The only response to true self knowledge is worship. Offer yourself to your own infinite nature. It’s said that when a yogi walks, before him is the infinite, behind him is nothing.
Bhakti is a celebration of our own infinite nature. Bhakti reminds us that the devotion we feel, the object of devotion, and that act of devotion are all arise from our own heart.
Bhakti is like many other practices in yoga: it is both the means and the goal. If one does not feel universal love and devotion in their heart than they can practice bhakti to help cultivate the feeling. If someone already has universal love flowing from their heart then bhakti in some form or other is a natural response to life.
We practice bhakti by giving. We have received this life and continue to receive the breath of life freely. In recognition of our own divinity, we search to emulate that divine freedom in offering our own lives to the service of that divine conscious energy that flows thru everything.
Freedom is one of the keys to bhakti You cannot coerce someone to follow such a path such love can only flow with freedom. This is why the channel opens more and more as we follow our sadhana (spiritual practices). As our perception of life clears we become more free of the chitta-vrittis (mental fluctuations and false perceptions) and the feeling of love will grow.
It’s unlikely that human to human or human to object relationships will satisfy this love; it’s simply too big. Besides, we should have boundaries in our relationships, expectations and duties to each other. These relationships seek to balance our spiritual aspirations with our material aspirations. In bhakti we leave behind our material aspirations and seek pure unity of the spirit. To do this we must become that spirit; or accept and realize our true spiritual nature to it’s fullest extent.
In order to worship Shiva we must first become Shiva. In any case, we can only ever worship that which is most exalted within ourselves; those qualities that are most essential to our being.
The best way for any western person to get started is to begin reading the stories of the gods, find people you can talk to about the stories, and generally study their attributes, abilities and activities. Start to gain some feeling for them and see how their energies becomes manifest though your own inner experience as well as in the world around us. Durga is power, Kali unleashes a wild destruction, Hanuman is devotion; Sarawati is culture and learning, and Krishna reflects the innocence and curiosity of a baby, and the playfulness of love. This is why Krisha is an especially popular choice for bhaktis. Christianity is also said to be a bhakti religion with teaching like love not only your neighbour but also you enemy; for even your greatest enemy dwells within. Lets not forget that Krishna instigated the great war that begins where the Bhagavad Gita ends.
Of course one doesn’t have to follow the gods of Hinduism. Every culture and every person has their own whether we recognize them for what they are is another question. But again, this it the project of yoga: to recognize our innermost inherent qualities which are signified by the gods.
With gods grace all of the qualities of Ganesha and Saraswati are here with me while I type this but certainly there in no elephant in the room.