By Sri Nandanandana dasa (Stephen Knapp)
This is actually the goal of any saint, sadhu, holy man, or bhakta, to go through life and perform all of one’s activities while being absorbed in thoughts and awareness of God–like a constant meditation. This is the means of bhakti-yoga by which we are always thinking of Lord Krishna in some way. This is the way we reach the spiritual strata.
“A grass worm confined in a hole by a bee always thinks of the bee in fear and enmity and later becomes a bee simply because of such remembrance. Similarly, if the conditioned souls somehow or other think of Krishna, who is sat-chit-ananda-vigraha [the eternal form of bliss and knowledge], they will become free from their sins. Whether thinking of Him as their worshipable Lord or as an enemy, because of constantly thinking of Him, they will regain their spiritual bodies. Many, many persons have attained liberation simply by thinking of Krishna with great attention and giving up sinful activities. This great attention may be due to lusty desires, inimical feelings, fear, affection, or devotional service…” (Bhag.7.1.28-30)
The meaning of this verse is that it is the nature of the soul to love and be loved, and to offer service to the Supreme Soul. When the soul is engaged in its constitutional position and activities, naturally the effects of material life, such as karma, begin to evaporate and disappear. As a person progresses in this way, he or she begins to attain the perception of their real spiritual identity. And this is easily done simply by arranging one’s life so that they can somehow think of Krishna all the time or as much as possible. This is the purpose of bhakti-yoga.
“O my Lord, master of all mystic yoga, this is the explanation of the yogic process spoken of by Lord Brahma [Hiranyagarbha], who is self-realized. At the time of death, all yogis give up their material body with full detachment simply by placing their minds at Your lotus feet. That is the perfection of yoga.” (Bhag.5.19.13)
If we are detached from this body, and are thinking of Krishna and His pastimes, qualities, characteristics, etc., when you leave your physical form, then we will naturally go to Lord Krishna’s spiritual abode. But for materialists who have made no such endeavor, they will be thinking of material and bodily or sensual activities. Even if we leave this material body but then begin to hanker for the taste of some food, like chocolate or something, how can you enjoy the taste of such a thing without a material body? Therefore, such desires will bring us back into another material body in order to continue to pursue our material desires. But a person who brings his or her attention to Krishna throughout the day is already liberated, even while still existing in their material body. That is because their consciousness is being spiritualized, and enters into the same frequency as the spiritual dimension. One’s devotion to God will automatically bring a person to thinking of God, which brings one to the object of their meditation.
For this reason, an advanced devotee sees the Lord everywhere, both as the Lord as Supersoul in the heart of every living being, and as the many types of energies of the material manifestation, all of which is the creation of the Lord. Thus, he sees God everywhere and is never forgetful of the Lord. Such a soul who sees the Lord everywhere is never lost.
As stated in the Isha Upanishad (Mantras 6 & 7): “He who sees everything in relation to the Supreme Lord, who sees all entities as His parts and parcels, and who sees the Supreme Lord within everything, never hates anything nor any being. One who always sees all living entities as spiritual sparks, in quality one with the Lord, becomes a true knower of things. What, then, can be illusion or anxiety for him?”
Herein we can understand that if we see all living beings as spiritual parts of the Lord, in the same spiritual quality, then we will be aware of the Supreme in everything. This is called spiritual or Krishna consciousness. This consciousness is the essence of bhakti-yoga, especially when such an awareness is tinged with love and devotion, as related in the Narada-bhakti-sutra (Sutra 55): “Having obtained pure love of God, one looks only at the Lord, hears only about Him, and thinks only about Him.” It is this love that brings the Lord to one’s full attention in such a way as described herein.
REACHING TRANCE OR SAMADHI IN BHAKTI-YOGA
This is the position of being in a meditative trance or samadhi in bhakti-yoga. It is not something that has to be done by a special arrangement. The bhakti-yogi does not have to be in a special physical position, sitting posture or location, or engage in pranayama and so on, but only awakens his awareness of God everywhere.
This is expressed by Sri Havir to King Nimi in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.41): “A devotee should not see anything as being separate from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. Ether, fire, air, water, earth, the sun and other luminaries, all living beings, the directions, trees and other plants, the rivers and oceans–whatever a devotee experiences he should consider to be an expansion of Krishna. Thus seeing everything that exists within creation as the body of the Supreme Lord, Hari, the devotee should offer his sincere respects to the entire expansion of the Lord’s body.” He continues to say (11.2.45), “The most advanced devotee sees within everything the soul of all souls, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. Consequently he sees everything in relation to the Supreme Lord and understands that everything that exists is eternally situated within the Lord.”
Quite honestly, anyone who has this vision and maintains it is already residing in the spiritual world. It is only a matter of time before he automatically attains the supreme abode. As Lord Krishna describes in Bhagavad-gita (6.30): “For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” In this way, this love not only draws us closer to God, but also draws God closer to us. Then the reciprocation and connection between ourselves and the Lord becomes all the more intense and blissful.
