Two Greatest Commandments (2)
Excerpts from The Second Coming of Christ by Paramahansa Yogananda
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
This, Jesus declared, is the foremost of all cosmic laws ordained by the Spirit for soul upliftment and liberation; for through the portal of man's love God enters into oneness with him, a union that liberates him from the bondage of delusion. To love God supremely is to receive from Him eternal contentment and fulfillment, with freedom from all human desires that irresponsibly provoke continuous births and deaths with their unforeseen miseries. …
For God to command that man love Him above everything else might seem unbecoming of an all-powerful Deity. But all avatars and saints have known in their hearts that this is not to appease some quixotic whim of God, but is rather a necessity through which the individualized soul can make a conscious connection with its Source. God can live without man's love; but as the wave cannot live without the ocean, so it is not possible for man to exist without the love of God. The thirst for love in every human heart is because man is made in God's image of love. So the avatars and saints call upon mankind to love God, not because of compulsion or commandment, but because the ocean of His love surges behind the little wave of love in every heart. …
Though one must love God in order to know Him it is equally true that one must know God in order to love Him. No one can love anything of which he is entirely ignorant; no one can love a person who is completely unknown to him.
But those who meditate deeply do "know," because they find proof of the existence of God as the ever new Joy felt in meditation, or the Cosmic Sound of Aum (Amen) heard in deep silence, or the Cosmic Love experienced while concentrating devotion in the heart, or the Cosmic Wisdom that dawns as inner enlightenment, or the Cosmic Light evoking visions of Infinity, or the Cosmic Life felt during meditation when the little life is joined to the greater Life in everything.
Any devotee who even once has sensed God as any one of His tangible manifestations in meditation cannot help but love Him when thus touched by His thrilling qualities. Most people never really love God because they little know how lovable the Lord is when He visits the heart of the meditating devotee. This actual contact of the transcendental presence of God is possible to determined devotees who persist in meditation and continuous soulful prayers. ...
That system of spiritual culture whereby one learns to "love God with all your heart" is known in India as Bhakti Yoga—union with God through unconditional love and devotion. The bhakta realizes that whatever is in a person's heart, that is where his concentration is —on the thing he loves. As the lover's heart is on the beloved and the drunkard's is on his drink, so the devotee's heart is continuously absorbed in love for his Divine Beloved.
To "love God with all your mind" means with focused concentration. India has specialized in the science of concentrating the mind one-pointedly through definite techniques, so that during the time of worship the devotee is able to keep his whole attention on God. If while offering prayerful devotions the mind is constantly flitting to thoughts of work or food or bodily sensations or other diversions, that is not loving God with all the mind. The Bible teaches: "Pray without ceasing" [I Thessalonians 5:17] India's yoga science gives the actual methodology to worship God with that fully concentrated mind.
To "love God with all your soul" means to enter the state of superconscious ecstasy, direct perception of the soul and its oneness with God. When no thoughts cross the mind, but there is a conscious all-knowingness, when one knows through intuitive realization that he can do anything just by so ordering it, then one is in the expanded state of superconsciousness. It is the realization of the soul as the reflection of God, the soul's connection with the consciousness of God. It is a state of exceeding joy: the soul's crystalline perception of the omnipresent Spirit reflected as the joy of meditation.
To love God with all the soul requires the complete stillness of transcendent interiorization. This cannot be achieved while praying aloud, moving the hands this way and that, singing or chanting, or doing anything else that activates the sensory-muscular apparatus of the body. Just as in deep sleep the body and senses become inert, that inner withdrawal is characteristic also of superconscious ecstasy—only ecstasy is much deeper than sleep. Ten million sleeps do not describe the joy of it. That is the state in which one can know the soul, and with that true Self wholly adore Him who is Love itself. ...
The mastery of life energy that enables one to love God with all one's strength begins with posture (asana, training the body to maintain with ease and without restlessness the correct posture for motionless meditation) and breathing exercises for life-force control (pranayama, techniques to quiet the breath and heart). By such practice, the heart becomes quiet, effectively switching off the energy from the senses and stilling the restless breath that keeps man tied to body consciousness. The yogi is able to focus on God without the intrusive pull of the flesh. The mind, disconnected from sensations, becomes transcendentally interiorized (pratyahara). The devotee can then use that free mind in a communion of love for God. When the devotee can love God with an inwardly concentrated mind, he begins to feel that love for God in his heart, exquisitely permeating every nuance of his feelings with the presence of God. The God-saturated heart then feels the Beloved Lord in the deepest recesses of the soul where the little love meets and is enfolded by the Great Love. The feeling of God in the soul expands into realization of God in His everywhereness (the samyama of yoga: dharana, dhyana, samadhi). ...
In India's greatest scripture of yoga, the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord speaks in words that parallel the scriptural commandment cited by Jesus:
"Again listen to My supreme word, the most secret of all. Because thou art dearly loved by Me, I will relate what is beneficial to thee. Absorb thy mind in Me; become My devotee; resign all things to Me; bow down to Me. Thou art dear to Me, so in truth do I promise thee: Thou shalt attain Me!"
