How to Love God Who Is Beyond Form and Qualities?

Question

I am doing the second course in path of Kriya yoga. But I listen to Master's speech about how GOD is love. But what I understand (which is limited) GOD has no such character. He is nirgun (without qualities). He doesn’t love or hate. This was my understanding. Could you help me clear my confusion?

—Sumesh Gopu, India

Answer

Dear Sumesh,

Aha, a budding philosopher are you? (Just kidding!) Yes, this is a conundrum for the intellect but not so for the heart. For God has become you and me. God has no name, no form, yet has taken on and has become all forms! Love turning to bliss is the quintessential nature of the Godhead.

When we speak of love vs hate, we are speaking in relative terms — here in dwaita, in duality. But God is transcendent of duality as you suggest. After all, what is love without a subject and an object? Indeed, this is certainly a good question, at least intellectually speaking. This is why the more subtle point to be made is that “love is yearning for bliss.” Or, put the other way, love appears out of Bliss as it enters duality (name and form).

To us, mired in duality, convinced of our separation from God, we are encouraged to love God (seen or felt as separate from us). But the purpose of love is to merge into the object of one’s love, yes? When this happens, love is transformed into bliss, like an atomic chain reaction, explodes (or implodes!!!) as the two become ONE!

But until then, Arjuna (in the Bhagavad Gita) asks Krishna “Which is the easier path: to seek the Absolute (transcendent Bliss) or to love God in form?” Krishna replies that “for embodied beings” it is easier to love God. We, in our human form, understand our own need for love and to give love. This is our starting point.

Ramakrishna Paramhansa had great love for Goddess Kali. His guru, Totapuri, vigorously pushed Ramakrishna beyond the form of his love into the state of cosmic consciousness: oneness as Bliss in the no-form transcendent state beyond creation!

Besides, you can love God in the formless, abstract state. But it is more difficult for most people. One can love silence, too. But then silence is a stepping off point for transcendent bliss, and not an end in itself. Bhaduri Mahasaya asked the young monk, Yogananda, “You go often into the silence, but have you developed anubhava (love for God)?”

There is no contradiction in Yogananda’s encouragement to love God. In fact, as Swami Sri Yukteswar pointed out in his one and only book (The Holy Science), without devotion we cannot take one step on the spiritual path!

It is not an end, it is the beginning. Okay? Unless our heart yearns for God like a man whose hair is on fire yearns for a garden hose, we will never get past armchair philosophy!

Blessings to you!
Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA