The divine madness of God lovers

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By Shammi Paranjape

All the world loves a lover but God-lovers are more often than not, thought to be a little crazy. These souls were often mocked, as very few could understand their intense, overpowering love for a Being nobody had ever seen. This reservation about God-lovers applies not only to highly realised souls like sufis and saints but even seekers who choose to tread the spiritual path of bhakti, devotional love.

There is a reason for this. Discovering the love of God is magical. An ineffable joy floods the seeker. The excitement of the discovery reflects in the seeker’s behaviour and demeanour. He wants to talk, eat, drink God, which distances him from worldly concerns and delights. This sudden shift unsettles his close circle of family and friends who cannot understand his experience. They consider it a kind of madness and try to dissuade the seeker from taking to the spiritual path.

Of course, that never works. The aspirant is in what is called the “honeymoon period” when the Over-soul is wooing the individual human soul and like in any other romance, this phase is exhilarating. Spirit is enamoured and is courting like no other. Everything is smooth and wonderful and things are just taken care of. Problems get solved, obstacles disappear! The devotee is charmed and turns inward, to spirit, away from the world. The experience is so edifying that later, when the path becomes testing, the true seeker holds on and never gives up.

Stories are legion of the God-madness of saints like Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Mirabai and Andal as also sufi saints like Rumi, Shams and Hafiz. An intoxication of spirit transported these souls to a transcendental realm, where “heaven was a place on earth.” The distinguishing factor for these souls was the emphasis on divine love rather than dry knowledge alone. Once Rumi, sitting beside a pond, was reading a metaphysical tome and a huge pile of similar texts lay near him. Shams of Tabriz, passing by, asked him, “What are you reading?” Rumi scoffingly replied, “Something you cannot understand.” On hearing this Shams threw the stack of books into the pond of water. Aghast, Rumi hastily rescued the books but to his amazement the books were dry. Rumi then asked Shams, “What is this?” to which Shams replied, “Maulana, something you cannot understand.” Thereafter Rumi renounced dry metaphysics and became a follower of Shams of Tabrez and a lover of God!

Ramakrishna Paramhansa was called the ‘mad priest’ of Dakshineshwar temple. His intense love for Mother Kali and his desire for her darshan made him behave in ways not understandable to others. He would call out and cry ceaselessly to the Mother to reveal Herself to him. Overcome with devotion he would break into ecstatic dance and often lose body consciousness. When Swami Vivekananda asked him, “Have you seen God?” Ramakrishna could answer “Yes” because of his intense inner experiences of divinity.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba says, “Permanent bliss is only within and once you realise that you are the blissful Atman and not the transient body, you feel ineffable joy … To a worldly man, a God-intoxicated person appears mad. But to the God-intoxicated man, the worldly appear foolish and mad … Of all the insanities that grip man, God-madness is the most beneficial and desirable!”

November 23 is the birth anniversary of Sri Sathya Sai Baba

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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