Ōm Namo Bhagavatē Vāsudevāya
Invocation to Vāsudevaya, the one replete with all Divine virtues, the granter of liberation.
Ekadashaksara Mantra, from the Jivamukti Chant Book
Krishna who is known as the all attractive one, is an avatar of Lord Vishnu. An avatar is one who descends from the spiritual universe into the material universe by his own will. Lord Vishnu is the preserver of life and brings balance when the world is in need. He is known by thousands of names, which help us remember God and our connection to him. When we connect, we link things together or as Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati liked to say “we are in the state where we miss nothing”. This is yoga.
The word namo (namas) means salutation, bhagavate means “to God”, or to the divine, Vāsudevaya is another name for Krishna. Vasudeva (with the short ‘a’) was Krishna’s father. In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna calls Krishna Vāsudeva many times. Vāsu means “life” and deva means “God or light”, so Vāsudevāya means that Supreme/God who resides in all of life. Krishna explains that to chant his name putting your heart and mind into it, he will respond to that calling. This mantra is known as a mukti, liberation mantra, and like all mantras, it has a magical spell/formula for spiritual freedom. Krishna has a great plan to take us back home, he is eager for us to remember the art of non-forgetting. When we are born we remember our divine nature but as our lives unfold we forget who we are and where we come from.
In ancient teachings, it is said we are given three boons as we incarnate into our body. The first is to remember God, the second is to allow his will to move through us and the third is to find our way back home to him. Make me an instrument for thy will, not mine but thine be done is a reminder of those boons.
The word Bhagavan is used in a similar way to the word Lord in English. One who is called Bhagavan has six qualities known as ‘Bhagas’. These qualities are Wealth, the endless capacity to give in the spiritual sense. A good example would be Jesus or the Buddha. Power, this is the power of love, to serve, to help, not physical power which is only short-lived. Dharma meaning essential characteristic, a way of being in the world that promotes unity of life. Acting unkindly, greedily, selfishly would all be against dharma, which promotes self-awareness. The fourth is Esteem, respect that comes from others through living compassionately and being regarded as wise. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita was respected by both sides of the battle even though he made it clear which was the just cause he followed. The fifth quality is Beauty. An inner beauty, which grows with the passage of time through being kind and harnessing goodness. The final of the six Bhagas is Jnana, it means knowledge, not just intellectual knowledge but a way of being in the world through learned wisdom. These six qualities are present in the one who is known as Bhagavan, however, we can practice these qualities in our own lives, to develop self-awareness, put others before our own needs and to see the divine in others.
The Bhagavad Gita describes three paths of yoga taught by Krishna. Karma yoga (the yoga of selfless service), Jnana yoga (the yoga of self-knowledge) and Bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion or your personal connection to God). We could use the analogy of an elevator stopping at different levels or floors to image ourselves on the three paths. Someone can go to the first level, stop a few floors up or go straight up to the top level; Bhakti yoga is seen as going straight to the top. Bhakti means devotion and of all the steps and paths Krishna says this is the ultimate perfection of yoga. In Chapter 6.47 he describes a Bhakti yogi as the greatest.
Through the practice of Bhakti yoga, chanting the names of the divine we begin to surrender our ego. We begin to know God and his presence is our life. This process deepens as our relationship to the divine becomes more intense. Devotion is love and love is the most powerful quality in our life. Love isn’t merely a fantasy or in our imagination, it is real. We can imagine the love we have for our parents, partner, child, dog and see the divine presence in them. To develop our sadhana, which means conscious spiritual practice we can include the names of the beloved both in a personal and practical way. Beginning each day with Gratitude, including blessings in our meditation practice and seeing the six Bhagas, divine qualities in each being in our life. As Sharon Gannon teaches “how we treat others will determine how others treat us, how others treat us will determine how we see ourselves, and how we see ourselves will determine who we are”.
When we remember the presence of God, the power of love it enhances the quality of our lives and brings us closer to finding our way back home.