The Nature of Love
Five hundred years ago Lord Chaitanya appeared for the purpose of spreading love of Godhead. At that time when He appeared, India was, practically speaking, bereft of any love for God. Their concept of God, the concept of God that they had, had been limited by the teachings of Sankaracarya who appeared in the eighth century. From the time of Sankaracarya everything was more difficult in terms of people having come to accept the concept or accept the impersonal feature of God and so at that time Vedanta or the Vedas was considered to be simply the teaching of the Absolute Truth being impersonal - that God is impersonal.
When Lord Chaitanya appeared five hundred years ago and previous to Him, Ramanujacarya in the Twelfth Century, Ramanujacarya helped to defeat to a large extent the teachings of Sankaracarya or impersonalism, that God is simply impersonal or originally impersonal. Ramanujacarya had a favorite... no, we'll discuss that later, but basically Lord Chaitanya came not only to teach that God is, in fact, originally the Supreme Person and that the impersonal feature of Godhead is the effulgent emanation coming from the Supreme Person, but He also taught how we can, practically speaking, come to the platform where we are actually loving God.
In other words, the Vedanta teaches, the Vedas teach very clearly and the yoga system is based on this: that the individual spirit soul is brahman, spiritual in essence, not material. But some people became misled or they lost sight of the nature of the relationship between that individual spirit soul and the Supreme Soul and the cosmos or the surroundings as well as other living beings. In other words, they became deluded by the teachings of Sankaracarya into believing or equating the individual atma with the Paramatma.
The atma is the individual spirit soul, spiritual in essence, not material. There is a meditation: aham brahmasmi - I am brahman, I am not this body, I am not this mind. Aham brahmasmi, I am brahman. So Sankaracarya's teachings essentially was more or less the same as Buddhism. That is that there is no Supreme Soul; that, in fact, the individual atma IS the Supreme Atma, that the individual brahman, the spark of spirit, IS the Supreme Spirit.
But Lord Chaitanya and those who are coming in His line of spiritual masters do not accept this idea, do not accept this conclusion. The Vedas, in fact, do not accept this conclusion. So Lord Chaitanya taught that the individual spirit soul in accordance with the Bhagavad-gita, the Srimad Bhagavatam and the rest of the Vedas, the individual spirit soul although one with God in essence is not of the same quantity. That there is brahman and the Parabrahman, the Supreme Brahman. There is the atma, the individual jiva atma and there is the PARAMATMA, the Supreme Atma.
You see, in the Bhagavad-gita it describes that within the body, within the heart there are two birds sitting on the tree in the heart. Two birds. One of the birds, the spirit soul, the individual atma, is sitting, trying to enjoy the fruits of the body, trying to enjoy the senses, trying to be the enjoyer through the body. The other bird is an expansion of the Supreme Lord, the Paramatma, the Supreme Lord within the heart, Who is watching, Who is sitting patiently next to this other spirit soul, to the individual spirit soul, waiting for you, waiting for me, to turn to Him in love. In other words, it describes that God expands Himself and travels with the individual spirit soul from one body to the next.
The individual soul is bound by the laws of karma - the fruits of his actions - and is forced to undergo birth and death under the laws of material nature. And as he undergoes this birth and death and birth and death an expansion of the Supreme Lord known as the Paramatma travels with him, travels with you. In other words, everywhere you go throughout these universes and bodies the Supreme Lord also goes along with you, waiting for you to turn to Him and say, "Give me shelter." So that you are no longer focusing your search for happiness through the senses outside, but you turn within yourself and focus on your relationship with the Supreme Lord Who's in your heart.
So although God is always in His abode, simultaneously He expands Himself to be travelling along with each and every one of us. This is why it is said that God is within, the kingdom of God is within yourself. The kingdom of God is within ourselves. In other words, the Supreme Friend, the Supreme Lord has expanded Himself and is sitting there waiting patiently for me to turn to Him in love.
The impersonalist, the followers of Sankaracarya, essentially try to remove that Supreme Soul within the heart. They say, in contradiction to Vedanta, they say that, "Meditate upon yourself as being the spirit soul within the body and the mind," and on that we agree. But then they say, "The next step is to identify yourself as being the supreme spirit," you see. That is the difference. They deny the difference between you, the individual spirit soul, and the Supreme Soul. They say there is no second bird, there is just the individual - there is just that spirit soul within the body and that's it. There is no Supreme Soul within the body, expanded, to take shelter in.
So, in this sense therefore, it is a type of atheism. Although they accept the essence as being spirit, because they deny the existence, the distinct existence of the SUPREME Spirit, because they equate the individual spirit soul and the Supreme Soul in all respects, therefore it is a type of atheism.
Why? Mayavadi philosophy means therefore that you, the individual spirit soul, are in fact, the Supreme Soul but you have come under illusion - Maya - and have temporarily forgotten your identity as God, as the Supreme Soul. So your creation, the modes of material nature, the laws of karma, have now covered you up and now you must struggle to free yourself from this wheel of birth and death. In other words, they are saying that illusion or material nature, the laws of God, end up conquering God. God comes under the laws of nature that supposedly are created by Himself and must suffer repeated birth and death.
Therefore Lord Chaitanya says this is nonsense. This is nonsense. God is always God. God does not come under the modes of material nature and the laws of material nature. That is the difference between the Supreme Soul and us individual souls.
Each of us has a material body and our bodies are created according to our karmic reaction. In other words, we are bound up by laws. Nobody here chose their mom and dad. Nobody here said, "I'm going to be born over there. That's going to be my mom, that's going to be my dad. This is going to be what my face looks like. This is going to be the disease that I will be potentially afflicted with. This is the race of body that I'm going to have," etc., etc. "This is the species that I will take on."
We, in other words, are the controlled. If we identify ourself as being the Supreme Lord and that I have temporarily forgotten my lordship and that I have come under these laws of material nature where I'm forced to take on one kind of body or another, that I am saying that material nature is the supreme force, there is nothing superior to the laws of material nature; the laws of material nature are, in fact, the supreme. This is called materialism or atheism.
So because this idea that equates the individual spirit soul with the Supreme Soul is indirectly promoting atheism and materialism, and because it undercuts any potential for the individual spirit soul to actually come to her natural position of being engaged in the loving service of the Supreme Soul, therefore Lord Chaitanya says it is nonsense, it is most DANGEROUS philosophy, it is the most dangerous world view to have. As soon as you equate or begin to believe that you are God the Supreme Spirit rather than understanding that you are, in fact, an eternal spark and servant of the Supreme Person, as soon as you equate yourself as being the Supreme - that you are everything, you are everyone, you are the whole business - and that this is your dream then you have no potential, you have lost your potential to actually achieve what you need to achieve to be happy in life, to be successful.
Because the individual spirit soul needs one thing to actually be satisfied, to actually achieve real happiness. The individual spirit soul must be reinstated in the loving relationship with the Supreme Lord. If you deny the existence of the Supreme Lord by identifying yourself as one in all respects with the Supreme Lord then you have undercut any possibility of having a loving relationship with Him. He does not exist. In other words, if you are God the chance of your coming to love God is finished, it's over. And once you begin to think that, "I am God, I am the whole thing, I am supreme," or, "I am everything," or, "God is impersonal and I am the personal manifestation of that impersonal God," there is no chance for you to achieve what every great, saintly person and every great scripture has taught: love God with all your heart. How do you love God with all your heart if God is an impersonal force? How do you love God with all your heart if you ARE God? You are ruined spiritually, in other words. Therefore it is said that once a person comes to accept the impersonal Mayavadi philosophy - that God comes under material nature and that the individual spirit soul IS the Supreme Soul - once you come to accept that, your spiritual life becomes, practically speaking, almost impossible.
I give you an example… not impossible but almost impossible. I say this because of my own life and the life of Sukadeva Goswami who spoke Srimad Bhagavatam. Because at one point in my life I was in EXACTLY that situation. I had the unfortunate - but fortunate, really - situation where I had realized the impersonal aspect of the Absolute Truth. But because I had realized that impersonal aspect of the Absolute Truth - that, in itself, was not the problem, but, rather, it was the interpretation of that that was the real problem.
In other words, God, the Supreme Person, has an effulgence which is coming from Him. If you merge into that effulgence through your yoga system or through your meditation, you merge into that effulgence of God, you forget temporarily your individual identity. And there is every danger, however, that when you come down from that condition and you again become aware of your individual identity, that you will CONCLUDE - especially if you have training in the Sankara school of thought - you will conclude, or you could very easily conclude, "I am everything, I am the impersonal Brahman who has descended. I am God." Therefore you become what is called a guru who has popped out of the mystic yoga factory. There are hundreds and hundreds of us.
