Bhakti yoga is the ultimate goal of mantra meditation and of all yoga practices. “Bhakti” means loving service to God, and “yoga” means to link back up with God; so Bhakti yoga is the process of re-establishing our original relationship of loving service to God.
The Supreme Lord makes it possible for us to approach Him very easily by hearing and chanting His names. This practice is known as mantra meditation. The names of God are non-different from God Himself, and He is therefore fully present in this sound vibration. This transcendental sound has a very powerful purifying effect on all who hear and chant it. It cleanses the heart and mind of all impurities. It increases our spiritual vision and actually gives us a taste of the nectar of love for God. It is the method of self-realization and God-realization specifically recommended for this age.
When you want to cultivate a loving relationship with someone, it is natural to try to please that person by offering him or her your time, your energy, your heart and ultimately your whole being out of love for that person. This is called loving service, and this is what we as spirit souls need and crave. Because we are eternal beings, we are meant to have an eternal relationship of loving service. The object of eternal love is God, and it is the goal of spiritual life to re-establish our eternal loving relationship with Him.
The Supreme Lord makes it possible for us to come to know and love Him while we are in the material world by appearing in various ways through material elements so that we may easily approach Him. He appears in the transcendental sound of His names, which we can sing and chant. He also appears in His deity form to receive our offerings. In the Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Lord says, “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.” (9:26) Obviously, He doesn’t need the flowers or food that we offer; rather, it’s the loving relationship He is interested in. (This is a daily practice you can learn to do on your own, in your own home; if you are interested in learning more, please ask us.)
We all strive to have value and worth in our lives. Depending on how we were raised, we strive for different things – academic achievement, physical prowess, social status, beauty, wealth, and so on. But what happens if we can’t achieve these things? And if we can achieve them, they all get taken away at some point, certainly at the time of death if not before. So what happens then to our self-esteem? We are already loved just the way we are, regardless of our material situation. The solution, then, to our self-esteem problem is simply to uncover that unconditionally loving relationship, which we already have but have forgotten. We can do this right here and now.