Love has many splendors and each one is a lot of trouble. Our English word love is related to the Sanskrit lubh, defined as “perplexed, disturbed, to desire greatly, to long for.” Whether we are loving a woman, man, wave, song, guru, baby, cat, or soccer team, we are in for a ride. There are going to be ups and downs. The ride is worth it because each joy and sorrow stretches our hearts open. Love is a way of connecting to the deep forces of life, a yoga. Each of the loves in our life is a different asana flow that asks for our full attention and breath.
The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra is a conversation between Devi, the Goddess Who Is the Creative Power of the Universe, and her lover Shiva, the Consciousness that Permeates Everywhere. Devi dares Shiva to describe the ways, the practices for becoming at one with the sacred Reality. In reply, Shiva enumerates a hundred and twelve yogas. In Sutra 98 he gives a bhakti yoga.
Bhakti udrekaat viraktasya. Can you hear the way the sutra just rolls in and lays down the beat like a rock ‘n roll song?
Bhakti, Shakti and nitya are chord sequences unto themselves, multidimensional, with layer upon layer of resonance. In a chanted tradition you are to say the words, whisper them, savor them, be carried away by their power. Sensing the words with full awareness is supposed to blow your mind and leave you speechless, in awe.
bhakti – attachment, devotion, fondness for, trust, homage, distribution, separation, that which belongs to or is contained in anything else, faith or love or devotion as a religious principle or means of salvation; udreka – abundance, excess; virakta – changed in color or disposition, indifferent, freedom from worldly attachment, impassioned, feeling excessive passion.
yadrishe – just as, that which, the way by which.
jayate – to take birth, emerges.
matih – devotion, prayer, worship, hymn, sacred utterance, thought, intention, wish, desire, to set the heart on, intuition.
sa shakti – that shakti, divine energy, strength.
shakti – power, ability, strength, might, effort, energy, capability, exerting all one’s strength, faculty, skill, the energy or active power of a deity personified as his wife and worshipped by the Shakta.
shankara – fortunate, blessing-bestower (sam, blessing, auspiciousness, good fortune, happiness + kara, making, bestower), a name of Shiva.
nityam – innate, native, one’s own, continual, perpetual, eternal, constantly dwelling or engaged in, intent upon, devoted to, used to, the sea, the ocean.
bhavayet – become that, meditate on and realize your identity with That; tam tatah – there.
shiva – “in whom all things lie,” auspicious, propitious, gracious, favorable, kind, benevolent, friendly, tenderly, happy, fortunate, liberation, final emancipation, the disintegrating or destroying and reproducing deity. The experience of being at one with the universe.
Love is daring. When we love someone or something, we risk everything by being in the flow of passion, with mysterious and divine energy gushing through our bodies toward another body. Passionate love is a divine madness, really. We need Yoga, we need meditation, we need continual prayer, we need all the serenity we can muster, to handle the wildness. A function of Yoga is to give us a time, place and skillset to witness the energies of love flowing through our bodies as shakti, divine energy. In the flow of that devotion, a sublime intuition arises in the heart, a knowing. Lovers know things.
Love’s energies are juicy. This juicy quality is called rasa, a word with a wonderful range of meaning: “the sap or juice of plants or fruit, an elixir or potion or liquor, also the best or finest part of anything.” More subtly, rasa is “the taste or character of a work of art,” in other words, aesthetic rapture. One of the wonders of meditation is that attention is freed up to savor the essence of our life in its ever-changing texture of emotional and sensuous experience. For householders, each meditation is epic. There is a churning, a turning, of the plot, and as the soul perceives its incarnation, rasa emerges. Meditation gives us an arena, an internal theater, in which the eternal part of us can come into intimate contact with the temporal. The soul can take delight in being human and relish the everyday predicament.
The nectar of love has many flavors. The erotic flavor of love is called shringararasa. Sakhyarasa is friendship, an intimate relationship among equals. Vatsalyarasa is parental love. Karuna rasa is compassion, sorrow, desire for what has been lost. Dasyarasa is slavery in the positive sense, being a servant to the Beloved. Shantarasa is the sense of peace we experience in the flow of love, in being attached to someone, belonging to the Beloved. Within these broad categories, each rasa is a universe of ever-changing flavors. There are more rasas, because of course, where there is love there is humor – hasya rasa is the sense of the comic. Adbhuta rasa is the sense of wonder and awe, when we marvel at the Belved. Each rasa is a different flow of electricity between bodies and way of touching the other. As we tend to a rasa and cherish it, it tends to change in surprising ways, erotic energy to humor, adoration to wonder, and these changes in tone occur with surprising speed, the same pace as a dream or movie.
When you love someone, you carry them inside you and will think of them during pranayama, shavasana and meditation, even if you try not to. You can’t help but be bothered by your love. Your awareness is sneaking off to practice Bhakti Yoga, and will do so no matter what style of class you are in, no matter what you call your meditation system. In the Bhakti Yoga stories, otherwise honorable and diligent women (the Gopis) are always getting up in the middle of the night and slipping away to worship Krishna down by the river. In daily life, attention steals moments of Bhakti here and there to muse about the lover, baby, cat, dog or creative project. Loving any one being is devotion to your local part of the infinite universe. This is a tangible thing you can do, an act of power and creativity.
Every form of love is love of God, every relationship, temporary as it may be, teaches us about eternity. Bhakti Yoga says that you can be in an erotic, passionate relationship with God, you can be friends and equals with God. You can share the joke with God. You can be in awe of God. You can even feel parental and protective of God. All rivers flow to the ocean.
Dr. Lorin Roche has practiced and taught from the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra since 1968. He has a PhD from the University of California at Irvine, where his research focused on the language meditators generate to describe their inner experiences. The Radiance Sutras, a new version of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, is now available.
A new printing of The Radiance Sutras in a spiral binding just arrived. We ordered 100 at the request of yoga teachers, who like this format because it lies flat, and you can wrap the cover around to reveal just one page. You can order it here.
You can read the first part of the book here. Click here to order the Sutras in a regular binding: