18.56 – The summit that reaches down to the trenches
Love is the emotion that underlies all our emotions. When fulfilled, love can take us to the highest peaks of ecstasy. When frustrated, it can take us to the lowest valleys of agony.
Just as love covers the entire gamut of human emotions, the path of love, bhakti-yoga, encompasses the entire gamut of human conditions. The Bhagavad-gita (18.54) indicates how para-bhakti (spiritual devotion) lies at the summit of all spiritual realizations – above the peak reached through the path of analytical contemplation (jnana-yoga).
After thus revealing how love reigns supreme in the spiritual arena, the Gita (18.56) indicates how that love extends down to whatever trenches we may be presently situated in. The supreme power of love can redeem us, whatever be our present worldly vocation (sarva karmany api sada). If we take shelter of Krishna, he by his mercy embraces and lifts us to the supreme destination: his personal and eternal abode.
Then why are other paths needed?
Because different people have different material inclinations.
Nonetheless, beneath all such peripheral inclinations, all of us have a common core that longs for love. As long as we identify with our periphery, we gravitate towards other paths customized to those material inclinations – paths that offer limited and gradual spiritual progress. But when we identify with our core, we gravitate to the path of bhakti-yoga that speaks to our longing for love. By bhakti-yoga, we learn to redirect our love from various worldly things that attract us to Krishna who is the source of all those attractive things. This redirection opens our heart to Krishna’s loving grace. And that omnipotent grace bypassing all gradual paths lifts us rapidly all the way to the world of love.
Krishna is forever inviting all of us to avail of his grace. Are we listening?