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!
Having looked at methods of engaging with Bhakti, the text now flows to what else aids the application and maintenance of Living in Love. This is Chapter three, section two of the NBS.
muOytStu mhTk&pyEv _agvTk&palezaÖa.38.
Mukhyatastu mahatkRpayaiva bhtagatkRpaaleshaadvaa ||38||
Indeed, primarily it is gained through the grace of great souls, or through a little of the Divine Grace.
In some ways this may also be considered as a continuation of 'method'; here it is advised that in order to truly benefit and build Bhakti to its fullest, one would best sit in the presence of those who have travelled the path and proven their worth - or have done enough oneself to bring down sacred blessings in the form of 'direct assistance'.
When, even in the material world of activities we often find the we require the assistance of our seniors in order to better our position and gain promotion, how can we expect to traverse spiritual life without the same?! How often has it been the case that we have read instructions and thought that we could build the item alone, only to discover that we had mis-read, misunderstood, had the instructions back to front, misplaced a piece of the kit somewhere… then along comes someone who has built such a kit before and they show us with their expertise the better method of getting the thing built? There is no shame in this. In fact, to sit and fume over how difficult the thing is, we can tend to start blaming the kit or the instructions and not take responsibility for our own errors.
It is often debated among novice seekers as to whether Divine Grace (Iishwara-kripa) will help, or whether the path must be built up by one's own, independent and deliberately planned self-effort (purushartha). The shastra itself provides the answer; through self-effort, when the mind of the seeker is purified, the Grace Divine shall rush in to flood life with light and joy. Purushartha brings Iishwara-kripa… "God helps those who help themselves"! All scriptures hold similar promise. In Matthew 7:7 we hear, 'Ask and it shall be given to ye; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto ye." Purushartha is ask, seek, knock; Iishwara-kripa is given, found, opened.
As a grammatical point which adds also to the argument of the sutra, the closing word is 'va', meaning 'or'. Sanskrit being what it is, this not only means there is the alternative of 'slight touch of God', but we are to understand and accept that by being in the presence of the great souls (mahatmas) pointed out at first, we are, by default, anyway gaining that grace; in this tradition, Guru is God walking the earth.
Sri Narada acknowledges however;
Mahatsangastu durlabho-gamyo-mochashcha ||39||
To come into contact with a great soul is indeed extremely difficult; it is impossible to know them fully; yet it is infallible in its effect.
How to meet a mahatma? How would we know one even if we were walking beside him or her? These are questions often raised by novices. Narada-ji reminds us that such folk are few and far between. If we are one of the lucky band who does receive this privilege, when we do come into contact with such a mahatma, it can be very hard to recognise their greatness and attune ourselves to that soul - for we are looking through our eyes, tainted with the world, knowing not how to weigh the character before us. Indeed, history is full of the tales of mahatmas (blessed souls/ saints) who have suffered as a result of the people around misreading their intentions; such masters have been stoned, hung, crushed, whipped...crucified.
Fortunately there are enough great masters and sufficient numbers of genuine, attuned seekers to ensure that the history is not forgotten and the that teachings continue to flow. For those who come into the care and guidance of a mahatma, they cannot but feel the Grace flow to them. However, it is important that we do not see every orator as a 'guru' and rush to be a 'follower'; we must at all times have our 'thinking caps' on and our inner antenna tuned up to ensure we are not being led further astray. Doing this, with patience, whilst attending our personal saadhana as best we can, the true teacher for us will appear.
Gurudev puts this nicely in his narration; "In short, an individual cannot, purchasing a ticket and travelling North, reach the Himalayas and phone up the teacher, fix an appointment and meet him on the dot of the appointed hour. The more we search, the more we are apt to come under the influence of a false one, because what do we know, in our present state of imperfection, about the super-subtle qualities of a great teacher? Even if we meet one, we may insult him in our stupidity. Therefore our aahchaaryas advise each seeker to remain where s/he is and, with true devotion, progressively purify, keeping constantly a deep inner demand for a teacher. To such a seeker, living the honest life of a sadhak, the teacher will appear!... When the right type of student, who is fit for the Knowledge, meets a true teacher, the transformation that takes place in the student is almost miraculous. After reaching a teacher, if you are feeling no inspiration and discover no change in your life… understand that either s/he is not the teacher for you - or that you are not pure enough to be benefited by the master."