Wisdom Finding Eternal, Divine Love Love is more than butterflies-in-the-stomach romance—true love is about compassion. By Swami Govindananda In this series, we explore the application of esoteric truths in everyday life, with renowned teacher and Wanderlust presenter Swamiji. If you have a topic you’d like Swamiji to explore, please email email@example.com Love is a call from your soul. The need for love is so all-pervading that the world spins on the ideal of love and happiness. Almost every song, magazine, film, TV show, book, or conversation in some way or another promotes, explores, or refers to love as the way to happiness. It is no wonder that we think about it so much. I can remember being thoroughly confused by love when I was a teenager. I had experienced what I thought was love only to find that it led to emotional turmoil: It was hurtful, at times euphoric, unmanageable, and certainly not what I had in mind! But love fascinated me. I sensed it was the most important experience of life, that everything revolved around it in one form or another. Subconsciously, I determined to find out what love actually is. Little did I know this experience was part of my journey to become a Swami, where I would, within a few short years, seriously and fully immerse myself in the path of Bhakti Yoga, the way of love and devotion. The Vedas express that there are three types of love. The first is where you only take, giving nothing in return. This class of love is, in fact, not love at all, but merely a naked dance of selfishness where no concern whatsoever is expressed or felt towards the other person. The second type of love is give and take. It is a conditional love, and therefore unstable, because it depends on personal likes and dislikes. If your partner pleases you, the temperature of love increases. If your partner displeases you, and continues to do so, love breaks down. The third type of love is where you give and only give, having no expectation or concern whether you receive anything in return or not. It is an unconditional love that knows no bartering or bargaining. In the world, it is a mother’s love for her child that sometimes comes closest to the expression of selfless love. It is important to understand that love between parents, children, siblings, partners, and friends is not meant to be perfect. The shortcomings of these relationships actually inspire us to go deeper, to search for a love that entirely satisfies the soul. The Vedas, accepted by many as the origin of timeless wisdom, gives a definition of this sought-after love: True love and happiness is ever-new, ever-increasing, and unlimited in experience. Once attained, it never ends. This verse describes the outcome when an individual attains ‘yog’, the union of the atma (the soul) with the Paramatma (the Supreme Soul). Pure divine love transcends worldly love and is where the individual soul fully surrenders herself to the lotus feet of the Divine One, expressing, “I ask nothing of you other than that I may learn to selflessly love and serve you with all my being.” In Sanskrit, this is known as ‘Nishkaam Prem’: pure, selfless, divine love. When this expression and depth of love is felt, everything is attained. Many know of Bhakti Yoga, the way of love and devotion. Few however, know of the many stages that need to be crossed in order to experience the fullness of ever-new, ever-increasing love and happiness. The Bhagvatam expresses these stages as: Sadhana Bhakti, Bhav Bhakti, Prema Bhakti, Sneh Bhakti, Mana Bhakti, Pranaya Bhakti, Raag Bhakti, Anuraag Bhakti, Bhaovesh Bhakti, and finally, Mahabhao Bhakti. Each of these stages progressively sweeten and intensify the experience. The first stage, Sadhana Bhakti, is entry level. It is known as preparatory meditation where the practitioner is learning to meditate but not necessarily doing very well in the beginning. In the second stage, Bhav Bhakti, the student has mastered meditation and feels a deep sense of connection, love, and longing to perceive the divine One. He or she has learned to value human life and has developed a deep sense of spiritual awareness. The emotional ‘ups and downs’ of daily life cease to trouble such a one and the meditative state has become natural, flowing into everyday life. On reaching the third stage, Prema Bhakti, the individual crosses the wheel of birth and death, and realizes pure divine love in blissful union with Paramatma (the divine One). This personality is no longer bound by ignorance of self, nor the dictates of Karma. This stage, and those beyond, are indescribable and are a question of experience. Love is the exhilarating power that inspires life itself. It is the driving force that compels us to get out of bed every morning; it is a call from our soul and we cannot rest until we experience it. Could there be a better reason to exist? Here’s something you can do to deepen your experience of love: Sit in a beautiful, lush green park, or beside a gentle, flowing river. Lift your shoulders and drop them a few times, breathing in and out deeply as you do. Continue by slowly raising your arms above your head, enjoying your breath, and exhale slowly while lowering your arms. Do this for a few moments. Appreciate the gift of breath. Now look around you and observe life in all its myriad of expression and color. This planet is truly an amazing place and you have the good fortune to be part of it. Take a few minutes to reflect on the gift of life that manifests within you, below you, around you, and above you. This is your home! When you are ready, close your eyes and meditate on these questions, “Are we all looking for love and happiness? Is love truly the compelling force that motivates everything we do? Where can it be found? Finally, feel the energy of the soul seated in your heart region, and how, from there, it permeates your entire body bringing it consciousness. The nature of the soul is love; your inspiration to experience it flows from there. This is the greatest gift of all. — Swami Govindananda (Swamiji) is the founder of Ji Living. A New Zealander, he lived years in India learning philosophy and meditation at the deepest levels from a renowned Master. Through his Seven Steps to Self Understanding online video and meditation series at jiliving.com, he illuminates the wisdom that lies at the heart of yoga. A presenter at Wanderlust festivals and yoga studios, he embodies positive spirituality and gives inspirational insights into the significance of human life. Swamiji is known for his wisdom, his gentle, humorous nature and ability to tell great stories.