Bhagvad Gita is a conversation between Consciousness (Krishn) & Jiva (Arjun). The following verse spoken by Krishn talks about bhakti with mind.
[Bhagvad Gita, Chapter 8, Verse 14]
The above implies that whosoever always and constantly thinks about Self with undivided mind, to that Yogi ever absorbed in Self, the Self is easily attainable.
Bhakti does not necessarily mean following certain ritual. There is no pointing chanting AUM a thousand times just for the sake of doing it. There is no point in just watching breath or dissolving in meditation samadhi or having epiphany if Self Inquiry is not made to find out the seer. Many people even after NDE (near death experience) are unable to know that they are pure Consciousness because they get immersed in the amazing experience of unconditional love etc. and do not do Self Inquiry. It does mean something useful if chanting AUM brings mind back to think about the Self. Self inquiry is the direct method of Self Realisation which involves doing no ritual whatsoever. A seeker always needs to inquire, “Who is the seer?” or, “How do I know what I know?” or “Who am I really?” and engage in negation.
Kabir says, “Kar ka manka dari de, man ka manka pher” which means drop the beads of rosary and rotate the beads of mind.
PS: Some rituals can be useful if their symbolisms are understood. For example, every time you apply bindi or tilak remember that your final goal is Self Realisation and apply the mind to Self Inquiry.
During Self Inquiry one can try to figure out how vrittis (mental modifications, thought waves) originate or how thoughts pop up every now and then making us do things like puppets are made to do things. This eventually leads us to know that we are programmed and are not really the doers. Loss of doership is the key in the final stages of Self Realisation where the one who was doing the Self Inquiry surrenders knowing that it is not the doer.
[Panchadasi Chapter 8, Kootasthadeep Prakraran, Verse 20]
Meaning: All the vrittis are born sequentially after gaps. When one vritti is destroyed, another one is born. One should understand the origin of third, fourth etc. vrittis. All vrittis disappear during deep sleep, unconscious state, samadhi and not even one remains out of those.
When you watch a gripping movie, you forget about your body & mind. You are unable to watch the movie in a detached manner. You become part of the movie or you become some character of the movie or you become the movie. This is the meaning of false identification.
There are several such situations in daily life in which there is false identification. Husband is actually a role played by a man but most of the times he gets attached to the role and identifies with it. Sometimes, we identify with body, sometimes with emotions of pleasure, sadness etc., sometimes with something else. When we identify or get attached with something we become that thing and we are unable to see it as something appearing within us but is not us. When we are attached to thoughts, there is a sense of movement along with the thoughts.
Neti-neti (negation) is a procedure of Self Inquiry using which we find out about the wrong identifications that we are having. Finally, there is nothing left but the unchanging Awareness and that is what we really are. It is Awareness itself that becomes husband, wife, father, pleasure, anger etc. Self Inquiry does not mean that you ask, “Who Am I” and then wait for the Awareness to give a shout. Self Inquiry is a highly engaging process. There were some days during my seeking days in which my mind would do Self Inquiry for almost all the time and would raise doubts and would itself find the answers. Self Inquiry is also a great way of doing bhakti/smaran/surti of the Self and can eventually convert intellectual understanding (atmagyan/parokshanubhooti) to direct-knowledge/enlightenment (atmabodh/aparokshanubhooti). Ramana Maharshi says in, “Who Am I”:
The gross body which is composed of the seven humours (dhatus), I am not; the five cognitive sense organs, viz. the senses of hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell, which apprehend their respective objects, viz. sound, touch, colour, taste, and odour, I am not; the five cognitive senseorgans, viz. the organs of speech, locomotion, grasping, excretion, and procreation, which have as their respective functions speaking, moving, grasping, excreting, and enjoying, I am not; the five vital airs, prana, etc., which perform respectively the five functions of in-breathing, etc., I am not; even the mind which thinks, I am not; the nescience too, which is endowed only with the residual impressions of objects, and in which there are no objects and no functioning’s, I am not. After negating all of the above-mentioned as ‘not this’, ‘not this’, that Awareness which alone remains – that I am.
Student: What is the Atman?
Teacher: What you see in your eyes is the Atman. What you see in the reflection is the Atman.
Student: What is reflected anywhere, which is nothing but this body, is the Atman, then the Atman would be affected by every kind of defect to which the body is subject. So there would be a defective Atman. This body is subject to death. This Atman cannot then be called immortal. When this body goes, the Atman also will go, if the body is the Atman. If I am well-dressed, the Atman is also well-dressed. If the body is blind, the Atman is blind. If the body is crippled, the Atman also is crippled. If the body is diseased, the Atman would have disease. There is something wrong with my understanding.
Teacher: That which you see in the state of dream is the Atman.
Student: One feels as if one is chased or driven away or being killed even in dream. One feels sorrow and grief and passes through unpleasant experiences in dream also. One cries, weeps and sobs when one has painful experiences in dream also. The dreaming person can be sorry, can be affected in a serious manner like the waking one and he has even the experience of destruction etc. There is something wrong with my understanding.
Teacher: He who is in the deep sleep state, that is the Atman.
Student: It is as if it is not there at all! It is a zero, an annihilation, a negation of all things! This Atman is a darkness which knows neither its own self nor others. What kind of thing is this sleep? Neither it knows that it is, nor does it know that anything else is. It is like complete annihilation, as it were. How could self-annihilation be the Atman? There is something wrong with my understanding.
Teacher: I was just making you ready to hear the truth. Atman is not an individual thing. It is due to which every experience is possible, yet it itself does not experience anything – just watches with detachment. It is not personality consciousness like waking state; it is also not non-consciousness like deep sleep state. It is awareness without individuality. It is just awareness without yours or mine. When you look at my eyes or to anybody’s eyes, you can see it. It is not like your Atman but you yourself are Atman, or it is not like your awareness but you yourself are awareness. You are taking yourself to be the body and are asking what is Atman, but actually you are Atman who has forgotten its true nature and is wrongly taking it to be the body. The Atman is bodiless just like space which has no body but is everywhere.
Derived from Chhandogya Upanishad by Swami Krishnananda
While reading something for a few minutes, when you are immersed in it, i.e. when the I sense has dissolved, just inquire who is reading and see if you notice a presence*. There has to be somebody/something that is reading in the absence of the I sense.
While watching TV for a few minutes, when you are immersed in it, i.e. when the I sense has dissolved, just inquire who is watching/listening and see if you notice a presence*. There has to be somebody/something that is watching/listening in the absence of the I sense.
*Presence word is a pointer. Awareness word is more accurate. When I sense has gone and there is no false identification, you are pure awareness and awareness can recognise itself.
Teacher: Please look at the flower in front of us.
Teacher: Where exactly do you experience it?
Student: In the garden.
Teacher: Not the physical location, but the place of experience. The light rays are converted into electrical signals in your body and then your mind sees it. So, you experience it within you. Do you follow?
Student: Yes, I understand the basic Physics and since mind is part of me who is looking at the image of the flower, so I am looking at the flower within me.
Teacher: Good, now how far is your awareness from the flower?
Student: Well, my awareness is right there where flower is. There is no gap between my awareness and the flower.
Teacher: Can you now close your eyes and imagine the same flower. Now, how far is awareness from the flower?
Student: Same as before. Whether eyes are open or close, there is no gap between my awareness and the flower.
Teacher: Great! awareness takes the shape of the flower. Now, how far are you from the awareness?
Student: I am there where my awareness is. There is no gap between myself and the awareness.
Teacher: Excellent, since there is no gap between you and the awareness, is there anything else that you realise?
Student: Well, let me think for a moment……. This is amazing! I am the awareness.
The above dialogue is inspired from the writings of Sri James Swartz.