In this world all our relations are temporary, but there is one unique relation we have with God and that alone is eternal. Devotees realize the intimacy of this relation and thus see God as their soul-beloved.
In the third stanza of the keertan “jo piya ruchi mahaṁ ruchi rākhē”, Jagadguru Shri Kripaluji Maharaj states:
jo madhura bhāva apnāvē rē
yāmēṁ chārihuṁ bhāva samāvē rē
jo nija sukha ura nahiṁ rākhē, prēma rasa soī chākhē rē
One who loves Shree Krishna in the conjugal sentiment as the Divine Beloved, in which the other four sentiments are naturally included, such a person, who abandons his or her personal happiness for the sake of the Beloved’s Happiness, tastes the bliss of Divine Love.
Let us here discuss the relationship with God. Our relationship with God is unique, because it is the only relationship that is permanent, our all other relations in this world are temporary. On the cremation ground, the pandit who performs the funeral rites gives a twig to each of the family members of the deceased, and asks them to break it. The family members snap the twig into two. The pandit tells them, “Just as this twig was so delicate and broke so easily, that was the nature of your relationship with the deceased person.” But we don’t realize it – that one day, this is all going to end.
The second aspect of our material relationships is that they are all based on selfishness. The moment the selfishness is harmed, the relationship turns sour. Friend and friend, father and son, brother and sister, husband and wife – they all turn against each other; they start hating each other. However, our relationship with God is eternal! In other words, He is eternally ours, and we are eternally His. Moreover, He is our only selfless relative as he desires nothing from us.
People go on abusing God, questioning his very existence and finding defects in his creation. Yet, he keeps looking after each one of those people. He says, “Never mind, today you are abusing me, but tomorrow you will also become a devotee. Here, you also take the air of my world to breathe. You also eat the vegetables that I create from mud. Never mind, it’s alright.” God is such a relative that He is constantly taking care of everyone and regarding those who are surrendered to Him, He says:
ye yathā māḿ prapadyante
tāḿs tathaiva bhajāmy aham
(Bhagavad Gita 4.11)
“If you surrender to me, I shall serve you – bhajāmy aham!” This is God’s promise. In fact, He goes even further and declares, “To those devotees who love me, I am indebted. There is no way that I can repay my debt to my devotee!”
Shree Ram tells Hanuman:
ēkaikasyopakārasya prānam dāsyami tē kapē
shēshasyēhopakāranam bhavāma rinino vayam
Shree Ram says, “O Hanuman, to release myself from the debt of a single service of yours, I have to give you my life! For all your other services, I will remain eternally indebted.”
So God is such a relative of ours, and now we have the facility to establish our relationship with Him. The question however is, how do we establish that relationship with God? God makes it really simple and says, “Make the relationship as close as you like. You and I are the closest: I am sitting inside you. There is no distance at all between us.”
Therefore, it is up to us how we want our relation to be with God. We can look at God as some distant King, or we can look at God as our own family member. For example in Odisha, people look upon Lord Jagannath as a member of the family. You can look upon God as a child. The Gujaratis worship Krishna as their ‘Laddu Gopal’, as the Child. You can also look at God as your Beloved, just as the Gopis did. So, now it is your choice of how close you wish to make your relationship with God.
There are differences between relationships even in the world. Closer to you than the whole world is your own neighbor. But closer than the neighbor is the friend. Closer than the friend are the son, daughter, father, and mother. Even closer than them is the husband or wife. And closer than the spouse is one’s own body. We have these gradations in the mind. But even closer than one’s own body is the life-airs (the Prān). Closer than the Prān is the mind. Even more intimate is the intellect. We don’t even realize that the intellect is separate from us. Closer than the intellect is one’s own soul. And closer than the soul is the Soul of the soul, who is Shree Krishna. That is the extent of our closeness with God. Now it is up to us to make our relationship as close as we like.
So Shri Kripaluji Maharaj tells us, “jo madhura bhāva apnāvē rē”: worship God as your soul-Beloved. That is, worship Him in Madhurya Bhav: Krishna is my Beloved and you will naturally feel very close to Him. The advantage in this relationship is that whenever you like, you can also look upon Him as your child, you can also look upon Him as your friend, you can also look upon Him as your master, and also as your king. In other words, all the other relationships are naturally included in Madhurya Bhav.
This practice however has to be implemented with understanding. Without understanding one might think, “Can I make God my friend?” We people have that kind of reservation even towards big worldly personalities and one may wonder: “Can I make Obama my friend? No way.” Then imagine how can we make a relationship with the Lord of the universe? But the fact is that we are his tiny parts. The hesitation is not from his side. The hesitation is from our side. Therefore the Guru teaches us, “Don’t fear! Where there is fear, there cannot be Love!” Swami Vivekananda said, “Devotion motivated by fear is the lowest kind of devotion.” Cut out that fear. Always feel, “He is mine. He is my soul-Beloved!”