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Worship, Self-Surrender and Liberation

by Swami Sivananda

WORSHIP

An idol (murti or vigraha), sun, fire, water, Ganges, saligram (symbol of Visnu), linga (symbol of Siva), are all symbols of God which help the aspirants to attain one-pointedness of mind and purity of heart. A symbol is absolutely indispensable for fixing the mind. The Christians also have the symbol-the cross. A gross mind needs a concrete symbol; a subtle mind needs an abstract symbol. Even a vedantin has the symbol Om for fixing the wandering mind. In the beginning concentration or meditation is not possible without a symbol.

The mind is disciplined in the beginning by fixing the mind on a concrete object or symbol. Later, when it has been rendered steady and subtle, it can be fixed on an abstract idea such as Aham Brahma Asmi (I am the infinite).

The devotee superimposes, on the concrete idol, the Lord and his attributes. He does sodasopacara puja for the idol-the sixteen kinds of respect or service of the Lord. This consists of padyam (water for washing the feet), arghyam (water to wash hands), asana (seat), snana (bathing), offering of clothing, applying sandal paste, offering flowers (arcan), burning incense, waving of lights and camphor, food offering (maha naivedyam) etc. The wandering mind is fixed now in this form of worship. The aspirant gradually feels the nearness of the Lord. He attains purity of heart and slowly annihilates his egoism.

He who has done puja (worship) with flowers and other articles of worship for some time, can take to mental worship. In mental puja the devotee offers all offerings to the Lord mentally. This is an advanced form of worship. It purifies the heart and steadies the mind. It fills the mind with pure love for the Lord and gradually transmutes man into a divine being.

Even in worshipping a small idol, he has to repeat the Purusa Sukta (a sacred hymn) and to think of the virat purusa (cosmic form)-with countless heads, countless eyes, countless hands, who extends beyond the universe and also of the Lord or atman who dwells in the hearts of all.

The aspirant gradually begins to feel that the Lord he worships is in the idol, in the hearts of all creatures and in the names and forms of all in this universe. He begins to feel His presence everywhere.

One can realise God through worship of murti (or idol). The worship of the Lord in saguna (concrete) form is a great aid for vedantic realisation also, and for the realisation of the Lord in His all-pervading, formless aspect. The worship of the murti is very essential for the purpose of concentration and meditation in the beginning. Such worship is not in any way a hindrance to the attainment of God-consciousness. Those who vehemently attack murti puja (worship) are groping in the darkness of extreme ignorance. They have no real knowledge. They enter into vain debates to show that they are learned persons and have not done any sadhana (spiritual practice). Idle talking is their real profession. They have unsettled the minds of countless persons. The whole world worships symbols and murtis in some form or other. As one advances in meditation, the form melts into the formless and the aspirant becomes one with the formless essence.

Empty vessels only make sound. A practical man who does meditation and worship, who is full of knowledge and real devotion, keeps always silence. He influences and teaches others through silence. He only knows whether a murti is necessary in the beginning or not.

Prasada is that which gives peace. During kirtan (chanting), worship (puja, havan and arati), milk, sweets and fruit are offered to the Lord. Puja is done with bael (wood apple) leaves, flowers, tulsi (basil), sacred ash, and these are later given as prasada from the Lord. They are charged with mysterious powers, by the chanting of mantras (sacred hymns) during puja and havan (worship with the fire as the sacred symbol).

Prasada is a great purifier. Prasada is a panacea for all ills; it is a spiritual elixir. Prasada is the grace of the Lord. It is an embodiment of sakti (divine energy). Prasada is divinity in manifestation. Many sincere aspirants get wonderful experiences from prasada alone. Many incurable illnesses are cured by prasada alone. Prasada energises, vivifies, invigorates and infuses devotion. It should be taken with great faith. Those brought up in modern education and culture have forgotten the glory of prasada. Prasada gives good health, long life, peace and prosperity to all. The sacred ash is the prasada of Lord Siva. It is applied to the forehead. Kumkum (vermilion powder) is the prasada of Sri Devi or Shakti. It is applied at the space between the eyebrows.

A devotee repeats the mantra (mystic formula) of the Lord during worship and touches his heart, his head, tuft of hair, arms and hands. There is caitanya (consciousness, power) in every letter of the mantra. Through repetition of the mantra and the touching of the parts of the body with the repetition of the mantra, the aspirant is gradually divinised. There is spiritual awakening. Spiritual currents are generated-tamas (inertia) and rajas (impurity) are destroyed and he is filled with pure satva (purity). He becomes identical with the object of worship. He attains the same world of, or proximity with, or the same form of, or absorption into, the Lord.

For a sage there is no such thing as insentient matter. Everything is Vasudeva or caitanya. The devotee actually beholds the Lord in the idol. But the worship does not stop there. The sadhaka (seeker) is taken step by step to higher stages of devotion and samadhi (or communion) through the worship of the idol. Though he worships the idol, he has to keep before his mental eye the all-pervading Lord. He has to feel the Lord's presence in his heart and in all objects also.

The ways and rules of worship, described in the Hindu scriptures are scientifically accurate and highly rational. It is only ignorant people who have not studied the scriptures, who have not associated with the devotees and great souls, that vilify worship of idols or murtis.

The aspirant who worships the idol in the beginning, beholds the Lord everywhere and develops para bhakti (supreme devotion); he beholds the whole world as the Lord. All ideas of good and bad, right and wrong, etc., vanish. His vision baffles description. Glory to such exalted devotees who are veritable gods on earth, who live to lift others from the quagmire of samsara (world-existence) and save them from the clutches of death.

Tulsidas realised the all-pervading essence. He had cosmic consciousness. He communed with the all-pervading, formless Lord. And yet his passion for Lord Rama, with bow in hand, did not vanish. When he went to Brindavan, and saw the murti of Lord Krishna, with flute in hand, he said: "I will not bow my head to this form". At once the form of Lord Krishna assumed the form of Lord Rama. Then only Tulsidas bowed his head. Mira also realised her identity with the all-pervading Krishna and yet she never tired of repeating, again and again, "My Giridhar Nagar".

PROSTRATION

Vandana is prayer and prostration. Humble prostration - touching the earth with eight limbs of the body, with faith and reverence, before a form of God, or prostration to all beings, knowing them to be the forms of the one God, getting absorbed in divine love of the Lord - is termed prostration to God.

The Bhagavatam says: "The sky, air, fire, water, earth, stars, planets, cardinal points, trees, rivers, seas and all living beings constitute the body of God. The devotee should bow before everything in absolute devotion, thinking that he is bowing before God Himself."

Sri Krishna says to Uddhava: "Giving no attention to people who laugh in ridicule, forgetting the body, and insensible to shame, one should fall prostrate on the ground, bowing to all beings even down to the dog, the cow and the ass." Doing prostrations to others makes a man humble.

If a man entertains Narayana bhava (feeling the presence of God in all) when he does prostrations, this will help him to realise that whatever he sees is God, that there is nothing but God, that the manifestation is the virat (cosmic) aspect of Brahman. This will help to develop devotion. Always feel that you are prostrating to the Lord himself-all living creatures, all objects are forms of God only.

May you all attain God-consciousness through the practice of prema (love) yoga. May your heart be filled with prema for the Lord. May the blessings of the Lord be upon you all. May you shine as bhagavatas, singing the Lord's name, disseminating divine prema and radiating joy, peace and bliss everywhere:

SIVA'S FINAL TEACHING

Purify your heart through selfless service, be devoted to the Lord and obtain his grace. Through japa (repetition of God's name), kirtan (chanting l, prayer and self-surrender.

Practise asanas (postures), pranayama (yoga breathing), etc.

Abandon egoism, desire, anger and greed.

Control all the senses.

Cultivate discrimination and dispassion.

Practise the four means.

Hear the srutis (scriptures). Reflect and meditate ceaselessly.

You will attain self-realisation.

GOD AS MASTER AND FRIEND

Dasya bhakti is love of God as the servant of God. To serve God and to carry out his wishes-realising his virtues, his nature, his mystery and his glory and considering oneself as a slave of the supreme master-this is dasya bhakti. Serving and worshipping the murtis (images) in the temples, sweeping the temples, meditating on God and serving Him like a slave (mentally), serving the saints and the sages, serving the devotees of God, serving the poor and the sick, is also included in dasya bhakti.

To follow the words of the scriptures, to act according to the injunctions of the vedas considering them to be direct words of God, is dasya bhakti. Association with and service of love-intoxicated devotees and service of those who have knowledge of God, is dasya bhakti. The purpose of this is to be ever with God, in order to offer your services to him and win his divine grace and thereby attain immortality.

Arjuna prays with the sentiment of a servant and a disciple in order to get the grace of Lord Krishna: "O Lord: I am your disciple. I have taken refuge in you. Teach me." The aspirant should completely give himself up to God and should not retain any personal reservations. Ananya bhakti is total relinquishment of the self to God.

Sakhya bhava is the cultivation of the friend-sentiment with God. The Bhagavatam says: "Oh how wonderful is the fortune of the people of Vraja, of cowherd Nanda, whose dear friend is the perfect, eternal Brahman or absolute bliss."

To be always with the Lord, to treat him as one's own dear relative or friend, belonging to one's own family, to be in his company at all times, to love him as one's own self, is sakhya bhava of bhakti-marga (the path of devotion). The devotee takes up with eagerness any work of the Lord, leaving aside even the most important and urgent and pressing personal work, and totally concerning himself with the love of the Lord. How do real friends love in this world? What an amount of love passes between them. Such love is developed for God-physical love is turned into spiritual love. There is a transformation of the mundane into the eternal.

It is a great pity that sakhi bhava (the attitude of God's beloved) is misunderstood. The jiva caitanya (individual soul) is the real sakhi. Sakhi bhava is purely an internal state, not a mere external show. The individual soul is united with the supreme soul by self-surrender. The lover and the beloved become one. This is the acme of bhakti. This is the culminating point. Bhakti begins with two and ends with one.

THE NATURE OF SURRENDER

In atma nivedana (self-surrender) the devotee offers everything to God, including his body, mind and soul. He keeps nothing for himself. He has no personal, independent existence. He has become part and parcel of God. God takes care of him and God treats him as Himself. Grief and sorrow, pleasure and pain, the devotee treats these as gifts sent by God and does not attach himself to them. He considers himself a puppet, as an instrument in the hands of God. He does not feel egoistic for he has no ego-his ego has gone over to God.

This devotee does not feel it is his duty to look after his wife, children etc., for he himself has no independent existence apart from God. God will take care of all for He knows how to lead the world in the right path. He has no sensual craving, for he has no body; it has been offered to God. He only feels the presence of God and nothing else. He has no enemies or friends for he has given himself up to God who has no enemies or friends. He has no anxiety for he has attained everything by attaining the grace of God. He does not even have the thought of salvation-he merely wants God and nothing but God.

This devotee is satisfied with the love of God, for by that there is nothing that is not attained. What is there to attain when God has sent his grace upon the devotee? The devotee does not want to become sugar but to taste the sugar-there is pleasure in tasting sugar but not in becoming sugar itself. So the devotee feels that there is supreme joy more in loving God than in becoming God. "I am Thine", says this devotee, knowing that God will take complete care of him.

Mira abandoned everything. She renounced her kingdom, husband, relatives, friends and property. She remembered Lord Krishna all day and all night. She shed tears of love (prema). She sang His name with devotion. She gave up eating food and her body became emaciated. Her mind was ever absorbed in Lord Krishna. Only then did Lord Krishna shower His grace upon her.

SURRENDER

Surrender is Ishvarapranidhana. The devotee consecrates all his works and their fruits to the Lord. He has no will of his own. He says unto the Lord, "I am thine. All is thine. Thy will be done. Thou art just. Thou doest everything for me. I am an instrument in thy hands."

In surrendering one's will to the Lord, his will becomes one with the cosmic will. He becomes one with the Lord. There is no loss in surrendering one's will to the Lord.

Self-surrender is atma-nivedana, or prapatti. This is the highest bhakti (devotion). The gopis of Vrindavan, Radha and Mira surrendered everything at the feet of Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna was their all. In Kathopanishad it is said, "The Lord chooses that man who has surrendered himself, reveals himself unto him and bestows the highest wisdom on him."

The two obstacles to self-surrender are egoism and desire. Egoism and desire wage guerilla war. They assume various forms and assail the devotee again and again. Be on the alert. Be ever vigilant. Slay the egoism and desires beyond resurrection. Then alone will you be safe.

