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True Spiritual Living
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 25: Whole-souled Love of God

There are three stages of the feeling for God, according to Sage Patanjali—the mild, the middling, and the intense. It is only the intense feeling for God that finally succeeds, not the middling or the mild. Almost every religious person has a mild feeling for God, and this feeling accepts the existence of God as the supreme reality, but it also accepts the reality of the world and of people around. When an equal reality is accorded to the world, to human society, and to things in general, as much as to God, that love of God becomes very mild. This is because a fraction of the mind believes in the existence of God and feels that it is proper to love God, but another fraction of the mind goes to the world and feels that it is also proper to love the world and that there is something valuable in the world. There is also a fraction working for the values that are human, personal, social, etc. Like a stream of water which is divided into different channels, the mind channelises itself into various streams of movement—one stream alone touching the concept or feeling for God, and the other streams going somewhere else. This means that though some part of the personality feels for God, the whole of the personality does not feel for God. We have given one-third of the mind to God, sometimes even less than that. But this will not succeed, says the discipline of yoga.

Sometimes we have experiences in the world which awaken us into a different kind of feeling altogether, a feeling that things are not what they appear to be. There seems to be something peculiar about things, different from what we take them to be in our daily activities. Though it looks as if the world is all right and people are all right, they seem to be all right only for some time, and not for all times. This fact enters our mind occasionally, on certain conditions of experience such as when we are frustrated, defeated or done a bad turn, as we say, which makes us feel a kind of resentment towards everything which we originally felt to be worthwhile. We may resent even a friend whom we regarded as an alter ego up to this time. This resentment, which must come to the mind of everyone one day or the other, will shake up the feelings that one has for the world and for people, and then it is that those feelings, which were externally diverted, withdraw themselves and prepare for a different movement altogether. Then, the feelings get intensified.

This is a very strange state of affairs in our mind, namely, that the feelings can hibernate like frogs sitting inside a hole, not doing anything—neither coming out nor moving inside. When we are frustrated, defeated in our purposes, disillusioned about things in the world, our feelings for the world withdraw themselves. We cannot love the world, because it has given us a kick. Then what happens to the feelings which were regarding the world as of great value? These feelings come back to their source, as if the waters of a stream are pushed back to the main current of the river. This pushing back of the force of the main current, which was channelising itself in different directions, only increases the potentiality within, but it does not move it in the required direction. Here the feelings get intensified, no doubt. They become more powerful than they were earlier, and they must find an outlet for their expression. Not finding an outlet, they struggle inside and begin to search for an outlet. In this condition, our feeling for something that is not visible, though one may not be quite clear as to what it is, becomes strong; and if the pressure which has brought the feeling back to its source continues for a long time, it can break its barriers, and perhaps move in the direction of God.

How the love of God arises in the mind is difficult to explain. There are hundreds and hundreds of ways. Not even great philosophers can satisfactorily explain how the love of God arises in the mind of a person. Sometimes, these divine feelings arise by apparently silly and meaningless occurrences in life. A word that is uttered against our wish is sufficient to turn us away from everything in the world. Though it may look like a small affair, that is the last straw on the camel's back; it was all that was needed. A camel can bear a lot of load, and its back will not break easily. But when it has been loaded to the maximum, it is said that even a straw added to it will break its back. How can a straw break the back of a camel? It was the last thing, which is why it breaks. Similarly, even a small thing that occurs—even the tiniest event in the world, one word that is spoken—can put us out completely because that was the last thing that we expected, and it has come. Even if we were prepared for it inwardly, we were not consciously prepared for it, because nobody is prepared for unhappy things in the world.

Even frustrations can sometimes drive people to God. Though that is not the normal way, it is not impossible. Loss, bereavement, destruction, and a sense of hopelessness in regard to everything may drive a person to God. And when God calls us, He can bring about such a catastrophic situation. It is not that He will always call us very smilingly. In a wrathful mood, He can crush us down and then force us back to Himself. That is one of the ways in which God works.

Many a time, we need such methods of turning back to God because we will not listen to a word of good advice. “My dear friend, what is there in this world? You must love God, and meditate on God throughout the day.” This is good advice, but who will listen to it? We will say, “This man is chattering something stupid. We have heard this so many times.” Then the rod comes. “You will not listen to this advice?” The rod of God gives such a blow that it breaks down everything that is worthwhile in this world. Everything goes—father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, whatever it is. God does not care for what we hug as dear to us. The wrath of God can come like a flood of the ocean which devastates everything, and He does not care what our feelings are.

But very rarely does God take such action. If anyone can give a long rope, it is God; and perhaps, He gives the longest rope. Sama, dana, bheda, danda are the four methods of action in every field of life. A very polite, sweet and gentle advice which is perfectly positive in nature is given first. This is what the world does to us, what good people do to us, what God does to us. “This is the proper thing for you,” say people, says the world, and so does God advise.

If our mind is not prepared to listen to this advice—such as the advice given in the Vedas and the Upanishads or the Bhagavadgita, for instance—which is wholly constructive, positive and complete, there are what are known as the arthavadas, or the statements of the scriptures, which say, “If you go to God, you will get everything.” So there is a temptation behind it: “All the wonders, all the beauties, all the joys, all the powers, omnipotence, etc., will be at your beck and call if you go to God. You will not lose anything but will gain everything, so why do you cling to these things of the earth when more things are there, ready to receive you with open arms?” This is dana, temptation. We are told, “Something wonderful is coming, so do not go to anything else.”

If we do not listen to this, the eyes of nature's anger open themselves: “You will not listen to me? Do you know what I can do to you?” Occasionally a threat comes. Nothing happens, of course, but a warning is given. If we do not learn by good advice, we will learn by pain. This is only a word of warning that is conveyed.

But man is made of such stuff that nothing will work. He cares not even for warnings, and thinks, “Oh, this warning has come so many times.” Then, when everything fails, there is danda. Danda means punishment. God punishes us by bringing about a total revolution of conditions, which can be anything, and we do not know what sort of a revolution He will bring about. It can be personal, physical, psychological, social, political, or anything. It can even be an earthquake, a thunderstorm, a flood or a cataclysm, whatever it is. Then, the mind turns to God merely because of pressure forcefully exerted from every corner. If we read the lives of saints, whether of the East or of the West, we will learn why people's minds turn to God.

Anything and everything can be a cause of the mind turning to God. Even a cat or a rat can be a cause. A wisp of wind or the mildest stroke of misfortune can turn us to God. The point of all these illustrations is that yoga requires a whole-souled direction of the mind to God. Tīvra saṁvegānām āsannaḥ (Y.S. 1.21), says the sutra of Patanjali: Realisation of God becomes possible only when the feeling for God becomes most intense. If it is mild or middling, it will not be a success.

Now, what is meant by ‘intense feeling for God'? What does it mean? Have we, at any time, felt an intense feeling for God? The word tivra, or intense, has a special meaning. It means almost the same thing that the word ananya signifies in the Kathopanishad and the Bhagavadgita. Ananya-prokte gatir atra nāsti (Katha Up. 1.2.8), says the Kathopanishad. Ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate (Gita 9.22), says the Bhagavadgita. Ananya means one who is not devoted to any other. This is said to be the most purified form of divine devotion. Devotion is divine love, and love becomes intense when it has only one object before it. If it has two objects, the love cannot be called intense. Has our feeling only one object before it, or has it more than one object? If it has two objects or three objects, then the love or feeling is mild. If it has hundreds or thousands of objects, it is very poor indeed; it cannot get even a pass mark. But if it has only one object, it is said to be intense. It can apply even to earthly love if there is only a single object—such as money, for example. For a miser or a greedy millionaire, making money is an object, and for the whole day and night he will be thinking only of the means of acquiring more and more wealth. There are others who work for name, fame, status in society, power, authority, and so on. If this is the only aim that is before the mind and it cannot think anything else—it does not want to take breakfast or lunch or even to sleep, and says it will work only for this—then it is whole-souled feeling for an object. Why should we sleep and why should we have breakfast or lunch, when the mind is after something else? We will not feel hunger at that time. It is not that we are fasting; the feeling of hunger itself is absent. We do not need anything at that time because we are filled with something else.

Although it is possible to conceive a singleness of purpose in earthly loves or worldly affections, it is not possible to conceive what it means spiritually because these things are not known to us, and we have not seen them. We cannot, therefore, even imagine them. We have seen earthly objects, and so we can understand what it means to have whole-souled love for one object only. But what does it mean to have whole-souled love for God? This is difficult for the mind to conceive for the simple reason that God is not an object in the sense that He is not outside us and, therefore, we cannot love Him in the ordinary sense of earthly affection, etc.

The bhakti scriptures, treatises dealing with divine love, speak of apara bhakti and para bhakti—or, as they say, gauna bhakti and ragatmika bhakti, and so on. Gauna bhakti, or apara bhakti, means devotion or love that requires accessories, instruments. We require some apparatus to stir our affection or love. If the apparatus or instrument is absent, it will not work. For example, there are some musicians who cannot sing unless there is an instrument. They want a harmonium, a violin, a veena or some other instrument because without it, their singing is not beautiful. But, an exuberance can take possession of oneself, and then we start singing even without an instrument, and we can dance even without a tune accompanying us. Devotees speak of ragatmika bhakti, or para bhakti, as the real form of devotion or love, which does not require any accompaniment. It does not care even for moral and ethical codes of society, and it breaks all boundaries of human convention. To tell you the truth, it has not even shame. We may call it shameless, if we like. Such is whole-souled love. A person becomes shameless when the love becomes whole-souled. Whether it is in the world or in the realm of spirit, he acts in the same way. This is when the taste for the object inundates the personality wholly.

Raga means a taste, a tinging of the whole personality with the character of the object which is loved. We assume the characteristics of the object. We become the object that we love. We go on thinking about it, and we become that. We forget that we are so-and-so. We are the very same thing that we are wanting. This is ragatmika bhakti. This happened to the gopis. If we read the Rasapanchadhyayi in the Tenth Skanda of the Srimad Bhagavata, we will learn what it is. They were not gopis or persons; they themselves were Krishnas. The object of their love was they themselves. The distinction between the lover and the loved is abolished in ragatmika bhakti, or para bhakti, in whole-souled love. One gopi started killing Putana, another gopi started destroying Vrikasura, a third gopi started playing the flute, and so on, as if they themselves were Krishnas.

In the highest form of love, we become that which we love. There is no love there, as a matter of fact, because in ordinary language ‘love' means the movement of our emotions towards something outside, but when we ourselves have become that object, where is the movement of our affection? We have gone mad; that is all. All great devotees were mad people, God-intoxicated. We become mad when we are possessed by a single feeling, whether it is temporal or spiritual.

Now, such a kind of tivrata, or intensity of devotion, ardour for the practice of yoga or the realisation of God, seems to be called for. How many of us are fit for it, is difficult to imagine. A little thought bestowed upon this subject will also reveal why we are not getting anything, in spite of our crying for days and months and years. We are deceived, unfortunately. Though we cannot adequately know the causes of this deception, it goes without saying that there is a sort of deception in which we seem to be entangled; and this deception comes into play when the object of our quest is kept out of sight by the presentation of something else which is made to appear equally good or even better. This is what happens to everyone.

The object of our quest has been kept out of sight completely; it is not in front of us. Not merely that, we are not allowed to even think that it is kept out of sight. We are brainwashed thoroughly, so that everything looks all right. We go on muttering the same formula that has been given to us by the world, and we will do this until the body drops. Thus, two catastrophes can befall us as spiritual seekers. That we can forget our aim is bad enough, but something worse can happen. We can remember something contrary to it, and take it as our objective. It is no wonder that no one can practise yoga, and no one can love God.

Though the Yoga System insists upon this requisite of tīvra saṁvegānām āsannaḥ, the effort of the mind cannot bring about this kind of intensity. We are placed in a state of quandary whenever we think about this matter. Whole-souled love of God cannot come by human effort. Human effort is inadequate for the purpose, because it would be something like attempting to carry burning coals with a piece of straw. We cannot do it. Even the great master Acharya Sankara did not properly answer this question when he himself raised this point in his commentary on the Brahma Sutras. How does knowledge arise in the jiva? It is not by human effort, because effort towards knowledge is possible only when there is knowledge, and we are asking how knowledge arises. How can the love of God arise in a person? It cannot arise by effort, because who can have the energy to put forth such effort as to invoke the power of God which can rouse such a feeling for God? So, the great Advaitin Sankara himself says—apparently contrary to his own doctrine, we may say—that it is Ishvara-anugraha. Īśvarānugrahādeva puṁsām advaitavāsanā (Avadhuta Gita 1.1), says Dattatreya in his Avadhuta Gita: The feeling for the unity of things arises due to the grace of God. Īśvarānugrahādeva—only by that, and by no other way. It is very difficult to understand what all this means.

Thus, while from one side it looks as though hard effort is necessary, on the other side it appears that we have to be passively receptive to the ingress of divine grace, always awaiting the call, and yearning for that light and blessing which can come upon us at any time. Whatever be the means by which such a love of God can rise in ourselves, this is indispensable and there is no other alternative. Nānyaḥ panthā vidyat'yanāya (Svet. Up. 3.8): There is no other alternative for us. No other path can be seen; there is no other way out. This is a must for each and every person. When that intensity of feeling arises, miraculous experiences automatically follow, which is the glorious consummation of yoga.