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Secret of Bhakti Yoga

by Swami Sivananda

TO LOVE MAN IS TO LOVE GOD

To love man is to love God alone. Man is the true image of God. He is his amsa (part). In the Gita you will find: "A portion of mine own self, transformed in the world of life into an immortal spirit, draweth around itself the senses, of which the mind is the sixth, veiled in matter." Chapter XV - 7. And: "Knowledge of sacrifice (adhiyajna speaks of Me as wearing the body, O best of living beings." Chapter VIII - 4.

Love is the fulfilling of the law. The aim of charity social service, altruism, humanitarianism, and so many other 'isms', is to develop this universal love, to expand one's heart ad infinitum. Theosophy speaks of universal brotherhood and tries to unite all through the common thread of cosmic love. Love is a great leveller. There is no power on earth greater than love. You can conquer this world even if you have one ray of this divine commodity which is absolutely free from even a tinge of selfishness. Pure love is a rare gift of God. It is the fruit of one's untiring service of humanity and incalculable virtuous actions in several incarnations. It is rare indeed.

He who possesses even a ray of this is a veritable God on earth. He is a mighty potentate. St. Paul says: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and if I have not love, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal, And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing",

True religion does not consist in religious observances, baths and pilgrimages but in loving all. Cosmic love is all-embracing and all-inclusive. In pure love no one is shut out from its warm embrace. It is wide enough to include the humblest of us, from the tiny ant to the mighty elephant, from the condemned prisoner to the mighty emperor, from the worst scoundrel on the surface of the earth, to the reputed saint.

It is hatred that separates man from man, nation from nation, country from country. It is pride and egoism that divide one man from another man. Hatred, pride, egoism all are mental creations-the products of ignorance only. They cannot stand before pure love. Just as darkness is dispelled by the penetrating rays of the burning sun, so also jealousy, hatred and egoism are dispelled by the rays of divine love.

UNSELFISH LOVE

The innate nature of all beings is to love an external object-we cannot but cherish something in the heart. For, truly, the absolute alone is existent. Man is only an ego, apparently separated from it.

Love for external things is an unconscious internal urge to become unified with everything. For, in reality, man is everything, the absolute itself. Love is the forerunner of experience. Love is the craving and experience is the fulfilment of it. None can live without love for something. "The creator pierced the senses with outward activity", and that rule applies to one and all. The mind is the main sense of perception, for it is only the mind that perceives through the various channels of the senses. The senses do not work when the mind does not.

Emotions are generally considered as a hindrance in perfect realisation, but only certain emotions are of a binding nature. Certain others will liberate the jiva (soul) from bondage. The conception of God does not rouse in man any binding emotion-it is pure emotion, without carnality or attachment. Love for God rouses the purest emotions; this is the significance of divine emotion in bhakti.

Love for God can never be the type of love cherished towards wife, children and property. There is much difference. How then does love give us liberation from samsara (worldliness)? Man is an egoistic entity. Ego is his only enemy. He feels he is entirely different from other things in the world. He is convinced that he is sharply marked off from the rest of the universe, by his physical body. He is sure he is only the body, even though he may try to deny this. When he says 'I' he always points to his chest and not to yonder tree.

"I am doing nothing. You are doing it through me. You are the doer. You are the enjoyer. I am nothing. Thy will be done." This is the highest type of love, this is divine love. Now the ego cannot assert itself for God alone is everywhere. Now the mind cannot modify itself into vrttis (or sense objects) for to him there is no object except God. Who is there left to be loved or hated?

"I feel extreme pangs of separation, I will perish unless I behold thee. Let me see thy face even for a minute. Ah, who will take me to my beloved? Who will show me his oath? Who will console my heart now? Sivananda says: O Hari! Give me the cup of thy divine love and quench my thirst now."

PREMA YOGA

Prema is intense, concentrated, pure love of the Lord. Prema brings the devotee face to face with the Lord. Bhakti culminates in PREMA. Prema is pure nectar. Prema destroys pains and sorrows. It makes one immortal and blissful and peaceful. It is very difficult to describe the nature of prema You will have to experience it yourself. Cultivate it through japa (repetition of God's name), kirtan (chanting), satsanga (holy company), service of devotees and study of the scriptures. Repetition of hymns and so on will instil in your heart peace, joy, bliss. Sing the praises of the Lord daily to obtain the Lord's grace and dwell in him always.

Educate your eyes to see God in all faces, to behold the divine form in all beings. Educate your ears to hear the sweet melodious kirtans (hymns) of Lord Hari. Educate your tongue to sing his praises and to utter pleasant, loving and truthful words. Educate your hands to do charity and serve the poor. Educate the mind to be cheerful always, to think of him always and to be calm. This is the true path to develop PREMA.

The search for the highest truth, a little meditation on the Ishtam (one's own deity) in the early morning hours, a well-regulated life, a remembrance of the immortal nature of God, and an attempt to feel his presence in all forms, in your private and your public life, will give a balance and a rhythm to your life and inner spiritual strength and courage.

Have ceaseless devotion to truth. Be ready to sacrifice all for it. You will develop a strong will. You will become fearless. You will draw immense strength and courage from within, from him who is the indweller of all beings. You will attain God-realisation.

There is only one truth-God. And there is nothing else. The world is His manifestation. All activities, happenings, doings, are His. All is He. This world is ephemeral and a passing show, a phenomenon only for a time. There is no individual existence. The individuality is simply imaginary, an ignorant condition of the mind.

Love looks not with the eyes but with the heart. It is the crowning grace of humanity. Love is indeed heaven upon earth. It casts out fear. Love your neighbour as your own self. Love God with all your heart, mind and soul. Pure love is a divine flame, ever brilliant, never exhausted. It is the very essence of pure love to be willing to suffer for the good of others, to place its happiness in the happiness of others.

To define God is to deny God. You can give definition of a finite object only. How can you define the limitless or infinite being who is the source and ultimate cause for everything? If you define God you are limiting the limitless one, you are confining him within the concept of the mind. God is beyond the gross mind, but he can be realised through meditation with a pure, subtle and one-pointed mind.

Purity of food leads to purity of mind. This implies that all the objects which are grasped by the senses must be pure. The ears should hear the sublime utterances of Gita, Ramayana and the Bhagavatam, and the kirtans (hymns) of Lord Hari. Let your clothing be satvic (or pure). Let your speech be pure. Let your companions be satvic persons. Let the books you study be pure. Let the place you live in be satvic Let the meditation room be decorated with satvic pictures of the Lord. Then only you will soon attain God-consciousness. You will find in the Peace Chant these words: "O Gods! May we with our ears hear what is auspicious. O ye, fit to be worshipped, may we with our eyes see what is auspicious."

Without love a man's life is empty. Without love man lives in vain. Love is vital. Love is a great power. Give love and it shall be given unto you. Cultivate this love through service, japa (repetition of God's name , satsanga (holy company) and meditation. Strive ceaselessly to live in God, then only will you be able to conquer time or death.

God is always with you. He will protect and deliver you. Take refuge in him. His blessings will overflow in your life and will transform your mind and body. Develop your consciousness of spiritual things. Make a special effort daily to exercise control over your thoughts, words and actions. Feel his presence in your room. Pray daily. Meditate daily.

Friend! For a little while concentrate thy mind on the indweller of your heart. Abandon all worldly pleasure. Take to the path which is trodden by the righteous, Live on milk and fruits for a week. Endure cold and heat, hunger and thirst. Do not injure any creature to the slightest degree. Live a contented life. Regard applause and censure equally. Derive happiness from thy soul.

GOD IS LOVE

God is love. Love is God. God is nectar. God is prem. Bhakti is supreme love towards God. Bhakti is the greatest power on earth. It gushes from one's pure heart. It redeems and saves. It purifies the heart. Devotion is the seed. Faith is the root. Service of the saints is the shower. Communion with the Lord is the fruit.

Bhakti is of two kinds-apara bhakti (a lower type of devotion) and para bhakti (supreme love). Ringing bells and waving lights is apara bhakti. A devotee who practises this has no expanded heart, is a sectarian and dislikes other kinds of bhaktas who worship other deities. In par! bhakti, there is no ritualistic worship, the devotee is absorbed in God. In supreme love the devotee forgets himself entirely; he only thinks thoughts of God. Para bhakti and jnana are one. In the end the two become one.

Bhakti grows gradually just as you grow a flower or a tree in a garden. Cultivate bhakti in the garden of your heart gradually. Faith is necessary for attaining God-realisation. Faith can work wonders. Faith can move mountains. Faith can take you to the inner chambers of the Lord where reason dare not enter.

Japa (repetition of God's name), kirtan (chanting), prayer, service of saints, study of books on bhakti all are aids to devotion. So too is satvic (pure) food such as fruit and milk etc.

Evil company is the enemy of devotion. Give up evil company and take recourse to satsanga (or the company of saints). Pray to the Lord thus: "O adorable Lord of compassion and love! Give me faith and devotion. Let my mind be ever fixed on thy lotus feet. Let me have constant remembrance of thee. Let me sing thy glory always."

A bhakta always does everything to please the Lord. He will abandon everything that displeases the Lord. Thus he corrects himself and removes all defects. He does not practise deliberate self-discipline like a yogi.

INTENSE DEVOTION

Bhakti is the slender silken thread of pure love that binds the heart of the devotee to the lotus-feet of the Lord. Bhakti is the intense devotion and supreme attachment we feel for God. It is a spontaneous outpouring of love towards God. It is pure and unselfish.

Bhakti is sacred love. It is a higher emotion, with sublime sentiment, that unites the devotee with the Lord. It has to be experienced. Human love is hollow; it is mere animal attraction; it is passion; it is carnal love; it is selfish love. It is ever-changing. It is all show and hypocrisy.

When the husband is unemployed, the wife no longer cares for him; she frowns at him. The husband dislikes his wife when she loses her beauty on account of some chronic disease. You can find real, lasting love in God alone. His love knows no change.

Bhakti is the basis of all religious life. Bhakti destroys vasanas (psychological tendencies) and egoism. A life without bhakti, faith, love and devotion is a dreary waste. Bhakti softens the heart and removes jealousy, hatred, lust, anger, egoism, pride and arrogance. Bhakti infuses joy, divine ecstasy, bliss, peace and knowledge.

All cares, worries, anxieties, fears, mental torment and tribulations vanish entirely. Then the devotee is freed from the wheel of birth and death. He attains the immortal abode of everlasting peace, bliss and knowledge.

In sakamya (desire motivated) bhakti the bhakta worships God for the sake of getting riches, for getting a son, or for the removal of suffering from a disease. In vyabhicarini (insincere) bhakti the devotee worships God for some time-then he worships his wife, children and property for some time.

To love God and God alone is avyabhicarini (sincere bhakti. Lord Krishna say: "I am not in my control. I am in the complete control of my bhaktas (devotees). They have taken entire possession of my heart. How can I leave them when they have taken entire possession of my heart? How can I leave them when they have renounced everything for my sake? He who seeks me in all things, and all thin in me, to him I am never lost, nor he to me."

NATURE OF BHAKTI

Bhakti is resting in God. Bhakti is the flow of devotion like the flow of a river. Bhakti is continuity of devotion, just as there is continuity in the flow of oil from one vessel to another vessel. Bhakti is the attraction of the needle to the magnet.

Bhakti is love for the sake of love. The devotee wants God and God alone. There is neither selfish expectation nor fear. Is the son afraid of his father though he is a judge? Is the wife afraid of her husband? So also, a devotee entertains not the least fear of God. The fear of retribution vanishes in him. He feels, believes, conceives and imagines that his chosen deity is an ocean of love (prema).

Bhakti transmutes man into divinity. It intoxicates the devotee with divine love and gives him eternal satisfaction. It makes him perfect, weans his mind from sensual objects and makes him rejoice in God.

Emotional excitement is not devotion to God. Devotion is pure love, Fanaticism is not devotion, but frenzy, mere excitement. Bhakti is not mere emotionalism, but is the tuning of the will as well as the intellect towards the divine. It is supreme love of God, and later blossoms into knowledge of the self. It leads to immortality. Bhakti is the direct approach to the ideal through the heart. Love is natural to everybody.

Bhakti can be practised under all conditions and by all alike. Study of the Vedas (the revealed scriptures of the Hindus, containing the Upanishads), learning, austere penance and brilliant intellect are not needed for the attainment of bhakti or devotion. What is wanted is constant and loving remembrance of God, coupled with faith. That is the reason why the path of devotion is available for everyone.

Bhakti is easier than any other way of approach to God. In jnana (self-knowledge) and yoga, there is the risk of a fall. In the path of devotion, there is no risk as the devotee receives full support and help from God.

BHAKTI AND JNANA

Those who tread the path of jnana and yoga are liable to become proud of their powers and wisdom. Bhaktas are humble, humility being the foundation of bhakti yoga.

Jnana yoga is the yoga of wisdom. It is the path of analysis and rejection. It is the path of endless negation, a very difficult path.

Raja yoga also is difficult. It is like stilling the waves of the ocean. You will have to still all the thought-waves. Karma yoga is also difficult. It is like climbing to the highest peak and tremendous will-power is needed. Bhakti yoga alone is easy. The Lord is stretching his hands to lift you up from the mire of births and deaths, but you will have to grasp his hands firmly. One thing is absolutely essential here; you should not have any other thought than that of God and God alone.

A devotee contracts, while a vedantin expands. The former contracts and enters the Lord through self-surrender, while the latter expands and becomes one with Brahman through assertion and identification.

The fruit of bhakti is jnana. Jnana intensifies bhakti. Even sages like Sankara, Madhusudana and Sukadev took to bhakti after realisation to enjoy the sweetness of loving relationship with God.

Knowledge or wisdom will dawn by itself when you practise bhakti yoga. Bhakti is the pleasant, smooth, direct road to God. Bhakti is sweet in the beginning, in the middle and in the end. It gives the highest, everlasting bliss.

Love the divine in thy heart, for this is the immediate way to the kingdom of God. Pray to the Lord, sing his glory, recite his name and become a channel for his grace. Seek his will, do his will, surrender unto the Lord. He will become your charioteer on the field of life. He will drive your chariot well and you will reach the destination, the abode of immortal bliss.

GET NEARER TO GOD

Maya is the Lord's illusory power. God creates through maya It is maya that makes the one universal spirit appear as many, as embodied in multiple forms, and delights in the same objects, the false ideas of 'I' and 'mine'. Total, unreserved self-surrender to the Lord alone will enable you to cross this maya and attain His lotus-feet.

Bhakti yoga sadhana is to unfold yourself continually and to endeavour, continually, to get nearer to God. The more you unfold yourself, the more guidance you will receive and the more power you will manifest.

O man! Conquer thy craving. Conquer thy attachment. You will soon attain God-realisation. In meditation the mind is turned back upon itself, the mind stops all the thought waves.

Truth is love. Love the Lord. Speak truth. Cultivate pure unselfish love. Rest in truth. Rest in the Lord of love. Make your heart empty of all other things. Then alone will God enthrone Himself in your heart. Equal vision is the test of God-realisation and the way to God is through the heart.

God can be realised through faith, devotion, surrender and meditation. Trust in the Lord. Surrender yourself to Him. He will bless you with peace and plenty. He will bestow upon thee all health, prosperity and success.

Worship the Lord with true devotion. Lead a life of purity, humility and selflessness. Remember God. Take His name always. Meditate upon Him. Know the Lord to be the one reality in the midst of unreal things.

Think often of God, by day and by night. He is always near you and with you - He dwells in the chambers of your heart.

Dedicate all the fruits of actions and the action itself to the Lord. This is the entrance to devotion and freedom from bondage. Worship the Lord continually. Live with Him. Put your trust in Him. Think of Him continuously and you will dwell with Him.

Pray to God sincerely for strength and patience to bear pain, but not for deliverance from pain. Pain is a blessing from God. He employs it for your spiritual upliftment and emancipation. Be satisfied with any condition God places you in. God is nearer and more effectively present in sickness than in health. He is your unequalled, supreme physician and surgeon.

THE FLOWER OF FLOWERS

Divine love (or prema) is the flower of flowers. It is the rarest of all flowers and it is cultivated in the hearts of all devotees. Prema or bhakti is intense love, or the highest form of devotion to God. it is supreme attachment to the lotus-feet of the Lord. It springs from the bottom of the devotee's heart. In it there is no effort, there is only genuine, natural, spontaneous longing to meet God.

Just as a fish cannot live without water, just as the sunflower cannot live without the sun, just as the chaste wife cannot live without her husband, so also a true devotee cannot live without God-even for a moment.

Bhakti or prema is of the nature of nectar. It gives freedom to the devotee and makes him perfectly and fully satisfied. It takes him to the feet of the Lord.

There are three things which are indeed rare and are due to the grace of the Lord. They are human birth, the longing for liberation and the protecting care of a perfected sage.

The man who, having by virtuous actions in previous births, obtained a human birth and a good intellect, is foolish indeed not to exert for self-realisation. He verily commits suicide, for he kills himself by clinging to things unreal.

There is no hope of immortality by means of riches. Such indeed is the emphatic declaration of the srutis (scriptures). The scriptures declare: "Na karmana na prajaya dhanena tyagenaike amrtatva masasuh"-"neither by rituals, nor by progeny, nor by riches, but by renunciation alone can one attain immortality."

Mere giving up of objects will not constitute real renunciation. Dear friends, remember this point well. Real tyaga (renunciation) consists in renouncing egoism, 'mine'-ness, selfishness, anger, pride, desires and cravings.

People despise this Kali Yuga. This is a mistake for in Kali Yuga you can attain God-realisation easily, you do not have to do hard tapas (austerities). Merely singing the names of the Lord and by his constant remembrance will you attain God-realisation. Wherever there are satsanga (holy company), kirtan (chanting), svadhyaya (study of scriptures), bhaktas, swamis and yogis-there is Satya Yuga (golden age). In all ashrams and holy places Satya Yuga prevails. Kali cannot enter here.

IMPORTANCE OF GURU BHAKTI

Here is bhakti yoga in a nutshell. Select an Ishta Devata (a favourite deity)-either Siva, Rama, Krishna, Vishnu, Dattatreya, Gayatri or Sakti-according to the advice of your guru, or your own inclination. Get the proper mantra (a mystic formula). Then keep a picture of that particular deity in front of you in the meditation room. For six months gaze steadily at the picture from fifteen seconds to fifteen minutes. Concentrate on the figure, without winking, until the tears flow profusely.

Study the scriptures constantly-the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana, the Narada Bhakti Sutras and the Sandilya Sutras. Live for one year in a holy place. Pass through the course of nava vidha bhakti (nine devotional practices). Repeat your mantra constantly. Sleep only for three hours. Select an attitude suitable for you madhurya sakhya, dasya or vatsalya (lover-beloved, friend, servant or mother-child). Make ungrudging, unreserved, true, perfect self-surrender to God. Pray from the bottom of your heart. Prayer can move mountains. Prayer can reach a realm wherein reason can hardly enter.

Have devotion to one ideal. Bhakti must be unswerving, one-pointed, single-minded devotion. Slowly develop anuraga prema, priti, viraha (pain of separation from God), bhava, and maha bhava (stages or states of God-love). In maha bhava the devotee is unconscious of his body and the world. He is absolutely merged in God. From lower bhakti the devotee passes on to higher (para) bhakti. A devotee gets progressive emancipation after passing through salokya sampiya sarupya and sayujya mukti stages in emancipation or liberation.

After enjoying lower mukti a devotee finally attains kaivalya moksa - the same state as that of a jnani An earnest seeker with perseverance can realise God within two or three years. I assure you emphatically. So make a sincere effort and watch the results. Follow Lord Krishna's instructions, given in the Bhagavad Gita and described as: MACCHITTA, YUKTA, MATPARA - With the mind totally absorbed in God, united with God, with God as the goal and ideal.

AIDS TO BHAKTI

People put the question: "How can we love God whom we have not seen?" Live in the company of saints and hear of the divine sport of God, study the sacred scriptures. Worship Him first in His several forms as manifested in the world. Worship any image or picture of the Lord or the guru. Recite His name, sing His glories. Stay for a year in Brindavan or Ayodhya, Chitrakute, Pandharpur, Benares, or Ananda Kutir. You will develop love for the Lord.

Every act must be done that awakens the emotion of bhakti. Keep the room of worship clean, decorate it, burn incense, light a lamp, keep a clean seat, bathe and wear clean clothes. Apply ash and kumkum (sacred red powder worn on the forehead by devotees). Wear a rosary, either that made of beads symbolising the third eye of Siva or that which is made from the stalks of the holy basil. All these produce a benign and elevating influence on the mind inspiring it and generating piety. They help to create the necessary attitude or feeling to invoke the deity that you want to worship. The mind will be able to concentrate easily.

Practice of right conduct, keeping company with the holy, repetition of God's name, remembrance, singing of the names of the Lord, prayer, worship, service of saints, residence in places of pilgrimage, service of the poor and the sick with divine feeling, observance of duties, offering of all actions and their fruits to the Lord, feeling the presence of the Lord in all beings, prostrations before the image and saints, renunciation of earthly enjoyments and wealth, charity, austerities, and vows, practice of ahimsa (non-violence), truth and celibacy all these will help you to develop devotion.

