The Pure State of the Human Heart
(Excerpts from BHAKTI YOGA By Brother Mokshananda)
Expressing Love Through Your Work
A natural corollary of developing awareness of God's presence is the performance of one's work as a love-offering to God. Service in itself can be a way to God: the path of Karma Yoga, the control of one's actions so they are in tune with divine law. Two people may be doing the same type of work, but each may have an entirely different attitude. One of them may work with indifference, just trying to get his job done with as little effort as possible. The other may work with a sense of caring for the product he is making, and of how that product will serve those who purchase it. When that conscientious attitude of service deepens into an act of love for God, it becomes a form of Bhakti Yoga, a beautiful expression of divine devotion.
The real Bhakti Yogi works with a very different consciousness than the person who merely intellectualizes that he is performing all of his duties for God.
Paramahansa Yogananda explained:
When someone tells me how much he has worked for God, I see the poor quality of his spirit. Those who work for the Lord in the right way never think in terms of how much they are doing for Him. Rather, they think only of how much He is doing for them—giving them a body through which they can render service to others, a mind to think about Him and His wonders, and a heart to love Him as their Father, Maker, and sole Benefactor.
Work as a means of expressing love for God requires a personal relationship with Him. Meditation gives us the actual experience of His presence, and this enables us to develop the consciousness of serving Him lovingly and personally. In meditation, at least for the beginner, much of one's time should be spent in practice of the scientific yoga techniques—
Aum Technique of Meditaiton
—for these bring the perception of God, which awakens love for Him. But a portion of the meditation period should always be reserved for the practice of devotion—
Dwelling on the presence of God
in the stillness produced by the techniques
As one goes deeper in meditation, he will naturally spend longer and longer periods in that devotional communion of loving God. Perseverance in working with the methods of Bhakti Yoga, and combining them with the Raja Yoga techniques of meditation, will tremendously accelerate spiritual advancement. Ultimately we will reach the highest stage of Bhakti Yoga, that blissful state of being wholly in love with God.
The Five States of the Human Heart
To attain that perfect love is a gradual process of evolution. Swami Sri Yukteswar, guru of Paramahansa Yogananda, describes how the human heart with its feelings and emotions progresses through five different states. [See The Holy Science (pp. 77-86) by Swami Sri Yukteswar, published by Self-Realization Fellowship.]
(I) The dark state of the heart
Most human beings are in the first state, in which feeling is scattered and diffused outwardly in desires for material things. This is called the dark state of the heart, in which one's consciousness is directed solely to the outer creation, in complete obliviousness of the Creator.
(II) The propelled state of the human heart
After many incarnations, there comes a time when we grow dissatisfied with mere things, when the experiences of this world leave us empty. We yearn for a higher truth, a deeper understanding of life. When we begin to search sincerely for that experience, we have entered what Sri Yukteswarji calls the propelled state of the human heart. That is, we are propelled by our inner dissatisfaction to seek something more than the superficial experiences and pursuits of the senses. In this state, we eventually find a spiritual teacher or teaching that can show us the way to the Infinite.
(III) The steady state of the human heart
As our upward evolution continues, we enter the third stage: the steady state of the human heart. In the steady state one's propelled restlessness is gradually transformed, through self-control, into the calm will to persevere on the path.
(IV) The devoted state of the human heart
By remaining steadfast in our spiritual practices, we come to the fourth state, in which God becomes a reality to us through direct perception. This is called the devoted state of the human heart.
(V) The pure state of the human heart
As we deepen that devotional contact with God, the dross, the lower inclinations that prevent us from being receptive to the presence of God, falls away. We then reach the highest level, what Sri Yukteswarji refers to as the clean or pure state of the human heart. One feels not just devotion for God, but true union with Him. As two human beings who are deeply in love can intuit what each other is thinking and feeling, in divine communion between the soul and God there is a continuous, infinitely more intimate interchange of love and caring.
The Spiritual Path Is Easier
When We Learn
to Love God
Practising the presence of God
Performing our work as an offering to God
These are some of the Bhakti Yoga means of lifting our hearts and minds into that wonderful consciousness of God's love. But they require an investment of will power and mental effort. This is especially true in the beginning, because most of us have not been accustomed to loving God. Some individuals may even wonder if it is worth the effort to cultivate devotion.
Those who are of the intellectual type may feel more attracted to the path of discrimination and wisdom: Jnana Yoga.
Others are predominantly doers, those in whom the will is the strongest manifesting attribute: their natural bent is toward the path of Karma Yoga.
Then there are those who are moved more by feeling: the lovers, for whom Bhakti Yoga has the greatest appeal.
Most people have all of these elements in their nature to one degree or another, and find fastest progress through the methods of a balanced path that satisfies the heart, mind, and need for activity. But no matter what approach we use, the spiritual path is apt to be long and difficult until we learn to love God. Swami Sri Yukteswar, as those who have read Autobiography of a Yogi know, was not outwardly a man of devotion. He was an avatar of great wisdom who rarely expressed his personal heartfelt feelings. Yet in the conclusion of his masterful book, The Holy Science, the Jnanavatar ("incarnation of wisdom") writes:
"Love is God,"
not merely as the noblest sentiment of a poet but as an aphorism of eternal truth. To whatever religious creed a man may belong and whatever be his position in society, if he properly cultivates this ruling principle naturally implanted in his heart, he is sure to be on the right path to save himself from wandering in this creation of Darkness, Maya.
The Art of Loving God
Devotion is an art that each individual has to master for himself. We can point out the different methods, but it is up to each devotee to provide the spark of desire for God that is at the heart of Bhakti Yoga. No one else can do it for him. Once we begin to cultivate devotion, we will be glad; we will see how much we have been missing. Where our meditations were difficult before, they become easier and more regular. We feel a greater response from the Divine.
Devotion for God makes life's journey much smoother. For most people, life is like going over a rough road in an old jeep—they are constantly jarred and shaken as they bounce along through the ceaseless ups and downs of existence. But the person who has a devotional relationship with God goes over the rough terrain of this world in a Cadillac. Devotion is a cushioner, a shock absorber. It is like the oil that makes gears mesh harmoniously together. As one cultivates love for God, he finds that life becomes a beautiful and wonderful experience.