Devotion, Love, and Longing
The seventeenth-century French mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal once famously wrote: “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.”
These words come from a collection of his writings on Christianity, and mean that spiritual love cannot be understood by the intellect. Another faculty, the spiritual heart, so to speak, is needed for this purpose.
We have all experienced worldly love, which is fragile because it is easily broken, and is fickle because it changes all the time. Spiritual love is different. Its focus is not outside but within, and can be experienced only when the consciousness rises above the level of the intellect. And whereas worldly love thrives on ego, spiritual love eradicates our sense of individuality and leads to the merging of our consciousness with the source of all love – the Lord himself.
Logically, in order to love God, we first need to know God. But Maharaj Charan Singh told us that before we can know God, we must know ourselves. He says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I: “Self-realization is essential before God-realization. Unless we know who we are, how can we know who God is?”
But then, what is self-realization? Mystics tell us that there’s an energy emanating from God that endows every aspect of creation with the essence and power of his being. This power is the Shabd. The soul is a particle of this Shabd and therefore is man’s real essence. By implication then, the Creator, the Shabd, and the soul are of the same essence.
However, we are unaware of not only the existence of our soul but also this divine energy. Self-realization is the direct experience of our soul. This experience requires us to free the soul from enslavement by the mind, at which stage the soul’s innate love will be magnetically attracted to and drawn upward by the Shabd.
In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I, Maharaj Charan Singh tells us:
When we know our real self, it will be pure devotion, pure love, pure faith of the soul in the Lord. That alone can take it back to the Lord.
This knowing of the soul can only happen through labour and through love. The disciple must work, and love will be the fruit of that work. The disciple’s work is to realize the Shabd that rings within his own body. Devotion and love form an indispensable part of this realization, where the focus of this love is always on the Master himself. It starts with devotion to his physical form and faith in his teachings. Then, as we progress within, it deepens into a more intense and selfless love. For, as Maharaj Charan Singh tells us in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I:
We can only love what we can see, what we can touch, what we know.… We have only a concept of the Lord. We neither know what he looks like nor do we know anything about him, so how can we love him?
The Master is in the world with us, and we can relate to him on a human level. We find him beautiful and captivating. When he speaks we listen, because his words are filled with wisdom. His presence fills the atmosphere with an aura of peace, power, and love, which irresistibly attracts us to him. And since the essence of our own soul is love, we feel a deep bond of attachment to him. Drawn by his physical qualities, we crave his darshan and we declare our love for him.
But is this just an empty declaration? Without meditation, this feeling of love cannot be more than a shallow emotional love that we experience through the mind and senses. It is only through our meditation that we develop real love for the physical form of the Master, which in turn grows into a more enduring spiritual love.
When, through meditation, the attention is withdrawn from the world and from the body to the eye centre, we commence our journey inward. Eventually the Radiant Form of our Master will be revealed to us. The radiant beauty of this form will irresistibly attract us, and for the first time we will experience real spiritual love. The book The Gospel of Jesus tells us:
If the disciple has found the physical form to be beautiful beyond all other human forms, that is nothing compared to the light, the beauty, the radiance and the love that surround and emanate from the Master as he is seen on the inner planes.… There is nothing that can compare with this experience; and it is the longing for this meeting which ultimately drives and draws a disciple to attend assiduously to meditation.
If it is by devotion that we reach this state of love, then it is by longing that this love for the Master can be sustained. We may feel as though the Master is hiding his inner form from us, separating himself from us. But actually, it is our attention that falls, and we think the Master is no longer there. The desire to find the inner form fuels our longing, resulting in greater spiritual effort. Longing provides a boost to our spiritual practice.
In truth, the source of the disciple’s love is the Master himself. The disciple feels the love, but it is the Master who gives it. He even creates the desire in us to meditate and gives us the strength to struggle on the path.
This love transforms the disciple’s consciousness. From knowing only the limited reality of the world, the disciple becomes spiritually awakened and a humble instrument of the Master’s love, in harmony with his will.
Ultimately, the disciple is destined to merge his consciousness into the Lord’s ocean of love. Then the disciple will know that his true self is his soul, and that its essence is the same as that of the Lord. He will be self-realized. He will know himself. And in this state, when his soul merges with its source, he will become God-realized – one with God.