Article Poetry

Unlocking the True Self Through Love

by Urmila Devi Dasi

Who are we? Our body grows in the womb and we enter the world with a ready-made identity as someone’s child, of a particular a gender and nationality. The various identities we clothe ourselves in are merely a mixture of social and cultural preferences, which come and go like trendy fashions. Yet, we make them solid as we gradually define our selves through them. But, are any such identities really that solid? Who are we beyond all these external designations of self?

The Bhagavad Gita and all eternal wisdom—indeed, our own introspective experience—tells us that each of us are a spiritual being whose “I” has merely a most fleeting connection with all those external identities. And, as we are beyond the mundane, so is all life around us. All the “others” are transcendent entities as well. We are connected as parts of our common source: an all-pervading, Divine Person who is everywhere and in everything.

Only when we awaken to our loving relationship with our supreme source, do we truly connect with both ourselves, and others. Additionally, we find the true residence for our various temporary identities—the ones that that create the illusion of worldly duties—and we offer them to that supreme source, Krishna, out of love. For our dealings with ourselves, and others on the illusory platform—this is my mother, my child, my sister, my enemy—are also valuable here.

After all, until we are fully free, those identities and relationships are a large part of our story. They provide the framework upon which we paint the canvas of this brief life, and are often the springboard from which we dive into the clear pool of spirituality. In the meantime, delving into how we love others—or attempt to love them, as our sense of our authentic relationship with them unfolds—becomes part of our spiritual paths.

The sacred Bhakti texts, the Bhagavatam and the Bhagavad Gita insist that identity and relationships be the foundation for all else—material and spiritual. Relishing and rejoicing in our selves, cultivating neutrality towards friends and enemies, freedom from envy, and kindness toward every living being, are all essential on the spiritual path. As we dive deeper into our individual relationships with others we aspire to empathize with their struggles and heartbreak, and genuinely celebrate their triumphs.

It is through lovingly connecting with our selves and others, in the context of serving the supreme divine person, Krishna—through our thoughts, hearts, and actions—that the budding flower and fruit of our soul unfolds and ripens. It is these sweetest of exchanges of love that we aspire to share with each other and Krishna. Spiritual practices are, therefore, all about entering into a personal relationship of love, certainly not arrived at via mechanical formulas.

Love is Not A Formula

Oh my dear Krishna!

To push a button

That opens up, then

The world within us

Awake from chrysalis.

It’s a dance, my king,

Where angels sing

And love perfumes

Hearts’ inner rooms.

How can one make

A way to take

Love, essence of life,

Cut it with a knife

Bottled in a jar

Studied from afar?

Love always resists

An analysis.

Capture is hopeless

And force is useless.

If we want to control,

We remain like a mole

Who desires the sun

While beneath everyone

Digs deep in the ground

Where the sun is not found

I do want to love

And need grace from above

For I’m too poor to know

How real love I can show

Can’t remember the key

That unlocks the real me.

(An earlier version of this article first appeared in Bhakti Blossoms, published via the Vaishnavi Voices Project, dedicated to honoring, celebrating and inspiring the voices of contemporary women in the bhakti tradition.)

Urmila Devi Dasi (Dr. Edith Best) has been practicing bhakti yoga since 1973 and travels the world teaching the science of the Bhagavad Gita and the practical application of bhakti to life. She has a PhD in education and has three decades of experience teaching primary and secondary students, which include 19 years of experience as a school administrator and leader. She has published Vaikuntha Children, a guidebook for devotional education, The Great Mantra for Mystic Meditation, dozens of articles, and Dr. Best Learn to Read, an 83 book complete literacy program with technology enabling the story books to speak in 25 languages at the touch of a special “pen”. Urmila and her husband, Pratyatosa, have three grown married children and many grandchildren. In 1996, Urmila and Pratyatosa entered the renounced order of life, or vanaprastha, in Sanskrit. You may connect with her through her Facebook page.