The Logic of Bhakti Yoga
Idol worship is not superstition but a valid path because whatever you study or worship becomes you, says Suma Varughese
Many sages and gurus consider Bhakti Yoga to be the fastest route to enlightenment, particularly in our vitiated Kaliyuga times. Ever wondered what its secret power is?
It hinges, of course, on the aspirant’s capacity to feel. The more the capacity to feel, the greater the power at one’s disposal. Deep feeling transitions naturally to devotion. There is nothing the aspirant will not do for one’s object of worship, and there is no word spoken by the latter that is not law for her. The seeker willingly takes every step into the unknown driven by total faith in her God, and eventually reaches the hallowed space of surrender when she is no more and the worshipped is all. Usually, the object of worship is the guru, one’s personal God, or even the Source behind it all, the Nameless Formless.
As powerful as this is, there is another dimension to Bhakti Yoga which is perhaps less well-known. And that is the transmission that happens from the object of worship to the worshipper. Assume, for instance, that your object of worship is Ganesha. Devoted as you are to your deity, you will think about him all the time with love and gratitude, you will pray to him, sing his bhajans (devotional songs), and invoke his presence innumerable times a day. You will also do puja (worship) for him, and when you do so, you will invoke his qualities such as the capacity to break all hurdles between you and your goals, discriminating intelligence, good listening capacity, and many more. The more we study Ganesha and think about his qualities, the greater the chance that we too will start imbibing these qualities. In a kind of osmosis, we become what we study or worship.
To me, this is not just theory. This is actually an experiential truth. Three decades ago, I had a spiritual awakening that enabled me to transition effortlessly into a state of egolessness, simply by telling myself that it was the other’s happiness that mattered and not mine. However, after a year, I decided I was going to let this mantra go, for I wanted to naturally be in this state and not invoke it anymore. Looking within, I recognised that what stopped egolessness from being my natural state of consciousness was my poor self-esteem that kept me locked in fear, anxiety, low self-confidence, and insecurity. At that point, a colleague at work and I became good friends. To my delight, I found him to be the embodiment of self-esteem. He was unflappable. Nothing troubled him. Even making a mistake was simply a matter of acknowledging it and making amends, whereas it would have caused me to gnash my teeth and smite my chest in agony!
I was fascinated and studied the friend as much as I could, absorbing the way he related to others, took on responsibilities, and handled erring staff members. He was as placid as a pond, while I was a frenetic bundle of nerves. Within about four months of this study, I got a deep experience where I realised that my true self was whole, perfect, and complete, and the deeply faulty person I identified with was nothing but a composite of my conditioning. It enabled me to realise that I did not have to do anything to get good self-esteem. I only had to release the conditioning that stopped my self-esteem from showing up because that was the real me.
I am confident that it was studying this friend that enabled me to have the insight. So don’t knock idol worship. It has its huge merits. And if you are lucky enough to surround yourself with people who inspire you, remember that if you study them long and hard, a time will come when that quality will unlock within you.
Suma Varughese is a thinker, writer, and former Editor-in-Chief of Life Positive. She also holds writer’s workshops. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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