January is a month for study of Bhakti Yoga. A bhakti yogi (bhakta) has a devotional relationship with God . This is developed over time by study, prayer, ritual, and worship. As a bhakta, you practice giving every action, thought, emotion, perception and tendency “a Godward turn.” Everything you are, both positive and negative, is offered to the Divine Presence. Your prayer is for the carefree self-surrender of a child in its Mother or Father’s arms and, ultimately, union with your Belovèd.
In the Devi Mahatmayam (Chandi, Chapter 4, verse 9), we read:
“O Devi, you are Bhagavati, the supreme Vidya which is the cause of liberation, and great inconceivable penance are the means for your realization. You, the supreme knowledge, are cultivated by sages desiring liberation, whose senses are well restrained, who are devoted to Reality, and have shed all the blemishes.”
As we study the lives of the Divine Incarnations, we find their spiritual unfoldment is described by this verse. They, and some of the saints who become their perfect reflections, are capable of great inconceivable penances. Yet, we discover that as they struggle and suffer over may years, they are not doing it for themselves. Sages, saints and avatars endure these trials so that they can share their spiritual treasures with us.
Swami Vivekananda wrote of Sri Ramakrishna, “… all Thine austerities were practiced for our sake. How great was Thy sacrifice, freely choosing Thy birth in this prison, our Iron Age, to unchain us and set us free …” On Sunday morning we will review and discuss the Master’s sadhana, and the spiritual journey of the Roman Catholic mystic, St. John of the Cross.