The Jiva’s eternal search for Ananda
“Ananda” (आनंद) or spiritual happiness is the final goal of all living entities. This goal, is not set by the individual. It is in the natural design of the living entity. The quality of “Ananda” is other-worldly. It grows with every second. It is infinite and timeless in nature. Such a goal is achievable only if we attain the “Love of the Lord.” The living entity has been searching for spiritual happiness since time immemorial. As a result, in each of his births, he strives to attain the same. In spite of this effort, the living entity fails to taste even the shadow of such happiness. The reasons have been elucidated in the Scriptures, especially in the Srimad Bhagavatham.
Since the living entity is averse to the Lord, the Lord’s external illusory potency, Maya, dominates over him. As a result, the living entity or the jeev (जीव) becomes forgetful of its spiritual constitution.
Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says “jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya — kṛṣṇera ‘nitya-dāsa.” Which means- The living entity’s original spiritual constitution is service to the Supreme Lord. This is because, the living entity is a spark of the Lord.
Bhagavad Gita on Jiva’s innate nature
The Gita says- “The living entity is the Lord’s eternal servant. He is the part and parcel of the Lord.” The effect of Maya makes the living entity forgetful of his eternal position. Due to this forgetfulness, the jeev considers itself as the “body”, which is a product of Maya. The jeev thus develops attachment for bodily relationships thinking them to be his own.
For example- An individual considers father, mother, brother, friend, spouse as his relatives. But these relatives are formed due to bodily existence. This is Maya. Because of Maya, the living entity gets attached to the bodily relations.
In this way, the living entity spends millions of lifetimes, changing relatives and getting attached to newer relatives in successive births. The living entity has been eternally transmigrating through 8.4 million species in cycles. Of which, Each cycle lasts for 4.32 billion years equal to 12 hours of Lord Brahma. All through these endless cycles, the living entity fails to attain even a drop of the infinite ocean of spiritual bliss. This is the jeev’s misfortune. The jeev fails to realize that the Ananda which he is seeking unconsciously, resides at the feet of the Lord.
What is Spiritual Sickness?
This forgetfulness of our innate nature, is termed “spiritual sickness” by the Vedic scriptures. This sickness is only because we have turned our backs to the Lord. The cure to this disease is simply, turning ourselves towards the Lord. So what are the means to come “face to face with the Lord?”.
The process of Karma and Jnana can never get anyone 100% “face to face” with the Lord. This is possible only through the unsullied path of Bhakti.
What is Navadha Bhakti?
There are 9 typical classifications of Bhakti known as “Navadha Bhakti” (नवधा भक्ति). They are-
1) Shravana (श्रवण)- Hearing the Lord’s Pastimes
To hear about god with unquenchable thirst and devotion. Listen to His Leelas (pastimes), significance, power and glory.
You may also want to read- Why are Pranayama & Mantras Important?
2) Kirtana (कीर्तन)- Eulogizing, speaking, singing, praising the Lord
To perform Kirtan with joy and enthusiasm. Singing the glory of Bhagavan’s qualities, character, name and might.
3) Smarana (स्मरण)- Remembering the Lord
Continually remembering Bhagavan in a unique sense. Remembering his greatness and power and being enchanted by Him.
4) Pada Sevan (पाद सेवन)- Prostrations to the Lord
Taking shelter of the feet of God and considering Him as your all.
5) Archan (अर्चन)- Worshipping the Lord
Worshiping the feet of Bhagavan with holy articles by thought, word and deed.
6) Vandana (वंदन)- Recognizing the Greatness of the Lord
To greet devotees, Acharyas, Brahmins, Gurujans (teachers), parents etc with reverence as a part of worship.
7) Dasya (दास्य)- Accepting the Lord as one’s Master
To serve God as our master in the mood of service.
8) Sakhya (सख्य)- Accepting the Lord as a Friend.
Convincing God to be your ultimate friend, surrendering to him and requesting His friendship in true sense.
9) Atma Nivedana (आत्मनिवेदन)– Surrender everything to the Lord
Surrender oneself forever at the feet of God without keeping anything independent of Him.
Importance of Smarana
Among the nine processes, the 3rd process, Smarana is the most important. Remembering Bhagavan is most vital for our spiritual practice. The crux of the entire philosophy is “Remembering the Lord” alone. Our mind must always be attached to Him. The contemplative faculty of the mind is the focus of this process. The mind doesn’t wait for work like the other senses. It is in a continuous mode of generating thoughts and emotions. Mind can generate “good” and bad thoughts which belong to the purview of this world. However, thoughts concerning Bhagavan are spiritual in nature and remind us of our true constitutional position.
Good and bad activities take the soul to higher or lower planetary systems after death. However, if the mind is soaked in spiritual thoughts, the soul shall verily go to the Abode of the Lord never to return again.