Some Thoughts on Bhakti, Joy and Becoming Like Milk
Published on March 6th, 2014 | by Harmonist staff1
By Tadiya dasi, originally published at Bhakti Blossoms: Yoga of the Heart.
From the poem, “Admonitions to a Special Person” by Anne Sexton
Love? Be it man. Be it woman.
It must be a wave you want to glide in on,
give your body to it, give your laugh to it,
give, when the gravelly sand takes you,
your tears to the land. To love another is something
like a prayer and can’t be planned, you just fall,
into its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief.
The Real Green Thing Will Come
This poem by Anne Sexton captures perfectly many of the things that have been on my mind lately and speaks of my experiences in a way that is just so beautiful to me. The poem speaks quite eloquently about love and how we must become it. Describing first what we must let go (power, hate, intellect, false love etc.) in the process of becoming it. Then it speaks of letting go even the need to ”become” as fast as possible and encourages one to celebrate the journey as it’s happening, instead of putting all of one’s effort into ”arriving”. As someone, who has tried to “arrive” her whole life, this is something that gives me pause and perspective.
I especially love the line: “To love another is something like prayer, and can’t be planned, you just fall into its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief.” I love it because it so perfectly describes my experience on the path of bhakti yoga. I want to celebrate this kind of love – bhakti – that truly has the power to undo your disbelief.
I can see how I am myself very much like the special someone who is “a young tree that hangs on to possible leaves”. I recognize that much of my bhakti is like “pasted-on leaves” (compared to the full blossoms of Bhakti). Still, I try to live every day in the hope that someday, “the real green thing will come.” Trusting that through the practices of bhakti, it will come. And in the meanwhile, my task is simply to root myself as deeply as possible to the ground of bhakti. Cultivating nistha, steadiness, instead of rushing ahead. And my message to everybody is: “Know that you’ll root”, too. Someday, somehow, little by little.
There was a time I did not like myself at all “on the way” to the possible leaves and almost uprooted the whole tree because of this! To be honest, this is something I am still working on. I can’t unravel years of conditioning in a second but I am learning to like myself more and more throughout the process of bhakti. And I definitely like others “on the way” to the real green, blossoming leaves of Bhakti. So, why not myself?
I want to learn how to celebrate and “break crystal glasses” for you, for myself, for us all on this path. I hope you don’t just take my words. Let this rather be collaboration; so I welcome your comments! I hope what I share will inspire something of value to blossom in you!
Love like Milk
My own practice is bhakti; a heart-centered approach to yoga and living. A path of passionate devotion in which I am still very much a beginner and learning. Every day, I cautiously yet consistently knock on the door of my own heart through the practices of bhakti, namely meditating on the names of God, Krsna. I have taken little steps on this path, sometimes one towards and many away from it. But the pull of this love is the strongest force I have ever encountered! It just keeps pulling me right back in; the embrace of it deepening every time. I would liken it to a mother’s love: it is soft, warm, welcoming, and unconditional.
In the Bhakti tradition this kind of love is personified in Mother Yasoda (Krsna’s mother) from whose breasts, the scriptures describe, milk is continuously flowing. It is the milk of love of God; coming right from the soft heart of a mother. It is nourishing. It is life-giving. What we can hope to become as bhaktas is to become servants of this kind of milk.
Someday, through bhakti, we too can hope to reach a state of love so deep and profound that love will flow from our hearts like that; nourishing the whole universe in the process. One name for God in the Bhakti tradition is Visvambhara, the Nourisher of the Universe. Know that God is like that: a big giver, a nourisher at heart. Imagine then, what power the devotees like Mother Yasoda have to nourish us when they can even feed the nourisher of the entire universe! The devotees are like cows: the milk of love of God pouring from them. And how much does Krsna love them? There’s a beautiful description of Krishna’s love for his cows in Jiva Goswami’s Gopala Campu:
Whenever they are satisfied so too is he; whenever they are hungry, he is as well.
He calls them near again and again, and pressing against them.
He relishes their scent and further embraces them, examining them closely and feeding them.
Without him their hearts are empty and they stand motionless as if they were painted.
Only when they are reunited with him do they recover, smelling, seeing, hearing, tasting and touching him.
Let Your Heart Become Alive
The above description might not mean anything to you. It might feel foreign. Maybe the names Krsna and Yasoda sound weird to you. But really bhakti is closer to you than you realize. It’s an approach to life and living – really, loving – that makes perfect sense. Bhakti is about trusting that your deepest hungers are not arbitrary and what you sense intuitively to be true about love is real: you need love because you were made for love and loving.
Love has claimed you as her own long before you were born. We belong to love in the most literal sense and in loving we find our belonging. This love is calling you and will never stop calling you. So you might just surrender right now, right here. The fact is: we belong to love. We are her belongings and she is free to use us as she wishes. We all know this intuitively: freedom means nothing without love. And we are all perfectly willing to give up our freedom for love. In fact, bondage in love feels like true freedom! We need the other to fully have ourselves. We all search for that perfect love in each other: Knowing somehow that perfect love requires the other. That love is experienced in the loving. And life is best lived in call and response to love. I would say: There are such things as the happy slave; the devotees (bhaktas) know this. And the Sufis say, “Thirst is proof of water.” Can you prove them wrong?
So, trust that there is a love that loves you. A source of love that will receive your love and make your capacity for loving bigger in the process. Such is the reality of love: it is the Full becoming Fuller. Trust in the possibility for real joy that comes from service to love. From loving with your whole self. From knowing who you are: from connecting consciously with all that you are and could become. Become first, fully alive. Keep looking for that which makes you come alive.
And let me give you a hint, God is the Alive. Matter is a dead thing. Consciousness on the other hand is ever-expanding, filled with possibility and with choice. There is a happiness that comes from living from your soul – your true identity. Soul is really another name for that which in you is alive and aware. Become intimate friends with this aspect of your being. Consciousness is worth exploring. There’s a door that takes you there and it’s inside of you: your own beating heart. Look into it. Get conscious about love. Exercise your heart.