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The Little Book of Bhakti-Yoga

Contributed by Christoffer Leka on Jan 4th, 2024. Artwork published in .
The Little Book of Bhakti-Yoga 1
Christoffer Leka. License: All Rights Reserved.

I am a slow learner. This has its drawbacks, the most obvious one being that I am, well, a slow learner. But there are some upsides as well. For starters, I tend to remember the things I’ve learned quite well. The second upside, and the one more pertinent to the interest of the reader, is that I’m able to empathise with others who share my affliction. That is to say I understand where they’re standing, and what might benefit them.

In my youth I took a keen interest in what is known as Bhakti marga, or the path of devotion. It is a branch of Hinduism in which Krishna is seen as the origin of all and the main deity. But despite my attraction to the path of Bhakti I found myself struggling with the vocabulary.

Here was a tradition millennia old, born in a location distant from where I had taken birth in a cultural milieu far removed from anything familiar to me. On top of this the terminology was at times quite esoteric and steeped in layers of meaning. Add to this that almost all the words commonly used were in either Sanskrit or Bengali, and you can understand my plight.

The Little Book of Bhakti-Yoga 2
Christoffer Leka. License: All Rights Reserved.

I have spoken thus far mostly about my shortcomings, but allow me to shift gears and speak about my superpowers. Or actually a superpower, singular, as I only have one. But it’s such a good one that it makes up for being the only one. You see, my superpower is that for one reason or another I have always had the good fortune of being surrounded by people much more accomplished and talented than myself. To make things even more fortunate for me these people have been willing to work on whatever hare-brained project I cooked up. So too this time.

My struggle with coming to terms with the terminology gave me an idea. It was perhaps neither an original nor an astounding idea, but nonetheless a very good one: why not create a small dictionary for persons like myself who need the occasional help in navigating the strange territory I found myself in?

The next step was to find someone to write the dictionary. And who would have been better suited for the job than my friend Dr Måns Broo, a university lecturer and Sanskrit scholar? I presented him with my idea, and without blinking an eye he told me he was onboard. In our discussions we quickly concluded that most dictionaries, as useful as they are, are also very, very boring. We wanted to make our small dictionary stand out from the crowd. To make it so pleasing in both form and content that even people with the mildest interest might pick it up.

The Little Book of Bhakti-Yoga 3
Christoffer Leka. License: All Rights Reserved.

It is here that the third member or our team steps in. My partner Kaisa is known for her wonderful small unassuming illustrations and cartoons, and is able to catch the humorous essence in whatever topic she happens to be working on. It was decided that the contents of the book would follow a simple structure – the recto side would contain words and their explanation, whereas the verso side would host an illustration in which one of the words was depicted.

As for the form of the book we wanted to make it as cute and easily approachable as possible. For us this meant a small book with quirky rather than solemn typography to go along with it. And the printing color should not be black, but something softer. We opted for a dark brown tone that nicely complemented the bright yellow cloth-bound covers.

The Little Book of Bhakti-Yoga 4
Christoffer Leka. License: All Rights Reserved.
The Little Book of Bhakti-Yoga 5
Christoffer Leka. License: All Rights Reserved.

After trying out many classics, such as Caslon, Garamond, and many, many others, the typeface I landed on for this particular book was Lexon by František Štorm. It had just the personality and color I was looking for. That the bold cut suddenly turns into a sans serif just made it better in my estimation.

In this regard I do have minor indiscretion to confess to, asking for forgiveness now many years later. When transliterating terms from Sanskrit to the Latin alphabet a basic character set just doesn’t cut it. I needed an array of diacritic marks. Turning to an acquaintance, I had him produce the needed additions.

My only defence is that I acted with no ill will and perhaps that the crime has already expired. I really hope it has, because my admiration for Štorm’s typefaces knows no bounds, and I would hate having him be angry with me. (It was only much later I learned that Štorm has at least some affinity or at least an interest in Hindu cosmology, as he makes reference to the our current epoch known as Kali-yuga in an interview conducted by Irina Smirnova published in Typotheque’s book 158 Answers, published in 2011.)

The Little Book of Bhakti-Yoga 6
Christoffer Leka. License: All Rights Reserved.

The typeface I complemented Lexon with was Zebrawood by Carl Crossgrove, Carol Twombly, and Kim Buker Chansler. It had just the right kind of boldness and audacity that I was looking for for the chapter beginnings.

The third typeface (or actually a dingbat) is present only in one character throughout the book, but then it is present several times on each text page. It is of course the pilcrow found in ITC Zapf Dingbats. The reason for going to another typeface altogether for a pilcrow was that Zapf Dingbats had a funky attitude that I didn’t quite find in Lexon’s own character equivalent.

We published the Little Book of Bhakti-Yoga back in 2006 and it was a great surprise to us how warm a welcome our small book got. We had countless people confess to us that they were really not that interested in the subject matter, but that the book just spoke to them in such a way that they had to purchase it. Thus this is one of our many books that soon sold out. Some years ago I found a box that we had missed, but even those are gone by now.

The Little Book of Bhakti-Yoga 7
Christoffer Leka. License: All Rights Reserved.

I have for years been pestering my friend Dr Broo that we should do a free-standing sequel for the book containing 108 questions and answers about bhakti, but so far I have been unsuccessful in my attempts. I know he’s busy with so many other books, but I am hoping that this post just might compel him to think otherwise!

The Little Book of Bhakti-Yoga 8
Christoffer Leka. License: All Rights Reserved.
The Little Book of Bhakti-Yoga 9
Christoffer Leka. License: All Rights Reserved.


  • Lexon
  • Zebrawood
  • Zebrawood Fill
  • ITC Zapf Dingbats



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