Steps on the Path of Devotion

Steps on the Path of Devotion
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    Our relationship with God has become extremely commercial. The reason for calling it commercial is that it is need-based. So long as we can do something with our own strength, we don't even remember God. When we are unable to do it with our own strength, then we remember God. Do you understand? As long as we can bear the pain, we don't even remember God. And when the pain becomes unbearable, we start chanting God's name. Thus, our relationship with God, When I say God, I mean our relationship with peace, happiness, purity and stability. Our relationship has become extremely need-based. It is no longer a relationship of love. And if God is just a complaint box for you, or a place to beg when you feel helpless, Then realise that you will remember God only during weak moments, You will remember Him when you are unhappy. And that is an insult to God. Only when you have complaints, are unhappy, desperate or weak, If that is the only time you find it necessary to remember God, And the rest of the time, if sensual pleasures are more important and not God, Then that is an insult to God. Because whenever the reason for taking refuge in God or religion, Is your helplessness or weakness, Meaning you asked for strength when you felt the lack of it, Then, as you get increasingly stronger, your need for religion and God will decrease. The strength may be with regards to money, relationships, any kind of strength. There are many types of strength: mental, physical, wealth, relationships, etc. Whenever you feel the lack of strength and feel helpless, You will come running to me, asking for some chants. In the past, when people had to undertake a journey, They would check for an auspicious time, carry out some rituals, 'We have to go on a long journey.' In those days, a long distance meant, Even if they had to travel from Mumbai to Madras, they would do all this. Or even when coming from New York to Mumbai. Later, your strength increased, So, you didn't feel like wasting time over auspicious times or rituals. Instead, you felt like buying insurance, which is more important than God. God may or may not help, but insurance definitely would. Now people only buy tickets, not even insurance. Meaning, as you feel stronger, you feel you don't need God at all. Because now there is less misery, less weakness, Then why unnecessarily pray? If lack of strength is the only reason to pray to God, Then that religion is not right. That worship is not right. Because devotion is not the alms of a beggar; it is the treasure of the affluent. It's not the alms of a beggar. As such both have money, But one is the alms of a beggar, While the other is the treasure of the affluent. It is the strength of the rich; not the helplessness of a beggar. Religion is not a consolation for cowards; it is the valour of the valiant. Religion is not something to get high on in order to forget misery. That you take the drug for some time, or get intoxicated, so you can forget it for a while. Religion is the strength to deal with misery. There is suffering; you are undergoing suffering, And religion gives the strength to deal with it. Religion does not give strength; religion itself is strength. 'Just forget the misery and don't talk about it.' No. Do listen, and yet do not have any attachment or aversion; That is a religious person. 'Just forget about it, just forget it.' Nothing is forgotten. Everything goes into the subconscious and is expressed as criticism. Religion is not a guest. It knows what lies within. God is not a guest, i.e. it is not that we remember Him only sometimes. That is not the case. Guests don't visit every day. They come only sometimes. If you remember God only sometimes, then God has become a guest. But He is not a guest. He knows what lies within you. Try to understand that the One you go to seek advice from when in need, He is not God. But the One who resides in your heart and remains as your strength forever, That is religion; He is God. Do you understand? God is not a crutch for the weak; God is a fountainhead of strength; A powerful source of energy within you, that is God. You go to a teacher whenever you don't understand a lesson. That's not the type of relationship between you and God. It is the faith that whatever you understand is because of Him - that faith. Not just to take advice, but whatever you understand every day, is only because of Him. This surrendership is worship. But this fact is overlooked. Just as we explain religion or the nature of God to a small child, God resides high up above. He will punish you for your wrongdoings. He will reward you if you do good deeds. He will grant you a boon if you make a request. He will grant you a boon if you make a request. He will reward you if you do good deeds. He will punish you for wrongdoings. This type of God is residing above, and is watching you constantly. This concept is quite convincing for the kids. And based on this they will not steal, not lie, etc. But once they grow up, this concept of God becomes a laughing matter. 