How did bhakti yoga become a lifestyle?
Swami Niranjanananda: Bhakti is not a philosophy, not a religion, not devotion; it is a way of life. The concept of bhakti yoga started as a way of life, not as a way of devotion. According to the Indian system, time is classified in four ages: Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwarpa Yuga and Kali Yuga, the present age. From ancient records, scriptures and the history of the world, it is clear that most of the religions have come about during the time of Kali Yuga. In the other three ages there were no religions, instead only one religion – the Bhagavat religion or dharma. Bhagavat means ‘god’, so it was the religion of god. The idea was that an individual who has taken birth has to connect with the higher, the supreme, the transcendental nature. The human being is finite and the transcendental nature is infinite.
God was in his transcendental form as G-O-D, having the quality of generation, organization and destruction. Connecting with this power, this force is the aim of bhakti yoga. The desire, the drive to know where one is connected is the desire to know oneself, the transcendental nature and God.
One realizes one’s inner nature or transcendental nature when one is able to maintain equipoise, serenity and peace within. When there is distraction and dissipation, there is no awareness, no focus, no attention, but with awareness and focus, realization can take place effortlessly. Therefore, to maintain equilibrium in life became the basic teaching of bhakti yoga.
Whether the text on bhakti and bhakti yoga was written by Sri Krishna, Narada and Sandilya or others, only a few concepts were given. First, to have faith in God, Ishwara pranidhana; second, to maintain inner purity, atmashuddhi; and third, to be equipoised, samatvam, when confronting the opposites or duality in life. These three concepts were the main ideas for bhakti yoga to become a lifestyle.