Krishna declared in the Gita, "If you surrender yourself fully to me and take shelter in me, you will be protected by me. I will drive away your sins and guide you towards self-realization." You must treasure this statement in your heart. Steadfastly follow the path of surrender to the Lord and he will look after you and take you to him.
God's power is immeasurable and unlimited. The huge diversity you see when you look out at the universe is all the result of the illusory power of God. The physical universe visible to your human eyes is just a very small part of the infinite power of the Lord. All the worlds can be covered by a fraction of the foot of the Lord. It is impossible to understand the greatness of the Lord. He pervades the entire universe, gross and subtle. No place exists where he is not.
The universe is the body of God. He has embodied himself in the creation. To understand the divine principle on which the universe rests, you can begin by considering the vast size of the universe. The moon is hundreds of thousands of miles away from the earth. The sun is many tens of millions of miles away. Even the nearest of stars is millions upon millions of miles away; and beyond that, in the furthest reaches of the visible universe, there are stars that are still billions of times further away. But, all of this, which constitutes the physical universe, and which to our limited view is so infinitely vast, is only the minutest part of the subtle universe. Compared to this subtle universe, the whole grand physical universe is no more than the size of an atom.
The subtle universe, which is so indescribably huge when compared to the physical universe, is itself only a microscopic part of a much, much vaster aspect of the universe, which can be described as the causal universe. It is known as the causal universe because it is out of this finest aspect that the gross and subtle worlds arise. All of these three worlds, the physical, the subtle (or mental), and the causal, are so enormously big, the scriptures have declared that they cannot possibly be understood by the human mind or depicted in words. They are beyond the imagination, beyond the ability of the mind to grasp. And yet beyond all these, transcending the gross, the subtle and the causal, is the divine principle, the ultimate cause of all.
God is beyond the gross, the subtle and the causal. But, as Lord, he rules over all of them. He is the master of time, past, present and future. Human beings have been given limited capacities and may find it very difficult to understand this divine principle. In that case, the easiest path to follow is the path of devotion. This is what Krishna taught Arjuna. Krishna described the path of devotion in three steps.
First and foremost is: Work for God! You may not be aware of it, but every bit of work you do is already being done for God. He is the supreme master of this world and everything in this world belongs to him. Knowing this, consciously make every action you undertake an offering to God. Devote all your labors to him, while being ever mindful that God is not outside of you.
The second step is: For the sake of God alone! Up to this point you have been thinking only about yourself. But who are you? Who is this I that you use to refer to yourself? Krishna said, "It is I who am shining in you." This word I does not belong to the body, neither to your own body nor to Krishna's. This I emanates from the highest self, the immortal self, the atma. This I should not be equated with the body or the mind or the intuitive faculty or any other aspect of the individual. It transcends the limited personal self of the individual. This I relates only to the unlimited, impersonal self, the divine self, which is the real self of everyone.
The limited personal self by calling itself "I", has associated itself with the universal. But the personal self is not the real self. It is merely a reflection of the one immortal, divine self. Whatever you have been doing has been for the satisfaction of the divine self alone. Not realizing this sacred truth, you have been caught up and swept away by delusion. Krishna told Arjuna, "Whatever you do, do it for my satisfaction, for my sake. Do everything you do for me. Perform all your actions on my behalf. Act as my agent." This me or my or I which Krishna is speaking of, is not God outside of yourself. It refers to the atma, your divine self. Do everything you do for the sake of God alone, who is none other than your highest self.
The third step is: Be devoted only to God! Understand the inner secret of this directive. Devotion is the expression of love, and the emotion which is called love emanates from God, your highest self. Love comes from God and is directed towards God.
Love has nothing at all to do with worldly feelings and secular things. Love, which is just another word for devotion, is the very name of your highest self. This principle of love emanating from the core of your heart must saturate every action, word and thought. This will happen when you think that everything you do, say or think is for the satisfaction of God alone.
