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Para Bhakti

by Swami Sivananda

You can have Darshan of Lord Siva in this very life. Many have realised. You can also realise. What another has achieved can be achieved by you also. There is no doubt of this. Ask not for any boon from Him. Whenever there is asking for boon there is no real devotion. It becomes mercenary. It becomes shop-keeping or business. You should not trade with God. Love Him for love's sake. Have absolute Nishkamya, Ananya Bhakti. Do not ask for Mukti even. Mukti is maid-servant of Queen-devotion. It comes by itself.

Mere Darshan alone of the tutelary deity will not suffice. Knowledge of the Self is also necessary. Nam Dev had Darshan of Lord Krishna several times and yet he was not a fully developed sage. Once Gora, a saintly potter tapped the head of Nam Dev in a gathering of devotees and pronounced that he was Kaccha or half-baked. Then Nam Dev approached a Vedantin, Vishoba Khesar in the temple of Mallikarjun for initiation into the mysteries of Kaivalya. Nam Dev found Vishoba Khesar in the temple in a strange posture. Khesar was in a meditative mood. He was lying down and stretching his feet on the Siva Lingam. Nam Dev said: "O venerable Swamiji, why dost thou lie with thy feet on the Siva Lingam?" Khesar replied: "Please place my feet on that place where there is no Siva Lingam." Nam Dev tried to keep the feet in several places but he found a Siva Lingam wherever he took the feet. Nam Dev was struck with wonder. He prostrated at the feet of Khesar and beseeched him to initiate him into the mysteries of Atman. Nam Dev returned to Pandharpur with the knowledge of the Self. Now only he became Pukka or fully-baked, i.e., attained perfection or highest knowledge.

God, the individual soul, and world are really a unity. Their seeming separateness is but an illusion. Melt all illusory differences. Remove all barriers that separate man from man. Realise the underlying unity and be free.

Prahlada prays to Lord Hari from the bottom of his heart: "O Lord, in whatever birth I may pass, let me have unswerving devotion to Thy lotus-feet." The world needs today such devotees to disseminate Bhakti throughout the length and breadth of the land.

When the heart is purified, the mind is naturally turned towards God. The aspirant is attracted towards God. Eventually he is absorbed in the Lord, through pure love, self-surrender and worship. The Bhakta now becomes a cosmic entity. He has cosmic life. He has one continuous life. The individuality becomes a cosmic entity.

What is Jnana? To see threads in cloth, clay in pots and jars, gold in ornaments, iron in various kinds of implements, wood in chairs, benches and doors is Jnana. To see God or Atman in every living being and to feel that God is seated in your heart and in the hearts of all is Jnana (vasudevah sarvam iti). Bhakti, when it gets ripe, brings Jnana. When Bhakti gets matured, Jnana dawns by itself. The fruit of Ananya Bhakti is Jnana.

Upasana is of two kinds viz., Prateekopasana and Ahamgrahopasana. In the first kind, Prateeka or symbol is used for meditation. In the second kind, Prateeka or symbol is used for his very self as the object of meditation. The previous one is the Bhakta’s method. The latter one belongs to the non-dual Vedantins. One who has outgrown the first kind of Upasana is recommended to take up the higher Ahamgrahopasana wherein he meditates on his own Atman as his own pure Self.

Jnana is the fruit of Bhakti. Bhakti destroys hatred, jealousy, lust, anger and greed, fills the heart with divine love and removes all barriers that separate man from man. When this is done the aspirant beholds oneness everywhere, realises unity of the Self, and experiences the cosmic vision which is beyond description.

Devotion to Atman is Bhakti, according to Advaita Vedanta. This is the highest Bhakti. This includes Prema Bhakti, Para Bhakti, Apara Bhakti. An Advaita Vedantin is a worshipper of Lord Siva, Hari, Rama, Krishna, Durga, Gayatri, Allah, Jehovah, etc. He is not a sectarian Bhakta. His heart is expanded ad infinitum.

Devotion to Atman is the highest form of Bhakti. This is known as "Paramarthika Bhakti". The Jnana Yogic student worships his own Self as Atman: "I am Sat-chit-ananda Akhanda Paripoorna Brahman". Is there any devotion greater than this?

Prahlada, the noble son of Hiranyakasipu meditated through his pure mind and enjoyed bliss in the supreme differenceless Nirvikalpa Samadhi. He seated himself statue-like in Nirvikalpa Samadhi for 5000 years.

Feel His Presence everywhere. Strive ceaselessly to fix your mind in the Lord. Try constantly to behold your Beloved in all these forms. Silently repeat His Names. Sometimes sing His Names. Silently do Kirtan. Melt the mind in Him. Rejoice in silence in Him.

