Sayings of a Paramahamsa

Selected from Teachings of Swami Satyananda

Can you explain the difference between bhakti, bhava and prem?

Bhakti means 'devotion', bhava means 'attitude' and prem means 'love'. In the fundamental analysis they are the same expressions. However, bhakti is total surrender. It is complete fusion of individual awareness into supreme awareness. When you love someone and you lose yourself in him or her, not only on the physical or the emotional plane, but totally, even the ego becomes fused and completely lost. That is called bhakti.

Just as you struggle for life when you are thrown into the sea, in the same way, when the totality of your being becomes aware of the higher self, it is pining for fusion with that. This higher state of being is known as Bhakti. At that time, there is no notion that 'I' want to become 'you'. There is no 'I', so there is no question of becoming; there is only 'you'. When there is the notion that 'I' want to become 'you', there is a duality. 'I' am aware of myself, therefore, I want to become 'you'.

However, in bhakti the 'I' is lost; there is only 'you'. That state of self-awareness is known as bhakti.

This bhakti is twofold. One aspect is the ritualistic bhakti, which you perform in the temples and churches according to your religious and cultural background. That is more or less a rehearsed drama. You may or may not practise that because it is something like left, right, about turn. It is just a religious parade. However, the other form of bhakti is a dynamic one, and that is called the supreme bhakti. Here the self, that is 'myself', wants to become one with 'you'. That is the first process, and gradually the mind is fused to such an extent that I lose awareness of 'myself' and I see only 'yourself'.

This has been exemplified in the story of Radha and Krishna. When Lord Krishna was in his teens he met a young girl of his own age, Radha. They first saw each other on the banks of the Yamuna, and Radha started feeling absolute love for Krishna and he started feeling absolute love for her. That was the first and last time they met. Radha had her own life and Krishna had his own life. That is another story. He became a great warrior, a statesman, a teacher, and so on. Radha never lived with him and he never lived with her, nor did they have any chance to see or talk to each other after that. He went away to the western part of India and she went somewhere else. She only lived a story, but he lived a history and he was married eight times.

In our own lives, we have created patterns in the mind, because we want to love someone and we want to give a direction to our sentiments, as to how they should be directed towards Him. So there are paternal, fraternal and marital sentiments. Many people say that God is their husband. In Christianity, Christ is the husband and we are his wives. Now, however, Christ is dead, so we are all widows in black robes.

The gopis considered Krishna as their husband. You can also consider God as your son, if this idea can capture your mind. In the Gita, Arjuna considered Krishna as his friend, because the idea of a friend could capture his imagination, his emotions, his sentiments. Now, for instance, if I consider God as my father, it will not capture my imagination because I do not care for fathers. However, if I were to consider God as my Guru perhaps that would capture my sentiment, and then as a disciple I could direct my feeling to my Guru as if he were God.

Although some people consider God as father, mother, brother, friend or husband, there is another form of sentiment in which you regard God as your enemy! There are people who do not love God as you do. They do not do japa, 'Om Namah Shivaya, Om Namah Shivaya' as you do but everywhere they go they talk against God. They say, "Where is God? He must be dead. These people are all poor and suffering. If there is any God, how could he allow this to happen?" At least this sentiment keeps you aware of God This is negative bhava, the previous forms were positive bhava. In negative bhava, every negation is all assertion. If you abuse me all day, it is all right, because the negative attitude is a very powerful attitude it works.

The gopis had positive bhava. They considered Krishna to be their husband and all the time they were aware of him. The moment they heard Krishna's flute at midnight, they would run out of their houses to go and play with him. When Krishna left Mathura, which is near Agra, he travelled very far to a place called Dwarka, which is in Gujarat, the western most part of India, and He never came back to Mathura. Then all the gopis who had been his playmates in childhood felt sorry and they began to suffer very much mentally. They could not eat and they could not sleep; they had all the same problems that you have when you lose your boyfriend or girlfriend.

Now, it so happened that Lord Krishna asked his disciple and friend, Udho, who always used to accompany him, "Hey, why don't you go to Mathura and teach the people Yoga?" Udho asked, "To whom will I teach Yoga?" Krishna replied, "Those gopis who used to be my playmates when I was in my teens. It is a nice idea to have a seminar in Mathura." So Udho went to Vrindavan all alone. By that time all the gopis had grown up. When they heard that someone had come from Dwarka, the place of Sri Krishna, they were so happy. They thought at least they could touch his feet. Even though they were not Krishna's still they had trodden the land where Krishna had been walking.

In the evening Udho sat down amongst the gopis and said, "Alright, I'm going to teach you Yoga." They asked, "What Yoga are you going to teach us? Do you mean the Yoga by which you forget yourself or remember yourself? If you mean the Yoga by which you forget yourself, it is of no use because we have already forgotten ourselves. Our mind has only one awareness, not two, and that has gone to Krishna. We have no mind. Tell us how we can practise Yoga, how we can practise pranayama, how we can practise meditation, because we have one mind, one heart, and that he has taken away. It is always with him."

Udho thought to himself, "These are difficult people to teach." Then he asked the gopis, "But why do you say that your heart has been taken away?" They answered, "Yes, Krishna is our husband and we are eternally married." Udho said, "Then why do you keep yourself in such an untidy way? You do not clean your hair, and your clothes are dirty. You look shocking!". They said, "Look here, we have no mind for such things. We have only one awareness and that is of Krishna, whom we loved and played with in our youth. Physically he may not be with us, but all the time we have been thinking only about him. Sometimes this introversion and intense thought awareness continues all day long and all night long, all week long and all month long. So, it is impossible for us to think about our clothes and our body, or even about what others think about us."

Another word associated with bhakti is prem. It is a sadhana by itself. Prem means love. When you approach divinity or God or the idea of God, or when you approach a saintly person or Guru, then you try to practise devotion to him. Although you may call it devotion, actually at that time it is not; it is prem. The preliminary form of devotion is prem, love, and the ultimate form of love is devotion. That has to be practised through fixing your mind by certain attitudes.

Tell us about the Yoga of Love?

Bhakti Yoga is the Yoga in which your emotions are involved. You want to love and you love. When you love transitory human beings, the love is not amply rewarded, and there is a lot of action and reaction. If you Love the divine being, the supreme being, if you love God the Almighty, the love is consumed in totality. It is not subject to reaction.

Bhakti Yoga is the transmutation of love from twitter to spirit. You sing His name. You repeat His name. tiir. You think of His glories and greatness with your mind. You try to keep Him in your heart and mind all the time, as you do with ordinary things in life.

When your mind is given to the attachments of the world, then you feel pain, agony and disappointment.

There is always separation. But when you dedicate your mind to God, the divine being, then you find total satisfaction, and at the same time, an experience of fulfilment.

In Bhakti Yoga the most important thing is to be able to love God. If you can do this, you should follow the bhakti path. The intensity of love for God has to be such that the total awareness and the total mind are consumed. The moment you become aware are of your beloved, all your energies are consumed, you forget your surroundings. That is Bhakti Yoga, the Yoga in which the mind is given to the awareness of the supreme being.

How can we awaken love and devotion in our heart for God in the quickest way?

Oh, that is difficult. I do not know. Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas, said to Krishna, after the Mahabharata war came to an end and Krishna was returning to Dwarka, "It was better when we had all the problems and difficulties, because you were with us. Now that we have all the wealth and are kings and emperors, we are losing you."

Increasing bhakti and prem (love) is not easy, because you want to have your cake and eat it too. On the one hand, you want wealth, comfort and no suffering, while on the other hand, you want bhakti and prem. For prem you have to make a sacrifice. Love is not that easy. Everybody can say, "I love God." Every husband can say, "I love my wife." Every wife can say, "I love my husband." Parents can say, "I love my children." That is not love; that is infatuation.

Once you really love God or your child or your wife or husband, nothing can destroy it because love is imperishable and immortal. Whether your wife misbehaves or your husband misbehaves, nothing can destroy the love. Love is not an expression of the intellect; it is not an expression of emotion; it is not an expression of proper relationship. It is an expression of man's deep rooted divinity.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to say, "Just as you pine for life, in the same way you should pine for bhakti. When you have the same desire for God as you now have for life, then you will know what bhakti is. All the love which couples have for each other, all the love that parents have for their children, the total has to he channelled."

So, bhakti is very difficult, but worship is easy. Going to the temple and church is the easiest thing you can do. Ringing the bells, doing arati, singing hymns and kirtan is simple. This is ritualistic devotion. But the other bhakti about which I have been talking, parabhakti, cannot be practised through the senses or the mind or books. It is just an explosion, when your divinity is at the point of maturity.

If we offer flowers to God as somebody offers gifts to his beloved, is it pure bhakti?

If you actually love God and then give a little present of flowers, it is pure bhakti, but if you do not really love and just go on giving a few sweets and flowers, it is not bhakti. There are so many stories about this type of bhakti. The path of devotion is the path of sublimated emotion. It is full of inner strength. The man who does not have worldly emotions can not have divine emotions. It is impossible. A man who is dry, cannot cry for the Lord.

Those people who are philosophers cannot be devotes, arid those who are renunciates cannot be devotes. To become a devotee, it is necessary that you first become engrossed in the world. You must love the world so much that you stick to it, like a leech. A leech sticks to the body and does not let go of it. In the same way, you must love the things of the world with so much intensity that you feel as if you cannot live without them. The same intensity of emotion is just topsy-turvy in Bhakti Yoga.

Bhakti is inborn. You cannot create it. It is not the subject of a Guru or a preacher. A person who preaches Bhakti Yoga does not know it himself. If I have love within myself, I will not know how to express it. Love is expressed in the language of feeling, of experience. If you can explain the psychological reactions that you get in worldly love, then you can explain divine love also, but if you cannot describe worldly love, even that is difficult.

What is the path of Bhakti Yoga?

Yoga means 'union' or 'communion with your own self' through Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, Kriya Yoga or Jnana Yoga. There are the important yogas. I have my own fixed opinion about Bhakti Yoga. It is very difficult to become a true bhakta. You can practise any Yoga by willpower. You can get a few books and keep thinking about the reality of Brahman. Any great author can impress you about the mystic practices, then you will do them. If you read some of the books on Karma Yoga, you can practise that also, but even if you read the Bible and Ramayana a hundred times, you cannot become a bhakta.

Only that person who has devotion from birth, in his original nature, should practice Bhakti Yoga or the path of devotion. It is not possible to develop bhakti through others, through books or through a Guru. It comes on its own, spontaneously. A bhakta is not as serious as a raja yogi. He is a person who has surplus emotions, and a person with surplus emotions does not know how to adjust them except with God. If you do not have surplus emotions, or if you do but you are adjusting them in other places you cannot be a bhakta. This is the secret of Bhakti Yoga.

Personally, I believe that one only becomes a bhakta by God's grace. There are two types of bhakti: one is ritualistic and the other is divine. Ritualistic bhakti differs from country to country, from religion to religion. You may go to the church or temple, you may worship God on an altar, you may have a nine day ceremony, or you may worship towards the east, north or south. That is the ritualistic path of devotion. Listening to the Lord's name, doing japa, reading the scriptures, are all ritualistic bhakti. That type of bhakti will not help you ultimately.

You can only be a bhakta if you have faith, and faith is always blind; it is never backed by intellectual convictions. If you want faith and intellectual conviction to coexist, neither of them will help you. Both will go on fighting like co-wives. If you have faith, you have bhakti; if you have no faith, you have no bhakti.

