Four stages 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.
While it is said that a devotee is under God's loving care, it will be wrong to demand from Him that he should not experience any hardship. The Lord, is not only the most compassionate but also perfectly just. If a person had committed major transgressions in his earlier births, allowing him to go scott-free without any punishment in the form of suffering, will be a travesty of justice.
A judge who refuses to penalize a murderer on the plea of kindness will indeed be doing a disservice to society. He may however take into consideration his repentance and reduce the quantum of sentence for the crime. Likewise, God being always fair, may alter the nature of punishment to the extent possible.
There is just nothing that a devotee has to make known to God, which He is not already aware of. Further, when a devotee requests Him to fulfil his wants, how can he be said to have total faith in divine dispensation. The will of God is infallible. It is well-known that people feel happy when they obtain what they desire and regret when they do not. Those who attune their thoughts to that of the Lord will have no reason for dissatisfaction. How can grief make devotees get upset and lament if they cultivate the attitude that pain too is in their best interest.
There is no reason why anyone cannot cultivate devotion to God. To think of Him is not difficult, for, one can mentally keep chanting His names and dedicate all actions and thoughts to Him. The company of devotees is helpful in developing devotion. At first, when an aspirant tries to fix his mind on Him, he may not have concentration but there need be no despair. Constant practice will fetch him the results and he will start experiencing peace.
A portrayal of the different stages of devotion has been given by Adi Sankara in ``Sivanandalahari''. In the first stage a devotee somehow approaches God, just as the seed of the Ankola tree gets attached to the trunk of its tree. Thereafter, the effect of divine grace will be felt and the devotee feels attracted to God. In the third stage both (the devotee and God) are close to each other and their love is mutual. Finally the devotee enjoys total communion.
On the occasion of the Aradhana of Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Mahaswamigal (the 35th head of the Sringeri Sarada Peetam), scholars recalling the advice tendered by him pointed out how he had described the conduct of a spiritual aspirant who acts with the knowledge that he is an instrument of God. He will view success and failure with equanimity and will abstain from misdeeds. Treating the scriptures as the directives of God, he will faithfully carry out the duties which are pertinent to him.