Bhakti is the awareness which is directed and dedicated to a higher being. This higher being may be the ishta devata, the guru, a saint, the atman or self, or the formless time and space. Whenever the tendencies and the mind are directed and completely dedicated towards the subtle spheres of existence it is known as bhakti.
Compassion, mercy, forgiveness, forbearance and selfless service to others are all subha vasanas, positive qualities. When one hates others, is cruel, unkind, and trying to harm others, it is a negative expression of love. Love means total awareness. This total awareness may be both shuddha, pure, and ashuddha, impure. According to the mahatmas and saints, when the mind is withdrawn from the material awareness and is directed towards the supreme consciousness, it is bhakti. Bhakti is extremely difficult. It cannot be taught, it has to be inborn. One cannot be an intellectual bhakta.
I was fortunate to live with a man who was the least controversial figure of our century, my guru, Swami Sivananda. Yet, not everybody had the same opinion of him. Many people who came to him did not like him and went away. All the sadhus, saints and gurus in the last eighty years have been controversial, but Swami Sivananda was not. People could never say two points against him.
There were swamis in the ashram who could not impose themselves onto him in a positive way; instead, they superimposed their negative personality upon him. The guru is actually within. On account of the purity of heart one imposes an image, an idea onto that person. If I have respect for myself, I will have respect for my guru. If I have purity within myself, I will see purity within my guru.
In order to develop deeper links with the guru, it should be remembered that one does not love the guru as one loves one’s child, mother, wife, husband or friend. The attitude to him transcends social definitions. If there is anything between the disciple and the guru, it is between his spirit and the guru’s spirit, not between his body and the guru’s body, or his mind and the guru’s mind. It is not a physical, mental or emotional relationship. Of course, sometimes one takes the help of an emotional relationship, but ultimately, one has to step out of it. If one doesn’t, one is just loading oneself with problems. Sometimes the disciple will be angry with the guru, sometimes love the guru, and, at other times, he will cry for him. The sobriety, tranquillity, quietness, stability, homogeneity of the mind are lost.
Therefore, for this you must know what the attitude of Radha and Krishna was and the relationship between the gopis and Krishna. Many people consider the gopis merely as girls playing with Krishna, but this is not true. The gopis loved Krishna, not his physical frame, but his eternal body. Every time the gopis were with Krishna, they did not feel they were with a human being. They felt they were in the company of divinity.
When one realizes that one is in the company of divinity one is very much in touch with and very close to the guru.
—March 1981, India