Stages of Devotion (Part 3)

3. Working for God's sake

Sri Krishna describes the third stage of devotion: "If you are incapable of constant practice, then devote yourself to My service. For even by rendering service to Me you will attain perfection." (Bhagavad Gita, 12.10)

Commentaries on the above verse describe several methods of serving God: construction of temples, laying out temple gardens, cleaning the place of worship, lighting lamps in the temple, gathering flowers, preparing offerings, procuring articles of worship, performing the worship, chanting His names, singing His praises, prostrating before God, and circumambulating temples-doing all this out of love of God.

Rasik, a sweeper at the Dakshineswar Temple garden, was of the lowest caste. He kept the temple premises clean, including the privies, but shied away from people because of his low status. One day, as Sri Ramakrishna was returning to his room from the pine grove, a disconsolate Rasik fell at his feet and earnestly implored him, "Father, shall I not achieve anything in this life?" Sri Ramakrishna told him, "Of course you will, you will achieve everything. So many devotees visit this temple and you serve them by cleaning the temple garden." Sri Ramakrishna blessed him and said, "You will see me at the time of death." And it happened that Rasik spent his last moments chanting the name of God. All of a sudden, his face beamed with joy. He cried out, "Father, you have come! So you have not forgotten me." Thus he breathed his last.

Rasik attained everything because of his great longing for God. Without this longing, worship becomes just another humdrum activity. Describing worldly people's worship, Sri Ramakrishna says: "Some people have their shrine rooms in their attics. The women arrange the offerings and flowers and make the sandal-paste. But, while doing so, they never say a word about God. The burden of the conversation is: 'What shall we cook today? I couldn't get good vegetables in the market. That curry was delicious yesterday. That boy is my cousin. Hello there! Have you that job still? Don't ask me how I am. My Hari is no more.' Just fancy! They talk of such things in the shrine room at the time of worship!"

We need to learn to do our duties looking upon God as the Master and ourselves as His servants, and accept that our capacity for doing work is His gift and that the results of our work really belong to Him. Work done in such a spirit amounts to doing God's work. Sri Krishna describes the efficacy of doing work as worship: "From whom all beings proceed and by whom the whole universe is pervaded-by worshipping Him through the performance of his duty man attains perfection." (Gita, 18.46)

God dwells in the hearts of all beings (Gita, 18.61). Serving others in a spirit of worship of the indwelling God is yet another way of working for God.

Furthering the mission of a divine Incarnation also amounts to serving God. Many people today worship Sri Ramakrishna as a special manifestation of God. He realized the same ultimate Truth through all religions. He lived in God, knew nothing but God, and talked only about God. His one aim in life was to awaken people to the ideal of God-realization and to help them advance toward that goal. Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, the twin organizations founded in his name, have a twofold objective: "One's own freedom and the welfare of the world." Rendering service to these two organizations through any of their centers throughout the world is also rendering service to God.

Part 4

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