I will say something regarding the necessity of devotion (bhakti) in the path of spiritual cult. Everybody knows that jiṋána (knowledge), karma (action) and bhakti (devotion) are the three aides for progress along the path of spirituality. A jiṋánii (person of knowledge) reaches near the goal but yet a little distance remains in between. A karmii (person of action) reaches nearer the goal but even then a little gap remains. A bhakta (person of devotion) reaches right to the goal. The jiṋánii has to repent ultimately that he or she wasted a long life on dry discourses of knowledge and could not fulfill their mission. Karmiis too, repent likewise. They think that they worked and reached nearer to the goal but could not achieve the same. There is no repentance in the minds of the bhaktas, however, because their minds are always full of bliss. They neither feel exalted nor humiliated. There is nothing else in their minds except bliss, the unbroken flow of happiness (ánanda), and therefore they remain unaffected by pain and pleasure.
Only a devotee can say this, and not the intellectual or the one dexterous in work. However simple an intellectual may be, vanity always remains concealed in the inner cells of the mind. Intellectuals think they are not ordinary people. They feel that they know what other people do not know. These feelings exist whenever there is vanity. Pride causes downfall. Thus we see that an intellectual is prone to fall down. Where there is the possibility of downfall, the path may be good but it may not be safe. Karmiis, too, feel proud when they think they have accomplished some work. Outwardly they may express that they have done nothing, but secretly they harbour desire in their minds that newspapers may publish their names. A dexterous worker falls prey to these weaknesses. Bhaktas have nothing to lose. Since they realize Parama Puruśa as their own, they have nothing to lose or to gain. Only devotees can say that He is the same for all. Whether He causes pleasure or pain makes no difference because He who causes pain, like the one who give pleasure, is the manifestation of Náráyańa. But, this feeling is not with intellectuals because they think objectively. Therefore, they feel pleasure, pain or humiliation whenever confronted with different circumstances.
Devotees have no malice against anybody. Why should there be malice against anybody? While a great spiritualist was eating cooked rice, a hungry dog came and sat on his lap. The dog, too, started eating with him. When both were eating together an intellectual came and said, “Fie, fie, the dog is a filthy animal and yet you are eating with him from the same plate. What kind of person are you? You are untouchable”. The devotee replied, “I am Viśńu, this dog is Viśńu. Why then do you laugh at me? The whole universe is pervaded by Viśńu. Your abuses and praises are all the same to me. I love flowers and thorns equally.” Only a devotee can speak like this.
What is pleasure? It is nothing but a mental projection, a mental propensity. Pain, too, is the same. One is positive and the other is negative. There is no difference between the two. The mental balance remains the same. Pleasure and pain, good reputation, and adverse criticism – all are equal. There is nothing to gain or lose from name and fame. Likewise there is nothing to gain or lose from a bad name. Devotees know that the entire world is polarized on the question of merging with Parama Puruśa. Some will be great devotees and some will harbour great malice. Both are alike for Him.
Devotees feel alike whether in heaven or in hell. In heaven they are with Viśńu, Náŕayańa, Parama Puruśa and are happy. If perchance they go to hell, the Cosmic Entity is also there. There is no place in this universe where He is not present. If they go to hell, Náráyańa cannot live alone in heaven. He will also have to be in hell to entertain His devotees. So if devotees go to hell they are also with Paramátmá and dance, sing and do kiirtana. Their minds remains full of bliss. They are completely apathetic and indifferent towards pleasure and pain, good name and bad name in the external world. Only the devotees can say that these carry no value. Those who are devoid of devotion, even if they work conscientiously, shall remain aloof from Parama Puruśa and ultimately they will have abhorrence for work. While doing hard penance the minds of such people will not be with Parama Puruśa. Instead, their minds will be thinking about the hardship faced during the penance. Upavása (fasting) means living nearer to God. “Upa” means near and “vasa” means living. During ekádashii upavása the mind of a devotionless person will be in the stomach and not with Parama Puruśa.
Where the microcosm becomes one with the Macrocosm it is called “yoga”. Devotionless people remain far from Parama Puruśa and never attain the state of yoga. Self-realization is the real knowledge and nothing else can be classed as such. All other knowledge is a mess of knowledge. So real knowledge can only be achieved by devotees.
All other knowledge is the penumbra of knowledge, not the original knowledge. Certain things are done by rituals, like the ringing of bells, lighting “diipaka” lamps and so on. This is an external show. Devotees will derive pleasure even from this. While playing musical instruments and doing kiirtana they feel in their hearts that the Lord will be happy to hear this sound. Devotionless people do not think about the Lord, but only think about the musical instrument. By always thinking about musical instruments, they will one day become the same. Those who always think about money will one day become a money bag in somebody’s pocket or the iron safe of a merchant. A show of devotion will not help. The process of chanting mantra is also futile because while repeating the incantation one is thinking about a case to be lodged against somebody or about a big amount of money in business. The continuity breaks. In such cases chanting mantra or doing meditation is fruitless. While sitting in meditation the person is thinking about the plan of a house being constructed: on which side the drawing room will be and where the different rooms will be located. This is not the right path.
There is only one path, the path of devotion. The goal of this path is not to ask Parama Puruśa for something or to get something from Him, but to serve Him with the purpose of making Him happy. The devotee feels happiness in His happiness.
The greater devotees, however, think in a different way. They follow the path of devotion and serve Parama Puruśa only to give Him pleasure, to make Him happy and never aspire to derive pleasure, or happiness for themselves. This is the highest peak of devotion.
Those who work for the happiness of Parama Puruśa are called “gopa”. This is the supreme height of devotion. It is the only true path.
A.V. Part-05, 18 November 1978, Patna