This is related by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in His talk with Ramananda Raya, in which He said, “My dear Raya, you are an advanced devotee and are always filled with ecstatic love for Radha and Krishna. Therefore whatever you see–anywhere and everywhere–simply awakens your Krishna consciousness.”
Furthermore, it is said by Sri Krishna Himself, “A highly elevated devotee can bind Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in his heart by love. Wherever he looks, he sees Me and nothing else. Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who destroys everything inauspicious for His devotees, does not leave the hearts of His devotees even if they remember Him and chant about Him inattentively. This is because the rope of love always binds the Lord within the devotees’ hearts. Such devotees should be accepted as most elevated.” (Cc.Mad.25.127-8 & Bhag.11.2.55)
This is expressed a little differently by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in His talk with Ramananda Raya as follows, “The maha-bhagavata, the advanced devotee, certainly sees everything mobile and immobile, but he does not exactly see their forms. Rather, everywhere he immediately sees manifest the form of the Supreme Lord.” (Cc.Mad.8.274)
In this way, the progressed devotee does not merely see the world of forms, but sees the reality behind all these forms, which is the Supreme Creator. Therefore, we should cultivate the vision that everything we see is an expansion of the energies of the Lord, and that it is the Lord Himself who is sporting in the creation and annihilation of the material manifestation. We should be detached, knowing that nothing belongs to us, but we are only utilizing what we need in our own process of self-realization, and developing our service to the Supreme. If we can continue to progress in this process of bhakti-yoga like this, then we also will attain the vision of the advanced devotees. Then we will see further that we are also parts and parcels of the Supreme, engaged in offering loving service to the Lord. When this happens, there is no difference between what we do with our body and the intention and love we have in our soul. At that time we are no longer interested in engaging in activities merely to satisfy our mind and senses. We can see the futility of it, and are only interested in being fulfilled on the spiritual level. Being fixed in the service and awareness of God, such a person is in samadhi, and he becomes a jivan-mukta, a jiva soul who is already liberated while still in this material body.
ATTAINING ONENESS WITH GOD ON THE PATH OF BHAKTI-YOGA
Such a person who has the constant awareness and vision that we have been discussing, is a devotee who attains oneness with God on the path of bhakti-yoga. He or she is absorbed in God and thinks of how to please the Lord or help carry out the wishes that God has for humanity. Then that yogi is considered spiritually awakened.
Just as a dream is real only as long as the dream continues, when we awake, we are free from the dream and come back into reality. Similarly, when we are free from material consciousness and rise to spiritual awareness, and work on that level, then there is no difference between what we do with our bodies and our soul. Everything is engaged in bhakti-yoga, the process of spiritual realization and performing our devotional service to the Supreme Lord. This is also when the subtle body of mind, intelligence and false ego, the false conception of who we are and the storehouse of our sensual desires, become evaporated by our spiritual development. Then there is no difference between our body and soul in our performance of our service to God. In fact, our bodies become spiritually surcharged because of the effects of our spiritual activities. This is another aspect of spiritual oneness on the path of bhakti. It is not that we give up our individuality and merge our identity or our souls into the great Brahman effulgence or into the body of the Supreme. No. Though maintaining our individuality, we no longer have separate interests from those of the Lord. It is that our interests are the same as Krishna’s interests. Our activities are in line with the interests and wishes of Krishna’s. And in this way, we are absorbed with God and act on the spiritual frequency as the Lord. That is the oneness or nonduality as found in bhakti-yoga.
This is summarized in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.22.27): “When a person becomes devoid of all material desires, liberated from all material qualities, he transcends distinctions between actions executed externally [with the body] and internally [as the soul]. At that time the difference between the soul and the Supersoul, which is existing before our self-realization, is annihilated. When a dream is over, there is no longer a distinction between the dream and the dreamer.”
This is when a person could be said to be fully conscious, fully aware of his or her identity and connection with the Supreme. He is filled with love, joy and wonder or amazement, even to the point wherein the yogi is no longer concerned for his own existence, and is mainly focused on seeing God wherever he looks and in whatever he does. In such absorption of God, the devotee’s voice may get choked, his eyes fill with tears, and his words may become slow. He becomes filled with unlimited bliss. Any non-devotee will not understand what is happening to him. But the devotee feels the constant presence of the Lord, and that is all that the devotee wants. Whatever it takes to keep this feeling, that is what he wants. He simply wants to do whatever service the Lord or the spiritual master wants him to do. For him, no obligation is left to be performed, no duty is left unaccomplished, and there is nothing more to be known. It is only the open road toward deeper levels of exchange with the Supreme and higher forms of bliss.
As Lord Krishna very simply explains in Bhagavad-gita (6.31), “The yogi that knows I and the Supersoul within all creatures are one, worships Me and remains always in Me in all circumstances.”
This is why an expert devotee will mold his life so that he always remembers the Lord. While performing all kinds of duties for this life or the next, somehow he constantly remembers the Lord’s names, qualities, pastimes, etc. Thus, he goes through life very differently than the common materialist who focuses mainly on his own goals, his own desires and wants, and how to achieve them. But a devotee is so absorbed in the bliss he gets from his connection with God that he is not interested in the grand prizes, possessions, riches, or fame that ordinary men desire. This is also pointed out in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.16.37), wherein the wives of Kaliya say in their prayers to Lord Krishna, “Those who have attained the dust of Your lotus feet never hanker for the kingship of heaven, limitless sovereignty, the position of Brahma, or rulership over the earth. They are not interested even in the performance of yoga or in liberation itself.”
