by Jai Uttal
I consider my Guru, among other things, to have been a great teacher of Bhakti Yoga. I say ‘among other things’ because he was impossible to pin down. He hardly ever actually ‘taught’, he never spoke about himself or his lineage, he never gave lectures or discourses. Amazing miracles occurred around Maharajji all the time, however when people would come worship him and bathe him in tears of gratitude he often appeared rather annoyed and said, “I do nothing. God does it all”. But Maharajji lived in a world of Divine Love. Kirtan was and still is performed in his temples and ashrams 24/7, pujas to all the deities are constant, and oceans of people are fed daily.
Regarding Bhakti, Maharajji once said, “The only thing that’s important is how much you love God!” The only thing…… Wow. And then when he was asked “What is the best form to worship God?” his response was simply, “The best form to worship God is every form!”
Well, that’s saying a lot in a few words, isn’t it? Let’s, for a moment, hold those two sentences as a possible definition of Bhakti Yoga. Not the definition. Simply one description among many of a path without maps or road signs that has been contemplated and practiced for centuries. Thousands upon thousands of pages have been written attempting to define, or simply convey, what Bhakti Yoga really is. But how can the mysteries of the heart actually be defined? The world of emotions within each of us is so different. Our spiritual concepts, our prayers, our longings; we are all so unique and our journey to the infinite must also be unique. The image of a single devotee crawling through the dust of Parikrama Road (a footpath that circles the holy town of Vrindavan) crying “Shyam Shyam Shyam!” his face covered with dirt and mud and tears, fills my mind right now and threatens to burst the rain clouds of my heart.
I guess we don’t really need to ‘understand’ Bhakti, just live it. But how?
Certainly, as we sing Kirtan and do Japa, we begin to touch the shores of a great sea of sweetness and bliss. How awesome that is! But what do we do next? What do we do with that bliss? Well, we can hold on to it and cultivate it until it grows and grows and grows and we find ourselves living in a very rarified inner environment. Nothing wrong with that…. But so often Maharajji said “Love people and feed them!” And in his temples and amongst his older devotees I experience a selflessness, a constant giving, a caring that goes way beyond the fleeting waves of bliss. I think he was telling us to give it away, share it. Not a totally natural way of life for us Westerners, raised in a culture of self-centeredness, is it? But I think we’re just being asked to try. I’ve often heard it said that if we take one baby step to God, He flies to us with His arms wide open. And then, through grace, we can start to truly live a life of Bhakti…..
राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम
Jai Uttal’s new album Roots, Rock, Rama! is now available! It is a celebration, meditation, dance of the devas, and a love song to the universe . . .
The whole world’s myriad musical colors coruscate like a bejeweled shawl tossed from the shoulders of a goddess on this landmark two-CD recording. It manages to pack a lifetime’s spiritual and musical quest into seventy-eight minutes of glorious music from an innovator whose work transcends any category or genre designation.
Jai Uttal has been rightly hailed as a world music pioneer. Singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer, he was among the first to hear the universal heartbeat in the variegated rhythms of the globe. But his powerful, plangent voice and panoramic musical vision have also long been at the core of the yoga community’s tradition of call-and response devotional chanting known as kirtan. While his music is deeply rooted in Indian classical tradition—he studied long and hard under the Indian sarod master Ali Akbar Khan—it is also plentifully imbued with echoes of reggae, rock, folk, Brazilian music, Bollywood and other sounds from across the musical universe. All of these diverse and colorful strands are woven together beautifully on Roots, Rock, Rama!
Click Here to listen to a sample track of the album or…