In the waking state, you may think that you are doing everything for the sake of your body and mind. But in deep sleep you are not conscious of your body or your mind. Then for whose sake are you enjoying the rest and peace of sleep? It is for the sake of yourself. Sleeping, taking food, all the various activities of your daily life, are performed only out of love for yourself. You believe that you are doing all these for your personal self which you experience to be separate from God, but the I that you call yourself really emerges from your highest self which is no different from God. Whatever you do out of love for yourself reaches your highest self and, therefore, reaches God. So you must do everything with the awareness that whatever action you undertake, good or bad, will certainly reach God. Devotion means making all your actions sacred and dedicating them to God alone.
In the ancient scripture we find a conversation between a sage and his wife in which the sage explained these inner meaning to his wife. He said to her, "For whose sake are you loving me? If you examine your deepest intentions you will discover that it is for your self. The wife does not love the husband for the husband's sake. It is for herself that she loves the husband and that self is the true self, her highest self. You may think that the mother loves the child for the sake of the child, but it is not so. It is for herself that she loves the child. Again, it is for her highest self. You may feel that the teacher loves the student for the student's sake, but it is really for the teacher's sake that he loves the student. Similarly, the devotee does not love God for God's sake; it is really for himself that he loves God."
When the devotee feels the deep joy of love for God, he believes it is his personal self that is feeling this joy. And so his love for God is tinged with selfishness. But, God's love for the devotee is totally different. God's love for the devotee is not selfish. It is only for the devotee's sake. Herein lies an important hidden truth which can be found behind every spiritual practice. God has no sense of individuality or separation. He does not feel that some things are his and others are not his. When there exists a feeling of difference and individuality, then selfishness and the sense of I-ness and my-ness arise. But God does not limit himself to any particular form. He has no separate feeling of mine and thine. He has no selfishness. These three injunctions, "Work for God!... For the sake of God alone!... Be devoted only to God!..." are given for your sake. They are not given for the benefit of God but for your benefit. They are intended to help you realize your true self by removing all traces of selfishness and separation which becloud your truth and keep you from being one with God.
If you want a little breeze you may take a hand-fan and wave it so that you get a little air. On the other hand, when there is a powerful whirlwind you find very big waves crashing against the shore of the ocean and even huge trees being uprooted. The breeze you can get from a hand-fan will be very limited, but the power of God is tremendous; it is unlimited. Consider some other examples. When you try to draw water from a well, you can draw only a very small quantity. But when there is a heavy downpour, streams will become rushing rivers which join together in one great flood. One comes from the limited power of man, the other comes from the unlimited power of God.
Take the example of wanting some light in your house. You may light a candle or switch on an electric lamp. But at dawn when the sun rises, the whole city and forest will soon be flooded with the sun's light. The little light of your lamp is very weak compared to the splendor of the sun, shining magnificently everywhere. Again, this is the unlimited power of God, compared to the limited power of man. How can you reach this unlimited power of God? How can the limited capacity of a human being be transformed into the unlimited capacity of God? The means is surrender.
The Lord has declared in the Gita, "I will destroy all your sins and raise you to the supreme position which is my own." How can that happen? The physical world that you see with your human eyes is the gross aspect of the universe. When this gross aspect takes a subtle form in the mind you have the subtle universe. And when the mental takes a still finer and more subtle form in the heart, then you have the causal universe. The infinite Lord is beyond all these. He is the biggest of the big, but he takes the form of the smallest of the small, and installs himself in the very heart of the devotee, deep in the causal aspect. The wonderful truth is that such a vast, unlimited and powerful Lord allows himself to be imprisoned in the heart of the devotee. Here is a story to illustrate this.
Once upon a time, sage Narada came into the presence of the Lord. The Lord asked him, "Narada, in all your travels through the world have you been able to discover the principal secret of the universe? Have you been able to understand the mystery behind this world? Everywhere you look you see the five great elements, earth, water, fire, air and ether. Which do you think occupies the first place? Of everything that is to be found in the universe what is the most important of all?"
Narada thought for awhile and then answered, "Lord, of the five elements the densest, biggest and most important is surely the earth element." The Lord answered, "How can the earth element be biggest when three-fourths of the earth is covered by water and only one-fourth is land? Such a big earth is being swallowed by the water. What is bigger, the thing that is being swallowed or that which is swallowing it?" Narada acknowledged that water must be bigger because it had swallowed the Earth.
The Lord continued his questioning. He said, "But Narada, we have the ancient tale that when the demons hid in the waters, then in order to find them, a great sage came and swallowed up the whole ocean in one gulp. Do you think the sage is greater or the ocean is greater?" Narada had to agree that without doubt the sage was certainly greater than the water he had swallowed. "But," continued the Lord, "it is said that when he left his earthly body, this same sage became a star in the heavens. Such a great sage is now appearing only as a small star in the vast expanse of the sky. Then what do you think is bigger; is it the sage or is it the sky that is bigger?" Narada answered, "Swami, the sky is surely bigger than the sage." Then the Lord asked, "Yet we know that one time when the Lord came as avatar and incarnated in a dwarf-body, he expanded himself so hugely that he was able to cover both the earth and the sky with his one foot. Do you think God's foot is bigger or the sky?" "O, God's foot is certainly bigger," Narada replied. But, the Lord asked, "If God's foot is so big, then what about his infinite form?"
Now, Narada felt that he had come to the final conclusion. "Yes," he said exultantly, "the Lord is the biggest of all. He is infinite beyond measure. In all the worlds there is nothing greater than he." But the Lord had still one more question. "What about the devotee who has been able to imprison this infinite Lord within his own heart? Now tell me, Narada, who is greater, the devotee who has the Lord locked up or the Lord who is locked up by the devotee?" Narada had to admit that the devotee was even greater than the Lord, and that, therefore, the devotee must rank first in importance over everything, surpassing even the Lord.
Such an enormous power which can bind even God, is within the scope of every devotee. Whatever be the immensity and capacity of any power, however magnificent it may be, if it is bound by something else, then that which binds it must be considered more powerful. The awesome power of God has been bound by the power of love; therefore, in this path of devotion, you can tie up the Lord himself and keep him locked in your heart.
If you take a drop of water from the ocean and keep it in the palm of your hand, compared with the ocean the drop appears very, very small. But put that same drop of water back into the ocean and it becomes a part of the infinite ocean. If your smallness as a human being is joined together with the vast power of the Lord, you become infinite and all-powerful; you become one with God. In the scriptures it is said, "The knower of God verily becomes God." In other words, the very process of knowing God merges you into oneness with God. This process which joins God and you together is called the path of devotion.
Unfortunately, many people today choose not to even recognize God; instead they prefer to rely only on their own limited strength and to be impressed only by human achievement. They are prepared to bend low before a village officer or a petty government official, but they refuse to show humility and obedience to the all-powerful cosmic personality, who is the master of the universe. God, who is the origin and cause of everything seen and unseen, is being ignored. The reason for this sad state is that very few have been able to understand the underlying truth behind this vast manifested universe. If they were to see that everything is but a reflection of the one divinity, they would never follow the wrong path.
If you have a wish-fulfilling tree in your courtyard why search for wild fruits in the forest? If you have the all-giving celestial cow in your house why wander around the market place looking for milk to buy? If you recognize the unlimited benefits you derive from having the celestial cow, you would never look elsewhere and get caught up in trivial pursuits. For little minds even small things look very big. You get what you deserve; think little and you become little. Little thoughts breed little natures. You are attracted by small things because you think that your power is limited. But truly speaking, your power is unlimited.
You remain small by identifying yourself with the body. You think, 'I am the body'. This thought keeps you in a state of littleness. But expand your view from 'I am the body' to 'I am the soul, the spark of the divine.' In this way rise up from the stage of dualism to the intermediary stage of qualified non-dualism. Then, you must expand further from 'I am the soul, a part of the divine' to 'I am the divinity itself, I am no different from God. God and I are always one.' That is the highest spiritual stage, the stage of complete non-dualism. The feeling you start with, that you are the body, is steeped in dualism; it is the very birthplace of sorrow. As long as you are immersed in duality everything is sorrow and grief. If you identify yourself with the supreme self everything will be happiness and joy.
