Chapter 5: The Nectar of Life

I feel that self-discipline needed for Yoga and meditation is easier for men than it's for women. Women being more emotional, devotion is an easier path to the same goal. Only with faith and devotion can meditation result in realization, in the revelation of truth. Worshiping the divine is a form of devotion, and devotion is the nectar of life. In fact devotion, or love, is our true essence, and everything in life is an expression of our love. So I need to realize this great love within me. What is the way back home? Is it through devotion and worship?

Like sweetness is to sugar, devotion is to me. The only reason I in this human body is to experience devotion. Liberation I can gain even after I leave the body. Nothing exists in this world for me except for my beloved Krishna. The moment I remember Him, His presence is with me. My yearning becomes devotion, my conversations become poetry, our union becomes bliss. Those who have experienced will understand; for those who haven't: I can't explain! Fortunate are those who in human birth have felt this devotion for the Lord.

The most brilliant expression of consciousness is devotion. God created a mirror to see His love, and the reflection was a beautiful maiden brimming with devotion. In this divine love God embedded the highest wisdom, an essence of Himself. Devotion is an intense longing for the beloved. It is the urge to merge with the divine. Devotion is an intoxication with the nectar of divine love, the cup of the heart overflowing with bliss. Without the juice of devotion, all knowledge, all sadhana (spiritual practices) are dead and dry like sawdust. A perfect relationship has an equal balance of both love and respect. Devotion is that perfect relationship with the divine, it is the most intimate with the deepest reverence.

Love seeks devotion, devotion seeks bliss. I mistake these human emotions to be His love, like a mirage it glimmers in the hot dry sand, I chase it till I get tired, exhausted I fall down. The moment my vision shifts to Him, Giridhari, that moment there is a coolness, bliss. That instant there is freedom, expansion, relief, and my thirst is quenched! That emptiness inside is filled in an instant with immense love. No matter how much I try to express my love for Him it is incomplete. That strong urge for His presence, that pleading and prayer, my soul cries, "Oh Krishna! Be with me! Come to me my Govind Giridhari!". Tears of love and longing roll down my face...

I cannot remember a time when He was not part of my life. When I was a little girl I saw His painting at an exhibition, my Kanhaiya stealing butter from a pot with his friend. I was so mesmerized and lost in the painting that I forgot everything. When my parents looked around, they realized I wasn't with them; they found me staring into the painting! Krishna is my best friend.
If I were to think of all the precious moments in my life, a lot of them are connected with my Krishna. We were in Zambia, having just returned from a trip to India, and my mother had bought this statue of Krishna as a gift for someone. I vividly remember the day when I told my mother that I would like to keep that statue. I must have been around twelve. I used to hold that Krishna statue in my hand, put on Krishna bhajans, and sing and dance with Him. One day in my room He looked so alive in the statue, I asked Him, "Is it You? Show me a sign," and He did. I still have that sandalwood statue of Krishna. 

So innocent, pure, and beautiful were those moments that I shared with Krishna as a little girl. I am still that little girl, and in my heart there is a sacred space in which there is only Krishna and my entire existence is within Him. Whenever I feel intense devotion or deep despair I hold his statue close to my heart, and looking at Him, I fall asleep.

Like the rays of the sun, each one's devotion is beautiful and unique.
Each one of us is a natural lover; it is the easiest thing to be…
Each one of us attempts to express it differently, yet love cannot be expressed fully…
Each one of us has a definition of love, at different times, for different people, but love cannot be defined…
Each one of us loves someone or something, so deeply, so passionately, but love cannot be found in the finite…

Where are You, my love, for whom I seek and for whom my soul cries? Since eons I have longed for you…
O my beloved, quench this thirst so I may merge with You and be One and Whole!
There is none other than You in all creation, this "I" will merge with the true me then roam high and free!
Till then I sing in a trance of love…Till then I dance in a play of love. The angels envy me; I am here in your company, and experience the colors of love in ecstasy!

At the pinnacle of devotion is liberation
At the pinnacle of knowledge is Divine Love
In Divine Love knowledge is inherent
Without love, knowledge is meaningless…

For a devotee, this duality is a play, but in the ultimate bliss of divine love the devotee merges into the divine and becomes One. For a wise one, there is no duality. He knows he is God—Aham BrahmasmiNo matter what the path, the journey ends in Oneness and the wise one realizes that He is Love, He is Knowledge. I feel Krishna as my soul! My entire being. A glow from within. Someone once asked me, "Where is your Krishna," and I replied, "He is always with me."
The Raas Leela of Krishna and the Gopis (devotes) symbolizes the eternal cosmic celebration, the dance of duality. Krishna is mine, only mine! Like those Gopis, I am dissolving in devotion…merging into my charming Krishna…oh! I am drunk with this bliss!—and in the height of this ecstasy I become unconscious; nothing remains, just His cool, divine loving presence. Leave me here; I am satisfied, I am finally at rest, my heart at home…

The mind drops to the heart, becomes meditation...
The heart longs…oh! my beloved…blossoms into devotion…
These tears of devotion…become precious pearls…
In the dance of trance un-become…merge…transcend…

Devotion is not to be explained or understood, devotion is a poem to be sung! Around the fifteenth century there was a burst of devotion with Sufis and saints singing love poems for the divine. Buddha was wise, enlightened, and complete. Devotional saints Chaitanya and Meera experienced ecstasy, danced, and sang, and they were also enlightened and complete. They experienced the highest state of devotion, "What am I without You?" They demonstrated that this body is capable of both wisdom and devotion.

Meera Bai
Meera Bai epitomizes Bhakti (devotion). Her unwavering love for her Krishna was the most beautiful. Even Krishna would helplessly be drawn to her. Her conversations with Krishna poured out as poetry, as love songs for the divine (bhajans). For a devotee, all love songs are bhajans (devotion songs), and all bhajans are love songs. Hers are remembered even today. She was born around 1502 AD in Kukari/Kudki near Merta, Rajasthan. She did not want to get married but was married to Rajasthan’s Mewar kingdom’s prince, Bhoj Raj, when she was thirteen. She was not interested in married life. For her, no one existed except Krishna. She spent most of her time in the temple and not at the palace with the family nor did she behave like royal blood. She was an unconventional woman who questioned all the limitations and broke traditions. Her husband died in war a few years after they married, when Meera was only seventeen. Meera's father-in-law liked Meera, and protected her from the other family members' insults. She must have been around nineteen when her father-in-law also died. This really broke her heart and she was left unprotected from the onslaughts. Meera's older brother-in-law, mother-in-law and sister-in-law were very unjust to Meera and tortured her. They wanted her to maintain the dignity of the family and act like a princess, not have a daily communion with ordinary people to sing bhajans and behave like a commoner. They also didn't approve of her lower caste Guru, Ravidas (Raidasa), who initiated her as a disciple, by gaving her a Naam, a sound used in meditation. It was after this that she sang, "Payoji maine Naam ratan dhan payo. Vastu amolik di mere Sat Guru, kiripa kar apanayo."But she was also a rebel. She never let go of her devotion for Krishna, no matter how much anyone tried. This was the bleakest time of her life, her in-laws rebuked her, her parents had died, she had no source of unconditional love, she was pained by society's rejection of her. She felt no one loved her except Giridhari; and that is when she sang the painful bhajan, "Mere to Giridhar Gopal dusaro na koi"—only Giridhar Gopal is truly my own and no other. I am wedded to that consciousness.
I don't know why her life was full of so much misery. Finally, when she was about twenty-one, she decided to leave her in-laws and she had the spiritual support of Saint Tulsi Das to do so. One night, she and her life long companion, Mithula, left the fort of Chittor with deep pain in her heart, mourning, "Why don't they understand why I love Him so much?" For many days, hungry and thirsty, she traveled through the desert. She went to Merta where her cousin brother was ruling, Rao Jai Mal, but even there she felt limited and unable to express herself fully. She wanted to travel to holy places and be with saints and sages. She spent some time in the birth town of Krishna, Mathura, and Vrindavan. She had always wanted to find a Guru and was thirsty for knowledge, but Saint Chaitanya's disciple in Vrindavan, Rupa Goswami, refused to have spiritual discussions with her saying that she was a woman and he doesn't interact with women. To him she said, "I thought the only male (Purusha) in this universe is Krishna, the rest all female (Prakriti)," meaning there is only one consciousness, and the rest is all matter. In Vrindavan it was symbolized as Krishna and the Gopis, therefore even Rupa Goswami is the feminine principle. Goswami was so struck by her words that he called her back and had several knowledge discussions with her. She then went to Kashi, I believe, and met several saints including Tulsidas. She also travelled to many other places in India meeting spiritual masters of the 16th century. 
She finally went to Dwarka in Gujarat, which was the capital city of Krishna's kingdom when she was around thirty. Sometime later, her youngest brother-in-law, Udai, built a new capital, Udaipur, with beautiful palaces, and wanted Meera Bai to come back. He sent a few Raj Purohits, royal priests, to Dwarka to convince her. She was happy in Dwarka and didn't want to go back. One night she entered the Dwarka Deesh temple, and in her supreme glory, her single-minded devotion for Krishna and intense longing to unite with him, she did. At that moment there was only divine light. When the priests went in to look for her, all they found was her white Sari (garment). She left when she was around fifty. 

If you asked me to choose between this love and knowledge, I would choose love. Knowledge seems so cold and dry and pales in comparison with the song, dance, and celebration with the divine! Meditation? Come feel this ecstasy, the elation, the bliss when a lover merges with the beloved. It is electrifying. This, too, is samadhi—a sweet samadhi—not that emptiness.

I love another saint of the fifteenth century, Kabir. He wrote simple, yet wise, poems that spur an individual to look for a deeper meaning to life. 
Here is one of my favorite poems of sant Kabir:
Na Mein Dharmi Na Hi Adharmi
Na Mein Jati Na Kaami Ho |
Na Mein Kehta Na Mein Sunta
Na Mein Sevak Swami Ho ||
Na Mein Bandha Na Mein Mukta
Na Mein Virat Na Rangi Ho |
Na Mein Kahu Se Nyara Hua
Na Kahu Ke Sangi Ho ||
Na Hum Narak Lok Ko Jaate
Na Hum Swarag Sidhare Ho |
Sab Hi Karam Hamara Kiya
Hum Karman Se Nyare Ho ||
Ya Mat Ko Koi Birla Bujhe
So Atal Ho Baitha Ho |
Mat Kabir Kaho Ko Thape
Mat Kahu Ko Mete Ho ||
Neither am I Righteous nor Non-Righteous
Neither am I an Ascetic nor a Sensualist ||
Neither do I Speak nor do I Listen
Neither am I a Servant nor a Master ||
Neither am I Constrained nor Liberated
Neither am I Sad nor Jubilant ||
Neither am I Distinctly Isolated from Anything
Nor am I Identified Completely with Anything ||
Neither do I go to the World of Hell
Nor do I proceed to the World of Heaven ||
All Actions are really my Actions
But yet I am Distinct from the Actions ||

Sufism is a devotional mystical dimension of Islam. Sufi poems and music are close to my heart. I wish that this would once again evolve in the Muslim culture. The wisdom embedded in the love poems of the Sufis is beautiful and heart-moving. I listen to many old Sufi poems and contemporary Sufi songs. Rumi is one of the most revered Sufi saints, known for his mystic style. His poems elegantly and consistently touch our inner being and inspire us to go beyond our limitations towards the Divine. Rumi believed in the religion of love.
Here are some Rumi quotes:
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
“Knock, And He'll open the door
Vanish, And He'll make you shine like the sun
Fall, And He'll raise you to the heavens
Become nothing, And He'll turn you into everything.”
“We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust.”
“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.”

No emotion is more powerful or moving than love. The noblest kind of love is that which flows toward God, called love divine or devotion. Saints and sages affirm that deep within our hearts lies an undiscovered, infinite source of love that is without beginning and endless. Our scriptures reveal that through single-minded devotion we are led to our innermost sanctum, the higher Self, the source of all bliss and joy. But we tend to search for this infinite love in people, ideas, and objects. When this love is directed toward the higher, our vision expands and we see this divinity everywhere and in everything. In this way, we come to appreciate all of creation equally, enjoying lasting freedom and true happiness. 

