ACHARYA DAS: Namaste and welcome. So here we are with the fourth in the series on the Bhagavad-gita, from the series entitled ‘From The Vision Of Eternity: Eight Life Lessons from the Bhagavad-gita.’ And today we’ll be dealing with The Bhagavad-gita on Love.
Before we begin talking I’ll invite you to join us in a little kirtan; the mantra will appear on the screen below and invite you to join in with us.
Haribol Nitai Gaur kirtan
ACHARYA DAS: So, the big subject: love. What is love? One definition from the dictionary is, “An intense feeling of deep affection.” Of course, that’s only one definition but probably quite appropriate and quite often this is what people would be considering love to be and this love that they desire.
How do you recognize love? I’m not talking about your own personal experience. How do you recognize it in others? What is it that you see? And when you see that you go, “Oh, those people are probably in love.” Any ideas? Any thoughts from anyone? Hmm? What would be some of the symptoms or signs of so-called love?
MAN IN AUDIENCE: A display of affection.
ACHARYA DAS: A display of affection. Yes. A display of affection.
Another thing that you will see is, quite often, displays of affection are often tied to affectionate serving or the rendering of some service or kindness to someone in an affectionate mood. The reality is that, that this quality, this—or type of expression where one wants to please the other person. When you’re concerned for somebody else’s happiness more than your own, these are often things that people look at or look to when trying to identify what is love.
Love is perhaps the greatest driving force of all beings. It is the thing, the singular thing, probably more than anything, that motivates and drives people. The desire to both love someone and to be loved is kind of like pretty all-encompassing. It’s sort of like it’s very, very pervasive.
People might put up some form of hard exterior or you get a type of people that are fundamentally – I’ll use the term ‘users’ – where they’re just looking to use others for maybe a sexual experience or something like that. And then they’re quite proud of their capabilities in seducing others or winning the hearts of others and being willing to abandon them. Even those kind of people will come to a point in their life where they feel actually completely unfulfilled and desirous of a genuine experience of love.
We see that in the world, you know, the poets and the musicians and the screenwriters, you know, all of these people often make this a very significant component of stories and poems and things and music that is created. It often becomes a very significant—and although it is a singular topic you hear it over and over again. And people want to hear again and again a good love story, a good song. A moving song about love actually really catches peoples’ attention.
Even in the tough world of rock and roll you see it just displayed. I can remember the—one of the old rock anthems from quite some time ago, I Wanna Know What Love Is (laughs). And you’ve got these heavy rockers going off, “I wanna know what love is. I want you to show me. I want to feel what love is. I know you can show me.” And it’s like, what is this thing? And when they go off on the really big notes and they’re really going for it and everybody’s just lost in it and everybody’s going for it and belting it out, you know, it is an actual cry of the soul. It is the desire of the living being, the spiritual being, to have this experience. And the reason, the very reason that we desire this experience is because it is inseparable from us. It is absolutely inseparable. It is part of our eternal, spiritual nature to want to both love and to be loved.
When we live in this world, embodied, you know, within these material bodies and minds, in this state the conditioned living being, thinking that the body is me, then chases this experience through the vehicle of their body and seek fulfillment of it with the bodies of others. Not really often getting it that this is a deeper, actually, spiritual need that unfortunately cannot be fulfilled within the realm of this material world. We can experience some level of love, some level of affection but the way in which we actually desire it within our heart cannot be fulfilled in this world and with other, what I will term as, material personalities.
So this quest for love, it is really, as I have stated, a very profound spiritual need. It is really part of our eternal, spiritual nature. But when we are overwhelmed by the material experience and consider this body to be me and we go out and search for it in this world, what is it that we actually find? What do we find?
I was talking earlier with some of the people here, how there is this unfortunate reality that perhaps fifty percent or slightly more than fifty percent of all marriages in the United States, where we are now, and in Europe and many of the more developed countries - but now it’s becoming very common all over the world – fifty percent or more terminate. And when you consider that nobody enters into a marriage thinking that this all going to come to an end; people do it and they declare undying love in the hope that this is really what it is that they are—been looking for. That they’ve found what it is that they want and what they need.
But even when things don’t end, how--what’s the normal cycle? You know, it starts off with great excitement and palpitations and then as it progresses, the relationship progresses, people fall into habits of how they relate with each other, how they engage in this relationship and there is this awareness that we often don’t want to think about, is how this relationship—we wish it was more. We feel that we are not completely fulfilled in this relationship. And yet we still cling to and hope; we hold onto this ideal. And that’s why people love a love story or a movie. Because they may be, in their own life, experiencing something of an okay relationship where everybody’s getting along. It’s nice and whatever. But people have kind of got this ideal and they like to see that thing where it’s just like, “Ohhh…” knock-me-out, wonderfully ecstatic, just blissful, perfect love.
We have this ideal because it is, as I said, a part of our eternal spiritual nature to live, to exist in this ideal situation, this spiritual situation. But when we find that, we find most often, more often than not, that our own relationships are very far from perfect and very far from ideal but we still hold out this hope. This need, you know, you have so many actually lonely people in the world. You’ve got all these dating websites, you’ve got people going to bars, you’ve got people, you know, trying to get introduced to people, to each other. Often everybody brings their own baggage, their own ideas of what it is that they want or what they expect and we always have this focus on what we expect from someone else.
Well, part of my calling in life has been to also act as a, like a priest, and to do marriages and other types of ceremonies and functions from the, as a Hindu priest. Because I have that kind of a role and wherever I’m kind of living, the community that I become involved with and then many people seem to come knocking on my door looking for advice also on relationships and love and the difficulties that they are finding with things. And one of the things I tell people is, “Look. Do not, do not place unrealistic expectations on each other.” This is kind of like the worst thing that you can do. Even at weddings I will sometimes talk with people much to the shock of the parents and other people there, sometimes that, you know, you should expect, expect that at some point in this marriage, this relationship, that people are going to be dissatisfied. You’re going to be dissatisfied with each other and you know what? That is normal. It is normal for a very important reason. Another person, another material personality or another living being, ordinary living being, is not going to be able to provide the fulfillment of this need that you have to both love and to be loved. We can express and experience to some degree a relationship founded on love with each other but our real need lies in the reestablishment of a connection with the Supreme Soul, the actual Lord of our heart. And if we are not going to re-link up, re-establish, re-vitalise, dust off, uncover, this natural propensity to love the Lord of our heart then we’ll find ourselves looking everywhere else. And so you see in this world it’s become so common that people take to developing what they think are relationships with pets, animals. And they talk to them, they kiss them, they embrace them and they feel that with their pet they have unconditional love. “My pet doesn’t expect anything from me,” and this is sometimes higher or better than my relationship with my own partner or my own spouse. And for me, not from the point of view of being judgemental or anything like that; no. Wanting people to come to experience the great wonderful condition of actual spiritual love. I know that no relationship with an animal, a pet -who is also a living being trapped in that particular body - is going to be anyone actually fulfilling then a loving relationship with another person in a human body.
So trying to go down these avenues, exploring these different avenues of trying to find the fulfilment, the love that we seek in these different ways is bound to result in some level of frustration or disappointment or at least a lack of actual fulfilment.
There has been a new phenomena that has come up during the last so many years where the focus has—it’s been promoted, this idea, that the most perfect love - in fact, there is a song about it - is found inside of you and it is love for oneself. There this whole amazing phenomena and just because everybody is promoting the idea and just because everybody is accepting and talking about it, it doesn’t make it true. It is impossible for you to find the fulfillment that you actually seek and love by directing that towards one’s own self.
Of course, the big elephant in the room here is love myself and who am I? Most people can’t even actually answer that question. Most of us are absorbed, most people, rather, are absorbed that their body is themself and so they express affection, so-called great respect, pampering of the body or the mind as being what is considered self-love.
The single reason that you cannot ever become fulfilled; you may think that you are. You may be temporarily lost in the idea that self-love is somehow a very wonderful thing. At least I’m not going to let myself down (laughs) but love is inseparable from relationship. You cannot love an inanimate object the way in which you love another living being and more especially it becomes very evident when a person has reached a level of spiritual advancement where their natural love for the Supreme Person, the Supreme Lord, is actually beginning to awaken and be experienced. This experience, this ocean of joyfulness, of blissfulness, attached to this experience is very much tied to relationship. You can’t have a relationship with a car. I can’t have a relationship with my iPhone. I can try to. Everybody is getting into these virtual realities now and it’s simply a manifestation of the bankrupt nature of our current so-called civilisation that we have become so lost that we are having so-called—they are actually fantasy relationships. They are not real relationships. You can’t have a relationship with a thing; you can only have a relationship with another person.
So love, in reality, and I know that there will be people who disagree with this but I am speaking what is the truth, the spiritual truth of things. That love is inseparable from actual relationship. Relationship means two living beings manifesting affection, great affection for one another. Expressing and manifesting that intense affection and in that state unlike—well, let me just step back a little bit.
On the relationship scale, at one end you will have selfishness and on the other end you will have selflessness. In selfishness, a relationship is always one-sided. It’s about what I expect and what I want to get and it’s all about me. On the other end of the scale it’s about selflessness. It’s about being concerned about the happiness of someone else and feeling such affection that one is focused on their happiness. This in its purest form is a completely spiritual expression. On the other end of the scale selflessness has, selfishness rather, sorry, has no spiritual component. In fact, it is the epitome of the material condition. So love is synonymous with relationship and the more selfless the relationship is the more spiritual in nature it actually is.
We are committed and dedicated to the path of yoga. This word ‘yoga’ describes a union. It describes a relationship and the exercise of the process of yoga is about a process of awakening our deepest spiritual nature. The great saint and spiritual teacher who was also regarded as an incarnation of God, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in India 500 years ago. He was the father of this kirtan movement. This kirtan movement is becoming increasingly popular all around the world; well it was Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Krishna Chaitanya, Who was the actual founder of this modern movement. And he spoke often about this natural condition of love, this spiritual condition. And he describes how actual love, love for the Supreme, the Supreme Lord, resides eternally within the heart of all living beings. It is not acquired from any external source. It’s not something that you learn or you pick up or you get from some other place. It actually resides eternally within the core of our heart. And through this process of the hearing of this spiritual sound, the kirtan and the chanting of these transcendental sounds, gradually brings about a purification of the heart and mind and this natural condition of love that has been covered up, actually begins to bloom, it blossoms and awakens within our own heart.
The cultivation of this spiritual relationship of love is most perfect when it is done in relation to the Supreme Lord, the Supreme Soul. In the Bhagavad Gita, in chapter 10 verse 20, at least part of that verse, Krishna says:
I am the Supreme Soul, O Arjuna, seated in the hearts of all living entities.Bhagavad-gita 10.20
This is not a metaphor, this is not just flowery words; it is a reality. You know, in all of the yoga processes, one of the major focus of the ashtanga yogis or the mystic yogis was to, through a process of purification and meditation, to come to see this form of the Lord residing, standing on a lotus in the region of the heart, within our heart of hearts, and when one has this vision, the effect that it has, it is so utterly transformative that a person loses interest in the normal things that people chase after in this world; everything becomes quite irrelevant because of this experience.
So in order to be able to become intimately connected within the—with the Lord who is residing within our own heart, it is necessary for us to undergo a transformative process. The material condition is a condition where we live separately from the Lord within our own heart; we become completely focused on what we consider “our life and our self”. We chase after things in this world thinking that we will find some perfection here. We chase here, we chase there, we try this, we try that, and we always come up empty-handed. The yoga process very much involves learning to curb that tendency and to redirect our search for happiness.
In the 4th chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, the 10th verse it says:
Being freed from attachment, from fear and anger, being fully absorbed in Me and taking refuge in Me, many persons in the past became purified by knowledge of Me and thus, they all attained transcendental love for Me.Bhagavad-gita 4.10
So in this verse Krishna is explaining how that process takes place; what are the different components that are needed. Becoming free from the intense attachments to this world, I mean, a person only needs to think of the reality that everything was here before I showed up in this particular body. I am here for a short period, and then I will leave and I will leave everything behind. There is not one single thing from this world that I can take with me. Becoming overly absorbed in this place and my temporary stay here is like somebody at a bus stop, or they're going to ride the underground, they're going to ride a train or something. They come to the bus stop or the train station or somewhere and they know that the bus is going to come. Maybe they are a little early, they got an hour, and while they're there, they're looking around and going like, "Woah, this could use a clean," and so they get—they go buy a bucket of--- and they get water and they get a cloth and started cleaning it all up and they think, "Hmmm, it would be really nice to put some plants here," so they go out and buy a few plants in the hardware store, you know, the garden supply place just next door and they bring it over and start decorating it and they put foam cushions on the seat and they start hanging pictures around and everybody's kind of like watching; people got their phones out taking pictures, "Oh, what's this guy doing?" you know. (Laughs) You got a time lapse, you know, where you see all these efforts being put into decorating and then making friendship with everybody else that’s waiting there, preparing food for them and everything and then all of a sudden, the bus shows up; and then I've got kind of like make a decision and I'd stand up and pick up my little bag or whatever and get on the bus and drive off and leave all of these behind. This is like a snapshot of life in this world. It was all here before we came and it will all be here after we leave.
Becoming overly attached to this world, to things that we think we can own and acquire is not healthy and it gives rise to these two other things that have been spoken of that we need to become free of; one is of fear, and that fear is always rooted in fear of loss, fear of losing that which we desire or are attached to and ultimately the greatest fear, the foundation of all fear is fear of death. Then the other is anger. You know, anger always arises from our frustration of not being able to get what it is that we want. Krishna speaks to this in the Bhagavad-gita. He says that by contemplating the objects of the senses - the things that we are attracted to - by contemplating it, thinking about it, meditating on it, one develops attachment. From that attachment comes extreme desire or lust to possess or to have. And from this, will come anger. The anger will arise either because we cannot get what it is that we want or we get it and we find that it is not fulfilling.
So here, reading the verse again,
Being freed from attachment, from fear and anger [which are the consequences of all the attachments], being fully absorbed in Me [says Krishna] and taking refuge in Me—Bhagavad-gita 4.10
We'll see that in this world everybody is taking--we're all refugees. We're all looking for a safe place, we're all looking for a home, we're all looking for that relationship where we can take shelter. That the different experiences that we have we're all--we don't want to be alone, we don't want to be lonely, we don't want to be sad, we don't want to be unfulfilled, so we take refuge in so many things. These different refuges that we find in this world are described—the Sanskrit word is "ashraya". Ashraya, one of its meaning is like refuge or shelter. And when you put the "dura" in front of it, dura ashraya, it means false shelter. We think this person or this experience or this object or this whatever, will give me shelter, and I will always find that it will not.
But when one refocuses their life, makes their life an absorption in the Lord of our heart and an absorption in taking refuge in Him,
--in that state many persons in the past became purified by knowledge of Me and thus they all attained transcendental love for me.Bhagavad-gita 4.10
This is the result of the spiritual process; this is the result of all spiritual awakening. If a person has a partial spiritual awakening, they may not come to experience this actual condition of transcendental love. For instance, there are people that are very much attracted towards the impersonal aspect of the Supreme known as the Brahman or brahmajoyti. Actually Brahman is not impersonal; the impersonal feature is one of the features of Brahman. But there are many people, because of not a complete fund of knowledge, where they think that this is the ultimate aspect of the Supreme and they seek to merge into this impersonal ocean of light and feel that this is the ultimate attainment.
For those who stop at this feature of the Lord without coming to know the other features, they will not experience the awakening of this condition of transcendental love. One needs to go beyond this to the experience, the actual experience of bhakti or devotion, loving devotion.
So Krishna says in the Tenth chapter, tenth verse in the Bhagavad-gita;
To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.Bhagavad-gita 10.10
The revelation of spiritual knowledge—you know, a lot of people have this question and this doubt - how will I know, how will I able to attain my goal? I can remember when I was very young and I started experimenting with the yoga process and the mystic yoga process and I was having different experiences and I’ve so much wanted to be guided and I wanted to know how do I get beyond these different things? How do I come to this final state not even knowing what that final state was?
It is by a process of spiritual revelation either through the instruction that one receives from a spiritual master, a preceptor who’s a genuine spiritual personality, or it is through the direction given by the Lord Himself in the different yoga scriptures, such as Bhagavad-gita, or it may come personally from a direction from the Lord within our own heart. This manifestation is known as caitya-guru, which means the guru or the guide within.
When a person is able to go beyond the initial stages of spiritual understanding and begin to actively engage in a relationship with the Supreme Soul and to serve the Lord of one’s heart in a mood of love, one will be given the understanding of how to spiritually progress and what needs to change in my life so that I may come to experience this condition of love.
This manifestation of love will always be manifest as very affectionate service for the Supreme Soul. For those of you who had a—come from the Christian tradition or have been exposed to it, you will probably know that Lord Jesus Christ spoke about his first and foremost commandment which was;
To love the Lord thy God with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole soul, your whole being.Luke 10:27 – KJB
He spoke about this condition and how the real purpose of life is to attain this state of love. It is when a person is able to attain this state of love, they will experience the highest possible happiness. Of course that then raises a question, “Well. what about others? What about other people? How do I relate? What does it mean to—do I love others or how does that play out?”