Your sadhana sakti (ability to practise) is grace of the Lord. Guru is grace of the Lord. Sticking to the spiritual path is grace of the Lord. Progress in sadhana is grace of the Lord. Revelation or intuition is grace of the Lord. Descent of divine light is grace of the Lord. Human birth is Lord's grace. All sorts of aids to sadhana you get such as kutir (cottage), food, clothing, medical aid, good place for meditation, books, satsanga (good company), etc., are his grace only.

It is difficult to eradicate the self-assertive nature. Every man has built his personality from the beginning of time. He has allowed the rajasic (impure) mind to have its own way. This personality has grown very strong, it is hard to make it pliable and elastic. The self-assertive man wants to dominate over others; he does not want to hear the opinions of others, even though they may be sound, logical and tenable.

I AM THINE O LORD

Do not bother about taking care of your body. God will save it if he needs it for further service. Surrender it at his feet and rest in peace. He will take care of it. A real devotee says, "Let me take millions of births; it does not matter, but let me be attached to the lotus-feet of Lord Hari. Let me have spontaneous devotion to the Lord. Let me be endowed with purity, spiritual strength, the spirit of selfless service and other divine virtues."

If you simply say, without real inner feeling, "I am thine, O Lord," this will not constitute real integral self-surrender. This should come right from the core of your heart. You must be prepared for a radical change. You should not stick to your old habits, ways and motives. You should not expect that everything should happen in the way you want. You should live to carry on the divine purpose. You should not think of those ambitions which the mind likes to gratify. You should not think of using divine grace or the divine force for your own purposes-then the irrepressible ego will assert itself in various ways and refuse to give up its old habits.

The ego tries to get everything from the divine but it totally declines to give itself to the divine. That is the reason why aspirants do not make any substantial progress on the spiritual path even after doing sadhana (spiritual practice) for several years.

There is no loss in self-surrender. You get from the Lord everything. You enjoy all the divine aisvarya (wealth of divine attributes) of the Lord. The whole wealth of the Lord belongs to you. Siddhis and riddhis (psychic powers) will roll under your feet. You become one with the Lord. You are freed from all wants and desires and cravings. The spiritually hungry and the really thirsty aspirant who yearns for the vision of the Lord, turns towards the divine and is quite willing, eager and happy to consecrate his body, life and mind and soul at the feet of the Lord.

The first stage of self-surrender is only a firm resolve to surrender oneself to God, or to his preceptor. A sadhaka (seeker) who has dedicated his life for the service of his teacher or the service of humanity or for attaining self-realisation, is not bound by the actions he performs subsequent to his self-surrender.

Self-surrender becomes perfect only after God-realisation.

GOD-REALISATION

Divine love overflows to others once it has filled your heart. Love God with all your heart and your-neighbour as yourself-this is the secret of God-realisation. Love breaks down all barriers. Love is an open sesame to an infinite realm of bliss immortal. The learned talk of God but the poor love Him in their hearts.

Beyond logic, beyond intellect, beyond reason is the feeling of love and the embodiment of love-which is God. Argue not. Realise Him. Talk to Him with the language of the heart.

Do not gauge the Lord's love and mercy by the material prosperity He gives you. Infinitely more valuable is the spiritual treasure He bestows upon His true devotee. Love is the dew-drop of divine grace.

Cosmic love is the threshold to the limitless domain of Brahmic bliss. Cosmic love is synonymous with supreme self-sacrifice or egolessness. In all beings lives the one God,-the Supreme Being, the eternal Lord. Therefore bow to all beings with reverence, faith and devotion.

Feel that another's difficulty is yours and relieve him of his difficulty. Then alone you will grow in cosmic love. Love is an actual substance that you can use with confidence. Love is a positive, concrete thing.

Love vibrates in the form of service, charity, generosity and benevolence. There is unity of life. Love of one's self is the true love of all life. All patriotism, love of one's own nation, one's own race, one's own religion, are but limited kinds of love. Human love is but the stepping-stone to divine or universal love.

Love all. Behold the one common consciousness that indwells all beings, that is immanent in all names and forms. Spread the message of divine love, light and worship wherever you go. Love knows no fear. Love is the greatest power.

Love is the divine force of this universe. The purer you make your heart, the greater will be the power of your love. Be kind, be compassionate, be humble, be tolerant, be good, be just, be natural. Love the eternal in every being. Make no distinctions between one being and another.

