Marks of True Devotion
How a Devotee Interacts with Others
(Continued from previous issue)
Unaffected by Praise and Blame
It is natural for the mind to crave appreciation and be piqued by criticism. A true devotee believes that all high points in his life are due to God’s grace. He does not take credit for them. He distances himself from his body and mind, offering all his actions to God. Praise and blame do not touch his ego, which has become “ripe.” He strengthens the feeling that he is a servant of God or an integral part of Him.
A Devotee’s Attitude toward the World
The world consists of pairs of opposites, called dvandvas: pleasure and pain, happiness and misery, heat and cold, praise and blame, gain and loss, victory and defeat, and so on. We get attached to the pleasant and have aversion to the painful, not knowing that if we want the one we will have to put up with the other. A devotee, however, has a clear conception of the God‑soul‑universe triad and is able to see the world as it is. He realizes that not all problems have solutions, nor are there rational explanations for everything.
From the non‑dual perspective, the world is but an unreal dream that will vanish with the dawning of Self‑knowledge. The world is a source of misery, and worldly pleasures are rajasic—born of contact of the sense organs with their objects, and so pleasurable at first, but painful in the end because they sap the vigor of the senses. (Bhagavad Gita, 18.38) The devotee appreciates that only God, the Infinite, can give lasting happiness, not the limited, finite world. Thus, worldly pleasure is only pain for a devotee. He learns to remain unaffected by pleasure or pain, offering everything to his Beloved.
The devotee accepts certain inevitabilities in life, looking upon the world cinema as God’s play. He understands that the only utility of this world is to help him grow spiritually. All his experience is grist for his mill, which he uses to turn to God. In the words of Swami Vivekananda, the world is nothing more than “a grand moral gymnasium wherein we have all to take exercise so as to become stronger and stronger spiritually.” The world will always be a dog’s curly tail, which cannot be straightened. Our attempts to do good to the world are only a means to strengthen ourselves spiritually.
A devotee does not pay heed to what is considered auspicious or inauspicious. He is firmly convinced that true dependence on God will lead him on the right path. The following incident described by Swami Yatiswarananda clarifies these ideas:
“Once in August 1929 I went to Belur Math on some work. Mahapurush Maharaj (Swami Shivananda) was then the President of the Order. He was very much interested in the work at Madras. Whenever I went to Belur Math he used to ask me to go back to Madras soon so that the Mission’s work there might not suffer. But this time I wanted to stay at Belur Math for a little longer. So when Mahapurush Maharaj as usual asked me when I was going back, I told him that the following few days were inauspicious. Actually I did not care either for auspiciousness or inauspiciousness. It was only an excuse to remain in the spiritual atmosphere of Belur Math a few days more. Mahapurush Maharaj’s advice to me on this occasion should be an eye‑opener to all of us:
“Mahapurushji: ‘But you are men of action. It won’t do for you to look for auspicious days. Those who have nothing to do can afford to consult the almanac at every step. The Master also used to say, “Only those who believe in such things are affected by them; others are not.” Besides, you are devotees of the Mother. She is protecting you under all conditions and will always do so. If one takes the name of the Lord and starts on a journey, one will not come to grief. By the strength of His name even distress is transformed into a blessing.’ Saying this he sang: ‘Whoever starts on a journey taking the name of Mother Durga, Shiva with His almighty trident surely will protect him.’ ”
(To be continued) ─ Swami Yuktatmananda
Copyright© 2015, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York.