How can Devotion be achieved?
By God’s Grace. He holds the treasure of devotion.
Thou art the true friend, and thy treasure is full of devotion.
The gift of devotion is in the hands of God. In other words, He Himself makes it possible for us to be His devotees. He cuts asunder all the ties binding His devotees to the world and makes them free.
He Himself bestows on His Gurumukhs (those devoted to the Guru or Master) the gift of spiritual knowledge, and places in their hands the treasure of Devotion, which is the name of Hari (God).
It is only by the Grace of the Lord that it is possible for human beings to perceive God. They alone attain Him who are devoted to Him with their body and their mind. They are always happy in that state and remain satisfied. For this reason the writings of wise and noble men put emphasis on devotion.
In the Gita, Krishna says:
Put your mind in Me. Also fix your intellect in Me. Then you will come within.
God loves His devotees more than anyone else.
The Gita further says:
In all the three worlds, spirituality awakened people are dear to Him; but even more does He love those people who have a feeling of intense devotion to Him in their mind.
The highest action and the highest quality in human life is devotion. If one does not practise it, his life is wasted.
We cannot attain communion with God by our own efforts. However, if we are blessed with the Grace of God, we can have communion with Him. He is beyond the reach of physical, intellectual and even spiritual effort alone. Only those on whom God has bestowed His Grace are successful in attaining communion with Him.
In the Kath Upanished we find:
Devotion is obtained by God’s Grace alone. You cannot know the soul by study of the Vedas alone, nor can you do so by your intellect and reasoning. He alone can attain Him whom God Himself selects, or over whom the Grace of God flows.
In other Upanishads – the philosophical and mystical parts of the Vedas –, communion with God is stated to be dependent on one’s surrender to Him. If we have His Grace, He attracts us to Himself within, and we become restless to meet Him. It is beyond human power alone to attain this state.
By the Grace of a Master
The path of devotion is a difficult one. It is achieved only through a Master and by those on whom God has bestowed His Grace. Then only are their minds inclined towards devotion to Him. Even angels are yearning for devotion to Him, but it cannot be obtained without a Master. We cannot become devotees merely by reading holy scriptures and other books.
Gods are yearning for devotion to the Lord, but it can be attained only through a Satguru. The learned try to find Him in their studies, but they do not find Him.
Only through the teachings or bachans – words – of a Guru is one capable of becoming a true devotee. No other method can accomplish this, because the treasure of devotion is obtained only by service to the Master. All other practices are external and lead us outward, hence they are not capable of producing devotion in us. The internal fires of passion cannot be subdued without the Grace of the Master.
The fire burning within us cannot be extinguished without a Guru. Even the outer fire of worldly desires and passions is very strong. Without service to the Master, devotion is not possible. How can one do it by himself?
A Master is actually an ocean full of surging waves of devotion. He grants it – devotion – to those devotees on whom his Grace falls.
The ocean of devotion to God is in the hands of a Satguru. If Satguru is pleased, he opens the gateway to attainment of communion with God.
A person attaches himself to devotion only if a Master, who himself is free from the shackles of birth and death, gives him the gift of devotion, frees him from the cycle of birth and death, and puts him in communion with God.
Masters are free from the shackles of birth and death. They come into this world to bestow Grace on others. They give us the Gift of Life, bestow on us the boon of devotion and thus put us on actual communion with Him (God).
By Naam Bhakti (Devotion to Naam, Shabd or Sound Current)
Sat Guru is the keeper of the treasure of Hari Naam – another name for devotion to Naam or Shabd –, and he is capable of implanting this devotion firmly in the minds of his devotees.
By the Grace of God we met a Satguru who taught us to practise devotion to Hari Naam (God) day and night.
Without Satguru we cannot have devotion nor can we attain Naam. Oh Nanak, whoever practises Naam, he is dear to Satguru.
In the Sikh Scriptures the practice of Shabd Dhun, listening to the Sound Current or Word, is called devotion. True devotion is love for Guru Shabd, by means of which a person fixes the Lord in his mind. Devotion to Shabd is dear to God. We cannot have true devotion by running about in the world. Devotion can be achieved only by engrossing ourselves completely in Shabd.
True devotion is devotion to Shabd. In other words, it is love for Guru Shabd, by means of which a devotee fixes the Name of God in his heart.
Devotion to Guru is the practice by which Sahaj Dhun1 is attained.
Without such devotion is not possible to remove the coverings of dirt from one’s mind. By means of Shabd and by adorning herself with it, the soul completely surrenders herself – like a wife to her husband – and thereby attains communion with God.
Guru Bani – Granth Sahib – again says.
Devotion is the term given to the practice of attaching one’s self to Naam and Truth. Naam is going on day and night, and by saturation ourselves fully with its colour we cannot be dyed in any other colour.
Hari’s (God’s) Name is known to very few. It can be known only through Shabd, with the guidance of a Guru. A person who so devotes himself completely, day and night, attains permanent peace and happiness in the state of Sahaj.
Those who are dyed in the colour of Sat (Truth) do not take any other colour on their minds or souls, but this is attained only by those for whom it has already been ordained.
While praising devotion, it should also be mentioned that by means of devotion one is able to learn the practice of „dying while living“.
It is by devotion alone that we learn dying while living, but we achieve this with the Grace of a Guru and are thus able to cross the ocean of life.
That devotion is true in which whatever is ordained by the Lord is accepted with equanimity. All friends and foes are considered by such a devotee as sons of the same Father. In other words, to one who submissively follows the commands of the Lord, whatever happens is good. Such a condition of mind is true devotion. Friend and foe are considered equal. This is the sign of one’s greatness.
Intellectual people try to realize God by means of the intellect, but they fail because they rely on books and scriptures alone. Ascetics of the different religious orders remain superficial in their ideas and do not go deep into the Truth. Therefore, all these persons are deprived of Salvation. The people of the whole world are running a mad race hither and thither, without devotion and Shabd practice.
Oh Nanak, without devotion the whole world is unable to have contact with Shabd. People of intellect want to find it by reading Scriptures. People who rely on the vow of silence also are going astray. Even ascetics do not find Salvation.
True devotion can be achieved only through a Guru. By devotion one can listen to the Sound Current – Word – within oneself, by means of which ego is destroyed and the devotee attains happiness for ever and meets the Lord.
True devotion can be achieved with the guidance of a Master, because the True Sound Current (Word) is then fixed in one’s heart. By serving the Satguru one attains eternal happiness, and by burning his ego, merges into Shabd (the true form of the Guru).
The practice of Shabd – Sound Current, Word – is true devotion, because by means of this we are able to join ourselves with the Truth, and the Name of God is imprinted in our minds permanently.
By means of True Shabd my devotion is fruitful and I feel happiness in my mind. My mind and my body are fixed in true devotion day and night, and my heart is in communion with the Lord.
My mind is repeating the name of Hari (God) day and night. True devotion is that by which the name of Hari is fixed in one’s mind.
Footnote: 1) The Sound of the Fourth region, which is the state of identification with the Ultimate Reality. It begins in Par Brahm and becomes complete in Sach Khand.