SUPREME LOVE IS SELF-KNOWLEDGE

A devotee of para bhakti type is all-embracing and all-inclusive. He has cosmic love and the whole world is holy for him. He does not visit temples for worship, seeing the Lord in everything. He feels that the world is a manifestation of the Lord, and that all movements and actions are his sport. He has no dislike for faecal matter or dirt, for the outcaste, the scavenger, the cobbler, the beggar, the prostitute, or the thief. He says: "I see my sweet Lord everywhere. It is Hari who is playing the part of the prostitute, the thief, the dacoit, the scavenger:" He has an all-embracing, all-inclusive, exalted mental state. This cannot be described adequately in words, but must be felt. Mira, Gouranga, Hafiz, Tulsidas, Kabir. Ramdas-all enjoyed this state.

Namdev said to the dog: "O Vittala, my dear, in the form of a dog, do not run away with the dry bread. It will affect your soft throat. Pray let me apply ghee (clarified butter) to the bread." He ran with ghee in a cup to the dog. Sri Ramakrishna prostrated before an outcaste girl: "O Mother Kali, I see thee in this girl." Eknath, a Maharashtrian bhakta, gave his ring voluntarily to the thief when the latter entered the house. "O thief: Take this ring also. Your duty is to steal things. Thou art Krishna. Keep up this sport." Have you understood the sublime state of these exalted bhaktas who had a new angle of vision? A day will come to you also. Exert and struggle.

Para bhakti is self-knowledge only. Sri Sankara, who was established in the wisdom of pure non-dualism, was a great bhakta of Lord Hari and Devi. Sri Ramakrishna worshipped Kali and obtained self-knowledge through Swami Totapuri, his guru. Appayya Dikshitar was a devout bhakta of Lord Siva. Para bhakti and self-knowledge are one. The only slight difference is that a bhakta uses his emotion, while a sage of wisdom uses his will and intellect. Bhakti begins with love, while jnana or self-knowledge begins with thinking and self-analysis. The end of both is the same, union with the divine.

GRACE PURIFIES THE HEART

Behold the Lord's grace in every inch of his creation. On a hot summer day you enjoy the delicious sweet juice of grapes, cucumber, oranges and pomegranates and the cool Ganges water of Rishikesh and Hardwar. This is the Lord's grace. When you suffer from a serious ailment you get immediate relief and cure from herbs this is the Lord's grace. When you walk in the dark night, the stars twinkle and throw light on your path-this is the Lord's grace. When you are unable to bear extreme pain you become unconscious-this is the Lord's grace. When the weather is sultry, a gentle breeze springs up and refreshes you-this is the Lord's grace.

The subtle forms of lust, anger, egoism, pride, etc., can only be totally destroyed through the grace of the Lord. However hard you may strive and do sadhana (spiritual practice), these subtle forms cannot be eradicated through your sadhana alone. Only the Lord's grace completely purifies your heart.

It is the Lord's grace only that stirs the aspirants to do right exertion. But do not sit idle and say: "Oh the Lord's grace will do everything for me, why should I do sadhana?" This is wrong philosophy. God helps those who help themselves. God's grace will only descend on those persons who exert themselves. You cannot expect the Lord to do self-surrender for you. Be up and doing. Strive. Plod. Persevere. The Lord will shower his grace upon you.

It is the grace of the Lord that gives rise to sincere satsankalpa (good and true thoughts and pure resolves). You can be transformed in the twinkling of an eye. One moment you may be groping in the darkness, the next moment you can attain illumination.

There is an ignition point of the soul. When it is connected, man is transformed. His life is turned from its former worldly ways into a new divine life. He is awakened spiritually.

This serenity will deepen into unshakable peace amidst all the troubles and difficulties of life. Then only insight and intuition will dawn. Then only you will attain wisdom, perfection and freedom.

THE DEVOTEE'S VISION

The bhakta is blissful at all times. His mind cannot think of anything for everything is God. "Yatra yatra mano yati tatra tatra samadhayah-Wherever the mind goes there it experiences samadhi"-for it does not find any object of enjoyment. God fills every speck of space and the whole world is clothed in the glory of God.

The saint and the sinner, the virtuous and the vicious, the good and the bad, the man and the animal, all are forms of God. How can the mind deal with them in any undivine way? There, the mind experiences samadhi it has consciousness but no object. Samadhi is thoughtless consciousness, objectless consciousness-this is para bhakti. This is the same as vedantic realisation. The effect is the annihilation of the ego or the destruction of the mind.

