Characteristics of God’s Love

Bottomless, Shoreless, and boundless

Recently while speaking to my eight-year-old cousin, I asked her what prayers they recite in their morning assembly. She sang many prayers, one of which was a Christian nursery rhyme that I found interesting. It said:

God’s Love is so wonderful,
So high you can’t get over it,
So deep you can’t get under it,
So wide you can’t get around it,
Oh! Wonderful love!

This song mentions three characteristics of God’s love. Let us discuss each of them separately.

“So high you can’t get over it”: Our existence is a mystery that philosophers and scientists have been trying to resolve for centuries. The more we have delved into this subject the more the true understanding has receded from us. Our physical reality with its complex components like the brain, our psychological reality and our metaphysical reality have all intrigued us. How did we fit and exist in a universe? So many parameters have to synchronize for life to be possible. Amazingly they are all synchronized. It is certainly the merciful hand of God that has expertly designed our habitat.

Srila Prabhupada writes in the Krishna book (chapter 87): “The cosmic manifestation has been made possible by the entrance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead as Maha-Vishnu within the material world. The total material energy is agitated by the glance of Maha-Vishnu , and only then does the interaction of three material qualities begin. Therefore it should be concluded that whatever material facilities that we are trying to enjoy are available only due to the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” The Vaisnava philosophy, however, reveals a sobering realization that although we rebelled against God, He did not thrash our plans for independent enjoyment by depriving us of our independence. Rather, He gave us the chance to try our whims in the material world. We may tend to believe that we have trampled upon the love of God to find something higher, but the reality is that since Lord loves us we are able to exercise our search for the socalled higher independent enjoyment. Thus, love of God is so high we can’t get over it.

“So deep you can’t get under it”: Lord Krishna is known as bhakta-vatsala, or the lover of His devotees. He takes pleasure in being chastised, rebuked, defeated, and ordered by devotees and in serving His devotees. The Lord chooses to forget His own supremacy to deeply relish such exchanges. His accepting the position of a charioteer of Arjuna, His pastime of damodara-lila, His dealings with Sudama brahmana, and several others show that Krishna is conquered by the love of His devotees.

“So wide you can’t get around it”: This means that God’s love is disseminated in so many forms that we can’t help but encounter it. And once we receive it, we may not understand the depth and the value of this great treasure. Krsna’s love and His concern that we should go back to Him for exchanging loving pastimes is unfathomable. For this purpose He expands himself as the Supersoul in the heart of every living entity, eagerly waiting for the living entities to take steps towards Him. He manifests himself in multifarious and easily accessible forms: the Deities, His confidential devotees, scriptures like Srimad- Bhagavatam, and the holy name, the most potent form of incarnation in this Age of Kali. The material nature is so designed that our experience in the material world goads us to take shelter of the Lord.

Why the Lord deals with a devotee in a certain way may be incomprehensible for anyone without devotion. Whereas the usual description of love of God is given in terms of how He provides for our immediate material well being or how His apparently unfavorable act lay the seeds for long run material well being, Vaisnava philosophy describes that the Lord orchestrates the life of the devotee in a way that helps him extricate himself from the material world and go back to Godhead. The devotee on His own cannot understand the plan of the Lord. Sometimes the Lord gives him the intelligence to deduce the plan and sometimes the Lord Himself dictates the plan to His sincere devotee. All we need to do is keep faith that whatever happens, happens for the best.

God’s love is thus high because he does not fail to love us even if we do not reciprocate. It is deep because it goes beyond awe and reverence to intimate exchanges wherein the devotees forget the supremacy of the Lord. It is wide because it is manifest in multifarious forms. It is indeed futile to search for happiness in the love of things and people of this world which distracts us from the wonderful love of God available for us through the simple process of bhakti-yoga.

Roshan Hota has done his engineering from IIT Kharagpur and is now pursuing his PhD in Mechanical Engineering. He is connected with the ISKCON temple in Kolkata.