“Although one has affection for many persons, different types of ecstatic love awaken according to the nature of one's personal relationships.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 4.171)
According to the Vedas, the core properties of the individual are eternality, knowledge and blissfulness. The individual in this respect is the self, or atma. The self is distinguished from the visible features, which are sort of like a covering. One woman wears a thousand dollar handbag while another wears one that is fifty dollars, but this discrepancy does not make one person different from the other. At the core they are both spirit soul, transcendental to their outer coverings. Though there is the core property of blissfulness, how it manifests can vary, which ultimately means that the relationship to the Supreme Soul is not always the same. The relationship is nevertheless personal, and thus a source of the highest pleasure.
Lord Chaitanya, a preacher incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, displayed supreme wisdom on practically every subject. He was God Himself appearing on earth to distribute the nectar that is divine love, bhakti-yoga. This is the original occupational duty, that which awakens and maintains the original consciousness. Therefore it is not surprising that one who practices bhakti, free of any impure motives, can speak eloquently and accurately on a variety of subjects.
One time Lord Chaitanya noted to His dear disciple Sanatana Gosvami that a person may have affection for a variety of people, but that the love awakens based on the nature of the personal relationship. As an example, I might hold affection for several important people in my life. I love my parents automatically. To me, they are the people I have known the longest. I don’t know when I started loving them, but it’s not something I think about. Loving them means that when they are in distress, I am in distress. If I can do anything to remove their distress, I will feel better. It also means that when they are happy, I am happy.
I also love my wife. She is a paramour, the “love of my life” so to speak. I enjoy her company, as we connect on an emotional level. Whether I am sitting with her in a religious function, watching a program on television, or just taking a walk and holding hands, I feel comforted knowing that I am in a loving relationship. Obviously my affection manifests differently with her than it does with my parents. I may purchase a luxury car for my parents to drive, whereas I will purchase an expensive necklace for my wife. Love exists in both instances, but the activities are dependent on the nature of the relationship, which in either case is personal.
This information applies to the realm of divine love as well. Without knowledge of the properties of the soul and the existence of the Supreme Soul, the mind will speculate as to the nature of the Absolute Truth. Whether it be at a marriage reception or just a simple get-together, you’ll see a variety of speculation on all topics when a group of people assemble. There is no definite conclusion reached, as each person’s opinion is as valid as another’s. When the topic turns to spirituality, the conclusions can run the gamut of thought. “God is an angry man who will punish the sinners for ignoring Him. God wants you to do good to others. God is a formless energy. Every person is God, so service to man is the highest occupation. The path to heaven goes through just one man, so anyone who doesn’t believe in Him is destined for hell.”
In the Vedic tradition, the truth about the Absolute Truth is passed down through a chain of disciplic succession which, not surprisingly, originates with God. The information is not accepted through casual arguments, where mental speculation is the cover charge. Rather, in a state of humility, by kindly approaching a bona fide spiritual master and attentively listening to what he says is the truth, life’s mysteries are solved. Even when God Himself speaks, the same conditions must exist for the information to be transferred properly. This is what occurred one time on a battlefield, where two people briefly changed roles, going from friends to teacher and student.
“I have in the past addressed You as ‘O Krishna,’ ‘O Yadava,’ ‘O my friend,’ without knowing Your glories. Please forgive whatever I may have done in madness or in love. I have dishonored You many times while relaxing or while lying on the same bed or eating together, sometimes alone and sometimes in front of many friends. Please excuse me for all my offenses.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.41-42)
Arjuna and Krishna were friends, so good friends in fact that Krishna agreed to be Arjuna’s chariot driver for an upcoming war. This was the war to end all wars, and it would see the deaths of hundreds of millions. But prior to the war’s commencement, Arjuna grew hesitant to fight due to misplaced affection. Krishna is God Himself, so after being asked, He assumed the role of teacher to dispel Arjuna’s doubts. There was no arguing on Arjuna’s side. He didn’t present his own theories and claim that Krishna’s were bogus. Rather, he submissively heard from the Lord, processed the information, and then decided for himself whether or not Krishna was correct.
What did Arjuna learn? Devotion to God in full surrender is the ultimate path in life. It is so perfect that it guarantees to provide the proper result in any situation. It proved successful for Arjuna during a fight, and prior to this it helped a troubled princess avoid nudity in public. Draupadi was being disrobed in an assembly by wicked-minded kings, as her husband Yudhishthira had lost her in a game of dice. No one else was helping her, so Draupadi finally called out to Krishna, who rescued her by assuming the form of a cloth and making sure that it never came off of the beautiful princess in the assembly.
Arjuna and Draupadi represent but two examples of surrender in devotion. In both cases there was affection, but it manifested according to the nature of the relationship. After accepting Krishna’s instruction, Arjuna returned to being the Lord’s friend. Draupadi was a dedicated servant in mind, as was the exalted Shri Hanuman during Krishna’s time on earth as Lord Ramachandra, the valiant prince of the Raghu dynasty. Shrimati Radharani serves Krishna in the mood of conjugal love, while Yashoda and Nanda offer parental affection.
In each of these instances we see there is a personal relationship, which means that God is not impersonal. He is not an aged, angry man either. He is all-pervading, so even one who denies His existence is still serving Him in some way. Hatred rooted in envy is the inverse of the loving spirit, sort of like looking at an image in a mirror. Though the image is reversed, it doesn’t mean that the original image is invalid. In a similar way, just because someone hates God or claims that the Lord doesn’t exist doesn’t mean that they are not offering service. The personal relationship in these instances is with the external energy, the material nature. God’s personal presence is absent in the external energy, so the relationship is not fruitful for the living entity, who is left with pain and misery sprinkled with brief bouts of pleasure.
The personal relationships of bhakti-yoga can be awakened instantly by chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The various processes of religion, the rituals and regulations, the do’s and don’ts of spiritual life presented by respected teachers, are all meant to bring one to the platform of divine love, which then creates a relationship that is deeply personal. The devoted soul connects with God whether in a crowded assembly or in a solitary room, whether wide awake or fast asleep. In that personal relationship of choice the Supreme Lord’s association is relished, and the devotee’s protection is fully accounted for.
To beloved children life’s lessons are told,
With the paramour her hand you will hold.
To parents service you will give,
With friends in equality to live.
Relationships there are all kinds,
But always personal touch you’ll find.
Spiritual life to operate in the same way,
With Supreme Lord Krishna you can play.
Draupadi as servant, Arjuna as friend,
Bhakti-rasa spiritually lonely heart to mend.