Bhakti Yoga: turning water into wine

Jesus said to the servants:
- Fill the jars with water.
And the servants filled them to the brim.
- Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet – said Jesus.
They did so. The master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said:
- Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.
What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee, was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him ,
(John 2.7-11).

Conflictive emotions are one of the main difficulties that the spiritual aspirant needs to face. But if these emotions are transmuted, when we turn the water of emotion into the wine of spiritual joy, we then have a great ally walking down our path with us. We need to know how to do this alchemy.

Emotions are a form of energy, and this energy needs an out, needs to be channeled. On the other hand, if it is repressed and concentrated, there comes a moment when it can explode and cause problems. Energy cannot be destroyed, but it can be rechanneled and transformed, producing thus benefits where before it produced damages.

There are different levels in the management of conflicting emotions. The first level is like extinguishing a flame before it becomes a fire. In our day to day life we face situations that produce in us conflictive emotional reactions: ire, anger, confusion, dismay, etc. Sometimes, before triggering these emotions, we have a moment of consciousness where we can chose to reject such emotional responses. It is like if, in the middle of the forest, we dropped a lit match on the floor. At that moment, if we are conscious of what is happening, we can extinguish it before it catches in the bush and causes the forest to burn, and we do it without any mayor consequences. That instant of consciousness comes in our life more often, as we follow a yogic practice that stops us from reacting unconsciously and automatically to external stimulus. Extinguishing the match like that does not involve any emotional wear, it leaves no trace in us; instead, it avoids a great explosion and the subsequent emotional exhaustion.

The next level of emotion management is when the fire has already started, when the forest is on fire. We cannot pretend that nothing is happening; there has been an emotional overflow inside us caused by an external situation, so it is advisable that we deal with those emotions.

There are different techniques, yogic or psychological, to channel these overflowing feelings. The yogis discovered that every mental and emotional state has associated a different breathing pattern. So, by controlling our breathing, we can indirectly control our emotional and mental states. A long and controlled breathing is calming, and can defuse the states of anger or anxiety. There are different breathing patterns that induce different mental and emotional states.

Yoga speaks of five different sheaths or bodies: physical body, energetic or vital body (home to the emotions), mental body, intellectual body and casual body. The second body, the vital one, is formed by what in Yoga we call ‘prana’ or vital energy. This body feeds of prana, mainly through breathing, and it is in it where our emotions occur. Here we can see the intimate relationship between breathing, prana and emotions.

So breathing allows us to regulate, shall we say, the intensity and the volume of our overflowing emotions.

The Yoga of Devotion, Bhakti Yoga, allows us to channel this emotional energy towards other goals, getting it away from frustration, anger or fear. Like this we can transform the emotional water into the wine of divine joy.

It is advisable to have an spiritual or divine ideal, a form that represents, to the Yoga practitioner, something toward what he aspires, that he considers worthy of all his love and devotion. This is what in India is called ‘Ishta-Deva’, which literally means ‘beloved Divinity.’ Yogic tradition never imposes a Divinity form, but it encourages everyone to find the form that echoes in their own heart. It is for this reason that the Indian pantheons are full of ‘gods’ and ‘goddesses,’ which are but different representations of the various aspects of the One.

In situations of emotional overflow, it is a good practice to channel all this energy towards the Divinity, in whichever favorite form we have. The devotional chants can perform a transformation miracle at such moments, especially in situations of anxiety or dismay. These conflicting emotions are given to the Divinity, in our chant, and the Divinity will transform them into the wine of divine joy.
Krishna says in the Gita:

I accept any offerings that a soul of fervent love give me with devotion. Be it a leaf, or a flower, or a fruit, or even some fresh water: I accept everything, because with a pure heart it has been offered to me in love.

Anything that you do, or eat, or give, or offer in adoration, offer it to Me. In the same way, any suffering that comes to your life, also offer it to Me.

This way you will have detangled yourself from the ligaments of Karma, whether the fruits are good or bad, (Bhagavad Gita IX.26-28).

The Devotion Yoga is a great tool for the spiritual aspirant, very often undervalued by more patriarchal yogi approaches, or approaches based merely on the cultivation of discernment or detachment, which reject the emotions and the body. But the body and the emotions are wonderful tools when they are put to the service of the Divinity, to create the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Great contemporary yogic teachers have praised the transforming power of the devotional chants.

The cultivation of the devotion also serves us as fuel to power and carry out our yogic practice. Love is the best motivation to act. A spiritual path that does not involve the heart is a path without life, and it will soon dry.

All yogic practices are but a preparation to become perfect vessels, without cracks, for the Divinity's wine of Joy and Love:

Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved, (Matthew 9.17).

This wine is, really, what we all seek, looking in worldly objects that will not last. Any mundane achievement pales before the supreme bliss which does not diminish:

Ah, moon of my delight, who know no wane, (Omar Khayyam)

In the inner cellar
of my beloved I drank, and when I wandered out
trough that meadow,
I no longer knew anything,
and I lost the flock I had followed before,
(St John of the Cross).

The Earth, the heavens, the sun, the moon, the stars
The center of their orbit find in love.
By Love are all bewildered, stupefied,
Intoxicated by the Wine of Love,
(Farid ud Din Attar).