Chapter 7.1 from "Study Circles for Divinity"
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7.1 DEVOTION

WISE SAYINGS FROM DIFFERENT FAITHS

"Truly my prayer and total devotion and my life and my death are for God, Lord of the Worlds. No partner has God, this am I instructed; and I am the first of those who submit. Shall I seek a Lord other than God, who is Lord of all things? And no soul earns but what is due it, and none bears the burden of another; ultimately your destination is to your Lord, who will acquaint you with that on which you differed."    Mohammed

"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first commandment."    Jesus Christ

"As the Fire on the censer consumes sandalwood so let the Fire burning within you consume your heart with love for Ahura Mazda."    Zarathushtra

"Arjuna said: "Those devotees who, ever steadfast, worship you after this fashion, and those others who worship the Imperishable and Unmanifest, which of these have greater knowledge of yoga?"

The Lord said: "Those who worship Me fixing their mind on Me, ever devoted and endowed with supreme faith, them I regard as the best of yogins.""    Sri Krishna

"But of all I could name, verily Love is the highest  -  Love and devotion that make one forgetful of everything else, Love that unites the Lover with Me. What ineffable joy does one find through Love to Me, the Blissful Self! Once that joy is realised, all earthly pleasures fade into nothingness."
     Sri Krishna



FROM DISCOURSES OF SAI BABA

DEVOTION IS THE PANACEA

There is nothing greater in the world than devotion (bhakti). Once the sage Narada demonstrated to his disciples how devotion is greater than anything in the world, including the Divine. While the Divine was greater than the cosmos, which the Lord as vamana could measure in two steps, the Lord Himself is held in his heart by the devotion of the devotee. "Devotion bestows the highest benefits. Devotion alone is the means to realisation. Devotion alone confers supreme peace". Devotion is the panacea for all ills. There is no knowledge or Scripture superior to devotion. Divine love encompasses all sacred acts. To achieve oneness with the Divine, one will have to be prepared to sacrifice everything. (150988)

What is Devotion? Devotion is directing one's sacred love towards God. Man gets bound by his attachment through egoism to the transient things of the world. (150192)

Devotion means seeking unity with the Divine through purity in thought, word and deed and concentrating on the oneness of the Godhead. Devotion aims at acquiring friendship with God through this triple purity.

Devotion is of three kinds: ordinary devotion; devotion in solitude; and exclusive, one-pointed devotion.

Ordinary devotion has nine forms: listening to the glories of God; chanting the praise of God; ever remembering the name of the Lord; worshipping the Lord's feet; prostration; worshipping the figure of the Lord; service; friendship; self-surrender. (120989)

It follows that the root cause of human birth is action (karma). When your actions are good, you obtain a good birth. Your birth is the result of your actions. The nature of one's birth determines one's attachments and aversions. The attachments of a good person (by birth) are to God and the godly way of life. He yearns for God, adores God and worships God. Such a person develops one or other of six forms of devotion such as tranquillity, friendship, service, maternal love, loving devotion and ecstatic.

Bhishma, Arjuna, Hanuman, the Gopikas, Yasoda and Radha are examples of the different forms of devotion.

Bishma manifested devotion in the equanimity form. Lying on a bed of arrows for 56 days, awaiting the advent of the auspicious moment for giving up his body, Bhishma devoted his thoughts to God with a serene sweetness and calm mind.

Arjuna is the exemplar of the friendship form. All his life he was devoted to Krishna, enjoying the relationship as brother-in-law, but always adoring Krishna as his divine mentor. Arjuna's devotion was based on kinship. Krishna, for the same reason, protected Arjuna as a kinsman.

Hanuman's devotion to Rama exemplifies service as a form of devotion. Hanuman's only thought was to serve Rama always, be near to Him and wait for His commands. Once Rama called Hanuman and asked him: "Hanuman! How do you love Me?" Hanuman replied: "In terms of the physical, I look upon You as my Lord and regard myself as Your servant. In terms of the mind, You are the object and I am only Your image. Spiritually, You are I and I am You. I am experiencing You in these ways. As long as I have the body consciousness, You are the Lord and I am Your servant". This is the attitude that prevails in devotional service.

Loving devotion is exemplified by the gopikas. Whatever work they might be doing, their thoughts were centred on Krishna and they were always yearning for Him. When work is done in this way, it is transformed into worship. Every action is dedicated to the Divine and is performed as an offering to the Divine. With this attitude, the gopikas were prepared for any kind of trials and tribulations from husbands and mothers-in-law. They worshipped Krishna without any feeling of rancour or bitterness against those who treated them harshly. Krishna was firmly implanted in their hearts. This is known as the form of devotion in which the devotee is inseparably bound to the Lord in his heart.

Yasoda exemplified devotion in the form of loving the Lord as a mother loves her child. Despite the numerous miracles performed by Krishna and in spite of witnessing manifestations of His divinity in various ways, Yasoda regarded Krishna as her son and loved Him with maternal feelings. Even when Krishna showed to her all the fourteen worlds in His open mouth, Yasoda imagined that it was only her own imagination and Krishna was just a child. Even when Krishna was performing wonders in Mathura, Yasoda was worried about Him as any mother would and made anxious inquires about her "guardian of the cattle", when Uddhava came to Repalle.

In worshipping Krishna, devotees have their own individual partiality for certain names. Meerabai always hailed Him as "Giridhara Gopala" (holder of the mountain). Sakkubai always called Him "Ranga! Ranga!" (director of the world stage). Yasoda was attached to the name "Gopala" (guardian of the cattle).

Radha is the example for ecstatic devotion. Radha completely identified herself with Krishna. Her devotion to Krishna was based on an inseparable relationship. The Radha-Krishna relationship is that of Nature and God. (130388)

DEVOTION IS LOVE

Devotion is the highest form of love. "Service to Hrishikesa is known as devotion", says the Sutra. Devotion means constant contemplation of God. The term bhakti (devotion) is derived from the root 'bhaj' (to worship). Devotion means loving contemplation of God, repetition of His name, worshipping Him and doing penance for Him. Service to the Lord is the highest expression of devotion. There is nothing which is not attainable though loving service to the Divine.

Devotion does not mean merely doing devotional singing or performing ritual worship. These forms of devotion at present are based on some kind of self-interest and self-seeking. True devotion should be free from selfishness of any kind. For the external observer all appear to be devotees, filled with humility and piety. But internally, their hearts are otherwise. Judging a student by his marks, he may have a high rank. But as regards his conduct he is a blank. Likewise, judging from external practices a person may appear to be a devotee. But his heart and mind may be filled with evil. This sort of duplicity should be given up. There should be the same loving devotion both inside and outside. Devotion is not something to be proclaimed or demonstrated. Exhibitionistic devotion may result in disaster. True devotion should be an expression of love both internally and externally. (160188)

Devotion means friendship with God. It means establishing close relations with God through love. Service to God is the essence of devotion. Hence sage Narada declared: Service to Hrishikesa is called devotion. When devotion is developed in this manner, compassion arises spontaneously. When compassion grows, man experiences divine bliss, free from ill-will or attachment towards anyone.

The company of the good is essential for developing devotion. It serves to nourish the seed of love in the heart. Devotion reaches its consummation in one-pointed concentration on the Divine. Right action results in purity of mind and devotion promotes concentration. (041089)

FIVE REQUISITES FOR TRUE DEVOTION

There are five requisites for developing true devotion. The first is dedication (offering everything to God). Egoism is the bar to developing the spirit of dedication. It manifests itself in various forms of pride; pride of physical strength, intellectual pride, the arrogance of wealth, and the like. But as all these are impermanent and may be lost at any time, it is unwise to make the body, the mind or property the basis for one's conceit. Hence, egoism should be renounced as the first offering to God.

Next, devotion should be regarded as an expression of gratitude to all that one receives from providence - the air that we breathe, the light and heat that we get from the sun, the water we drink and the food we consume. All the essential necessaries of life are got by the grace of God. The expression of gratitude through devotion is a primary obligation. All that is done by way of devotional singing, reciting the Name, meditation and prayer must be done in a spirit of gratitude.

The third requisite is discipline. In almost every action of life, the recognised limits and regulations have to be observed. This applies equally to the spiritual field. You must observe discipline in matters relating to dress, your general behaviour outside the temple or during devotional singing in the temple, the way you speak and the food you eat. All your actions should be filled with sanctity and purity.

Discrimination is the fourth requisite. Discrimination has to be used in every aspect of daily living - in what you see, what you listen to, what you speak, and what you consume. Avoid eating all kinds of food in strange places.

Last comes determination. Without firm determination no great thing can be achieved in life. It is all the more needed in the spiritual field so that you may face all difficulties and obstacles and overcome them. You must hold fast to what you consider as good, what you regard as sacred and what you recognise as the truth. That is real penance. (170289)

TRUE DEVOTION

True devotion consists in offering all your thoughts and actions to God and yearning for His grace. Devotion has been described as a state of non-separation from God. Regardless of time, space or circumstance, one should feel closeness to God - that is true devotion. Nowadays devotion is confined to the brief spell spent in the shrine room or in a temple. During that period, devotion appears to swell within you and you feel you are at peace. But once outside, the peace is lost and anger takes its place. This cannot be called devotion. True devotion transcends the limitations imposed by the daily routine and obligations of life. It should not be subject to changes in time, place and circumstance. Love for the Divine should be present in any situation. You must strive to cultivate such love and experience the joy of sharing that love with others.

Occasionally one's devotion cools off when one's desires are not fulfilled. This is not a sign of true devotion. Devotion should not be related to physical needs. It is concerned with the heart and should not be affected by vicissitudes relating to the body and the mind. Devotion transcends the concerns of the body. Such devotion has been described as supreme devotion. It may also be described as one-pointed devotion. Only such one-pointed devotion can get rooted in the heart. Our love should not vary from time to time.

Embodiments of Love! People tend to sacrifice their true nature for the sake of others' approbation. They should live up to the truth of their being. That is true devotion. A real devotee is eager to experience divine love and does not seek pomp and show. (060389)

Good thoughts, good words and good actions are absent today. How, then, do you expect the Divine to fulfil your desires? Men are behaving in a manner worse than that of animals. How can they be called human at all? Perpetually they are concerned about wealth, family and children. They hardly think of God. There are fleeting moments of devotion, but these are more demonstrative than genuine expressions of faith in God. Such artificial exhibitions of devotion serve only to confirm the atheists in their disbelief. Unless faith in God expresses itself in a godly life, it is sheer hypocrisy. I do not want to know that you have listened to My discourses well. I want to know that you have thoroughly transformed yourselves. It is such transformation that is the mark of true devotion. If the ground is not wet, what is the point in saying that there has been a downpour? Those who claim to be devotees should show in their actions some evidence of their faith. They must live up to their professions. "Sai Ram" must emanae from the depths of one's being. Whether in the Sai Organisation or elsewhere, there must be sincerity and unity of thought, word and deed. (021087)

Bhakti - the path of devotion - is the easiest path for all. It does not call for mastery of the Scriptures. It does not enjoin performance of rituals and sacrifices. The elusive quest for unity in diversity is avoided. By cultivating love for God, the senses come under natural self-discipline. Those who are well versed in the scriptures are good scholars but they hardly practise what they preach. What matters is practice and not scholarship. Knowledge without action is useless lumber. One must strive to put into practice at least one or two of the things learnt in the spiritual field. The most important goal for man is to put into practice the doctrine of divine love.  (060389)

GOD, THE GREATEST LOVER OF MANKIND

Some love God as the mother, some others as the father, and some love God as 'dearest and closest friend'. There are others who regard God as the beloved, the only desired goal. They all endeavour to merge their love with the ocean of love that God is. Wherever love is evident, take it that it is God's own love. God is the greatest lover of mankind. Therefore, when anyone decides to serve man whom He loves, God showers grace in plenty. When the human heart melts at the suffering of others and expands as a result of that sympathy, believe that God is present there. That is the sign of the validity of the path of devotion, the bhakti yoga. (SS May 1990)

 

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