It’s been a minute since I was last here on Sthapati and I have plenty to catch up on. Something that comes to mind, that I think I’ve been meaning to write about is religious noise.
A long time ago I saw a quote of Mata Amrtanandamayi Ma (Amma, the Hugging Saint) wherein she was to have said something along the lines of, “Those who are busy crying out to the Lord, are likely never to hear Him.” Those aren’t her words, but are some kind of approximation. The exact wording escapes me but the lesson she was communicating touches on something that is central and foundational to Hindu spirituality.
I was reading recently on a blog called the Vaishnava Voice and in a post there the author kind of touched on this in a round-about way. Kind of.
Most people who are familiar with Hindu philosophy or religion or spirituality are also likely familiar with the concept of bhakti. And I think it’s fairly safe to say that the image of bhakti that often comes to peoples’ minds is along the lines of the Hare Krishna movement. They’re well-recognized for their public kirtan events. A number of other instances of the expression of bhakti have involved components of religion that many in the western world recognize as very charismatic. In order to best express our devotion to The One we should dance, and holler, and bang or mrdangas. Right?
Too, many Christian circles are fond of this approach. Some seem very closely related to the Kraishnavs – they enjoy their guitars and drum sets in church and getting people to whoop and holler and roll around on the floor speaking in angelic tongues is a sure sign that you and they are surely saved. And in other Christian circles, like the Westboro Baptist Church, being vocal and very loud about the ills that plague modern humanity is the preferred expression of devotion to the Lord. As an aside, but not entirely, I’ve not known of any bhakti tradition (Hindu or otherwise) that wasn’t in some manner, to some degree, focused on one’s merit before the Lord Almighty. Everyone wants brownie points with the Most High.
I think, though, that something is perhaps “wrong” here. I use that word very hesitantly because as a Hindu I believe everyone has a place at the table, I sincerely do, but I’m not sure what better English word fits there. If you pay attention to virtually every Hindu approach to spirituality, you’ll see that the real direction bhakti is intended to be pointed toward is INWARD.
I’ve been surprised, as I dive deeper and deeper into Sahaj Marg literature and practice, to learn how very pro- bhakti it really is. To be clear, our path is more appropriately categorized as something “Raja” or “Jnana,” but still. Our last guru was a Vaishnav and our practice is an anahata chakra-centered blend of Sufism and Hinduism. It’s probably fair to say that until really dedicating myself to the Sahaj Marg, I made efforts to steer myself away from much of bhaktidom. While respecting and allowing space for paths like the Hare Krishnas, I certainly had no inclination to be even remotely associated with them. And I even kept a healthy distance from most Vaishnav-related things because of how many parallels there are between that chunk of Hinduism and Christianity as a whole.
I dare to say, though, that true bhakti makes your heart and soul dance – not your body, that’s like playing in the shallow end of a pool. And in my experience, when truly intense and electrifying devotion arises within oneself, the result has been stillness, peace, wisdom, and even some transcendental happenings that have very little to do with the outer world except for losing awareness of it.
I think whether one is an Islamic jihadist, a Kraishnav, or a conservative Christian (all of which are far more alike than not), you might be missing the real benefit and purpose of your path if “making a joyful noise” (or whatever your own version of that is) takes center stage. How can one benefit from the “still small Voice” (biblical reference) within if you’re too busy crying out to the Lord to hear It?
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti