Thursday, November 17, 2011

Endless Love

Radha and Krishna“When one is absorbed in temporary designated existence, he hankers after sense gratification and liberation. However, love of Godhead is the eternal nature of the soul; it is unchangeable, beginningless and endless. Therefore temporary sense gratification or a desire for liberation cannot compare with the transcendental nature of love of God.” (Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, Ch 19)

Try to love your children with all your heart, give them the attention they deserve, follow their every move throughout their lives, and you’ll still reach a point where your love is checked. Not that you’ll ever abandon affection for your little loved ones, but instead they will reach a stage in life where they no longer require assistance. Isn’t that the point after all? We raise our young so that they can one day raise their own young, so that the dependents can survive in our absence. Yet the enjoyment through association is bittersweet, as maturity for the young ones means an end to the necessity of the service offered by the elders. While we can still hold the same affection for the dependents, there will come a time when the outflow of emotions is checked. With one person, however, there is never a state of maturity, as it is impossible to love Him too much. Not only can He continue to accept our love offered to Him for the duration of our existence in a particular form, but He can also accept any amount of love offered at any time; there is no smothering Him. Once we become familiar with the properties of the spirit soul, the essence of identity, we’ll see that it is only this one person who is meant to be loved without interruption and without motivation, and that fraternal, paternal, romantic and all other types of affection derive from that supreme service.

Krishna with Mother YashodaMotivation and interruption go hand in hand. In fact, interruption serves as the motivation. What do we mean by this? Think of working hard in school so that you can pass a certain class. Passing represents the end, the successful completion of the course. Hence finishing a class automatically brings interruption, the end of instruction in that particular area of study. Since completion is the end-goal, and since it is equivalent to interruption, the motivation in the particular task is to reach interruption. This is seen with practically every endeavor, though it takes a sober and keen observer to notice the fact.

As another example, let’s say that we are looking forward to going out on a particular night. We take care of our obligations during the day so that we can celebrate with friends and loved ones without any worry. Again, the motivation to perform the work is the interruption. But when we’re out at night, eventually we’ll want to return home. Hence the motivation for doing whatever it is we’re doing out on the town is the eventual interruption in activity marked by sleep.

In the arena of love, of any variety, the tag-team of motivation and interruption seems to dissipate. In a romantic relationship, there is never a desired end. There isn’t a time when we say that we have loved our wife enough and that now it is time to move on. The wife doesn’t think that she has offered enough service to her husband so that she can then do other things without suffering negative consequences. The nature of love is that it is offered without expectation of reciprocation. Just being in love, the offering of love, is the reward, for “tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all”.

“Those with the vision of eternity can see that the soul is transcendental, eternal, and beyond the modes of nature. Despite contact with the material body, O Arjuna, the soul neither does anything nor is entangled.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.32)

Lord KrishnaThe loving propensity is found within the spirit soul, which is the essence of identity. Information about the soul is provided to us by the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of the world. The simplest way to picture the soul is to think of a traveller occupying different dwellings. Just as the dwelling changes during boyhood to youth, from adulthood to old age, at the time of death the shift continues. In this way the afterlife is not different from the previous life. One week from today is the future, but after some time, that same day will become the distant past. When it was situated in the future, that day was filled with unknowns; it had a mystery to it. When it turned into the past, it wasn’t that amazing, just another day in the many spent in a particular lifetime.

The afterlife should not be very difficult to conceptualize, though it obviously carries the greatest mystery to the human being who can’t remember their experiences from previous lives. Because of this defect, the concept of transmigration of the soul, or reincarnation, can be accepted on faith in the beginning stages. The scientific explanation of reincarnation is nicely presented in the Bhagavad-gita, the most concise and complete treatise on the truths and values of spirituality emanating from the Vedas. Not surprisingly, the speaker of the Gita is the same person who instituted Vedic wisdom: Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

As it is difficult to unquestionably accept any person with defined features and qualities as being God, it is helpful to first gather more information about who we are. If we have an understanding of our real position, we can make better decisions about the proper future course of action. Misidentification leads to misdirection in activity, which in turn leads to unfavorable circumstances. The child identifying with college students will obviously not do very well in the classroom. It also works the other way around, as the adult has no business taking instruction from elementary school students.

The first instruction provided by the Vedas is that identification with the body is incorrect. If something is going to change on its own, irrespective of what we do or don’t do, we can never take our complete identity from it. At one time we were in the body of a baby, but as we grew older that form turned into a distant memory. Nevertheless, at one time we identified with that smaller form, thus proving that our identification was flawed. In adulthood identifying with our bodily traits is just as flawed because at some point in time even the adult dwelling will be renounced.

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.13)

Lord KrishnaIf we are not our body, then what are we? The answer is aham brahmasmi, “I am a spirit soul”. Immediately, this foundational truth reveals that we have an identity that survives through the changes of body. The essence of identity, though very small in size, is extremely powerful. Just as electricity is the life of appliances, gasoline of cars, and oil of a furnace, the spirit soul turns otherwise dull matter into vibrant life. The hands and legs are collections of material elements on their own, but when attached to a form that has the spiritual injection, they transform into useful objects.

The soul is filled with potential for action, but what determines what type of action it takes up? In addition to being eternally situated, transcendental to the changes of material coverings, the soul is blissful. It seeks out activities which match its desire for bliss. As the need is constantly there, the engagements to find happiness are repeated. The bliss is best received through service, for this is the dharma of the soul. An essential characteristic of something constitutes its dharma. Dharma can never be removed from the relevant object; though it can be forgotten or hidden.

In the Vedic tradition, dharma also means a set of rules and regulations that are aimed to keep that essential characteristic alive. Think of a fire that is burning and the steps taken to ensure that it doesn’t burn out. The fire’s burning propensity is its dharma, and the actions taken to ensure that the fire keeps burning also constitute a dharma. For the spirit soul, its dharma is its characteristic of wanting bliss through loving service. When travelling through various species, the soul retains this characteristic, but its exercise is checked by the forces of material nature. Therefore the loving propensity gets directed in every area except the one that matches the constitutional position of the living entity.

Lord KrishnaThe autonomous action of the living entity indicates the presence of the spirit soul. The engagements taken up also reveal the dharma of the soul, its desire for service. The problem with service directed to areas relating to bodily coverings is that there comes a time of interruption. Motivation is present as well. Even in pure love when motivation is apparently absent, interruption must come in the form of separation and the ultimate exit from the body. In the relationship with the speaker of the Gita, however, there is no such defect. He can accept an endless amount of love, and He never has to leave the side of the devotee.

Based on these features we see that we are constitutionally situated to love Krishna, or God. The more we know about God, the better we can serve Him. Krishna is so kind that He can never be smothered. It is impossible to love Him too much. Since He is absolute, just thinking of Him is as good as being with Him. It is for this reason that Vedic literature is so vast. The original Vedas consist only of short hymns and prayers, because the name of the Lord is a complete incarnation. Krishna is not different from His name. Therefore, the most effective way to love God without interruption and without motivation is to constantly chant His names, like those found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

The original Vedas expanded through the efforts of Vyasadeva, the famous sage, and those following his lead because of the benefits the expansion would bring to those wanting to offer their service. The more pages that are produced containing Krishna’s names, glories, attributes and activities, the more opportunities there are for people to associate with God. The more association that takes place in a loving mood, where no material benedictions are sought and no interruption to the service is desired, the more the inherent dharma of the soul gets uncovered. The full blown stage of transcendental ecstasy is known as bhava, and it comes only from serving God without inhibition.

Radha and KrishnaThe son will one day no longer require the loving devotion of the mother, and the paramour will feel too much obligation if smothered in affection by the counterpart in the relationship, but with Krishna there is no check. He is in need of nothing, so there is actually never a time when He requires our services. Yet He accepts them because they provide Him pleasure, and He also knows that the soul’s natural position is to be a lover of God. Krishna is so kind that He rests within every living entity’s heart, just waiting for them to turn their eyes towards Him. There is no quota in transcendental love, no reservoir that can be completely filled. This is Krishna’s gift to us, and if we are fortunate enough to become immersed in bhakti, we can finally find that someone who is willing to let us love them without hesitation.

In Closing:

Love your precious child with all your heart,

Smother them with affection right from the start.

Though with your efforts they will be pleased,

A day will come when your love they no longer need.

Defect is there with every type of loving exchange,

Smother your paramour too much and them you will estrange.

With one person however there is no such defect,

An unlimited amount of affection He can accept.

No surprise, that person is Shri Krishna,

Service to Him is the soul’s dharma.

Show Him your affection and happy you will feel,

Chant holy names, internal love no longer to conceal.

No motivation and no interruption in bhakti,

Thus there is no match for devotional life’s shakti.