We have talked at length about the importance of knowing our true essence – of understanding that we are not the material mind or body, but are, in fact, the eternal spiritual self (atma) who is temporarily wearing these material coverings. Understanding that we are made of spiritual energy, not material, is the vital first step in the full realization of our true identity, but it does not give us a complete picture of who we are.
In order to fully know ourselves, and therefore know how we can be completely happy and fulfilled, we must also come to realize two other aspects of our identity – position and function.
Because we recognize that we are eternal spiritual beings, we can understand that our true identity has nothing to do with the features of our mind and body, nor anything material. As these material features are just temporary, external factors, they have nothing to do with who we really are.
In order to know who we are, we need to become aware of our eternal position and eternal function. Eternal characteristics do not vary from lifetime to lifetime. They are unchangeable, innate, absolute features of our being and therefore remain constant throughout the continual flux taking place in the material environment
If we want to know the Absolute Truth, the best place to look for answers is in the bona fide scriptures of the world. It is in these scriptures that we can find eternal truths about our nature, including our intrinsic relationship with the Supreme.
When we look to the authoritative scriptures of the world, we find that our eternal position is that of being subordinate to the Supreme. The yoga scriptures describe that there are innumerable individual spiritual beings in existence. Out of all the spiritual beings in existence, there is one being who is superior to all the other beings. He alone is Supreme and all others are subordinate to Him. The Supreme spiritual being, or God, is called Paramatma and the subordinate spiritual beings are called jiva atmas. We are jiva atmas, individual spirit souls who are dependent upon and subordinate to the Supreme. The Supreme Person has unlimited power and control. We have very limited power.
Again, these are eternal realities, eternal truths. If something is eternally true, that means it is true always. So, when we look at the world – at our experiences and the experiences of the rest of jiva atmas here – what we see supports these truths.
It is very obvious that even the most powerful of us is limited in the larger scheme of things. When we look at the big picture, we can understand that there is relatively little that we can control. We have either very limited or no control over other living beings, the weather, the environment, the physical laws of nature, and so on. We even have trouble controlling our own bodies and minds – and whatever control we do manage to exert is temporary. It diminishes in old age, ultimately to the degree that we cannot even keep our bodies in livable condition. When we look at the practical evidence, it is clear that we are not the supreme controller.
If we are not aware of our natural position, then we will look for happiness elsewhere. For many people, the fact that we are not able to have a high degree of control over our lives and the world around us is very frustrating and frightening. We become wrongly convinced that our only possibility for happiness is in gaining as much control as possible and using that control to try to create situations that we believe will bring us happiness. In other words, we try to take on the role of supreme controller. However, because this is not our natural position, there is no real happiness in it. We can only be happy in our natural condition. Trying to assume a position that is unnatural for us simply leads to endless anxiety and suffering.
However, when we fully understand that our natural position is as a subordinate to the Supreme, we have no problem with serving Him. In fact, we derive immeasurable transcendental bliss and satisfaction in trying to please Him with our lives. We have an innate love for the Supreme Person and He has an innate love for us – and when we become aware of our natural inclination to serve and please Him, and we willingly cultivate this tendency, our love for Him is awakened and flourishes.
Even a tiny taste of the transcendental happiness that comes from the experience of loving service to the Supreme Person, far surpasses all pleasure we are capable of experiencing from any other activity. This is because it is our natural function, our eternal function (sanatana-dharma). By sincerely attempting to serve and please God with our lives, our relationship with Him blossoms, and our love for Him grows.
Bhakti Yoga is the science of perfecting our love for God through devotional service to Him. In the ancient yoga scriptures, it is very clearly explained what devotional service is and how each of us can begin practicing devotional service immediately, regardless of personal skills, intellectual ability, or other qualifications. Devotional service is an activity that anyone can engage in. It is our most natural activity.
In this day and age, the primary means of rendering devotional service to the Supreme Person is through the hearing and repeating of His transcendental Names. (In the yoga system, this is called Mantra Meditation.) These Names are completely pure, spiritual sound vibrations, non-different from God – so when we are hearing, chanting, or singing them, we are directly associating with the Supreme. The more we come into the direct presence of God in this way, the more our consciousness becomes purified – and we are able to actually perceive the presence of the Supreme Person in His Names and in our hearts. Gradually, our relationship with the Supreme becomes more tangible to us and our affection for Him deepens and grows into the sweetest, most beautiful and fulfilling of friendships.
Nothing feels so completely right, joyful, liberating, and life-affirming as being able to be our self in the truest sense of the words. All of the anxiety, confusion, and other forms of suffering that we experience in this world are due to our forgetfulness of our true identity and innate loving relationship with the Supreme. Once we are reestablished in our eternal position and function – in purely loving, serving, and relating with God as our Best Friend – we can again know what it is like to truly live naturally.
For information on specific types of yoga Mantra Meditation, simply click on the links below: