Application - that is what 'Workings-days' are about!
The Narada Bhakti Sutra is our guide for a while… the nature of Love (with the capital 'ell') and a full exploration of it. As always, you are encouraged to seek out the full text from Chinmaya Publications (links in side-bar); but for those who prefer e-readers, this version is recommended. Whilst awareness and interest can be raised by these posts on AV-blog, they cannot substitute for a thorough reading and contemplation...and practice!
We are exploring different views and definitions of Bhakti. Having concatenated the concepts of Love Divine given prior within his own statement (sutras 19/20), Narada-ji, now seeks to offer the authority of example from scripture.
Yathaa vrajagopikaanaam ||21||
Just as the Love of the gopis of Vraja.
In the Srimad Bhagavatam we lean the most about the life of Sri Krishna and how all the gopis (cowgirls) of the village of Vraja fell completely in Love with the Him.
The pure devotion of the gopis extended to their leaving their homes, their families and completely surrendering to the only focus of attention for them - the Lord of Vrindavan. Whilst still performing their daily tasks, such as tending the cattle, or cooking meals, their minds were ever engaged in thoughts of the Lord. If for any moment they discovered they had lost any minutes not thinking of Him, they would feel devastated. Krishna declares to them at one point "Oh dear gopis, breaking asunder the strong chains of family ties, you all have served Me. For this pure Love of yours, even if I serve you for aeons My debts will not be cleared!"
Such was the example set by the gopis that all Gurus now use them as reference for the Love Divine. It might be noted here, that Yeshu also recommended this form of devotion. He told his disciples that the only true way to reach the Lord was to follow His own example and surrender home and family - not at the cost of communications - sweet Mother Mary was ever a part of the Guru's life; however it was always accepted that He was on a path different from most and any who would wish to achieve the same spiritual understanding as His would be best to follow the example.
tÇaip n mahaTMyHanivSm&Typvad>.22.
Tatraapi na maahaatmya-jnana-vismRtyapavaadaH ||22||
Even there, in this condition of total-love, there is no bane of forgetting the glory of the Lord.
One of the very common mistakes made by casual readers of the Bhagavatam, and indeed even by eager students, is thinking that the gopis were simply sentimental, love-lorn women at the mercy of their hormones! This is us judging the Bhaktas from our own point of view, rather than raising our thinking to see through their eyes. It has often been said that the gopis were so 'blinded by love' that they surely could not be engaging their intellect at all and could therefore not ever attain the True Wisdom-Knowledge (jnaana). In fact, nothing could be less true; there are many expressions in the scripture, of the gopis appreciation for and understanding of the Lord's True Nature and that through their bhakti, they came to similar level of spiritual bliss.
Indeed, we find that they have a very clear acceptance of the Lord's Truth, that their 'cowherd' was no mere philandering mortal. They declare at one point, 'You are not a mere child of the Gopa tribe, but you are the very Inner Self of a living things… Thou art Sri Naryana Himself, who has incarnated to serve the world.'
Here we are being advised that blind faith is not what is required for Bhakti. Absolute devotion still requires an active and enquiring mind with clear vision of Truth. Ordinary men fail to achieve the highest devotion due to mistaking love for Love; capital 'ell' Love has no chemical element to it. It does not drive lust, jealousy or any other emotion except for simple, pure compassion for one and all. Such a compassion can only arise from a full and complete Knowledge of the True Nature of things - what in Advaita is referred to as The Real. Those who follow the path of Bhakta still have to be clear about what is Real and what is not real, but their expression of this understanding is to sing the Lord's praises, call His name constantly, serve with only Him in mind and heart. Thus we can find that there is common ground. The paths of Jnaana and Bhakti seek the same Truth, merely taking different forms of expression. Both hold themselves high and are not of the base, common, lustful expression of love to which many of us so easily fall prey.
This is explored further...