Taste of Heaven: Devotional Love


[ THURSDAY, JUNE 26, 2003 12:01:38 AM ]

Once, Krishna's wife Ruk-mini served a glass of steaming hot milk to Radha, His childhood sweetheart. The moment Radha took a sip of the milk, Krishna's feet got blisters. A smiling Krishna explained that Radha's devoted heart enthroned his feet and so, on her drinking the hot milk, His feet got burnt.  

This power of devotion symbolises God's response  to a devotee's deep love. In the Srimad Bhagavatam, Krishna says: "Many are the means described for  the attainment of the highest goal... but of all, love is the highest; love and devotion that make one forget everything else; love that unites the devotee with me... as all earthly pleasures fade into nothingness."  

The path of love is consi-dered supreme because it is wholly selfless and entails the total erasing of self for the love of the supreme Self. The chains of maya bind us. The jnani's strength and knowledge breaks the chains; the bhakta on the other hand, becomes so small and ego-less, he slips through the chains. In bhakti, the mind melts in love for God and so is dissolved. In jnana, the mind is mastered and overpowered by the force of wisdom. 

Sri Sathya Sai Baba says: "Love is the most powerful thing in the world... All the yogas are included in the path of love, and whoever attains this love, attains God."

Mystics and saints of  all religions have testified to the glory of supreme love.  ‘‘It is the power that moves the sun and other stars." said Dante. According to scriptures, God created this  universe for love and that love is the very purpose of our existence. Love confers ananda and softens the grind of mundane existence.  

Tyagaraja sang: "Is there greater bliss O God, than to dance, to sing to you, to pray for your presence, and unite with you in my mind?" The Narada Bhakti Sutras describe bhakti as a transcendental experience of bliss, in which the ego is completely dissolved and absorbed in the divine.  

Divine love is untainted by any motive. Divine love is transitory, a pale reflection  of the real thing. But love  for God is unchanging and eternal. Worldly love is erratic and subject to change; Divine love is flawless, it is ever charged with its own   energy. It is nitya nutanam  or ever-new.  

Like God, who is limitless, His love is also  without boundaries and ever-expanding. The love of the gopis for Krishna is cele- brated in our scriptures because it was of this exalted nature. It transcen-ded mind and body and touched the soul.  

The Sufi saint, Bayazid-  al-Bistani, expressed it thus: "A single atom  of the love of  God in a heart is worth more than a hundred thousand paradises." Sufi literature and music is rich with the rapture that characterises devotional love. The Christian mystic Richard of Saint Victor said: "The whole system of  human reasoning succumbs to that which the soul  perceives of the divine light; when the soul is raised above itself and ravished in ecstasy."  

To attain this state, how-ever, you have to pay a price. Mirabai, the 16th  century saint-poet, sang: "Kanha, the price He asked,  I gave. Some cry, ‘tis great, and others jeer, ‘tis small — I gave in full, weighed to the utmost grain, my love, my life, my soul, my all..."  As mystics have testified there is peace and fulfilment in devotion that nothing else can bring. Chaitanya Maha-prabhu said: "I pray not for wealth, I pray not for honours, I pray not for  pleasures or even for the joys of poetry. I only pray that during all my life, I may have love: that I may have love to love Thee."