“Again and again they happily threw money as gifts to celebrate the auspiciousness. Looking at the brides and grooms, they drowned in an ocean of love.” (Janaki Mangala, 186)
karahiṁ nichāvari chinu chinu maṅgala muda bharīṁ |
dūlaha dalahininha dēkhi prēma payanidhi parīṁ ||
From this verse, we see another difference between bhakti-yoga and any other system for self-improvement. Whether that system be readily acknowledged as secular or religious in nature, the resultant consciousness is what matters when giving an assessment. Is there love for God? Is there a reward sought? Is that reward of the personal variety? Here there is so much love that the people feel helpless. There is nothing that can be done to escape from the ocean of bhakti, which brings eternally refreshing waters and an auspiciousness never before seen.
“If bhakti-yoga brings so much love, and if it is so spontaneous at the highest levels, why the need to talk about it? Why not let others develop that attachment on their own? Why analyze things?”
Everyone is looking for self-improvement. Even those not following a diet or reading a book by an acknowledged expert in a field look for happiness. If everyone had the answers to everything, there would be no lamentation. There would be no sadness at the passing of another. Everyone would go to sleep on time, wake up on time, and eat on time. There would never be any problems at home or the office. Every piece of technology would work as advertised. There would never be a need to upgrade anything since everyone would be satisfied with what they had.
But we know that these conditions do not exist. To put my body back into shape, I follow a diet routine coupled with exercise. To improve my financial situation, I get further educated. Perhaps I switch jobs as well. To improve my home life, I look for a spouse. In old age, I look for ways to pass the time in peace. In this way I am always searching.
“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me - the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)
Religious life isn’t necessarily different. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna says that four kinds of people initially approach Him. Some are looking for wealth and some for the alleviation of distress. Some are inquisitive and others are looking for further knowledge after knowing Him a little bit. These are the four kinds that approach Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Then there are other religious paths such as jnana, karma, and yoga. These are knowledge, work and meditation respectively. In each case there is a personal desire. Even if there is a basic understanding of the Supreme Lord, that information doesn’t get top priority. The focus is on the individual’s happiness first. How will I improve myself? How will I feel better? How will I become enlightened?
Bhakti-yoga holds a unique spot because in the matured condition there is no personal desire. Those in this stage of bhakti don’t even know that they are practicing anything. They know only love for God. They think of His welfare first. They worry not over their personal fortunes. Whether they are rich or poor, of solid health or ill, with family or all alone - these are not important to them. “Is God happy? Am I spending time with Him? Is He pleased with my work? Is He enjoying the fruits to my efforts? He is my well-wisher, so does He have good reason to wish me well?”
“The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 5.29)
In Ayodhya a long time ago, queens in the kingdom happily celebrated the auspicious occasion of the four royal princes’ return home as married men. As part of the welcoming ceremony, the mothers to these princes repeatedly threw money and offered gifts. They did this very happily. This was the first time they were seeing the wives of their sons, so they kept looking at both.
While looking again and again, the mothers drowned in an ocean of love. The love here is transcendental since the objects of affection are the Supreme Lord and His direct expansions. The wives are goddesses of fortune. So by looking at them, the mothers were essentially worshiping them. They did not worship as a mere ritual. They had not done something bad the previous day and then now worshiped in order to be absolved of sin. They were not afraid of punishment in the afterlife.
The love of the mothers was so strong that they were bound by it. This is bhakti-yoga. The rasa of bhakti is like an ocean made up of nectar that gives immortality. For this reason when describing bhakti-yoga Shrila Rupa Gosvami names his book Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu. This ocean is very inviting. All are welcome to jump in and take advantage. There is only one requirement: love. Have love for God. Love Him so much that you don’t care what others think. Love Him so much that no one can take that love away from you. Love Him so much that no matter where you end up, either in this life or the next, you will never abandon Him. The queens in Ayodhya felt this way, and so their behavior teaches us so much.
Ocean of immortality dive in,
With swelling love happily swim.
Helpless since affection so strong,
Beautiful face of Lord to gaze upon.
By queens in Ayodhya this behavior shown,
When brides of sons arrived in their new home.
Of God no need to be afraid,
With your bhakti all obeisances paid.