People often say: "How can Krishna, Rama, Christ, etc. possibly be the supreme? Why should we worship the supreme in a limited form?" But this misses the whole point of worship and bhakti. If the supreme, the absolute is everywhere in everything, then why not also in the form of Krishna or Christ? It does not matter whether it is Crishna or Christ, or whether it is Krishna or Krist! There is no difference. It does not matter what form you choose. Furthermore, this worship or bhakti to a specific form, this personalization of the supreme, is a means for you to know the higher experience for yourself. Everything and anything is simultaneously the absolute and not the absolute. This seems a contradiction in logical terms, and it is. But you must understand the implications behind this statement for yourself. Forms or deities such as Krishna and Christ are both the supreme and not the supreme. It depends entirely on one's level of awareness. The important thing, however, is that anything for which you feel overwhelming, intense bhakti can be the means to go beyond the normal, mundane levels of awareness and experience.
They say that Krishna, Christ, Rama, etc. are avatars (divine incarnations), but actually everything and everyone in the universe is a divine incarnation. You are yourself a divine incarnation, but probably don't know it. The idea and aim is to go beyond the limitations of one's individual self and to know the transcendental nature of one's real self.
Therefore, the best advice we can give here is that you discard all rational, intellectual thought and discussions about the validity of worshipping a certain form of incarnation of divinity. The answer to the question is way bevond the intellect - the answer is transcendental. All you have to do is to express and channel bhakti to any form that comes naturally to your personality. The answer will come in time. All doubts will be dispelled. You will in time, realize the real, ineffable, unspeakable nature and purposes of worshipping a specific form.
Scientifically, this idea of the unlimited in the limited or the infinite in the finite is not new. Let us give an example. Scientists have been amazed at the implications behind research into the nature of the DNA molecule. If you have forgotten what the DNA molecule3 is. it is the so-called molecule of life. It is the molecule of incredible complexity, which moulds individual characteristics in human beings. It is the blueprint of hair colour, size of feet, height and all other features of each person. It determines the pattern of growth from childhood to adulthood. It is the molecule that fixes our mode of life and we have to follow its dictates on a physical level. But there is much more. Scientists are beginning to tell us, with the awe of mystics, that this molecule contains the entire knowledge of our evolutionary past. It contains the collective unconscious of the human race. It contains the memory of events that occurred thousands and millions ofyears ago. It contains the entire history of existence. The scientists probably find it hard to believe the facts for themselves, but they are forced to this conclusion through experience and research. It is something that the conditioned mind cannot easily accept or grasp.
So science is looking and pointing in the same direction as yoga and religions. Science is also starting to revise its attitude towards atoms. Many top scientists have already discarded the mechanical model of the 'simple' atom. They no longer regard an atom as merely a collection of electrons buzzing and whirling around a central nucleus. This may be a reasonable picture, but tests and experiments indicate beyond doubt that the nature of the atom is much more than the mechanical model. There is a substratum, an essence that lies hidden behind each and every atom. Each atom seems to be like a whirlpool a centre where cosmic forces are focussed. So where will this type of thinking and such discoveries take us? Possibly to the point where yoga and science hold each other's hand and realize that they are basically talking about the same thing.
What we are trying to point out is that each particle in the universe is connected to the infinite. Therefore, is it inconceivable that any point, any object, any focus, any deity can lead us to transcendental experience? You must answer this question for yourself through personal experience, but this in a sense gives scientific validity to the idea and method of bhakti yoga. One concentrates on a specific point. This leads to the beyond. Devotion of one's mental and emotional powers to a limited object can lead to transcendence. If you are scientifically inclined and you are following modern discoveries, then you should be able to see a glimmer of sense in the idea of attaining the infinite through the finite.
The explanation we have given is not intended to explain the power of bhakti. There is far more behind experiencing the transcendental by means of the finite, than can be explained in current scientific terminology. But what we have tried to do is to show that the worship of a finite object or deity is not totally alien to science. If science can tell us that each and every DNA molecule contains the immeasurable collective unconscious, then is it absurd, to suggest that bhakti or devotion to an object can also lead directly to the awareness of the infinite consciousness?
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says: "A bhak-ta can worship me in any form; whatever form he chooses, I will justify and accept his bhakti." This sums up the whole subject. Follow your own feelings of devotion, if you have them.
Don't feel obliged to worship only traditional forms. You can choose aspects of nature ifyou wish, as did so many poets such as Wordsworth. Worship can be in so many different ways. The great scientist George Washington Carver expressed his bhakti when he said: "When I touch that flower I am touching infinity. It existed before there were human beings on this earth and will continue in the millions of years to come. Through that flower, I talk to the infinite which is only a silent force."
Needless to say, it is not easy to love and feel bhakti towards everything. In fact, it cannot arise until one wallows in states of higher awareness. When one is in perfect tune with the infinite, whether for a second or a lifetime, then one spontaneously feels love for everything without exception or stipulation.
At the same time, it is a very useful practice in bhakti yoga to superimpose divinity in any form that you conceive, whether tangible or intangible, on everything that you see in the world. That is, you can tiy to worship everything, seeing all as a manifestation of divinity. That is, if you are a devotee of Krishna, then you can try to see Krishna, in form or essence, in everything. At first this attitude and feeling is more intellectual than anything else. But with practice, bhakti will arise automatically in the light of personal experience. Then you will truly see divinity in everything not through faith or belief, but through personal knowledge and experience.
One should try to see divinity in everyone no matter what their faults and propensities. In the Uddhava Gita it says: "One should treat all others with respect and honour, in the same way that one shows devotion to the supreme (here in the form of Krishna). This leads to freedom from hatred, envy, malice, self-conceit." This is not easy to put into practice without a definite transcendental experience. But if you do this, even to a small degree, then your mind will become more and more relaxed. Moreover, it will also be wide awake and alert because of the remembrance. This is a rapid means to meditation.
The Uddhava Gita continues: "... Believing the Lord to be in all things, he (the bhakta) should worship all things, whether a pariah, dog, or a donkey until he experiences the real meaning of divinity in all things." This can lead to the experience of the great Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore when he wrote: "The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures. It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers. It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean cradle of birth and death, in ebb and flow. I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this word of life. And my pride is from the life throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment."
The aim is to see the supreme divinity in every face, to worship everyone and everything, because eveiything is indeed divine. But you should feel bhakti towards things not because they are different, but because everything is in fact the essence of yourself.
It is when you start to feel this bhakti towards everything that you start to harmonize with others and with yourself. It is under these circumstances that you will gain happiness from the happiness of others. There is a saying that goes something like: "to find joy in another's joy, is the secret of happiness." It doesn't mean that you have to walk around joking and laughing with everyone. This is more likely to be show and falsity than anything else. It means living your life, but being tolerant of others, trying to understand others, trying to increase the happiness level of those people that you meet if it is possible. A man's life has meaning when a little more love and light comes into the world through his efforts. This bhakti towards fellow beings was expressed powerfully by St. Francis of Assisi when he wrote the following poem:
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, let me sow pardon. Where there is doubt, to sow faith. Where there is despair, to sow light. And where there is sadness, let me sow joy. Oh, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, As to console.
To be understood as to understand, To be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, And it is in dying (to the ego) that we are born to eternal life (expanded awareness).
This is the way to reduce the fetters of selfishness. It is also the way to make the mind more receptive to higher experience.
There is a state of bhakti called madhura (divine sweetness). This is love of the divine in everything. One sees beauty and perfection everywhere. Wherever one looks one sees the form of the divine. There is love for everything. One looks outwards and only sees the work and essence of the supreme. This is an intoxication of bliss. One becomes saturated with bliss, for there is nothing that is not the supreme essence. It can be compared to the love that a man feels towards a woman, his beloved; or the love a woman shows towards her beloved. But this love is directed towards everything, vet, and this is the strange thing, it is simultaneously love that is non-directional; it is merely love and bliss in itself. It is not directed towards anything in particular, for this implies separateness and difference. It is both love for everything and love for nothing specifically.
In India, there are wonderful devotional songs which try to depict this indescribable state of all-encompassing bhakti. The great bhakta Tukaram wrote a song, one among many, called Virat Bandana in the Maharash-trian language of West India. The rough translation of the title is 'world prayer'. The first verse is as follows:
In every place are you,
In eveiy shape are you.
Your names are many,
But you are really only one.
Your playground is this visible universe.
In all this play, in all this carnival,
There is another beautiful Sanskrit song called Shyam Ki Madkuri, which means the 'sweetness of the supreme'. It is a song that names all things of the world as being the essence of sweetness of the supreme. The song expresses the feeling of the person who feels madhura bhakti - divine love of everything.
Bhakti is like being in love with everything continuously, from humans, to the birds, the flowers . . . everything. You have no choice, for you realize their real nature and the nature of yourself and with this 'impossible' relationship, how is it possible not to feel love for everything? When you gain a peep, a glimpse of the essence of everything, the essence that is normally hidden from the eyes of most people, bhakti must result. Find out your real nature and the nature of everything and you will feel bhakti. You will never be the same person again.
But this state comes only when one has the grace of expanded awareness. Once you have had a taste of the divine kiss from the lips of the beloved, then you will feel unquenchable thirst and aspiration for the supreme consciousness. The bhakta will chase and worship the supreme like a madman. One will forget everything except the divine. One divine kiss and one's whole life is transformed.
1 This has previously been explained in Karma Yoga, Part 1 and 2: Book I, Lesson 12, Topic 1 and Book II, Lesson 13, Topic 1 Book III, Lesson 28, Topic 1
For further details on the DNA molecule refer to 'Meditation and the Mind': Book I, Lesson 8, Topic 2
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