Devotion is the easiest and most accessible among all practices towards achieving the goal of life – Moksha (salvation). However, one should note that there are two types of devotion: Qualified and non-qualified. Much awareness and inclination towards the qualified form of devotion creates misconception. People think that only the qualified form of devotion is perfect; which it is not.
The eventual end result (based on one’s Karmic balance sheet through the iterative birth and death cycle) of all practices of Devotion is salvation. Salvation is to be free from all bondages including worldly bondage and bodily bondage. To be free from bondage leads to salvation and the best tool to achieve that is devotion.
Once upon a time, a hunter visited a saint. As soon as the hunter came near the saint, he was told to stay away. When the hunter wanted to know the reason behind this, the saint told him that the smell of hunting was coming out of his body. The hunter politely asked the saint if there is any easy and fruitful way to be purified. The saint replied to perform Sham and Dam.
Sham is the practice to have control over the mind.
Dam is the practice to have control over the senses.
The hunter practiced Sham and Dam for a couple of years and he noticed significant changes in his character. The hunter then visited the saint again and this time the saint welcomed and embraced him. The saint declared that the hunter had now become pure.
Sham and Dam are integral parts of devotion. Without Sham and Dam there is no devotion as devotion is pure and is not polluted by vices such as lust, anger and greed. If lust, anger and greed are present in a person, then there is scope or room for devotion. These vices can only be eradicated by the practice of Sham and Dam. As Saint Kabir sahib has said:
Devotion can’t be performed in lust, anger and greed.
Devotion requires great sacrifices of caste, creed and faith.
All vices are due to the lack of control over one’s mind. Once the mind is under control, there are no such vices.
More about the practices of the Devotion
Devotion is selfless service. To fulfill one’s needs is called one’s service. God doesn’t have any needs. One may ask: Then how and why does devotion matter? People perform devotion in whatever way they know. Something is definitely better than nothing.
God only needs the love.
The mere shedding of tears in the name of God is not real and complete devotion. Shedding tears in love is okay but one’s instincts and sentiments should be directed towards God. One should have knowledge of what God is. God is beyond the perceptible senses. God is beyond mind and intellect too.
We are also the same, being apart from all inner and outer illusionary elements. By contemplating about the said characteristics of God, one should practice to be one with the whole. Our consciousness which is part of the whole is mixed with the mind as butter is in the milk. By doing certain exercises they can be separated. With the association with the mind, consciousness acts like the mind – similar to how light passes through colored glass and seems colored. But when the mind is concentrated and focused, the consciousness can be separated from the mind. And for that, rigorous practice of meditation is needed. Consciousness is far more subtle than the mind.
As a result of concentration one would get into the subtlety and would be free from the sensory domain. Absolute concentration leads to another sphere which is very natural. In this very inner journey, consciousness will also travel from one sphere to another sphere, and thus the journey of consciousness starts with mind. In this journey, the mind gets evident support. This support doesn’t have to be created as it is already there within. Being thicker than consciousness, the mind and intellect can’t travel too far along with the consciousness. Only pure consciousness moves ahead towards God. This is the real inclination towards God. Those who perform this type of practice can feel and experience oneness with God. Those who don’t perform this kind of devotion can’t achieve complete devotion, which has the end result of salvation.
Through the yoga of meditation, the above said practice becomes easier achieve. This is the subtle path. Saints have propagated this esoteric knowledge. As time passed, this knowledge was lost and only the qualified form of devotion remained.
Although non-qualified devotion seems to be lost, it doesn’t mean that one has to leave or ignore the qualified form of devotion. Absolutely not! Without macro devotion, micro devotion or the non-qualified form of devotion is impossible. The following passages may help to illuminate this stance:
In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 13), the field (body) and knower of the field (soul) are different.
In Upanishadas, there are three bodies of the Brahm: Gross, Subtle and Astral.
Only he/she who realizes the self which is the knower of all fields would realize God and can see the self in all – this is micro devotion. For this a tremendous amount of practice is needed. Only the concentrated mind could get the support of light and sound. That is why we see the glory of light and sound in the Upanishadas as well as in the literature of saints. Only those who practice light and sound both can realize God. For this, the practice of meditative yoga is essential.
By Pandit Balmiki Sharma