“Christ was lost in love.” – Neem Karoli Baba
Prayer, sitting with a picture of a holy being, singing to the Beloved – all of these are devotional meditative practices, the way of the heart. Devotion balances the more impersonal wisdom that comes from most kinds of meditation. It allows us to cultivate our humanity while we transform our consciousness. This outflowing of the heart toward the object of our devotion facilitates most other methods as well, through the flow of loving energy.
As an example, imagine a being standing before you, someone to whom you feel particularly tuned, such as Abraham, Christ, Mary, or Hanuman. This being is radiant, luminous, a being whose eyes are filled with compassion, a being in whom you feel the wisdom that comes from an intimate harmony with the universe.
Despite all of the impurities to which you cling, despite all your feelings of unworthiness, such a being loves you unconditionally. To sit before such a being, or to imagine such a being sitting in your heart, to be with that being and return the love, to see yourself reflected in such compassion, unjudging eyes, to open more and more, as if to a beloved, to carry on imaginary conversations with such a being, opens you to compassion, tranquility, warmth, patience, to all the qualities of a free being.
This interpersonal quality of devotional meditation allows you to start from your psychological needs, to love, to be loved, to be in the presence of wisdom, compassion, and peace. When you are with a being who embodies these qualities, they rub off, and you feel more evolved, even to the point of recognizing the radiant light within yourself. This acknowledgment of your own beauty allows you to open even more to the beloved, until finally the lover and the beloved merge and you find out that what you had seen outwardly as perfection is a mirror of your own true being.
There are lower and higher stages of devotion. In the lower you romanticize the journey. You merely shift the focus of your melodrama from marketplace to temple. The images in the temple, the temple itself, your participation in worship, the love, say, of Christ, of Krishna, of Buddha, become preoccupations. You want to think about, talk to, play with, and open your heart to them. This level is romantic; you have fallen in love with your vehicle for going to God. But your love grows and your beloved becomes the whole object of your life, you tune to a deeper place within yourself. Then the emotional, romantic qualities of devotion give way to a new kind of love where finally you see all people as the beloved.
– Ram Dass
Photo by Muhammed Rehan via Flickr. Used under the creative commons license.