Bhakti - the Final Stage of Yoga

Paramahamsa Niranjanananda, Satsang at Ganga Darshan 17/12/94

A long time ago, in the 1970's, I asked Paramahamsaji, "What is the role of bhakti?" He said, "Don't ask me now because I have not experienced it. You will get the answer in the future." Now, thinking about it, I have that answer.

When I see Paramahamsaji, I feel that bhakti is something which cannot be explained intellectually; rather, it has to be lived and experienced. We cannot live bhakti in our lives. There are still too many samskaras, desires, ambitions and karmas that we need to fulfil. If we think of bhakti along with our samskaras and karmas, ambitions and desires, likes and dislikes, then the pure concept of bhakti cannot be understood.

The meaning of bhakti changes. Christ had a relationship with God in which he felt himself to be the son and God to be the Father. That is a very intimate relationship. We cannot say, "I am the son, and God is the Father", because we do not have that level of understanding and experience. Paramahamsaji says that for him, the relationship is that of a Master and a servant, where God is the Master and he is the servant. He has no choice. It is a unique relationship which can only develop after the purity of bhakti, shuddha bhakti, is realised.

When we perform bhakti, then normally we are the master and God is the slave. We pray, "Please do this for me." "Help me." Fulfil my desires." Of course we add another sentence to our prayers, "Fulfil my desires and then I will do your bidding." "Help me so that I can help you." So, we tend to adopt the role of master, and make God into our servant and slave.

People think that this is bhakti but it definitely is not; rather it is a manipulation of bhakti. Why do we ask God to help us? We are suffering and we do not accept that suffering because we want to experience happiness and pleasure. It is with a desire, an ambition for happiness, pleasure and contentment, that we request God to help us. We follow the path of bhakti just for personal gratification and satisfaction and, therefore, we can never attain it in our lifetime.

If we look at the lives of mystics and saints, we find that they have never prayed for gratification of their personal desires or ambitions. If their personal ambitions have been fulfilled at all, it is because God wanted them to be fulfilled. So, people in the world definitely cannot practise the higher form of bhakti.

One who practises the higher form of bhakti does not belong to this world. When St. Theresa of Avila used to go into inner ecstasy, the stigmata would appear on her hands. What kind of communion was that? Can we have that experience right now? No, we can neither live bhakti nor practise bhakti. When Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to communicate with the Divine Mother, he would lose body consciousness totally and people would call him a madman. Can we lose body consciousness? No. Rather we think that people will think we are crazy if we start to dance, We do not have that depth of experience of bhakti.

In the life of Christ and other saints, bhakti was a very deep inner experience. Therefore, do not think that you are qualified to practise bhakti because. you have seen Paramahamsaji. You have not reached that level of maturity. Maybe after thorough preparation, having exhausted our external links and attachments, we can begin to experience that depth of bhakti, but right now it is not possible. What is possible is to prepare ourselves to experience bhakti.

Bhakti is definitely the last stage of Yoga. Yoga is generally defined as union, and the highest form of union is between the individual being and the higher being. But can this union between the individual and the higher being take place without one's life being transformed? No. can the union between the individual being and the higher being remain only a meditative process? No. for that we have to go through the different layers of our personality.

In the bible, Ezekial had a vision of seven veils which he opened one at a time. These seven veils have to be opened and they are the curtains of the chakras. Each chakra has a curtain, a covering which does not allow the Divine light to shine. That light Paramahamsaji gave when he was asked, "Is it possible is definitely shining, but it is behind the seven curtains: to become realised in one lifetime?" He replied, "No, it mooladhara curtain, our sensuality, our insecurities; is not possible." He was again asked, "But we come to swadhisthana curtain, our fears and inhibitions; Yoga, or we go to religion or other mystical systems in manipura curtain, our aggression, conditioned feelings in relation to family, friends, etc. In this way the different curtains have to be opened, and the way to do this is through the process of Yoga, starting with the pains, diseases and imbalances of the body. After harmonising the body, then work on the mental plane to remove the imbalances and diseases of the mind, the intellect, the emotions, even the intuitive awareness, even psychic diseases. They all represent levels which, when attained, will open the curtain of a chakra.

So, in order to experience the final state of bhakti, we have to go through the process of Yoga. Paramahamsaji has said very clearly, for the benefit of everyone, "For those who want to identify with my mission, with what I am trying to give to people, the point of identification is Yoga. Not Jnana yoga, not even Bhakti yoga. Jnana becomes a head trip, and bhakti becomes a fluctuating, flirtatious experience. So, between the flirtation of bhakti and the heart, and between the head trips of jnana and power, where does the individual stand?

Paramahamsaji has made it very clear that unless you have gone through the different stages of Yoga you should not attempt to experience higher bhakti It will not work out, and it is also possible to lose your mind. If you try to inflate a bicycle tyre with the same amount of air required for a car tyre, what will happen? It will burst. In order to put 26lbs of air pressure in a tyre, it is necessary to have the appropriate tyre, and 26lbs of air pressure in a bicycle tyre is not going to work out.

This question is also related to an answer that Paramahamsaji gave when he was asked, "Is it possible to become realised in one lifetime?" He replied, "No, it is not possible." He was again asked, "But we come to Yoga, or we go to religion or other mystical systems in the hope that we will become enlightened." Paramahamsaji answered, "Yes, what you are saying is correct, but you have to understand one thing. The body has limitations, the mind has limitations, and enlightenment is a transcendental experience. This transcendental experience cannot be had with an un-transcendental mind and body." So, what has to be done? We have to change the quality of the body and mind, and make them transcendental before that experience can manifest.

The purpose of Yoga or other mystical systems - Tantra, Vedanta, Samkhya or whatever is to prepare the body and mind of an individual by helping to change the quality of the nature. So, Yoga aims at preparation. The final result is natural and spontaneous. We suffer from a disease and we start doing some practices. We start following a discipline to overcome the disease and we continue to practise regularly. When the disease is eradicated then we stop the treatment.

In the same way, the mind, the environment and the feelings are diseased, and we have to treat them. Do not think of health without undergoing treatment. Do not think of bhakti without undergoing the treatment of Yoga. Do not think of God until you can handle your own mind.

So, this is the answer I received to a question that I asked Paramahamsaji in the 1970's. It is definitely a non-verbal answer, and it has come spontaneously.