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The Path of Love, Surrender and Devotion

Continuing our series on the four yogas, we introduce Bhakti Yoga which is the Path of Love, Surrender and Devotion. In this episode we explore:

・What is Bhakti Yoga?
・What is Love in a Spiritual Sense?
・Cultivating Deep Devotion to a Higher Power
・The Difference between Surrender and Giving Up
・How to create a daily devotional practice using a sacred symbol, the Imago

Watch the next Soul Session in this series on our YouTube Channel.

The Path of Love, Surrender & Devotion

Transcript

Debra Maldonado  00:01

Hello, everyone, welcome to Soul Sessions.

Robert Maldonado  00:05

Welcome back.

Debra Maldonado  00:05

Kinda lovely Friday afternoon in July. How are you today, Rob?

Robert Maldonado  00:09

Good. I’m Dr. Rob, and I’m here with my beautiful wife, partner—

Debra Maldonado  00:15

Debra Maldonado.

Robert Maldonado  00:16

That’s right. I forgot your name.

Debra Maldonado  00:18

We’re so loving today because we’re talking about love. We’re talking about bhakti yoga in our series on spirituality. We had spiritual paths, we talked about Karma Yoga last time.

Robert Maldonado  00:37

Just to refresh the memory. Karma yoga taught us that we are able to act in the world without incurring more karma through the practice of karma yoga. So Karma Yoga means the discipline, the internal process of understanding the conditioning, power of action, and setting ourselves free from that conditioning power.

Debra Maldonado  01:13

The key is non-attachment as the application. Now we’re moving on to the path of devotion, which is bhakti yoga — love, devotion, and surrender. Karma Yoga is more about taking action. This is about what we’re feeling in our heart, and in our passion and our soul. So it’s really a beautiful, wonderful class. I hope you enjoy it. So let’s start off with what is bhakti yoga and where does it come from?

Robert Maldonado  01:47

We can trace the route of the disciplines of yoga back to Vedic philosophy. We can think of Vedic philosophy as a meta spirituality, it lays out in front of us the different ways humans can approach the divine. Through action, through devotional service, through higher knowledge, and through meditation, or the inner journey, which we’ll be talking about in later calls. But the beauty of it and just the depth and scope of Vedic philosophy is so incredible, because again, it gives us that bigger perspective that there is not only one way to approach the divine, of course, there are many different ways and we see it throughout history, in many different cultures. It’s a great lesson for us who think that there’s only one way or that our way is the right way. We criticize others or reject other forms because they are different. But in the Vedic philosophy it says “There are many different approaches to the divine.”

Debra Maldonado  03:13

I love that because I was raised Catholic, and you have this kind of framework, even if you reject being Catholic, or Christian, or whatever religion you grew up in. Not that I did, but I was trying to find something more. I found that the Vedic philosophy really fits in with a lot of what I learned, especially about devotion and bhakti yoga. When I was young, I would go to church and pray to God and pray to Jesus, feeling that love of God. I remember when I was, like, nine years old, I sat in church thinking about how I wanted to serve God, that’s what I wanted to do in my life. I had such a love for God. Organized religion gets a bad rap. There’s such beautiful things, it can give you a little foundation, especially this devotional love.

Robert Maldonado  04:14

There is a difference between spirituality and religion. But hopefully, religion is a place to do your spiritual work.

Debra Maldonado  04:29

So spirituality is one thing and a religion is how we apply it, method that we use toward God.

Robert Maldonado  04:36

Yes, also the cultural forms that it takes because religion is a way of adapting the spiritual practices into the culture so that they make sense to people.

Debra Maldonado  04:48

This reminds me of I thought Buddhism was just one religion. But if you think about Tibetan Buddhists and Zen Buddhism, there’re very different. Zen Buddhism is very cut and dry, kind of simple. Tibetan Buddhism has all the deities and all the rituals, there’s so much more. But they’re both the foundation of Buddhism. That’s really where religion comes in. It adds just a little flavor. The Tibetan culture is very colorful, they have the deities from the Hindu philosophy, or the Vedanta philosophy, there are certain Vedanta philosophies that have that. When we look at spirituality, and we read books from different types of Eastern philosophy, just keep that in mind too, what the culture is that you’re learning from, and where that teacher is from — that culture is going to be different. Westerners will look at Buddhism and Vedanta very differently than maybe someone in a different culture.

Robert Maldonado  06:01

Of course, we’re taking the Jungian perspective. Jung’s approach was essentially that these are universal expressions of our human psyche. If you look at history, all throughout history, people have sought the divine through different means. You see those cultural expressions in religion and the symbolism that goes into that. He definitely advised against trying to copy or imitate the outward form of things. When we look at yoga, it’s not necessarily just imitating that. He would say, think about how you can find those universal principles in your own history, in your own experience — that brings it to life.

Debra Maldonado  07:01

Even in family life there’s these different qualities. So let’s get into bhakti yoga. Bhakti yoga is the path of love, devotion, and surrender. It really it’s about the heart. We were talking about Karma Yoga, which is about action and non-attachment. It’s a mental construct of letting go of the attachment and understanding our patterns. Bhakti yoga is really more of what’s going on in my heart. What is my relationship with God or the divine or the higher self? It’s like a love relationship.

Robert Maldonado  07:47

Very much so, it can take that form. In the Vedic text, the way it is explained is that the abstract concept of the Divine is so vast and abstract that we as human beings have difficulty holding that concept in mind that we are in this divine universe and it’s a manifestation of the Divine itself. So it says, in order to aid that focus, that attention on the divine, it’s okay to use a symbol or image very much like the Buddha in the background there, that you have an image that represents that divinity, or that spirituality, and it helps your mind focus and stay on track.

Debra Maldonado  08:49

I think a lot of times, for me, it’s better to have a human symbol because that’s how we relate in the beginning, relating to Jesus or an image of a divine, like a saint or something that helps you feel this love in that connection. The idea of the universe has my back, or the universe doesn’t want me to do that. When you say universe, it doesn’t have that same quality. It’s a high concept, and it’s a beautiful concept. I think most people don’t want to use the word God because of all the religious baggage or something. But I think that if you can have a symbol instead of just refer to the universe, maybe it’s just light or something, I find that when it’s a human form, you can feel that devotion in a much stronger way, especially for people that are beginning their spiritual practice, than a symbol.

Robert Maldonado  10:01

Absolutely, because it personifies it, you’re relating to a person which is what we’re used to in human relationships. Now we have that personal relationship but with a divine, with a spiritual element in us, through the symbol, through that identification of Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, or even a symbol like the cross or the Om sign. They help us focus our mind and direct that inward journey to the symbol itself and to the divine. Tagore, the great Vedic poet, said to think of your relationship with the divine as a parent to a child, where you are the child and the divine is the parent. Or, he says, you can flip it, you can be the parent and the divine is your child. You’re caring, you’re cultivating it. But you have that very direct, emotional relationship with the divine.

Debra Maldonado  11:20

What about Rumi? He talks about god as this lover or partner, it’s a very romantic view of God. I have a beautiful poem, should I read it? We all love a little Rumi in our life. I read this this morning and thought this was really great to share. It’s from a great book by Andrew Harvey, The Essential Mystics. It’s really a nice little collection of wisdom. It’s called “What a Miracle”. Glorious is the moment we sit in the palace, you and I, two forms, two faces, but a single soul, you and I. The flowers will blaze, birds cry, shower us with immortality the moment we enter the garden, you and I, all the stars of heaven will run out to gaze at us as we burn as the full moon itself, you and I. The fire winged birds of heaven will rage with every envy in the place we laugh ecstatically, you and I, what a miracle, you and I. Entwined in the same nest, what a miracle, you and I. One love, one lover, one fire in this world and the next in an ecstasy without end. Rumi. That was beautiful. I got goosebumps when I was reading. When we say Bhakti, what we’re thinking is this out of this world, beautiful love for the divine. I think one of the great and a very simple way you can start expressing it is through gratitude. It’s one of the most beautiful things. Recently, we’re moving and going through a lot of change in our life. I just have so much gratitude for everything that we’re doing this year, it’s been a really good year for us, all the clients that are coming in, our students, and just this wonderful sense of gratitude just to have that love, that we’re supported and loved by this higher power, higher God, universe, the Divine. It’s a really beautiful thing. So gratitude is something you can do.

Robert Maldonado  14:07

Sufism is a great example of bhakti yoga. There was actually a historical connection. A lot of people don’t know that. There is a connection where some of the Sufis were reading the Vedic texts. So they’re expressing some of those bhakti yoga ideas.

Debra Maldonado  14:33

A lot of people read Rumi and think he’s with a woman, he loves this woman. But he’s doing this expression of love toward the divine. I remember when I was single and trying to build my confidence and trying to build my spiritual life, instead of the love songs, they would make me depressed because I was alone. Then I just started switching them in my mind that this love song was God singing it to me — I’m so glad I found you and you’re so wonderful. All those happy love songs, I started to think of it as a devotional practice. So even in the modern world, to take something like a romantic song and turn it into a devotional practice is something that helped me because it felt like I was connecting with something even deeper than just a romantic partner, connecting with my soul, that’s beautiful.

Robert Maldonado  15:31

Yes, and if you notice, in human affairs, often the emotions are seen as problematic. But in directing them towards the divine, then the emotions become a way of connecting to that deeper element in us. You see practices like St. Francis of Assisi, connecting with animals, with all living beings and seeing them as divine, trying to connect with people that are outcast, cultivating that openness, kindness, seeing everyone and everything as worthy of love, worthy of that connection. That is the cultivation of the bhakti yoga in us.

Debra Maldonado  16:27

It’s like namaste idea that the divine in me acknowledges the divine in you. That’d be another thing to love one another, to share kindness and love, be able to receive it from each other. That’s really a way we can practice it with each other because we’re interacting with God in every person that we meet.

Robert Maldonado  16:49

Then you see that transcendence, you mentioned St. Teresa. She falls into an ecstasy that transcends the ego mind, just by cultivating that strong love of the Divine.

Debra Maldonado  17:15

When we think psychologically, what does it do for us to practice bhakti yoga in a Jungian perspective?

Robert Maldonado  17:27

If you think about the emotions as directed outward into the world, we’re attached to things out in the world, we think these objects gonna make me happy, when I get the car, when I get the home, when I get the relationship, something out there is going to make me happy. But it never works. It’s a temporary experience, then you’re on to the next thing. It says, when you’re cultivating that directing the emotions, the love, the devotion to the divine, that brings you real satisfaction because it is the counterpoint to it, it is the real source of that happiness. You’re completing the circle, you’re directing your human emotions, which, when scattered out into the world, or when wasted on the objects of the world, either lead to addiction or to frustration that there’s not going to lead you to higher states of awareness. But when directed towards the divine, they do fulfill that purpose. They satisfy you, they connect you to that source.

Debra Maldonado  18:56

Psychologically too, I think it’s a way to also transcend the ego. Because you’re not getting that attachment, you’re devoting everything in service. It’s like what we talked about in karma yoga, where you let go of the attachment, you dedicate it to the higher power, the higher self. You do it with love. I remember last year when COVID first hit, we were just like “What’s going to happen?” None of us knew, the whole world’s going to shut down or economy’s gonna shut down. We didn’t know. Rob and I both decided that what do we do that we love? What do we have to share? We created a free course that we gave away and we just taught higher knowledge. We did it for love. We had no attachment, but we were like “We have to do something. We have this knowledge, we have to share it. People need it right now.” It was such a beautiful experience just to do it out of love. Of course, we still have to charge now because we can’t do that forever. But at that moment, it felt right to do something like that. There’s times where you have to do something out of love, and not an attachment, and then the abundance and everything will come in other ways and other forms.

Robert Maldonado  20:17

Often the question arises, there are these different paths, do I have to choose one or are we talking about combining all of these paths into one? I would say that we need to combine all these different paths to some extent, because we have to take action in the world, even though we’re practicing bhakti yoga and cultivating that devotional love for the divine. We still have to act in the world, we still have to work like you say, we still have to pay the bills and all that stuff. Karma Yoga then comes in handy and understanding how do I act in the world when I’m working, when I’m taking action. But in the Vedic philosophy it says, think of choosing one as your primary way of doing this.

