The word bhakti means ‘to love’, ‘to be devoted’, or to ‘adore’, It is both the means and the expression of higher awareness. It is both the practice and the spontaneous expression of higher knowledge. One leads to the other. Bhakti is the expression and experience of joy at realizing the impossible, at being confronted with direct perception of that which is beyond words. Bhakti cannot be created artificially, for it is an expression of bliss, of something beyond the wildest flights of the mind. The purpose of bhakti yoga is to develop deep concentration towards one object. This occurs naturally if there is a feeling of bhakti, devotion towards that object. All one's energy is focused in one direction. This in turn leads to higher sensitivity and receptivity of the mind-body to higher forces.
The method and purpose of bhakti yoga is to take you away from identification with the little 'I', the body-mind. The aim is to reduce personal notions, conflicts, disharmony, etc., which tend to imprison and severely limit awareness. The aim is to make the mind a perfect reflector, a perfect mirror of experience. It is under these circumstances that one can know higher awareness and bliss.
Bhakti yoga is an excellent method of providing a balance to over-rigid attachment to the intellect. It is a great help in removing intellectual constipation and is a means of giving direction and release to emotions and feelings.
The emotions are such a powerful force in human beings. Most people are completely ruled by them. If these emotions can be channelled and concentrated, then one's whole being will also be channelled and concentrated. It is impossible to calm the mind if the emotions are wild. It is like trying to calm the sea when there is a storm or whirlwind in the area. But if you can calm the mind, the storm, then the sea will automatically become much calmer. So it is with the emotions: harmonize them and one's whole being will automatically follow suit. This is the blessing of bhakti yoga.
If you feel devotion for something, then you will know. There will be no doubt - your heart will immediately tell you the object which attracts your devotion. If you feel strong devotion to one thing, without doubt, bhakti is the path for you.
"One must realize through experience that it is He who makes us do everything. Never believe that you are the doer; you will gradually realize this through experience of the doer."
Bhakti, devotion does not only depend on the outer expression. It depends on the inner feeling. A person who quietly does his daily work can lost as easily be a bhakta, devotee as a person who sings devotional songs throughout the night and day. Only the bhakta can know that he is a bhakta. Don't become lost in false feelings or superficial impressive expressions of bhakti. Don't try to impress other people with false displays of devotion. Only express and follow that which comes directly from your heart. Be true to your personality. If you feel no bhakti at the present time, don't worry, it is something that will arise spontaneously if you sincerely practice other forms of yoga.
In fact, a person who is honest with himself and his motives and who does not follow any religion is more likely to expand his awareness than a person who deceives himself while praying or performing rituals for twenty-four hours a day. It is the sincerity that is important.
Don't expect anything from your practice of bhakti yoga. This also applies to any other form of yoga. Whatever you practice asanas, pranayama, meditational practices and so forth, try not to expect anything. It is a strange thing that the more one expects, the less one will receive. This is because expectation implies ego and the greater the ego, the less one will make progress in yoga. This is very important when you practice yoga.
The seed of devotion lies in the heart of every person. It is something that is hidden away deep within each one of us. It has been planted in the fertile soil of individual being and waits to be germinated and to grow, but first it must be watered with aspiration. Everything is already in-built within the seed. It needs only the chance to grow. All you have to do is to let the seed grow into a beautiful flower.
If you naturally feel some kind of devotion, no matter how small, then you are well on the way to cleaning out the mind of conflicts and fears etc. You should follow the path of bhakti yoga, for this is the means to calm the fluctuating mind, remove mental problems and make it more one-pointed.