All forms of love are nothing but a glimpse of the love which the Divine has for us. This Valentine’s Day, Dr. Rashmi Kaushal asks people to seek the love of the Divine, which is the wellspring of all the love that we have experienced in our lives.
Divine Love is a phrase commonly used by both religious and spiritual people. Upon hearing it, the first thing which comes to mind is that it is about people who are in love with the Divine. We visualize images of Sufi saints dancing and singing in praise of the Divine. They have renounced the world and are living in a different realm. They have forgotten their hunger and all materialistic needs and are just whirling and perceiving things from a different dimension. We can visualize the image of Hanumanji who tore open his chest and showed the picture of Lord Rama inside his heart. The love was so prominent that the image of the beloved was very much seen in the physical heart.
Krishna devotees may think about Meera, who was no less than a Sufi saint. She called the name of her beloved and danced on the streets like a madwoman. Her poetry is still alive and awakens love in the hearts of listeners even today. If we go through the scriptures, we get the most mesmerizing details of divine love with Lord Krishna enchanting Radha and all the gopis (cowherd women). They were merged in the highest love during the Maharaas (divine dance) where the Lord had taken numerous forms to be individual with all the gopis. All the gods and goddesses had appeared in the sky to watch this grand love ritual. Some of us believe this story, while others consider it fictional, but it is the greatest love story mentioned in our scriptures. Till today, artists perform in different forms to depict this eternal love and none of us can deny that we do not feel good while listening about it.
So what is divine love? If this question is asked to a child, it will immediately say, ‘God loves me, God loves us.’ Even though we often tell this to our children and hear this from our religious teachers, when a child replies, he says this with innocence and total faith. And often, its faith manifests. Like in the case of Prahlada, when Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Narasimha before the child devotee. There are numerous such stories when a god or goddess appeared on being called by a child. Just a hundred years ago, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who was as innocent as a child and loved Goddess Kali as a mother, compelled the Divine Mother to appear before him in person at his every call. He would talk with her, adorn her, and feed her from his hand.
People may have different opinions or definitions of divine love. Of the four paths of yoga—Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Kriya Yoga, and Gyan Yoga, emotion-related actions come under Bhakti Yoga. It is considered the easiest path to please the Lord and attain liberation, or moksha. All the rituals performed by people to please the Lord are done to ensure their well-being and the fulfillment of their wishes. People claim themselves to be devotees, and to prove it, they start counting the number of times they visited the temple, kept strict fasts, and made donations towards various religious causes. So why don’t we hear stories of the Lord appearing before a devotee? Definitely, such legends exist, but they can be counted on fingers despite many people claiming to be in bhakti or in divine love.
What is missing here? Are people actually in love with the Divine or just following their family tradition or worshipping Him to get worldly things? There is no harm in seeking material things from God, but whatever we do, we should do with awareness and complete clarity of our actions and emotions. So, the first thing which is missing is that the masses are far removed from an understanding of their actions and emotions. We need to ask ourselves, “Are we offering flowers to the Lord out of love or is it just a daily ritual? Are we singing songs in his praise to show off, please a gathering, or to satisfy ourselves that today, I read and recited before the Lord, therefore my duty is over for the day?” There is nothing wrong in fulfilling daily duties towards the Divine set by yourself or any tradition. They are designed to help people in different ways. But if we talk about divine love, we need to introspect.
The second thing missing here is the intention behind the action. Are we offering our love to the Divine with the right intention? Is it as pure as it should be, or have we a hidden motive behind it? When we become true lovers of the Divine, we even drop the expectation of mukti (liberation) or moksha (salvation). If anything, we want His association, His proximity. Sometimes, great lovers feel that moksha may not be able to get them the bliss of divine love and association. So a few devotees just want to be with the Divine and don’t seek anything except the Divine Himself.
How can we know whether we are in true love or are just claiming to be lovers of the Divine? This question comes to the mind of every seeker. The great poet Rahim says:
“Khair, khoon, khansi, kushi, bair, preet, madyapan
Rahiman dabe na dabe, Jaanat sakal jahan”
“Well-being, murder, cough, happiness, enmity, love, and drunkenness cannot be hidden, no matter how hard you try. The world will know automatically.”
So, when true love arises in someone’s heart, they don’t need to tell, show, or prove it to anyone. It just radiates from them. You are attracted to them. It envelopes you, whenever you are in the company of such people.
They won’t claim anything, but your heart will awaken in their presence, like a blossoming flower which doesn’t say anything but attracts any passing visitor with its fragrance and beauty. The sun never says, “It’s morning, and I have arisen.” The sunlight envelopes us, gives us energy, and we know that the sun is up. In this way, we may recognise others, but who will recognise us and tell us if we are in love or not? Definitely, not the people around us, nor will a divine form appear to say it. It would be our inner Divine, who would know and whisper to us to be in the flow of love.
