Marks of True Devotion (Part 3)

Devotional Mindset

Freedom from Egotism and Possessiveness

Freedom from egotism and possessiveness regarding people and things requires steadfast spiritual practice. Sri Ramakrishna describes two types of ego: (1) the unripe ego that entangles one in sense enjoyments, making one feel "I am the doer. I am the son of a wealthy man. I am learned. I am rich. How dare anyone slight me?"; (2) the ripe ego, which is also called the servant ego, devotee ego, or the knowledge ego. Rather than worry about getting rid of his ego, a seeker on the path of devotion tries to cultivate the ripe ego and strengthen it. He feels that God is the Master and he His servant. In Sri Ramakrishna's words, "One should have such burning faith in God that one can say: 'What? I have repeated the name of God, and can sin still cling to me? How can I be a sinner any more? How can I be in bondage any more?' " Without such strong faith in oneself, any professed faith in God is faith only in name and not of much help in one's spiritual endeavor. Swami Vivekananda says, "You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself."

The devotee ego, as well as the servant ego, is based on one's deep abiding faith in the indwelling God and one's relationship to Him. This ego gradually weans the aspirant from his attachment to body and mind, the main cause for his attachment to sense objects. The devotee imagines himself to be a divine spark of the divine Fire, which is God. He derives strength from the fact that all auspicious qualities of God-like purity, strength, fearlessness, and infiniteness-are in him too, even as the burning power of fire inheres in the spark too. The knowledge ego is based on the luminous, spiritual core of the aspirant's personality. He learns to dwell more and more on the Atman, detaching himself from his body and mind.

The devotee ego says "not I, not I, but Thou", the "I" referring to the body-mind complex and "Thou" denoting the indwelling God. The knowledge ego, on the other hand, says "not this, not this, but I", where "I" refers to the Atman, the core divine reality in the aspirant and "this" signifies everything other than the Atman, beginning from the aspirant's body and mind, and including everything else of the gross and subtle worlds. Despite the difference in temperament, the two ripe egos both increase their identification with the Divine within and reduce their identification with body-mind.

Pure and Ever Contented

Contentment is a state of mind that is uncommon in the first two kinds of devotees: the afflicted and seekers of prosperity. A true devotee of God attains contentment by training his body and mind not to be too demanding. He nourishes his body looking upon it as an abode of God. His needs are few and he tries to think more of God than of fulfilling his desires. He cultivates and strengthens his buddhi, the discriminative faculty, and learns to abide as a witness of his body and mind, instead of being involved with them. He trains himself to be free from preferences and prejudices.

He practices both outer and inner purity. He remains physically pure by bathing regularly and remains pure in mind through regular spiritual practices like prayer, japa, and meditation. He strives to take in pure ideas through his mind and pure perceptions through his sense organs. Left to itself, the mind dwells constantly on sense objects. He remains alert, reins in his mind, and consciously thinks noble thoughts.

Part 4

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