The love that we see in this world between husband and wife, parents and children, family members, friends, etc. is not the pure and divine love that a Jivatma can experience with Radha Krishna. This worldly love is only a shadow of that pure love.
The divine love (Prema) is transcendental, blissful and full of spiritual consciousness. Worldly love is illusory, temporary and results in disappointment. Divine love is enlightenment while worldly love is utter darkness. A person is trapped in the cycle of birth and death only as long as he or she is trapped in worldly love (including the love for one’s own bodily identity, fame, wealth, power, etc.). But as soon as the person realizes even a single ray of Prema, he is freed from the cycle of birth and death.
Worldly love should be ignored and abandoned by the sadhak who wants to achieve spiritual perfection. But divine love is the most precious treasure of the spiritual world and even highly enlightened spiritual practitioners yearn for it. (These are a few differences between worldly love and divine Prema.)
What is Prema?
Prema cannot be described in words. The Shakti (power) of the Supreme Personality of Godhead has three divisions, namely Bahirangā Māyā Shakti (which controls the mundane Creation), Tatasthā Shakti (the Jivatma) and Antarangā Shakti (which controls divine pastimes).
Bahirangā Māyā Shakti causes the Jivatma, who is part and parcel of God, to forget his eternal relationship with God and to believe that the body it manifests in, is his real identity. The Jivatma also believes the changes in his body as changes in himself because of this ignorance. When the body is at the age of a child, he believes himself to be a child. When the body develops to the age of 18-20, he believes that he has grown into a youth. When his body ages to 40 - 45 years of age, he believes himself to be a middle-aged person. When the body ages to 60 years of age and above, he believes he has become elderly. But none of these is his identity; they are only the changes happening in his body. He (the consciousness that is the Atma) has never changed.
If the Jivatma would have been a child, he would cease to exist as childhood comes to an end. If he was a youth, he would cease to exist as his youthfulness leaves him. But his existence is not affected by these changes in his body. They are simply attributes of his body.
Similarly, Atma’s existence is not affected by birth and death. Atma is eternal; it existed in the past, exists in the present and will exist in the future too.
By the will of God, Atma fuses with Prakriti (matter made of five elements) through Māyā Shakti and becomes a Jivatma. This Jivatma wanders through the material world and enters a mother’s womb through mating. (The egg provides the body while the sperm carries the Jivatma in its subtle form.) As the fetus develops, the consciousness of the Jivatma becomes one with the body in such a way that the sensations in every part of the body are sensed by the conscious Jivatma. As soon as he is born, he forgets his eternal relationship with God and identifies with his bodily identity.
When the body falls ill, he believes himself to be ill. When his body gets hurt, he believes himself to be hurt. But none of these is related to his real identity or consciousness. All of these are related only to his body. If someone asks him, “How are you?”, he would answer, “I am ill”. But he is not ill, his body is ill. However, he identifies the condition of his body as his own condition. This bodily ego/identity is the root of worldly attachment; it is the so-called ‘Samsaar’. Samsaar is not family members, buildings, money, etc. Due to attachment to the body, the Jivatma also gets attached to various people and things that please his ego.
As long as the Jivatma holds on to this bodily identity, he remains ignorant and bound in Samsaar. But as he starts letting go of the bodily identity and identifying with his eternal identity (Atma which is a part and servant of God), he starts progressing in his spiritual path. Until he lets go of his bodily identity, he cannot rise above desires, anger, greed, etc. This is because the six internal enemies of a Jivatma (desires, anger, greed, delusion, arrogance and jealousy) are the nature of the body due to association with Prakriti. The more the Jivatma holds on to his bodily identity, the more the six internal enemies attack him. The more the Jivatma identifies with his eternal identity, the more the six internal enemies lose control over the mind of the Jivatma.
When anyone believes that I am the body, he naturally believes that the things related to the body are also mine. From here, desires, attachments, and greed originate. However, if a sadhak believes that I am not a body, naturally, the things related to the body are also not mine (detachment). Once a sadhak develops this mental attitude, it will become easier for him to fight the six internal enemies.
When I belong to Radharani, naturally, Radharani (and nothing else) belongs to me. In this way, a sadhak must contemplate his eternal identity and relationship with God. This relationship is not artificial; it is the eternal truth. It is not imagination; it is a matter of realization. True, the Jivatma has forgotten his eternal relationship with God and is wandering through the illusory world of Maya. This terrible amnesia is the reason why the Jivatma is suffering in the world of Maya. That is why it is necessary to contemplate the descriptions of God’s form, nature and pastimes according to the scriptures. But they are all eternally true and not someone’s imagination. The eternal Truth has to be realized through devotional services.
IT IS THE TRUTH! IT IS THE TRUTH! IT IS THE TRUTH! The Samsaar is an illusion. The body is not me and the people & things related to the body are not mine. This mental attitude is the foundation of a sadhak’s bhajan.
So, where there is bodily identity, there would be worldly attachments. Where there is the desire to please one’s own body, naturally, there would be worldly love. But this worldly love is nothing like the divine Prema. Worldly love is only an illusion. It is the reason why the Jivatma is wandering through the illusory world. All the places where the Jivatma has attachments are the reasons why he is unable to free himself from the cycle of birth and death. Without renouncing these attachments, one can never progress in bhajan.
Even if a sadhak chants a lot of Harinaam but his mind is constantly attracted towards worldly love and pleasures, he can never achieve the divine Prema. A sadhak must keep vigilance on his mind and check whether it is attached to his or her spouse, children, friends and relatives, etc. If not, then it is okay. If yes, then renouncing his attachments through contemplation of his eternal relationship with God and association with enlightened Sadhus is more important than performing a lot of devotional services.
One may ask, then should everybody leave their family & homes and become renunciates? The answer is NO. There is no need to leave one’s family and home. One can stay amidst their family members and still develop absolute detachment.
The renunciation should take place in the heart. [Eligibility of external renunciation has been discussed in previous articles]. Many birds and animals live in the forest. Have they become free from Maya? The bears and tigers living in the forest – are they renunciates? No.
Rishi Saubhari performed severe penance for 60,000 years (during Satya Yuga period) while living underwater. One day, his eyes fell upon a pair of fish mating. The single moment of bad (Rajasik) association made him desire the experience of worldly love. He thought, ‘I haven’t experienced this worldly love at all. I have done a lot of penances. Now, let me see what is Samsaar.’
Who can guarantee that the mind will not be distracted from its rightful path? Who can guarantee that his bhajan will not come to a standstill? Rishi Saubhari was such a great sage who could perform severe penances for 60,000 years. But still, he was distracted by a moment of bad association. And given that we are already stuck in the web of Maya, who can guarantee that we would not be distracted from our bhajan at any time?
Rishi Saubhari then visited Maharaj Mandhata who had fifty daughters. At that time, his body looked like a pile of bones covered with skin. King Mandhata was very happy to see such a great sage come to his palace. He humbly welcomed the sage while wondering how blessed he was. “O great sage, it is my great pleasure to receive you at my palace. Please order me how can I serve you?” said King Mandhata with folded hands. “Yes, I actually want to ask for a service from you,” said Rishi Saubhari. “Sure. If it is in my power and capability, I would surely give you whatever you ask,” said the king. “I want to enter the Grihastha order (householder life). You have fifty daughters. Please give any one of your gentle and well-mannered daughters to help me create a good household successfully.”
King Mandhata fell into a dilemma. Although the sage was highly pious and possessed Yogic powers, due to severe austerities, his old body had shriveled into a pile of bones covered with skin, which was highly displeasing to the eyes of his daughters. His daughters were not spiritualists; they wanted to enjoy worldly pleasures. If King Mandhata forcefully married any of them to the sage, they would be very unhappy and resent their father. But King Mandhata could not refrain from fulfilling his words too lest Rishi Saubhari would curse him. Therefore, he answered tactfully, “O sage, please go to the inner palace. All my fifty daughters reside there. Whoever likes you will marry you (according to the tradition of Swayamvara of royal princesses) and help you create a household successfully.”
Rishi Saubhari saw the king’s clever ruse immediately. He knew that no princess would ever like his appearance and hence, nobody would want to marry him. But he was a Yogi, after all. He used his Yogic powers to become a young man with a beauty rivalling that of celestial demi-gods. Therefore, when he went to the inner palace, all of the fifty daughters became excited to marry him. They started competing among themselves to marry the handsome Rishi. Finally, Rishi Saubhari married all of King Mandhata’s fifty daughters. In this way, Rishi Saubhari entered the Grihastha order to experience worldly love after the severe penance of 60,000 years.
On the other hand, King Yayati experienced worldly pleasures for a thousand years and finally, left the Grihastha order with absolute detachment in his heart. He understood that there is no real pleasure in this material world. The more a Jivatma enjoys worldly pleasures, the more he gets entangled in the web of Maya. However, the more the Jivatma refrains from worldly pleasures and worldly love, the more he progresses in his path of Prema Bhakti.
King Yayati realized that all the food, wealth and women found in the world at large cannot appease the lust of a single person. The hunger you satiate with food just now will bother you in a few hours again; the body which asks for sleep tonight will again ask for sleep tomorrow; the senses you satiate with pleasures today will ask for pleasures again and again. Therefore, he understood that craving for sensual pleasures cannot be reduced through indulgence. King Yayati says that such a life increases desires and compares these desires with the increased quantities of ghee that aggravate the fire when poured into it. Only through true renunciation from worldly desires in the heart can save a Jivatma from the repetitive cycle of birth and death.
Lives after lives, even after several Yugas, you cannot escape the web of Maya unless you cut all worldly affections and subtle desires. Once you lose the rare opportunity, that is, human birth, you might be born in Bhoga Yoni (bodies in which you cannot perform any Karma or bhajan, like animals, insects and plants) and again suffer the results of lust, anger, greed, etc. Again, the senses will yearn for more beautiful sights, enthralling sounds, the warmth of touch, tasty food and nice smells. And, again you will be deluded by worldly love. In this way, the Jivatma goes around the cycle of Samsaar again and again.
This renunciation should take place in the heart, and not externally. External renunciation is meaningless unless the heart has renounced all worldly desires. The Jivatma needs to accept the Truth that he is an eternal servant and part of God. He only belongs to Radharani and only Radharani belongs to him. Worldly relationships are only an illusion. The sadhak must think, ‘I have no relation with the world, whether in the past, present or the future. The material world is temporary while my relationship with God is eternal. And my relationship with God can never cease to exist.’ Once a sadhak realizes this Truth, he will progress quickly in his path of Prem Bhakti. However, if the sadhak performs a lot of devotional services externally on the daily basis but his mind is attached to worldly love and pleasures as always, then he will never achieve Prem Bhakti. When a single ray of the divine Prema Bhakti touches the heart of a sadhak, his heart gets cleansed of even subtle desires. Prema Bhakti is the main goal of all of our devotional services.
Q: Householders have to engage in worldly matters and maintain worldly relationships even if they don’t want to. If one does not physically separate himself from worldly pleasures, how can one’s mind become detached from worldly pleasures while staying in the Grihastha order?
A: Why can’t the mind become detached from worldly pleasures while staying in Grihastha order? Of course, it can. It is only a matter of perspective. Once a sadhak firmly believes that he belongs to Radharani and not the material world, his worldly desires will cease. This illusory material world didn’t exist in the past, nor will it exist in the future. It has temporarily manifested in the present. Jivatmas come together and separate according to Prarabdha (results of actions of several lifetimes).
Worldly relationships are never meant to be eternal. The happiness or disappointment we experience in any relationship is only the result of our own actions, whether in this lifetime or previous lifetimes. As soon as the amount of due happiness or disappointment is imparted, the Jivatmas separate. In this way, for any given relationship, there is a beginning as well as an ending. Those people you meet in this lifetime will eventually leave you, either during this lifetime or at death.
The Jivatma first meets its body. Then he meets his mother. The mother introduces the child to his father. Then many other people are introduced to his life. Once he grows up, he gets married to a girl he has never known since birth. Eventually, he begets children whom he didn’t know until they were born. Even when a child is in the womb, the parents don’t know whether it is a boy or a girl. As soon as the child is born, the ego believes, ‘this is my child.’ But the sadhak must know that all the people he has met and the body he lives in will leave him one day. Meeting with other Jivatmas is short-term while separation is eternal. Either you will leave others at death or others will leave you first. Separation is inevitable.
Therefore, the sadhak must try to save himself from the delusions of bodily identity and worldly love. Correcting flawed perceptions is the core of one’s spiritual practice. As long as the sadhak is deluded by bodily identity, his spiritual practice remains flawed. Once he realizes his eternal relationship with God, his spiritual practice reaches perfection.