The Lovers Path

Swami Sivananda Saraswati

The lover's path is just as difficult as that of the Vedantin or raja yogin. No path is very easy. There is no royal road in spirituality. It is only to encourage the aspirant that seers say the path of devotion or love is the easiest. Every path or every yoga demands the entire annihilation of egoism. The karma yogi kills his egoism through selfless service. The bhakta kills his egoism through self-surrender or atma samarpana (sarana-gati). The Vedantin destroys his egoism through self-denial or self-abnegation.

How difficult it is in this world to please another and obtain their love and affection! The husband gives the best of things to his wife, purchases for her valuable clothes and ornaments, serves her in a variety of ways, day and night, and yet he is not able to satisfy her completely. The clerk works in the office from morning till sunset and yet he is not able to please his boss and obtain his love. He is served with 24 hours notice for a slight mistake. The dewan (prime minister) tries his level best to please the maharaja and get his love, and yet he fails to please him perfectly. If such is the case in worldly love, what fiery ordeal must the devotee not pass through in order to obtain the love of God? What sort of pains must he not patiently have to bear before he can enter the domain of supreme love?

If you want to have an interview with the viceroy or the king, how difficult it is to get an appointment! The private secretary writes: "His Excellency or His Majesty is very busy these days. Wait for a fortnight". It you want to see the Deputy Commissioner, the orderly says, "Sahib is very busy, come the day after tomorrow". If such is the case in worldly matters, how difficult will it be to have an interview with Lord Krishna, the Lord of the three worlds?

The path of Love is rugged, thorny and precipitous. It is the razor's edge. It is exceedingly narrow also. It can admit only one. When there is the Lord there is no "I". When there is "I" there is no Lord. Just as the acrobat walks on a thin wire, so also does the aspirant. If he is careless he may trip at any moment and plunge into the deep abyss below. Farther, Maya's sword is hanging above his neck. There are crocodiles in the deep abyss below. In the front there is a big fire. There are scorpions and cobras behind. How courageous then the aspirant must be! He is always supported by the invisible hand of the Unseen.

The nectar is ever oozing from the fountain of love within the chambers of the heart. The devotee drinks it and feels the warm embrace of the Lord at every Step. That is the reason why he marches along the path with undaunted spirit. Without Divine Grace the battle cannot be won by him. Without His help and mercy, he cannot move an inch along the hazardous path.

The path of love demands end loss patience and endurance. Eventually the devotee or lover conies out victorious in his battle through the grace of the Lord, just as the first prize winner comes out triumphant in the obstacle race after passing through the drum, ring, slippery plank, etc. Even so, the devotee has to pass through dry wildernesses and cyclonic storms. He has to cross many fierce foaming streams. He has to ascend many precipitous peaks. He has to steer clear of many whirlpools in the stormy sea of this life. He has to bear severe persecutions patiently. There is no room for Lamentation or despair even if there are a thousand and one difficulties. All will melt away like rent clouds or mist before the sun if the aspirant is sincere and persistent, if he has iron determination and a fiery resolve, if he is regular in his prayers and worship.

How courageously the man who knows fencing acts when he is being pelted by stones by several people on all sides! He wards off every stone very dextrously and protects himself in a marvellous manner. Just so, the devotee must be bold when he treads the path of love. The Lord will appear only when the devotee has abandoned the last hinge or trace of egoism, when he has achieved complete self-surrender. He will be tested in a variety of ways. Only when Draupadi fully relied on the help of the Lord alone, and when she totally placed herself at the feet of Sri Krishna, the Lord of Divaraka came to her rescue immediately and multiplied her clothes.

Mira had to undergo fiery ordeals before she entered the region of supreme love where her beloved Krishna reigned in supreme splendour and glory. She underwent persecutions of all sorts. She walked barefooted in the burning sands of Rajputana. She lived on alms. She slept on the ground. She starved continuously. In spite of these ordeals she was always in rapturous delight through the grace of the Lord.

Through the grace of the Lord the fire was converted into ice for Prahlada. Burning oil was like cool sandal oil for him. Through the grace of Giridhari Gopal, the cobra was converted into an idol of Krishna (saligram, garland of flowers) for Mira, poison was changed into nectar and a bed of sharp nails into a bed of roses. Madhava's grace makes a dumb man eloquent and a lame man ascend the highest peak.

What is this divine love? It is not the selfish love of worldly-minded persons who only want to get something from another. It is not the love which craves the pretty face of a maiden or her piercing glances or her beautiful dress. It is not a temporary outburst of some vague emotion. The language of love is the language of tears. It can hardly be described in adequate terms. The fortunate devotee only experiences within himself this sweet love. The flame of divine love burns in the heart of the thirsting devotee day and night. He never cares for his food and drink. He is emaciated. He pines away because of separation from the Lord. He does not sleep at night. He does not know when his beloved will give darshan. So he keeps vigil the whole night.

When the devotee has completely killed his egoism, when he has achieved perfect self-surrender without any reservation or secret desire for his gratification, when he thirsts like a fish out of water for meeting his beloved, when he feels the separation from the Lord intensely, when the Vimha-Agni scorches him to an extreme degree, the Lord appears before the devotee. Only then does the Lord wipe his tears, feed him with His own hands and carry him on His shoulders.

There is no loss in total unreserved self-surrender. It is by no means a bad bargain. It is a mighty gain indeed! You will have to give your body, mind, soul and possessions unto Him. The Lord gives Himself unto you. The whole wealth of the Lord belongs to you. The Lord himself becomes your own. You have purchased Him by showing your love unto Him. He is your slave now. You will become one with the Lord, just as the sugar when dissolved in water becomes one with water. What He wants is your whole heart, fully charged with pure love. The devotee says, "I am Thine and Thou art mine also". Even if there is the slightest tinge of selfishness you cannot attain Him.

The lover who has developed supreme love is not a slave to forms, formalities and dogmas. He is not bound by the rules of society. There is no outward show. There is no ringing of bells. He does not care for the sarcastic remarks of the world. His state is indescribable. He pours forth his love on his beloved, The love is spontaneous. The flow of love is gushing in a continuous stream. There is no break. Sometimes when he feels the acute pang of separation from his beloved, he feels as if he is being roasted in a hot pan over a furnace. Immediately the divine nectar begins to drip. Then he feels as if he has taken a dip in the cool waters of the Ganges.

The lover cannot bear the separation from his beloved for even a second. Even a moment of separation is a death-pang for him. A second appears to him as one year. When there is separation he thirsts and pants for His presence. His eyes become vacant and his face becomes blank when there is burning in his heart. He gives up his food, drink and sleep. He is restless. He sheds profuse tears of love. He finds solace in these tears. His thirst is quenched a bit. He nourishes the delicate and exquisite creeper of love through his tears. He has no thought save for his beloved. The fountain of love within his heart is ever full. It never dries up. Love gushes out from the fountain within in a continuous stream. It is a perennial current of supreme love. Nothing can obstruct its flow.

The path of love is doubtless beset with difficulties, but the devotee who is adamant in his resolve, and fiery in his sadhana and vairagya, who has dedicated himself and his all to the Lord, who remembers Him always, crosses over all difficulties quite easily. He receives divine grace at every stage. He lives in God.

The Bhakta, says, "I am Thine"; the Vedantin says, "I am He" The devotee who utters "I am Thine" eventually realises the significance of the formula "I am He" "Dasoham" culminates in "Sivoham" or "Soham" or "Gopaloham", when he develops para bhakti or supreme love. The fruit of love is gyana. Love begins with and ends in one.

O beloved seeker! Will you not develop a heart that bursts forth into tears of joy at the name of the Lord? Allow the waves of love to arise constantly in your heart. Feel the warmth of the Divine embrace. Bake in the deep sunshine of Divine love. Taste the bliss of eternal Love. Drink deep the nectar of divine love and be ever happy.