When a spiritual aspirant is blessed with knowledge of the Spirit, his life becomes an act of continuous worship. He belongs to the fourth type of worshippers of God, the jnani. Sri Krishna considers all four types of devotees to be noble-hearted: (1) those who worship God for relief from affliction, (2) those who worship Him for worldly prosperity, (3) those who worship Him for Knowledge, and (4) the jnani, the knower of God. However, Sri Krishna considers the jnani to be very special because of his one-pointed devotion. Such a devotee is dear to God, and so is God dear to such a devotee. (Bhagavad Gita, 7.17) Commenting on this verse, Sri Shankara says that a jnani adores God alone because he fails to see anything else adorable! The jnani is an example of adoration of the Spirit by the Spirit.
Lives of saints and sages illustrate this supreme adoration of the Spirit by the Spirit, which Swami Vivekananda considers "true religion." Says he: "Throw away all matter! The conception of God must be truly spiritual. All the different ideas of God, which are more or less materialistic, must go. As man becomes more and more spiritual, he has to throw off all these ideas and leave them behind. As a matter of fact, in every country there have always been a few who have been strong enough to throw away all matter and stand out in the shining light, worshipping the Spirit by the Spirit."
Sri Ramana Maharshi was a knower of Brahman who lived in the twentieth century and propagated the vicara marga (the way of self-enquiry). He had a unique spiritual experience when he was only twelve years old and living with his uncle in Madurai, India. One day as he lay down on the floor, he began to think he was dead. He imagined that his body was carried to the cremation ground, kept on the funeral pyre, and set on fire. He realized that even after the body was consigned to the flames, as the Atman he continued to exist. This was not a mere thought but a tangible spiritual experience. When he went to Tiruvan-namalai-where he remained for the rest of his life-he was known to be always absorbed in his inner Self, living in a cave where even the sun's rays could not penetrate. Worms and vermin feasted on his limbs, but he was not at all conscious of it. Abidance in the Self (sahaja samadhi) became his natural state.
After his death experience Sri Ramana Maharshi's visits to the Shiva temple in Madurai acquired a new meaning. He would stand in silent adoration before the stone images of the sixty-three Nayanmars, who were the Shaiva saints of Tamil Nadu. Tears of bhakti would stream down his cheeks as this jnani stood in adoration of their devotion.
Similarly, one day at Dakshineswar, Sri Ramakrishna entered one of the Shiva temples and began to recite the famous hymn Shivamahimna Stotram, which describes the glory of Lord Shiva. When he came to the following verse, he was overwhelmed with emotion: "If the black mountain were the ink, the ocean the inkpot, the best branch of the celestial tree the pen, and the earth the paper-using all these instruments, if the Goddess of Wisdom Herself were to write for eternity, even then, O Lord, She could not exhaust mentioning all your glories!" Sri Ramakrishna then loudly exclaimed over and over again: "O Great God, how can I express your glory?" Tears flowed profusely from his eyes and He lost himself in the infinite Consciousness of Lord Shiva.
Immersed in God-consciousness, such a man of supreme Knowledge lives oblivious of his body, mind, and ego. This state of supreme devotion is the acme of all adoration, where the Spirit of the devotee becomes one with the supreme Spirit. "The river of individual consciousness having name and form loses its individual identity as it merges into the sea of universal Consciousness." (Mundaka Upanishad, 3.2.8)