Monday, December 1, 2008

EIGHT LEVELS OF DEVOTION By Shri Shri Nimishananda Guruji

Today the recognition that God exists in most of us is only at the intellectual level. However, trying to experience God through the intellect is like a child stretching out its hand to grasp the moon in the sky. It is impossible to realize Divinity through the intellect. The Scriptures have always said that the realization of God comes directly from the heart. If we want to experience Divinity, an intense devotion or Bhakti should arise from the heart and be established there, but at present our devotion is like a dress that we wear or remove at our convenience. Have we ever questioned ourselves whether our devotion springs from within all the time or trickles out only occasionally? Devotion or Bhakti is not only the process of engaging ourselves in formal worship, prayer or rituals. It is also a process of inner expansion and evolution where the mind stops its senseless revolution.

Sage Narada has defined eight progressive levels of understanding or devotion that culminate in Self or God Realization in each human being. (1) At the first and the primary level of devotion cultivated in us we think that this Earth exists only for the benefit of us, human beings. (2) The second level of devotion reveals that the Earth exists not only to cater to our own welfare, but also to promote the well being of all the organisms that live and co-exist with us. When we reach or have this level of devotion, naturally our patience and tolerance will increase and grow. We also begin to understand that every single thing we do has a direct or indirect impact on other beings. (3) This automatically pushes us to the third level of devotion where we become aware of what our contribution is to this world through our thoughts, words and deeds. A new awareness dawns which makes us recognize that although contributing environmentally to the world is good, we must in addition also contribute a spiritual legacy for the future generations. We will work to enrich our spiritual culture to inspire the youth to pay forward a good thought, a good word and a good deed so that this becomes a habit in them. (4) At the fourth level we realize that a clean and pure mind is as important as a pollution free environment and at this stage our devotion removes unwanted, negative and emotional thoughts from the mind and keeps it pure. (5) When the mind is purified with this intensity, our devotion guides us to think of how much we are working for the welfare of others and how useful we are to them. Our devotion becomes an internal yardstick to measure and assess the selfishness or selflessness of our own actions. (6) As we attain this level of devotion, unselfish love springs up within us and this makes us experience the presence of God or Paramatma and takes us to (7) the seventh level of devotion or Bhakti. Here we are able to see and feel the luminescence of our Soul or Atma. (8) This leads to the eighth level where a constant feeling vibrates in us – “There is nothing within me except bliss. Everything is Supreme Light or Jyothi. I am Sat-Chit-Ananda or pure knowledge.”

Sage Narada tells us that this is how we realize God through Supreme Highest Devotion or Apara Bhakti. This was also the path of all the singing saints. The blossoming of devotion can be compared to the germination of a seed. When the sprout emerges from the soil, it is so tender that it breaks at our touch, but still this fragile sprout had the strength to pierce through such hard soil. Likewise, however small and insignificant we may feel before God, when devotion blossoms, the divine power of the Soul sprouts from within breaking through the hard crust of our Ego, to effortlessly embrace us and our dear ones along with the whole world in everlasting bliss.

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