How to Develop Love for God
By Brother Bhaktananda
Excerpts from a talk "Love Makes Us One With God"
Love is the Ultimate Way to God
As Paramahansa Yogananda said, "Without devotion, you can't touch God; you keep Him at a distance." But real love is not simple to cultivate; you have to work at it. Many people say, "I know I'll be with God when I die, because I believe in Him." But it isn't that easy; there is a lot more to it than mere belief.
Some time ago, a survey was taken among college students, and one of the questions was, "Do you believe in God?" One girl replied, "Yes, I believe in God, but I'm not crazy about Him!" The world is crazy about money, crazy about human love, crazy about everything except God. But as our Guru used to say, "Why can't we be crazy about God?"
The Bible says, "God is a jealous God." (Exodus 20:5) This does not mean that God is jealous in the human way, but that He will not give Himself to us until we surrender one hundred percent of ourselves to Him. "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength." (Luke 10:27) "All" means one hundred percent, and nothing less. Paramahansaji said that God will not accept just ninety-nine percent.
The Importance of Meditation Techniques
So, how can we develop the consciousness of God's presence, the love of God?
1. Practice meditation techniques
First of all, we should realize the importance of scientific techniques of meditation. If we regularly practice the techniques taught in the Serf-Realization Fellowship Lessons, we cannot fail to find God.
The techniques prepare the body and mind to know God:
— they interiorize and expand our consciousness so that we can feel the Divine Presence in meditation.
— they awaken subtle currents in the spine, which gives us great peace and joy.
When joy is percolating in your heart all the time, you can't help but love God.
Without the science of meditation, it is practically impossible to attain the perfect devotion necessary to reach God. Master told us about a bhakta (follower of the path of devotion) he met in India. Although this devotee had advanced very far spiritually, he complained to Paramahansaji that in spite of all his efforts through devotion, somehow God was eluding him—he hadn't been able to make that divine contact. Our Guru offered to give him initiation in Kriya Yoga, but the bhakta refused to learn the technique, saying, "No, love is all that is necessary to find God." Some time later, Master met him again, and the devotee said that he still had not been able to "break through" to God. Again our Guru suggested that he learn the Kriya technique, and this time the man agreed. Master told us that after practicing Kriya for only seven days, that devotee found God. Yoga is the scientific approach to God; it works through application of universal spiritual laws.
Techniques and Devotion Are Both Necessary
Spiritual technique plus devotion is what will take us to God. During my early days in the ashram, there was a Self-Realization student who loved to practice the meditation techniques, especially Kriya Yoga. One time I heard him say to Master, "I have practiced the Kriya technique for a long time, and it has helped me tremendously. I've gone pretty high in meditation, but I have reached a certain level and can't seem to go beyond it." The Guru told him that he lacked devotion, he lacked love for God. The point he was making was that in addition to technique, we must also have love.
Paramahansaji used to call Kriya Yoga and the other Self-Realization techniques "vehicles to God."
The techniques take us to the door of God, by scientific application of spiritual law; but God' is above law, and to get His attention and ultimately commune with Him, we have to call to Him with all the love of our hearts. That love is the only thing that reaches Him. When we are full of that divine love, we completely melt in God.
Paramahansa Yogananda said:
Love makes us one with God
And that is a very important statement to remember: Love makes us one with God — nothing else does.
How to Awaken Love for God
What can we do, in addition to practising the meditation techniques, to awaken love for God?
2. Practice the Presence of God
Develop New Habit
First of all, we have to realize that it is a new habit we need to develop. We are not accustomed to loving God wholeheartedly; we are not taught this in school or by parents or by anyone else. So we have to make a special effort to establish the habit of loving God — in activity as well as in meditation—and that requires will power, especially in the beginning.
Use Your Will Power
Once, another disciple and I were together with Paramahansaji. Seeing that this man wasn't living the spiritual life the way he should have been (he was lax in his practice of meditation), the Guru said to him, "You should be more devotional." And the monk said to Master, "Sir, give me the grace of your devotion, and then I'll be able to love God all the time." "
My grace is there," Paramahansaji replied. "God's grace is there. Now your grace is necessary!" Sometimes we may think that God or the guru should do everything for us, but we must make that effort ourselves. Another time, Paramahansaji said to a student who found it difficult to feel devotion: "You should not concentrate on the thought that you lack devotion; you should work to develop it."
Practice Love for God
In my own life, I found it helpful to have in my pocket or on the desk a written reminder that would say "Practice love," or something else that would help me to keep my mind with God. During the day I would read it often, to remind myself to make a definite effort to practice the presence of God. It is not always easy, because we have to concentrate on our work or whatever else may need our attention. Still, we have to try. As Master said, "When you are performing a duty, put your whole heart into it. But as soon as you are through with work, place your whole mind on the Lord. When you learn to practice the presence of God in every moment that you are free to think of Him, then even in the midst of work you will be aware of divine communion."