Bhakti – Ceaseless remembrance

Sleepiness is one main reason for low awareness. During or after yoga practices many people experience a feeling of joy, whether slight or intense. This comes because of the wakefulness, calmness and awareness which the practices give them. But this feeling is quickly lost when one continues on with one’s daily duties. One becomes ensnared again in the ups and downs of everyday life, but this need not be the case. Through bhakti and continuous efforts to remember the object of devotion this awareness and joy can be maintained. Remembrance helps to prevent the relapse into automated living patterns and thought.

This ceaseless remembrance is a powerful practice for expanding awareness but it is not easy without devotion. Love and bhakti make a person remember. There has to be a natural attraction to the sweetness of the name (mantra) of one’s deity. Bees are automatically attracted to the nectar in a flower.

This remembrance must be spontaneous. A man who is in love with his girlfriend or his wife cannot stop thinking about her. He does not need to try, he automatically thinks of his beloved. He has no choice but to remember. A bhakta must remember God, his guru, his mantra or whatever with the same intensity. This remembrance must permeate one’s whole being twenty-four hours a day. There are many cases of great bhaktas who were unable to stop remembering even when they were killed. It is said that when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated he said only one thing: “Ram, Ram, Ram.” His ceaseless remembrance continued even when he was dying. The following story illustrates the same thing.

The Great Indian Mutiny took place in 1857. Indian soldiers revolted against the British Government, which quickly took steps to quell the uprising. When people heard that British troops were advancing, whole villages were deserted in panic. At one place the fleeing villagers saw a sadhu coming their way. They warned him that the soldiers would kill him mercilessly if they saw him. But the sadhu paid no attention and continued on his journey. When the soldiers reached the village, one of them in blind fury bayoneted the sadhu. He was fatally injured. As the soldier withdrew his bayonet, the sadhu whispered with his last dying breath: “And you also are He.” Even in the agony of death the sadhu saw his murderer as a form of divinity. Such is the power of continual remembrance.

Many of the great poets have beautifully illustrated this continual remembrance. For them the supreme is a helper, a dearest and nearest friend, nearer than breath, nearer than their own mind. This is beautifully expressed by Lord Tennyson:

Speak to Him, thou, for He heareth

And spirit to spirit can speak.

Nearer is He than breathing,

Closer than hands and feet.

When a person has this intensity of feeling, how is it possible not to remember? And this is the express train to expanded awareness. The great bhakta Ramdas said: “The quickest and easiest way to the supreme is to remember him always by repeating his sweet and powerful name.” This name is a mantra. If you chant it verbally or mentally with awareness of its meaning, then it harmonizes the whole mind. One is less influenced by the ups and downs of the tumultuous world. One becomes more aware. The whole mind becomes concentrated and powerful. This continual remembrance will break down the ego, body and mind identification. It will lead to knowledge and fulfilment. The great bhakta Kabir sang:

I declare to the loud beat of a drum, That with every breath that passes, Without remembering the name of the Lord, Thou art losing the chance to conquer the three worlds, The chance to reach those spiritual heights.

This continual repetition of a mantra is called japa3. Try to repeat the mantra continuously. Try to remember throughout the whole day and night. If you cannot do this then at least remember the name with devotion in the morning when you awake and when you sleep at night. This will saturate the whole mind with positive thoughts and vibrations. With intensity, aspiration and bhakti the remembrance will become natural and spontaneous. You will want to remember, for the name is associated with your prem. It is the focal point of all your emotions and feelings. One becomes intoxicated with the very thought of the ishta devata (personal deity). You must tiy to hear and feel divinity everywhere. This is what the Sufi Hafiz meant when he said:

On the tablet of the universe is no letter save

Thy name.

By which name, then shall we invoke Thee.

Thine, Thine alone!

You must try to see divinity in every part of the world around you without exception. You must try to feel this in your heart. This is the way to union with the inner world of knowledge.

It is not necessary to read countless numbers of scriptures. You don’t need to practise one thousand and one different yogic practices. Only saturate yourself with relentless repetition and remembrance of any holy name of the supreme. Your whole being has to be submerged, soaked and overwhelmed with the continuous repetition of the mantra. There has to be complete surrender. You have to feel divinity everywhere. Love intensifies this remembrance. Love means constant awareness. And this devotion means that there will be unceasing thirst, unforgettable remembrance and unswerving aspiration to unite with one’s ishta. This practice should not be done occasionally during prayers, but twenty-four hours a day. You should remember each and every moment, with every heartbeat, with every breath and with every action. This is the path of bhakti yoga.

It is said that when you unceasingly chant the name of the supreme, he will chase you. Kabir sang:

I have regained my pristine condition,

It is indescribable.

My mind has become crystal clear,

like the water of the Ganges.

God himself keeps following me

and calling 0 Kabir.

Only a person who has merged in the exalted state of samadhi could say this. His main sadhana was continual remembrance, but it seems that when he sang the above song he had left all sadhanas behind. His path of devotion with continual remembrance had launched him into the transcendental realms.

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