Four Ways To Understand What Selfless Devotion Means

[Lakshmana]“O Rama, You should know that just as fish cannot survive when taken out of water, neither Sita nor I can live without You for even a moment.” (Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 53.31)

Download this episode (right click and save)

न च सीता त्वया हीना न चाहमपि राघव।
मुहूर्तमपि जीवावो जलान्मत्स्याविनोद्धृतौ।।

na ca sītā tvayā hīnā na cāhamapi rāghava।
muhūrtamapi jīvāvo jalānmatsyāvinoddhṛtau।।

A person starting bhakti-yoga in earnest is sure to receive challenges from opposition. After all, the native spirit in the material world is to go the other direction. Against God, pursue excellence at the personal level, through isolated effort in the ideal scenario. Only as much outside intervention as tolerated, even though the truth is that no outcome can be produced without the help of other factors.

प्रकृतेः क्रियमाणानि
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते

prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate

“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)

Work involves cause and effect. Do something and then see what happens. Hopefully, the consequence is desired. I begin a particular task in order that I may receive a specific outcome.

Because of this basic trend it is only natural for someone to ask questions along these lines:

“Why exactly are you chanting the maha-mantra on a daily basis? What is the phala you expect to receive? Good health? A long duration of life? Financial security? In that case, I’ve heard that it’s better to try other avenues first. Worship these gods. Vishnu is for people who are at the tail end of life.”

Phala is a Sanskrit word that means “fruit,” and it gets invoked in the context of a reward to activity. Bhakti-yoga is actually selfless. There is no personal motivation. This concept is difficult to understand because even in supposedly amorous affairs there is some expectation of reciprocation. If the other party, the object of the love, does not respond satisfactorily, the relationship likely will not materialize.

Vedic literature provides many comparisons and examples to help explain the attitude of the pure devotee. That state of perfection is known as bhava, wherein the connection to the Divine essentially becomes a part of the individual. It could no more be stripped away than a person’s very essence.

1. Child seeking out food from the mother

There isn’t necessarily a direct reference in Vedic literature, but the behavior is both easy to understand and perfectly illustrative of the level of attachment the devotee has to their service to the Supreme Lord.

A child is growing up. Approaching a year old, behavior is changing by the day. They can walk so fast that crawling is not even considered. They can eat solid food, sitting down at the dinner table with the adults. They can voice displeasure through more ways than just crying.

[Krishna and Yashoda]There is one problem. The child refuses to drink anything except milk from the breast of the mother. The desire is clear and out in the open. Sometimes it is every five minutes that they request feeding. Try to shove a bottle in their mouth and they won’t have it. They have made it clear that nothing is more important to them in this world than the milk the mother provides.

2. The chakora bird

This bird described in Vedic literature has a unique behavior. It lives off the rays of the moon. It essentially can’t live with anything else. The devotion to the object of affection is fixed. There are no blemishes. There is no deviation. There is no question of receiving a fruit, phala, since to consider any other way of living is not possible.

3. The chataka bird

Similar to the chakora, this bird lives off of rain water. Goswami Tulsidas makes many comparisons to this bird when describing how he feels about devotion to the Supreme Lord in the form of Shri Rama. The chataka has the opportunity to get sustenance from other places. In defiance, it waits for the rain. It constantly stares at the sky, not deviating in its devotion.

4. A fish out of water

This often invoked comparison is usually used to describe a person being out of place. When they are out of their element, in an uncomfortable situation, it is like they have been taken out of their natural habitat.

The connection to bhakti is natural because the fish is so attached to the water that it cannot live otherwise. Lakshmana, the younger brother of Rama, makes this comparison in the Ramayana. It is one of the reasons he and Sita Devi, Rama’s wife, stayed with the beloved prince of Ayodhya no matter His fate. They would follow Rama to the hellish region if they had to.

[Lakshmana]In none of these situations is the reward given any kind of consideration. There is no attention paid to a routine or discipline. There is no distinction between different ways of living because the strong attachment means that there can only be one way. That is the essence of bhakti-yoga, wherein the people residing in the spiritual world have no concept of dharma and adharma. Piety and sin are of no concern since they are always close to the person who is virtue personified.

In Closing:

Every person with a price,

But devotee not thinking twice.

Not by any amount bought,

Since by bhakti’s network caught.

Like child only mother seeking,

Chakora at moon always peeking.

Or like fish the water calling home,

Bhakti for Lord’s pleasure alone.

Categories: the four

Tags: , , , , , , ,

1 reply

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: