Love is one of the words we use most and understand least. The problem is that there are many kinds of love. One of the distinctions we can make between different kinds of love has to do with time, duration – how long love lasts. Some love lasts a few days, some lasts a lifetime, and some lasts forever. Most lovers aspire for the latter, but in vain.
Love between bodies is bound to be temporary because the lovers’ bodies are temporary. Ah, but what about the soul? Will the lovers not meet in the eternal spiritual world and there enjoy deathless love?
Perhaps. But the question is, “How do we get to the spiritual world?” That requires a special kind of love, the love between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul, God. Actually, we are caught in a web of temporary, unsatisfying loving relationships because we have forgotten how to love God. So the spiritual love between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul is the most important kind of love. It is the only love that is truly eternal. Actually, every other kind of love we experience is just a reflection of the original loving exchange between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul. This special love is called, in Sanskrit, bhakti. And the process for awakening that love is called bhakti-yoga, the art of eternal love.
Bhakti involves three things: the lover, the beloved, and the loving relationship. In bhakti, all three are eternal. The lover, the individual soul, is eternal; the beloved, the Supreme Soul, is eternal; and the loving relationship, bhakti, is also eternal.
In the sixteenth century, an extremely advanced expert in bhakti-yoga named Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī wrote a handbook on its theory and practice. He called his book Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, “The Ocean of the Nectar of Divine Love.” For a long time its secrets remained locked in the ancient Sanskrit language. Fortunately for us, a modern master of the knowledge and techniques of bhakti-yoga, His Divine Grace Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, translated the book into English and began training his students in its mysteries. Śrīla Prabhupāda titled his translation The Nectar of Devotion.
Love, in its material manifestation, is usually associated with places – a city like Paris in the springtime, or a beach where one walked with one’s beloved. In the same way, spiritual love is also associated with places. The highest such place is Vṛndāvana, an earthly manifestation of the eternal spiritual place where God enjoys loving pastimes with His eternal associates in the spiritual sky. In Vṛndāvana there are many temples, and one of them, the Rādhā-Dāmodara temple, is forever associated with Rūpa Gosvāmī because his physical form is interred there. A small memorial to him (called a samādhi) rises in one of the temple courtyards.
Before he came to America in 1965, Śrīla Prabhupāda lived in a quiet room in the Rādhā-Dāmodara temple, and through his window he could see and draw inspiration from the samādhi of Rūpa Gosvāmī. Seven years later, Śrīla Prabhupāda returned to the Rādhā-Dāmodara temple. And in the courtyard, near Rūpa Gosvāmī’s samādhi, he gave for his disciples a series of lectures on The Nectar of Devotion. Selections from those lectures, full of deep spiritual insight into bhakti, have been interwoven with excerpts from The Nectar of Devotion to form the substance of this book.
We invite you to share in Rūpa Gosvāmī’s teachings on bhakti-yoga, the art of eternal love, as they have come down to us from his foremost modern follower in disciplic succession. If we can learn to love God through bhakti-yoga, then we can learn to love everything and everyone else in the proper way, in the way that will bring us the most happiness, the best happiness, the happiness of eternal love.
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