Bhakti Meditation: The Only Guide You Will Ever Need

There is one meditation technique that can make you one with any person, deity, or object you desire: Bhakti meditation technique.

Bhakti meditation is a Hindu and Buddhist meditation for oneness and inner peace.

Traditionally, Buddhist monks would practice Bhakti meditation in order to become one with Buddha.

However, a novice would not begin with Bhakti meditation. First, they’d perform Samatha meditation, which creates calmness and focus. Then they’d perform Dhyana meditation, which is the entry point to oneness. They would then come to the practice known as Bhakti meditation, which they’d practice to be one with their deity.

 

What Bhakti Meditation means

Bhakti meditation is an expression of love for an object, person, or God.

The term itself literally means to “show devotion and love to”.

When a person practiced Bhakti meditation they focus their mind on a deity in order to worship that deity and to become one with the object of meditation (which is the same process used in Dhyana meditation).

For instance, Hindus will practice Bhakti meditation while focusing on one of the Hindu gods.

That is the traditional way of practicing Bhakti. But there are many other ways. For instance, someone who is not religious might practice Bhakti by meditating on a natural element, like water, or by meditating on a personal item that means a lot to them.

That is the basic process of Bhakti meditation.

In a moment I’ll share with you the exact process so you know precisely how to do Bhakti meditation. But before that, let’s take a look at the history of Bhakti and the Bhakti movement.

 

The History Of Bhakti

In the 7th century and 10th century in India, Hindus meditated in devotion to Vishnu and Shiva. They would practice becoming one with these deities. This actually gave rise to the Bhakti Movement, a spiritual movement united under the principles of Bhakti.

The Bhakti movement led to the creation of Bhakti poetry and the poetic saints, who wandered from temple to temple singing praises to Vishnu and Shiva.

One of the principle Bhakti saints was Meerabai, a 16th century Hindu mystic poetess and devotee of Krishna.

This beautiful Hindu art shows Bhakti saint Meerabai, a 16th century Hindu mystic poetess and devotee of Krishna.

 

The Bhakti movement found its full strength between the 15th and 17th Century CE.  During this period the Bhakti movement was heavily influence the development of Hindu and Indian culture, reaching so far as to make its impact upon Sufism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Christianity.  It also became very popular in Theravada Buddhism, where individuals or groups make prayers, and use Bhakti meditation to show devotion to Buddha and other Buddhist icons.

That’s a bit of cultural background into Bhakti meditation. You can read more about the Bhakti movement on Sikh History.

 

Modern Bhakti meditation is a little different.

Today Bhakti is not thought of as traditional “devotion” or “worship”. You don’t need to be devoted or a worshipper in order to practice Bhakti. Rather the term now refers to the practice of making your mind one with a specific object, an object which is considered highly positive and sacred or spiritual.

Originally Bhakti was used as a way to grow closer to God (or gods). But nowadays it is often used with more of a focus on personal development. The idea is that by practicing Dhyana meditation and becoming one with a positive object, person, or God, you will positive traits of the object in yourself.

Buddhists, for instance, will meditate upon the peaceful, loving, and enlightened nature of the Buddha. They will make themselves one with the Buddha, and in so doing will gain insight into the nature of the Buddha and will develop the positive qualities of the Buddha in themselves.

Of course, if you are religious then you will know your god and will most likely want to meditate on Him / Her. In this instance Bhakti works as a form of heightened prayer, putting you in contact with your god. But Bhakti can also be used for many more amazing purposes.

 

A few notes on Bhakti meditation

When you practice Bhakti meditation you are training your mind to be one with a deity, god, person, object, or element.  If, for instance, you are a lover of water and appreciate the way in which water flows so freely and powerfully from one place to the next, you might like to sit beside a river and meditate on the flowing tide. You will find this immensely liberating.

I personally love to practice Bhakti meditation by meditating on the elements. I might sit beside a waterfall and meditate on water, or light a candle and meditate on the way that bright amber light shines its energy in all directions and without shadow. This makes me aware of how I can be compassionate and loving to all, without the need to take sides or harbor prejudices as so many people do.

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Be like fire. Cast light in all directions. Leave no shadow.


Bhakti meditation helps your light to shine without shadow, like this match.

 

How To Do Bhakti Meditation

 

  1. In order to practice Bhakti successfully it’s imperative to practice Samatha and Dhyana first. These technique will calm and centre your mind, creating the necessary focus and inner peace needed for Bhakti meditation.
  2. Once your mind is calm and centred, choose a subject on which to meditate. Choose a subject that is highly positive and which contains traits that you would like to have in yourself. For instance, if you would like to feel more free in life you might like to meditate on a clear blue sky. Remember that Bhakti meditation is a meditation for oneness, so whatever object you meditate on you will be aiming to become one with.
  3. Traditionally, you would now create a meditation space which is dedicated to your deity / subject. You would fill this space with images, sculptures, candles relaxing features, and other items that will help you to relax and to connect to your deity. Take a look at my arti
  4. Sit comfortably and with good posture. You should feel stable, relaxed, and comfortable. Proper physical alignment will help your energy (chi / qi / life force) to flow through your body freely. You can read more about good posture in my Zen meditation guide.
  5. Close your eyes and focus on the space between your eyebrows (your third eye chakra). You will feel a built-up of energy in this area.
  6. Ask your deity / subject to become one with you.
  7. Meditate on your subject in the traditional sense. Focus on your subject. Then, once you feel that you are in contact with your deity / subject, imagine becoming one with them. Imagine there being no distance between your consciousness and the subject. You are merging to become one. This is bhakti meditation, this state of meditative oneness and inner peace.
  8. Continue to meditate on your subject for up to twenty minutes. You might like to use our free online meditation timer for this.
  9. At the end of the Bhakti session, thank your deity / subject for coming to you.  Open your eyes. Sit still for a few moments, gradually returning to your normal state.

 

 

Bhakti Meditation Karma Yoga Style

The Karma Yoga form of Bhakti meditation is slightly different. Follow these steps for proper Karma Yoga Bhakti.

  1.   Find a time and a place where you can meditate without being disturbed.
  2.   Create a space which is dedicated to your deity, include images, candles and anything else you find helpful.
  3.   Sit straight with good posture, making sure your spine is in proper alignment so that energy can flow naturally through your body.
  4.    Put your hands in a mudra position (for instance, with the tips of the thumb and forefinger touching).
  5.    Close your eye and focus on your Third Eye Chakra (the space between your eyebrows).   
  6.   Ask your deity to be one with you. Welcome the deity into the room, and then into your mind. See them approaching you. Feel them with you.
  7.    Focus on the object of worship (this could be an image of your deity, your own breath or anything else).   As you focus, imagine the object / deity becoming one with you. Feel your mind melding with them. You are becoming one. Your ego, your self, is melting into a dew. You are mixing with your deity, merging, coming together spiritually. Meditate on your deity for twenty minutes.
  8. When you are ready to finish, express gratitude to your deity, thanking them for being with you.  

This Bhakti meditation technique is a powerful means of personal and spiritual transformation. You will find it wonderfully effective.

 

What to meditate on when practicing Bhakti meditation

When you do Bhakti meditation you are aiming to become one with an object, person or God.

The subject of your bhakti meditation practice should reflect the trait you wish to develop in yourself.

If, for instance, you would like to develop your sense of compassion, you might like to meditate on Ghandi or Buddha. If you wish to be more in touch with your body you might mediate on an athlete.

It’s up to you what subject you choose to meditate on. But here are a few ideas along with the traits they represent.

 

Water Freedom and power
The night sky:

 

Eternity and wisdom
Water Freedom and power
Ghandi / Buddha / Mother Theresa Compassion and kindness
Silence Stillness

 

Death Death is a complex subject but generally when you meditate on death you develop your appreciation of time and your humbleness.
Cats Playfulness (not all meditation subjects have to be serious)
Trees Wisdom and patience
Waterfall Power (I personally like to meditate at Niagra Falls, of which the truly wonderful classical composer Gustav Mahler said “At last, Fortissimo!”. I guess he appreciated the power of the falls as much as I do).
Bird song Joy

 

Your own reflection / visage Self awareness
Angels Hope and compassion
Gemstones Different gemstones reflect different traits and characteristics
Colours Different colours reflect different mentalities and emotions. Green, for instance, reflect nature and health, where black represents power and authority, and yellow happiness. Meditate on the colour that reflects the trait you’d like to develop.
Your own breath Meditating on your own breath will calm and centre you.

 

 

The Benefits Of Bhakti Meditation

Bhakti meditation helps you to:

  • Improve your perspective
  • Reduce the effects of your ego
  • Increase humility
  • Through perspective and humility, Bhakti also helps to remove stress and anxiety
  • Finally, Bhakti promotes the production of positive mental states like love and awe.

 

There are infinite subjects on which to meditate. Ask yourself what trait you’d like to develop. Find a subject that reflects that trait. Then meditate on it.

 

 

 

Paul Martin Harrison

Paul Harrison is a meditation teacher, author and journalist based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Paul has helped thousands of people to discovery their true potential. Don’t miss Paul’s inspirational and enlightening book Journey To The Buddha Within You.

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