Anyone who goes up and goes out the top of their head, merges temporarily into the Brahman effulgence and returns, can come down with this avatar conclusion: "I AM God. I went up, I merged." You could read ALL of them, whether it's this ananda or that ananda, this swami or that swami - every single one has had the exact same experience. If they're honest. Some of them haven't even had the experience. Why bother? You can get followers just saying you did! But in any case, most of them have had the same experience. They merge into the effulgence of God and they descend as God. They're not bad, they're not bad PEOPLE. They simply came to the wrong conclusion.
The fact: the fact is that when they merged into the Absolute, the impersonal Absolute, they did not decide to do it - that's number one. It happened! It happened. They didn't say, "Today I'm going to merge into the Brahman effulgence. Today I'm going to merge into the Absolute." No. They struggled. They struggled to get to the certain point, to raise their life air and bring it to the top of their head, to the brahmarudra. They raise their life air up the chakras to the top. But when it got to the top, you know what they had to do even if they don't admit it? They HAD to surrender. Because at that point you're stuck. You are at the top - you know what it's like? It's like an elevator and there's a twenty story building and you're a guy on the top of the elevator, not inside, you're on the top, okay? Now you've raised this sucker - here's the top - you've raised this sucker, "Okay, here we go! Here we go! This is good, here we go! Here we go! Here we go... Can't. Uh-oh." You're stuck there. You know what's there? Your skull. (laughter) You hit the ceiling here. (laughter) And you're being squished and you've got nowhere to go but out that top. And that time that is spent when you've already left the major part of your body - the whole body and mind - you've already left the whole sucker. You've already... you're already out but now you're still stuck. You're stuck up there. You can't get totally, completely out unless, what? UNLESS GOD LET'S YOU OUT! That's the FACT! Nobody actually goes out on their own.
And you know what else? They never decide when to come back. That is a fact! They don't say, "Okay, well, now I've had this experience, I'll go back down." No. They aren't even aware of their individual existence, how could they have made such a decision?
You know, sometimes they give us this "When I was out in this liberated condition, totally free from all concept of my individual identity, completely... everything, out of compassion for those who have not yet achieved enlightenment, I decided to return to save them." That's crap. You know why that's crap? Because in that condition you're not aware at all of your individual existence, nor are you aware at all of anyone else's individual existence - that's the whole point. If you WERE aware of your individual existence and their individual existence then you weren't merged, you see, you weren't merged in the Brahman effulgence. And you would not have descended with this conclusion that it's just a void, 'the great void', you see?
The devotee of God, if he leaves out the top of his head, he comes to this effulgence but he doesn't become merged in this effulgence. He is like a fish in the water. That individual devotee can make the decision, "Okay, I'll go back down now," but he does not come back down with this conclusion that, "I am the Whole Thing descended; I am the avatar." That is the difference. In other words, he has achieved his natural spiritual body that makes it possible for him to be in a completely spiritual atmosphere and still be aware of his individual identity, his individual existence, you see? Completely spiritual: no material body, no material mind - nothing - but still aware of their individual identity.
Ramanuja gave a very good example: the impersonalist sees a green bird entering into the green forest or entering into the green tree. He concludes that that green bird has become merged in the green forest or the green tree. But, in fact, the green bird is still a green bird. But now the green bird LIVES in the green forest. In other words, the individual spirit soul who has achieved spiritual perfection in their love for God, the Supreme Person, is able to enter into the spiritual world like a green bird enters a green forest, not like a drop of water entering into the ocean. The impersonalist describes entering the kingdom of God as being like a drop of water merging into the ocean, okay? But Ramanuja describes that TRUE spiritual life is when the green bird enters the green forest, that the individuality of the spirit soul is still present.
In other words, the kingdom of God is not simply void of personality. The kingdom of God is FULL of personalities and the topmost personality is the Supreme Personality. And what is their function there? What is the spirit soul's function in the spiritual world? Well, we can look at this world to learn what the spirit soul's function is. The natural function of the spirit soul: wherever there is a spirit soul, an individual soul, you will find that individual soul, that spirit soul, wanting to engage in a loving relationship.
In the Vedas it describes that there is a world, or that there is a banyan tree standing on the side of the river, the lake. This banyan tree stands on the side of the lake. In this lake there is a banyan tree, in other words, there is a banyan tree on this lake but it is upside down - that is this material world. In other words, the material world is a reflection of the spiritual world. What we have in the material world also exists in the spiritual world but in a completely different form, it is completely spiritual.
In other words, we experience love in this material world - we love our father, we love our mother. The child-to-parenthood love. In the spiritual world there is the same love. It exists. The same love of a child for his father. Jesus Christ talked of that relationship: that you can love God not just as the Great Master or the Great Heavy, but you can love God as your father - that closely! - Who loves you, you see? Jesus Christ is not speaking here about some material relationship. He's talking about a REAL relationship that you can have. Here we have a relationship where one friend loves another friend. That relationship also exists in the spiritual world. The individual spirit soul can love God as their best friend. The cowherd boys, they don't see God as God, they see Him as their best friend. They PLAY with God. So whereas the relationship which is one of more awe and reverence, in certain chambers of the Kingdom of God, in other rooms, in other chambers of God, they are loving God as their best friend. They aren't aware that God is - they aren't aware of God at all. In other words, they have such a close relationship with God that they don't even know; they don't care. All they know is that their heart is immersed in absolute love for this most perfect being, this most perfect Friend, you see?
You can love God as the Supreme Beloved. This relationship exists in this world; it is the strongest of all relationships - conjugal love. Lord Chaitanya specifically taught that the strongest, greatest love for God is in the mood of conjugal love, to love God as the Supreme Beloved. It doesn't matter what kind of physical body you have on, you can love God as the Supreme Beloved. In other words, ALL living beings are the dominated, in a sense; in other words, all are female. All spirit souls are shes. God is the Supreme Dominator or the Supreme He.
Everyone else wants to... see, whenever we want to be the master, this is what this world is for. We come to the material world. All those spirit souls who do not want to engage in loving service but instead want to be served, we come here and we get to imitate God. In other words, in the Kingdom of God there is one very central situation. God is the Supreme Enjoyer and everyone enjoys serving Him out of love. Because of the love we enjoy rendering service.
That's why in this world you'll notice that almost everyone that's here, from the time we're born we have a natural inclination not to serve. But we are clouded over. We still have an inclination to serve that comes from our spirit soul, our spiritual condition, but we are polluted by this desire to be the master and to lord-over. And the more successful we are in life, whether we're successful or how successful we are is dependent upon how many we have succeeded in lording over.
Like if ever I am interviewed by the newspapers - which I don't talk to anymore - one of the first questions they always ask you is, "How many followers do you have?" In other words, "How successful are you?" 'How successful are you?'. And what is that dependent on? How many followers you have. Because their idea of success is how many people you may potentially lord over.
If you do business what is the first thing they ask you? "How much money do you make? How much property have you come over to control? How much have you controlled?" In other words, how close to God are you? So it's this competition between all of us in this material world, we all compete to see how much and how many we can lord over and exploit and be the dominator of.
And a successful person, the one who wins the game, 'The one who has the most toys still dies'. (laughter) So the game is that before you die, the game is, okay, you got about sixty, seventy, maybe eighty, maybe ninety years here, okay? Here's the game - this is what you're taught in school - "Okay, children, here's the game: the game is collect as many toys as you can, living and non-living, (laughter) people and non-people. Collect as many as you can before you die. And the winner is, when you get to the point where you die, you've got the most." (laughter/laughs) That's the game. That's the game, you see? So smart kids go, "I don't know about this game..." (laughter)
And what's their main philosophy? Survival of the fittest. And you ask them, "Well, has anyone ever survived?"
"Well, what is it then, just sort of a relative thing? Like I win if I survive longer than the other guy or something? Is that somehow doing me some good?" (laughter)
And they say, "Oh, no, it's about the species."
“What do you mean the species? I mean today I'm a monkey, next life I'm a human, next life I'm a dog, why am I... what is this, like nationalism? (laughter) It's sort of like a war? Like a contest between the species, who can win the longest before they die? I don't understand."
What is the survival of the fittest? No one survives. No one survives. This idea that somehow the goal of life is simply survival, of course, is rooted in the individual spirit soul's DESIRE to survive. In other words, the individual spirit soul, each and every one of us, wants one thing: we want to live. Why do we want to live? Where does that come from? It comes not from our genes, it comes from the spirit soul, the fact that the spirit soul IS life.
It is natural for me to live, to exist. It is not natural for me to not exist. It's not my natural condition. I am a fish out of water. It's not natural for me not to exist. The desire to exist springs from the eternal spirit soul's internal CONVICTION that that is when I am actually going to be happy. That is my satisfaction. I can't even conceive of non-existence. Even my speculation about non-existence - speculating that it's going to be like this but without everything I know here - whatever it is, it's all mental, it is has nothing... The spirit soul exists, you cannot kill the spirit soul. You exist, you're always going to exist. You cannot not exist.
So the question is if I'm going to find happiness in my existence and my existence is eternal I better figure out, "Well, how can I have an eternally happy existence?"
Now, obviously this temporary material world and temporary relationships based on the body is not going to do it because every time I have a loving relationship in the temporary forms I end up suffering because either I leave mine or they leave theirs. Kind of like who's going to leave whose first. That's not going to be a happy situation. I keep building my house on the seashore at low tide and the tide keeps coming up and I keep scratching my head and going, "Oh, God, it happened again." As Jesus said, "Don't build your house on the seashore at low tide," and the people keep doing it.
In other words, your heart is your house. Don't put it on the sand at low tide. Don't put it on that which will be swept away. The forms and names of this world will be swept away. The names and forms of this world are all temporary, so if I place my love, my eternal natural love as an eternal spirit soul, onto a temporary form or name or situation, if I become attached to that which is down at the seashore at low tide, then I am going to have to experience the suffering when it gets swept away. That is natural.
So the smart person is the one who does not do that. The smart person is the one who builds their house on a foundation which can never get swept away. In other words, we, the eternal spirit souls, must learn to place our love upon the eternal Supreme Soul. That relationship can therefore exist now and it exists when we leave this body.
Therefore the devotee of God does not care really whether or not he is born again in this world or not, whether he goes to the kingdom of God or not. Why? Because the relationship that he has with God transcends even the birth and death. His only prayer is that, "If I am born again in this world, let me be born in a family of devotees who are chanting Your Names so that I can always remember You, that I not forget You, so that my relationship with You is not eclipsed by the illusory energy." But that relationship itself transcends whether or not you're in the world of material energy or the world where there IS no material energy. That relationship continues.
So Lord Chaitanya came to teach that love for God is the goal and the basis for that, for achieving that goal is an understanding that God is a real person. God is not just something you're making believe is there and then you love Him and you merge into it and you become Him or something. No, God is a real person, that's the foundation. If you don't know that God is a real person then don't bother with trying to develop your love for God. There's no such thing. Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita:
If one offers me with love and devotion a little flower, a fruit, a small amount of water or a leaf with love and devotion, I will accept it.
That means even while we are in this material dimension with these material bodies we can rekindle that relationship simply by taking a flower and offering it to the Supreme Friend. He says, "I accept it." So we must rekindle that relationship between the individual soul and the Supreme Person.
If you achieve that love for God through the method that you are following... See real religion, what religion means is being resituated in this natural condition of being the eternal loving servant of God. So any system of meditation or any system of religion or faith whether it's the Catholic faith or this faith or that faith can be determined whether or not it is successful or good or not good or how good it is, must be judged by how it is helping you become more perfect in your love for God. It is stated:
That religion is best which causes its followers to become ecstatic in love of God, which is unmotivated and free from material impediments, for only this love for God can completely satisfy the self.
Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.6
Lord Chaitanya teaches that one does not need to change their external religions. One does not need to become a Hindu, or become a Muslim, or become a Christian, from whatever they may presently be calling themselves. All they need to do is recognize the necessity of developing their love for God and then begin to apply that method by which that love for God which is in the heart naturally can be naturally uncovered and helped to grow. And that is the method of hearing and chanting God's names. That if people would focus on hearing and chanting God's names, they practice regularly hearing and chanting God's names then their hearts and minds become increasingly purified and they become increasingly close to God. Increasingly their love for God is there.
So we should not think that Lord Chaitanya came to start another sect, or start another so-called religion or faith. That's not His desire, that was not His purpose. His purpose is to encourage everyone to develop their love for God by hearing and chanting the names of God. And He doesn't claim, "Oh these are the names of God and those are not the names of God!" No.
The whole world right now is suffering in a situation of people not understanding our unity, how we are in fact united. That unity, that oneness can be found in our common interest. The common interest is that each and every spirit soul in the world, we need to, in order to be happy, develop our love for God. So anyone who is encouraging others to develop their love for God and to glorify God and chant and hear His names is doing the greatest work for mankind because nothing else other than recognizing our common bond as spirit souls, children of the Supreme Soul, working for the common end of all becoming closer to the Supreme Soul, nothing else will be able to help us transcend those many differences that we see in our external world: race, color, sexes, ages, nationalisms, economic-isms - so many isms, so many different things that we can see different about each other. But with this one common platform or goal then all of these troubles can be overcome. So therefore Lord Chaitanya is describing that as individuals we should be trying to develop our love for God and we should be encouraging others to do so as well. And doing whatever we can to help them achieve that. That is our job. Thank you very much.