Updated: Jun 30
A common teaching in devotional yoga is that one will not be at peace until they've ended all sense gratification and engaged fully in devotional service to God.
What this teaching is saying is that true happiness and peace is achieved when one devotes all sensory and external experience and action to spiritual union. It's not about denying the body and the earth/material, but consecrating it in the heart in devotion to God/Spirit from a space of union, merging the Feminine and Masculine in marriage. In this analogy the Feminine is the Self (what in Vedic science is called the Ahamkara). This essential self is considered to be feminine in nature, "She". The Masculine in the analogy is the all pervading Spirit that is God. While it's easy to get caught up in the gender analogies, just keep in mind these concepts move beyond any and all gender constructs of the human mind. In the traditions where these concepts hail, the Feminine is not lesser than the Masculine, and actually the unified Feminine is all of Creation, which is expansive and infinite. The individual entities of the Creation each contain parts of the Feminine aspects. So, when these aspects are merged with the identity of union, they become whole and complete and the material experience is no longer objectified or exploited. It's experienced in an incredibly sacred way.
Sense gratification is the action of indulging the senses in a purely material experience. In this type of gratification, one's sense of self is disconnected from Spirit, what I call the Web of Life, which is the spiritual reality of an underlying and all pervading web of connection unifying all the Creation together as One.
In kundalini yoga, there is mantra that goes "Ek Ong Kar". This is a highly sacred mantra that means "The Creator and Creation are one."
Devotional service is the action of immersing one's senses, actions, deeds, and thoughts in this awareness. It is a very ecstatic state whereby the entire body is immersed in awareness of the true reality of Creation; they are unified with both Masculine and Feminine aspects; the entire Creation and its Spiritual Identity.
This is a practice called "Bridal Mysticism" that is a tenant to many spiritual-religious paths, including Judaism, Christianity, and Hinduism.
The Song of Songs of Judaism
Depiction of the lovers from the "Song of Songs", a bridal mystic text contained in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible. Art by by Srimati Arya Moon
In Judaism, bridal mysticism is expressed in the text from the Old Testament called "The Song of Songs". This text describes the love story of a beautiful Shulamite woman and her lover, argued by some to be King Solomon and argued by others to be a shepherd boy. The story describes a passionate and erotic love story between these two lovers and the Shulamite woman's journey to joining with her lover. This text is considered highly sacred to Jews, who view the text as an analogy between God and his people. His people are the Shulamite woman, the bride, and God is personified as the woman's lover.
The introduction calls the poem "the song of songs", a construction commonly used in Scriptural Hebrew to show something as the greatest and most beautiful of its class (as in Holy of Holies)...The Song was accepted into the Jewish canon of scripture in the 2nd century CE, after a period of controversy in the 1st century. This period of controversy was a result of many rabbis seeing this text as merely "...secular love poetry, a collection of love songs gathered around a single theme..." and thus not worthy on canonization. In fact, "...there is a tradition that even this book was considered as one to be excluded." It was accepted as canonical because of its supposed authorship by Solomon and based on an allegorical reading where the subject matter was taken to be not sexual desire but God's love for Israel (Wikipedia).
RadhaKrishna in Hinduism
RadhaKrishna from the legend of the Rasa Lila by Srimati Arya Moon
In Hinduism, this bridal mysticism is personified in the bridal mystic tradition of RadhaKrishna. In the mythology of Krishna, described in the sacred texts The Bhagavad Gita and the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Krishna is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who is the All Permeating God of goodness and worshipped in Hinduism as God. During Kirshna's youth, he was raised in a village called Vrindavan by an adopted family, his mother Yashoda and father Nanda. There is an exploit of Krishna detailed in the Shrimad Bhagavatam called The Rasa Lila: The Dance of Divine Love.
The Rasa lila takes place one night when the Gopis of Vrindavana, upon hearing the sound of Krishna's flute, sneak away from their households and families to the forest to dance with Krishna throughout the night, which Krishna supernaturally stretches to the length of one kalpa, a Hindu unit of time lasting approximately 4.32 billion years. In the Krishna Bhakti traditions, the rasa-lila is considered to be one most beautiful depiction of soulful love... In these traditions, romantic love between human beings in the material world is seen as a reflection of the soul's original, ecstatic spiritual love of Krishna, God, in the spiritual world (Wikipedia).
Radha, who is the Gopi often depicted with Sri Krishna, is not so much mentioned in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, but legend of her spread and the tales of her and Krishna's Divine Romance turned into a rich oral tradition in specific regions of India, most notably in Vrindavan, India, the sacred city where Krishna's Divine Lilas took place that still stands today. The stories of Radha are rich with mystical allegory and are worthy of deep study all on their own, but essentially Radha represents the conditioned soul, who is the embodied in a deep, mystical devotion with God. Radha also represents what is called the Hladini Shakti, or "pleasure potency"; the Spirit of Devotion that brings incredible ecstacy, pleasure, and joy to any who experience it. She is essentially both the entire Creation and the ecstatic Holy Spirit.
Christ as the Bridegroom in Christian Mysticism
Image depicting Christ and his Bride (artist unknow)
The Catholic tradition has a rich history of bridal mysticism. Such mystics included the Saints Mary Magdalene, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Veronica Guiliani, and Catherine de Ricci, just to name a few. In these "mystical unions", the Bride represents the Church and the Bridegroom, Christ. It could easily be argued that all of creation is the "Church", but many Christians perceive the Church with a much narrower view, claiming that the Church is only made up of the true believers of Christ. Therefore, in order to embody the Bride, you must claim Jesus as your Bridegroom. This is evidenced by the infamous parable Jesus gave called "The Ten Virgins":
Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. Those who were foolish, when they took their lamps, took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, "Behold! The bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet him!" Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, "Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out." But the wise answered, saying, "What if there isn't enough for us and you? You go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves." While they went away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins also came, saying, "Lord, Lord, open to us." But he answered, "Most certainly I tell you, I don't know you." Watch therefore, for you don't know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming (Matthew 25:1-13, World English Bible).
While there are many more traditions than the above three named that discuss bridal mysticism, these three originate from some of the most prominent world religions. I encourage you to read more deeply into the ancient history of Bridal Mysticism.
For me, bridal mysticism is the pathway of my heart and my preferred tradition is the RadhaKrishna Bhakti yoga tradition. I have found much meaning and depth through studying these legends and the allegoric representations. I practice meditations that are designed to help the practitioner experience mystical union with the Divine. The simple mantra "Ek Ong Kar" is one such powerful phrase to invoke the Spirit of bridal mysticism.