However, the spiritual path becomes shorter if you have bhakti, the speed of evolution becomes quicker. On the mystic path, for instance, if you are practising Kriya Yoga, for how long can you do it? Three, four or five hours at a stretch. If you do it any longer than that, it might reduce you to gas, and the reduction cannot be explained in terms of losing a few pounds of weight; you might lose everything. But if you remember God as you remember your husband or wife, mother or father, or anyone who is close to you, whom you love, then throughout the day and night there will be no extra generation of heat as in Kriya Yoga.

Bhakti is a path of love, and the path of love is a path of remembrance. The path of remembrance is only possible when you love someone and when you remember him or her, he or she is the only person who exists for you. It is not actually what you call a vision. If you have never seen God, how can you believe in Him? If you have seen God, you can love Him. Those who have got inborn faith and love for God should always go through the path of bhakti. They will easily reach the point where there is no mental derangement, no stomach upset, no heat, nothing of the sort in their spiritual practice.

How do you remember God? There is a story which is told about Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. One day a disciple came to him and asked, "How can I see God?" Ramakrishna said, "It is very easy. Do you love your wife, your son, your bank balance? Do you remember them often?" The man replied, "Yes, I remember them practically every moment of the day."

So, Ramakrishna said, "Okay, now take that love for your wife, son and bank balance, and give it all to God. If you can love only God with that same intensity, He will come to you shortly." That man went away and started loving God. When he came back to Ramakrishna he said, "I am loving God so much that I do not remember my wife, my son and my money. However, you said that I would meet Him shortly, but it is fifteen days and I have not met Him yet."

Later on, Ramakrishna was crossing the Ganga in a small boat and the same disciple was accompanying him. Whey they reached the middle of the river, Ramakrishna tossed the man into the water and told the boatman to row on. You can just imagine the man's struggle for life. He was gasping for breath arid fighting for life with every ounce of his strength.

Finally, Ramakrishna went back and picked him up. When he pulled the man out of the river, he asked him, "Well, how did you feel?" The man said, "Oh it was terrible, unimaginable!" Then Ramakrishna asked, "When you were struggling for life, gasping for breath, did you ever once ask why God was not coming?" The man said, "No." Then Ramakrishna said, "Develop that."

In the Tulsi Ramayana it is written, "Even as the most passionate man remembers his wife, as the greedy man remembers his wealth, in the same manner may I love my Rama". This should be the intensity of love you should have in order to follow the path of bhakti. Otherwise it is better to do Kriya Yoga than to go on kneeling in the church or bowing in the temple. Those devotees who go to the church or temple once a week and think they have done their duty are not devotees. They have no love and no devotion. Their hearts are empty. Prayer is not bhakti.

Human love which is transferred becomes divine love, and divine love which is transferred becomes human love. There is no difference. It is the same intensity of current that is channelised.

Can you tell us if, by regular practice and devotion, everybody will be able to awaken kundalini?

The path of devotion is the path of Bhakti Yoga, but bhakti should not be understood in the religious sense. Religion and bhakti are not the same and when you practise a religion, you do not necessarily practise bhakti.

Bhakti is intense awareness of the object of love. This love and attachment is not intellectual, not merely ritualistic, not just an expression of a particular cult. It is a part of your being. You do not have to learn how to love, how to practise attachment. They are already in you. You have brought the essential elements of attachment from your animal incarnations. Attachment is the remnant of instinct. Therefore, this attachment has to be sublimated. The practice of bhakti is mind consuming. It is such a powerful path! Once you can handle it, awakening is just a joke, but if you understand bhakti as prayer, rituals, reading of scriptures or just talking about God, then you have missed the point. Those people who have practised Bhakti Yoga in utmost sincerity have lived a life of total madness. They have not cared for anything substantial, significant or important in this life. For them, love, devotion, bhakti to that ultimate substance has been the sole purpose of their existence. They did not care if they were executed or killed, criticised or kicked, or even annihilated completely.

