Path of Devotion | Swami Paramananda
BLESSED are those who have devotion in their hearts. It is the only reality in this world, other things are false. Live a pure, holy life; be bold and fearless. Never mind if thousands fall before you; still stand firmly and never give up. Truly what a great thing it is to have love and devotion! Devotion is the only thing that can make one happy.
True devotion has wonderful power. Through it a devotee can bring out divinity even from a stone. It is a living force and can give life to a dead body. They are indeed very happy who have naturally this devotion for the Lord. You know what Śrī Ramakrishna says,—that the goal can be attained very easily through the power of faith and devotion, and never through the power of reasoning.
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It is the true devotion that brings God-vision to us. No one can reach Him through mere intellect; nor even by the practices of Yoga or different kinds of hardships. This is the word of the Lord. He is to be attained by true and pure love, unselfish and one-pointed love. God is free. He is not bound by any law. Still He says, “I remain bound to my devotees.” As a great Saviour declared, “God is love and love is God.” But it is very hard to realize. One can realize and feel this only with a sincere and pure heart. As long as we have the least selfish desire, so long we cannot expect to have this. It is holy and Divine.
When this kind of love awakens, one becomes free from worldly ties. But we must not give up hope because it is hard. However hard it may be from the standpoint of the world, still it must be realized. Without it the heart is but a barren ground. This is our life and this is the only reality in this world. And it is not at all hard for a sincere and true devotee, because his heart is made of love and naturally flows towards the Lord.
Have intense faith in Him, then you will be free from all anxieties. He will bless you and protect you from all evils. Always keep your eyes fixed on Him and pray with childlike simplicity.
Do not mind anything. Never be discouraged or disheartened, but live always cheerfully. Then through the blessings of the Lord you will rest in peace and bliss.
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If you want to be a true devotee, you must be above all worldly thoughts and deeds. No earthly condition should ever disturb your peace. Be pure, spotless, unselfish, with an all-loving broad heart. Never claim to be great, but look upon yourself as a humble servant of the Most High, and stand always ready for the service, without thought of danger. Remember that to meet even a violent and untimely death thinking of God and leading a true life is blessed; while to live otherwise even in comfort and prosperity will only take you away from your Ideal and that is the greatest curse. Be always watchful, and never allow yourself to be carried away by any momentary weakness. Act boldly and fearlessly, and never become impatient.
Depend little on outer things, knowing that external expressions can never express the real feelings of the heart. Talk little. It is not words or beautiful language but character that will bring the light. Great Seers spoke in most simple language, but their words were full of light, of life, of hope and courage. Let the plant of your devotion grow in silence on your heart. Water it with the tears of true and sincere love. Look not for results; merely serve with your whole heart and soul.
The true devotee works for his Ideal and for no one else. His eating, drinking, sleeping, moving, his every act becomes an act of worship. He feels that all belongs to the Ideal, even his body, so he feeds and cares for it, not as his own, but as part of the Ideal. If it is hurt or hungry or cold or in any way neglected, he thinks that it is the Ideal that is suffering, so he takes every care of it for the sake of the Beloved. Or he may look upon his body as a temple in which the Divine Ideal dwells, and whatever he does for it becomes an offering to the Beloved. He is therefore watchful only to give to it what is perfectly pure and worthy to be offered on that inner altar of the heart. This constant thought of the Ideal as dwelling within enables one to free himself from all physical bondage.
Thus true devotion brings you to a state where you live with your Ideal In every moment of your life. Nothing else can exist for you except the Beloved One, and when you live in Him and Him alone, all misery ceases. Your whole heart flows out at the feet of the Beloved and you become lost in Him. This state is blessed because it leads to the ultimate goal,—the true vision of God.
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It is through love that we feel the nearness or presence of Divinity. Love unites God and man. When wholehearted and one-pointed love for the Ideal awakens, it comes like a flood and washes off everything,—ignorance, narrowness, fear, doubt, selfishness, and leaves what? The Ideal. The Ideal alone is left shining on the heart. Then it becomes easy to renounce everything that is earthly, because nothing has any value except the Beloved. He is the Eternal, the Permanent, the Unchanging; all other things are transitory and changing. He is the Effulgent Spirit, everything else is perishable matter.
This love for the Ideal enables one to renounce the things of the world without effort. Christ could resist the temptations of Satan and give up all earthly power because of His intense love for His Father in heaven. So when we have whole-hearted devotion for our Ideal, nothing of this world can tempt us and renunciation becomes easy. This is the idea given by Christ of “taking the burden.” It really means that we must be devoted to the Lord; we must think of Him constantly. By this we are purified; for whenever we meditate on a pure being, our impurities are naturally washed off. When we take refuge at the feet of the Lord, or cast our burden on Him, we love Him, our whole heart goes to Him and we no longer care for the world. Then our burden drops off. This is true renunciation and true salvation.
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When real devotion comes to the devotee, he grows humble and all-loving. The Beloved is all in all, he is nothing. Everywhere he sees his Beloved, therefore he becomes the servant of all; and through every living creature he serves his Ideal. “Lower than a blade of grass, having endurance like a tree, seeking not honour for himself, but giving honour to all, such a soul is fit to take the Name of the Blessed Lord.”
A tree fulfils its nature, no matter how we treat it. If we cut its branches, still it continues to grow and give us shade. So the true devotee worships his Ideal, not because he desires anything from Him, but because He is dear to him, because He is his Beloved whom he loves for the sake of love. So long as we expect anything, we do not love truly and the Ideal remains far from us. Only when we have begun to love for the sake of love do we get true devotion. Then we serve silently and quietly. He who talks of himself is not a true devotee or a true worker.
Swami Vivekananda declares:
“The true workers work in silence and pass away in silence. Those who actually give up their lives for humanity are oftentimes not known by many.
“Where there is none to admire your work, not even a single person to encourage, where everyone hates you, there lives infinite patience, eternal contentment and absolute fearlessness in works.
“When a great work comes before us, where there are thousands of people to admire, there a mean coward, a most selfish man also can give up his life in order to prove himself as a great hero.
“But he who can do a very little without letting anyone know, he is a true hero, an unselfish lover of humanity. He is really blessed.”
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Choose that relation to your Ideal which gives the greatest sense of nearness. Trying to serve Him in an aspect contrary to your natural tendency makes the path of devotion tedious and often leads to failure. Does
He seem to you a loving Father? Then make Him your real Father, infinitely closer than your earthly parent and look to Him for all support and guidance. If He is dearer as the Mother, then even more can you take Him close to you; for with the idea of mother comes a feeling of nearness that no other relation brings. With the father there is sometimes fear, but the child can always go freely to the mother; even if he has done wrong, he knows that she will not really punish, but will always love and forgive and protect.
Perhaps it will be more natural for you, as many do in India, to look upon the Ideal as your little child, like the Baby Krishna or the Christ Child. No relation is more uplifting or purifying than this, for there is great depth in sincere and unselfish mother love.
The deeper you dive in that ocean of love, the higher you rise in wisdom. Surround your Divine Child with true mother love, then nothing, no evil, will ever dare approach you. Look upon Him as your own child. Be like Devakī, the mother of Śrī Krishna, who never cared for the glory or power of her son, but regarded Him as only her little child, who needed her care and protection.
When true devotion in any of these aspects arises, the relation becomes so real that love and worship flow naturally from the heart to the Ideal. But there can be true devotion without serving the Personal God in any form. If you seek the truth within yourself, with earnestness and sincerity, you are also a devotee. Have true love for your Ideal, whatever you may call Him.
Serve Him faithfully, with unselfishness and purity, and you will get true devotion.