The second chapter of the Bhagavad-gita explains how we are not these bodies, but our true identity is that we are spiritual beings that exist in these temporary material forms, like a driver in a car. The soul cannot be burned, dried, withered, or harmed in any way. It is eternal. The soul does not die when the body dies, and only wears the body like an ephemeral suite of clothes. It is also full of bliss and knowledge, and we naturally feel that happiness when we regain our spiritually constitutional position.
More than this, the living being is an expansion of the Lord's Divine love. The soul is an emanation of God's ever-increasing light and affection. Thus, the soul has a natural proclivity and need to serve, to love and seek love. Therefore, while in these bodies our greatest need, beyond the requirement to maintain the body with food, clothing and shelter, is to love and be loved. Practically, whatever else we have, materially speaking, it is hardly enough if there is no love. We may have everything we require but will still feel empty, unfulfilled and alone without love. So, as we can plainly see, everyone in this world looks for this. People will undergo all kinds of tribulations to find love and to keep it if they think they've found it with someone.
Since we are already parts and parcels of the Lord on the spiritual platform, we are longing to reconnect with God through a loving relationship. However, we may not realize this when we are ignorant of our true spiritual identity. So, to understand this we may require jnana or knowledge of who and what we are. But only through bhakti, or loving devotion, expressed toward God can we be emotionally and spiritually fulfilled. Therefore, this is why no religion or yoga or spiritual process is complete without bhakti.
When we forget our spiritual identity, then in our attempt to find love we will look for others in this world with whom we may find loving reciprocation. The whole planet is moved by this process of looking for love. But in such a case it is often based on giving and receiving sexual affection related to each other's body. In these types of relations, we usually want a return for what we give. In other words, if we are not satisfied or do not get what we want, we no longer feel as loving toward that person. Or we get angry when our expectations are not met. Or when we get attached to someone as the object of our affection, if there is a threat that he or she may leave us, we get disappointed or jealous.
In this way, when we are not in touch with spiritual reality, we may get distracted or even confused about where to find real love. Some may become work-a-holics, being so busy they can't feel what they really need, which may help divert them from feeling lonely or the lack of love in their life. Others may want power, thinking that once they have money and status or a fancy car, etc., they can command the attraction and respect of people, and acquire love in this way. Even the rapist is looking for love, but is so disturbed or angry that he thinks he has to forcefully take it in a certain way, or in a controlling situation. So no matter what we do, it is based primarily on our inherent need to acquire or express love.
These and numerous other scenarios, however, are caused by lust, not love. Love shines on. It does not burn like lust. It is unconditional when it is spiritual. But it becomes demanding when it is material, or based on pleasing one's own mind and senses.
The reason for this can be explained in an example we can use of a flashlight. A flashlight can give off a beam of pure bright light. But if you put a piece of red cellophane paper over it, it still gives off a light but it is now red. So we could say the light is now perverted. Similarly, we are all spiritual beings, parts of God, and Divine expressions and manifestations of the Supreme's spiritual love. And we emanate this the more in touch we become with our spiritual nature.
On the spiritual level, our natural tendency is to love purely and receive pure love. That is always what we are looking for. However, once we are in this material body and we are covered by this form, our love often comes out different. When that love is filtered through the mind, body, and ego, it comes out perverted. It comes through in the form of desires, wants and needs for pleasing our mind and senses, which is lust and not real love. This lust is the craving for one's own pleasure as opposed to giving of oneself. It comes out as a desire to satisfy our own feelings, our own sense of what we think love is, based on the desires of our mind and senses. Then we are no longer looking for real love, although we think we are, but looking for the means to satisfy our own emotional and sensual desires. This is based on the illusion that we are these bodies, and the goal of life is to satisfy these bodies, senses and minds. It is like seeing everything through the red tinted paper that we put over the flashlight. It is the never-ending attempt to please the temporary body instead of the soul, our real identity. Thus, we go on looking for love in many of the wrong places. This is also the way of remaining unfulfilled except for the fleeting moments of sensual pleasure, excitement or thrills that one may find along the way.
When you begin to see our real spiritual nature and how we are all God's Divine manifestations of love, we will see that almost all we do is motivated by the desire or hope of finding or expressing our love. We simply have to realize what kind of love we really need and make sure our own loving propensity is not improperly directed towards temporary objects. We have to focus it on the real spiritual identity of each other and towards God. Once we turn our attention and love toward God, it is like a misplaced spark being put back into the fire. It returns to its naturally bright and hot nature, instead of getting cold and fading out due to being in a misdirected and incompatible situation.
When I talk about this spiritual love between us, I don't mean the attraction or repulsion that is given toward the body, or giving affection to each other's skin bag. The love has to be directed toward the real us, the spiritual beings that exist on a higher level than the material identity of the body. If our love is to be based on Truth, it has to be based on the Divine knowledge of the soul. In this way, though our relationship may change with time, the connection will be eternal.
When we see God everywhere, we will see that we are all parts of God, and we all deserve each other's love and respect. When we know how to realign our love toward God, then we exist in our natural position of being God's loving servants, and loving and respecting each other, and all of His creatures. Thus, through bhakti we reach the highest spiritual expression and can become fully satisfied and blissful. Then we attain the natural goal of life by experiencing that loving reciprocation for which we always hanker.
Published with the kind permission of Stephen Knapp
Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana) is the President and Treasurer of the Vedic Friends Association (www.vedicfriends.org). He has been researching Vedic spirituality and comparative religious study for over 30 years in a variety of settings. He has directly engaged in those spiritual disciplines that have been recommended for hundreds of years. He continued his study of Vedic knowledge and practice under the guidance of a spiritual master to get the insights and realizations that are normally absent from the ordinary academic atmosphere. Through this process he has been initiated into the genuine and authorized spiritual line of the Brahma-Madhava-Gaudiya sampradaya, or disciplic succession, under the sanction of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. He has also extensively travelled throughout India to most of the major holy sights and more, and is known for his slide shows on his travels to the holy places and spiritual festivals of India (even nicknamed "the slide show acharya"), and for his lectures on the Vedic and Indian philosophy. He has written several books on the science and spiritual practice of Vedic culture and Eastern philosophy.
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