Thursday, March 25, 2010

On Bhakti

Since I am home today with a bum leg because I, in fact, was a dumb man and made a dumb man mistake and did not order necessary medications that I need to function optimally, I figured in the midst of cleaning, mediating and filling the new book shelf with books, I would write.

Specifically about Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of Devotion. It's not just in Indian Tantra, it is in fact, everywhere. It is also one of the practices that comes most naturally to me, personally.

The process is very very simple:

1. Pick an appropriate object of Devotion.

2. Spend time getting to know the object of your Devotion.

3. Love them.

4. Love them so much you go a bit crazy.

5. Love them some more, and become totally drunk on them.

6. Love them till you transcend the barriers between yourself and them, between them and God, between any one thing and any other thing.

Jesus summed it up in half a sentence: "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.."

The cult of Devotion has a very very important part to play in the life of the lay person, especially. Going to India we see Krishna telling folks to simply Love Him and believe in Him and if you do that truely, you don't have anything to worry about. Now a days, we are used to Christianity which says the same, so it's no big deal. At the time in India though, it was very scandalous! The idea, that you could Love your way into unity with God, suggested that not only did you not need the whole of the priest caste to sacrafice and perform ritual for you, but you also didn't need the whole of the complex yogas and austerities of the Tantrics and Renunciates.

It's a heroic thing really, to Love that much. Most of us, actually, find it in other people, first. Our hearts are used to being small, closed in, selfish. That is the way of things, and our hard wired biological imperative. For those with children, they usually start to stir those feelings for them. For those with a very romantic soul, it's that one big "Love of your Life" that does it.

It's the kind of Love that dogs have for their masters, and in a very real way, it is transcendant. You see past all the foibles, and warts, and baggage, and see the person as they are, behind all that. Now this can, and has led to horrible abuse, and most people won't have this relationship with another human being for fear of that. But it has a great rate of success where there isnt abuse:

Rumi's Love for Shams
Milarepa's Love for Marpa
Radha's Love for Krishna
Hanuman's Love for Rama
Ramakrishna's Love for Kali
Vimilananda's Love for Tara
Majnun for Layla
Lancelot for Guenevere
The Love of hundreds of Saints for Jesus or the Virgin, or even just their Hearts.

This kind of ecstatic Love is found cross traditionally through the world, inspiring poet and troubadour alike, and like most ecstatic things it tends to blur the line between joy and despair, pleasure and pain.

There is a story about Rumi, he went to town to meet his teacher, Shams i Tabriz, and would always be juuuuust missing him. He would enter a building, Shams would be leaving, he would enter a market, Shams would be at the other end, and only the ghost of his smell would remain to lead him on. After what seemed like and eternity of this, Rumi was out of his mind, so he climbed the stairs of the highest building he could find and threw himself off!

..and Shams was there to catch him when he fell.

It's theorized that the Arabian tradition of Ecstatic Love (possibly starting in India), made its way to Europe and there blossomed the idea of Courtly Love, and the Troubadour tradition. Slaying dragons for you Lady Love, etc. One important point in Courtly Love was that you could ONLY court a married woman, as she had to remain untouchable, and you must remain ever striving. That's right, you had to be chaste!

Dante's adoration of Beatrice falls into this category. You'll also see a good example in the Ecstasy of St. Theresa by Bernini. Reading the account of that experience in her works is.. well.. kinda hot! Lots of spear thrusting and holy light and fire!** Chastity was important to build the experience, and of course , the energies in the body. That chastity, and the distance of never being able to get to your Beloved helps build the emotion, the passion, all of it, to Transcendent proportions. The idea is that if you consummate physically it will be lowered to the physical, and you are seeking the real Platonic Idea of Love. Love as it exists in the mind of God.

It is beautiful and dangerous. Aghori Vimalananda in the Aghora series said that Jnana is related to the solar channel, where you burn and burn and burn, and eventually you realize your oneness with God through focus on your innermost nature. Bhakti is related to the lunar channel, because it drives you mad, and you are tossed about by your passions.

He told a story about two yogis who were in a caravan, and they came to a well with no rope or bucket. The yogi ascetic used his siddhi to levitate down to the bottom of the well and bring back water, while the Bhakti devotee sang a song to God and the water rose to meet him.

Aghori Vimalananda praised Bhakti as the surest and safest path. I would add the caveat, "if you can manage it." Because honestly it isn't easy, and it can consume you just as easy as a botched invocation, or misdirection of energies, or even an improperly prepared philosopher's stone. It is by far the simplest path, but just as dangerous as any other.

The time I had my deepest Devotional experiences were when I was a practicing Catholic. I once described it to a friend as "God Loving through you."

In my magical practice, it is honestly, helped show me on a very visceral level Unity in Multiplicity, and Multiplicity in Unity. It is no longer my primary path, though I do practice still, on occasion. I, personally have to be able to turn it off, and come down. God intoxicated is still intoxicated! As I am now, I need breaks from it. I can't handle being in ANY state all the time.

**"I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying."

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