Debra Maldonado  21:15

And the four — we’ll go over them in our series — are the path of action, which is Karma Yoga, the path of love and devotion, which is bhakti yoga, the path of higher knowledge, which is gyana yoga, which is more the intellect. And then the Raja Yoga, which is the path of meditation. We all have to act. I think Karma Yoga is a given, we all have to practice that in a way. One of my friends is a very strict Christian. He basically said, the reason his business went so well, he just started dedicating everything to the divine, he did it out of love for Jesus and for Christ. He was very Christian, and it worked for him. He was very abundant because he applied basically Vedic philosophy, but he was thinking it’s in the Christian culture. These things work, even if you’re not a Vedic philosopher, regardless of what religion you are, or what you connect with, you can apply these principles. I found that very interesting. I was like, he’s talking about Bhakti yoga right now. So very beautiful.

Robert Maldonado  22:48

So now, how do we practice this? How do we cultivate this in a practical, everyday life, especially the way we live now with computers and jet planes and viruses?

Debra Maldonado  23:02

I think, first thing is you have to have a symbol that you can use. That could change but come up with a symbol for you that feels good. For some people it’s Krishna, for some people it’s Buddha. For some people, it’s Christ. For some people, it’s a god or a god image.

Robert Maldonado  23:22

I think, here’s where Jung’s advice comes in handy. He’s saying, look for these principles in your own culture, in your own history. You do have to reinterpret them in a sense, to bring them to life in you, where they make sense in you. But because these are universal, they are already in our culture and our past, and the traditions that our parents taught us, and our great grandparents. But often we reject them because, in part, every generation rejects last generations.

Debra Maldonado  24:04

I talked to my clients in India, they’re like “Don’t do Veda philosophy. Swami Vivekananda was my parents and my grandparents”, they want to do something else, spirituality, the law of attraction stuff. Not everyone. But it’s funny how we’re in the West, going “We want to do the Eastern philosophy because we want to reject the West.” But I think if you’re in the West, you don’t want to get rid of the Western culture because it’s a part of you. Stripping away your need for material things might be too extreme for a lot of people, then they get confused, but we are in this culture. How can we integrate psychology? What we know about psychology, what we know about our lives in a consumer society, how do we integrate and have a business and find love and get married, have families and do all those things plus bring in that spiritual element? I think it’s the East-West. That’s what Jung really tried to do. He tried to merge those in his psychology. how do we understand it in a new way? You can’t just go all the way East, you can’t go all the way West, you have to find that balance.

Robert Maldonado  25:18

If we’re talking about emotions and cultivating our emotions, the path begins with understanding what is an emotion? What does it mean for me to feel anger, or love, or to feel any of those powerful emotions? What is it talking about when I feel those experiences? As we know, the emotional intelligence of our culture is very low. Very few people really understand emotions. We’re so focused on cognition.

Debra Maldonado  25:59

I think in the West, we’re afraid of them, we’re told to get rid of the emotions, to suppress them, to clear them, don’t feel anything. Except if you’re feeling upset, it’s something’s wrong and there’s something dangerous about feeling anger, or fear. We function on that, that’s what makes life meaningful is to not be afraid of them. It’s really more of the fear of the emotion than the emotion itself.

Robert Maldonado  26:28

A lot of it is simply the misunderstanding that these emotions can damage us or harm somehow. Of course, if we act out on them, if we act out of anger or rage, they can hurt you, or they can hurt others as well. But the idea that moving towards them, understanding them, opening that emotional life up is somehow dangerous or destructive, that’s the wrong idea. The whole idea in Jungian psychology was to be able to look at those things and use them for your personal development.

Debra Maldonado  27:19

I think, the deeper you can go with the unpleasant emotions, the higher you can go with that divine love. If you want to practice love and devotion of the Divine, and dedication and all this beautiful stuff, if you aren’t dealing with the lower stuff, you’re not going to reach that pinnacle because in a way, you’re saying it’s hard to feel. I remember when I was a hypnotherapist — because I did a lot of sessions in person and dealt with lots of emotions — what was more painful for most people is feeling love. I’d work with single people on feeling, imagining themselves in love. They would just cry. They were like “Why am I crying?” It just was overwhelming because they weren’t giving themselves permission to feel. And there’s so much stigma around emotion, especially in the West, well, in a lot of cultures, that emotions are like foreign things, but they’re a natural part of life. Grief, and fear, and anger, and love, and excitement, and anxiety, we all feel them. It’s just that when they go to those extremes, we’re letting them run our life, that’s really where the problem is. But we can really go toward them and express them, then we can feel the range of emotions. What makes life so beautiful is to be able to feel sad when something sad happens, and be able to feel joy when something joyful happens. What if we can have everything, all those feelings? And that’s when we say a devotion, it’s how willing are you to feel what’s uncomfortable, to feel the heights of that devotion.

Robert Maldonado  29:09

For example, we see in Jungian psychology, there’s emphasis on the symbolic life. But he’s saying, in the symbol there is a feeling tone to it, there’s a numinosity to it, the numinous quality of the symbol has that transcendent quality. When you look at something meaningful for yourself, if you’re a Christian, you look at the cross or the crucifixion, or the Ohm sign if you’re meditating, it’s conveying a lot more than just an idea. It has a direct connection to your emotions, to your heart. That leads us then into the soul work, now you’re talking about the soul, now you’re talking about what is really inside you, as the core of your being, not just these ideas that are rising from your cognition, from your head.

Debra Maldonado  30:10

Feeling those human emotions, and then there’s a subtle difference with the love. You can start with the love that you know, like you love your parents or you love your children. I always have people think about the happiest day of their life. I say, what was the happiest day of your life? It’s interesting, can you think of the happiest day of your life? It’s a hard question. Most people could tell you the most terrible day of their life — when I lost my job, or I broke up with X, that was the terrible day. But when we think about a good day, it’s not as strong an impression. I have people think about the happiest day and you start cultivating that love of that day, that moment. Then you can start building and then there’s another level of it, that is divine, it transcends the human experience. Then it becomes what Rumi would call ecstasy or bliss. But you have to start with that happy feeling that you’re familiar with to get to that level. It’s like a higher level, and there’s a subtle shift, because when you love there’s still a little attachment. But when you get to this higher level — and it takes practice, this isn’t something I’m going to do this afternoon. But as you cultivate that love and use the symbol, you’re going to notice that something starts to click differently. There’s even another level of love that I could feel.

Robert Maldonado  31:40

If you think about romantic love, and I imagine that’s what you’re talking about, romantic love?

Debra Maldonado  31:48

Here’s the perfect example. When I say what is your favorite day, most people will either say the day they met their partner, or when they think of their partner, or the day their child was born, holding their first child in their arms, or being with grandmother. We always had a person to it, someone they loved. It was just this beautiful feeling. Some people have “I’m walking along the beach and it’s beautiful day”, their happy place. But the real deep feeling is of love of another person. Maybe not always romantic.

Robert Maldonado  32:26

Because if you think psychologically, what’s happening there is that the beloved now, just like Rumi says, is the symbol of love. They possess that numinous quality that activates your soul. Your experience when you experience love, when you’re really falling in love, or have fallen in love, you’re in that state of mind of transcendence, you’re transported out of the ordinary world into dream time, going beyond the ordinary. That’s why it’s so powerful because you know, something has happened to you that has changed your life completely. The mistake people make, or that we often make is that we think it is in that person, or that event, or the object, or the symbol, that is where the magic is, the numinosity. But the numinous feeling is arising from within us.

Debra Maldonado  33:34

It’s reflecting. It’s like looking into a mirror, that symbol’s reflecting back. Just think of it as a mirror for you to see your deeper self. We can’t look at our face, we need a mirror to see it. We have to see it in a reflective surface like a mirror.

Robert Maldonado  34:00

So now we think, yoga is a discipline of the mind or the mind body. Now we can understand bhakti yoga as the discipline of the heart. You’re inside like that. You’re disciplining your mind, focusing on this way of approaching the divine and cultivating in a conscious way, cultivating that feeling that you have. The practice, of course, is opening your heart up to the divine in a conscious way through ritual, through practice, through devotional service, chanting, music, dance like Rumi would do. Singing all these human expressions, then become directed towards that divine path.

Debra Maldonado  35:01

I find that in my most difficult times, that bhakti, that heartfelt devotional emotion that I felt toward the divine, really helped me get through so many tough times, because I felt connected to something bigger than my ego. When I was scared or uncertain about where to go, wondering what my life was going to be, I always say “There’s nowhere to fall”, because there was always this groundedness that was solid, to something bigger than me. It’s hard to describe. But it is a wonderful connection in feeling connected to really your deepest part of yourself. Even romantically, when I met you, that was the feeling I felt. Not the “Ooh!” — I did feel that too but there’s something more solid, it has this unwavering faith that God’s not just gonna show up and leave me, abandon me, that fear of God’s not going to answer my prayers, or God’s not going to listen today. I always knew I was taking care of, and it’s that faith. We talked about love, devotion, and surrender. That’s where surrender is, we have to surrender our ego. We’re not surrendering our dreams, we’re not surrendering what we want, we have to surrender our ego’s attachment to that. When we hold that love, it’s beyond the fear, I’m surrendering this fear to the divine, it’s just like this love that I know is going to carry me through.

Robert Maldonado  36:47

We’ve talked about this relationship with the divine as being a parent to a child, a lover to a lover. But there’s also a friend to a friend. In the Gita, you see Krishna is a dear friend to Arjuna. He is his friend above the relative part of it. He advises him, he guides him, he’s not attached to winning or losing the war. He’s simply saying “I’m here for you whenever you need me.”

Debra Maldonado  37:26

He had the choice to have the vast army or have Krishna, and he chose Krishna. It was that “I know who’s on my side.” That is beautiful, to know that the true self in you will never abandon you and it’s a part of you that can never be harmed, can never be destroyed. No matter how scared your little ego is and stealing with all its little emotions, there’s this bigger part of you there to take you to where you need to be and always feel that sense of you can let go, not trying to do God’s work for God, I’m gonna plan it out, white knuckling through life, trying to make things happen so much. It’s that devotion and that love. I love this phrase that the divine in you wants what you want more than you want it, the divine in you is on your side, is your friend.

Robert Maldonado  38:32

The metaphor is that Arjuna is in a war essentially, which is really our experience of life. We’re in a kind of war, there’s this battle going on, not only literally but internally, there’s a battle going on for our soul, what are we going to do with our life in a sense, and the obstacles are really great. Just like Arjuna is facing these incredible odds, and the odds were not in Arjuna’s favor. But Krishna says “Don’t worry, I’m driving. I’m the driver of your chariot.” Meaning “I’m in control. You don’t have to figure it all out. You don’t have to do it all yourself. If you trust in me, if you have that friendly connection with the divine, it is the driver of your life.” It is the one that is opening the path, driving your chariot. The metaphor works at so many different levels that cultivation of this friendly approach to our spiritual life and trusting it, using it as our guide, depending on it instead of depending on the army — like you were saying, Arjuna chose the advice of Krishna over having all his armies. That means that we’re trusting in the divine instead of our own physical force, economic force, whatever kind of power you have in the world, you’re saying no, the divine in me is much more powerful. It is the one that is driving, it is the one that is going to get me through this battle. And therefore I trust.

Debra Maldonado  40:31

Of course, this isn’t something that you just believe, you have to study higher knowledge, you have to self inquiry, you have to try on yourself. Someone was asking about the scientific proof and atheists. There’s two types of ways to look at the universe, two paradigms. There’s the materialistic universe, which is looking for physical evidence. And then there’s the conscious universe, which is consciousness is the source of everything versus the material. You have to decide what paradigm you are working in. This idea of scientific proof is actually not true, you can’t really prove anything scientifically. All you can do is have a theory about it. And the theory is, let’s test it out. We all know science is an art, it’s not absolute truth. Einstein had his theories but then other people came in and they fine tuned it. The more we knew, the more we understand. The question really is, how do you examine your own mind to find your own truth? We’re not trying to tell you what to believe, we’re telling you what the bhakti yoga is, but we really want you to ask. The only way you really know is to test it out yourself, ask yourself those questions. It’s a direct experience. We’re going to talk about gyana yoga, which is the study of higher knowledge, that’s why I wanted to also talk about that. If you don’t understand the higher knowledge, you don’t study it, then apply it and ask the questions or meditate on it, and then get a direct experience. That’s the only way you know. Religion is different, religion says “You need to believe this, here’s the Word of God and you need to believe this.” In philosophy it’s a concept that we invite you to look at. It’s been around for thousands of years. Actually, in quantum physics, they’re now starting to see that what the Vedas and philosophy was teaching thousands and thousands of years ago, are actually the same thing. There is no material, there’s nothing. Everything’s consciousness and everything’s connected. Everything’s one. They knew it, now we have to go all through Western science to start asking the question, because it is that wrestling and understanding it directly, going on the journey yourself. No one can teach you how to love, you have to cultivate that love for yourself.

