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Different Forms of Love of God
By Paramahansa Yogananda (Excerpts from 2004 SRF Magazine)
Then there is the love of the son for the Mother. That has been my principal relationship. We are devoted to the father, but we love mother because her compassion forgives us when the stern reasoning of the father will not. Mother's love is always forgiving. That is the unconditional love of God, the love of God incarnated in the mother's heart. The Divine Mother-child relationship is so wonderful because no matter what you are, She always loves you. Never call yourself a sinner, for you are a child of God, a child of the Divine Mother. And the Mother never forsakes you when you make mistakes, for She knows that then you need Her even more. She will help the repentant child to reform and to rectify its errors.
There is another relationship—God as the Beloved, you as the loved one. That is a very difficult conception, but some pure souls have succeeded. It is not a path for those who have not mastered body consciousness, because that relationship with God is nullified by any taint of carnal thought. To find God by that relationship is thus difficult, because it demands only the purest love.
When you think of God as your Friend, that relationship expresses the grandest form of love and devotion. Friendship is the touchstone by which we may know the purity of any relationship, human or divine. It has the sweetness of all forms of love without their contamination. In parental love there is a compulsion of nature; and in all other forms of human love there is some selfish compulsion—but not in true friendship. When you speak of a sibling and say, "He is my brother," that means he is born of the same parents and you have to love him as such. But when you say of another, "He is my friend," that means you offer to him your love that is pure and unconditional—that you have freely chosen to give your love to him.
A friend may be like a father or a mother to us, or a faithful confidant and supporter. In all human relations God has tried to express His love for us. So look to Him as your Divine Friend, the one you freely choose to love unconditionally and who loves you eternally. Such was the relationship between the devotee Arjuna and his intimate Divine Friend Lord Krishna, the avatar in whom Arjuna saw the Infinite incarnate. Through his devout, worshipful friendship, he received enlightenment and liberation from the Universal Spirit as his Divine Friend Krishna.
In the friendship relationship with God, there is both devotion and love: the reverence of worship and the consummation of union. Love is complete surrender. Devotion says "I adore Thee"; love says "Thou and I are One."
Love and Devotion Combined
Devotion is a deeply reverential admiration for God. It is characterized by an element of separation between the soul and Spirit. In love, there is a merging of the two into One. In devotion, your desire is not to establish oneness with God, but to keep your separate identity for the joy of standing apart and worshiping the Object of your adoration. The attitude of devotion is, "I am Thy son, and Thou art my Father"; or, "I am Thy lover, and Thou art my Beloved"; or, "I am Thy devotee, and Thou art my Lord." In this state, the devotee doesn't want to say or feel, "Thou and I are One," but rather, "I adore Thee." Even though liberation has been attained, the devotee is free to retain his individuality in order to enjoy, throughout this life and all eternity, the bliss of beholding God and worshiping Him with the offering of devotion.
When love and devotion are combined,
that is the supreme form of expression toward God.
Along with the reverence of devotion and the surrender of love, there must also be knowledge and application of the law by which He can be known. If you follow the law of scientific yoga concentration and meditation, you learn how to rise above your flesh consciousness; then you will realize God and can go back to the Infinite. However, without love and devotion, the law alone is very exacting. But when with the faithful practice of the guru-given yoga techniques of God-realization, you can say with the fervour of your heart and soul, "God, You are my Divine Friend—my Divine Mother, my Divine Father"—His heart melts. These things that I am telling you are not from any text. These are truths that I receive in my communion with God.
Love and devotion for God is something I can talk about day and night and never end. It is something very intoxicating, very solacing. The Lord says, I can give you salvation if you make the effort; but I cannot give My love and devotion, for if I give that away I become poor. This is the treasure of God, His very essence. It is so all-fulfilling; He has naught else of worth, in comparison, to give. He has, veritably, given Himself.
God has given to you the blessedness of belonging to Him always. You have only to realize that. He feels insulted when you base your relationship with Him on prayers for money or fulfillment of material desires. Why make prosperity your utmost goal, for it will seek you when you seek God. There is not a need or wish that God hasn't satisfied for me. And I do not have to ask. You should pray only for one thing: that you may be with Him always. When you have prayed for that, you have prayed for everything else. ...
In seeking God, remember, there is one thing He lacks, one thing He is seeking from you: your love and devotion freely given to Him from your heart. When you are engaged in outer rituals and vocal prayer your mind cannot go deeper within, and your feelings will be restless. To reach God, your prayers must be interiorized with concentration and permeated with devotion. No matter how you try, without devotion you are a poor, poor marksman. But with devotion, you have touched God; He will surely come to you. ...
Meditate at home regularly in the way you have been taught. Before you begin meditation, prepare your consciousness with devotion, with the thought that God has expressed Himself through all loves. His love is the reservoir, and all these forms of love are openings in that reservoir. So invoke the Divine Presence as "Heavenly Father, Mother, Friend, Beloved God."
After you have meditated, talk with God. Take any aspect of love you want and give devotion to God in that form. Again and again pray to Him and demand, "Never leave me, Father. Be with me always and always and always." That is how my time is passed in great joy. In devotion is the conjunction of your feeling with intellectual and intuitional perception of God. Meditate at night; don't go to bed until your heart is aflame with devotion. And every day be fishers of men, to establish His temple in the hearts of others. Life will be just a dream of happiness if you do this.
"God; God; God; God. Be with us always."
"Love God With All Your Heart"
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. (Mark 12:30)
That system of spiritual culture whereby one learns to "love God with all your heart" is known in India as Bhakti Yoga—union with God through unconditional love and devotion. The bhakta realizes that whatever is in a person's heart, that is where his concentration is —on the thing he loves. As the lover's heart is on the beloved and the drunkard's is on his drink, so the devotee's heart is continuously absorbed in love for his Divine Beloved.
To "love God with all your mind" means with focused concentration. India has specialized in the science of concentrating the mind one-pointedly through definite techniques, so that during the time of worship the devotee is able to keep his whole attention on God. If while offering prayerful devotions the mind is constantly flitting to thoughts of work or food or bodily sensations or other diversions, that is not loving God with all the mind. The Bible teaches: "Pray without ceasing";" India's yoga science gives the actual methodology to worship God with that fully concentrated mind.
To "love God with all your soul" means to enter the state of superconscious ecstasy, direct perception of the soul and its oneness with God. When no thoughts cross the mind, but there is a conscious all-knowingness, when one knows through intuitive realization that he can do anything just by so ordering it, then one is in the expanded state of superconsciousness. It is the realization of the soul as the reflection of God, the soul's connection with the consciousness of God. It is a state of exceeding joy: the soul's crystalline perception of the omnipresent Spirit reflected as the joy of meditation.
To love God with all the soul requires the complete stillness of transcendent interiorization. This cannot be achieved while praying aloud, moving the hands this way and that, singing or chanting, or doing anything else that activates the sensory-muscular apparatus of the body. (p.1031, Discourse 53, The Second Coming of Christ by Paramahansa Yogananda)