I am a vedantist. I am wondering how to reconcile that with "loving God" and devotion. Thank you.
—Raani, United States
Your question — “How can a Vedantist love God?” — is an important one. It has been asked in many differents ways by many people.
“How can I love God if I have never ‘met’ God?” Is just one of many other ways to ask this same question.
Paramhansa Yogananda’s guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, was a gyanavatar: one who expressed the wisdom of God. Rarely did he give outer expression of feeling.
His one and only book, The Holy Science, is so abstruse as it attempts to reconcile the teachings of the Bible with those of the scriptures of India, that few can understand it and fewer still can claim to have realized its profound statements (taken from Shankhya, Yoga, and Vedanta). This book parallels in its format and its depth the Yoga Sutras.
That having been said, Sri Yukteswar states that without the natural love of the heart one cannot take ONE STEP on the spiritual path!
Truth is not realized with the eyes but with the atoms. The dedication it takes to perceive the truth is virtually equivalent to “devotion.”
To state a truth with words and to comprehend it intellectually is not the same as to experience the state of consciousness being described. No description of the taste of the orange, however well constructed with adjectives, will ever substitute for the actual experience of eating an orange.
Many people think that Vedanta is simply the words of Vedanta. But Vedanta is an attempt to describe the indescribable. To experience the state of Oneness requires the mind to cease playing with words and go beyond “subject, object, and perceiving.”
This state is identical to the state of inner communion in silence achieved by the Bhakti whose devotion and urge to unite with the object of devotion produces perfect inner stillness.
The karma yogi, feeling the flow of energy through his form as the descent of God as the true Doer, achieves, finally union with the Doer in perfect stillness.
Stillness: going beyond thought, emotions, and movement of all kind, is the state described by Vedanta and by mystics in all religions.
No Vedantin can achieve this state without the love and devotion of his heart being lifted upwards to unite with God in the formless state.
Krishna is asked this very question in the Bhagavad Gita. His response to Arjuna is that for “embodied beings” seeking God in the Absolute is difficult. It is difficult to love and seek the Absolute which has no form and no definition. Easier for us to seek our Ishta Devata: our particular form of God that opens our heart: the guru, e.g., a deity, etc.
In theory, a Vedantin (or gyana yogi) doesn’t even recognize the reality of his own body, nor yet the need for meditation or other techniques of purification.
Few souls are born on this planet with a pre-existing level of consciousness, especially in this materialistic age.
The indescribable One exists in each heart; in each flower; in each atom. To perceive Him one must become still, united in feeling, with Him in our heart first. We must be willing to perceive the awakened One in the avatar(s) and great saints of all religions.
Consciousness is made of two elements: reason and feeling; or, self-awareness and feeling. When we were made, feeling and reason were separated (not absolutely, but relatively). In man, reason is uppermost; in woman, feeling. But apart from the gender of our forms, this separation may be found in each of us, even cycling one to the other during a day, or in cycles of our life, etc.
You cannot achieve the goal of Vedanta by reason alone. It is the anahata chakra, the heart’s natural love, that must be awakened by withdrawal from the senses and self-offering to the Source of all Life.
In this complex world in which we live, few can spiritually afford to focus only on one of reason, feeling or action. The three “yogas,” karma yoga, bhakti yoga, and gyana yoga describe the three “organs” through which we relate to the world.
We would do best to exercise, purify, and uplift all three to reunite with our soul, and our soul with the Oversoul!
Swami Kriyananda taught us that we, especially when we are devoid of devotion or even understanding our need for it, should pray not so much WITH devotion, as FOR devotion. Ask God, “Help me experience your love so that I can love you more perfectly.”
May true wisdom descend upon you, awakening the steadfast devotion of your heart.