Three Types Of Devotion
THIS IS A COLLECTED LIST OF INTERVIEWS AND TALKS BY THE SRINGERI ACHARYALS ON VARIOUS RELIGIOUS TOPICS DURING THE 1990’S. THEY WERE PUBLISHED IN “THE HINDU” NEWSPAPER.
Three stages of devotion have been spelled out in the hymn of a saintly person. A staunch adherent to the doctrine of non dualism, Madhusudana Saraswati, was a great devotee of Lord Krishna and has composed soul-stirring verses in His praise. The first step in displaying devotion is the one in which an aspirant feels that he belongs to God. The special characteristic of a true servant of God is that he does not expect anything from the Almighty in return for his dedication.
To prove the child devotee Prahlada's conviction that God is present everywhere, the Lord incarnated as a man-lion in a pillar pointed at by his tyrannical father. The boy urged by others to pacify the furious Lord, fearlessly approached Lord Narasimha and prostrated before Him. The Lord calmed down pleased with the devotee's prayers and asked Prahlada to seek a boon.
The prompt reply of the lad was, "I desire nothing from You." The Bhagavatam refers to Prahlada's verse.
The episode projects two aspects: that a true servant of God knows no refuge other than God, the reason why the child had no fear. The second is that the true servant of God desires nothing from Him.
In Sivanandalahari, Adi Sankara tells God, "Tell me why you are not redeeming me from this wretched worldly state. If the answer be that it pleases You that I should wallow thus, then I have achieved all that has to be obtained." When God is so pleased, what else is there for one to long for.
The second stage of devotion is the feeling "God is mine." Here, the devotee is positively concerned about ensuring God's welfare. It is not as though that God is in need of the devotee's care. He allows Himself to be even controlled by him.
The Bhagavatam contains an explicit declaration of God, "I am subservient to My devotee like one under the control of another." Yasoda's love for Krishna is an illustration of such devotion. To her, He was but her child and not Lord in human form. The divine child even allowed itself to be tied to a mortar.
Sri Abhinava Vidayatheertha Mahaswamigal of Sringeri has said in one of his enlightening expositions that in the third stage, a devotee feels, "I am He" with reference to God. This is Advaitic realization. While others are willing to brook at least a minute's separation from God, a devotee of this type cannot bear even that. When can separation be totally obliterated? Obviously, when one realizes that one is same as the Supreme. In the Gita, the Lord indicates that the knower of truth is not different from Him.