Bhakti yoga (Devanāgarī: भक्ति योग) is a spiritual path described in Hindu philosophy as efficacious for fostering a love of, faith in, and surrender to God. It is a means to realize God and is the easiest way for the common person because it doesn’t involve extensive yogic practices.
The word yoga means “to connect.” Though yogas are commonly used for health and fitness, the Vedic texts explain that yoga is meant to connect with God.
Bhakti means “devotion,” or “devotional service,” or “pure love.” So Bhakti-yoga means to practice connecting with God, and reestablishing our relationship with Him, through acts of love and service, or devotional service.
Bhakti is a Sanskrit term that signifies an attitude of devotion to a personal God that is similar to a number of human-human relationships (the difference is that in bhakti relationships is soul-Supersoul, soul-God) such as beloved-lover, friend-friend, parent-child, and master-servant.
The Bhagavata Purana teaches nine primary forms of bhakti, as explained by Prahlada:
(1) śravaṇa (“listening” to the scriptural stories of Kṛṣṇa and his companions)
(2) kīrtana (“praising,” usually refers to ecstatic group singing)
(3) smaraṇa (“remembering” or fixing the mind on Viṣṇu)
(4) pāda-sevana (rendering service)
(5) arcana (worshiping an image)
(6) vandana (paying homage)
(7) dāsya (servitude)
(8) sākhya (friendship)
(9) ātma-nivedana(complete surrender of the self). (from Bhagavata Purana, 7.5.23-24)
These nine principles of devotional service are described as helping the devotee remain constantly in touch with God. The processes of japa and internal meditation on the aspirant devotees’ chosen deity form (ishta deva) are especially popular in most bhakti schools. Bhakti is a yoga path, in that its aim is a form of the divine, loving union with the Supreme Lord. The exact form of the Lord, or type of union varies between the different schools, but the essence of each process is very similar.
The Indian spiritual teacher Meher Baba states, “Out of a number of practices which lead to the ultimate goal of humanity – God-Realization – Bhakti Yoga is one of the most important. Almost the whole of humanity is concerned with Bhakti Yoga, which, in simple words, means the art of worship. But it must be understood in all its true aspects, and not merely in a narrow and shallow sense, in which the term is commonly used and interpreted. The profound worship based on the high ideals of philosophy and spirituality, prompted by divine love, doubtless constitutes true Bhakti Yoga.