This is also why a devotee, especially one who has by now experienced a taste for his or her service to Krishna, or the reciprocation he has received from the Lord, sees nothing more important than Krishna. It is the Lord who he wants to serve, it is Krishna who he wants to experience, it is Krishna and His abode the devotee wants to attain. There is nothing more important and more joyful than this.
Even when a devotee enters a dangerous situation, or experiences some kind of loss, he accepts it as the mercy of the Lord because it is a good opportunity to think of the Lord very sincerely, in great earnest, and with undiverted attention. It is actually a test, a preparation in how to think of the Lord at the time of death. All fear is but the reflection of the ultimate fear, which is death. But if we can prepare for that and be able to think of the Lord at any time danger approaches, this practice will prepare us for thinking of the Lord even at the time when we leave this body. When we have conquered death in this manner, there is nothing left for us to be afraid of, knowing that Krishna will protect us. In that way, we may even welcome death.
Therefore, no material condition can stop the flow of devotional service to the Supreme Lord from the pure devotee. This is the example we should follow. In any circumstance, both good or bad, positive or negative, we can continue our loving thoughts of the Lord. After all, as it is said, any material obstacle or reversal in life is but a temporary illusion.
So even if such an illusion should arise, why should it distract us from our natural spiritual position? We have to be able to discern between what is illusion and what is reality. The material condition is one of constant change, so that will continue around us for as long as we remain in this material world, or are affected by its nature of constant change. But the more we are firmly established in reality, which is the spiritual strata, then the freer we will be from identifying with the ever-transitioning material conditions.
A nice verse which relates this is in the Bhagavatam (3.29.12), which says, “Just as the water of the Ganges flows naturally down towards the ocean, such devotional ecstasy, uninterrupted by any material condition, flows toward the Supreme Lord.”
Furthermore, in the mind of a person devoted to God, mental obstacles to our spiritual growth and evil cannot exist. Being sincerely absorbed in the Lord, as we have described herein, will gradually or rapidly obliterate the evil tendencies or bad habits that may be found there. Even Lord Krishna explains this point, “For him who constantly meditates upon My presence within all persons, the bad tendencies of rivalry, envy and abusiveness, along with false ego, are very quickly destroyed.” (Bhag.11.29.15)
Another verse points out that by absorbing ourselves in God, we can remain transcendental to the material changes that take place either within us or around us. “In this way, all the cowherd men, headed by Nanda Maharaja, enjoyed topics about the pastimes of Krishna and Balarama with great transcendental pleasure, and they could not even perceive material tribulations.” (Bhag.10.11.58)
Therefore, whatever problems that exist in our own mind, which is where they are perceived and stored anyway, cannot remain for long if we remain absorbed in Krishna.
ABSORPTION IN GOD IS THE GOAL OF LIFE
During his or her lifetime, a pure devotee, or one who becomes purified, is always speaking of Krishna and engaging in His service. So as soon as he gives up his body, he immediately returns to the spiritual abode of Goloka Vrindavana where Krishna is personally present. He then meets Krishna directly. This is successful human life. (Cc.Mad. 13.155, pur.)
This is how we become absorbed in God, in a constant meditation on the Supreme. Just as a man who puts on green glasses sees the whole world as green, even the whole universe will appear as a manifestation of the Supreme Being, Sri Krishna, of that person in whose heart is imbued with the presence of the Lord.
Such absorption in God is the highest achievement of human life, as even proclaimed by Lord Mahadeva, Shiva, when addressing the Lord in His form as Mohini, as found in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (8.12.6): “Pure devotees or great saintly persons who desire to achieve the highest goal in life and who are completely free from all material desires for sense gratification engage constantly in the transcendental service of Your lotus feet.”
This goal of life, to see the Lord everywhere and in this way be absorbed in Him, was also specifically described by Prahlada Maharaja when he was trying to convince his materialistic and demoniac friends about what is the purpose of life when he said, “O sons of demons, in the same favorable way that one sees himself and takes care of himself, take to devotional service to satisfy Bhagavan Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is present everywhere as the Supersoul of all living beings. Everyone… can revive his original, eternal spiritual life and exist forever simply by accepting the principles of bhakti-yoga. In this material world, to render service to the lotus feet of Govinda, the cause of all causes, and to see Him everywhere, is the only goal of life. This much alone is the ultimate goal of human life, as explained by all the revealed scriptures.” (Bhag.7.7.53-55)
Anyone interested in reading more about this and the path of Bhakti-yoga, please see the book “Bhakti-Yoga: The Easy Path of Devotional Yoga” by Stephen Knapp. More information about this book can be viewed on his website at: http://www.stephen-knapp.com/bhaktiyoga_the_easy_path_of_devotional_yoga.htm