Selfless Devotion

Human life is an intriguing journey. We fall in love and expect reciprocation, we help someone in need and expect a favor in return, we pray to God and expect the fulfillment of our desires. This chain of performing actions and expecting self- benefitting returns becomes the fundamental basis upon which we either experience happiness or drown in disparity when such expectations are not fulfilled. The state of being rich, famous, beautiful, and surrounded by people who appreciate us is a dominantly prevailing yet faulty perception for a happy life. This is a common means of self-gratification because we can experience these states of being through our sensory organs and the mind reassures it. Yet, it is an illusion because these qualities and circumstances will perish with the passage of time. The very person who spends their entire course of life in forming and maintaining these fleeting attachments ultimately ceases to exist in the body that becomes the battlefield of conflicting emotions, beliefs, and actions. 

It is extremely easy to get influenced by the physical surroundings due to the strong force of Maya or worldly delusion. It is like perceiving the objects in the faint flicker of a lamp at night and believing them to be the true form of these objects and assuming that it is only the short area that is illuminated by light to be truly existing. Everything else that exists in the room seems non-existent. This belief that may continue throughout the night will be proved to be limited when the splendid sunlight brightens the world at dawn and one can fully see the beauty and vastness of the world. 

The self- realized and enlightened souls from time immemorial have dedicated their bodies as a means to guide the people on the path of true happiness. It is through the teachings and guidance of such gurus and devotees that the lost souls, especially in this age of ignorance and skepticism, have found the ultimate purpose of this human birth. Although every enlightened being has their own unique way of attaining  Supreme Bliss (sat-chit-anand), one commonality among all of them is their adherence to the practice of selfless devotion. 

As soon as the phrase ‘selfless devotion’ comes up, many are lost in a pool of questions such as to whom should we be devoted? How can we stay devoted to the God whom we cannot perceive through physical senses? Is there a certainty that we will reach God if we follow this path? And most importantly, we have an idea inscribed in our intellect that we live only once, and wasting this short and precious life on something as obscure as devotion to God is unfathomable. The idea of ‘carpe diem’ (‘Gather ye rosebuds while ye may’) popularized by Western philosophers and poets have re-established this belief of instant gratification. However, through small yet effective steps on the path of devotion, one can gradually start realizing that the presence of God lies not in some other world alone but within every atom of this world and of the human body and also within every soul. In fact, it is a fact that the Lord belongs to his devotees. To those who love him either in ‘sakhya bhava’ or ‘vatsalya bhava’, ‘dasya bhava’ and ‘madhura bhava’, He is not an authoritative figure but, a loving father, a mischievous child, a caring master, and a charming lover.

A king as wealthy and powerful as Mahabali quickly agrees to be the third spot for the Lord to place his feet; an innocent child of the fearsome demon, Prahlad displays an undeterred faith in Sri Mahavishnu even when tormented by his own father; mighty princes of the great Pandava dynasty and their chaste wife Draupadi, though thrown into the most challenging and humiliating circumstances, only grow stronger in their devotion for Sri Krishna instead of doubting him; the embodiment of unblemished and pure love and devotion, Srimati Radharani, whose love for Sri Krishna intensifies even after their separation from Vrindavan only to be reunited with Him in Golok Dham. The holy book of Srimad Bhāgavatam is a testimony of how selfless devotion works in mysterious ways. It illustrates the devotion to God through parental affection, friendship, conjugal love, nature, and animals responding to the melodious flute of Krishna and even the demons being saved by the Lord’s mercy just because they uttered His name.

सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज ।
अहं त्वां सर्वपापेभ्यो मोक्षयिष्यामि मा श‍ुच: ॥ ६६ ॥

In Chapter 18 of Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna asserts the need to leave every conflicting belief, action, and emotion that conditions our life and surrender completely only unto Him. If at all these claims by the great devotees and gurus are abstract, philosophical ideas and nothing more, can we deny the ecstasy that we experience during a lively bhajan session, the transcendental vibration that runs through our body while chanting the holy names of God, visualizing his forms and hearing his pastimes and the detachment we feel when in the association of enlightened devotees? Devotion is not a chore. It is the higher form of love towards the Supreme Spirit who resides as the super soul and the process through which we realize this real Self, is by slowly dissolving the temporary, physical identity. This is called Selfless Devotion.  For all those souls who are rigorously engaged in this path, the Lord incarnates, again and again, to grant them Divine Knowledge and Grace, and thereby He offers a beacon of light and hope for future devotees. Like Lord Shiva rescued Markandeya, Lord Narasimha saved Prahlad, Lord Vitthala stood on the brick for Pundalik, Lord Venkateswara saved Hathiram Baba, Sri Krishna showered his love on Meera…the list can go on and each example is concrete proof of the Power of Selfless Devotion. 

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