Feel all along that the body is a moving temple of God, your office or business house a big temple or Brindavan, and every activity such as walking, eating, breathing, seeing, hearing, reading, etc., are offerings unto the Lord. Work is worship. Work is meditation, when done in the right spirit. Work for work’s sake, without any motive, without the idea of agency (I am the doer, I am the enjoyer), and without expectation of fruits. Feel that you are an instrument in the hands of God and that He works through your organs. Feel also that this world is a manifestation of the Lord or Visva Brindavan and your children, wife, father, mother and other relations are the images or children of the Lord. See God in every face and in every object. If you develop this changed angle of vision and divine Bhava by protracted and constant practice, all actions will become Puja or worship of the Lord. This is quite sufficient. You will have God-realisation soon. This is dynamic Yoga. This is an easy Sadhana. Hereafter do not bring your old lame excuses: "Swamiji, I have no time to do spiritual practices." Even if you practise this dynamic Yoga for three months, you will become an entirely changed being altogether. Realise right now your identity and intimate relationship with all beings, with ants and dogs, elephants and tigers, Muslims and Hindus, Jews and Christians. There is only a degree of difference in manifestation or expression. All forms belong to God or Saguna Brahman. When you look at a tree or a shrub, a Sikh or a Muslim, endeavour to behold the veil of form the real hidden Consciousness. If you do this for some time, you will feel inexpressible joy. All hatred will cease. You will develop Cosmic Love or unity of consciousness. This will be a magnanimous experience.

Kabir says: "what is the use of ablutions and cleaning of teeth? And what avail prostrations at the mosque? With deceit in heart are offered prayers. What then avails a journey to Mecca? Hindus fast on 24 Ekadasi days. The Muslims fast on 30 days. But pray, enlighten me, who passed over eleven months and made only one month His own? Hari is made to dwell in the East, Allah in the West. But seek Him in your heart. You will find Him there both Karim and Rama. If God is only in the mosque, to whom does the country outside belong? Rama is supposed to be in pilgrim places and in His images. But they have found Him in neither yet. Who said that the Vedas and the Koran are false? They are so to those who do not think. Within all bodies there is but one and no second. Man or woman, they are but Thy form. Kabir is but a child of Allah, Rama and he is His Guru and Pir alike."

Pure love only can remove all barriers that separate man from man. Pure love only can eradicate all sorts of unreasonable dislikes and prejudices, intolerance; hatred, etc. Pure love only can unite a Jew and a Christian, a Hindu and a Muslim, a Catholic and a Protestant, a Brahmin and a non-Brahmin, a Vaishnavite and a Saivite, a Samajist and a Sanatanist, a Ramanandi and a Sakta, a German and an Englishman, a Sannyasi and Vairagi, a Chinaman and a Japanese on a common platform and in the core of hearts also.

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

He who sees the Lord in the idol only is a Bhakta of an inferior type. He who beholds the Lord in the Bhaktas only and at the same time who has the notion 'He is a bad man, he is not a devotee', is a Bhakta of the middling type. He who sees the Lord only everywhere, who sees the whole world as Lord Krishna (vasudeva sarvam iti) is a Bhakta of the first class type.

Just as sugar pervades the sweetmeat, so also God pervades the whole world. The whole world is contained in the Lord. The first Mantra of Isavasya Upanishad is: "isavasyam idam sarvam-This world is indwelt by the Lord."

Negate the Drishya (names and forms) and behold in its place Lord Hari everywhere. Forget the body. Forget the environments. Live in the one Consciousness of Lord Hari alone. This is Baddha-Samadhi.

The Lord abides in every creature. Behold the Lord in all objects, in all manifestations. He is in the breath; in the voice; in your eyes. He is the life of your life, soul of your soul. Make no distinction between a Hindu and a Mussalman, a Protestant and a Catholic, a Saivite and a Vaishnavite.

When you come across a beggar in rags, bow before him with folded hands. However distorted the image may be, it is the image of the Lord.

When Rama asked Hanuman as what he thought of him, Hanuman said: "When I think I am body, I am Thy servant, O Lord. When I feel, I am Jiva, I am your part, when I feel I am Atman, you and I are one."

The advanced Bhakta merges himself in his Beloved. He sinks his personality in his object of adoration and worships (his Ishtam). He plunges deep in the Divine Being. He dives deep into the ocean of Divine Bliss. He sees nothing around him but Him alone. The whole world appears to him as a manifestation of God. He talks to a tree, a flower, a dog: "O Krishna, O Lord, I see Thee in all these forms." The whole world is Brindavan for him (Visva Brindavan).

Hari is in water, Hari is in the earth, Hari is in the air, Hari is in the fan, Hari is in the mind, Hari is in the walking stick, Hari is in the milk, the whole universe is full of Hari.

The fine cool breeze sings beautiful songs of true love to you but you are too deaf to hear them. Each little storm shouts Hari, Hari to you but you are unable to hear.

A real devotee of Lord Krishna sees Krishna and Krishna alone in the whole world. He has a new Yogic eye, a new spiritual vision.

Turn your heart towards the lotus-feet of the Lord. The veil of ignorance will be drawn aside. You will behold a resplendent vision which no one can describe. O child of the Eternal, O Nectar'son, hear the eternal music of the Soul. Hear the voice from every object. The glittering stars, the blue sky, the effulgent sun, the murmuring brooks, the waves of the ocean, the smiling flowers, the snowy peaks of the Himalayas-all whisper to you: "God is here." Behold the divine radiance glowing amidst all objects of the world.

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