What Type of Devotion should be rendered?

The object of devotion is to create in two persons attachment and attraction for each other. It has many qualities. If a person comes to a Master after properly adorning himself with intense love, as a woman goes to her lover in fine clothes and ornaments, then he will surely receive love from him.

The Bhagwat says that devotion is of nine different kinds:

  1. Listening to the Guru’s words with rapt attention and fixing these in one’s mind.

  2. Singing hymns and engaging in spiritual talk.

  3. Simran (repetition and remembrance).

  4. Physical service.

  5. Worship.

  6. Prayer (for guidance and Grace).

  7. Humility.

  8. Feeling love and reverence for the Master.

  9. Complete surrender.

These nine practices lead to the path of true devotion.

1) This is to hear discourses in praise of God and to fix these thoughts in one’s mind. We have not seen God, therefore the first step towards devotion to Him is to listen to His praises. By listening to these a feeling of love is created within our minds. Considerable importance is therefore given to this practice.

I would pray for a thousand years in order to listen to the praises of Ram (God), Who is beyond life and death (birth and death).

We should listen to the praise of the Lord and take support only from Him. Oh Nanak! By listening to the praises of my Lord, I am happy and all my doubts have vanished.

Adi Granth

This is the first step towards the path of devotion. So long as thoughts about God do not enter one’s mind, the foundation of love cannot be laid.

If you wish to become a beloved of the Lord, then make Him your own; throw out all anxieties as well as quibbling and fix your mind in His Lotus Feet.

How can one make one’s Beloved one’s own? This may be explained by an example:

A newly married girl talks about her husband with her friends. Her object is to fix the love of the beloved in her mind by remembering him, and his form is always before her mind’s eye. In her mind she sings praises of her spouse. In this manner she increases her remembrance of him and fixes it most firmly in her heart. She also looks at him with a fixed gaze of love and devotion. In this manner the love for her beloved becomes so strong that it is always in her mind, even when she is occupied with her household duties. Thus strong currents of love for her beloved surge through her mind. She becomes one with him, and no difference remains between the two. In this manner she imbibes his nature.

2) God is one. We are all His brides, and one who is loved by Him is really exalted. Devotion is an all-pervading quality, which spreads in all directions. In order to imbibe it, a disciple should first listen the talks about Him from Saints and Mahatmas. He should sit in the company of people where such discourses take place. He should not sully his mind by listening to any other talk, because God will not enter the temple of our body so long as it is not pure.

When you visit your elder or your superior, you look at him with respect and attention, and try to prevent any other thought from entering your mind at that time. But when you sit in devotion and remembrance of God, how many thoughts and ideas – even of an impure nature – enter your mind? How great is the injustice you do unto Him?

As soon as the devotee is able to fix the thoughts of God in his mind by listening to His praises, he will begin to sing them, because

Out of the abundance of his heart a man speaks.

Gurbani says:

One should sing the praises of the Lord day and night. By so doing, His form will be fixed in one’s mind.

3) Together with this, one should repeat and remember His Name at all times, even while sitting, walking or travelling. The Sikh Scriptures lay considerable emphasis on Simran (repetition and remembrance), because it is by Simran alone that one is able to fix one’s love for the object of his love in the mind.

Go on repeating the Name of the Lord. That is the only remedy that will give you happiness. Then all your troubles and anxieties will be obliterated.

Adi Granth

Repeat the Name of one Lord, because by this nothing will be lost.

If one is not engaged in Simran, then his life is wasted in the same manner as a field becomes barren without rainfall.

4) One should listen, one should do the Kirtan (sing His praises) and one should engage himself in Simran. While doing all these, one should also perform physical service at the Feet of the Master, and should at the same time fix His Form in his mind. In other words, one should perform service to the Master outwardly and devotional exercise inwardly for the attainment of Naam.

5) One should do all types of worship, because worship and service rendered with love and humility cleanse the mind.

6) One should always remain in an attitude of prayer and ask for Grace and guidance.

All the six practices should be performed with humility and devotion. 

7) The devotee loves the Master as he would love a friend, respects him as he would respect a father, worships him as a bride worships her husband, and 

8) sacrifices everything for him. 

The following quotations are all from the Adi Granth:

Oh my Lord, please listen to my one supplication. You are happy in your Home, whereas I am wandering homeless.

What should a poor girl do if she is not able to win the favours of her Lord? She tries hard, but does not find a place in His court.

I was not able to commune with my Lord tonight, and my entire body aches. What is the state of those women who pass their nights alone!

Oh my Lord, what qualities should I acquire to be worthy of meeting Thee? I am ignorant. I am not beautiful and have no wisdom.

My devotion and love for the Lord have helped me in giving up all passionate desires and feelings of anger. The Lord has become happy in seeing me in my beauty and devotion.

The Lord’s commands are sweet, and my negative desires and feelings have vanished. I am now the beloved of my Lord, and my mind is rid of all worries.

One should make a fan of his hair and should serve the Saints with it.

