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Board index Chapter XIII: Love.

Chapter XIII: Love.

Importance of Relationship with God - Narada Bhakti Sutra

How Is Consciousness Love?, Relationship Love Is Based on Duality, Who Is the Devotee? Conversion of Emotion into Devotion, Devotion with Qualities, Prayer Is Not Worship, Devotion Is Knowledge and Action, Devotion Is Free Will, Worship of Symbols, Worship of the Formless Self.

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Importance of Relationship with God - Narada Bhakti Sutra

Postby georgschiller » Sat Dec 05, 2015 6:27 am

Hello fellow Bhaktis !

I initially had a question concerning whether different forms of worship are better than others. This question was solved by reading the passage below from the Narada Bhakti Sutra. Maybe some of you find it of interest.

"The first feature is that Isvara is brought down to the human level. Of course, our ultimate goal is to raise the human being to the level of the divine and not the other way around, but here we have managed to bring poor Isvara down to our level (it’s an extraordinary play when you really think about it; like a person extending a hand to lift someone up, but that person is so strong he winds up dragging down the helper). Nonetheless, this humanization of the divine is the first distinctive feature of all stories in the bhakti literature. The second feature is that once God has been humanized, a relationship is struck with this human God. This relationship is amenable to a wide range of possibilities; for example, God may be treated as a baby, a lover, a master, or a parent. The third feature is that after striking up this relationship with a humanized God, there is regular and intimate interaction unconfined by any prescribed rules or regulations. The bhakta interacts with God at any time, in any place, and in any manner he or she pleases. God can be cuddled and pinched, kissed and caressed, cried to and confided in, and even scolded and—all without any fear of being ditched by God. This “anything goes” approach characterizing informal dvaita bhakti is distinct from our typical relationships with people, where the fear of rejection so often lurks in the background. It is also in stark contrast to the more formal scripturally based methods of worship, such as puja, in which specific rules must be adhered to, such as the types of flowers that can be offered to particular deities."
(Narada Bhakti Sutra from the Vision of Vedanta: page 4)

The initial question of this post was "whether seeing Isvara as a child is 'better' than seeing Isvara as a master?". This question was solved by reading page four and five of the Narada Bhakti Sutras. Instead the question arose "Why is a personal, informal relationship with God important?"
The simple answer can be seen in the paragraph below. It includes the refinement and purification of the mind. In general, healthy relationships are the foundation for a clear mind. Pain - whether physical or emtional - is easier to bear as long as there is a healthy relationship (imagined or real).

"Informal dvaita bhakti also has the benefit of refining emotionally turbulent minds, and this is especially true for people who have difficult family or interpersonal relationships. When our close relationships are unhealthy, we need healthy relationships to neutralize them. A human being without any healthy relationships is at risk of becoming emotionally disturbed. Such a person desperately looks for companionship because the human mind requires good relationships for psychological health. Indeed, psychologists talk a lot about the value of supportive
relationships. Thus, for the spiritual seeker whose mind is unsettled because of turbulent relationships, informal dvaita bhakti will be particularly useful. When an emotionally troubled person puts his or her head in the lap of a loving person—whether actual or imagined—the pain is easier to bear. People often say that in the joint families of the past, children were more emotionally healthy because there was always an empty lap available to cry on. These days, joint families have been supplanted by nuclear families in which both the father and mother work and are often stressed and yelling. As a result, there are no empty laps for the child to rest his head on, and if there is a lap, there is likely a lap dog on it. Emotional disturbance is pacified by a consoling relationship. When the spiritual seeker doesn’t have a peaceful mind, aham brahma asmi simply won’t work."
(Narada Bhakti Sutra from the Vision of Vedanta: page 4, 5)

What is important to note here is that having a relationship in one form or another to God is not adequate to everybody's mindset. Some people cannot build up such a relationship and - from a Vedanta point of view - it is not necessary.

Relationship with God is simply a tool to refine and purify the mind. Thus,it is not necessary for Moksha! It is an aid to moksha but not absolutely necessary!

Recapping the Vedantic view: start by following formal dvaita bhakti in the form of karma yoga and upasana yoga, with or without informal dvaita bhakti, then come to Self-inquiry, then come to non-dual self-knowledge, otherwise known as advaita bhakti, which is moksha. This Vedantic roadmap must be exceedingly clear when we read the bhakti literature, otherwise we risk getting trapped in bhakti philosophy and getting permanently stalled.
(Narada Bhakti Sutra from the Vision of Vedanta: page 5)
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Re: Importance of Relationship with God - Narada Bhakti Sutr

Postby Mira » Sat Dec 05, 2015 10:54 am

Hi Georg,
I am really enjoying your posts!

I think of all the sadhanas of a vedantin--Bhakti is the most essential. It's funny for me to say that, because I grew up almost atheistic. But with self-realization, comes humility (for whatever semblance of the jiva that remains). With humility, of course, comes bhakti.

With regard to a personal God: I was reading that in India, this practice started after the Mughals invaded India. That is, Bhakti then needed to be done privately, so as to escape the wrath (and possible conversion) by most Muslim rulers. Still, this intimacy with the divine is so essential, I think. You are the self--so how could you not have an intimate relationship with yourself. And ultimately, there is no dualism in Bhakti. You love the Lord as you love yourself ;).

I'd love to hear about your Bhakti practice. I have a tiny statue of the most beautiful Krishna but I also carry Krishna in my heart all the time :D. I know this sounds a bit dualistic--but it's not really. I don't know how to explain it--the self seems attracted to the self (or symbols of itself)!

I hope you get to go to an authentic temple in India. I have a feeling you might resonate with one deity or another.
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Re: Importance of Relationship with God - Narada Bhakti Sutr

Postby georgschiller » Mon Mar 28, 2016 1:44 pm

Hi Mira,

Mira wrote:I don't know how to explain it--the self seems attracted to the self (or symbols of itself)!

James explained in his most recent seminar in Berlin the way symbols work.

Basically any form of symbols gain shakti (energy) from the attention of the devotees. In other words, symbols in form of statues, paintings and gurus do not have any special powers. They only get "special" powers by focusing the attention of devotees on them.

Their duty then is to focus this attention (which is nothing else than love) from the devotees. Once they have focused the attention they beam from all the shakti. As a consequence the symbols send out this shakti and the devotees get the energy (shakti) back and beam as well :D

At least this is what I remember ;)

Mira wrote: I hope you get to go to an authentic temple in India. I have a feeling you might resonate with one deity or another.

Yes, there are many beautiful symbols and deities.
However, before the puranic era there was apparently no need for symbols or deities.
Society and people were so sattvic that they only referred to the five elements.

Well, this is definitely over! We desperately need role models and symbols in our western societies. So much worrying, fear and egoism could be treated to some extent by appropriate symbols and deities.

Well, in any case in the Berlin seminar James explained Shiva and the ring of fire around her. He explained so well (based on my limited memories) that the ring of fire is a symbol of the universe and Shiva represents awareness in the form of Jiva dancing the play of life in the universe. The hands represent that there is nothing to fear, that this is only an illusionary play of life.

Well, I obviously cannot reproduce the exact words but in general I fell in love with Shiva! So beautiful, the dance of life :P
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Re: Importance of Relationship with God - Narada Bhakti Sutr

Postby Mira » Mon Mar 28, 2016 7:28 pm

Hi Georg,
Thanks for posting these great comments from Ramji.
When I was young I was always afraid of Shiva. I thought he had a really bad temper :lol:. Now that I 'get' the symbolism, I really love Shiva. Afterall, Shivohum, Shivohum

And Krishna is wonderful as the self too. I feel so overcome with affection sometimes when think about Krishna giving us the gift of the Gita.
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Re: Importance of Relationship with God - Narada Bhakti Sutr

Postby Anja » Fri Sep 30, 2016 1:21 pm

Narada's bhakti sutras are meant for a certain type of people. The basic message of Narada's bhakti sutras is, IMO:

It doesn't matter if you worship some God/god or yourself/Self, IF you know "who is who and what is what". If you think God/god is someone other than yourself/Self and you totally adore that for what it is, it's as if you are THAT yourself.

The basic difference between jnani and bhakti yoga is, IMO: The jnani-yogi first goes for loving him or herself but the bhakti-yogi first goes for loving others.

In the very end, they both meet at the same cross-road anyway. Like...the jnani-yogi meets a bhakti-yogi and they say to each other, "Hey! You are THAT!"

The jnani-yogi becomes a bhakta and the bhakta becomes a jnani when they meet each other. They recognize, "Hey! We're on the same path!"


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