Adoring the Divine
(Continued from previous issue)
Adoration at the Mental Level
According to Sri Krishna, the third type of person who adores God is called a jijnasu, or one who seeks to know answers to certain fundamental questions: What is the meaning of human existence? What is the nature of God? Is there a divine core in us beyond our body and mind? A seeker is not satisfied with the world and the enjoyments it has to offer, and knows that those enjoyments only sap the vigor of the senses (Katha Upanishad, 1.1.26). Such a person turns to God, prays to Him, and adores Him, seeking to know the secret and purpose of human life.
Spiritual life may be said to begin at this stage. The seeker practices spiritual disciplines, studies the scriptures, cultivates holy company, and struggles to attain purity of mind. Worldly desires have begun to lose their allure for him. He lives mostly in the mental and intellectual planes, and derives joy from a higher dimension of his personality. This joy arises from a level transcending his sensory system, and is born of self-control and devotion to his spiritual Ideal. When he adores God in an image, it is not the external splendor that draws his attention, but the infinite purity, holiness, knowledge, bliss, freedom, and strength of the Divine permeating the image. He wages a relentless war with his own mind, which is like trying to control the wind (see Bhagavad Gita, 6.34) or like trying to reverse the swift current of a river (see Sri Shankara’s commentary on the Katha Upanishad, 2.1.1). This war marks the beginning of his adoration at the mental level. The more his mind becomes pure, the more he realizes the infinite divine qualities of the object of his adoration, which could be any holy form including that of an incarnation of God. His adoration now takes the form of a deep longing to be filled with these qualities.
Patanjali advocates meditation on the “heart that has given up all attachment to sense objects” (Yoga Sutras, 1.37). Swami Vivekananda comments on this aphorism: “Take some holy person, some great person whom you revere, some saint whom you know to be perfectly non-attached, and think of his heart. That heart has become non-attached. Meditate on that heart and it will calm the mind.”
Students of Sri Ramakrishna’s life cannot but be astounded at his blazing renunciation and purity. Such a one-pointed and tenacious mind, which did not stop striving until it attained what it believed to be true, cannot but be an object of adoration for a seeker. Every other page in the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna records how the Master loses external consciousness and passes into samadhi, the highest superconscious experience. He had to struggle hard to bring down his mind from the highest realization so that he could teach suffering humanity about attaining God. Such was his great concern for spiritually impoverished people that he prayed to the Divine Mother to bring down his mind a little from the experience of oneness with God, and not to make him a dry sadhu. He wanted to enjoy the company of the devotees.
A spiritual aspirant naturally compares Sri Ramakrishna’s exalted mind with his own fickle mind. His restless mind is able to think of a divine idea maybe for just a few minutes during his attempts at meditation, and that too with great effort. In contrast, Sri Ramakrishna’s mind was steeped in God-consciousness for all the twenty-four hours, even in the midst of excruciating pain from throat cancer.
The struggling aspirant adores such an extraordinary mind and gradually absorbs some of its qualities. By opening himself up to its purifying influence more and more, his mind gets cast in the mold of his chosen Ideal. He prays to Him “to be endowed with humility, control of mind, freedom from thirst for sense objects, and compassion for all beings, and to be rescued from the ocean of relative existence.” (Sri Shankara in “Six Verses on Vishnu”)
(To be continued) ─ Swami Yuktatmananda
Copyright© 2014, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York.