To Whom should we be devoted?
We should be devoted to that which is sublime, beautiful and perfect, which has a power of attraction like that of a powerful magnet and can draw the minds of others into its own, and which fills our minds with a peculiar happiness and tranquillity. It is true that the feeling of devotion is not awakened towards anyone who does not possess the fullness of beauty and an attractive form.
In this world people have devotion of various kinds. Some are devoted to amassing wealth. Others are happy in devotion to their family. Still others take pleasure in becoming great in the eyes of society and try to acquire knowledge and artistic abilities.
The devotees of wealth, work day and night ceaselessly and are able to amass some wealth, but this leads to a desire for amassing more and more. If we are able to save a thousand rupees, we are then naturally inclined to save more hundreds of thousands, and this money-amassing obsession completely overpowers us.
One who is greedy cannot, because of that greed, freely use his wealth, nor can he leave it. He is, therefore, burning in the secret fires of his greed. When one devotes himself to wealth, he is always afraid of thieves and is constantly thinking of how to keep his wealth safe in vaults or strong boxes. This worry becomes a part of his life. He is also afraid of his wealth being taken away by the powers that be. All comfort and peace of mind are destroyed by the constant worry.
Lord Ram Chandra says in the Yoga Vashisht:
By the amassing of wealth all good qualities are destroyed, in the same manner as the heat of the sun dries up the drops of dew on the leaves of the trees.
A greedy person is extremely selfish because he is not capable of using his wealth for his own needs, and will not dole it out amongst the poor or others. So it is true that wealth is not worthy of our devotion. We were not born for amassing wealth, because wealth is like a shadow that lengthens and shrinks at different times, and when wealth goes, it causes a mental disturbance. Actually, wealth is for the use of man, and man was not born to be its slave.
Our relatives, our family and our community – all are subject to extinction by death. Nobody is free from death, and everybody is going his own way. If all these people are subject to death and separation, why should we attach oneself to them? They all have different temperaments and naturally there are differences of opinion. Consequently, devotion to them cannot be unchanging or always the same.
Devotion to one’s community and to one’s family is better than devotion to one’s own self. And devotion to one’s own nation is still better. But this has natural pitfalls because it gives rise to favouritism and group rivalry. Sometimes one has to do desirable and undesirable things in order to keep up one’s own reputation, for one is always concerned about the criticism of others.
Yet it is desirable that a person engaged in devotion to his nation or country should be fearless of all criticism, should stick to his principles, and should not be afraid of any adverse opinion. Truth will not diminish and should never be abandoned.
Selfish people even go so far as to destroy the happiness of others for the fulfilment of their own desires. Such a person was Nero, the Emperor of Rome, who was fiddling while Rome was burning.
People who are absorbed in devotion to their own family often create enmities with others. People who are devotees of their country also quarrel with each other and with other countries. The fire of war and enmity in the world is entirely due to the pugnacious tendencies of such people.
Similarly, those who are proud of their intellectual attainments are often fond of arguments and wrangling, which lead them farther away from the Truth. Such people always try to fight on the plane of intellect. The egotism of knowledge swells their heads, and they are so intoxicated by it that at times they even forget their principles. Brother becomes an enemy of brother, and by the help of science, technology and learning, weapons of destruction are produced. This type of knowledge is constantly on the increase and is a cause of conflict and misery.
All these things – wealth, family, intellect, and so on – may be good for our own use and happiness, but they must be used properly; and because it is not possible to do so, they are not worthy of our devotion. They are incomplete in themselves, and are not permanent.
Amongst all the types of devotion, the highest is that which is offered to God (Sat Purush), who is One, Unchangeable and Indestructible. He is the Creator of all, and we are all His children. By loving God we are also able to love all His creatures, because we are all brothers and God is the Father of all of us. Through this love there flows the current of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.