You must elevate your thinking and always identify yourself with your highest self, thus giving up the false identification with the body. This is the proper attitude for worship. Worship in Sanskrit is called upasana;, which means sitting near to God. But it is not enough to just sit close by and be near. The frog sits on the lotus but does it benefit from the sweet nectar that is in the lotus? Just being near the Lord is of no use; you must also be dear to him. You must be able to taste the honey.
Your neighbors may be very near to you, but you do not get too deeply affected by whatever problems and difficulties they may be experiencing. Compared with this, if your husband or son is half a world away and you don't get a letter for even one week, you begin to worry. In this case the body is far away, but your mutual love makes you near and dear. Your relationship with your neighbors is not charged with the same love, although they are very near. Consider another example. In a house there may be some mice and ants running around. Do you call them your friends? Along with physical nearness there must also be dearness. A deep feeling of love must develop and permeate the relationship. You must be near and dear to the Lord.
What benefit will you derive by being near and dear? If you sit close to a lamp you get light, and with the help of its illumination you are able to do some useful activities at night. If you sit under a fan you get a cool breeze and the heat that was causing you discomfort will be dispelled. During the cold season of the year, if you sit near a fire you will be protected from the cold which may be bothering you then. In each case, one quality is removed and another takes its place.
Similarly, if you are close to the Lord, if you become dear to him, then you will get his love, and soon all the bad qualities in you will vanish away and be replaced by the good qualities that God embodies. Develop your love so that you may get ever nearer and nearer and dearer and dearer to God. The easiest way to get closer to God is to remember him in whatever you see, whatever you say and whatever you do. Think only of God and how to get nearer and dearer to him.
On the path of devotion it is not enough for you to love God but you must also engage in activities which are pleasing to the Lord, so that you can evoke God's love and feel his love for you. There are a number of characteristics that a devotee should possess which will endear him to the Lord. Treat censure or praise, heat or cold, profit or loss, joy or sorrow, honor or dishonor, or any of the other pairs of opposites, with an equal mind. Do not get dejected when you are criticized or elated when you are praised. Do not be overjoyed by profit or come to grief when there is loss. Treat heat and cold with an equal attitude, they can both be a source of joy to you.
During the winter warm clothing will be desirable and being near a source of heat will give you comfort from the cold. But, during the summer you will want thin clothes and you will welcome the cold. Heat gives joy sometimes, cold gives joy at other times; the way you use them determines whether you experience this joy or not. Heat and cold, profit and loss, and, in fact, all the various pairs of opposites and everything else in the world have their usefulness. Everything has been created for a purpose; but you need to use them in a way which is appropriate to your life and your stage of development.
It would be utter foolishness to give a golden cup to a child or to give a sword to a madman. A golden cup, which is highly valuable, should be given only to a person who would appreciate its value. Such a person will derive great joy from it and know how to use it. In the same way, the one who knows the value of devotion will use it to fill himself and others with pure joy. Genuine love will never give trouble to anyone, it will never lead one to hate another. In the 12th chapter of the Gita the desirable qualities of a devotee are enumerated; they start with 'Let there be no enmity directed towards any creature in the world.' Repeating parrot-like, "Lord, I love you", "Lord, I love you", while at the same time giving trouble to others cannot be considered devotion.
You become a devotee, filled with love and devotion, when you surrender yourself completely and are ready to carry out every command of the Lord. Arjuna, out of pride and egoism was feeling dejected; but after listening to the Lord, Arjuna fell at the divine feet and said, "Lord, I am your disciple. Teach me what is good for me. I surrender myself fully to you." Up until that time they were treating each other as brothers-in-law. Arjuna was married to Krishna's sister. But once Arjuna said, "I will do as you say. I will carry out your commands!", he became a devotee. The transformation took place in his mind, as he changed the relationship from a brother-in-law to that of a disciple, with the Lord as his teacher. Such a mental transformation is absolutely essential for a devotee. Without this, whatever level of closeness you feel you may have developed with the Lord, your devotion will remain fruitless and useless.
Being aware of these high principles, do your duty in life. Maintain an even mind and make sure that the work you do is good, and that it is always appropriate to the occasion. These verses from the Gita should not merely be memorized but they must be put into practice. When you fully understand their meaning and practice them in your daily life, your worries will soon leave you and all your sorrows will disappear.
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