THREE PRINCIPLE STAGES OF BHAKTI YOGA
The Namaz of the Muslims, the Tal-Bhajan and the Sandhya-Pujas of the Hindus, the Kusti and Bhantars of the Zoroastrians, the prayers of the Christians, etc., are no doubt Bhakti-worship in rudimentary stages. The first stage of Bhakti Yoga is therefore general, and almost everyone is concerned with it and can practice it.
The second stage, which is intermediate, concerns itself with the constant remembrance of God. The worshipper, through constant mental or physical repetitions (Nam-Smaran or Zikra) of any one name of God, achieves the fixity of thought on God, without the medium of any ceremony. In other words, when a person's thoughts are always directed toward God, throughout the waking state, even while eating or talking, he may be said to be in the second stage of Bhakti Yoga.
This kind of constant remembrance of God must not be confounded with meditation. In meditation, one makes an attempt to achieve fixity of thought; whereas one who has reached the second stage of Bhakti Yoga already possesses the one sole and single thought for God, and therefore has no more need of organized thinking.
Just as a variety of thoughts come to an ordinary man, even without the intention on his part to have them, the Bhakti yogi in the second stage simply cannot help thinking about the Lord, wherever and however he may be. This fixity of thought on God is higher Bhakti or worship.
The third stage, which is advanced, concerns itself with divine love and longing of a higher order. The higher Bhakti of the second stage ultimately leads the aspirant to this third or highest stage of Bhakti Yoga; in other words, to the highest Bhakti and to the true love. The one in this stage can be called the true lover of God. For him there is no question of fixity of thought. He is beyond thought. His thoughts, so to say, have got melted into the blazing and all-consuming fire of an intense longing for the Beloved — God. So much so, that far from thinking about his physical needs, the aspirant in this stage of Bhakti or love, is almost incognizant of his very corporality.
THE PATH OF LOVE , pp. 58-59
1986 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust