How to Develop Love for God (2)
By Brother Bhaktananda
Excerpts from a talk "Love Makes Us One With God"
3. Purity of Heart
Purify the heart of negative emotions.
Another necessity in developing love for God is purity of heart. We may not realize how important this is. Purity of heart means eliminating any hate, jealousy, doubts, deceit, fears, worries, anxieties, frustrations—all these are negative emotions that stand in the way of love. We may think they have no effect upon our relationship with God, but they do! It is impossible to give love when you feel frustrated, or when you dislike someone. Watch how you behave toward others, and you will see how pure your heart really is, how much you love truly.
This leads us to the fourth principle in cultivating devotion: humility. This is a very, very important part of the spiritual life, and it is a very elusive quality. It is hard to say in words exactly what humility is, but our actions definitely reveal whether or not we have this quality. One meaning of humility is that we love everyone. When we choose to treat certain individuals well but don't care about others, that shows lack of humility. To be humble is to be rid of caste consciousness: "I'm higher, and he's lower," or "They are higher, and we are lower." When all our actions are pure, when we try to treat everyone with the same love, we will find that there is pure divine love in the heart. Jesus' teaching, as expressed by his disciple John, is that if a man does not love all, the love of the Father is not in him. (See I John 4:16, 20)
God is in everyone;
if we dislike a person,
then we don't have divine love.
Suppose you dislike someone, what should you do to overcome that negative feeling?
Yogananda said: "Inwardly take the dust of the feet of the person you don't like." The idea he impressed upon us is that we must do something to change our inner attitude about the person — that is what matters.
There is another way to accomplish this. If there is inharmony between you and someone else, pray for that person. Visualize him surrounded by light, and ask God to fill him with peace and harmony. Keep repeating this prayer, and before long, you yourself will feel uplifted! In fact, you can add to your prayer: "And fill me with peace and harmony, too." Because we also need it; that is what we're praying for — to be rid of that dislike for someone. We have to practice these things all the time in order to free ourselves from the negative attitudes that are detrimental to our spiritual growth.
The Inner Stillness of Meditation
The next question is, when is the best time to cultivate our love for God?
Most important is in the inner stillness of meditation, in the seclusion of the heart and soul. Master often told us, "After you practice the techniques, sit a long time in the stillness."
just being absorbed in feeling God's presence at the spiritual eye.
It is in that stillness that we really have communion with God, as peace, joy, and love.
As the Bible says, "Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalms 46:10)
Of course, as you try to remain in the stillness, thoughts will come in and bother you; but you must brush them aside and maintain perfect inner quiet as long as you can. But as it becomes more difficult to control restless thoughts, that is the time, Master told us, to practice devotion. That is the time to make love to God: Tell Him how much you love Him, how much you want Him, how much you are seeking Him. Pour out your heart to Him, Master said, just as you would to a friend, or to your mother, or other loved one.
Repeating a short devotional thought is sometimes easier than just talking to God:
"I love Thee, Lord; I love Thee, Lord";
"Thou and I are one";
"God, Christ, Gurus";
"Fill me with Thy love."
Repeat the thought over and over again, deepening your concentration and love with each repetition. It can be your own thought, or one from Master's writings, whatever deepens your feeling for God. That is how to end your meditation—with devotion.
Practice the Presence of God During the Day
If it is a morning meditation, continue practising the presence of God, chanting a devotional thought, while you are dressing, eating, or whatever you are doing. During the day, take every opportunity to express your love for God. We often have periods when our duties or activities do not require much effort of thought; instead of using those occasions to think about when to go on vacation, or chatting or joking with others, it is better to keep the mind on God.
But it must not become mechanical. Many people chant from the mind, but love is a feeling of the heart, a quality of the soul. So our practice of the presence of God should be from the heart, with devotion, because the heart is the center of feeling.
Paramahansa Yogananda said:
Chant from the heart,
pray from the heart.
When I started practising this, my heart was like a stone, empty and hard. But then I began to imagine that my heart had a mouth, and was speaking the words I was chanting or praying; and after a while, I began to feel what I was saying. Each of us has to find ways of making these experiences real in our consciousness. Paramahansaji said that God does not have to respond to mere thoughts or words or ideas, but He does have to heed the call of love—that is His law. He might not always answer in the way we expect Him to, but He will respond in some way whenever we approach Him with sincere love.
God Reacts to Our Love
God reacts—this is what we have to realize. As the Lord says in the Gita,
"He who perceives Me everywhere, and beholds everything in Me, never loses sight of Me, nor do I ever lose sight of him.' [VI:30]
When we love God, He makes His love known to us; when we ignore Him, He ignores us. By our own actions we decide whether or not He is going to show His love to us. So if we want Him to love us, to watch and protect us, then we have to love Him, and keep Him in our consciousness all the time.
When we begin to practice the presence of God, some time may pass without our feeling the results. It seems to be one-sided: We do all the work, and yet God remains silent. Those of you who like to do all the talking and have the other person do all the listening will find a wonderful companion in God! Actually, He does answer, though in the beginning it may be in such a subtle way that we don't even realize it. His response comes, first of all, through feeling: peace, love, or joy. We usually take for granted that it is our own doing, or that these feelings "just happen." At times, maybe just for a few seconds, we feel wonderfully uplifted; then suddenly that feeling disappears. That means we have to work harder in order to have that state always. As we progress, we might see the light of the spiritual eye, or hear the sound of Aum; these too are results of our devotion, as well as of our practice of the meditation techniques.
God's Answer Comes in Many Ways
Paramahansaji said that sometimes God responds by fulfilling some desire we have had, perhaps one that we had even forgotten. Most people mistakenly think that if they give their time to God, their desires will have to go unfulfilled. But the Bible says, "Delight thyself in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thy heart." (Psalms 37:4) In fact, we don't even have to ask, for He knows our thoughts. I heard Master say on many occasions, "I don't even like to think what I might want, because Divine Mother immediately gives it to me, and I don't want to bother Her all the time."
Another way God responds is by sometimes removing obstacles along your way. Paramahansaji said, "You will be surprised how God smooths your path when you are in tune with Him."
Devotion Puts Us in Tune With God
The Bible says, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God." (Romans 8:28) This refers to loving attunement with God; and that is the purpose of devotion: to put us in tune with God. When we are in tune with Him, we avoid a lot of temptations; because when our minds are busy with God, we don't even see temptations. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna says that if we fulfill our duties with our consciousness established in God, unrighteousness cannot touch us. ("Whatever actions thou dost perform... dedicate them all as offerings to Me. Thus no action of thine can enchain thee with good or evil karma." Bhagavad-Gita IX:27-28) "Unrighteousness" means wrong thoughts and actions that create unpleasant karmic bonds — bad habits, temptations, negative thoughts, negative actions, misbehaviors — we can't be touched by these if we are thinking about God and loving Him.
More and more we have to develop that love, by conscientiously, regularly practising the techniques of meditation taught by Paramahansaji; by using our will power to form the habit of thinking of God all the time; by striving for humility and purity of heart. Love is what brings us to God. A magnet cannot draw paper to itself, or wood, or glass, or plastic; but it does attract steel, which is like itself.
Likewise, when we become all love, automatically we gravitate to God, for He is Love itself.