Love is the cosmic glue which holds this universe together with its interplay of countless swirling celestial bodies, and multitudes of hearts and minds. Paramhansa Yogananda’s own guru Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri was a stern yoga master who yet knew this wisdom of love. He wrote that “The first and most essential thing on the spiritual path is to uncover the natural love of the heart; without that one cannot take one step on the spiritual path.” 

What really is the “natural love of the heart”, and how can we cultivate it? This is at the very core of every human experience and the all-pervading reality of this world: seeking universal love. Paramhansa Yogananda identified the simple premise that all beings are striving only to attain happiness, and to avoid suffering and pain. Love then, is the uniting force that brings happiness, and the soothing balm that heals all pain. It is the answer to every question, the key to unlock every door, and the secret ingredient in every recipe of life.

Here are some all-important ways to cultivate divine love:

  1. Love God.  These two words comprise the summa totalis of all spiritual teaching. Loving God may be a challenge, an mystery, or a trigger for many people who do not understand, struggle with, or reject the very concept of God. And yet if we think of God as the highest potential within our own self, and the unifying consciousness of Spirit pervading and beyond all creation, there is an undeniable, beautiful truth to behold there. Even though we cannot comprehend God with the mind, by choosing to love God with the heart, we expedite our “understanding” and gradually, our oneness with God’s infinite love. We can love God more by directing our devotion to the Christ center at the point between the eyebrows especially in meditation, and by singing and devotional chanting to God.
  1. Love others as expressions of God. This is the natural expansion of love as our hearts enlarge the capacity for love. These two concepts comprise the greatest teaching of Jesus Christ to “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” and “love thy neighbor as thyself” which is feel our oneness with all in the love of God. 
  1. Pray for devotion. It is a strange and mystical truth that only by offering our little love, can we receive the great love of God. Prayer can open our hearts to receive the very love that we long for. Swami Kriyananda said, “Devotion is a gift of God and by your very act of prayer you are putting out the magnetism to draw that gift to you. Pray this simple prayer as often as you remember: ‘Divine Mother, awaken your love in me, and then help me to awaken that love in all.’”
  1. Tune into the Masters. The great masters of yoga and saints of all religions are those who have perfected love. Everything flows through channels in this world, and the perfect love of God is no exception. Focus on the perfect love of God expressed through these awakened masters in meditation, prayer and activity, and increasingly that divine love will fill your own heart and mind.

Of all the sacred lore of yoga scripture of ancient India, one of the most beautiful scenes depicts the monkey god Hanuman, the most devoted follower of Lord Rama, revealing the secret of his legendary strength and endurance. It is said that even sparring against his lord the great Rama himself, that Hanuman could not be bested. When asked why, Hanuman opened his chest to reveal both Rama and Sita, the perfected masculine and feminine principles of Spirit, residing in his heart. Victory and success in everything comes when the love of God becomes the only focus of the heart.

The ancient yoga master Patanjali identifies this principle in his famous Ashtanga Yoga, in one of the five Niyamas or observances, as Īśvarapraṇidhāna— supreme devotion, total surrender and commitment to the Lord. Once established in this divine self offering, the infinite Love of the God brings final yoga, or union with Spirit. 

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