For one who is progressing spiritually, they will also appreciate the second commandment of Lord Jesus Christ which was to love thy brother or thy neighbors as thy self. One is able to experience actual, actual love for others when we are cultivating this spiritual understanding. The people that I am relating to, you are not the body which I see with my eyes. You are a spiritual personality residing within the body just as I am. Alongside, alongside of you sits another personality. In Sanskrit this is known a Paramatma which means like the Supreme Soul. He resides alongside of us as our eternal friend. When I am developing and cultivating my own affection for the Supreme Friend, when my love for Him is beginning to grow and awaken, it is impossible for me to not also see that all of you, all of you are His children, all of you are His energy, His parts and parcels, individual living beings whom are all intensely loved by the Supreme Soul. That being the case, if I feel love for Him, how can I also not feel love for you? It is impossible and it is only by this awakening that through love for others can begin to manifest. And what happens as a consequence is that a genuinely spiritually advanced person not only feels intense love for the Supreme Lord but he also feels overwhelming love for all living beings and is very much absorbed in rendering real heartfelt spiritual service to all, seeing this intimate connection.
In the Bhagavad-gita Fourth Chapter, 34th verse it says;
Having obtained real knowledge from a self-realized soul, one will never fall again into such illusion, for by this knowledge you will see that all living beings are but part of the Supreme, or, in other words, they are all Mine.Bhagavad-gita 4.35
Then yet from another verse;
A person is considered still further advanced when he regards the honest well-wishers, affectionate benefactors, the neutral, the mediators, the envious, the friends and enemies, the pious and the sinners all with an equal mind.Bhagavad-gita 6.9
So this is the spiritual condition that we were just speaking of. This is the fruit or the result. True spiritual development is the anti-thesis of sectarianism. Sectarianism - where I see differences with others because of some belief they have or a type of body, a cultural difference, a religious difference. Seeing this difference is a clear indication of a great need for more spiritual development for a greater understanding and appreciation of reality.
So such a spiritually developed individual, it says here from the Fifth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita that;
Those who are beyond the dualities that arise from doubts, whose minds are engaged within, who are always busy working for the welfare of all living beings, and who are free from all sins achieve liberation in the Supreme.Bhagavad-gita 5.25
These verses–I can remember in my own life, I’m actually completely amazed (laughs) at the tremendous spiritual potency of my spiritual teachers, of these transcendental sounds that we chant, of this message. When I first read Bhagavad-gita some forty plus years ago, I read it from cover to cover and it was like, “What was that?” There was like--I mean I was so spaced out and drugged out. I’ve been influenced by all kinds of strange and unusual philosophical ideas that are very prevalent in the so-called “yoga” communities and I kind of read everything and it was like there wasn’t one thing that I actually latched on to. Now, because of my enormous fortune, the enormous fortune that I’ve received, we can take one, just one of these verses and speak about it and watch it unfold like a lotus flower. You know, whorl upon whorl of beautiful, beautiful petals until it is fully opened but it never seems to fully open. And with every layer, the fragrance increases and becomes so absolutely wonderful. The spiritual truth that exists, the life lessons that exist, they do so on many, many, many different levels.
A spiritual truth can be looked at from so many different directions by different people and appreciated, really appreciated in different ways and it doesn’t mean that one is necessarily better than others. They’re just different ways of appreciating. These life lessons that we’re speaking about in, particularly this one I’ve spoken of today, are something that we should really try to take to heart and consider. It is really in our best interest to do this. Regardless of what is our situation - we may be very lowly, we may feel very fallen, very sinful, not very intelligent - all of these things are completely true of myself, yet, they do not inhibit in any way the ability to appreciate these spiritual truths. These spiritual truths are given to us, they are revealed to us as we undertake the spiritual process and things become increasingly clear and understandable and we see them in more and more wonderful ways.
So I invite you in your life to also undertake this journey. It is beyond worthwhile. It is what we all need. It is what we are all looking for.
So with that I would like to thank you very much for joining us today and once again we will chant for a few minutes and I invite you to join in the chanting of these spiritual sounds. We will use the Mahamantra again.
Thank you very, very much and hope to see you next week when we continue with this series. Haribol!