Bhakti Yoga: Will it spoil my career?
by Mukul Shri Goel
InfoTech revolution has brought most existing cultures and religious
groups into contact with each other. In the context of spirituality,
higher connectivity implies that the notions of an individual typing an
article on his or her laptop can now influence how a mind sitting next
door, or in a far-off state, relates to God. For spiritual aspirants
who are undecided in their paths, this improved information exchange,
at times, can boost the likelihood of making wrong assumptions. While
we have more access to information that was secluded from us by
scholars, we also have virtual ‘gurus’ that can unintentionally deflect
us from our paths to God through their vibrant imagination.
As we get in touch with more and more people who hold opinions
that differ from ours, some of us may be tempted to doubt even an
ancient technique like Bhakti Yoga, the path of love and surrender to
God, which has had a close to hundred percent success rate. The younger
generation is particularly vulnerable to the louder voices, most of
which aim at displaying their skill sets in analysis and reasoning
rather than the feel that maintains Bhakti Yoga as the top rated path
in most world religions. We’ll take a look at some misconceptions about
Bhakti and its followers, which are not novel but keep floating around
to distract seekers in the making.
Myth 1: Bhakti is old-fashioned, though it may be somewhat appropriate for the elderly.
We, the society, over the ages have developed an exceptional
ability to stereotype everyone and everything around us. And we see no
reason to exempt spiritual seekers from our thinking processes. Among
people approaching God through different tactics, when we hear the term
"devotees," we usually recall a group of passive, timid individuals
chanting the Lord’s name, isolated from the world, staring at us with
folded hands. How bhakti is unauthentically presented on TV, in movies,
and in some luxuriant places of worship around us may play a major role
in our linking bhakti with individuals who are aged or less capable of
As a result of these linkages in our mind, while we may prefer to
attend yoga classes and sit with an erect spine for an hour, if someone
sings hymns for an hour, it may appear old-fashioned to many members of
the newer generation. At times, we may even surface cynicism towards
devotees, “Maybe they are veiling their indolent disposition by staring
at an idol.” We can easily prevent the formation of such wrong
assumptions by developing elementary equanimity: all kinds of yoga,
bhakti, karma, jnana and raja, are part of the same tradition and were
designed by seers to reach the same destination.
Myth 2: Bhakti is for non-intellectuals.
You can do a small exercise to check the validity of this belief.
Collect names of any ten bhakti saints from the internet or your
library and observe if their writings appear less intellectual to you
than other philosophers.
Love of God has the potential to
lead to spiritual knowledge and beyond even in the absence of strong
intellectual capabilities. This idea from the scriptures cannot be
interpreted as “Bhakti functions without knowledge or brilliance.” It
simply implies that reasoning and analytical skills are not an initial
requirement for bhakti, just like presence of emotion for God is not a
prerequisite for Jnana Yoga, the path of knowledge.
it is true that jnana yoga is naturally preferred by the introspective
and bhakti by the emotional, the bhakti schools may argue that whenever
intellect is coupled with love, the path becomes bhakti yoga, which
they believe is all-inclusive. Before we take the divergence of these
paths too seriously, we should recognize that both paths conclude at
infinite knowledge and love. Actually, they conclude at a successful
relationship with God, which may be oneness if we prefer the
non-dualistic school of thought.
Myth 3: I have tried it already; it does not work.
are discussing a love affair here – a love affair with God. If you
tried it once and left it, it shows you never fell in love in the first
place. The success of this yoga cannot be assessed on whether we obtain
favorable results in return for what we feel is love. To progress on
bhakti, we need a foundation: trust, truth and an earnest aspiration to
meet God. With this platform, there is no reason to fail on a path that
aims at surrender rather than deeper applications of our own brainpower.
Myth 4: Bhakti will make me submissive.
again, check out the list of bhakti saints you made for Myth 2. All of
these saints had the soul-force to resist the ills in the society of
their times. As a result of their courage and clarity, most
devotee-saints accomplished a lot more than their non-devotional
counterparts and lived as leaders rather than followers on their
surrender-oriented path to God.
It is true that bhakti
involves submission, but this submission is to God, not to individual
fellow beings. Earnest remembrance of the Divine increases mental
awareness and detaches us from all uncertainties. When all rubbish in
the mind such as stresses, attachment to profits, fear of the
workplace, competition from colleagues, and pressure from family and
peers is cleansed away, can the holder of such a mindset be fearful and
sluggish? In fact, one would be evermore determined and focused. The
inverse correlation between desires and memory in Hindu thought tells
us that intellectual usage increases as the mind gets filled with God
remembrance, which completely deserts all desires. The slightest amount
of love in the heart fills every action with enthusiasm and joy to
enhance our chances to excel.
Myth 5: It takes a lot of time. If I engage in it, I’ll be late for work.
beginners on any spiritual path, problems may be inescapable, but we
must try to analyze where they originate. If you say that you missed
the train to work as a result of remembering or loving God, it may not
be a wise explanation. Such a situation is possible if you schedule
your prayers at an inappropriate point of time or start applying for
the initial connection to God while your mind is busy figuring out if
your proposal would be accepted at the workplace. We should remember
that we have the freedom to manage our time on every path.
we may observe a lot of people near us wasting time in the name of
spirituality. But we should prevent this observation from labeling
bhakti as an antagonist of time or exertion in worldly matters. Many of
the individuals we survey may not be ethically disposed in spite of
their listening to discourses and participating in kirtans and satsang.
advanced seekers, the presence of God in their mind, through activation
of higher consciousness, may actually alert them to the extent that
they may perform all their activities at the right moments without even
having to glance at the clock. A higher awareness aims at remembering
everything without the pocket planner, not at delaying action. If
bhakti hinders your organization skills and punctuality, you may wish
to consult your mentor.
Myth 6: Reduced amounts
of riches with the Bhakti saints prove that they were less productive.
Bhakti will spoil my professional resume too.
A paradigm shift accompanies all great souls, which prompts the society
to make wrong assessments about their productivity in the material
world. First of all, their higher focus in life makes it difficult for
saints to accumulate stuff made from material nature and secondly,
their modest savings are flushed towards the deprived as a result of
their vast compassion. For that reason, to say that Kabirdas and Raidas
did not work hard in their vocations of weaving and leather-working,
respectively, as a result of bhakti would be untrue. Their ‘problem’
was that they had renounced money – the social measure of professional
accomplishment. In such a situation, any effort in the material world
is likely to go unnoticed. Folklore tells us that God has, at times,
miraculously offered money to a lot of saints to raise their standard
of material life (and test them). But saints, as expected, turned down
every material favor, even from the Divine, to demonstrate their
perfect adherence to non-possessiveness.
Remembrance of God
cannot block our professional life until we voluntarily renounce it. If
we have a temperament to engage in professional endeavors, we cannot,
all of a sudden, change our aptitude towards profession. Bhakti
influences our mindset, but very gradually. Without withholding
profession rise, it slowly raises our sphere of thinking through
selfless karma. Bhakti may transform our interests and may prepare us
for an early retirement plan, once our responsibilities are over, so
that we can contribute to righteousness on a universal plane.
if accumulating money forever and obtaining higher and higher
designations through a manipulative methodology is what “professional
life” means to you, there is no need to be afraid of bhakti – it cannot
block your material rise, for it has yet to install itself within you.
To exist in the heart, love requires a permanent erasure of all human
inclinations towards scheming and passion in the mind.
of God plus faith can do wonders through mechanisms that are unknown to
us. Only in the final stages of surrender, when all desires have left,
may we choose to give up professional pursuits to experience the
highest love. But we do not have to think so ahead of time about
becoming a saint or receiving instructions from God. Evolution to that
final stage may take us anywhere from a few decades to a few lifetimes.
Bhakti is such a superior phenomenon that we, the spectators, always
face suffering in comprehending it. Even after saints leave the world,
they are recognized by us only for their material contributions like
writings or compositions, which later form university curriculum. Their
actual spiritual contribution – the divine environment that they create
for everyone – is never noticed by most of us.