What are the Practices by which we can be successful in Devotion?
The first condition is to have only one object in mind, for devotion should be offered to one only. The rays of the sun are able to burn a piece of cloth if they are concentrated through a magnifying glass, but if they are spread over a large area they are unable to do so. Similarly, if the currents of devotion coming from one’s mind are concentrated on one’s beloved, then the fruit for devotion increases and one can act in any manner one desires.
So long as devotion is not one-pointed the idea of duality will be on one’s mind, and consequently, there will be no concentration. Therefore, for true devotion, one-pointedness is most essential. In other words, the object of devotion should be one.
A woman who has one husband is sohagan – happily married. She is able to obtain real happiness out of marriage. Contact and communion with one person or one object only gives purity of heart and also results in a joyful life. Intimate contact with more than one is impure and leads to disputes and other troubles. This is also true in connection with the spiritual life.
Kabir brings this idea home to us in the following quotation:
A chaste and faithful wife is dyed in the hue of her beloved. In other words, she is the queen of the home, whereas the other type moves from place to place and has no goal. A faithful wife who has only one husband is very happy; but a woman who has many is foul of mind and body. Both types are to be found in the human form.
Therefore, in the Sikh and other Scriptures one will find emphasis placed on the fact that the object of devotion should be one:
You should sing the praises of One. You should have Simran (repetition and remembrance) with a one-pointed mind. How can I praise the qualities of that state in which mind and body are both joined in being devoted to one object of love!
We should think of only one object and we should repeat the Name – the five Holy Names – of only one object – the Lord. That object should rest firmly in the seat of our mind and we should sing his praises at all times and remember Him with concentrated attention.
In devotion it is considered sinful to give place in one’s mind to thoughts of love for more than one object, because that brings no results. We should not give our heart to anyone other than the object of our love, because if we do that we will not have peace of mind.
The second essential condition is True Satsang1. We should stay in the company of persons who have devotion fully established in their minds. A melon near another melon will take on its colour. If we are in the company of Saints, we shall also be dyed in the hue of their devotion. In other words, our devotion will become strong.
Association with a Saint is exalted and pure. Whoever remains in such company develops the state of communion with God.
Devotees whose minds have made friends with Saints are so much dyed in the hue of God’s love that their love will never waver.
Oh Kabir! It is better if dhak (a bitter shrub) is grown near a sandal tree, because once it is placed near sandalwood it will imbibe its fragrance.
Devotion is a gift which is bestowed on devotees. When we enjoy this boon, we are fully saturated with the colour of devotion. But this can be achieved only be the Grace of the Lord.
Association with Saints is association with God. Their Grace and kindness is the Grace of God, because God is manifest in the Saints, and the Saints are fully immersed in God.
The devotee of the Lord is the same as the Lord. There is no difference between the two, even if one of them should be found in human form.
In the Bhagwat, Krishna says:
Saints are my heart, and I am their heart.
We should avoid bad company. Wealth and lust are two difficult obstacles, which cause destruction if one is engrossed in them. By intimate contact with bad company one becomes lost. Likewise, we should not associate with persons whose behaviour turns our minds away from our object of devotion, because association with them will lead us astray, will make us arrogant, and will tempt us into many other vices.
Even if you have many good qualities, you should lead a life of humility and consider those qualities as a gift from God, because God loves the humble. Remember this will in your heart and do not enter into unnecessary disputes or critical discussions, because such discussions lead nowhere. They may be compared to churning water.
The path of devotion is also the path of action.
This devotion is a path of action and not of intellect. Therefore, do not talk but practise devotion, for then you will achieve something.
We should not indulge in disputes with anybody, because the tongue that speaks ill of others should instead drink only the Name of Ram (God).
The third essential condition is a proper diet. Our food should be satvik – that which produces tranquillity and pure thoughts. This includes rice, wheat, pulses, milk and curd. Food conditions our mind, so our ideas will have the same qualities as the type of food we eat. If we take rajsik food – that which produces restlessness and anger –, like meat, fat, and so forth, the mind will become restless. But if we take tamsik food – that which produces sluggishness –, like stale food, fish, wine and other heavy and pungent things, we shall be prone to laziness.
Consider the entire world as having issued from the one God, and therefore do not harm or injure anybody’s feelings by your talk or action.
The study of scriptures, maintaining a good character, the practice of simran, attending Satsang, the habit of non-violence, kindness, purity of body and mind, faith, prayer, seeing God in everything – all these factors help us in our devotion to Him. One should forget himself and everything else while engrossed in love for the Lord. He should lead a life in accordance with the edicts of his religion. Then he makes progress towards the object of his devotion; otherwise, he reverts to idle pursuits.
Footnote: In True Satsang we receive the Gift of Naam. A contact with the Light of God and the Voice of God – Shabd, the Holy Word or Nad.