Marks of True Devotion
(Continued from previous issue)
How a Devotee Interacts with Others
Does Not Perturb Others, and Is Not Perturbed by Others
Since a devotee has learnt to offer both joy and sorrow to God, he remains unperturbed by others or by any event. He does not agitate others by his thought, word, or deed, and does not find fault with anyone.
If someone has a misunderstanding with him, he does not unduly worry about it. His goal is not social acceptance by trying to please everyone, but growing in devotion to God. He tries to put his mind more on God than on anything else. Bhavanath was a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna. He once said to the Master: “I feel disturbed if I have a misunderstanding with someone. I feel that in that case I am not able to love all.” The Master replied, “Try at the outset to talk to him and establish a friendly relationship with him. If you fail in spite of your efforts, then don’t give it another thought. Take refuge in God. Meditate on Him. There is no use in giving up God and feeling depressed from thinking about others.”
Is Not Hateful, but Friendly and Compassionate
A true devotee does not hate anyone, especially the followers of other faiths. He believes in the Vedic dictum “Truth is one: sages call it by various names.” The goal of a true devotee is to realize God, not merely be an adherent to a faith. He believes that the same Truth may manifest through different divine forms to suit different temperaments. He develops ishta-nishtha, or steadfast devotion to his spiritual ideal. His intense devotion to his chosen ideal in preference to other divine forms signifies his special relationship with his own ideal. Sri Ramakrishna describes this devotion with an example: “Do you know what devotion to one ideal is like? It is like the attitude of a daughter-in‑law in the family. She serves all the members of the family—her brothers-in‑law, her father-in‑law, husband and so forth—bringing them water to wash their feet, fetching their towels, arranging their seats, and the like; but with her husband she has a special relationship.”
Devotion to one ideal that results in hatred of other ideals is not true devotion, but only fanaticism. By being steadfastly devoted to his ideal and accepting all faiths as valid, a true devotee stands out from those who merely adhere to a faith. Sri Ramakrishna lived and preached the harmony of all religions. He realized the same spiritual Reality through different paths of Hinduism, and also through Christianity and Islam. He taught that the spiritual aspirant should have earnestness and sincerity, no matter to which religion he belonged or which divine form he worshiped. Sri Ramakrishna said that even if a devotee apparently strayed, God would put him on the right path, provided he was sincere.
Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi taught that there is no caste among devotees of God. Sri Ramakrishna’s disciples—both monks and house-holders—were of different castes, backgrounds, and mindsets. Though Swami Vivekananda was the foremost among them in spiritual and intellectual powers, there was also Swami Adbhutananda (Latu Maharaj), who could neither read nor write. Sri Ramakrishna trained them all according to their temperaments, guiding them along the path to God-realization. Devotees of God relish each other’s company, deriving from one another inexplicable, sense-transcendent joy. Devotees of Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Sarada Devi across the world bear testimony to this fact. Sri Krishna speaks of how devotees of God conduct themselves: “Ever glorifying Me, always striving with self-control, remaining firm in their vows, bowing before Me, they worship Me with love and unwavering steadiness.” (Bhagavad Gita, 9.14)
A devotee may not socialize with others, but he is friendly with everyone. To others he may sometimes appear indifferent, because he wants to avoid gossip and spend his time in spiritual pursuits. He empathizes with everyone in their sufferings and does what he can to help them. If he cannot help them directly, he serves them through sincere prayer.
(To be continued) ─ Swami Yuktatmananda
Copyright© 2014, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York.