Question: Can you please talk a little bit about chanting, the path of Bhakti Yoga, and developing oneness with God.
Swami Satchidananda: Bhakti means heart. That’s what God wants. Being in the head alone is egoistic; the head is a hard nut to crack. Chanting elevates your spiritual energy, but the goal is that you should have a good body, good mind, and a controlled mind.
Swami Vivekananda talks about chanting and bhakti. It is good to chant, but that alone is not enough because you have to handle the energy that is awakened by the chanting. So that is why we call our approach, Integral Yoga. It integrates everything. Even though Bhakti wakes up your energy, you have to have the capacity to handle it. That means you have to have control over your body and mind. That’s the reason why there should be a balance among the other Yogas also. We need all different approaches. So Bhakti Yoga alone is not enough, even though it is the simplest and easiest practice for this Kali Yuga time period. But again, one has to know how to use the elevated energy properly. To do that, you have to be able to control your mind. That control comes through Hatha Yoga. Then it becomes an integral practice, not one-sided.
Question: What are the benefits of chanting?
Swami Satchidananda: Again, the benefits are physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It is mostly emotional. You have to bring out your emotions. But mere chanting for the sake of music alone is not enough. You should feel the purpose. The joy should come from the heart. Otherwise, even parrots can chant.
We say, “God is love.” How would you express love? From the heart. It melts your heart if you really feel the music. That’s bhakti. Bhakti means coming from the heart. If you keep on chanting, at one point you will forget everything. You may go into a sort of samadhi state. That is the best way, no doubt.
Of course when you chant and sing and dance, it is physical also. You get good exercise for the body when you dance. So there is emotion, but it is mental and you feel that. Whatever name you chant, you should feel the presence of God. You are not chanting for somebody else. You just close your eyes and see God coming in front of you, dancing with you. Then Bhakti Yoga becomes more spiritual.