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Bhakti Yoga- a path of sentiments or a sentimental path?

Aren’t people who practise Bhakti Yoga emotional; they cry for God and approach Him with vague, childish feelings? So is this a path meant for sentimentalists?

No! The path of Bhakti Yoga is all-encompassing; all grades of people, from the highly intelligent, to the simple hearted and most uneducated, and even sentimental, can happily and successfully practise this process. This is the large heartedness of Bhakti that it’s not limited by emotions or intellect; although the process involves sentiments, it’s not the exclusive domain of sentimentalists.

A simple seven year old child may find it difficult to figure out complicated mathematical problems that a Phd researcher easily solves. And what the child is able to explain without trouble, the scholar may find it below his dignity to address. But Bhakti doesn’t work on these parameters; both an intellectual scholar and even a simple child or even a powerful warrior can equally access the Lord’s grace and perfect their lives through Bhakti Yoga.

The Ramayana reveals that Lord Rama recognized the herculean services of Hanuman who carried huge boulders, and He was equally pleased with a tiny squirrel’s meagre attempts to carry pebbles. Both served the Lord in love, helping Him build a bridge across Lanka. In the same way some of us may be super intelligent and ‘non-emotional’ while others could be simple, illiterate people. And both would be equally dear to the Lord, and can practise Bhakti Yoga effectively.

Thus Bhakti yoga blends all criterion-loving emotions, simple service, physical strength and a philosophical intellect- for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord.

A more relevant point to address is what’s wrong in being ‘emotional’ for Krishna? For a long time, progress in various fields like science, law and medicine was considered to be dependent on a high IQ, and emotions were seen as hindrance for growth. Research studies by a multitude of scholars led by Daniel Goleman changed all this; Emotional quotient- EQ- is now recognized as a more stable foundation for progress in society. Rich and meaningful relationships, filled with healthy emotions are now seen to play a deeper role in decision making and the quality of life; emotional richness is also accepted as a prerequisite for sustainable personal development. After all, on deathbed no one’s going to regret spending less time in office, it’s mainly the emotional issues that people regret and wish to address before they leave this world.

Of course this doesn’t mean that one who wails hysterically in front of the Lord is ‘spiritual’. It’s essential to clarify that spiritual emotions are as different from material emotions as gold is from iron, or fire from water. Spiritual affection for Krishna is experienced only when one’s mind and intelligence is fixed on the Lord, and the soul is not distracted by material feelings. When water is boiling in a vessel, it’s difficult to perceive the bottom. Similarly as long as the mind is swayed by material emotions, we are prisoners of a limited intelligence, and cannot perceive spiritual love of the soul which is much deeper and subtler than our earthly mind and intelligence.

Such people who confuse bodily sentiments to the spiritual psyche of Bhakti Yoga would cry if their favourite team lost a cricket match. And then they may also shed tears hearing the childhood pastimes of Lord Krishna. These expressions are not spiritual; they are merely a superimposition of non spiritual mentality on a spiritual subject. Basically for such spiritually undeveloped people, narrations of Lord’s pastimes serve as mere pious entertainment that camouflages as devotion. There are instances when so called devotees cry for the Lord and later in their privacy also take a bout of drugs. This means they are still influenced by the material energy, and their display of reverential Bhakti is at best superficial, and at worst hypocritical.

Therefore there is more to Bhakti Yoga than mere ‘crying’ or being sentimental. If we remember and serve Krishna with love and sincerity, we are practising Bhakti Yoga effectively. And this would not only please the Lord it would also surely invoke Krishna’s sentiments and mercy on us!

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