“Neither His mother, nor father, nor anyone else is equal to or greater than me in receiving His affection. O messenger, I wish to survive for only as long as I hear about my beloved.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.30)
न चास्य माता न पिता च नान्यः स्नेहाद्विशिष्टोऽस्ति मया समो वा।
तावत्त्वहं दूत जिजीविषेयं यावत्प्रवृत्तिं शृणुयां प्रियस्य।।
na cāsya mātā na pitā ca nānyaḥ snehādviśiṣṭo’sti mayā samo vā।
tāvattvahaṃ dūta jijīviṣeyaṃ yāvatpravṛttiṃ śṛṇuyāṃ priyasya।।
“To take the point of view of the outsider for a moment, I think one thing they have a difficult time accepting is the unbreakable allegiance to someone or something that is inanimate. I am not saying God doesn’t exist. I am not saying that He is dead or anything of the sort.
“You would have to admit, though, that based on the external viewpoint, observation with the eyes provided to us by nature, there isn’t a living, breathing force on the other side of worship. There is a statue. I understand the authority behind the deity, how it is potent enough to act in the same way as the person it depicts. I am all for understanding the saguna feature of Brahman, how it is actually no different than the nirguna side.
“But just see how strong the devotion is with some people. They are more loyal to God than anyone else. He is their top priority. He is their reason for getting up each day. He is the sole beneficiary of their sacrifices and rituals. He is everything to them.
“You can’t blame others for viewing this as fanaticism. How can they possibly understand? How do we explain it to someone? I obviously want to be at a similar level, but there is some kind of barrier preventing me from success.”
One way to understand the mentality of the pure devotee is to study the testimony of Sita Devi, as found in the Ramayana poem of Maharishi Valmiki. Sita is the daughter of King Janaka of Mithila. She is the one to cause the stoic yogi to have an outpouring of affection, visible immediately upon contact.
तस्य लाङ्गलहस्तन्य कर्षतः क्षेत्रमण्डलम्।
अहं किलोत्थिता भित्वा जगतीं नृपतेस्सुता।।
tasya lāṅgalahastanya karṣataḥ kṣetramaṇḍalam।
ahaṃ kilotthitā bhitvā jagatīṃ nṛpatessutā।।
“While he was tilling a field with a plow in his hand, it is said that I, the daughter of that king, arose from underneath the earth’s surface.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.28)
Janaka was so affectionate towards this daughter that he later held a special contest to determine her husband. Shri Rama won that contest, and Sita was devoted to Him ever since. The pair is considered a heavenly descent of Lakshmi-Narayana from the spiritual world.
On one occasion, Sita Devi explains to Hanuman that she feels the most loved by Rama. This is saying something, considering the person. Rama is the beloved eldest son of King Dasharatha. He is everything to the three younger brothers. Especially to Lakshmana, who cannot eat or sleep without Rama nearby.
Since Sita feels the topmost affection coming from Rama, she will do anything for Him. She is eager to hear more and more about Him. Such katha, or discourse, will never grow tiring. She will not fatigue in the process, and the nectar is sweeter to the ears during a period of physical separation.
The pure devotee thinks along similar lines. Their allegiance is based on intelligence, on intense gratefulness, feeling they have a debt that can never be repaid:
“I know that the Supreme Lord is for everyone. It is like the sun shining through the window on a cold winter’s day. As it creeps through the cloud cover and provides warmth, I feel a personal connection. It is as if the sun is only shining on me, though I know it is enjoyed by the rest of the world, as well.
“I think that Sita and Rama love me the most. Actually, I don’t think it; I know! They have been much kinder to me than I have to them. Therefore, it is only fair that I dedicate the rest of this life to serving them, to chanting their glories, to describing them to the best of my ability. Let me continue to do the same in future lives, and maybe after a thousand or so I might come close to settling the debt.”
After many lifetimes to get,
Possibly settling the debt.
To Sita and Rama I owe,
Who greatest well-wishers to know.
That everything to me gave,
And from despair to save.
Mercy reserved only for me,
Felt with blessings to see.