'What rubbish! I did something wrong but I was not punished!' 'I was not immediately rewarded for my good deed.' Because now, rewards should be instant. When we were children, our dealings were such that we got rewards instantly. But as we get older, if the philosophy of karma doesn't enter, Then the faith in God is bound to be broken. It is okay to have the aforementioned concept of God in the beginning. But moving ahead, if the definition of God remains as is, Then the concept of God may remain, but devotion towards God will be lost. Nobody will be interested in this type of God. This is why the Enlightened One says, 'If religion is a ritual or practice to be performed at the time of weakness,' 'Then, sooner or later, you will give it up like a spare wheel, or like medicines.' Right now, if you are sick, you will take the medicines sincerely. Similarly, you will chant, sing devotional songs very sincerely in difficult times. But, once the doctor says that you are no longer sick, Your chanting will become lax. Because the basis of your chanting was your misery, helplessness, and weakness; And not your love, faith or surrendership. So, sooner or later it will depart from your life. Introspect or reflect and see that whenever you had such devotion, Did it arise impulsively and then leave also impulsively? If so, then sooner or later your devotion will go. If religion is being used as a medium, if religion is a sacrifice for you, then... If religion is practised out of selfishness, then... sooner or later it will leave. But if religion is not a medium, but the goal, Then throughout the practice, the goal will constantly stay with you. It is not a sacrifice; rather it is an adventure! It's not that, 'You will have to do this much.' It is, 'I want to do this much,' 'And check myself. I want to check my love.' 'I want to check my restraint. I want to check my mind.' It's a challenge. It's not selfishness; it's surrendership. You are consciously and willingly making a decision, 'I want to follow His instructions.' There is no selfishness or helplessness in it. 'I want to live with a higher purpose; therefore, I am choosing this track.' Just like a train decides, 'I want to reach my destination, so I choose this track.' There is an abundance of enthusiasm in this, and not the feeling of helplessness. People think that the path of devotion, Is a path for those who are helpless and lack intelligence. It is not helplessness, it is enthusiasm. God does not grant free boons. By explaining the Truth, He lovingly makes you engage in spiritual pursuits. So, that on the path of devotion, words like austerity and spiritual pursuit are not used. The path of devotion has only 2 words: fun and enjoyment. If you ever met the gopis (Krishna's devotees) would you ask, "What spiritual pursuits and austerities do you practise?" "What is spiritual pursuit? What is austerity?" "It is just fun and enjoyment." God is not One who grants boons at no cost. He is One, who lovingly engages you in spiritual pursuits, In such a manner that you don't even feel you are doing them! Such a One is God. So, should you be searching for God outside and above or inside and deep within? 'To search for God, to search for peace, or to search for eternal happiness,' 'I will need to turn inwards and go deep within.' 'Now, I don't have to stretch my hands for grace,' 'I'll need to open my heart.' Have you come to this conclusion or not? If I share my experience in a systematic way, then I would say, There are 5 steps to reach God. 1) Puja (Rituals), 2) Upasna (Worship), 3) Bhakti (Devotion), 4) Samarpan (Surrendership), 5) Sanyas (Renunciation). You can consider these as 5 steps on the path of devotion. It is not about which one is right and which one is wrong. It is in ascending order. You must necessarily pass through each of these stations in your life. And when you pass the station, it means you have progressed. And if a station does not arrive, it means you are on the wrong path. So, the 1st is Puja. Its characteristic is, it is very ritualistic. When there are many rituals and activities, it is the stage of Puja. There are do's and don'ts in everything. Even if you are just standing and doing Puja, a few volunteers will come and tell you, "Do this, don't do this, do it this way, etc." Because Puja needs a ritual. Performing Puja without a ritual is wrong. The stage of Puja is such that activities are important, And there is an insistence on a proper method. If you are getting bored then, Either you are in the stage before Puja or in the stage after Puja. If you are in the stage of Puja and you get bored, that is very wrong. In the previous stage, you feel, 'Why perform these rituals?' Fine. That is how one feels prior to the stage of Puja. Or, once you have passed the station of Puja, that is another story. I had once heard from a saint that in his Master's refuge, When his training started with his Master, his Master said one thing, "Son, by performing a great deal of Puja, first, gather the worthiness to progress." "Don't be in a rush to move ahead." "Don't feel that, 'These rituals waste a lot of time, let me meditate instead.'" "First develop the worthiness to move ahead through lots of Puja." "Once you become worthy then the subsequent stages will pass quickly." "So son, perform a lot of Puja. Do as much as you can." This is the guidance of a saint. And the saints may also say, "How long will you be stuck in rituals?" They may say that too. When you have matured, if you are ready for the 8th standard, He may say, "How long are you going to wear shorts?" "How long will you suck on a lollipop? Now it's time for chewing gum." There are no lollipops. They do chew, but they have chewing gum! Then they can be called high school kids. What would you call someone who still sucks on a lollipop? He is said to be a retarded child who is in high school. They may say that. Are you understanding? I am talking from the perspective of spiritual pursuits. How much justice you must give to each station, How much you should benefit from it, How to advance once you have matured in it. So, what was number 1? (Puja) Puja, where the predominance is of activities. Where there is more emphasis on bodily involvement, And there is an insistence on rituals. Are you understanding? 2nd? Upasna (Worship) Now what's the difference between Puja and Upasna? I will not tell you about the external differences, I will tell you the internal change. Rituals decrease in this stage. I did not say that there are no rituals. Otherwise, what will I say for the 3rd stage? Rituals become extremely less, Because now, along with the body, there is more involvement of the mind. Hence, there is a predominance of faith in this phase. There are rituals, but now the importance is of faith. A person went to Bayazid and asked, "I am performing so many rituals, yet, why don't I feel connected to God?" I am saying God, but whoever it may have been. He may have gone to worship 'Khuda', or whoever it was. But for the purpose of understanding, I am saying God. "Why am I not getting connected to God?" Bayazid said, "Come with me." He had a unique way of replying. "Let's go boating." He took him for a boat ride. They went a little further using both oars. They are called oars, right? Do you know what he did next? As they left the river bank and went a little further, He began using only 1 oar. So, what happened to the boat? It started moving round and round. Those who have gone boating even once in their lives will know this. With 1 oar, it will go round and round. With 2 oars, it will go on a linear route. With 1 oar, the route becomes circular. If your route becomes linear, you will reach your destination. So, he only used 1 oar, and the boat kept moving round and round. The fellow asked, "Master, what are you doing?" "Because you need to use 2 oars to reach the shore. Only 1 will not do." Bayazid replied, "Son, 1 oar is rituals, and the 2nd one is faith." "If you have both, rituals and faith, then you will reach." Sometimes you give up the rituals because of your wilfulness and moods. And sometimes, you let go of your faith and trust. In this 2nd stage, more than just the involvement of the body, The mind also gets involved with the body. There is a predominance of faith, where, In addition to rituals, this is the stage of faith. Faith in God, faith in the Guru. Faith in the type of spiritual pursuits you are undertaking. Faith in the fundamentals. Faith in yourself. In many different ways, faith starts entering your life, your spiritual life; And your spirituality changes. From just being ritualistic, to a predominance of Upasna. Rituals may decrease, but your inner involvement in them will increase. This is the stage of Upasna. The 3rd stage is that of Bhakti (Devotion). Bhakti is such a stage, Where, due to an increase in love, the rituals become unimportant. In the 1st stage, rituals were of prime importance. In the 2nd stage, rituals became secondary. And in the 3rd stage, rituals drop naturally. In the 1st, in Puja, only the body was involved. In the 2nd, along with the body, was the mind's involvement. And here, along with mind, the involvement of the heart increases. Love increases, Or rather the predominance of love is so much that, The state that is to be achieved through Puja, That state is now the starting point when love and devotion manifest. The purity and connection that should arise after performing rituals, That connection is in fact the starting point of his love. This is the 3rd stage. Without any external means such as lighting incense, lamps or offering flowers, The stability of emotions that manifests through those means, Is the beginning point of his devotion. It's not that the other is wrong, but he has progressed. Because, now if he just listens to one word or so, like 'Prabhuji', He may not even know which words follow, just hearing that, such emotions arise, His inner sitar starts vibrating without being touched; Music is emitted. That is the strong effect of remembering the Divine. And the reason for that is his love. Devotion is such that it brings discrimination between the eternal and the transitory. I am not talking about the love for singing. A devotee is one who does not become a non-devotee. Irrespective of whether he is in front of God's idol or not. One who does not become a non-devotee is a devotee. Whether he is reading the scriptures or not, Whether he is singing devotional songs or not, Whether he is present during satsang or not, His state is always the same, with little fluctuations, which is okay. He can now discriminate between the eternal and the transitory. 'This will give me temporary happiness.' 'This will give me permanent happiness. I am choosing this.' Without thinking you can choose. That's how strongly his love has manifested. The 1st involves the body, the 2nd, the mind and in the 3rd, the heart is also involved. So now all his worship or spiritual pursuits, whatever you call it, That is no doubt done with the heart. But even when he is not doing that, his heart is always connected. Or only God is in his heart, that's how much his love has increased. The 4th is Samarpan (Surrendership) or taking refuge. Such is your love that it makes you renounce things. The love in the 3rd stage was such that it brought union. The love in the 4th stage makes you give up something. But it is in terms of charity, or as an offering, 'I want to offer.' Who likes ripe mangoes? Eat them after offering them. I am not asking you to offer them to me; to anyone. It's okay even if you offer it to the person next to you. Such a feeling will arise, 'I am filled with love,' 'So, let me first offer it to the One I love.' The word is 'offer.' So, the words used would be, offered, surrendered, charity... The word renounce will be used in the next stage. Because that does not seem so worthless yet, But He seems so worthwhile, Therefore, 'I want to offer it to Him first, before eating.' This does not seem totally worthless, but He seems more and more worthwhile. So, the 4th stage is Samarpan, the feeling of offering. Whatever you like to eat, you offer it to Him. "I like it, but if You don't like it, then I will not indulge in it." This is possible for someone in whom love has arisen. He can give up any object, he can let go of a person as well, And he can also surrender his impurities. So, there are 3 V's, vastu (object), vyakti (person) and vikar (impurity). You feel, 'Master, You don't like anger, right? I won't do it.' 'You don't like greed? I won't do it. You don't like unfaithfulness? I won't do it.' 'You don't like this...' These are not deemed as totally worthless, But the love towards Him is more worthwhile, so he is willing to give that up. On our way here, I was telling Nemi, we constantly engage in satsang. It's about the Thakor - king of Limbdi. There used to be a Limbdi assembly in the past. And the king there was called 'Thakor'. There was also a royal poet in his court. This pair was just like Akbar and Tansen. He was given a good post, etc. One winter morning the king said, "Let's go for a stroll." Both of them wore their coats. Obviously, the king's was a little better. His was also good, because it was gifted by the king only. So obviously that is also going to be good. As they were on their way, an elderly person approached the king and asked, "Please, may I have your coat? I am shivering with cold." The king hesitated a bit. 'If I give him my coat then, the royal poet will still have his coat on,' 'What will the people think when we walk further ahead?' 'And I am without a coat.' So, he did not feel like giving him the coat. The royal poet immediately took off his coat and gave it to the elderly person. Without even wasting little bit of time, he gave his coat to him. So, again the king felt bad that, 'In giving, he was so quick...' See, the mind is such a strange thing, you know that. "How could you just give it away so quickly?" "I did not think of just giving it first and letting whatever happens happen." "And you thought of it." The royal poet said, "I'll tell you if you won't feel bad." "I have faith in my master that if I give away one coat," "He will give me another one right away once we reach the palace." "Master, you don't have that much faith in your Thakor." "If you give a coat away, God will provide you with another one." "You are my king. You don't even have as much faith in God as I have in you." "So, I could give it away immediately, while you couldn't." We have to check ourselves in small situations as to how much faith we have. So, the 1st one was Puja (Rituals), 2nd was Upasna (Worship), 3rd was Bhakti (Devotion), 4th was Samarpan (Surrendership). Samarpan – the joy of dissolving the ego. The joy of dissolving the ego! Do you know what ego is? Even if someone lightly blows on our ego, we would be ready to take his life. Someone breaking our ego is another story. The joy of dissolving that ego is the stage of Samarpan - Sharnagati. And it's beautiful. Mahavira was able to remain free because Gautam did not have any ego. 