(Spoken on March 27, 1994 in the Samadhi Shrine)
Today is specially known as Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu Jayanti, the advent of a great devotee of God who lived in the bliss and the love of God, and propagated the love of God for the sake of the joy and the bliss of God. The day of love of God may be said to be Gauranga Mahaprabhu Jayanti.
We know what love is, but our concept of love is contaminated by a trade relation that we establish between the lover and the beloved. Have you ever thought of why anything is loved at all? The most initial, abrupt answer to this question would be that the object is attractive, and that which attracts evokes the sentiment of love for that particular object. But, why does that object attract?
One of the answers may be that it is beautiful, but what do we mean by ‘beauty'? Here is something which everyone seems to know but no one can understand, because human understanding, which is intellectuality, operates on the basis of calculation, a kind of mathematical judgment of things, and measures the geometrical pros and cons of the relationship of what appears to be beautiful. But beauty is a subject of art. It is not a mathematical equation.
There are two things in the world which attract immensely—the beautiful and the sublime. Nothing else can attract us. The full moon is beautiful; a lotus or rose blossom is beautiful. Our mind goes to it, and we look at it again and again. Even the face of a newborn baby is beautiful. Whether it is the baby of a king or of a beggar, it makes no difference; it is attractive. On seeing a little child, we cannot know whether it is a king's child or a beggar's child. One becomes a king and another a beggar later on, due to social and other types of circumstances.
Apart from that which is called beautiful, there is another thing called sublime, which attracts by grandeur, majesty, power, force, magnificence—like the elephant. In the same way as we would not like to turn our eyes away from a beautiful full moon in the night sky, we would also like to go on looking at an elephant if we are actually aware of what happens to us when we see it.
There is a total difference between the manner in which a beautiful thing attracts and a sublime thing attracts. The elephant and the ocean attract us due to their terrible vastness, majesty and power. Before the majesty and the power of the elephant and the vast ocean, we look very small. Our importance is brought down to a very low level and the ego, which is usually prominent in a human being, diminishes almost to the point of abolition. We admire and enjoy a thing only when the ego ceases to operate. This is how the sublime attracts. But beauty is a different thing. We can admire an elephant, but we cannot love it. We can be overjoyed by the majesty of the vast, turbulent ocean, but we cannot embrace it, hug it or love it.
God is an object of love for a devotee; God is not merely an object of admiration. In the Bhakti Shastra two types of devotion are described. One is known as aishwarya pradhana bhakti, and the other is known as madhurya pradhana bhakti. Acharyas such as Madhva and Ramanuja glorify God for His magnificence, His majesty, His omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence. But, there are other acharyas such as Vallabha, and to some extent Nimbarka also—and what to speak of Gauranga Mahaprabhu—who admire God for being the repository of all affection and beauty.
Usually, religions describe God as a Father in heaven, keeping Him far, at a distance from the dust of the Earth—at a frightening distance, almost. Unapproachable greatness is attributed to God Almighty, but we cannot love such a God. We cannot love, from our heart, a bulldozer or a crane which has great strength, though we know its utility. Our sense of admiration may go to it, but our heart will not go to it.
What is this peculiar thing which makes one love God? It is that very indescribable element in the factor of love which defies human understanding. When love attracts, nothing else can be said about it, because love is where there is joy and happiness. The soul of the human being is basically utter perfection and freedom. Where there is freedom and perfection, an internal joy automatically manifests itself. Whoever has lived a life of freedom in this world, and to some extent a perfect life, would be able to know what satisfaction is.
When all said and done, nothing can move us unless it satisfies us, and only that can satisfy us which can bestow upon us all the things we need. What is it that we need? Whoever has lived the life of a parent, a devotee, a lover or a beloved, or a servant of a great master will be able to appreciate what propels attraction. The structure, the pattern, the shape of the object is not what attracts. The meaning that is hidden behind its structure, the significance that is behind it, is what attracts.
A high-value currency note attracts not because of the material out of which it is made, but because of the meaning that it has within itself. It embodies power. In a similar manner, love is the movement of the soul in the direction of that which can fill it with joy. There are so many things in the world which also can satisfy us and fill us with some kind of joy, but their effect is temporary.
Every object that is dear and near is also, at the same time, fraught with fear. That thing which we love most as a very valuable object can also keep us in perpetual anxiety due to the possibility of bereavement at the loss of that object—which can take place at any time due to the very nature of life itself.
But God's joy, the ananda that the Absolute Being is, is not of that nature. What is God made of? What is the substance? Everything is made of something; what is God made of? Inscrutable is this great question before us. God is made up of that capacity to inundate us and drown us in the uttermost conceivable joy, almost to self-annihilation.
Even in ordinary mortal affection—in intense loves that are directed to perishable objects—there is a temporary abolition of self-consciousness. The more we love a thing, the less we feel our existence at that moment, so that when we are in utter possession of the most beloved of things, we do not exist at that moment. There is an abolition of self-consciousness. And, at that time, what is our experience? There is no one to experience it because, at that time, we have ceased to operate as a personality. To the extent that our personality is retained at the moment of the enjoyment of the object of love, to that extent our joy is diminished. Only the object of love should be there, and we should not be there; only then it is perfect enjoyment. Even in simple illustrations such as a mother's love for her child, that love makes the mother feel her own non-importance and the utter importance of the child. She pours herself entirely upon the child. When we pour ourselves on the object of love, we are no more there. It is very clear that because we have already poured ourselves upon that object, we cannot be existing separately from that.
As molten metal that is cast into a crucible takes the shape of that crucible, the one who loves is cast into the mould of the object of love, experiences only that pattern of the mould, and no longer exists at that time. That condition is called ecstasy. Ecstasy is the condition of the loss of self-consciousness on account of the feeling that something more than oneself has been obtained. In all forms of love and affection, the object of love is considered to be superior to oneself; otherwise, there cannot be attraction. If we are also equally important, the object of love will be only fifty percent attractive. Utter attraction, a hundred percent engagement in the object of affection, is possible only when we are one hundred percent annihilated, and we are no more there. If we are no more there, who experiences the joy? The soul, which is not us, but is more than us, rises to action at that time. It is the soul that operates when we behold an object of art; it is reason that operates when we see a work of mathematical perfection. The soul's perfection, or God's perfection, is not the perfection of an equation; it is an inundation of indescribability. God is sometimes called the Cupid of Cupid—sākṣān manmatha-manmathaḥ (S.B. 10.32.2). Manmatha is one who churns the mind of a person, and he himself gets churned by another thing, which excels his beauty.
The most beautiful objects of affection are said to be in the kingdom of Indra. One day Indra projected the retinue of his beauties before the great sages Narayana and Nara, near Badrinath. “Such are those presentations that by the very touch of them one becomes crazy and mad,” says the Valmiki Ramayana. Such things Indra projected in a large mass of gaiety and attraction. Narayana and Nara were in intense tapas and meditation. By a stroke of his thigh, Narayana produced a beauty which made all of Indra's retinues of beauties look like crows, like darkened nothings; they hung their heads in shame and withdrew themselves. Narayana told Indra, “Take this if you want.” Indra was shuddering with fear. He never imagined that there could be such a thing which the human mind cannot conceive. That is the power that only God can manifest.
Unfortunately for us human beings, men and women, we cannot imagine that God is a beautiful presentation before us. We mostly think God is like a judge, like a disciplinarian, a hard taskmaster, a parent who admonishes and perhaps even threatens dire consequences if anyone goes against their laws. Rarely can we imagine that God is beauty. The human intellect is so conditioned by the limitations of space, time and objectivity that the intellect cannot appreciate beauty. It cannot see it at all. It sees only machines, calculations and geometrical arrangements, not knowing that perfection is not mathematical, algebraical, arithmetical, or anything of the kind.
In order to appreciate the possibility of God Almighty being the object of love, one has to completely tear to shreds one's egotistic encasement. The name of God cannot be taken by an egoistic individual. This is what Gauranga Mahaprabhu said in that famous, oft-quoted verse tṛṇād api su-nīcena taror iva sahiṣṇunā, amāninā māna-dena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ (CC Adi 17.31): One who is more patient than a tree, humbler than a blade of grass, one who gives respect to all but expects respect from nobody, such a person is fit to take the name of God.
That which stands between the devotee and God has to be removed. Only then can that ocean of love come and bathe the devotee. The ocean can enter the river, provided there is no dam constructed between the ocean and the river that is seeking to enter into the ocean. Ahamkara, egoism, self-consciousness, pride, self-importance—this is what divides man from God because before God, there cannot be two selves. God is All-self and, therefore, your self cannot stand before It. If you assert yourself, you isolate yourself from that All-self, and that ocean of joy cannot enter you. You have created a barrier between yourself and that Being.
Our loves, generally, go for those things which will satisfy our sense organs. We do not know any other joy. Soft touches, tasty dishes, that which has a very fragrant odour, that which is colourful, symmetrical, methodically arranged to the eyes and melodious to the ears—these are the things that attract the mind, but these are isolated objects, one disconnected from the other. The whole of the beauty cannot be enjoyed by any sense organ because if we see the beauty with our eyes, we cannot enjoy the melody of it, or the taste of it which is like honey, or the magical touch of it.
There is a maddening odour of fragrance, an ecstasy of touch, an indescribable taste, more than honey, for that particular sense, and a super-abundance of colourful beauty. All these blend together in the perfection of God. That is why it is said that God can be known only in intuition, and not through sensory perception. Every sense organ can see one particular object. All things cannot be seen by any particular sense, but intuition grasps the totality of the object at one stroke. There is no such thing as a total object before the sense organs. Those who only see with the eyes, hear through the ears, etc., cannot understand what a total object is. We are confronting partial objects every day. Something is given, and something else cannot be given by that object. Gold can satisfy us in one way but we cannot eat gold, and what we can eat cannot equal gold in its value, etc.; such are the limitations of the objects of sensory attraction. But, there is something which can melt together all the requirements of the sense organs and pull the soul out of the body, in which condition alone we start feeling a rapture of ecstasy.
I do not know how many of us have had the occasion to be in a state of spiritual rapture. We might have had the experience of intense concentration, a kind of absorption in meditation, but I do not know how many have felt rapture, a shudder, a trembling, a feeling of rupture of the personality, as if everything in us has gone and something else has come. These are some of the hidden significances behind the teachings, and even of the very life of the great mahabhakta Gauranga Mahaprabhu. We only hear what he did; we cannot know what he felt. We can see sugar, but we cannot know the sweetness of it unless we put it into our own mouth.
Nobody can love God unless one believes that God is everything. If there is a suspicious attitude towards God, a possibility of getting something and also a possibility of not getting something else, then God will recede from us like the horizon. God may appear to be near us, but He will move further and further away on account of doubts persisting in our mind that He is not all things.
The concept of ‘All', of everything, is super-intellectual and super-rational in its comprehension. For the intellect, there is no such thing as ‘All'. The all-ness that the intellect can conceive is only a multitude of finite objects. A hundred million things can be brought together and piled into a heap, and they may look like an ‘all'. But millions of finite objects heaped together to not make the All, because many finites do not make an infinite. All the resources of the world put together do not give us infinite satisfaction.
Because of the fact that it is impossible for the human mind to conceive what love or joy is, the Upanishad gives us a series of degrees of perfection and happiness. Can you imagine what happiness is? Who is a happy person? Have you seen a happy person anywhere? You cannot see a totally happy person anywhere, but you can imagine it in your mind, at least—as a possibility only, not as a reality. If it would be possible for you to say you are most happy, what are the things that could make you utterly happy? “The whole world should be mine. I must be the king, the emperor of the whole Earth. Nobody should vie or contend with me.” All right. Will this give you the required satisfaction? “No. I must not die. I am the king of the whole Earth but if tomorrow death is going to overtake me, this kingship is not of any utility to me.” So, an inconceivably long life should be there, together with the kingdom of the Earth. But even that is not sufficient.
Suppose that you have a contagious disease, an infection which is incurable. Together with this grant of a long life and the possession of the whole Earth, that kind of life would be worth nothing. So, you have to ask for a third thing: You have to be free from any kind of disease. Not only that, you should not be an old man; you must be youthful and glamorous. You do not wish to rule the world as a king who is one hundred years old. You must be youthful, jubilant, beautiful, vigorous, healthy, long-living, the king of the whole earth. But you should not be an idiot; you must be a highly educated person also. Hence, all the qualifications of knowledge also should be there.
