Bhakti Yoga &
The Bhakti Tradition
The Sanskrit word "Bhakti" refers to "loving devotion". Love is not a static concept. If you truly love someone, simply saying "I love you" is not enough. Love is exhibited when we dedicate our time and energy in dynamically expressing our love by serving that special person in a mood of devotion. The all-encompassing, non-sectarian Bhakti tradition marks the pinnacle of all varieties of spiritual processes because it is based on the transcendental platform beyond material designations. Bhakti is for everyone regardless of caste, creed, colour or background.
In any genuine system of spiritual growth, it is essential to understand our real identity. If we don't know who we actually are then all of life's endeavours don't make ultimate sense. The Bhakti foundational wisdom texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and the encyclopaedic Srimad Bhagavatam begin by establishing our actual identity to be beyond our present gross, material body as well as our subtle mind. Our true identity is that we are an atomic spiritual particle, otherwise known as the soul. Just as we wear different clothes, discard them when they become old and useless and then buy new clothes, our soul also takes on varieties of bodies due to desire and discards them when they are old or non-functional - this is known as death.
The primeval spirit soul is the energetic element behind dead matter. Without the presence of the conscious soul, animate matter starts to disintegrate and decompose. The soul is the cause of all our activity within the material world. The yoga knowledge texts ascertain that the original occupation of the soul is bhakti - loving service and therefore Bhakti Yoga is as old as the soul. Due to a lack of knowledge, we misidentify ourself to be the material body or the mind and therefore engage in so many activities to satisfy our temporary body, mind along with anything or anyone in relationship with our body and mind. These activities don't actually fully satisfy us because we are the spirit soul.
The Bhagavad Gita, the essence of all yoga texts, explains that the natural occupation of the soul is to direct all its activities and devotion to "The Love Supreme", otherwise known as "Krishna" the "All-Attractive Person". The system of spirituality which teaches the soul how to act in "Krishna Consciousness" is known as "Bhakti Yoga". Bhakti Yoga is the pre-eminent yoga process which can be practised by everyone regardless of any material qualification.
The Bhakti Tradition
Krishna is a person like you and I and to be conscious and aware of Him is known as Krishna Consciousness. Krishna Consciousness and Bhakti Yoga are therefore synonymous and are considered in the yoga culture to be the pinnacle of all philosophical, religious and spiritual paths.
Although Krishna is also a person, there is a slight difference between Him and us. Here's a nice analogy: a single drop of water in the ocean is qualitatively the same as the entire water in the ocean. Both the drop and the water in the ocean are qualitatively composed of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. However, the water in the entire ocean is quantitatively greater than the water contained in the drop of the ocean. In the same way, we as individual souls are qualitatively the same as Krishna in that we are both spiritual in nature; however, Krishna is infinite in quantity and we are infinitesimal. You and I are limited people in that we can be present only in a certain place at a certain time. Krishna on the other hand is unlimited, but He is still a Person.
The name Krishna means the "All-Attractive Person" in the Sanskrit language. There are six primary qualities that we have to limited degrees but Krishna has to an unlimited degree: 1) Krishna is unlimitedly beautiful 2) Krishna is unlimitedly strong 3) Krishna is unlimitedly knowledgeable 4) Krishna is unlimitedly wealthy 5) Krishna is unlimitedly famous and 6) Krishna is unlimitedly renounced.
The Bhakti Yoga texts explain that Krishna is the most intimate friend of the individual soul and it is rediscovering and re-establishing our loving connection with Him that is the perfection of spiritual processes. This is the sum and substance of Bhakti Yoga, or Krishna Consciousness.