We all have experienced worldly love, whether with our parents as children, or in the form of romantic love, or when we became parents ourselves. We do know a little bit about love for sure. It gives us a great feeling; it renders a sense of care, completeness, and responsibility. When we were in love, we became totally different people. As parents, people suffer sleepless nights and many problems, but still, they smile, act responsibly, and don’t complain about their situation. Similarly, when in romantic love, we surpass bad weather and the scolding of parents, in our eagerness to reach our lover. When we experience true love, the situation around us does not disturb our inner state. We are in love always, smiling and doing all the activities with an inner faith that our beloved is there to take care of us. As children, we trust the love of parents and do not take any stress knowing that our parents will take care of everything.
The first sign of being in spiritual love would be similar to these experiences. Worldly romantic love is considered successful if people unite or if it ends in marriage. What would be the peak of divine love? Is it even possible? Since the Divine is infinite, there is no peak or end point in divine love. It only grows towards the infinite. Yes, one can experience the divine every moment throughout one’s life and afterlife. Is it possible that one day, one would feel emotions for the Divine and the next day not? As a human, one can go through the stages and emotional upheavals in the early phase. But when love deepens, slowly, these things start disappearing. Externally, anything can happen, but deep within, there would be tranquillity. The ocean has waves on the surface, but deep inside, everything is settled, peaceful, and tranquil. Love expands slowly from a limited version to an infinite one. It doesn’t differentiate on the basis of caste, creed, religion, or boundary. It doesn’t limit itself to people but flows for all creatures and the entire Creation. This expansion is limitless; it’s infinite and the peak of divine love cannot be told or understood by the mind. Even so, one can consider it the highest love that one can achieve when one merges with the Divine and becomes the Divine themself. This is the power of divine love.
Sant Kabir, the well-known poet and devotee of Lord Ram, says:
“Pothi padh padh jag mua pandit bhaya na koi,
Dhai aakhar prem ka padhe so pandit hoy”
Which means, reading numerous books doesn’t make one a learned person. But the one who goes through love is the real pandit (knower of all). So, in a deep sense, he is saying that it’s all about the experience. One can read or listen about love, but to know it, one needs to fall in love. One should go through all the stages of love, from pain to bliss, from separation to meeting. Only then can one know love. One can talk about the types of feelings, the effects, the relationship, the beloved, but cannot define love. Love is beyond all definition as a definition comes from the mind and words are limited, whereas divine love is the consciousness of the Universe. It arises in the heart. Our holy scriptures clearly mention that the Divine resides in the heart centre. Realised spiritual masters have always spoken about it. It is not the physical heart but the spiritual heart which is always connected with the Source. The Source itself is love, so love blossoms in the heart.
When we fall in love, what do we do? What do we intend for? We want to go closer, we want to hug the person we are in love with. Love has the nature to bind. In love, we want to stay connected and always want more and more. This love energy, in a greater form, is used to bind everything in the universe. The Moon is rotating around the Earth and the Earth is rotating around the Sun, and the solar system is also rotating on a fixed path. Everything in this universe is perfectly in place. The universal energy which is binding and keeping a balance everywhere is the energy of love. And the place through which we can connect to this universal energy is inside our hearts.
So, where is this heart located? In Krishna Yajur-Veda, Taitriya Arnyak, tenth chapter, a shloka (hymn) is mentioned:
“Adho nishtaya Vitasyante, nambhyamupari parithishthati”
It means that place is of the length of one open palm (the length between the tip of the thumb and the little finger) below the collarbone and above the navel of the human being. The rest of the shlokas describe its appearance and qualities. There is a flame inside it which burns all the time and maintains the temperature of the body equally from head to toe. It is finer than the tip of a needle and inside it, the Divine (Paramatma) is located.
Everything is theory unless we experience it. The shlokas have been experienced and verified by the ancient rishis, realised masters, and seekers who have been reiterating their very essence for ages.
If, for the mind, these things are difficult to digest, then we can consider worldly love and say that love has the power to bind and bond. Similarly, divine love has the power to unite the soul with the Divine. Merging with the Divine is possible only through love; there is no other way.
When Adi Shankaracharya was about to leave his body, he told his disciples, “The heart cannot be purified without the love of the Divine.” Even this greatest yogi, who was the proponent of Advaita (non-dualism) philosophy, talked about divine love. When yogis, mystics, or seekers elevate their consciousness by their own effort or by the grace of their master, a false sense of achievement captures them, and it becomes difficult for them to drop the ego of knowledge. Since the chance of falling from the elevated state is always there, purification of the heart and surrendering of the ego is required.
Here, purification of the heart doesn’t mean the spiritual heart where our soul or the Divine resides. It’s all about the layers of ignorance in between. It’s only love which makes it possible to surrender the ego. We may have experienced this in worldly relations too. When we love someone, we ignore many things we don’t like or do many things to please our partner by keeping our ego aside. A big king or a powerful personality go down on their knees when they ask for the hand of their lady love. So, surrender happens very naturally in love.
When we fall in love, we see the world differently. Everything looks special to us. The same sunshine, moon, stars in the night, and flowers which we see every day now look unique— and even the lover. We feel we are on top of the world; the person becomes special, and everything in and around us becomes beautiful. This does not happen because of that person but because the heart is pulsating with love. Just imagine, when divine love will overpower our being, how the world will change for us?
But again, there are questions: How can one fall in love with the Divine? The Divine who is unseen, formless, whom we cannot experience physically, and whose existence is doubted upon by the mind. If falling in divine love is so difficult, then why should one want it? Are there any other ways to move on this path? How will it happen for me? Should it mean renouncing the world? Is offering flowers, sweets, lighting a lamp, and reciting mantras not enough to show my love towards the Divine? Divine love is not about renouncing the world or performing rituals mechanically. We cannot pretend to be in love. But if we follow the steps mentioned below, we can experience the love of the Divine.
• Choose a form of the beloved: Before reaching the internal stable state or completion within, initially, we need the beloved in a form. One may choose any form whom one feels deeply about. It’s not necessary to consider the Divine as your spouse. We can establish any kind of relationship with the Divine, whether as a mother, father, brother, or lover.
• Connect with the Divine as a friend: The best relationship which we can have with the Divine is of friendship. This is what Lord Krishna told the Pandavas; He addressed Draupadi as ‘Sakhi’ (friend) and always appeared when they needed His help. Make the Divine your best friend before you go ahead on this path.
Though it seems difficult to become a friend of the Divine, one can achieve it easily. Our greatest friend is one with whom we talk more, don’t hide anything from, and share everything. So, talking is important; start talking to your divine form, and slowly, a relationship will establish.
• See the Divine everywhere: There is another easier way to move on this path: Experience the Divine everywhere. Prahlada was able to see the Lord in a pillar, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu saw Krishna everywhere, and Radha saw Krishna in everyone. It should not come from the mind but from within. Sadly, the mind cannot trust anyone. It cannot see the Lord in the enemy. At the most, the mind can see God in the person who fulfilled our expectations or helped us. Hence, the mind will misguide and create differences. Only the heart knows how to love and trust, so this practice goes through lots of tests and mind-wanderings. This is possible only if the heart is awakened.
• Ask for the experience: Why are people unable to experience God’s love? When I spoke to seekers and devotees who perform rituals day and night in devotion, I found that they have never asked for this experience. They ask for darshan (glance), moksha, mukti or any worldly thing, but this major element is missing from their prayers. I urge all the readers to pray for the experience of divine love. Just experience it, even for a moment, and it will transform your life forever.
There is one more word ‘bhakti (devotion)’ which is often used interchangeably with ‘divine love.’ In bhakti, we do all kinds of rituals. Here, the majority claim themselves as devotees of a divine form, a master, mystic, or the formless divine. A devotee places themself at a lower level and the divine form he worships at the highest. Here, the seeker wants to be at the lotus feet of his Lord or asks for mukti and moksha. Seeing the devotion of the seeker, the guru or the divine form grants the desired wish to the devotee. In the case of devotion, active effort is required from the seeker initially, and one should maintain it throughout, whether it is a spiritual practice or a ritual.
However, love is a step ahead of devotion, where there is no duality. It unites; it doesn’t keep any difference between the devotee and the Lord. They become one internally. Love is an internal state, and it originates within naturally. It makes us wonderful beings. It gives us everything we have ever wanted if it grows properly towards the infinite. We have seen the picture of Radha where she is holding a mirror in her hand but the reflection in the mirror is that of Sri Krishna. What does it depict? It shows the devotion in her eyes which cannot see anything else in this world, not even her own face. She was seeing Krishna everywhere and in everyone. And the second meaning of this picture is that her body was actually transformed into Krishna in his love. This was the reason that when Uddhav came to meet Radha, for a moment, he saw Radha sitting in front of him, and in the next moment, Krishna was there. He was totally confused. But in reality, their love was so great, they were so united, they were able to transform into one another.
This is the reason Radha and Krishna are considered as one always, whereas other divine forms have their own purpose and identity as a couple. To get the experience of divine love, let’s pray to the goddess of love to bestow her grace and give us a drop of that immortal eternal nectar. Let’s grow in love and spread it everywhere. Let’s make our life blissful and this world beautiful.
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