tāni anke darśanīyāni kṛtvā bahu vidham tataḥ |
tena deva prakāśena devena paridevitam ||
Bhakti-yoga is love and devotion. It is pure love, or prema, as it is not tied to the senses at all. If I say that I love someone, it usually means that I am affectionate towards them because of what they do for me, and only at the moment. It’s like a reciprocal agreement. If they were to shun me, chastise me, spurn me through choosing someone else, my purported love likely wouldn’t stay for long.
Bhakti is different. It is unadulterated; at least in its ideal form. Only God the person can be on the receiving end of bhakti. Only He is capable of accepting unending service. As far as explicit bhakti-yoga practice, the goal is to think of God more and more. Consciousness is how to measure advancement. A person can be chanting the holy names on their prayer beads throughout the day, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are advancing. They can be thinking about eating pizza or sleeping comfortably in the night. Who or what is in their consciousness is what determines if bhakti is flourishing.
What about on the other side? Does God remain conscious of the devotees? Does He remember those who think about Him constantly? Is there a way to tell? For starters, He is full and pure consciousness. For Him there is no difference between body and soul. For Him there is no such thing as a material covering or sense objects that delude the consciousness. He is complete purity. Though He seemingly has no hands and legs, He can grab anything from anywhere. He can run faster than the wind. He hears everything as well.
“Generally there will be affection for that which is visible. And for that which is not visible there is no affection. The ungrateful are capable of destroying their affection in this way, but not Rama.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 26.43)
God accomplishes omnipresence through the expansion of the Supersoul. This means that He is the witness to everything. Still, the Supersoul is nirguna to our eyes. It is without form. It is unmanifest. How can we tell if something unmanifest is capable of remembering? To alleviate our concerns, we can look to the saguna form. Indeed, there is no difference between the two, as God is always with transcendental qualities. That is why the Sanskrit word guna is translated as “glories” when discussing the Supreme Lord. He is nirguna and saguna to our eyes, but in fact He is always with a transcendental form.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see God remembering His devotee. How is He doing this? In a variety of ways He is remembering. The ornaments resting on His lap are facilitating a kind of time-travel, back to when He was in the association of the devotee being remembered.
The form of God referenced here is Shri Rama and the devotee Sita Devi. Rama is God Himself and Sita the goddess of fortune, who is the eternal consort of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Rama always remembers Sita and she Him, but this incident gives a tangible example to remove any doubts we may have.
Hanuman is describing these events to Sita. He says that when Rama held Sita’s ornaments in His lap, He lamented in various ways. He lamented because He remembered how wonderful she is, how devoted she is to Him, and how she must be suffering since she was separated from Him. Her devotion was not in vain. She never asked anything of Rama, and she was always dear to Him. She did not follow Him to the forest to gain notoriety. She was not looking to win the wife of the year award or anything like it.
ananyāś cintayanto māṁ
ye janāḥ paryupāsate
yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham
“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form - to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)
Rama always appreciates even a small gesture in devotion. When a person abandons everything for Him, He never forgets them. He steps out of the role of impartiality in the Supersoul and takes action in a personal form to secure their welfare. In this way the person aspiring to purify their consciousness through bhakti-yoga should be reassured that God is indeed remembering them. He keeps a record of their devotional efforts, and He preserves what they have and carries what they lack.
In bhakti advancement to come,
When keeping focus on Lord one.
Outside distractions away to drive,
For fixed remembrance of God to strive.
How about for the other side,
What thoughts in Shri Rama to reside?
In saguna form reciprocation giving,
By in lamentation when away from Sita living.