Bhakti completely releases the mind from material attachments and associations. You can only imagine it. When you love someone in this world intensely, maybe your child, maybe your boyfriend or girlfriend, what happens to you? You overcome many things and many ideas. Even by loving these mortal things, the child or friend, you are able to overcome, to transcend. If you have any idea about how to love the eternal self, transcendence will be a joking matter.

Ramakrishna, the mad saint of India in the last century, used to say, "If you can turn your attachment from your parents, if you can transform your attachment to your male or female friend, if you can transform and turn your attachment from your property, wealth and all things and direct it to the One self, the one being, you can find Him here and now." That is what he used to say, here and now!

Our bhakti is lukewarm. With lukewarm devotion nothing happens. We are neither satisfied nor does the experience take place. But, there is always a 'but.' What will happen to my car if that supreme devotion takes place? What will happen to my television? Who will pay my bills? You can see this 'but' is there, and because of this 'but' there is a stopper.

For a true bhakta, awakening of kundalini is just a joke. You can awaken your kundalini through pranayama, yoga, Bhakti Yoga, kirtan, Raja Yoga, Kriya Yoga, right-hand Tantra and left-hand Tantra. There are many ways but which is the most suitable for you?

If you are a fellow with attachment, then how can you practise Bhakti Yoga? In Bhakti Yoga you will have to withdraw all your attachments and direct them towards some being - all, not just fifty percent or sixty percent or ninety percent of your attachment. Not even ninety nine percent. All of your attachment which you have for anyone has to be withdrawn and directed towards one being. That is called bhakti.

How can we find God inside us?

God is inside, God is outside and God is in your bones. In order to find God, it is necessary for everybody to sit down quietly every day within themselves. Then they should transform their philosophy of life, transform the purpose of their incarnation, understand the relationship they have with everybody and then reflect upon the relationship between this external body and the inner being.

It is said that by true bhakti you can realise God, see God within you, but sometimes I find bhakti very difficult because we are emotionally bankrupt. All the emotion, all the devotion, all the love is squandered. You have the objects of the world which are so fanciful. You cry and scream and shout for those things which are so brief in life. Find out whom you love, day in and day out. Please find out how much love you can give to God. Do you love God as much as you love your son? Your girlfriend? Do you feel for God or remember Him as much as you remember your bank balance? I can give you thousands of examples from your life where you have failed to spare even a little love for Him.

Our love for God is intellectual. Our love for the things of this world is actual. It is so hard to change the picture. Then your love for the world becomes intellectual. Can you intellectually love your children, bank balance, property, poverty? It will take a twinkling of an eye to get that experience, otherwise, no matter how much I talk about religion, nothing will happen.

Once a disciple asked his Guru, "How can I see God within?" Guru replied, "Why don't you cry out for Him." The next day the disciple went to the sanctum sanctorum and started crying, "God I want you, I want you." He went on waiting and watching. The Guru said, "Good drama, my child," then he took the disciple on a journey. The Guru and the disciple were travelling by boat. When the boat was halfway across the river he dropped the disciple into the water, and the disciple started crying, screaming and waving. "Oh, help!" The Guru said, "Come on, come out. Have you ever cried like that for God?"

The disciple understood, but you can do it better. You can do these things for the one you love, but how to love that formless God? Whether he is white, black, brown or yellow, nobody knows. Guru tells us that he has all those symptoms. Books say that he is very different, but still the experience does not happen. Therefore, it is better that everybody should try and awaken the Self. This is the prime purpose of our incarnation on this planet. To cat, sleep, seek for security, to have sensual pleasure - these are also meant for animals. Man stands out first by one virtue the moment he becomes aware, he must think, "How can I see God in myself?" Then he should devote himself to the attainment of that experience.