Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati
Can love and fear coexist?
Love and fear coexist just as sun and shadow coexist, like the play of
night and day. If someone expresses a quality of love, whether sublime
or mundane, the fear that is the outcome of that love will also be expressed.
There will always be love and fear as long as human beings hold on to
the present definition of love as a form of attachment. When you love
somebody or something there is a close association that will bring with
it a form of attachment, a form of desire, and the attraction becomes
stronger and stronger. Attachments are bound to be created and fear is
the natural outcome.
Love and desire
If you want to be free from the fear associated with love, then the definition
of love has to change. People do not know how to love because the consciousness
is stuck at the level of mooladhara. Although love exists, it is coloured
and tainted by the influence of mooladhara, which is the desire for stability
and security. When you transcend mooladhara and come to swadhisthana,
love takes another colour. When you come to manipura, the colour of love
will change again, becoming more aggressive and dynamic. As long as the
expression of love is at the level of mooladhara, swadhisthana and manipura,
there is also bound to be fear.
Real change is felt only when the consciousness comes to the level of
anahata and you connect with the positive expression of love. Love is
a quality, not a desire; it is the inherent nature of a human being. Just
as each element has an inherent quality, a nature that it expresses optimally,
so love also has a quality. At the level of anahata love expresses itself
differently; it becomes a nature, not a desire.
At present we want love out of desire, whether biological or sexual,
to fill an emotional vacuum, out of insecurity, or a desire for comfort
and safety. That love is mental, emotional, psychological and sensual,
and is defined as gross love. The most basic form of love is when we seek
to fulfil a need or vacuum in our life. When love simply becomes our nature
and a part of our life without thinking about it, then the concept of
love has taken on a different meaning, because it is not coloured by desire.
This is the love that the masters have said one must try to attain. The
greater the influence of desire on love, the more one is subject to the
influence of guilt and fear. This can only change when the desire for
personal fulfilment and satisfaction at gross levels changes to the experience
of pure love.
A higher quality of love
Sthitaprajna is a different form of love where wisdom prevails over the
needs and desires. In that love one experiences peace and bliss. It flows
through the senses, becomes energy and radiates out. This love can make
people forget their own instinctive nature. There are stories that in
ashrams in ancient India, tigers and sheep would forget their natural
animosity and drink together from the same water hole. All the natural
fears would be dropped in an environment of pure love.
Bhakti yoga aims at making love pure, transcendental and focused, by
getting rid of fear and guilt and providing a focus and direction for
the emotions. When love is said to emanate from the higher self it becomes
fulfilling. We belong to the world because our associations and identifications
are with the world. You may give your wisdom to someone, the best that
you can, but what you receive will depend on the other person's level
of consciousness, which may be lower or higher. When you identify with
the love you receive from someone, then your own consciousness will move
up or down to the same level as theirs. Love is not simply an act of giving,
it is also an act of receiving. When you give love, you receive love and
when you receive love, your mind adjusts to the nature of love being received.
But the exchange happens at a very superficial level.
In bhakti yoga a focus is given to the channelling of emotions and an
effort is made to make love into a spontaneous expression of the self
while inter-relating with the manifest world. Paramahamsaji has said that
emotions are pure, like a crystal ball. A crystal ball has no colour of
its own, it is transparent, and when placed on a coloured cloth, it will
reflect the colours of the cloth. In the same manner, when our emotions
come into contact with different people and objects, they take on the
colours of that person or object.
If your emotions attach themselves to money, that emotion will be identified
as greed. If your emotions become attached to the opposite sex, that emotion
will be passion. If attached to your enemy, that emotion will be animosity
or hatred. If attached to somebody near and dear to you, that will be
known as affection. And if your emotions attach themselves to higher consciousness,
then that emotion will be known as bhakti, and it will manifest as pure
love, shuddha prem.
Bhakti yoga is a very powerful tool for the generation and expression
of love without boundaries universal love. But the process of bhakti
yoga, although it sounds simple, is very complex, because you have to
recondition the existing human nature and rechannel all the forces that
flow out to converge at a single point of focus. That point can be called
God, the force of creation; it can be called guru, the energy which removes
ignorance and darkness; it can be called love, prem. The literal meaning
of the word prem is to appreciate and be identified with something intensely
and silently. In that identification there is absolute peace. There is
not even the birth of a desire. It is a state of contentment, wholeness
and fulfilment. But to come to this point, basic changes have to take
place in attitude, beliefs and the expression of love, in order to purify
oneself. All these areas are covered in bhakti yoga.
The process of bhakti yoga is simple, just as the processes in hatha
yoga, raja yoga or kriya yoga are simple, but the aim is quite different
from the process. The aim of hatha yoga is purification and harmony of
the body. The concept of harmony of the body is quite complex, but the
process is simple asana, shatkarma, etc. The aim of raja yoga is
self-management; the process is yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara,
dharana, dhyana and samadhi. The purpose of kundalini yoga is to awaken
the dormant potential; the process is chakras, mantras, yantras, and so
Nine stages of bhakti
The aim of bhakti yoga is to identify with the pure nature of emotions,
love and spirit. The process is through kirtan, mantra, adoration, contemplation,
prayer and so forth. But these transformations have to take place in an
area of our personality that has not yet been mapped or charted. So, there
are nine stages to bhakti yoga and one should be able to attain each stage,
experience it and live it.
- Encounter with truth
The first form of bhakti is encounter with the inherent truth. Although
that statement sounds simple, what does it really mean? We all wear
different kinds of masks which we put for self-identity. Each mask projects
us as a particular type of person at different times, hiding our true
nature. The discovery of truth is learning to live without a mask so
you can discover who you are, what your real nature is, after dropping
all the masks. This is the first attainment of bhakti.
- Identification with the godly qualities
Identifying with the positive and the uplifting qualities of godhood
is the second form of bhakti. In the Indian tradition, people have defined
the qualities that must exist in a yogi, a saint or a realized being.
For example, Jainism has very clear definitions of how to know when
a person has become arahant, enlightened, what conditions need to be
fulfilled. After all, if people tell us that God is within and can be
realized, then upon realization that would make us identify with the
godly nature and we would have the same potential as God at a microcosmic,
not a macrocosmic, level. So in the second form of bhakti, we identify
with the qualities of the godly nature and they take a place in our
In order to impress somebody, even the most crooked person can behave
in a very diplomatic and refined manner. In the same way, in order to
experience the transcendental nature that same person can adjust and
adapt to express a divine quality. Through identification with that
quality there will be identification with and understanding of the nature
of God and a transformation of the whole personality can take place.
- Adherence to the teachings
The third form of bhakti is adhering to the teachings given by the
guru, the enlightened master, with innocence and simplicity, following
in his footsteps sincerely without superimposing your own ideas and
beliefs upon the teachings you have received. When you try to adjust
and accommodate the teachings to suit your own needs, then the teachings
become irrelevant. But when the teaching is taken in the spirit of learning,
in order to improve the quality of life, then it becomes a relevant
personal philosophy, a way of life.
- Acceptance of reality
The fourth form of bhakti is being aware of the miracle of the glory
of God without manipulation or deviousness. In this form of bhakti,
we learn to accept reality as it exists. Our normal tendency is to try
to adjust reality to suit ourselves. In summer we try to make our environment
cool; in winter we try to make it warm, even though suffering a little
heat in summer and cold in winter makes the body strong. So be aware
of the glory of reality and learn to accept it as an ongoing process.
Every step of life is some kind of miracle.
St John of the Cross said, I swear by God, I die every night.
That is one miracle, and the fact that you wake up in the morning is
another. The fact that you can analyze things is another miracle, and
that you can be aware of every moment as it goes by is another. We do
not live just in a mechanical clockwork world. There is also a way to
respond directly to the miraculous expressions of every dimension of
life. We learn about them and we live being guided by them, and accept
- Remembrance of God with faith through mantra
The fifth form of bhakti is remembrance of God's name, God's
nature and God's wisdom, with absolute faith. Faith is the natural
outcome of acceptance. Once there is faith, then remembrance will follow,
which is the key to opening your connection with the cosmic self. Gold
is taken out of the earth, refined and made into a necklace, which you
wear. Although the original appearance has changed, the essence is still
gold. If that necklace falls into the lavatory, you value it enough
to put your hand in to retrieve it, wash it and wear it again. In the
same manner, you have to value the remembrance of God and be ready to
retrieve that remembrance from any pit into which it falls.
Faith comes in bhakti and with faith comes remembrance. Remembrance
is a link between the lower self and the higher self in the form of
a mantra. Mantra is that force which liberates the mind, without identifying
with it mananat trayate iti mantrah. Normally there is some association
with every word. If somebody says you are good, you associate with the
word 'good' and feel happy. If somebody says you are bad,
you associate with the word 'bad' and feel bad. The self-image
and self-esteem are affected because we tend to see ourselves through
the eyes of others and do not know our real nature.
Mantras are vibrations that do not have a literal meaning or association.
Rather they are sounds produced from vibrations with particular frequencies
that activate a part of the brain, the energy and chakras, and the consciousness.
The body is full of vibrations and identification with the inherent
vibrations leads one to realization of the godly nature. Knowledge of
vibration has existed in the past: In the beginning was the word,
and the word was with God, it says in the Bible. In the Upanishads
it is said, Om iti, yad ahsharam vidam Om existed, exists and
will exist. Om is the primordial, cosmic sound.