God, who is supremely powerful, supremely wise and supremely blissful, pervades the entire atmosphere and the earth. He is the earth and the heaven; He is father, mother, brother, sister; He is the consummation of all love and aspiration, of all desire and ambition; He is the stoppage of all mental vrttis and He is the ideal to be attained.

Control the mind and annihilate the ego-this is the essence of all yogas. It is the ideal of bhakti yoga, which is a very sweet and easy method or procedure. One has not got to curb one's emotions and one has not to run away to the forests. He has to direct his emotions towards God. He has to see God as present in the world. This is the essence of bhakti sadhana (practice).

Bhakti is thus only a reflection of the love for the self which the Upanishads declare. Only the names are different: one calls it self and the other calls it God. Names do not matter; it is the feeling that counts, and that is the same in both.

Self-surrender is the highest form of bhakti. It is surrender of the ego or individuality. What remains after that is the 'absolute' of the Vedantins. Bhakti surrenders the ego and a vedantin disintegrates the ego. In both the ego is not there-their ideals are the same. Whether one eats rice or wheat, it is all the same-the purpose of both is to appease the hunger. So whether you follow bhakti or Vedanta, the effect is the annihilation of the ego. This is the truth.

SUPREME LOVE OF GOD

Life is complex nowadays. The struggle is very keen.

Here is an easy way of worshipping the Lord. Consider your house as the temple of the Lord. Your wife and children and others as the holy company of the bhaktas (devotees). Consider every word you speak as the japa (repetition) of the Lord's name and as praise of him. Consider every action as service of the Lord. And your lying in bed as prostrations before the Lord. And your daily walk and moving about, as perambulations of the Lord. Consider the lights you burn in the evening as the waving of lights to the Lord. Consider sleep as samadhi (superconscious state). Give food and drink as offering to the Lord, then take it as his prasad (gift). This is an easy way to worship the Lord.

"How shall I wash thy feet with holy water, O Lord, when the very Ganges flows from thy feet? How shall I give thee a seat O Lord? Thou art all-pervading: How shall I wave lights for thee O Lord? The sun and the moon are thy eyes: Shall I offer flowers to thee? Thou art the very essence of the flowers."

This attitude is called para-puja (highest worship).

Feel the presence of the Lord everywhere. He dwells in the chambers of your heart too. He glitters in your eyes. He is the breath in your nostrils. He is nearer to you than your jugular vein. Behold Him in every face. You will attain happiness here and hereafter if you worship God in this way. Life is short and time is fleeting. Start doing this right now.

Why should you roam hither and thither to find God, the Supreme Being? Why should you go in vain to the forests? Why? Even as in the flower, fragrance resides, even as in the fire, heat dwells-even so doth the Lord abide. Seek Him within, my friend. Seek Him earnestly too.

SEEK GOD WITHIN

Seek God within you, in your heart. Seek him not elsewhere. Seek him with faith. Seek not God for favours. Such favours will not bring you near to God. Cultivate niskamya bhakti (motiveless devotion) - pine for his grace and mercy.

Quicken and enliven your faith in God. Let the flame of faith grow brighter and brighter daily. Feel His presence everywhere. Obtain His grace through faith, devotion and total self-surrender.

Cling to the feet of the Lord. Lead the life divine. Roll the beads and mentally repeat his name. Sing his praises and remember Him at all times. Fix your mind on the lotus-feet of the Lord at all times. See the Lord in all objects. Sing the Lord's names.

Meditate on His form first then meditate on His all-pervading essence. Withdraw the senses from their objects and gaze within. Concentrate on the heart - search for Him there.

Practise ahimsa, satyam and brahmacarya (non-violence, truth and purity). Say from the bottom of your heart, "I am thine. Thy will be done O Lord." Stick to dharma (right conduct). Control the mind and the senses. Kill egoism, lust, greed, hatred, etc.

Serve the saints. Serve your guru-guru and God are one. Chant the name and praises of the Lord. Meditate on His divine attributes. Constantly remember the Lord and His presence. Serve and worship the Lord.

Cling to the name of the Lord. Practise the religion of sacrifice. Dedicate yourself to God. Walk in humility and love. This is the way to God-realisation.

Here are some auxiliaries to bhakti. Study the lives of saints, again and again. You will get new inspiration and you will be elevated, renovated and transformed.

Japa (repetition of God's name), kirtan (chanting), prayer, service of saints, meditation, smarana (remembering God), are aids to God-realisation. Shun evil company. Live in the company of saints. Serve the sick and the poor. Lead a simple life.

Cultivate divine virtues such as humility, tolerance, mercy, kindness, courage, selflessness, cosmic love, truthfulness, purity and celibacy.

UNIVERSAL LOVE

The only sara-vastu (thing of value) in this world is prema (or divine love). It is eternal, infinite and undecaying. Physical love is moha (passion or infatuation). Universal love is divine love. Cosmic love (visva prema) and universal love are synonymous terms. God is love. Love is God. Selfishness, greed, egoism, vanity, pride and hatred contract the heart and stand in the way of developing universal love.

Develop universal love gradually through selfless service, satsanga (association with holy ones), prayer, recitation of guru-mantra (mantra or a holy word given by a guru), etc. Thus all barriers are broken and now the heart will expand infinitely.

It is very easy to talk of universal love. But when you want to put it into actual practice it becomes extremely difficult. Petty-mindedness of all sorts comes in the way. Old, wrong samskaras (impressions) which you have created by your wrong mode of life in the past, act as stumbling blocks. Through iron determination, strong will-power, patience, perseverance and vicar (right enquiry), you can conquer all obstacles quite easily. The grace of the Lord will descend on you if you are sincere, my dear friends:

Feel that the whole world is your body, your own home. Melt or destroy all barriers that separate man from man. Any idea of superiority is ignorance or delusion. Develop all-embracing love. Unite with all. Separation is death. Unity is eternal life. Feel that the body is a moving temple of God. Wherever you are, whether at home, at the office, the railway station or the market, feel that you are in this temple.

Consecrate every act as an offering unto the Lord. Transmute every work into yoga by offering its fruits to God. Have akarta-saksi-bhava (feeling: "I am a non-doer, witness") if you are a student of Vedanta. Have nimittabhava (feeling: "I am an instrument") if you are a student of bhakti. Feel that all beings are images of God, that this world is indwelt by the Lord. Feel that one power, or God, works through all hands, sees through all eyes, hears through all ears. You will become a changed being. You will enjoy peace and bliss.

May Lord Hari take you all to His bosom and bathe you with the waters of sweet love: May your heart be filled with cosmic love.

THE DIVINE SECRET

True wisdom is love. The way is only one-love divine-that is all. Love divine is a great power; it is the basis of all religious life. Divine love has no sex. It sees God in all and all in God. Where love is, there God is. From love the world is born, by love it is sustained and into love it enters. He who loves not, knows not God, because God is love.

Open the floodgates of your heart for the inpouring of love divine. The path is through love-every moment of separation is a pang of death to the lovers and the devotees. Day and night the flame of love burns in the hearts of the devotees. Solace comes to the devotee in the flow of tears. The creeper of love is nourished by the eyes.

Love is not a passing sentiment or a feeble emotion-it is strong, deep, enduring. There is real love only when there is true inward identification with the life of another entity. Pure love divine communes with the beloved, with unity, with the one, the all-pervading essence of bliss.

The most important aspect of spiritual life is bhakti (devotion), and the secret of bhakti is love, a love which embraces all. Company of saints, kirtan (chanting) of the Lord's names, study of the Bhagavatam and service of the saints will create love for the Lord.

Love of the body or skin is passion. Love of God is prema (or devotion). It is pure love, love for love's sake. To love someone for attaining a selfish gain, is selfish love. It binds you to this earth. To love all beings, as manifestations of the Lord himself is pure love and leads to liberation. Pure love redeems and purifies the heart and transmutes you into divinity. God is an embodiment of love-an ocean of love. If you wish to attain God-realisation you must also become an embodiment of love. Love inspires, illumines and leads the way. Love is giving and not taking. Love cements the broken heart. It is the key to open the door to moksha.

Love inspires love. It is divine elixir; it bestows immortality, supreme peace and everlasting joy. Love is the golden link which binds heart to heart, mind to mind and soul to soul. Love never reasons but ever profusely gives. It is not affected by offence or insult. It looks only with the heart.


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