20. The Ladder of Divine Love
There is a lovely saying in Tamil that three things help others, but do not help themselves: a ladder, a boat and lemon pickles.
A fourth can be added - a teacher!
One should understand the catalytic purpose of a ladder, neither ignore it nor hang on to it.
Asana, pranayama, meditation, concentration, puja, japa, kirtan, svadhyaya and satsang, are spiritual practices (sadhana), a ladder - very useful, tremendously important, unwise to ignore.
They become abhyasa yoga as long as God is your only goal.
They are of great value if they are spiritually orientated.
If remembrance of God is not there, the whole thing is a wash-out.
If your intentions and your goal are not spiritual, however much your practices may appear to be spiritual on the surface, they are only pretension.
If the sadhana is directed towards enlightenment, you should at least be able to recognise that though you want God-realisation and have been doing all this to attain it, God-realisation is still not there - your sadhana is nothing to boast about.
That is where your ego is cut to size.
So, as a sincere spiritual seeker, you must at least recognise that though you have been practising this sadhana regularly, sincerely and seriously, you are still full of doubts, problems and difficulties which you create for yourself (and you experience) - and probably create for others also.
There is disharmony between others and you, produced by you, not by the others.
So, instead of worrying about why God created the world, the more sensible question could be 'Why did I come into being at all?'
Spiritual practice must have as its goal that which is beautifully stated in the Bhagavad Gita:
Fix thy mind on me only, thy intellect in me, thou shalt no doubt live in me alone hereafter. (12:8)
Place your mind in God.
Then you will dwell in him, because you have been swallowed by him.
If thou art unable to fix thy mind steadily on me, then by the yoga of constant practice do thou seek to reach me, O Arjuna. (12:9)
It is a very moving verse.
It is as if Krsna comes down a little bit on this ladder that we are visualising, and pleads: "If you are unable to do this (if there is still a sense of duality that you are different from God, and therefore the rest of creation), then by abhyasa yoga strive again and again to reach me."
More often than not, we forget the last part of this verse.
Why am I doing all this?
Not in order to cultivate and strengthen the ego, but in order to attain God.
If this is not forgotten even for a single split second, then all your abhyasa becomes meaningful.
There is no condemnation of routine religious practices.
If some sort of spiritual routine (sadhana) helps you, please go on - but not mechanically, without understanding why you are doing it.
In the eighth chapter, there is an expression which suggests: 'If at the time you leave this body your consciousness is of God, you become God; of a human being, you become a human being; of an animal, you become an animal."
That is because you have been thinking about that constantly.
Supposing you have been behaving mechanically all your life - you will be born as a machine next birth!
Your bhava, your inner being, is saturated with this machine mentality.
Maybe you will come back as a tape-recorder in an ashram.
You will be filled with interesting discourses - which, like this ladder, raft and schoolmaster - will be of great inspiration to everybody except you!
Whatever you do that is good and humanitarian is greatly appreciated by others.
But some time or the other you should also remember why you are doing all that.
Abhyasa yoga here covers everything - bhakti yoga, karma yoga and hatha yoga practices, meditation, pranayama, asana.
In and through all that, you are trying to remember God.
Do you know what 'remember' is?
These limbs are the members of 'my body'.
Re-member means that somehow the wrist was cut off and some nice surgeon put it back again.
A member was cut off and it was remembered!
So what is it to remember God?
It is not possible to explain.
There was a certain unity which was somehow dismembered by the mind.
Once the problem of the mind is overcome, then the dismemberment is abolished, and you remember God.
When you take diagonal corners of a handkerchief, you see that 'this is one end of a handkerchief and that is the other end'.
There are two ends.
If you fold it the usual way, you see the handkerchief alone.
It does not have any ends, it is just one handkerchief.
It is your mind that created a division in which there is no division.
Look again and you see two ends.
Even if you are enlightened, you will still see that, but you are not bluffed or deceived or deluded by it.
Enlightenment merely means that.
Nothing need be altered in the world.
It is the mind that creates a division.
When you see this, when this becomes a living truth to you, it seems as if suddenly you wake up and your mind enters into God - only to realise that it has always been there!
Nothing that does not exist can ever come into being.
Krsna reminded us of this in the second chapter.
This is the central message which should not be lost sight of.
Does enlightenment mean that you will be free from all this confusion, sorrow, sin and so on?
Perhaps all this may be free from you (the ego)!
Is that not a better idea?
When the 'me' has gone, the oneness that already exists is remembered.
That is called bhakti, that is called love.
But unfortunately you blink again, and see that the handkerchief has two ends.
One is definitely the left and the other is the right end.
Then you practise your sadhana again, to remind yourself - or to remember the truth.
What is known as the mind is itself the omnipresent omniscience.
Somehow or other we assume that it is 'my' mind.
It is not 'my' mind.
'Me' is itself the creation of this mind.
God is not in need of 'my' love - and as long as there is a sense of separation there is no love!
Love is the direct experience of the unity that already exists.
If that is not there, there is no love.
Is it possible to constantly remember that, whatever action flows in this universe from what is called 'me', arises not in 'me' but in God, in this omnipresent omnipotence.
You cannot create a blade of grass, you can cut it; you cannot create a flower, you can cut it and offer it to God; you cannot create a fruit, you can cut it.
You cannot create yourself.
You cannot produce a thought.
You cannot even (what is 'called') control the mind, and ensure that only good thoughts arise, and no bad thoughts.
Suddenly you realise that the 'me' is itself a creature of the mind, that 'I am not capable of anything', and that all actions performed by whomever, arise in God, in this omnipresent omnipotence.
Here the abhyasa as sadhana is abandoned.
'I', being a psychological factor, is an imaginary nothing - it is like a shadow which has absolutely no power whatsoever to do anything.
If thou art unable to practise even this abhyasa yoga, be thou intent on doing actions for my sake; even by doing actions for my sake, thou shalt attain perfection. (12:10)
Though psychologically you think you are doing or not doing, it is the work of the omnipresent omnipotence.
All the sakti belongs to the sakta.
You live your life without any problem - and without the necessity to drastically change it, and yet lead an enlightened life.
Even this requires some sort of an understanding.
Some of us have experienced at some time or the other, that with the best of intentions you do what you consider absolutely right and it leads to precisely the opposite results.
Therefore Krsna says:
If thou art unable to do even this, then, taking refuge in union with me, renounce the fruits of all actions with the self controlled. (12:11)
'First do what you have to do, but forget about the results.'
This you can do.
So, Krsna has come down three or four steps to your level.
You are not going to practise any sort of spiritual discipline, you cannot realise that it is God who is doing all this, but you can realise that whatever you are doing, your actions may lead to contrary results.
So, seeing this merely as a fact, stop anticipating anything, expecting any rewards or results.
By this abandonment also you will instantly attain peace of mind.
Better indeed is knowledge than practice; than knowledge meditation is better; than meditation the renunciation of fruits of actions. Peace immediately follows renunciation. (12:12)
If you abandon the fruits of actions, you will instantly become peaceful.
And when the mind is at peace, it will somehow realise that God is the source of all these actions, and therefore you could not determine what action should lead to what result.
Then you have ascended one step in the ladder.
Then constantly seek to find where all this happened.
Who determines it?
Who is the controller of life here?
Constantly seeking, abhyasa.
Then, one day, by God's Grace, suddenly the truth is realised.
In the last eight verses of this chapter certain characteristics of the devotee are given in order that we might grow into them, that they might become natural.
Only that which is natural is God's creation.
An artificial creation has entertainment value, but no real value.
One should study these eight verses and remember them constantly, and see that as long as all these are not naturally and effortlessly present in you, you are not a devotee of God.
That realisation is enough to shatter the ego and to keep the sadhana flowing.
He who is free from wants, pure, expert, unconcerned and untroubled, renouncing all undertakings or commencements - he who is thus devoted to me, is dear to me. (12:16)
Does this mean that the devotee of God does not initiate any action?
Ramana Maharsi once commented on this saying that a jnani (who is the same as a bhakta) does not egoistically embark upon a project, but responds to the needs of the people around.
This is one way of putting it.
The other way is to realise that everything happens because of God, because of the divine omnipotence.
One who lives in this consciousness, lives in God all the time.
That is bhakti yoga.
Bhakti yoga is not merely indulging in some sort of sadhana called bhakti, but where a consciousness of duality suddenly merges in a consciousness of non-duality.
That is, as the handkerchief is held, you keep seeing the two ends.
Suddenly you see the one handkerchief.
That alone exists.
That is bhakti.

The Bhagavad Gita - Introduction | EN

Swami Venkatesananda

The Song of God - Introduction - Swami Venkatesananda - enlarged 4th edition – 1984 - published by The Chiltern Yoga Trust, Cape Town, South Africa
1998 - 2017