The Lord declared in the Gita, "When you constantly think of me with love, I will bless you with the gift of spiritual discrimination. This will lead you to permanent union with me. I promise this to you."
The Buddhi is the discriminating faculty through which you can separate that which is real from that which is unreal, that which is permanent from that which is changing. This power of spiritual discernment becomes available only to people who have developed sacred devotion and are filled with love for God. Devotion is the royal road to attaining the highest wisdom. In truth, it is the only path leading to self-knowledge. Devotion evokes the grace of God. The Lord proclaimed in the twelfth chapter of the Gita, "The one who is devoted to me is very dear to me."
What is devotion? It is the steady flow of love towards God. When your love flows towards individuals or towards transient, worldly things it cannot be called devotion; it is really only a form of attachment. But when your love flows unceasingly towards God, the one unchanging principle behind this world of change, then your love becomes devotion.
Initially, you develop your devotion by turning towards God and approaching him. Then, you strengthen your love for God by cultivating the attitude that you are his devotee or his servant and you surrender yourself to his will. As your love for God deepens, you progress to the stage where you feel an intimate closeness to God and experience his presence continuously. Finally, you reach the consummation of your spiritual journey when you fully realize the truth, "I am God. God and I are one."
In practice, devotion takes two forms. First, there is the type of devotion which involves various devotional practices and rituals engaged in by devotees, such as the traditional practice of worshipping the Lord with ritual offerings, making pilgrimages to spiritual centers and attending spiritual functions, singing devotional songs and studying devotional literature, and so on. These are the ordinary types of devotion. In the Gita the Lord taught that these various practices can be considered to be of a lower type. But, when your worship expands into a total absorption in God, when your love for God enters into every activity of your daily life and you develop a flawless, sacred character, then you are expressing the higher devotion which very much pleases the Lord.
There is a clear distinction, therefore, between this devotion which is particularly dear to the Lord and the more ordinary type of devotion. The latter uses the things of the phenomenal world to worship the Lord, such as flowers, for example. Where have these articles come from? Have you been able to manufacture them? Have you created these flowers? No. They have all been created by the Lord. Where, then, is the sacrifice in offering to the Lord things which he himself has created? Such offerings will not get you very far on your spiritual path. But to offer to the Lord the sacred flowers of your heart, which are not related to the world, and to offer these in loving worship to the one who is seated in your heart, that is the highest form of devotion. That is the devotion you should aspire for.
Another way of thinking of this highest form of devotion is as the uninterrupted meditation on God alone. In the popular understanding of the word, meditation refers to concentrating on an object, and through that object reaching a higher state of consciousness. But this is not the correct approach to meditation. True meditation is meditation on God, and only on God. Therefore, meditation and devotion are really the same; both are the process of concentrating on God to the exclusion of everything else, thinking only of him. Without such meditation or devotion it is impossible to realize the constant presence of God everywhere, in everything, and thereby, gain true spiritual knowledge.
You long to enjoy the fruit, but you will not be able to get it without first having the flower. First comes the blossom, then comes the fruit. Devotion is like the flower. Without first developing the flower of unshakable love for God and allowing it to blossom forth, it will be impossible for you to acquire the fruit of spiritual wisdom. This flower of love may express itself in different ways as the following example shows.
There were two devotees who both had an all-consuming love for God. One was a householder leading a family life and the other was a renunciate monk. The family man felt himself to be the servant of the Lord and always practiced the principle of total surrender to God. The great virtue of the servant stage is that through the practice of humility and surrender, the ego quickly disappears. As long as you have egoism, you will not be able to gain the sacred knowledge of the supreme self.
Egoism can be found everywhere. Even Arjuna, whom Krishna befriended for so long, and to whom Krishna gave so much encouragement, was riddled with egoistic feelings throughout his life. It was only after Arjuna threw down his bow and surrendered himself completely to the Lord, saying, "Command me, O Lord, I will do whatever you say," that Krishna taught him the highest wisdom of the Gita.
So, the householder started from the very humble beginning which is associated with "I am your servant, O Lord, I am your instrument", and he expressed his unshakable love for God that way. On the other hand, the monk, expressed his love for God by seeking God everywhere he went, in everyone and in everything he encountered. He would constantly repeat, "Everywhere I look I find only God. Everything I see is created by God and imbued with God. Everyone I meet is but God. I too am truly God."
Because of the different circumstances of their lives, these two individuals adopted different paths to overcome the power of illusion. The householder, by following the path of a servant became smaller and smaller, until he became so small that he slipped through the clutches of that fierce tiger maya, the terrible power of illusion, which had held him in its claws. By losing his ego he became free. For the monk, the shackles of illusion which had been binding him were broken to pieces when he transcended his ego limitations by absorbing himself in the conviction "Everywhere there is only God. All is God. I too am God. I am God." Through their deep love of God, each in his own way was able to transcend the power of illusion.
If you develop within yourself the sacred and lofty idea, "I am God", you will not be bothered by anything; nothing can come in your way. Of course, it is of no use to merely utter these words. You must first overcome your body consciousness and maintain a firm control over your senses. At the same time, you must develop an intense love for God and live it by continuously identifying yourself with the divine. This will lead you to the supreme wisdom. Or, you can express your love for God by following the path of the servant. This will quickly remove the egoism from your heart and fill you with bliss.
There are three successive stages on the way to God-realization. In the very beginning you will declare, "I am a devotee of God." Here there are two entities, one is God and the other is you, the devotee. God is believed to be away somewhere, and your approach will be to try to find God, to get closer to him, and become very near to him. Gradually you progress along this path and, in time, you will come face to face with God. Then you say to him, "Dear Lord, I belong to you." In this second stage, you stand erect before God and declare yourself as his own, very close to him. Then in the third stage you know yourself to be one with God and you state, "You and I are one."
The first stage, which is characterized by the declaration, "I am the servant of God," and where God is cognized as a faraway form, is dualism. The second stage, where you say directly to God, "O Lord, I am your devotee", and feel him inside your heart, is the stage of qualified non-dualism. The third stage, in which the ultimate truth dawns within you and you say to God, "I am you and you are me", is non-dualism. At that point there is no distinction between you and God.
You commence your journey from the stage of dualism and finally end up in the stage of non-dualism. You start your spiritual practice with the very ordinary type of devotion, worshipping God with form and attributes and using rituals and external forms of worship. But then you quickly progress onto the formless, the absolute aspect of the Divinity. In this way, you initially develop yourself spiritually by being a servant of God, but eventually you become fully identified with God.
Consider, for a moment, a very big circle, and consider that just by its side and separate from it there is another circle, one which is very much smaller. The big circle may be thought of as God, the small one as the individual soul. Here the individual is different and distinct from God; this is dualism. When you bring the smaller circle in so that it lies within the bigger circle, you have qualified non-dualism; now the individual is part of the Divinity, he exists in God. What then is the meaning of the individual becoming totally merged in God? The small circle has to broaden itself and grow bigger and bigger until it has fully expanded to the size of the big circle. At that point the two circles are indistinguishable and man has merged himself into God. This is complete non-dualism.
On the path of devotion it is absolute surrender which makes the individual soul expand and become merged with God. It is when you relinquish your limited individuality by surrendering yourself to the divinity inherent within you that all your weaknesses will leave you and you will develop the broadness of mind that finally culminates in your mergence with God. How can you gain this understanding of your divine nature? How can you recognize the divinity within you so that you can follow its directions? It is only through steady practice that you will acquire this realization.
To acquire even the smallest skills in the world, you have to constantly practice, be it reading, writing, walking or talking. All of these are developed through practice alone. If you start your practice at the first step then eventually you will be able to reach the last step. In this case, the last step means acquiring the supreme knowledge that makes you free.
There are two types of knowledge. One refers to spiritual knowledge, the other to knowledge of the physical world. Inquiring into the various properties of an object is the ordinary knowledge associated with the world. But understanding the inner principle, the underlying basis and purpose of every object that has ever existed in the world, is spiritual knowledge; that is what can be called wisdom. This is a very important quality to cultivate. Even for understanding the world in its deeper aspects, you first have to acquire spiritual wisdom.
To gain spiritual wisdom you must use your body wisely and have your mind and your senses under control. Without the body it is not possible to perform any activity. For all types of work and activities, the body is needed; it is the basis for all practices. Use your body for the purpose of reaching your goal and in performing activities which will be useful to others. Here is a small example.
Consider for a moment that you have gone on a picnic to a forest, and that you have taken along all the articles necessary for cooking and preparing your food. Just before you start your meal preparations, you gather up three stones and arrange them as a base for the cooking vessels. Next you put some water in the vessel and then you add the rice. Underneath the vessel, in between the stones, you make a fire.
What is the purpose of the fire beneath the vessel? It is through the heat of the fire that you can cook the rice which is in the vessel. Without the vessel, if the rice were to be put straight into the fire, you would not be able to get the food that you want. The heat of the fire gets transmitted to the vessel, and on from the vessel to the water, and finally from the water to the rice. In this way the rice gets cooked and you enjoy your meal.
In this forest of life, you are searching for bliss, which can be compared to the food that you prepare. The three stones are the three basic qualities of inertia, activity and purity, underlying all natural phenomena and human activities. Your body may be considered the vessel. Your feelings and desires are the water, and your spiritual yearnings and aspirations are the rice. The fire which you have put between these three stones is the purifying practice which is used to acquire wisdom. This purifying fire which must continue for some time, has to be applied to the body, and through the body to the feelings and desires; these in turn will be cooked and transmuted into the highest spiritual yearnings. Finally, this process results in the cooked product, the spiritual food, the knowledge of the true self, which you have been aspiring for. This knowledge grants eternal bliss.
It would not be possible for you to realize such spiritual wisdom directly in your heart, straight off, without first going through the cooking process. Through the body and your good actions you have to burn up your desires, transform them into spiritual yearnings; this will then lead to the realization of the highest knowledge.
The correct application of the practice of meditation is the gradual, slow and steady control of all desires through the constant practice of love for God. By controlling the sense organs and controlling your desires it will become possible to carry on all your activities in a totally natural and spontaneous way, without expecting to reap any fruits from your labors. Actually, it is impossible to have work without fruits. Whenever you engage in an activity there will necessarily follow some consequence or result; this is the fruit of that action. So, it is not that there are no fruits, but the Gita teaches that you should give up interest in the fruits. The fruits will always be there, but do not work for the purpose of obtaining these fruits. Work only because it is your duty to work, because it is God's will.
While discharging your duty there will incidentally be some desires and there will also be some results, in other words, some fruits. There is no harm in that. Just continue doing your duty. Gita has not taught that actions will be without fruits. People who have not correctly understood the meaning of sacrificing the fruits of action are giving up the action itself. But actions must be engaged in. What the Gita stresses is renunciation in action and not renunciation of action. Until the food is cooked there is need for the fire. Until you understand the inner secret of work, and that of sacrificing the fruits of work, you will have to continue to engage in activities and discharge your duties.
A noble character and good behavior announces the inner truth of a person; this truth is based on love. Whether you are engaged in sacrificing the fruits of your actions, or contemplating on the omnipresent Lord, or practicing inner inquiry and aspiring to gain wisdom, the root of all these spiritual exercises is love. There are five major human values that distinguish a noble human being. These are truth, righteousness, peace, love and nonviolence. But they do not exist separately. They are all essentially dependent on one of these five, which is the primary value. That is love.
When love enters the thoughts it becomes truth. When love manifest itself in the form of action it becomes righteousness. When your feelings become saturated with love you become peace itself. The very meaning of the word peace is love. When you fill your understanding with love it is nonviolence. For all these noble human qualities it is love which flows as the undercurrent.
Another way of saying this is when you saturate every thought of yours with love then you are immersed in truth. When you practice love in your daily life it is dharma or righteous living. When you feel love all the time you are established in abiding peace. And when you have a deep understanding of the divine principle of love you become steeped in nonviolence. In the Gita, in the chapter on devotion, it says, "Fill yourself with love and use this love to reach me. In that way, you will develop both nearness and dearness to me."
Dear devotee. Your hands are very small but with these little hands you are trying to serve me. Your eyes are very small but with these two little eyes you are trying to see my infinite vastness. Your ears are very small but with these two little ears you are trying to follow my sacred words. With your two little feet you are attempting to come towards me.
But merely serving me with your two little hands will not achieve very much. Merely looking at my infinite form with your two little eyes will also not be of much use. Merely listening to my divine words through your two little ears will not get you very far. And merely coming into my presence with your two little feet will not serve you so strongly. But there is one thing you can do which will have a great impact, which will produce a truly significant effect. That is: Install me permanently in your heart! Once you bring me into your heart then all these other activities will no longer appear very important.
Whatever worship you have been engaged in, using your eyes and your ears and your hands and your feet, has only served to control your mind. But when you invite the Lord to enter your heart, then control of the mind and the senses becomes very easy. The mind and senses will become still on their own. There will be no need for any special effort to be made for sacrificing the fruits of your actions. Krishna said, "Once you start thinking only of me, and keeping your thoughts constantly fixed on me, then I will automatically take care of all the rest." To achieve this state of total one-pointed focus on the Lord, you must develop a firm resolve and an unshakable faith that the Lord is ever-present in your own heart. Your heart is his residence.
God is always full and complete; to reach such infinite fullness you must have full faith. When God is full and complete and you are not full and complete, there cannot develop the necessary binding force that will hold you and God together. To reach the full and complete love that is God, you must also have a full heart, full of love and faith. If, instead, you are filled with doubts, you will undermine this pure principle of love which is your true nature; your doubts will blemish your heart and distance you from the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent Lord, who is aware of your every thought.
Whatever thoughts you have, fill them with him. Think of him with a full heart saturated with love and faith; then you will certainly reach him. In the Gita, He said that you will become dear to him when you worship him fully with all your heart. That means seeing him everywhere, in everything. The Gita proclaimed, in all of the creation do not hate anyone or anything, for he is in every name and form. When you have the feeling of love permeating your whole being, you become very dear to him.
All the noble human qualities are already there in their fullness in every human being, but very few people are making any effort to become aware of them. They are wasting their time in pursuing only outer activities in the world. But you must also engage in inner activities which will help you to reach your goal. For example, you perform your worship using external rituals, but you must perform your worship internally, as well, offering God the flowers of your heart. Then there will be unity and harmony in your life. Once you achieve such unity in all your activities, both inner and outer, your life becomes sanctified and you will experience fulfillment in whatever you do.
In the path of devotion, it has been taught that love is the basis of everything. It is the single most important quality that has to be developed. All your thoughts must become immersed in this quality of love... then truth will naturally establish itself in your heart. All your acts must be saturated with love... then righteousness will naturally manifest itself in all your undertakings. All your feelings must be soaked in love... then you will be able to enjoy immense peace. And all your understanding must be filled with love... then you cannot hate or hurt anything. Therefore, love is the very basis of peace of mind. Love is the very birthplace of truth. Love is the very foundation of righteousness and nonviolence. That is why Baba has so often said, "Love is God. God is love."
The essence of the teaching of the path of devotion is to develop and practice this selfless love. Then you will become broadminded and, in that way, fully develop all the greatness that is inherent within you.
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