Broadly there have been three paths articulated in the Gita to attain the highest state of Happiness. These can be termed as the way of Works, Knowledge and last but not the least Bhakti or Devotion. I am starting with the third as without that the other two are not complete. Also that seems the easiest path to follow in the Modern World.
Devotion and Deep Love are used interchangeably in English and love in itself has so many connotations that our Minds out of force or habit attribute many meanings to the word. Therefore, it is better to use Devotion to explain this path.
All of us are aware that we associate ourselves with a few others in practical life sometimes with a sense of duty, sometimes out of affection and love etc., but most times as I had explained in earlier articles it is not selfless love i.e. we do not lose ourselves but we think we love others and that is because we regard others as part of or possessions of ourselves. Thus we can term it as a love with expectations. This can also be understood as a limited extension of ourselves.
To pursue the easiest path to Everlasting Happiness a love with expectations is not the path we need to pursue. Then what is True Love or Devotion especially with reference to That One or Him?
Let us assume one loves another person without any expectation. Is that enough and what happens then? To understand Devotion it may be easier to start with few examples. The first one is a story that I had read in Childhood in ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ on Tulsidas. Before Tulsidas became enlightened he loves his wife dearly and wishes to meet her every day. One day he goes to her father’s house. That day there is a huge storm and the river is in spate but he stills swims across (as told in the story) by catching on to a dead body and then climbs up to her room holding a snake’s tail . When he sees his beloved he explains the difficulty with which he had reached her expecting her to be delighted at his deep love for her. Instead she chastises him and says that instead of loving her a mere mortal of flesh and bones, if only he had shown the same devotion and love to his first Love i.e. Sri Rama he would have attained Him. He becomes so ashamed that, from that day onwards he dedicates himself fully to Rama and his love for Him.
This is the difference between Love and Devotion. Love is temporary, is linked to a form, is mostly linked to some expectation (at least praise of how loving one is) most importantly it is not deep enough to silence the Mind in that emotion continuously.
Devotion can be even to a form but the form becomes a surrogate or a substitute for Him or That One. Look at Thinnan/ Kannappa Nayanar, the poor hunter who loved the Sivalinga so much that his Mind did not ask how the stone Linga could bleed or how it suddenly developed eyes. He did not think what would happen to him once he lost his eyes. His Devotion and Love for Shiva was so much that he plucked out his own eyes. Did he feel the pain? May be yes but the love was far greater than the pain. He was ready to sacrifice everything to the Lord he loves. Similar is the case with Mira or Andal. Nothing else mattered but Him. They want only to become One with Him. Then the Mind did not question how to become one with an idol! The Mind was silenced by the depth of their Devotion and Love. This is one type of devotion.
The other type is where one form of Him is substituted and is replaced by a complete Love of all. Enemy or a person who hates one does not matter. One will love others irrespective of caste, creed or sometimes even intent not because they deserve it but because one sees only Him in human form everywhere and not persons!
But the real key to this path is the complete sacrifice of our individual ego at His feet. The relationship with Him is complete in itself. The Lord becomes one’s child, one’s lover, one’s partner, one’s father / mother and may be even grandchild in one’s imagination. A stone idol or image or picture comes to Life and takes all forms. This means the Mind is suspended. We have heard Love is Blind, what does that imply? Logic is left behind in the Mind’s Silence. But in the practical life context, if logic is left behind when loving another person deeply it mostly results in great tragedy as practical issues prevent permanent happiness from being experienced.
In the case of Devotion all our emotions are centered and poured out to Him. This can be experienced through the highest feeling of Love one has when the Mind is still active but they are only corrupted versions of the Joy one feels when the Mind is silenced in one’s Love of the Lord. This is the height of Bhakti. This is not possible between two human beings as the Mind will very quickly come in between. The same happens between human and animal as our own Mind will put thoughts in to the animals head even when it does not have any!
To be continued ..
(This is the first article of a two-part series titled “Path to Happiness” )
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(The writer is the Joint Managing Director of TVS & Sons Ltd., and MD, TVS Logistics)