'He will feel bad. He will start doubting. He will feel this way...' Mahavira did not have to worry about Gautam at all. He would naturally be comfortable with Gautam only. Why would He stay with someone else? Where you would have to rehearse, think, remain calculative, act stepwise, Look around to check who is present and who is not, be discriminative... Nothing of that sort was needed, because he was a devotee. Which is the last one? Sanyas (Renunciation)! You feel like offering a mango, right? When you want to offer the giver himself (you), you are in the last stage, that of Sanyas. Nandlal Bose, a disciple of Abanindranath Tagore. Abanindranath was a relative of Rabindranath Tagore. The uncle and nephew - who? (Rabindranath and Abanindranath) Once they were having tea. One was a poet and the other an artist. Abanindranath was a great artist and Rabindranath was a great poet. As both were associated with art and culture, they were having a sweet conversation. Meanwhile, Nandlal Bose came and showed some beautiful pictures, Of Shri Krishna that he had made. As the Guru was checking them, Rabindranath was thinking, 'My God! He is going to get a hug right away.' As he had drawn the pictures of Shri Krishna so beautifully. Abanindranath flung all the pictures away. "What rubbish is this!" "Even the beggars on the streets of Bengal," "Who paint on the footpath or on the board or make sand art are better than you." "Go, first learn from them and then come here to be my disciple." And he flung the pictures away. Who can dare to interfere between a Guru and a disciple? Rabindranath Tagore had brains, and heart and manners, all 3 he had. So, he did not interfere at all. But he was quite disturbed within, 'Such beautiful pictures! Anything wrong with him? What is it?' Nandlal was asked to leave. Nandlal Bose collected all the pictures, and left without any arguments. Abanindranath was with Rabindranath every day. Every day Abanindranath would remember Nandlal. He would even have tears in his eyes remembering him. But he would not search for him. He would not send him any message, 'Come back to me.' Nothing! But he would remember him daily. And with that, he would start sobbing. Now Rabindra was totally confused. He assumed that maybe out of anger, he had spoken a little more harshly with him, So now he is crying out of regret; which was not at all the case. He had not spoken harshly at all. Whatever was supposed to be said was spoken. There was no regret for what was spoken. There was no question of repentance, as there was no regret. He would say, "I am missing him a lot." Rabindranath did not understand. 3 years passed this way. Nandlal came back with pictures. The pictures were almost the same as last time. There were no extraordinary changes in them. Rabindra was witness to both the incidents. And, Abanindranath was so overjoyed and the way he hugged him! Rabindra said, "Please explain to me the mystery behind this Guru-disciple romance." "When they were so nice, you insulted him." "Now, there were no extraordinary changes and yet you are hugging him." "You were crying in his absence. What is all this?" Abanindranath replied beautifully, "At that time he drew the pictures, but he had a lot of doership. Ego!" "I didn't see the pictures. I saw the artist. He was full of ego, doership." 'I want to do the best. I want to do it perfectly.' "He had made the paintings at the cost of peace, purity, and happiness." What was he told? "Go to the beggars on the streets of Bengal drawing with chalk, etc., and learn from them." "Because they don't draw to impress anyone. They draw for their own happiness." "So, they don't have doership. Learn from them." And he actually went to them. For 3 years he just saw, saw, saw. He just observed. And he realised that they painted remaining tension free. "He had drawn the picture of God, but God did not arise in him." "So, why should I praise him?" "Now he has learnt, 'how to draw' and not 'what to draw'." This is the renunciation of doership. The stage of courage that comes after understanding is Sanyas. The problem with this era is that, No matter how many different types of steps are explained. It may be the 14 steps of spiritual development or the 8 States, Or like here, 5 steps on the path of devotion, You will never be able to evaluate yourself. Sometimes you may feel that, 'I must be in the 2nd one, sometimes in the 3rd.' This is the problem of this era. There is no stability of good or bad. No stability of being good and no stability of being bad. Constantly remain bad for 3 years. Bad, bad, bad... In between, you will start regretting. There is no stability in being bad also. This is the problem of this era. I am just making a broad classification to explain this to you. In short, just progress.
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