Desire obstructs the growth of devotion. Devotion to the Lord increases in intensity when mundane desires are renounced. Renunciation is the very essence of devotional love. Divine love has no element of desire in it.

Devotion cannot co-exist with desire of any kind, not even the desire for liberation. The devotee wants God and God alone, and His loving service. The devotee loves God and serves Him and His creation. He does not strive consciously for liberation which God confers on his devotee unsolicited.

THE SAVING GRACE

Japa is the best of all spiritual practices in this modern age. It is the easiest too. The divine name alone will give you all success and bestow on you the highest spiritual attainments.

The seeker after truth reaches the highest goal by japa or recitation of the Lord's name (or mantra) alone. This is a sure medicine for the disease of birth and death. If you take to the recitation of the divine name, all inauspiciousness will certainly vanish.

Smarana is remembrance of the Lord at all times. The mind does not think of any object of the world. It is engrossed in thinking of the glorious Lord alone. The mind meditates on the glories of the Lord and forgets the body. Even japa is only remembrance of the Lord.

Ever remember the Lord. His divine name is the greatest treasure on earth. It has got indescribable power of bestowing blessings upon all who have faith. It is a good idea to recite the mantras at bedtime.

In ordinary self-consciousness there is duality between the repetitioner and the name. It is discursive. It is within the fields of ordinary experience. It is confined within the categories of the mind, of limited conceptions. Ultimately the ordinary self-consciousness is elevated into a transcendental experience, into a state of superconsciousness.

The repetitioner and the name become one. The eternally revealed truth reveals itself to him and he realises his oneness with the supreme. The sense of duality, the gulf of separateness between the finite and the infinite is removed.

Spiritual life needs harmony in all parts of your being. Spiritual truth can only be realised when the whole being is perfectly at ease and in tune with the divine. Mantra (the name of God) has the power to release cosmic and supracosmic consciousness. It bestows illumination, freedom, supreme peace, eternal bliss and immortality.

HUMAN NATURE INTO DIVINE NATURE

God is a mystery, Mind is a mystery. The world is a mystery. How sankirtan transmutes human nature into divine nature, how it overhauls the old vicious habits, how it changes the mental substance, how it transforms or metamorphoses the impure nature into pure nature, and how it brings the devotee face to face with God-this also is a mystery.

Science and reason can hardly explain the 'modus operandi' of sankirtan (chanting), Reason is an imperfect instrument. A man of weak intellect can be defeated by one who has a stronger intellect. Reason cannot explain many of life's problems. Intuition transcends reason; it does not contradict reason.

There is great sakti (power) in every word. The very utterance of the word 'hot pakouri' (a tasty savoury) brings saliva to the mouth. If you speak about 'faeces' when a man is taking his meal, he will immediately vomit, When such is the case with ordinary words, what to speak of the names of God? Every name of God is filled with various divine potencies and nectar.

One objector says. "If I say, 'sugar-candy, sugar-candy' can I get it? Row can I see God if I simply say 'Rama, Rama'?" In the case of sugar-candy, sugar-candy is outside, but God resides in the very chamber of your heart. He is close to you. By repeating "Rama, Rama", the mind becomes one-pointed. It melts in silence and, in the heart, you will get the darsan (vision) of God. The name of God is as good as God himself. God is caitanya (consciousness, energy) and so is his name. It is not so with other objects or names of objects.

There is a man in sound sleep. The prana (life) is there; it is awake, He will not respond if you call, "Prana prana". But just call him by his name and he will hear you and will get up from his sleep. Such is the power of the name. The name is nothing but caitanya (consciousness) personified.

THE POWER OF SOUND

The subtler the element, the more powerful it is. Water is more powerful than earth because it is more subtle. Water removes earth away. Fire is more powerful than water because it is subtler than water. Fire dries up water. Air is more powerful than fire because it is more subtle than fire. Air blows away fire . Akasa (ether) is more powerful than air because it is more subtle than air. Air rests in akasa. Akasa is the support for the air. Air is born of akasa fire is born of air, water is born of fire, earth is born of water. During the cosmic dissolution the earth is reduced to or involved into water, water into fire, fire into air, and air into akasa.

The barrier that separates man from the supreme soul, is mind. The five subtle elements, earth, water, fire, air, ether, which go to constitute the body of the antahkarana (psyche), are the five robbers who have plundered the jewel of atman Akasa is the ring-leader. If you control akasa if you subdue the ring-leader, the other four elements or robbers will come under your control. If you can control the five elements you can control the mind very easily. The function of akasa is sound. Therefore kirtan helps the aspirant to control the mind easily and thereby attain God-consciousness.

Sound exists in four fundamental states: dense, audible sound-sound at its maximum differentiation; inner, subtle, more ethereal sound-inaudible to the human ear; a higher inner and more ethereal state; the potential state of sound-undifferentiated, the primal substratum of all sounds, the source of the universe.

The mind is purified by constant kirtan (chanting). It is filled with good and pure thoughts. Daily kirtan strengthens good samskaras (habits). The mind of a man who trains himself in thinking good, holy thoughts, develops a tendency to think good thoughts. His character is moulded and transformed by continuous good thoughts.

He who entertains thoughts of divinity becomes transformed actually into divinity himself. His bhava (disposition) is purified and divinised. The meditator and the meditated, the worshipper and the worshipped, the thinker and the thought, become one and the same. This is samadhi This is the fruit of kirtan or upasana (adoration).

My dear friends, do sankirtan daily. Disseminate sankirtan bhakti far and wide. Develop vishvaprem (cosmic love) through sankirtan. Realise your sat-chit-ananda state!

THE LORD'S NAME

The name is a verbal expression of the conception of the Supreme Being, who is known by different names and forms, in different climes and times. The supreme is infinite but as it is not always possible for the common man to conceive of what is beyond the perception of the finite mind, this infinite truth is symbolised as forms, symbols or objects, that vary according to each one's respective tendencies or modes of perception.

Though in the initial stage there is difference and distinction among the various names and their associated objects, ultimately, when the habit of repetition of the name is formed and the divine consciousness is kept ever awake, then there remains no distinction between the name and the associated idea or object. The intuitive knowledge of the supreme reveals itself in the name itself - for the basis of all names and forms is the one primal being who manifests himself under different names and forms, as different faiths and tendencies, as different sects and races, in different times and places.

There is an unfathomable depth, intense sweetness and charm in the Lord's name. It is beyond the futile explanation of the limited intellect. It is a thing knowable only through experience. The music first thrills the nerves, harmonises them and then mysteriously acts upon the mind. The sincere devotee loses himself in divine ecstasy.

The worldly mind cannot grasp or perceive this state of intense emotion. The Lord's name is all bliss and when it is chanted, the mind merges in its bliss. It loses its individual entity in bliss. It becomes one with the bliss itself.

Without the name of the beloved none may hope to cross the sea of samsara (worldly existence). The Lord's name is the lasting medicine against any kind of ailment. You cannot be overtaken by sorrows, sins, troubles, sicknesses if you take refuge in the Lord's name. Repetition of the Lord's name dispels all fears and evil thoughts. He who repeats the name of the Lord has all his desires fulfilled. So sing the holy name. If you are attached to the Lord you will be released from all attachments which bind you and pull you down. This constant repetition gives infinite strength.

GOD AND HIS NAME ARE ONE

What a lot of joy the repetition of His name brings! What a lot of power it infuses into man! How it changes the human nature marvellously! How it exalts a man to the status of divinity! How it destroys old sins, vasanas (tendencies), sankalpas (thoughts), whims, fancies, depressing moods, sex-impulses, and various samskaras (psychological impressions)!

How sweet is God's name! What a tremendous power it possesses! How it transforms quickly the asuric (diabolical) nature into satvic (divine) nature! How it brings you face to face with the Lord and makes you realise your oneness with him (para bhakti-supreme love)!

The name of God, chanted correctly or incorrectly, knowingly or unknowingly, carefully or carelessly, is sure to give the desired result. Every name is filled with countless potencies (saktis). Its glory is indescribable. The efficacy and inherent sakti of the name of God is unfathomable.

Just as fire has the natural property of burning inflammable things, so also the name of God has the power of burning sins, samskaras and vasanas and bestowing eternal bliss and everlasting peace on those who repeat it. Just as burning quality is natural to and inherent in fire, so also the power of destroying sins with their very root and branch, and bringing the aspirant into blissful union with the Lord through bhava-samadhi (culmination of devotion) is natural to and inherent in the name of God.

O man! Take refuge in the name. Nami (God) and Nama (name) are inseparable. Sing the Lord's name incessantly. Remember the name of the Lord with every incoming and outgoing breath. In this present age japa (repetition of God's name) is the easiest, quickest, safest and surest way to reach God and attain immortality and perennial joy. Glory to the Lord! Glory to his name!

MANTRA IS POWER

There is an indescribable power in the mantra (God's name). Sakti is the energy or form of the mantra, i.e. the vibration form set up by its sound which carries a man to the devata that is worshipped. A mantra accelerates and generates the creative force. Mantra produces harmony in body and mind and awakens supernatural powers.

If you repeat the mantra with concentration and meaning you will attain God-realisation quickly. The glory of the name cannot be established through the intellect. It can be realised only through devotion and faith and constant repetition. That which shines above all, having made the whole world equal to a blade of grass, full of the light of consciousness, bliss, purity-is only the sweet name of the Lord.

Sweeter than all sweet things, more auspicious than all auspicious things, purer than all pure things is the name of the Lord. OM is everything. OM is the name of God. Name is the bridge that connects the devotee with God. God's name is the way and the goal. Name is the weapon to destroy the mind. The name has the power to burn sins and desires.

As you repeat the mantra feel that the Lord is seated in your heart, that purity is flowing from the Lord to your mind. The name serves as gate-keeper; it never allows worldly thoughts to enter the mind.

Remembrance of God also includes hearing stories pertaining to God at all times, talking of God, teaching to others what pertains to God, meditation on the attributes of God etc. God is to be remembered at all times, without a break, as long as one has consciousness intact. Right from the time he gets up from sleep in the morning, until he is completely overpowered by sleep in the night, a person is to remember God. He has no other duty in the world but to remember God.

Remembrance of God alone can destroy all worldly samskaras. Remembrance of God alone can turn the mind away from sense objects.

MANTRA YOGA

Mantra yoga is a great science. "Manana trayate iti mantrah" - "by manana (constant thinking or recollection) one is protected or released from the round of birth and death-hat is mantra." That is called mantra, by meditating on which the jiva or soul attains freedom from sin, enjoyment in heaven and final liberation. And, by its aid it attains in full the fourfold fruit (caturvarga) i.e., dharma, artha, kama and moksa (virtue, wealth, pleasure and liberation).

A mantra is so called because it is achieved by the mental process. The root 'man' in the word mantra means 'to think'. And 'tra' comes from 'trai' meaning to protect or to free-from the bondage of samsara or the phenomenal world. By the combination of 'man' and 'tra' comes mantra which calls forth the four aims of being caturvarga.

A mantra is divinity. It is divine power manifesting in a sound body. The mantra itself is the devata (deity). The aspirant should try his level best to realise his unity with the mantra of the divinity. To the extent he does so, the mantra-power supplements his worship-power. Just as a flame is strengthened by winds, so also the aspirant's individual sakti (power) is strengthened by mantra sakti. Then the individual sakti joins with the mantra sakti to make it more powerful.

The mantra is awakened from its sleep through the sadhana-sakti (worship power) of the aspirant. The mantra is a mass of radiant energy.

Even to visualise the Lord in meditation just once, to utter the divine name of the Lord, with love, even a single time, has surely got a tremendous, transforming influence upon the soul. You are free here and now. Only you are not aware of it, through the force of maya (or ignorance).

This atman is peace. Realise this peace that passeth all understanding and be free for ever. Peace is thy birthright. Peace is thy real, essential nature. Peace is Brahman. Peace and Brahman are one.

BENEFITS OF JAPA

Japa (repetition of the mantra checks the force of the thought current moving towards objects. It forces the mind to move towards God, towards the attainment of eternal bliss. Eventually it helps us to have the darsana (vision) of God. The mantra-power is hidden in every mantra. Whenever the spiritual aspirant shows lack of vigour in his sadhana (practice), the mantra sakti (power of the mantra) reinforces the sadhana sakti (energy) of the aspirant, Constant and prolonged repetition of the mantra (name of God) for some months, cuts new grooves in the mind and the brain.

During japa all the divine qualities steadily flow into your mind from the Lord, just as oil flows from one vessel to another vessel. Japa transforms the nature of the mind. It fills the mind with satva (purity).

Japa changes the mental substance from passion to purity, from rajas to satva. It calms and strengthens the mind. It makes the mind introspective-it checks the outgoing tendencies. Japa eradicates all kinds of evil thoughts and inclinations. It induces determination, and austerity and eventually it leads to the direct darsana (vision) of God (the Ishta Devata or tutelary deity) or to God-realisation.

The mind is purified by constant japa and worship and it is filled with good and pure thoughts. Repetition of mantra and worship strengthen the good samskaras. "As a man thinks so he becomes"-this is the psychological law. The mind of the man who trains himself to think good, holy thoughts, develops a tendency to think good thoughts. His character is moulded and transformed by the continuous flow of good thoughts.

When the mind thinks of the image of the Lord during japa and worship, the mental substance actually assumes the form of the image. The impression of the object is left on the mind and this is called samskara When the act is repeated very often, the samskara gain strength and a tendency or habit is formed in the mind.

He who entertains thoughts of divinity becomes transformed actually into divinity itself. This is the power of constant thinking and meditation. His disposition itself is divinised and purified.

The meditator and the meditated, the worshipper and the worshipped, the thinker and the thought, become one and the same thing. This is samadhi This is the fruit of worship (upasana) or of doing japa.

LORD IS YOUR SOLE REFUGE

The name of the Lord is your sole refuge. It is your prop, shelter and abode. Name is divine nectar. Name and form are inseparable.

Keep a picture of the Lord and concentrate on it. Concentrate on the face or feet or the whole picture. Then visualise this in your heart or in the space between the eyebrows.

Repeat your mantra-Om Namah Sivaya Om Namo Narayanaya-Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya mentally, or if the mind wanders do this verbally.

There are five kinds of bhavas or attitudes. They are santa bhava (relationship of peace), dasya bhava (relation-ship of servant-master), vatsalya bhava (relationship of father-son), sakhya bhava (relationship of friendship) and madhurya bhava (relationship of lover and beloved). Have any kind of bhava that suits your temperament. Develop it again and again.

Practise the nine modes of devotion-sravana (hearing the lilas or stories of the Lord), kirtana (singing the Lord's name), smarana (remembering the Lord), padasevana (service of the Lord's feet), arcana (offering of flowers), vandana (prostration) dasyam (servant bhava sakhya (His friendship), and atmanivedana (self-surrender).

Feel that you are an instrument in the hands of the Lord. Feel that the Lord works through your body, mind and senses. Offer all your actions to the Lord. Offer the fruits of your actions to the Lord. This is the way to do self-surrender.

Do anusthana (intense whole-time practice) frequently. Live on milk and fruits for a week. Observe mauna (or silence). Do japa (repetition of God's name) and meditate in an intense manner.

Do mental worship, it is a great help for increasing devotion and attaining concentration. Offer flowers, incense etc., mentally, to the Lord.

God is all-pervading.

God is all-permeating.

God is interpenetrating.

God is indwelling.

SANKIRTAN IS SPIRITUAL FOOD

People do sankirtan with surprising enthusiasm and vigour for a year or two but after that they become slothful and torpid. The same zeal should be kept up throughout life. Just as food and drink are not dispensed with, even far one day so also sankirtan should not be stopped even for a day, Sankirtan is indeed a spiritual food. Nay, it is a, physical and mental tonic as well. You can live on sankirtan.

When you sing Lord Hari's name, feel that the Lord is seated in your heart, that every name of the Lord is filled with divine potencies, that the old, vicious samskara (habits) and vasanas (tendencies) are burnt with the power of the name, that the mind is filled with purity, that rajas (passion) and tamas (inertia) are completely destroyed, that the veil of ignorance is torn down. Meditate on His form and His attributes, then only you will attain the maximum benefits of sankirtan.

Kirtan is singing the Lord's glories. The devotee is thrilled with divine emotion. He loses himself in the love for God. He weeps in the middle when thinking of the glory of God. His voice becomes choked and he flies into a state of divine bhava (feeling). The devotee is ever merged in japa of the Lord's name and describing his glories to one and all. Wherever he goes he begins to sing and praise God. He requests all to join his kirtans. He sings and dances in ecstasy and he makes others dance also.

Such practices should be the outcome of a pure heart; they should not be merely a show. God knows the inner secrets of all. None can cheat him. There should be perfect straight-forwardness. All his actions should be a natural out-pouring from the heart.

This is the easiest of all modes of approach to God. In the Kali Yuga, the Iron Age, kirtan alone is the best yoga. This is the prescribed method of devotion for this Age. The mind that is ever intent upon singing the Lord's names and glories has no occasion to take interest in the things of the world. Day and night the devotee feels the presence of God. This thins out the ego; he becomes satvic and pure at heart.

May you live drowned in the ocean of divine ecstasy, in a fully illumined state, by the regular practice of sankirtan and complete self-surrender to the Lord.

SING WITHOUT CEASING

Akhanda kirtan is to sing the Lord's name without a break. This is a very effective spiritual sadhana (practice). There is eradication of all evil vrttis (thoughts) during this period; the mind has neither time nor opportunity to think of sensual objects during this period. This is an easy way to capture the mind. During this period the mind is filled with satva (purity) and it is filled with supreme peace and joy.

There is no yajna (sacred rite) greater than akhanda kirtan. It is specially suited to this age. It costs you nothing. During akhanda kirtan the maha mantra should be sung. One person should repeat this mantra (formula) in a melodious, sweet voice and all the others should follow him in chorus. The sixteen words, "Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare" constitute one mantra. Do not repeat or sing either "Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare" or "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare" twice.

For individual japa (repetition) and kirtan (chanting) the whole mantra should be repeated at a stretch. But during akhanda kirtan to avoid too much strain and break, the first half of the mantra may be repeated by the person leading the group, followed by the chorus of the other half. Some people cannot sing even half the mantra without a break. They should train themselves to sing one half without a break in the middle. Especially those who lead the kirtan should take care of this point, otherwise it is not akhanda kirtan.

Open the doors of your heart. Let the lightning spark of love arise in your heart. Let love pierce you through and through. Let heart sing to heart. Let your soul mix with the supreme soul. Let the heart-lotus blossom and waft its sweet divine fragrance. Let the divine thrill strike the strings of your heart. Let the tears flow down your cheeks. Let the divine ecstasy fill your whole being.

Lord Hari is an ocean of mercy. He has boundless love for his devotees. He is the purifier of the sinful and the fallen.

Collect the dissipated rays of the mind. Become serene. Repeat God's name. Your happiness will know no bounds, God will dwell in your heart.

May Lord Narayana take you to his bosom and bathe you in the sacred waters of divine love and transcendental bliss.

FORGET THE BODY

He who does sankirtan (same as kirtan: chanting) forgets the body and the world. Sankirtan brings super-intuitional knowledge. Sankirtan brings darsan (vision) of God or attainment of divine consciousness in this Kali Yuga (dark age). It develops love. It is the easiest, surest, safest, quickest way for attaining God-realisation.

Those who do sankirtan in the beginning, for the sake of mental enjoyment, will realise the purificatory effects of sankirtan after some time and then they will do it with bhava (devotion) and sraddha (faith). There is a mysterious power in the name of the Lord. Man cannot live by bread alone but he can live on the name of the Lord.

The harmonious vibrations produced by the singing of the names of the Lord help the devotees to control their minds easily. They produce a benign influence and elevate the mind at once from its old ruts, to magnanimous heights of divine splendour and glory. If one does sankirtan from the bottom of one's heart, with full bhava and prem (love) even the trees, birds and animals will respond. They will be deeply influenced. Such is the power of Sankirtan It brings the devotee face to face with God.

The individual soul becomes one with Paramatma (the supreme soul) only through the process of evolution (ascent through different rungs of the spiritual ladder) by means of nada upasana (contemplation of mystic sound). Nada (sound) is of two kinds-gross or expressed and subtle or unexpressed. The former leads to the latter.

The union of prana with anala or fire, in the human soul, is an indispensible requisite, if the individual soul wishes to unite with Brahman (infinite) or attain the highest (nirvikalpa) samadhi The fire of the muldhara (the lowest psychic centre) represents the RA bija (seed mantra). It ascends to meet the prana from the brahmarandhra (the crown of the head), which represents the MA bija. The combination of RA-MA is the taraka bija (the redeeming seed-mantra) by which the individual soul crosses to the other shore of fearlessness and immortality and attains eternal bliss and supreme joy. Sankirtan is an easy approach to the suksma nada (subtle sound) and eventually to the divine communion.

THE SUPREME REMEDY

When allopathy, homeopathy, chromopathy, naturopathy, ayurvedapathy and all other 'pathies' fail to cure a disease, the divine namapathy alone can save you. The name of the Lord is a sovereign specific, a sheet-anchor, an infallible panacea and a cure-all for all diseases. It is an ideal or supreme 'pick-me-up' in gloom and despair, in depression and sorrow, in the daily battle of life or the struggle for existence, There is a mysterious power in the name. There is an inscrutable sakti (power) in God's name! All the divine potencies are hidden in the Lord's name. It is the cream or the quintessence of Chyavana-Prasha, Makaradhwaji almonds, Vasanta-Kusumakara or Svarna-Bhasma or gold oxide. It is a mysterious, ineffable divine injection.

You can take this medicine or Nama-Japa (repetition of God's name) yourself, for curing any disease. You can administer this marvellous medicine to other patients also in your house or elsewhere. Sit by the side of the patient and repeat, with sincere devotion and faith, the name of the Lord, like Hari Om, Sri Ram, Om Namah Sivaya, and sing his names also: "Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare; Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare." Pray for his mercy and grace. All maladies and agonies will come to an end. Do the treatment of Nama-Japa for at least two hours in the morning and evening. You will find the miraculous effect within a short time. Both the doctor and the patient should have perfect faith in the Lord's name, his mercy and grace. The real doctor is only Lord Narayana. Lord Dhanvantari, the physician of the three worlds (who expounded the ayurvedic medical science), has himself declared: "By the medicine of the repetition of the names, Achyuta, Ananta, Govinda, all diseases are cured-this is my definite and honest declaration." In all treatments Lord Narayana is the real doctor. You find that even the world's best doctors fail to cure a dying king. You might have also heard of many instances where patients ailing from the worst type of diseases are cured miraculously, where even the ablest doctors have declared the case hopeless. This itself is clear proof that there is the divine hand behind all cures.

The divine name will eradicate the disease of birth and death and bestow on you moksa, liberation or immortality.

UNFLINCHING DEVOTION

When you repeat the Lord's name you must evince unflinching devotion from the bottom of your heart devotion to God, without love for any other object. You must drive off all worldly thoughts from your mind. Fill the mind with thoughts of God and God alone. You must struggle. You must exert hard. Remain absorbed in him.

If you love Krishna then love Him alone till the end. Just as you see wood alone in the chair, table, bench, stick, cupboard etc., see the antaratma (the hidden indwelling self) Krishna alone in flowers, trees, fruits, tumblers and all objects. This is ananya bhakti (total devotion). This is para (supreme) bhakti.

Just as you remember all the qualities of your son when you think of his name, so too you should remember the qualities of God - omnipotence, omniscience etc., when you think of his own name.

When you repeat the mantra, have satvic bhava or shuddha bhava (the pure mental attitude). Bhava comes slowly when the purification process goes on. Even mere mechanical repetition has an effect, a very great effect. The vibration in the mind set up by the repetition purifies the citta (mind-stuff) and brings citta shuddi (purity of mind).

A beginner should have a japa-mala or rosary. Later on he can take recourse to manasika japa (mental repetition). If a man repeats his mantra for six hours daily, his heart will be purified quickly. He can feel the purity. Have great faith in your guru-mantra (the mantra learnt from your guru) and keep it a secret.

Constant repetition of the mantra with faith, devotion, purity and one-pointed mind awakens the mantra caitanya (the dynamic consciousness of the mantra), latent in the mantra, and bestows mantra siddhi (perfection or psychic power inherent in the mantra) on the aspirant-illumination, freedom, peace, eternal bliss and immortality. The repetition of the mantra again and again generates a great spiritual force and momentum and intensifies the spiritual samskaras or impressions.

SINGING GOD'S NAME

Bhakti (devotion) in essence is two-fold. On the one hand there is an intense attachment towards God, nurtured by deep emotion and, on the other, an earnest urge of love for him. When these two elements are combined we find bhakti to be either an attachment emerging out of love or love manifesting' itself as attachment.

The essential feature in bhakti is that this feeling is in relation to the highest-the supreme lovable one who is real and imperishable-and not in relation to the objects of the world that are transitory and therefore unreal. Such love or devotion assumes various forms of expression and goes by different names. Narration in poetry or prose, singing the glory of the Lord, and more popularly, singing the name of the Lord are some of them.

A harmonious, rhythmical note produces a distinctive image. This is not imagination-for every sound there is a particular image. It has been scientifically proved that certain sounds produce certain particular figures over some distinct surface. So it is reasonable to believe that the respective names of God, associated with their respective forms, can also produce their images on the mental surface. Through continuous repetition, the name forms a deep-rooted impression in the mind of the repetitioner, who ultimately attains God-vision.

God and his name are identical and inseparable. He dwells where his name is sung. The whole atmosphere is sanctified by his name-peace, purity and bliss prevail there. His name carries the message of love. His name frees the soul from affliction, unrest and bondage. His name knows no barriers, no distinctions. His name purifies the vicious lower self and elevates it to sublimity, to universal consciousness and transcendent God-head.

Bhajana is meditation on God. Life without bhajana of some sort is useless my dear friends. Life without worship is dull, dreary. It is a mere burden on this earth. All religionists do their own bhajana in their own way. The goal is the same; the paths are different. The object of doing worship is to attain infinite, eternal peace, immortality and freedom from the wheel of birth and death.

THE POWER OF PRAYER

Prayer elevates the mind. It fills the mind with purity. It is associated with praise of God. It keeps the mind in tune with God. Prayer can reach a realm where reason dare not enter. Prayer can work miracles. Prayer frees the devotee from the fear of death. It makes him feel nearer to God; it makes him feel the divine presence everywhere. Prayer awakens the divine consciousness in him and makes him feel his essential immortal and blissful nature.

Prayer has a tremendous influence. If the prayer is sincere and if it proceeds from the bottom of your heart (antarika) it will at once melt the heart of the Lord. Sri Krishna had to run bare-foot from Dwaraka on hearing the heart-felt prayer of Draupadi. You all know this. Lord Hari, the mighty ruler of this universe apologised before Prahlada for coming a little late, when the latter prayed. How merciful and loving is the Lord.

Say even once, from the bottom of your heart: "O Lord, I am thine. Thy will be done. Have mercy on me. I am thy servant and devotee. Forgive. Guide. Protect. Enlighten." Have a meek, receptive attitude of mind. Have bhava in your heart. Your prayer is at once heard and responded to. Do this in the daily battle of life and realise for yourself the high efficacy of prayer.

Prayer is the first important limb of yoga. Preliminary spiritual sadhana or practice is prayer. God helps even a dacoit (robber) when he prays. Pray to God for purity, devotion, light and knowledge. You will get all these things.

Get up early in the morning and repeat some prayers for getting mental and physical brahmacarya (purity). Pray in any manner you like. Become as simple as a child. Freely open the chambers of your heart. Sincere devotees know well the high efficacy of prayers.

Pray fervently, right now, from this very second. Do not delay friend; that 'tomorrow' may never come.

"O Lord, I do not know what I should ask thee. Thou only knowest what I want. I surrender myself unto thee. I open my heart unto thee. Thou art merciful and omniscient. Thou knowest the interior of my heart. Let me accomplish thy will. Make me a fit instrument for thy unhampered play (lila). Prostrations unto thee."

PRAYER IS SPIRITUAL FOOD

Prayer elevates, inspires, redeems. Through prayer divine grace and divine light descend. Prayer is spiritual food for the soul. Prayer is a spiritual tonic. Prayer is a master-key to open the realms of elysian bliss. Prayer helps the devotee to be in tune with the infinite. Prayer should come from the inner recesses of the heart-then it will be heard at once.

Prayer works wonders. Its power is ineffable. Through prayer the devotee sits by the side of the Lord. Prayer expands and purifies the heart. Prayer is a strong spiritual injection. It fills the heart with immense power and strength.

Every religion has its own prayer. Pray in the early morning - it is more effective. Let prayer become habitual pray at all times. Pray not for wealth, position, wife and children, success in lotteries or horse racing-ask for darsan (vision) of the Lord. Pray for devotion and communion.

Recite the beautiful Upanishadic prayer morning and night: "Asatoma sat gamaya, tamasoma jyotir gamaya, mrtyorma amrtam gamaya"-"lead me on from the unreal to the real, from darkness to light, from mortality to immortality."

During mass prayer a huge spiritual current is generated.

Gayatri japa is a prayer-the devotee asks for illumination of the intellect, so that he can know his real, essential, divine nature. This is an unselfish prayer Mrityunjaya mantra also is a prayer. It is a prayer to the Lord Siva. The devotee asks: "Free me from bondage and death make me immortal".

Om bhur bhuvah svah tat savitur varenyam
bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah pracodayat (Gayatri Mantra)

"Let us meditate on the glory of Isvara, who has created this universe, who is fit to be worshipped, who is the remover of all sins and ignorance. May He enlighten our intellect."

Om tryambakam yajamahe sugandhim pustivardhanam
urvarukamiva bandhanan mrtyor muksiya mamrtat (Mrityunjaya Mantra)

"We worship the three-eyed one (Lord Siva), who is fragrant and who nourishes well all beings. May He liberate us from death for the sake of immortality, even as the cucumber is severed from its bondage (to the creeper)."

SELFLESS PRAYER

According to Ghazali, the Muslim, prayer has three stages: verbal, mental and when merging with the Lord's will. At the first stage the devotee sings the glory of God, chants his praises and pours out the anguish of his heart in melodious hymns. Secondly, when the mind becomes calm, when the out-going senses have been restrained by sustained practices, when the mind cannot be easily affected by evil influences, prayer becomes mental. There, no physical effort is needed. At the third stage, when the mind gets concentrated in the divine, when it loses its outward attraction and becomes serene, devoid of desires or cravings, then prayer becomes automatic, natural and habitual.

This is the highest stage-the Lord's will has become his own will. For God, who is invoked by his prayer, merges in his mind and in his will. There is no self-consciousness for him-he abides in the Lord-his mind entirely saturated with God. He perceives nothing external nor anything internal. He even forgets that he is praying to the Lord, or that he is absorbed in the Lord's will. There is a vague sense of duality but he has only one experience and that is his oneness with the Lord.

Prayer is full of emotions: deep, serene emotions filled with sincerity. But when there is too much emotion and not so much natural sincerity, then prayer becomes rather jejunical and therefore ineffective. Then we do not receive a direct response from God.

Prayer has its consequences. The nature of its response mainly depending on the inner nature of the person who prays-his temperament, his object in view, his requirements, his faith and his sincerity. These are the sine qua non of prayer.

DO YOU WANT GOD?

Do you really want God? Do you really thirst for his vision (darsana)? Have you got real spiritual hunger? You may deliver thrilling lectures on bhakti (devotion), you may write volumes on bhakti-and yet you may not possess a grain of true devotion. He who thirsts for the darsana of God will develop bhakti. If there is a sincere demand for God, then the supply must come. By regular sadhana (practice) may you attain peace, bliss, knowledge, perfection and God-realisation.

PRAYER

As children we pray to our parents, elders and guardians at the time of our need. We seek their help and guidance. When we grow into adolescence we learn to pray to ourselves-to our latent abilities and strength. We try not to be dependent on others. But there is a limitation to this prayer. So when we feel we are in need of something else, something beyond our capacity, we resign ourselves to God and pray for His help and guidance. Evidently we feel His response-an all-potent inner force that listens to our prayers and fulfils our wishes the moment we are a little sincere and faithful.

As for the devotee, he resigns himself to God; surrendering his ego at His feet. He forgets all about the world and thinks of nothing else but God alone who would surely save him and who alone would be able to help and guide him. He communes his will with God's and acts as per His guidance. There is no sense of individuality or doer-ship in him. He knows that God's will is his will and that he must act up to it. Does that mean that he is devoid of self-effort? Certainly not. For he negates himself and resigns himself to the Lord. To him flows the divine grace instantly. His nature is divinised and so he naturally exerts himself in the right direction. Indeed the very act of self-surrender is purushartha (self-effort) of the highest order.

For the vedantin however, his prayer is essentially the prayer to the self within-to himself-to the cosmic consciousness that is immanent in all. In the initial stage he considers his prayer as a sort of desire-either earthly or spiritual-either with motive or without motive. Then when he advances sufficiently in his sadhana (practice) he considers his (so-called) desire as divine will, which finally opens his intuitive spiritual sight and becomes one with the cosmic will.

The power of prayer is indescribable. Its glory is ineffable. Only sincere devotees realise its usefulness and splendour. Prayer should be done with reverence, faith and non-expectation of fruits. It should be done with a heart full of devotion. O ignorant man: Do not argue about the efficacy of prayer. You will be deluded. There is no arguing in spiritual matters. Intellect is a finite and frail instrument. Do not trust this.

Remove the darkness of your ignorance now, through the light of prayer.

TEST OF SINCERITY

Essentially, prayer should be selfless as far as possible. We should first pray for the good of others, for the welfare and peace of the world and for our own spiritual evolution. We should pray for the eradication of our evil qualities, for wisdom and knowledge, for goodness and saintliness.

An aspirant should always pray for the removal of his ignorance. His goal is to realise the truth and to free himself from the meshes of those things that are unreal. His goal is to realise his essential divine nature.

At times even sincere prayer is not responded to but this should not be allowed to mar our faith or sincerity or to discourage or depress us. It should be considered as a necessity, as a test of our sincerity, our serenity and our faith in God.

At times this irresponse is often repeated. The devotee becomes bewildered; he begins to lose faith in God; he may even be diverted from the path. Indeed it is here we must show our patience, our steadfastness and our faith in his grace. God often tests us with severest trials but does it mean that he is unkind, that he does not wish to pay heed to our prayers? Obviously not. It is a test that the aspirant must pass through. His faith may not be strong enough; the dross of his mind may not have been cleaned yet; his heart may not be pure yet.

How can the aspirant strengthen his faith? How can he cleanse his mind? How can he purify his heart? Only through tests, trials, tribulations. Just as gold is purified by passing it through the crucible several times, so also the heart must become pure, the faith must become unflinching, through passing through the crucible of trials again and again.

But at the ultimate end all prayers are fulfilled and gratified with the highest fulfilment. Therefore when we pray to God or wish to receive grace from him, we must be prepared to accept joyfully his irresponse and the trials and tribulations.


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