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Jivamukti Yoga Focus of the Month, March 2014: Bhakti Trumps All


The Lord does not reside in the heart of one who is always focused on worldly affairs, …and is falsely attached to the path of action. Shiksha Patra 32.4, translated by Shyamdas and Vallabhdas A practitioner must be careful not to lose sight of the ultimate goal of yoga, which is God realization. Remembering God and being able to serve God should be foremost in our minds and hearts and should permeate all of our actions. When we ask, “Make me an instrument for Thy Will, not mine but Thine be done, free me from anger, jealousy and fear, fill my heart with joy and compassion,” we are asking God to reside in our hearts and to use us as His instruments. That plea invokes the arising of humility within our hearts and diminishes pride and with it the tendency to indentify ourselves as the doer of actions and instead acknowledges God as the ultimate doer.

The simplest definition of Jivamukti Yoga is “a path to enlightenment through compassion for all beings.” Even though bhakti and ahimsa are both tenets of Jivamukti Yoga, there could arise a tendency to forget bhakti, devotion to God, and become overly consumed with promoting animal rights, veganism and environmentalism—or you could say saving the world—as a way to practice ahimsa and develop compassion in one’s daily life. We must be careful not to allow our activism to take priority over our devotion to God. If we do we will undoubtedly be bound by avidya and asmita—ignorance and ego identification and all the debilitating vices that come with those hindrances, like pride, anger, revenge and impatience, for example.

It is understandable that when a person becomes vegan and experiences the truth that has been kept from them for their whole life it can be a huge, cathartic awakening. Realizing how caught they had been, how indoctrinated into a cultural system founded on unquestioned prejudice against other animals, on enslaving, exploiting and eating them, as well on consumption of the Earth’s resources and the quest for money, it is not surprising that that awaking would come with a certain amount of zeal and a full on commitment to activism. After all, to have your world turned upside down, to see that what you previously thought of as “normal” is in fact a lie, could certainly motivate a person to a life of action. Passion for compassion is a good thing and should be fostered and honored. But if you become too obsessed with thinking that it is up to you to save the world, you could easily become prideful and identify yourself alone as the one that must accomplish great goals.

Remember that karma yoga is the yoga of selfless service. As described in the Bhagavad Gita it can only be truly practiced by someone who is willing to relinquish the fruits of their actions. A karma yogi is one who acts selflessly for the greater good, is humble and does not expect any reward, not even acknowledgement or appreciation from others for their good actions.

I am not saying that we should be apathetic and not aspire to live a committed life that focuses on uplifting the lives of others and making this world a better place. On the contrary, we should aspire to living in a way that enhances the lives of others and strive to abolish all forms of animal and Earth cruelty and selfish exploitation. I am only pointing out that if we neglect to remember God in our whirlwind of compassionate activism we will lose sight of our ultimate goal and mire ourselves in undeserved fame, trapping us deeper into the grips of ignorance and ego identification. The solution is to devotionally offer every thought, word and deed to God—striving to align with and love God more. Be humble and remember that the cause of everything is God. Don’t try to do everything all by yourself. Let go and let God be the doer; be His instrument, His conduit. When you can become a conduit for God’s grace then you “can-do-it.” Allow God to work through you and give God credit for any accomplishments you may appear to have achieved. When others congratulate you, immediately defer to the real doer who is behind every action and proclaim, “All glories to Shri Krishna!” If invoking Krishna is too religious for you, that’s fine, but at least be humble enough to defer to a power higher than your own limited, mortal self.

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