Application - that is what 'Workings-days' are about!
The Narada Bhakti Sutra is our guide for a while… the nature of Love (with the capital 'ell') and a full exploration of it. As always, you are encouraged to seek out the full text from Chinmaya Publications (links in side-bar); but for those who prefer e-readers, this version is recommended. Whilst awareness and interest can be raised by these posts on AV-blog, they cannot substitute for a thorough reading and contemplation...and practice!
Chapter 4, Section 1, The Practice of Bhakti.
Sri Narada now launches forth eloquently on the benefit of bhakti-marg over any other path to the spiritual goal of unions with the Higher.
ANySmat! sael_y< _a´aE.58.
Anyasmaat solabhyam bhaktau ||58||
Than all other paths, devotion is readily available (attainable).
A straightforward statement. There are many ways to approach spiritual life and within Sanskrit tradition they are clearly defined, but of these, the path which many folk find most amenable is that of devotion. That it, within its definition, also has the variety already discussed, it is clearly a spiritual tool to suit all types of personality and social position. Indeed, bhakti is perhaps the primary tool for one who is stuck in tamas and seeking to raise themselves out of its hold.
If we look again at the other paths and what is entailed, this ease of use according to the sutra will be more readily understood.
Those who follow jnaana-marg, the study of Vedanta, with serious intention, must develop the saadhana chatushtaya for daily living; viveka, vairaagya, shamaadi-shat sampatti and mumukshutvam. All the study of texts and contemplation of them will amount to nothing if there is no physical application of the principles laid out within them and it is the saadhana which provides this opportunity for the eager shishya. However, it is no simple task, this constant self-observation and adjustment. It requires quite some dedication.
Then there is raja-marg, the path most people refer to when they use the term 'yoga'. It is the path of the mystic and encompasses hatha, tantra, ayurveda and other aspects, all of which pertain to perfecting and purifying the physical entity - making a temple of the body. It requires a certain level of already good health, a conducive environment and is, on the whole, the domain of the moderately well off for there are costs involved in such maintenance. There must also be the desire to become a flesh pretzel!
Karma-yoga is the fourth path. In this the practitioners must have the eagerness and willingness to take action, but in that action loosen all sense of 'doer-ship'. Karma-yoga is the surrendering of all our thoughts and deeds to the will of the Higher, dropping the ego and any expectation of the fruits of those labours. The instant we allow any thought of "see what I did" to enter, or have any expectation of recognition, even if it be a simple clap on the shoulder, our ego is setting itself up for disappointment. Certainly when accolades arrive, they must be absorbed and acknowledged, but again, without ego.
None of the paths is mutually exclusive, but it can be seen that of the four, bhakti does not require of its adherents anything other than devotion. Love with the capital 'ell'. The most egoistic personality, when it comes to spiritual matters, is capable of at least some of this, whilst the other three paths would be a major challenge. The lowliest worker and weakest thinker in the world may not be able to act appropriately, exercise or eat well or apply correct cognition to benefit from jnaana - but that person can Love the Lord! This is why temples and rituals became necessary. Everyone has the right to live a spiritual life and that there are many ways to do so is a wonderful thing. Even better, bhakti can be practiced even whilst following the other margs and, what is more, they are enriched for the presence of the Love Divine… Love is recognised by all, in many guises and even when it is in the mean, small, human way of 'love' of things and people, it is still, when all is said and done, love and something to work with.
This is explored a little more in the next sutra.