The Essence of Hinduism
Jagadguru Shri Kripalu Ji Maharaj has graced us all by presenting the core teachings of Hinduism in a very simplified manner. Following is a summary of the teachings of Hinduism as elucidated by Him.
What do we want and how can we attain it?
We have been unable to find the answer to this question in spite of our efforts of infinite lifetimes. It might seem that every individual in this world wants something different. But that is not so. Every living being in this universe wants only thing, and that is “anand” or bliss or happiness. It’s amazing that every living creature desires only bliss, irrespective of their form, size, country of residence or religious faith, and that too without being taught by anyone to do so. There must be a scientific reason why this is so. But before we get to that, let us understand what “happiness” really means.
According to the Vedas, true happiness is that which is unlimited and everlasting.
We do experience happiness from the objects and people of this world but there is a serious flaw in that happiness – it is limited, plus it lasts only for a short while before disappearing. We become happy and then become unhappy and then again become happy and then again become unhappy, and this goes on. The happiness of this world does not stay with us permanently. This is not what true happiness is like. True happiness is that which is unlimited and everlasting. It is this kind of happiness that we have been eternally searching for.
Why do we want such unlimited and everlasting happiness?
According to the Vedas, there is a personality called “Bhagwan”, also known as “God”, “Khuda”, etc. The Vedas also say that other synonymous terms for God are “anand”, “happiness”, “bliss”. God is an ocean of bliss. We are a part of God. All individual souls are a fraction of God. And it is nature’s law that every fraction has a natural desire for its entirety. Being a fraction of bliss, every individual soul desires bliss. We want unlimited happiness. We want God. We may think that all we are looking for is the happiness that we normally experience in this world but what we are really looking for is that happiness that is of infinite amount and everlasting. In other words, knowingly or unknowingly, we are looking for God. Only by attaining God can we attain that unlimited happiness that we are looking for. Only by attaining that ocean of bliss, the individual soul can become blissful forever. Our belief that we can attain the happiness we are looking for from this world is our main mistake. Being a fraction of God, the individual soul is divine and hence it will become blissful only by attaining divine God. The divine soul can never become completely blissful no matter how much material world we give it. The subject of the soul is God and the subject of the body is the material world.
So, how do we attain God?
The Vedas say you can attain God only by knowing God. When you acquire complete knowledge of God, you will develop faith in Him. When you develop faith in Him, you will fall in love with Him. When you fall in love with Him, you attain Him.
But the Vedas also say that it is impossible to know God with our material intellect. God is divine and our intellect is material. It is not possible to grasp divine knowledge with material mind. On one hand the Vedas say that we cannot become blissful without knowing God and, yet, on the other hand, it says that no one can know God! So, what are we supposed to do?
The Vedas again say that the one who is graced by God gets to know Him, and attains Him. You can know Him, you can see Him, you can hear Him, you can touch Him, by His grace. So, the one and only way to attain God or perfect happiness is by receiving God’s grace.
But now the problem is that whether He graces an individual soul is up to Him. What can the individual soul do about this? Why is it that God has graced souls like Kabirdas, Tulsidas, Meerabai, Tukaram, and other saints like them but not the rest of us? So, there must be some condition that we need to fulfil in order to attain His grace.
The Vedas say that one who surrenders to God attains His grace.
As the individual soul practices devotion to God, the mind becomes more and more pure and the intellect becomes more and more surrendered to God. When the surrender is complete, God graces that soul. He assumes full responsibility of that soul, forgives all his sins, puts an end to their ignorance by gracing him with complete knowledge, and makes him blissful by giving him unlimited and everlasting divine bliss.
What does it really mean to be surrendered to God?
The scriptures say that to be surrendered to God means to renounce all deception and artificiality and become like an innocent child in front of Him. Your mind must be attached to God alone. You must believe that “God alone is my everything” and accept Him as your very own from the core of your heart.
So, the final question is how do we reach this state of complete surrender?
The scriptures say that you must practice devotion to God. And devotion must be practiced with your mind. Physical actions such as visiting temple or pilgrimage, reciting from holy books, performing pooja, mechanically chanting God’s names, will not help. Everyday spend some time in private and meditate on God’s form with your mind. Practice to love God in the same way as you love your mother, father or children. Practice to realize at all times that God is with you. Generate an intense longing in your heart to meet God. Shed tears of longing for his Divine Vision and Divine Love while singing the glories of his names, his merciful nature, his Divine qualities and his pastimes along with mental visualization of his divine form. Cry for him just like a little child cries for its mother.
This spiritual practice must be done under the guidance of a Guru, a spiritual master, a saint, someone who is God realized.
In summary, our ultimate goal is the attainment of unlimited and everlasting bliss. This can be obtained only by attaining the Divine Love of God and His eternal service. The Divine Love of God can be attained only by the grace of God. One can attract God’s grace by surrendering oneself completely to the lotus feet of God. Complete surrender happens upon complete purification of the heart (mind). The purification of the heart is only possible through devotional practice under the guidance of a Guru.
How to Practice Devotion to God?
Before we embark on the path of devotion, we must understand how to practice devotion. Otherwise our efforts will not bear the desired result and we will get disappointed. The way to figure out if our method of devotion is correct or not is to check two things – is our attachment to God increasing and are we getting detached from the world? If these two things are happening, we are headed in the right direction. If not, our method of devotion is not correct and we need to change it.
The following guidelines have been given by Jagadguru Shri Kripalu Ji Maharaj on how to practice devotion in our daily lives.
Devotion has to be practiced with the mind, not the body. It is the mind that is the cause of our bondage and liberation. It is the mind that has to be taken to God. It is the mind that has to be purified. So, engage the mind in loving thoughts of God. Try to attach your mind to God. Mere physical practice of rituals will not get us anywhere.
Do ‘roopdhyan’. Spend at least one hour everyday in isolation and practice devotion. During this time, make sure to do ‘roopdhyan’. ‘Roopdhyan’ means to meditate on the personal form of God. Close your eyes and think of God to be in front of you, looking at you. Think of Him in any form you like, of any age you like, of any color you like. Visualize Him as a live person. Do not meditate on a statue of God. Once you have the mental image of God in front of you, interact with Him mentally in any which way you like. For example, talk to Him just like you talk to a dear friend of yours. Go for a walk with Him. Offer Him something to eat. Press His feet. Bathe Him. Do with Him whatever you do with a loved one in the world; all with your mind. This will help grow an affinity towards God. ‘Roopdhyan’ is a must in devotion. Without ‘roopdhyan’, you will not see any positive change in you. To help you in your ‘roopdhyan’, sing or play some devotional song in the background written by some saint. This practice of devotion is called “karmasanyas bhakti” (pure devotion with no associated physical work).
Think of God to be with you at all times as your protector and witness. God is omnipresent. While performing your worldly duties, practice to think that God is always with you. He is protecting you just like a father protects a child. He is also making a note of every thought and action of yours. This practice will prevent you from doing anything wrong. You should think, “God is watching me and I want His grace. If I do wrongful things how will I be able to receive His grace? So, I must think and do only that that will please Him.” Perform every action with the aim of pleasing God. This practice of devotion is called “karmyog bhakti” (devotion while performing your duties).
Establish a relationship with God. The fact is that God is our only true relative. Our every relationship is with God alone. He is our beloved, mother, father, brother, son, friend, master – any relation that you can think of. Establish one or all of these relationships with him. The most wholesome and sweetest relationship is thinking of him as your beloved.
Devotion must be performed under the guidance of a Spiritual Master. The Spiritual Master or Guru, must be a divine personality, one who is God-realised. The Guru gives the theoritical knowledge that is required to progress on the spiritual path. He also guides and supports the spiritual aspirant at every step of his journey and at the end when the heart becomes pure, the Guru is the one who graces the soul with God-realisation. The simplest way to find such a Guru is to pray to God to bring a true Guru into your life.
"Bhakti yog is a very simple meditation process and easiest to practice. It yields the greatest spiritual benefits in the shortest time. Anyone can begin bhakti yog meditation – the only prerequisites are: Faith and a Desire for God."