Perseverance.

 

Perseverance is to endure
the three types of pain until death-
at all times and in all ways.

To do this, consider the body to be like buttermilk-
and understand the spiritual situation of king Bharat,
as well as the divine condition of Gopis of Vrindavan.

Reflections:

The lover endures every pain for the Beloved. Worldly affliction comes from the body, spiritual adversity arises from the senses, while divine distress surges from the depths of the soul.


Sometimes, suffering comes because of an examination, to test the lover's fortitude, to make her stronger. At other times, pain may come from past karmas. There is also the divine suffering; it is a special award. It can come because of the lover's unfulfilled desire to be with the Beloved. It could also arrive because she desires to present Him something that is beyond
her reach. These are lila trials and well from the love-filled heart towards Hari.

 
Whenever any of these three-fold afflictions occur, a disturbance can arise in either the body, senses or soul. If not contained, they can become detrimental to the lover's seva, her divine pleasing service, the Beloved Practice. But, in circumstances when the lover endures, when she lives for her Beloved's sake, she prevails.


See worldly pain in the example buttermilk. In India, butter milk is made from yogurt. Water is first added and then it is churned until the butter separates from the watery yogurt mixture. After the butter is removed, what is left is called buttermilk. It is considered to be "with-out essence", that is without butter. As the buttermilk does not feel any pain or loss of pride over the
butter being removed from its substance, in a similar way, the lover never feels any deficit from any worldly situation, regardless of how she is churned. This balanced view is maintained in loss or gain, whether it be in regards to wealth, wife, children, friends, or other associates. If worldly agitations create a gulf and distance from the Beloved, the lover remembers how the butter milk was churned and then without any sense of ownership, abandoned the butter and never thought of it again.
If the lover is insulted, treated unfairly, or if she is in any negative situation that arises because of contact with samsara, the mayic creation, she reflects upon the butter milk. The butter milk was beaten and robbed of it essence yet felt no pain or loss. The butter milk was happy to be fat free.


The only butter the lover requires is unconditional love. It is the true substance and can not be stolen. Once tasted, it makes everything else seem unrelated. She finds nourishment in exalted relations with other Hari lovers. Blessed associations, satsang enhances her relationship with the Beloved. They are found in this world but are not worldly. She recognizes them and welcomes their nectars of devotion. They are cherished. Affliction can also arise from the senses, when they are agitated or
when they hanker after something without understanding the nature of impermanence. They also become disturbed with anger and jealousy. To deal with discursive senses that disregard the Beloved, the story of king Bharat should be remembered. He never forgot his Hari bhava throughout his difficult and unusual journey.


Long ago, he was a great Indian king. India, which is also called Bharat, was named after him. After ruling for many years, he renounced his kingdom and retired to the forest for enlightenment practices. There, one day, while he was meditating on the banks of a river, a pregnant deer who was being pursued by a tiger, jumped into the river near by where the king was meditating. The deer died in the leap, but not before giving birth to a fawn. The king took the new born into his care and soon became excessively attached to the fawn. Shortly thereafter, he died.


Because he was constantly thinking about the fawn and what one thinks about at the time of death determines the next incarnation, the king was born as a deer, but with complete remembrance of his previous birth. As a deer, he stayed near to a sage's ashram and focused his mind on the highest pursuit of life. He ate the sage's leftovers and soon dropped that form and was born again, this time as a Brahmin.


Not wanting to be obstructed in his path by anyone or thing, he appeared to all as a fool. After his father died, he wandered the world. Once when captured to be used as a human sacrifice, he remained totally fearless. When the appointed hour arrived, the goddess manifested in the sacrificial hall and saved him by killing all of his captors. His wandering continued until one day, another king, who was in search of enlightenment came upon him and needed an extra bearer to carry his palaquin. king Bharat, now appearing as the Brahman fool, agreed to help carry the king, but when he didn't keep pace with the other bearers, he was reprimanded by the king. When king Bharat indicated that his stride was unique, the king who was looking for the great teacher, suddenly realized that he was below him. He climbed down and became his humble disciple.


It was only after many trials that king Bharat attained his goal, Hari realization. Regardless of his wandering senses, he persevered and kept his focus. Similarly, the lover who is firmly established in devotion, regardless of world situation, becomes a vessel for His bhava. With His remembrace, there are no obstructions, in the blessed state, the song continues.


The divine pain, the anguish of the devotional heart is from a direct connection to the Beloved. He sports with His lovers in a lila hide-and-seek. Sometimes, He may delay, but when the fruit is finally given, it is totally sweet and worth the wait. Only love can influence the Beloved. Still, the lover who desires to be taken into her Beloved's arms, uses every resource to find Him. She waits, she practices, cries and contemplates, yet the Beloved may still not appear.


The greatest example of this fire-like devotion is found in the bhakti of the Svaminis of Vrindavan, the Gopis of Braja. Some of those blessed Gopis were married to other men in the world. Once, when Shri Krishna went to the forest and sounded His sweet flute, its enchanting call brought the dairy maids of Braja, those accomplished souls, out from their worldly homes into His presence. Meanwhile, some of them who got caught in their homes, were unable to leave. They were stopped by their husbands and other family members and could not join the others in the Krishna congregation deep within the groves of Vrindavan.


Those Gopis who remained in their homes, did not view Krishna as the divine Beloved but they saw Him as their paramour. This material view is what really kept them snared in their homes. Their desires for the Beloved had specific motives, were tainted with worldly stuff and restricted their bhakti movement. Their delayed Krishna meeting afflicted their souls. They knew they were missing the Beloved's dance, His rasa a congregation of elixir.


When they could not find their way out of their worldly homes, they closed their eyes and meditated upon the form of their Beloved. At that moment, they experienced His intense pangs of separation. In a single second, their affliction that was equal to countless years in hell, filled their beings. That fire of separation swept through their karmic lots and cleansed them of all previous obstructions.

Then, within their meditation, the blessed form of Hari emerged and embraced them. A joy arose form His contact that was equal to the concentrated pleasure of a billion years in heaven. In the intensity of the experience, those blessed lovers left their material forms and joined the Beloved in the eternal abode, they became partners in the love games. And there were also the Gopis who did make it out of their homes. They arrived in the forest of Vrindavan only to be told by Shri Krishna to
return home to their worldly lives. They did not listen to words for they knew they were laced with double meanings. His command to go really meant to stay, and after replying to Him in eleven ways, their fortitude and spiritual endurance prevailed and Hari allowed them a dalliance that thrilled their every pore. They enjoyed Beloved Hari because of their determination, wisdom and unconditional love. The reward was showered upon them.


The Gopis of Vrindavan are the bhakti gurus. Their resistance and determination are to be emulated by those who tred the fire path of devotion. Their glories are sung of in the congregations of lovers. These stories confirm that Hari's lovers can withstand the force of their own karma, endure the effects of time and nature and face the fires of devotion. This allows them to arrive at the Beloved's door. When the delays, testing and playing are through, the purification of the lila process makes the lover's body ready for the ultimate embrace. The bhakta lover's body then becomes nirguna, devoid of all restricting worldly stuff. Then, no more obstructions can delay the reunion and there is festival after festival.


The divine pain, the affliction of not coming face to face with the Beloved is known to the rare lover. Along the way to His abode, so many things can come in the way, from family members and other associations. They should all be withstood. For instance, if the lover's spouse does not support the Hari romance, then practice is done alone. Only in cases of sever opposition does the lover seek other quarters where the relationship can be expanded and explored in peace. In the case of non-support in the devotional practice, the lover of Hari should not leave the home, for the complications involved in that could exceed the problems of the homelife due to poor association and food. In all cases, in loss or gain, the lover never forsakes perseverance.

 

This was kindly translated by Shyamdas. His numerous books (in English) on Pushti Marg are well worth reading.

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