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Sadhana Bhakti Steps:
Be Free of Material Desire

An important first step for sadhana bhakti or preliminary practice of bhakti yoga is to keep your practice free of material desire.

Since we are material beings living in a material world, and everything we think is material, this may seem a bit challenging. Try to imagine it like this -- if you were to eliminate all divine desires from your mind, what would remain are material desires.

At the outset, our goal is to start by keeping our practice free of material desire. As your devotional experience deepens along with your understanding of the limited nature of worldly happiness, your tendency for forming material desire will decrease naturally.

The secret behind this guideline is that sadhana bhakti is done by the mind, and you have only one mind. The mind is such a vessel, that it can be filled with worldly aspirations or the desire for spiritual enlightenment. Although we hold both of these aspirations simultaneously in the initial stages of our sadhana bhakti practice, only one is our true goal of life.

A typical worshipper of God may actually view his devotional relationship as a means to fulfill his self-directed worldly desires. This means he is looking for any kind of divine intervention to satisfy desires for his own happiness. Bhakti yoga teaches the opposite of this -- selfless devotion or forming those desires that are only for the happiness of your divine beloved.

If you combine worldly desire with devotion to God, one of the following points may help you understand how to rectify this:

  1. Is authentic happiness a feature of God or the world? In other words, if happiness is in the world, what is the necessity of God? Similarly, if your really believe happiness is only in God, what is the necessity of asking for the world? In actual fact, worldly acquisitions cause material desires to increase. After acquiring worldly objects, false pride also increases, and this pride is one of the main factors that creates a barrier between you and a feeling of devotional relationship with God.
  2. Is worldly prosperity a sign of God's grace? If you believe this, then when you experience a material loss, you may also feel you have lost God's grace and He has become unfavorable towards you. This inconsistent attitude causes you to fluctuate between being faithful and faithless.

    Every soul is bound by his karmic destiny or prarabdh, which is the outcome of his past lives' good and bad actions. Whatever material prosperity we are destined to receive is pre-determined by the immutable law of karma.

    A lack of worldly possessions is truly a sign of God's grace. When someone has less, he has less pride, and it is easier for him to turn towards God.
  3. Does God listen to our prayers and answer them? If you believe this, why not ask once for everything? In fact, if you had full faith in this, ask God for His vision or divine love. If this were happen just once, the root of your desire would be eliminated and you could become divinely contented forever.

    The positive side of this is at least this kind of person believes in God's existence, but if his desires remain unfulfilled, his favorable devotional feelings may end.
  4. Does God dwell in everyone's heart?. If you accept this, it implies He knows and will do what is best for us. Do we need to interfere then in His work? If our faith is complete in His all-knowing and ever-present nature, we will leave everything to Him, and our material requests will end.

Our chief aspiration on the path of bhakti yoga is to attain God's selfless divine love. The true form of this devotion lies in pleasing God and acting for His happiness. When we don't see or experience God, serving or pleasing Him in some way may sound impossible.

We will acquire a practical sense of this when we apply these principles to our bhakti yoga practice under the guidance of a true Guru.