of well-known bhaktas. Even Buddhism, which seems at first glance to have nothing in common with bhakti, has produced its fair share of ecstatic bhaktas.
Most of these great bhaktas initially worshipped the supreme consciousness in a particular form. It was from this that they realized the nature of that which is beyond form, and in fact that which is both beyond the formless and the formed, yet an integral part of everything. The common feature of all these well-known bhaktas is their compassion for all people and all things, no matter what circumstances prevailed. This applies to the bhaktas of all religions, though actually they are beyond any specific religion.
Most religions are predominantly bhakti in nature and teaching. An obvious exception is Buddhism, which is mainly a raja yoga and jnana yoga system. However, Buddhism too has a well-known offshoot which chants the holy name of amitabha. And this bhakti aspect of religions is not surprising, for devotion is a powerful and natural expression of man. The state of highest consciousness is not the monopoly of any one religion – it is the culmination of all religions. It is only the name, the object of worship and the specific method that is different. The culmination of highest consciousness and the expression of bhakti is the same. All the scriptures only discuss the starting point and the mechanics. They cannot talk about the culmination, except in allegorical form. Religions are a method. Whether one worships Christ, Krishna or whoever, it does not really matter. They all signify the same thing and devotion to any of these incarnated forms can lead to higher states of awareness.
There are many artists who expressed bhakti through their work. Many poems, paintings and sculptures were produced by bliss-intoxicated bhaktas. Their masterpieces are an attempt to express the ineffable. Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, William Blake, Rabindranath Tagore, the incredible tantric artists and sculptors of India and many more in all parts of the world tried to express and depict their feeling of divine love. The beauty and sensitivity of their masterpieces clearly shows this. Great works of art are not really made, they are divinely inspired by revelationary experience. They are an expression of the heart. They don’t really require effort, they happen.
Next time you look at a work of art, or listen to a beautiful piece of music, think of the motivating force behind its composition. What was the reason for the inspiration? Next time you hear a story of a great sage, saint or yogi, reflect on the driving force behind his actions. What is it that made his actions so perfect and powerful? If you don’t know what this force is, then we will tell you: it is overwhelming bhakti.