Can you imagine such a person anywhere in the world? There is no such person, but the Upanishad says to imagine it, at least. Suppose such a person exists with all these impossible qualities; the joy of that person can be considered as one unit or measure of joy. Multiply this imagined wonderful joy of the emperor by one hundred; that is the joy of the Gandharvas in the higher heaven. A hundred times the joy of the Gandharvas is the joy of the celestials in heaven. One hundred times the joy of the celestials is the joy of Indra, the ruler of the gods. One hundred times the joy of Indra is the joy of Brihaspati, the preceptor of the gods. One hundred times the joy of Brihaspati is the joy of Prajapati, the Creator Himself, the Virat. A hundred times that is the joy of Hiranyagarbha; a hundred times the joy Hiranyagarbha is the joy of Ishvara. Infinitely larger, incapable of calculation, is the joy of the Absolute Brahman.
So, what is the joy of people like us small individuals seated here? We are also happy in some way, but we look like fools and cannot show our face to anybody in the world, if such mighty great grandeurs exist. We look like puny nothings, scratching our skin and nerves for a so-called imaginary satisfaction of the contact of the sense organs with imagined objects.
Who can love God? Only one who can feel the possibility of such a perfection as has been feebly described in the Upanishad—the Brahmajnana, Brahman bliss, Absolute bliss—a million times, a million times, a million times more than all the greatest joys conceivable in this world. Can you contain the feeling of such a kind of bliss? If that imagination, at least, can be contained in your mind, you may be transformed into a super-personality in one moment, and not remain as an ordinary human being.
Great acharyas have proclaimed that we cannot love God unless we know what God is. These few words that I have spoken are only an attempt to describe what God could be, though words cannot describe what He is. Even the thought of it will raise us to a kind of love and spontaneous affection which will immediately nullify all the joys of the world as insipid, tasteless. Brahmaloka tṛṇīkāro vairāgyasyā vadhir mataḥ (Panch. 6.285): If the bliss of Brahmaloka can look like a straw which has no essence, you have attained supreme vairagya. But who can imagine the bliss of Brahmaloka, where everything is everywhere? Such kind of love was taught by Gauranga Mahaprabhu. Such was the love which the Gopis felt in Brindavan, and such was the love of many of the saints and sages, the Alwars, Nayanars, and various other devotees whose biographies we read in the Bhakta Charita, Bhakta Mala, and such textbooks.
Love rules the world. It is not the intellect that rules the world, because love alone can appreciate; and wherever there is appreciation, there is success of every kind. This is the rule of the beauty of God, the joy of God, which we cannot entertain in our minds if we persist in thinking that God is only a judge sitting in a court in high heaven, ready to punish wrongdoers. God does not punish anybody; our egoism punishes us. The adamant, flint-like ahamkara in us, the ego, deals a blow to us and it looks like a punishment coming from God.
Thus is before us a brief message of the devotee of devotees. Ānandādd hy eva khalv imāni bhūtani jāyante (T.U. 3.6.1): This world is created by the bliss of God, not by the terror of God. Ānandena jātāni jīvanti: The world is sustained by the bliss that is behind it. Ānandaṁ prayanty abhisaṁviśanti: Finally, the whole world will enter into the bliss of God. Ko hy evānyāt kaḥ prāṇyāt, yad eṣa ākāśa ānando na syāt (T.U. 2.7.1): Even space itself is bliss. Suppose there is no space; see how we would feel. We would become suffocated and all the joy of life will vanish in one second. Breathing is a joy. Spatial expanse is a joy, because the bliss of God is hiddenly manifest in all these manifestations, even in our own selves.
The bliss that is within us is calling the bliss that is outside us. Ātmanas tu kāmāya sarvam priyam bhavati (B.U. 2.4.5): For the sake of the bliss of the Self, every other object in the world looks attractive and loveable. This love that is hidden in our own self is not in one person only. It is present in every person. Even in an ant that crawls, even in a creature that moves, that self-love manifests itself. It wriggles to maintain itself. That total self-love of all creation is a little modicum of the manifestation of the infinite love of God. Such is what we are aspiring for.
The life of Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu and other great devotees, such as the Gopis of Brindavan, are illustrations before us. The love of Saint Surdas, Kabirdas, Tulsidas—read their lives. They are inspirations before us.
Today is one of the occasions, Gauranga Mahaprabhu Jayanti, when we can recall to our souls, not merely to our minds, the joy that is everywhere. It is well said that creation is the overflowing of the superabundance of the bliss of God. May we try to live in that bliss and be blessed!