Q: With regard to the particular means of thinking of God: are you advocating the traditional forms of cultivating our relationship with God through perceiving the Divine as Mother, Father, Child, Lover or even a Transpersonal Tao?
No. Such an approach is totally egocentric: “I want a Mother, Father, etc.” This is most crassly expressed by the oft-cited statement: I don’t want to be sugar, I want to eat it.” God is not an object of our gratification or delectation.
It is not a matter of what we merely want or like, but what we need. And that is a single thing: knowledge of our Self (jivatman) and the Supreme Self (Paramatman). God is the Self of our Self and can only be approached in that way. These other ways of viewing God do not even begin to do the needful.
I am very aware of this since I wasted time with them before I gained real knowledge of Sanatana Dharma and Yoga. Nevertheless they have their place for those who do not have clear understanding. A person has to start somewhere. That is why Krishna said:
“At the end of many births the wise man takes refuge in me. He knows: All is Vasudeva. How very rare is that great soul. Those whose knowledge has been stolen away by various desires resort to other gods, following various religious practices, impelled thus by their own natures. Whoever wishes to worship whatever form with faith, on him I bestow immovable faith. He who, endowed with this faith, desires to propitiate that form, receives from it his desires because their fulfillment has been decreed by me. But temporary is the fruit for those of small understanding. To the gods go the worshippers of the gods. Those who worship me come unto me: (7:19-23).
Can this be expanded upon by what comes most naturally or arises most organically within each individual given our psychological disposition to find the essence of our lives?
No. That, too, is purely of the ego.
Should we commit to one form or can this evolve as our perception transforms?
Certainly it will change as the seeker changes. But will he attain enlightenment thereby? Playing with dolls does not really prepare a little girl to be a mother. Nor does playing with concepts of God that are imaginary and ultimately unreal prepare us for atmajnana and Brahmajnana.
I am not advocating the ego-based outlook of either “bhakti” or “jnana,” but rather Krishna’s exhortation: Be A Yogi.
“By persevering effort and mastery, the totally purified yogi, perfected through many births, reaches the Supreme Goal. The yogi is superior to ascetics, and considered superior to jnanis and superior to those engaged in Vedic rituals. Therefore be a yogi. Of all the yogis, he who has merged his inner Self in me and honors me, full of faith, I consider him the most devoted to me” (6:45-47).
Not just “Thinking of God”
Adi Shankara wrote that true bhakti is dedication and perseverance in the search for liberation, and that true jnana is the attainment of liberation. Yoga brings both of those about. Sadhana alone reveals the Sat, the Real.
As Sri Ma Sarada Devi said: “After attaining wisdom one sees that gods and deities are all maya” (Precepts For Perfection 672).
Sri Ramana Maharshi said:
“Since the Self is the reality of all the gods, the meditation on the Self which is oneself is the greatest of all meditations. All other meditations are included in this. It is for gaining this that the other meditations are prescribed. So, if this is gained, the others are not necessary.
Knowing one’s Self is knowing God. Without knowing one’s Self that meditates, imagining that there is a deity which is different and meditating on it, is compared by the great ones to the act of measuring with one’s foot one’s own shadow, and to the search for a trivial conch after throwing away a priceless gem that is already in one’s possession” (Collected Works, section 28).