I feel happy and contented with Seva, such as to fetch water, to pull the rope of a fan, or to grind corn for the Saints. All high positions such as kingship, the possession of wealth or property and positions of power, are worth nothing except being thrown into fire.

Make me the humblest of the humble, for the humble are all dear to God.

Oh my Friend! I would wish to be the dust of thy Feet at all times.

That friend who is with me in the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of my life is a welcome friend of mine.

He alone is my friend who is near me at all times.

The devotees of the Lord are always happy. They are just like small children – free from the net of Maya (Illusion) and above worldly desires. Just as a father keeps his children happy and in comfort, similarly God keeps His devotees always happy.

Just as a child respects his father, similarly a devotee lives in accordance with the commands of his Guru. No secrets remain between the two, Nanak is happy because all his desires are fulfilled.

9) We have to enter the temple of our body for the worship of the Lord, rid the mind of all superficial and external tendencies, and offer flowers in the form of one-pointed attention by surrendering body, mind and heart at the sacred Feet of the Lord.

The contemplation of a devotee is always fixed on the form of the Guru, and he thinks about his Master day and night. His attention is centred on him uninterruptedly. When he dies the soul will go where the Guru is. It cannot go anywhere else.

The following quotations are from the Gita:

And he who at the last hour remembers me only and then departs – leaving the body – enters into me. Of that there is no doubt.

Whatever form a man continually contemplates, the same he remembers at the hour of death, and to that very form he goes.

On me fix thy mind, to me bring thy devotion, to me offer thy sacrifice, to me make thy obeisance, then to men indeed shalt thou come. Solemn is my promise to thee, for thou art dear to me.

Those devotees who have fixed their attention on the Guru will never go empty-handed; they are free from all troubles and pains as well as from the clutches of the Negative Power.

When a person concentrates the attention of his body and mind and speech, in other words, when he concentrates his soul at the eye centre, then his inner eye is opened and he is able to see the Lord inside, whose lustre radiates there permanently like that of the sun. It is therefore necessary that the internal eye be opened in order to enable a person to have communion with the Lord. Then he sings His praises, sees Him at all times, and bows before Him with his mind and with his life. He sees Him inside with the inner eye, and does not look for Him outside. Even if the physical eyes are open, they remain open but do not see (at that time), because all the attention is centred within. In other words, all outward activity is stopped and he is conscious of his Beloved within himself. 

Kabir Sahib says:

Oh my Beloved! Enter my eyes and I shall immediately close them, for then I shall not see anybody else, nor shall I permit you to look at anyone else, When I am awake I see you. When I sleep I feel you inside. At all times I think of you, and I do not forget you for a moment.

Kabir further describes the proper type of Bhakti – Devotion:

We should place a beautiful bed in the pupil of the eye, which should serve as a room. The eyelid should serve as a door, and the Beloved should come and lie in this bed. Then my dress should be Prem (Love), and the collyrium should be of Shanti (peace and quiet). Put the vermilionof Courage on my head and then only can I enjoy the happiness of being with my Beloved.

The path of Love is easy but the difficulty lies in us. We do not know how to dance and in our ignorance we find fault with the floor. The path of the Beloved is very difficult – just like the edge of a sword – and once you come out to dance, there is no question of feeling shy.

All Saints have described Bhakti – Devotion – as being comparable to a wifes’s love for her beloved husband. Even Narad Rishi described Bhakti in the same strain. Every devotee has love for God in the same manner as a woman has love for her husband. We can describe, only by means of an example, the happiness which comes to a person when he is in communion with God, by saying that it is similar to the love between man and woman.

The Hindu Upanishads tell us:

As a lover and a beloved meet and are happy in the intoxication of their union and feel that they are one and are at that time absolutely unaware of happenings in the world beyond their physical bodies, in the same manner, when a devotee communes with God, he feels much greater happiness and goes far above pain and desires, because this happiness is the consummation of all desires.

This analogy is found not only in the Hindu Scriptures but also in many other books. 

Cardinal Newman says:

If the soul desires to obtain the height of bliss, it is essential that it becomes like a bride yearning for her beloved.

Christ also referred to God as a Bridegroom in one of his parables, and those who looked for the Bridegroom were referred to in that parable as brides – the five wise and the five foolish virgins or potential brides, St. Matthew 25:1,13.

Many Saints amongst the Christians have referred to themselves as the brides of Christ, and describing the inner experiences of their mind, they have given the idea of a spiritual marriage.

St. John supplicated Christ in the following words:

Make me your bride. So long as you do not press me to your side, I can have no pleasure from anything in this world.

When St. Francis saw the resplendent form of Christ in his state of super-consciousness, he cried out:

Oh my beloved Lord! I am now your wife.

St. Catherine often said that she was betrothed to Christ. She also wore a ring and said that it was the sign of love from her beloved Christ.

What is the meaning of love for the Lord? The currents of devotion have to be concentrated inside. This is real devotion. Nothing else.


Footnote: It is the custom in India for a bride to have a vermilion streak along the central part of her hair.