The First Commandment leads the devotee into observance of the second great spiritual law, "like unto it." As one strives to feel God within, he has also a duty to share his experience of God with his neighbors: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor (all races and creatures anywhere with whom one comes in contact) as thyself (as you love your own soul) — because you see God in everyone." Man's neighbor is the manifestation of his greater Self or God. The soul is a reflection of Spirit, a reflection that is in every being and in the vibratory life of all animate and inanimate cosmic decor. To love parents, relatives, associates, countrymen, all races of the earth, all creatures, flowers, stars, which live in the "neighborhood" or range of one's consciousness is to love God in His multifarious tangible manifestations. Those persons yet unable to love God as His subtle expressions in meditation can nurture their love for Him as manifested in nature and in all beings they contact or sense in any way.
…Most people live in narrow walls of selfishness, never feeling the throb of the universal life of God. Anyone who lives without knowing that his life comes from the eternal life, who abides a solely material existence, dies and reincarnates forgetful of past lives, has not really lived. His mortal consciousness wandered through delusive dream experiences, but his true Self, the soul, never awoke to express its godly nature and immortality. By contrast, any devotee who by meditation realizes the eternal life behind his mortal life lives forever, never losing his conscious existence at the time of death, or from one incarnation to another, or in the eternity of soul freedom in God.
[Love for God, and for God in all, is the essence of spiritual law for man’s salvation]
Saints and sages who fulfill the two preeminent commandments are no longer subservient to the discipline of other commandments, for in loving God in transcendental meditation and as manifested in others, the righteousness in all cosmic laws is honored automatically. In the devotee with God-contact, the Framer of Cosmic Law essence of spiritual works as a natural intuitive goodness that keeps law for man's him always in harmony with the universal codes of salvation God. Millenniums of darkness gathered around the soul may be dispelled gradually by little flames of observance of numerous rules of conduct. But when, by supreme effort of the heart, mind, and strength, the all-pervading light of God visits the soul, then darkness is no more; the advent of the Great Light engulfs the flickering illumination of disciplined actions. Therefore, to love God through continuous prayer and meditation, and to love God through physical, mental, and spiritual service to His manifestations in one's universal family of neighbors, is the support and essence of the entirety of other laws of human conduct and liberated lives.
Whether one has been righteous or reprehensible, love of God is one's salvation. Each soul should make its rightful claim to God's loving help: "Lord, naughty or good, I am Thy child; You made me in Your image. I may have been naughty, but that is when Your child needs You even more." He is the utmost sinner who turns away from God; he is the utmost sinner who says, "Changing oneself from vice to virtue cannot be done." But he quick becomes a virtuous man, even if scarred with the sins of the world, who says from the sincerity of his heart, "God, I love You." He is safe.
…No one can find God without love, for love given freely from the heart of His children is the only thing man's Maker is seeking. He has everything else. The pangs of unrequited love and of separation from loved ones at death are not to torture man, but that he might at last seek the Lover that is waiting for him—a Lover that is not a man or a woman but the great God who has masqueraded before him as father, mother, friend, incarnations of lovers. It is He who is calling you; He who will never abandon you. He came to Saint Anthony, the desert anchorite in Egypt, centuries ago, when the saint was being severely tried and tormented by the devil and his legions of demons in extraordinary attempts to wrest from him his faith. Saint Anthony cried out defiantly: "Satan, do your worst! Nothing will ever separate me from Christ!" The demons attacked; the walls of the cave shook with such ferocity that their col-lapse and the death of the saint seemed imminent. At the last moment, suddenly the radiant splendor of Christ appeared, and Anthony was safe. He said to the Lord, "Where were you, my Jesus? Why did you not come sooner to assist me?" And the voice out of that Light replied: "Anthony, I was with you all the time."J So never forsake God. The fiercer the tests of life's adversities, the more strongly the devotee clings to Him, even as the child clings more tightly to the mother's skirt when she is scolding him, at last to be gathered in the arms of her unconditional love.
To the devotee who wants God badly enough, He will come. He will free that seeker from all false notions of the dream world He has created. He knows delusion and its temptations are sometimes terrible for His unenlightened children. They are the test of God, but He never tests beyond the capacity of His devotee's endurance and conquering spirit. Even when the devotee thinks he can stand no more, the Lord is ever with him as He was with Saint Anthony, silently strengthening and supporting the devotee's every effort.
…Those unions of love are the real romance. They are eternal. Human romance is an ephemeral fantasy. Romance with God is a true and everlasting joy of the Life of life, the Love of all loves. God has so much love to give to His devotee that it will burst all boundaries of the heart.
When that love of God fills one's being, it embraces everyone in a universal consciousness of love, service, and compassion. As Jesus' great disciple John wrote: "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." [First Epistle of St. John, 4:7-8]