He who thirsts for the Darshan of God only will develop love. Unto him alone He will reveal Himself.
There are countless ways to achieve God realisation, to unfold the full spiritual potential of each one of us, just as there are countless variations depending on each individual's temperament and leanings. The universe, as we start our sadhana journey with high hopes and dreams of glory, can look a big and puzzling place and before we know it our minds can get tied into loops and knots by the complexities of it all. So, we start step by step, establish the beginnings of a helpful discipline, then fight against our lower tendencies in order to keep the momentum going. And the years pass...
Bhakti is defined in the great Narada Bhakti Sutras as:
Here are some warning words from Sri Anandamayi Ma:
"At the supreme summit of love, exuberance, excessive emotion and the like cannot possibly occur. Emotional excitement and supreme love are in no wise to be compared. They are totally different from one another."
Crazy LoveSuddenly, one day, you may wake up with the most curious fervour of love, which can indeed mimic madness on occasion, because you become absolutely swept up in the focus of a passionate overwhelming longing for god, a love that brings absolute restlessness to your soul and to your life. One moment it is not there, you are normal, with your little bag of troubles and concerns. The next: impossible yearning!
One day, it was a Saturday, I was planning to go the cinema — and it was set to be a normal day like any other. But a longing overwhelmed me. One moment, normal life. The next, complete fire! I flung down my chanting texts, consumed in this pain of separation, a fire burning it felt like in every cell in my body and my heart began to pour out moans of longing, words I have never used since, a total overwhelming fire of Love for God. Sweet intimate words of longing, nothing fancy, but just a pain, a wound.
I went to the cinema in a daze, returned in a daze, slept in a daze. Tears fell from my cheeks, and the state persisted for about a month. When I saw little things in the world - a beautiful mossy wall, a magenta coloured car, the sunset and so on, my heart burst open and the tears would come. What a strange period, a whirling period of intense longing that just kept racheting up and up.
The result, eventually was that my mind simply stopped one evening at a gazed at a particular cloud formation. It stopped. And what was revealed was glorious. Unfortunately I've lost the notes that were written in ecstasy at the time, but that to me was a taste of bhakti.
That is one stage of bhakti, and it is not a path for the well-behaved, the logical, the prudent. No! stay away from loving God unless you are prepared for this. But, can you stay away from such love? Of course you cannot! It draws you like a moth to the flame. When the great sages say your God really is your Lover, these are not fanciful words. A Lover such as this enjoys every advantage because there is no escape from the storm of ecstatic reaction, which increases in intensity moment by moment.
DiscoveryThe stage of yearning is then replaced by the stage of finding and discovering. This is the realisation of God in every leaf, everything we see, in our feelings, in the random aggregation of tendencies we call our mind, in the sky, in everyone we meet. Thus real love dawns, a love of utter calm because when the heart is full, there are no more storms, just the gentle swell of the ocean. What more is there to wish for when all is granted, runs some lines of a famous Abhanga by Jnaneshwar Maharaj. Such a state is very rare, the supreme attainment of the heart, the supreme uncovering, the supreme silence of the supreme now, the eternal moment of hush and grace and unfolding of manifestation.
This is hinted at in so many wonderful phrases... "the pearl of great price", the mystic wedding", and such phrases will come from your own heart in your own language.
But the simple understand...
Many look down on bhakti as the mad superstitions of Bengali village mothers. Oh, but the poor, the simple, the pure-hearted: They understand it perfectly! You go to a black Baptist church in a run down urban area in the US and that's when bhakti in practice hits you right between the eyes.
I remember I sweet story about this, and a woman disciple who loved her Guru with one-pointed devotion. The Guru died. She continued her life, outwardly a reserved and largely silent anonymous lady in another ashram. But the Master of that ashram well knew her secret inner state. A disciple asked him "what is Guru bhakti?" and the Master said, "Look, I will show you." He beckoned to the silent woman, had her sit near. Then he whispered to the other disciple "Watch her carefully." The Master then asked the disciple loudly "And what is going on in the village of X, haven't you been there recently?" The name of the village was the place in which the woman disciple's Guru died. The woman, on hearing the name, started and her face grew ashen. Tears fell silently from her eyes, but otherwise, no outward sign. "That, " the Master whispered, "Is bhakti."
So, to quote the words of a true spiritual hero Basavanna:
Narada Bhakti SutrasThe Bhakti Sutras ascribed to the great famous sage/messenger of the Vedas, Narada Muni, (who eternally travels the cosmos, veena in hand), are the absolute essence of bhakti philosophy, condensed into 84 different sutras, brief aphorisms and pithy instructions. Below is Narada's prescription on how to obtain bhakti:
35. To attain supreme love, a person must renounce objects of sense pleasures as well as attachment to them
36. Bhakti is obtained by constant and uninterrupted worship of God
37. By hearing of and singing the glory of the Lord, even while engaged in the ordinary activities of life.
38. the principle means of attaining bhakti is the grace of a great soul
39. It is hard to obtain the grace of a great soul because it is hard to recognise such a one. But if a man receives his grace, the effect is infallible
40. Through the grace of God alone an aspirant obtains the grace of a great soul.
41. There is no difference between god and his devotees
40. Therefore seek the mercy of a great soul.
Here's a wonderful quote from the Catholic Saint St Catherine of Genoa, who had more than her fair share of exalted spiritual experiences:
Or to end with the words of the great mystic saint Allama Prabhu: