To progress in the practice of physical yoga requires concentration, practice, persistence. So too does the practice of spiritual yoga and meditation; however, the latter calls for an additional ingredient not often part of the average yoga class. That ingredient is devotion, the unlocking of the heart’s love and directing it unreservedly toward that object, guru, saint or avatar that calls to your higher self.
He Loves You, Yeah-Yeah-Yeah
In Western society, we normally think of love as strictly spontaneous, stimulated by family members, friends or romantic partners. More often than not, even when we extend love to another, we are actually reaching out in the hope or expectation of that significant other meeting our own need for love and affection. Fidelity and betrayal are frequent themes in our love stories, indicating our tendency to think of love as a possession, rather than something to be given and received freely.
Beyond “I, Me, Mine”
In the “greatest of all commandments”, the predominant religion of the west, Christianity, encourages going beyond this strictly “I, me, mine” scope of love. Christians are to love God with all their hearts, minds and souls, and their neighbors as themselves. That is, rather than living with the passive expectation that love should be given to them, they are to actively wield love as a means of spiritual communion and a force for good in the world.
Sraddah: Cultivating the Natural State of the Heart
What does yoga say about love? Love for the yogi is the native energetic tendency of the human heart that requires cultivation to reach an optimal, stable condition. “Sraddah” is the Sanskrit term for the act of cultivating the heart’s natural love. Sraddah not only results in ideal physical equilibrium, writes Swami Sri Yukteswar*, it is “the principal requisite to attain a holy life . . . When this love becomes developed in man it makes him able to understand the real position of his own Self as well as of others surrounding him.”
Where East and West Meet
Taking as the object of concentration in meditation a “divine personage” or image that stimulates your spiritual yearnings not only gives the mind a single point of focus, it is also sraddah. In meditation, the heartbeat is slowed, the body quieted and the mind stilled; when spiritual devotion guides its focus, it becomes a means of loving with all one’s heart, mind and soul. The heart’s yearning for its Own is the beginning of a love that can satisfy more deeply and completely than the never-quite-enough of worldly love. Paramahansa Yogananda’s chant “Where is There Love?” poignantly describes the first stirrings of this devotional love:
In this world, Mother
No one can love me.
In this world they do not know how to love me.
Where is there pure loving love?
Where is there truly loving me?
There my soul longs to be.
There my soul longs to be.
*Sri Yukteswar, S. (1990). The Procedure. In The Holy Science (Eighth ed., pp. 56-57). Self-Realization Fellowship (Yogoda Satsanga Society of India).