Marks of True Devotion (Part 6)

Devotional Mindset

Freedom from Fear, Worry, and Anxiety

Since he has given up the desire to possess sense objects, a devotee is free from fear. Fear is everywhere, says Bhartrihari: "In enjoyment is the fear of disease; in social position the fear of falling off; in wealth the fear of (hostile) kings; in adoration the fear of humiliation; in strength the fear of enemies; in beauty the fear of old age; in scholarship the fear of opponents; in virtue the fear of slander; and in the body the fear of death. Everything in this world is fraught with fear; renunciation alone is fearlessness." (Vairagya Shatakam, 31)

A bhakta's renunciation is not a forced giving up. As he moves closer to God, lesser things drop off of themselves. He leaves behind the lower for something higher. According to the Narada Bhakti Sutras (7), a bhakta's love is not desire oriented because it is of the form ofrenunciation.

Worry and anxiety result from getting worked up about the turn of events, expecting a favorable outcome every time. A devotee is free from anxiety because he turns to God for solutions to his problems, and believes that God does listen to his prayers and will give him adequate strength to face difficulties. Sri Ramakrishna's life illustrates an important point. Even while having excruciating pain of throat cancer, he continued to dwell in God and help others advance on their path to God. A devotee will do well to remember his saying, "Let the body and pain take care of themselves; O mind, you be blissful." A true devotee does not pray for cure of his disease, but for devotion and strength to calmly go through the ordeal.


Peaceful and sure of himself, a devotee does not take sides on an issue. He accepts all points of view as valid, but maintains a healthy detachment from everyone. Being impartial, fair, and just, he is respected by all.

How a Devotee Interacts with Others

Forgiving and Forbearing

A devotee does not nurse grievances. He is forgiving and tries to cultivate forbearance. In the words of Sri Shankaracharya, "Forbearance means suffering all afflictions without caring for their redress, being free at the same time from anxiety or lamentation on that score." (Vivekachudamani, 24)

An incident from Sri Ramakrishna's life illustrates the point. Chandra Haldar, Mathur's family priest in the Kalighat temple, was jealous of Sri Ramakrishna for the devotion Mathur lavished on him, and was determined to put a stop to it. One day Sri Ramakrishna lay in a dark outer room of Mathur's Jan Bazar house in a half-conscious state, when the priest suddenly entered. There was no one else near by. The man pushed the Master several times and said, "Well, tell me how you hypnotized Mathur Babu." Sri Ramakrishna kept silent, for he did not have the power to speak then. Getting no answer to his repeated queries, the priest was exasperated and kicked the Master several times with great force, and then went away. Sri Ramakrishna knew what the consequences would be if the matter were reported to Mathur. So he kept it to himself.

Treating Friends and Foes Alike

A true devotee has neither favorites nor enemies. If someone shows ill will toward him, he does not feel slighted and does not reciprocate. In Sri Ramakrishna's parable of the snake and the brahmachari (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, 85), the Master instructs people living in society to hiss at wicked people to frighten them away, but never to inject their venom into them and injure them. A devotee believes that the Divine Mother is his real mother, God his father, devotees of God his near and dear ones, and the entire world his home. (Sri Shankaracharya's "Hymn to Annapurna", 12)

Part 7

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