Robert Maldonado  43:14

The Vedic philosophy does not say “Believe this.” But rather it says “Observe this in yourself. Observe your own awareness, your own experience of things, and test it up.” It doesn’t say, if you don’t believe this, you’re going to go to hell or anything.

Debra Maldonado  43:35

And we’re not talking about an external God, someone outside. This is you, you’re seeing your work. We’re coming up with the symbol, so that you can see the divine in you. For some people, it’s like a co-creation they need to go through first, it just depends on your own relationship with what the divine is, and what that feels like. It feels more comfortable for some people to see it as an external image first, but what the ultimate truth is that we’re seeing our own self, reflection. It really is about cultivating that love, coming up with a symbol that you can use, and practicing what it would mean for your little ego if you had that kind of love and that cultivation.

Robert Maldonado  44:30

I would just add that coming up with a symbol, what we mean is more paying attention to psyche because we know in Jungian psychology, paying attention to your dreams, to your imagination, to even the world around you essentially will give you that symbol. It’s not like a conscious choosing, I’m going to focus on this symbol, but more of what speaks to me, what has that numinous quality? Choosing that or going with that, trusting that when a symbol has that powerful, numinous quality for you, you say this is worthy of attention, and you use it to focus.

Debra Maldonado  45:21

It can evolve over time. You start with that. What we know is that human emotions are beautiful but there’s a higher ecstasy we can reach. We read the words of Tagore and Rumi, what states were these people in? Wouldn’t it be nice to live in that state? Not to push away the world but how do we balance being in the world and having all the things we want as Westerners in society, everything of life making it meaningful, and also have that spiritual element? It’s about cultivating your own spiritual practice. Bhakti yoga is about bringing the heart into your spiritual life. How do we bring it into our heart? How do we really feel connected? Because I know a lot of people that read a lot of stuff, it’s very intellectual, but there’s no feeling to it. You can’t really embody that peace just from intellectual understanding.

Robert Maldonado  46:29

A lot of the spiritual practices that are focused on the bhakti yoga are talking about the heart, cultivating the heart. You see images like Jesus with his heart on fire. I wasn’t raised Catholic but when I saw that image, I recognize it. Universally, you see that igniting of the passions, but for spirituality.

Debra Maldonado  47:03

I used to feel that toward Mother Mary. When I would see Mother Mary, I’d be like “She’s such a warm, loving mother, like my mother”, I always felt that devotion to her. I never had an old man with a beard, but I felt like more as a Catholic, Jesus and Mary were more on my speed, I felt more connection to that. Ultimately, we’re really dealing with the relationship with ourself everywhere we go. Bringing that relationship is taking self love to another realm. We can have self love, say we’re good enough and strong enough, and nurture ourselves with pedicures, and manicures, and facials, or we could also have self love by cultivating those higher states of love and emotion in our life. That’s really, I would say, the height, the true self love. Because you’re loving the self with a big [inaudible], not the little ego.

Robert Maldonado  48:12

What are we talking about next week?

Debra Maldonado  48:14

So next week I believe we’re talking about gyana yoga, which is the path of higher knowledge, which is what are the lessons, the text that the Vedas teach us about life, about consciousness, about practice. It’s that intellectual knowledge. I think all of these four are really great to have in your life, and then pick. I switched around, I did the higher knowledge for a while, because I was like “I need to gain all this intellectual understanding.” Now it has shifted more to devotional, it was devotional before, prior to knowledge, and you switch around. There’s certain points in your life where one is really more prominent. Maybe it’s a vacation, and you’re like “I’m going to do meditation this week, I don’t need to do all the other stuff. I don’t need to read anything. I don’t need to do any action. I just want to meditate.” So we’re going to talk about that in the next week. Thank you so much for your questions. My last question: “It’s important to be aware of the person who is worshiping is just a symbol and not the actual person.” Yes. Also you assume your ego is a symbol like yourself, like the self identity, it’s a symbol. It’s not really who you are as a symbol interacting with another symbol.

Robert Maldonado  49:46

Absolutely.

Debra Maldonado  49:47

Well, take care. Have a wonderful rest of your day, we’ll see you next week on the next Soul Session.

Robert Maldonado  49:55

Stay well. 

Debra Maldonado  49:58 

Bye bye. 

Robert Maldonado  49:59 

Thanks for watching.

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