Matter is nothing but compressed energy. If we were able to look into
the molecular structure of any object, we would find atoms, electrons,
protons and neutrons all moving in a pre-determined way. In the centre
we would find the nucleus vibrating. Wherever there is vibration and
movement, there is bound to be a frequency and, therefore, sound. Mantras
represent that vibration, that frequency, that sound. So the fifth form
of bhakti is using mantras to go deep inside one's mind and consciousness,
without any identification with the intellectual mind or the inner experience,
and remaining connected with faith.
- Restrained and graceful action
The sixth form of bhakti is modesty and gracefulness, which is an outer
expression in life where you are living and expressing your human dharma.
Yoga is known as restrained expression. When we are not restrained,
it means that our actions are not clearly guided and do not really have
a purpose. In yoga the idea of restraint does not mean to hold back
but to give purpose, direction, motivation and clarity to whatever we
do. Knowledgeable, considered action is where you restrain the usual
tendencies of the mind, focus upon one thing and fulfil it.
Dharma is generally defined in English as duty, commitment or obligation,
but the real meaning of dharma is an attitude, a mentality, a lifestyle
which you are able to maintain and which helps to uplift your life.
There are three major components of dharma: appropriate thinking, appropriate
behaviour and appropriate action. Dharma means doing what is appropriate,
guided by wisdom. So the sixth form of bhakti is giving yourself a focus
and fulfilling your human dharma by performing the appropriate action
in a graceful manner.
- Seeing divinity in everything
The seventh form of bhakti is the ability to see divinity in everything
by realizing that the divine spark exists in every aspect of creation.
The life in this body is an expression of God. The motion of the mind
is an expression of God. The greenness in a leaf or a blade of grass,
the liquidity of water, the warmth of fire are all expressions of God.
Insects, inanimate objects, the elements, everything has its function
and is fulfilling its role in the scheme of creation, which is being
guided by the cosmic will. Realizing that the entire creation is an
expression of the divine will and being able to perceive the transcendental
nature in everything is the seventh aspect of bhakti.
Contentment is the eighth form of bhakti. The same concept is the second
niyama in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. When you are content, you are
fulfilled and do not see the faults or mistakes of others. When contentment
becomes the dominant quality in one's life, the nature is pure,
complete, and needs nothing further added to it. When you are content,
there is an inner stability, no desire for gain, no fear of loss; you
are just being yourself.
The desire for gain comes when there is arrogance. Depression comes
with loss when you are not self-willed and lack self-confidence. When
you are the natural you, then at that time there is contentment. Externally,
you are centred and balanced in both victory and defeat. At the psychological
level the mind is properly harmonized and there is no ill will towards
anyone or anything. You don't see the shortcomings or the negativity.
Everyone is expressing according to their level of education. In a school
the children behave and act according to the class they are in. It is
the same in the world. Each one of us is in a different class and our
maturity is according to the class we are in. Finding a balance in the
expressions of the mind, generating a feeling of inner contentment and
experiencing completeness is the eighth form of bhakti.
- Let thy will be done
The ninth form of bhakti is 'Let thy will be done', the final
letting go of individuality, where you become an instrument that God
plays upon. You have to become empty. Radha once asked Krishna, Why
do you love your flute more than me? Krishna replied, The
whole world knows that I love you. Why do you ask? Because
you hold the flute to your lips all the time, said Radha. That,
replied Krishna, is because the bamboo of the flute is totally
hollow inside, and when people empty themselves then I love them very
dearly. So just allow yourself to become hollow inside, without
any conflict, problems or difficulties; let go and become totally free.
When you become free from self-created barriers, then you become the
darling of God and then you live according to the divine will
and the feeling that comes is Make me an instrument of thy love.
One with God
These are the nine stages of bhakti in which transformations take place
in the realm of consciousness and in the realm of mind, attitude and behaviour.
The processes to attain these are said to be kirtan, mantra, chanting,
contemplation, prayer and meditation. The aim of bhakti is to go through
these nine steps one by one and to become established in the state of
pure love where you are free from fear. Then you become one with God.
There are examples of people who have become one with God. There is the
story of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. History says that at the time of his death
he was dancing in front of Lord Jagannath, and the two became one. When
the saint Kabir Das died, both the Muslims and the Hindus claimed him
as their patron saint. But when they removed the shroud, they found only
flowers. Another example is Mira Bai, the poet saint. At the time of her
death, her body became light and it merged with the statue of Krishna.
These are recorded events in history, such things do happen. In more
recent times, when St Theresa of Avila went into ecstasy, the signs of
the stigmata would appear on her hands and feet. When she came out of
this state of ecstasy, the signs would disappear. That means the level
of identification is so deep that even the body can change because it
is simply compressed energy. When that energy is freed, it becomes one
with the divine energy. This is the miracle of understanding and living
the belief of 'Let thy will be done'.
—Ganga Darshan, January 1, 2002