Eleven Manifestations of Devotion
Love cannot stand distance, and respect requires it. In devotion, love and respect are in perfect measure. A disciple or a devotee has intimacy as well as respect combined in one. The sage Narad in his Bhakti Sutras —The Aphorisms of Love—explains the eleven forms of devotion:
"Although devotional service is One, it becomes manifested in eleven forms of attachment: attachment to the Lord's glorious qualities, to His beauty, to worshiping Him, to remembering Him, to serving Him, to reciprocating with Him as a friend, to caring for Him as a parent, to dealing with Him as a lover, to surrendering one's whole self to Him, to being absorbed in thought of Him, and to experiencing the longing of separation from Him. This last is the supreme attachment." (Narada Bhakti Sutra, 5.82)
Worship - Upasana
Loving the aim you want to reach is worship.
And how am I to worship Him?
My hands are to serve Him, my heart to love Him, my voice to sing for Him, my eyes to behold His beauty, my ears to listen to His praise.
What can I offer to You that you already don't have? Ah! There is one thing you don't have…with all my love I surrender my ego to you. Samarpayami. With fullness in my heart and with folded hands I bow to the divine presence in my soul. I feel that immense overpowering love for Thee. There is only You, I do not exist. Let this form drop.

A saint once said: There are only two types of people in this world. One who believe in God and the other who worry. If you worry, you don’t believe. Trust God, and if you believe, have faith in God, you can't worry. There are some who worship God to ask something from Him, there are some who worship Him in gratitude, and there are some who know He is within them and everywhere, always, so they are ever blissful.
There is a beautiful prayer by Adi Shankaracharya, the prayer within for God, in which one verse reads:

"Aatmaa tvam girijaa matih sahacharaah praanaah shariiram griham
Poojaa te vishhayopabhogarachanaa nidraa samaadhisthitih.
Sajnchaarah padayoh pradakshinavidhih stotraani sarvaa giro
Yadyatkarma karomi tattadakhilam shambho tavaaraadhanam.h .. 4"

Meaning: My soul is Your abode; may You manifest (divine mother) as my pure intellect, wisdom. My five vital airs are Your attendants, my body is Your abode, and all the pleasures of my senses are objects to use for Your worship. My sleep is Your state of transcendence. Each step I take in life is centered around You, everything I say may it be in praise of You, everything I do is in devotion onto You, o benevolent Lord!

The Ladder of Devotion - Gita
In the twelfth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita,. Krishna talks about a ladder of Bhakti. The lowest rung of the ladder is, doing each action as an offering in a prayer to the divine is the Yoga of Action. Taking what comes as God's offering. Swamiji explained the “fruits of actions” well-he said fruits of action is a technical term that means drop the worries and anxieties for the future. Keep your mind in the present; action is done in the present. If the mind is free from worries and anxieties then it is calmer and more focused and less divided to act. Worrying about the future takes away so much energy from the mind. 
Here is the ladder of devotion from the first rung to the top most. When tendencies and impressions are 80 percent then drop the worries. This is when almost all of the ladder is still there to climb. When they become 60 percent (about halfway up), then do Yoga of Action, the mind and impressions get more purified. Then at 40 percent do spiritual practices, to bring back the wandering mind again and again. I think for that Pranayama and focus on breath is good. Then when 20 percent tendencies are there, the mind can be purified through meditation and contemplation. 
Then Krishna explained that knowledge is more important than practices, meditation more important than knowledge. The highest form of devotion is meditation on the formless, the cosmic consciousness.  And renouncing the fruits of action more important than meditation. Peace immediately follows. This is the ladder of Bhakti. If you are confused it's okay.

There are different stages a devotee evolves through. First there is a need for a form, as the heart and mind are filled only in Him, and the devotee sees the divine in all forms and everywhere. The devotee then sees the divine as the essence behind all of creation and worships Him as the formless. As the devotee merges and dissolves she becomes one with the divine. This is the ultimate knowledge, and at the climax of devotion there is only this ultimate truth of Oneness. 

Devotion is unconditional love between me and the divine, and at the peak of devotion, the merging into the divine, I become unconditional love, bliss.

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