Bhakti means relationship. Sometimes the word bhakti is translated as devotion but the great saints have given a deeper explanation. They translated it as devotional service. Where there is service, there is a relationship.
Relationship is what fulfills the deepest need of the heart. Things cannot fill that vacuum. We can have a nice house, clothes, ornaments – but they cannot in any way give fulfillment to the heart. What gives fulfillment to the heart is satisfying relationships. When relationships are frustrated; life is frustrated. Then people take shelter of non-living things, the pursuit of money, the pursuit of objects and even after having all of those things they take shelter of intoxication to forget the void within their heart. This is because we have to have access to repose our propensity to love somewhere, and if that is not there - it is frustrating. Because relationships in this world, based on the mental and physical platform are temporary and because generally people are misguided to develop relationships based on our own selfish ego; what I could get from this person; it is all frustrating.
Either we get disappointed or we disappoint them; relationships are difficult because we invest our heart in them and therefore we are most vulnerable to the heart being broken. If two people have a superficial relationship and the other disappoints them; we can go on. But if we invest our faith and emotions in each-other and that person disappoints you; it is devastating. Infact most songs are about the agony of a broken heart. Even if you are happy together; disease and death could come at anytime.
Investing your heart in a relationship puts you in a very vulnerable situation - Vulnerable to the deepest pain. In order to deal with that some philosophers have given a door to walk through which solves the problems – that all relationships are maya and ultimately there is oneness and voidness. There is no love but simply unending existence – nirvana. But that does not fulfill the essential need of every living heart. We have the greatest need for loving relationships. Because it gives the greatest pleasure, it also gives greatest pain when frustrated.
Bhakti teaches that relationship on the platform of truth is the highest fulfillment and is not subjected to the vulnerability of this temporary plane. We are all part and parcel of God and God is all-attractive. Krishna means the all attractive one; beyond all sectarian conceptions – who would deny that God is supremely beautiful, wealthy, knowledgeable, powerful, famous and renounced. Our relationship with Krishna is forever; it has simply been forgotten. In that forgetfulness, we are simply trying to replace that experience with the mortal things of this world.
The highest truth is the relationship of the soul with the supreme soul – God. In that relationship is the pure perfect relationship with all living beings. When we develop our relationship in reference to that love which is within us for God and when we share our love for each-other with the reference to the truth; then those relationships are ultimately fulfilling.
Even in death, when a devotee or loved one dies there must be sorrow but that sorrow is very different. We understand that in our relationship to God, all souls are eternally bound together. When we come together, we are coming to cultivate real relationships based on real principles. We are not man or woman or American or Russian or Indian or rich or poor. We are developing our relationships based on who we are – children of God. On that level we could tolerate and forgive and our affection and relationship becomes greater and greater when time evolves.
For real relationships to have meaning and substance we must understand what the meaning of love is. Love is not selfish but love is selfless. Love is the willingness to sacrifice for the object of our love. When we share that spirit amongst each-other, there is no power in the world that can disturb our relationships.
How to do that? We all have our false ego, different ways, habits, minds and conditionings. For a relationship to be real and strong, we have to focus by making the priority of our relationship that higher principle. Not the temporary superficial reasons to like each-other; our looks are going to change. The body changes and faster than the raging wind the mind may change and different situations may bring about different changes in a person which we have never expected. How do we tolerate? It’s only possible when we are united on the higher principle.
Two people may be married and all of a sudden things about each-other come out which they never imagined. In the mode of goodness, we will resolve those issues based on the higher principle of morality. But Bhakti goes beyond the mode of goodness. Why have morality – because we are here to help each-other to love Krishna and together as a team to help others love Krishna and that higher principle can help resolve all these flickering differences. Just like in the river there are waves always changing; but when we go deep there are no waves and it is still. So we have to dive deep below the surface of our emotions and mind.
Lord Caitanya’s pastimes are all about relationships. The most unconditional and enjoyable loving affairs; not the romantic type but that which comes from the heart and soul. The spiritual world, Vaikuntha, is a place where forever the loving intimate relationships exist for serving each-other to attract the pleasure of the all attractive Krishna.
- HH Radhanath Swami :: 2010